Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Glimmer of Hope.

It has been awhile since my last post.  We have been harvesting lettuce, basil, raspberries, the odd strawberry, onions, tomatoes, green and purple pole beans, green peppers, Swiss chard, crooked neck squash and zucchini.  Shannon made salsa with some of our garden harvest, except for the hot peppers, which she got from the local farmers market since we didn't have any of our own.  We have made a couple batches of fresh and canned 6 small jars via water bath.
Fresh Homemade Salsa

There are still more new bugs, the latest being an infestation of red aphids on the tomatoes.  The leaves may be poisonous to humans but not to all bugs!

As summer is winding down, I would say this is our best year so far on amount of produce harvested, but we have also planted more beds then ever as well.  In the bug and disease department, the powdery mildew, aphids, and bean beetles have been the worst this year.  So what is the glimmer of hope I want to discuss?  Is it by planting more you will get more?  Well this would makes sense, but that also means much more work.  No, the glimmer of hope is in dealing with the large number of plant diseases and pests.  There seems to be no end and the battle rages on...  Just look at how many different sprays and powders that you can buy to combat the bugs and diseases. Wouldn't it be nice to have disease and pest free plants without adding scores of chemicals to combat them?  Like in the Garden of Eden perhaps?  Is it possible now?  A book I read seems to indicate this, but is it too good to be true?

I read from the book called "An Agricultural Testament"  by Sir Albert Howard, published in 1943, about how he did this very thing.   Sir Albert talks about a composting process developed in Indore India, after which it is named.  The Indore process uses plant and animal waste to create a healthy, living humus teaming with microbes.  The idea is to create and maintain healthy soil, which in turn  will give health and life to the plants growing in it.  Sir Albert  further extends this logic to propose that a person eating these healthier plants, will in turn be healthier.  He gives results and studies from his own findings after years of experience.  I don't have the resources to make the compost the way it is laid out in the book, but I can get some horse manure and attempt to make better soil for the plants.  This will hopefully lead to healthier plants, which in turn will make us healthier.

An excerpt from the book below pretty much sums up the need to return to natural farming techniques, published in 1943!:

The flooding of the English market with cheap food, grown anywhere and anyhow, forced the farmers of this country to throw to the winds the old and well-tried principles of mixed farming, and to save themselves from bankruptcy by reducing the cost of production. But this temporary salvation was paid for by loss of fertility. Mother earth has recorded her disapproval by the steady growth of disease in crops, animals, and mankind. The spraying machine was called in to protect the plant; vaccines and serums the animal; in the last resort the afflicted live stock are slaughtered and burnt. This policy is failing before our eyes. The population, fed on improperly grown food, has to be bolstered up by an expensive system of patent medicines, panel doctors, dispensaries, hospitals, and convalescent homes.

You can read the entire book online at:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Genesis Curse

I was reading through Genesis again lately and I am reminded that God cursed the ground twice because of man's sin.  In chapter 1 verse 17 and again chapter 4 verses 11-12.  This curse(s) are still with us today as evidenced by some more diseases I am showcasing here.  One is Powdery Mildew, which has affected our squash plants and Cucumber Bacterial Wilt, which has infected at least one of our cucumber plants.

Powdery Mildew on Zucchini

 I have cut off the most infected leaves in the hopes that the disease will not spread as quickly to the entire plant and did a spray application of a few drops of Neem oil and 7th generation dish soap (to help keep the Neem on the leaves) in water.
Applying Neem on Zucchini infected with PM

After doing some research on the web I found that Powdery Mildew is a fungi that is spread by the wind, insects, and splashing water.  This disease affects many plants, however a different strain of fungus attacks different plant families.  One thing I read about was a water / baking soda mixture that could be sprayed on the leaves, which is more of a preventative measure than an eradicant.  Something I should keep in mind for next year.  As I was wondering about throwing the infected leaves into my compost, I did some preliminary research and found mixed opinions on the safety of using the composted leaves.  I also read that the mildew doesn't always kill the plant, but can severely limit production.

Reading up on Bacterial Wilt, I found that it is spread by the striped or spotted cucumber beetle.  A pest that we definitely found a lot of this year.  This virus infects plants from the curcurbit family (cucumbers, melons, squash, pumpkins and gourds) and causes a sticky, oozy substance in the plants which clog the plant's circulatory system so the vines don't receive the water they need.  Once infected, there is not much hope for the plant.
Bacterial Wilt on Cucumber Plant