May 1st is the biggest target date for local farmer’s to get out there summer crops, and it’s already showing us what the summer has in store for us. As with anything that’s dealing with ‘Mother’ nature you have to work with what you get. The colder, wetter spring has kept a lot of farmers out of the field to harvest and held-up prep for future crops. Finally it warmed up and the rain stopped making soil work more detrimental to soil structure. I won’t mention last year’s rain. The current warming trend is hurting transplant opportunities. Transplants aren’t keen on hot, dry weather and planting them in said conditions can harm the projected yields, so what until a day when highs aren’t too high and the lows aren’t too low. Plants and Goldie Locks have a lot in common. So as you can see… being a farmer isn’t an exact science. ‘She’ is always changing the variables. I think this is one reason why so many people are drawn to the triad farming community. It’s like playing golf. One day it’s raining and the wind is blowing hard making farm/golf life hectic. The next day the high is a 100 with chances of thunderstorms. Of course there are as many beautiful days as there are ugly. If farming were so predictable people would probably lose interest, but when you can get that seed to make a box of tomatoes or you get that little white ball all the way across that field into a little hole, you feel a sense of accomplishment. I personally have an allergy to turf grass so can’t play ball golf, only farm. I blame it on the chemicals.
With the summer fast upon us getting our crops in the ground and keeping them healthy is the juggle. Keep your transplants well hydrated and watered until they get established, especially on days where the high gets over 75. The types of crops you will be looking at planting now are as follows but not limited to: Tomatoes, Okra, Beans (lima, pole), Peppers, Melons, Summer squashes, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Corn, and Sweet potato slips. When choosing what crops to grow it can be really helpful to pay attention to whether a variety has disease resistant or if it’s an heirloom variety. Don’t be scared to go on a limb and try something new or that sounds good. Do keep in mind that heirloom varieties are more prone to disease and fruit damage, as well as having lower yields. A lot of people choose to go with tomato varieties that are blight resistant since that’s a huge problem in the southeast. Blight resistance on seed packs of tomatoes is dictated by the F1 symbol.
Summer squash is a common component in most small south-east’s’ gardens. Its biggest pest is the squash-vine borer. Anyone who has ever grown squash in the south has most likely seen the results of this pest. One day you have a beautiful plant with fruit showing then you go to grab a squash off and the whole plant comes with it. The squash vine borers strike again. As annoying as these bugs are they can be prevented. The most common method for prevention is spraying Bt before the adult ever lands on the plant. Bt is a bacterium that is lethal to a worm when ingested. Another common method is using a knife to cut the stalk and manually remove the worm. I’ve had good luck with Bt but being that its water soluble it has to be reapplied often to maintain its effectiveness. Sometimes I get behind so cutting the worms out one by one is time consuming, effective, but not preventative. Last summer I decided to do an experiment. I wanted to save my squash plants but didn’t want to cut each worm out of the plants. Since the worms, probably many were already in the stem, I had to figure out how to get the bacteria where they could ingest it and I wanted to be able to do this with ease. The idea I came up with was to use a hypodermic needle like that a diabetic uses and inject the stems with Bt. I started by injecting each stem at the base and working up the stem injecting in several places. I pushed the needle completely through the stalk and while retracting it I would slow push the plunger to inject the Bt. After I injected the stalks I covered the affected areas where the worms were with dirt. I then sprayed all foliage with Bt to ensure their not getting infected. I never sprayed the plants the rest of the season and never had another worm outbreak. I thought I would share this idea with folks since it is easily done on a small scale without needing to destroy more plant than necessary and getting rid of the worm in one swoop. The pictures included are of the damage from the worm, the adult, what the eggs look like on the plant, and a plant that has been cut to remove the worms.  SquashDamageSquashAdultSquahsEggsCutSquashStem

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