Pest Control

We were taken aback this year by the pests feasting on our garden. We’ve laid out the list before: armywormscabbage wormscross-striped cabbage wormsaphids, and several unknown caterpillars. We even saw a wooly bear caterpillar, the cute harbinger of winter, devouring our salad mix. Such a small caterpillar, and the leaf was disappearing before our eyes! But by far the worst pests have been deer and cutworms, and this week we took steps that will help us control both.

The cutworm is a grey-brown caterpillar that lives a couple inches below the ground. It emerges at night and immediately begins mowing its way through your garden. Unlike other caterpillars, which eat leaves, the cutworm snips off the stem. For plants such as greens, which only have one stem, this kills the plant. For plants that make a rosette of leaves, such as carrots, this may set the plant back severely or it may kill it. Because a single cutworm can do so much damage, and because they hide underground and blend in with the soil, cutworms are serious pests, and they did a huge amount of damage to our garden.

A cutworm caterpillar.
A cutworm caterpillar.

But while we were raking up our beds, we discovered that cutworm pupa are in fact easy to see: they are orange cocoons that lie a couple inches underground. So it was with some excitement that we picked out and squished dozens of them. I’m not at all ashamed to say they made quite a satisfying “pop.” This may not have saved this year’s veggies, but we’ve already taken care of many of next year’s cutworms by squishing them now.

Cutworm pupa.
Cutworm pupa.

Deer of course are a scourge for all gardeners in the southeast, and although we had a fence, it wasn’t keeping the deer out. We wanted to build an inexpensive fence that works by taking advantage of deers’ poor depth perception. So we did some research by visiting our friends at Whitted Bowers Farm in Cedar Grove, NC, who have that sort of fence. The main problem, we learned, was that our fence was not baited and electrified. (For more information about the low-costs 3-D fence and how it works, visit Premier Fencing.)

Our first deer fence: Not up to the task.
Our first deer fence: Not up to the task.

Our original fence was also too short, and the step-in posts didn’t work for the corners. .So we beefed it up.  Our new corner posts are taller and stronger and hold our fence high. We’re also pleased with our solar charger, which was putting out its full 8,500 volts along the entire fence.

We’re still learning and still have a lot to learn, but we’ve done a lot to reduce the pest burden we’ll have to deal with next season.

Flowers Extraordinaire!!

I just returned from an incredibly productive 3 week internship on Harvest Moon Flower Farm, south-central Indiana’s finest flower farm.  I learned about cultivating flowers, proper harvest and post-harvest techniques, bouquet making, the ins-and-outs of wedding florals, diverse flower marketing, and good business practice.  I first learned about HMFF from Anna Dale, a Warren Wilson College friend who grew up farming flowers with her mother,  Linda Chapman, the farmer and head bouquet maker extraordinaire.  I was constantly amazed at Linda’s ability to keep a million things in her head at once.  She graciously shared her experiences and knowledge with me as I furiously tried to write it all down or capture it on camera.  In exchange for sweat and work, she gave me the basis for a successful flower farming business here in central NC.  I am so thankful for her mentor-ship and gift of knowledge that she gave to me during her busiest time of the year.  At the end of my internship, Linda helped me start 950 flower starts to put in the ground here in NC for Spring Forth Farm’s first wedding gig in October!

Harvest Moon Flower Farm
Morning at Harvest Moon Flower Farm, Spencer, Indiana
Harvest Moon Flower Farm
Harvest Moon Flower Farm
HMFF Crew
A dynamic group of hard-working women (left to right): Kuenzi Wiswall, Megan Leiss , Linda Chapman, Anna Dale (also not pictured, Ben West)

These are my first two bucket of bouquets for the local farmers market.  Entering into the “bouquet barn” to join the crew of very experienced women was, needless to say, intimidating, but very instructional.

Megan's first basket of five bouquets
Megan’s first basket of five bouquets
More of Megan's bouquets
More of Megan’s bouquets
Zinnias
Zinnias
Bouquets of flowers ready for market
Bouquets of flowers ready for market