Sunday, June 23, 2013

Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Cucumbers

It's been a very busy week here on the farm, and I'd like to eventually get to all of it, but for today I'm only going to talk about a few crops and what we do to help them grow.

First off here's a picture of the two hoop-houses on the farm:

A couple of things to take away from this picture: First, notice that one of the hoop-houses still has it's roof on while the other (the left) does not.  Second, there is obviously a large puddle at the bottom of the picture. We had some storms with big winds this week, so that hoop-house on the left will have to get its roof replaced.  No big deal, but just something I wanted to mention.

In these two hoop-houses are tomatoes.  We have lots of tomatoes growing all over the farm, but the hoop-houses are exclusively held for tomatoes.  Tomatoes can be split up into two groups: indeterminate and determinate.  Determinate tomatoes grow only to a certain height, while indeterminate supposedly (I say supposedly because I have not yet seen fully grown tomatoes) grow much taller.  Thus, indeterminate tomatoes are the kind that need trellising, most often. 

The above two photos come from the smaller hoop-house (the one that is broken, at the moment).  Since it is a smaller house that did not come with pipes running along the roof inside (I'll talk about that later) we had to pound posts into the ground along each bed of tomatoes.  On a hot day, it is one of the most quickly tiring things I've ever done.  Once the wires were in place we could then tie string to the wires which would serve as a sort of "guide" for the tomatoes as they grow upwards.  You can see a few strings very faintly in the second picture.

The next picture shows the larger house where we were able to tie strings to poles installed near the roof rather than having to pound more posts into the ground.

You may be able to see the poles running along the center of the roof and the strings falling down from them to each of the plants.  As I was working on this type of trellising with one of the more experienced workers on the farm, she pointed out to me that the more we touch the vines the greener (or at least darker) our hands would get.  When the vines get taller and we have to go in and work on them more we'll probably have to make sure to wear long sleeve shirts to keep our skin from getting too irritated by the vines.  But that wouldn't bother me! I'm always willing to learn new things and work through hard times! (Oh, why hello there potential employer. Didn't see you...)

As you can see in the above picture, some of the tomato vines have already started sprouting flowers, so we should be seeing full tomatoes soon.

In addition to trellising tomatoes, we also have done so with beans and cucumbers.  With those crops, though, we've used a different type of trellising:

The above picture is of some cucumbers that we just started trellising on Friday and still have not yet finished for lack of wiring (we've finished the beans).  This type of trellising has what I would say is more of a wall rather than individual strings falling to each plant.  We still had to pound posts along each bed but instead of the strings we simply attached a wall (the white squares you may be able to make out in the picture).  As I understand it, we use this type of wiring/trellising on cucumbers and beans because those crops spread out more as they grow, whereas tomatoes tend to grow as one vine and strictly upward, not out.

The rest of this post is about potatoes.  I'm going to try and explain this part carefully, because to anyone who has not yet seen each field on this farm, it may get confusing.  In farming there are multiple fields that lay next to each other, and the crops in each of those fields can not be planted in the same field year after year (in organic farming, at least, where we can't use pesticides or herbicides).  So we rotate the crops.  In our East field we have B1-B5, and last year some potatoes were grown in B5, so this year they have to be grown in B1.  

Easy enough, so far.  The important thing to take away, though, is that every year potatoes get bothered by Potato Beetles (that's what I've heard everyone here call them).  Here is a picture of two Potato Beetles "playing tag":

You can barely see them near the center of the plant--the yellow and black striped insects.  The beetles can be devastating to the crop especially if they're given time to breed since one beetle can turn into hundreds, so we have to kill them on sight.  

So now the explanation for why I wanted to point out the crop rotation.  Since some potatoes were in B5 last year, they would be in B1 this year.  This means the beetles have to travel from B5 to B1 in order to get their food and habitat and everything else potato plants provide them.  So in an attempt to keep them away, we grew eggplants in B3 to hopefully distract the beetles from continuing on to the potatoes (Potato Beetles apparently also have a thing for eggplants).  From the way I understand it, we're more willing to let a few eggplants go in the hopes of saving hundreds of potato plants.

So that's all I have on the potatoes and tomatoes this week.  No references to the song, I'm afraid, so you'll all just have to say potato and tomato any way you want.  Lastly, though, I do have one more picture of interest:

That is a bird's nest with three eggs I found under some potato plants.  Yes, birds will use the shade of the plants to hide their nest.  I'm guessing there are many more in the fields; we already found another one as we were harvesting this week (the mom and dad birds chirped alarmingly loud near us while we harvested because they didn't like us being so close to their eggs).  For those interested, the birds we found while harvesting (not pictured) were called Killdeer, I believe so named because the sound they make sounds like they're exclaiming "Kill Deer".  Killdeers do an interesting thing when they think their eggs are in danger: the parents will shrill loudly run away with one of their wings lagging behind.  I guess this makes it seem as though they're injured to the predator and gets the predator to follow them rather than go after the eggs.  I guess it kind of worked on me since I ran after the momma bird, but really I just wanted her to stop screaming in my ear.

Thanks for reading this week.

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