Putting Beneficials to Work

As temperatures rise at the farm, so do the weeds and insects. This past week has seen temperatures way above winter averages, getting up to highs of 76 and it seems that many plants are taking that as an indication of the end of their dormancy. To some the thought of weeds and insects may sound like a reason to start worrying but there are definitely silver linings.

The most important role weeds play in this instance is pollinator support. Along with pests and other insects, when bees come out of their dormancy they are looking for food; nectar in particular. So while having a bed full of weeds may not sound great, we tend to keep them around on the farm while they flower in order to support our pollinator population and provide a habitat for beneficial insects.

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Red Nettle is a very common weed on the farm

In our hoop houses we have seen our parasitic wasps start to take off and have a real effect on the aphid population.We can see this progress by checking under the leaves and seeing how many “mummies” we have.  The wasp lays its egg inside the aphid, and as the larva grows it eats its way out, leaving only the husk of the aphid behind. Pretty gross, but so are clusters of aphids on your greens.

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Example of an aphid “Mummy”

Balance is incredibly important when working on an organic farm. One reason we don’t spray broad pesticides or fungicides is to maintain balance. If we sprayed for aphids then the populations of insects, birds and lizards would have no source of food. That gap would then have to be filled more and more to compensate for the lack of balance in our ecosystem. The aphids will continue to come back, but our predators may not.

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