This Week on the Farm- 5/18/10
Another eventful week has passed here on the farm and one event was pretty horrible. This morning we noticed spots on the leaves of many of our tomato plants. We knew right away that the spots were not due to any nutrient difficiency, so our best bet was disease. After looking up information on several possible diseases we figured out that a bacteria called Xanthmonas was attacking our tomato plants. We feel pretty confident in our diagnosis, both Tyler and I took Plant Pathology in school, and we had our results verified by a friend who majored in Plant Pathology at UW-Madison.
Bacterial spot is a fairly common disease of tomatoes, and it is very difficult to treat once it appears. If only a couple of leaves are infected, you can prune out the diseased leaves, water less heavily, and space plants so that you get increased airflow. If you are using organic methods, you would most likely spray with copper to prevent the spread of the pathogen. These actions most likely would prevent the spread of disease. However, almost all of our plants are infected so this is not an option for us. The only option open to us is to destroy the crop to prevent the spread of disease. No worries though! We will have tomatoes in your box for this summer. We are going to Jung’s tonight to buy more seed and will start the seeds tomorrow morning!
We believe that the source of the bacteria came in on the seed. One clue was that the disease was evenly spread across all of our trays. To prevent the same result from happening again, we are going to do a hot water bath of the seeds to kill off any pathogens on the seed coat. In addition we are going to water less heavily and space our plants a little farther apart. Since most of our plants are now out of the germination greenhouse and into our new hardening off greenhouse, we have more space and can plant fewer plants per flat. To prevent the spread of the bacteria to other plants in the greenhouse we sterilized the area and will apply copper to any other solanaceous crops in the greenhouse. Copper is an organic pesticide, so no worries there. (As a side note, copper was one of the original pesticides used in Europe to prevent the spread of downy mildew on grapes used to make wine.) Although destroying an entire crop is something we hate to do, it provides us with a very good lesson for future years. No one expects the first year of farming to go smoothly, and this is just a little hickup so I’m not too worried. Thankfully the disease manifested itself early enough that we can replace the crop so that no one has to go without fresh tomatoes this summer.
Onto better news…we planted alot of things in the garden this week. cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, brocolli, and cauliflower went in on Saturday. Don drove the tractor while Tyler and I rode backwards on the planter. The planter increases the number of plants we can plant in a short amount of time. It works something like this: there is a shoe infront of the wheels that plows a trench, as the wheels turn we feed the plants into rotating fingers which grab the seedlings and place them in the ground, then as the wheels turn they repack the soil around the seedlings.
We were able to plant around 400 plants in a half an hour, something we could never have done by hand.
We also planted corn, green and yellow beans, peas, kale, lettuce, radishes, and scallions this week. Most of these were sown by hand. The corn and beans are large enough seeds that we can use a planter to plant one row at a time. Nothing is up yet, but since the weather is nice and warm and our irrigation system is up and running, things should start popping in a day or two.
The last thing of worth mentioning is that I applied an organic fertilizer called Chickity Doo-Doo to our onions today. Some of the tips of the onions were looking chlorotic, or yellow, which is a sign of nitogen deficiency. Chickity Doo-Doo is a high nitrogen fertilizer made from chicken droppings. Now everywhere I go I smell chicken droppings. Doesn’t that sound like fun!
We are almost full for the season, so if you or someone you know is interested in joining, please call ahead to make sure there is space! (920) 992-3643 or (608) 852-5348