This week at the farm was somewhat bittersweet. In the beginning we were handed a beatdown not just by the excessive heat and humidity but with heavy insect pressure as well. On the western front we had cucumber beetles and aphids to contend with on our vine crops, and don’t even get me started about flea beetles on our baby greens on the east side of the farm. After much turmoil the week ended triumphantly with a bountiful harvest of our first homegrown, vine ripened tomatoes.
The heat wave which peaked on Monday just wore us out. While the crew was suffering like crabs in a steamer pot picking our weekly quota of vegetables, once we got to the zucchini and cucumbers we realized we had a problem. Almost overnight there had been an invasion of cucumber beetles and aphids. Apparently the increase in temperatures had played a huge role in this sudden explosion. Now these insect marauders were reaping havoc on all our gorgeous varieties of squash and cucumbers. As Godofredo showed me the plants from the outside, I fancied the beautiful cadmium squash blossoms which we gently lifted and peeked inside. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw next. I suddenly had the dirty feeling I was peeking into an insect brothel and the inner chamber of the blossom now felt sleezy with its garish goldenrod wallpaper. A horde of cucumber beetles whooping it up and completely indifferent to my presence. Closest to me were a couple engaging in what I’d rather not say and I swear I could see one of them flip me off. I felt like an English King in the television show Vikings, the rows of vegetables my kingdom, the cucumbers and zucchinis my subjects; faced with an invading foe, imminent destruction, and some tough choices.
Our course of action is to concentrate our efforts on saving the newer plants. The older ones will be sacrificed because they are too far gone. The ones yet to be planted will be moved to a section far away from this mayhem. Next year we will make sure to rotate our vine crops to the opposite side of the farm, space our plants a bit further apart to not give these pests carte blanche over the territory, cover the plants at the beginning of the season to create a barrier until they need to be pollinated, and employ more trap crops.
Towards the end of the week we were filling buckets with rainbows of glorious tomatoes. Big and beautiful beefsteak and heirloom slicers of red, green, purple, yellow and pink. We were plucking a ton of orange sungolds, chocolates, and bright red supersweet one hundred cherry tomatoes, using both hands and moving like an old school telephone operator while moving down the row and occasionally popping the sweetest and ripest ones in my mouth. Feeling like we’ve cleared another hurdle and that there is a moral to this week. In farming everyday poses new challenges. Like Cool Hand Luke, you’ve got to keep getting back up to face them. Never give up. Stay the course and your reward will be these plump, juicy vine ripened tomatoes. Have a great week everyone