April-How we deal with weeds and pests on the farm
The growing season is in full swing and things are really busy here on the farm! (Hence our April newsletter coming out on May 1st.) Spring crops are in the ground and growing rapidly. With every rainstorm or warm day, they get closer to harvest time. Summer crops are starting to leave the greenhouse and get planted in the field now. And our first CSA pick up is May 11th!
The vegetable and fruit crops love the storms, drizzly days and warm sunny weather that spring is throwing at them, but unfortunately so do the weeds and pests. A conventional farm uses intensive tilling, large equipment, herbicides and pesticides to keep the weeds and pests away. Windy Hill Family Farm uses organic standards, which means that we employ different methods to keep weeds and bugs from taking over the crops.
I was taught that as a farmer, you need stay one step ahead of weeds and pests. Like a lot of things in life, weeds and pests are easiest to manage before they become well established. Healthy, vigorous plants are the farm’s first defense. At Windy Hill Family Farm, we use insect netting and row cover to keep bugs away from the crops. We are also working to establish a healthy population of insect predators like ladybugs, beneficial nematodes, lacewings, parasitic wasps, and praying mantids. Every once in awhile, we'll spray organic-approved pesticides on the plants to break up any particularly bad insect issues. To keep weeds away, we use straw mulch, plastic mulches, a whole lot of hand-weeding and hoeing, and most excitingly, a flame weeder! A flame weeder consists of a propane tank that you wear on your back, and a hose with a torch and adjustable flame that you use to burn away small weeds.
On our small organic farm, we have replaced herbicides and pesticides with diversified weed and pest fighting tactics. This keeps things interesting and keeps us pretty busy. You should consider coming out to the farm to see for yourself!