Since prehistoric times, farmers have been planting and harvesting crops according to the phases of the moon. It means that various plants do best when planted or harvested at certain phases. Our current period is the Decreasing Light from the full moon to the new moon, when the moon light is decreasing. It is best for planting biennials (those plants on a two-year cycle), perennials, and root and bulb crops. “Plant potatoes during the dark of the moon” is an old adage.
Well it turns out this year, our potato tubers will get planted in the phase of Decreasing Light of the moon in the month of June. Mostly, due to our latest of schedule.
Do we believe in planting by the moon? The moon not something that should be ignored. The moon is earth’s only satellite and with out a doubt has an influence on the biology on our planet.
It is also said, that during the fourth quarter, from half-full to new moon, is the best time to cultivate, pull weeds and destroy pests. Well at least, having those chores to do is probably the only sure thing.
For years, we have heard customers and other garlic growers tell us that they eat raw garlic to repel deer ticks, that are a real problem here in Pennsylvania. Up until now, we had only anecdotal evidence to suggest that garlic had any real tick repellent benefit.
Well, we now have learned of a possible reason for this pest control attribute of garlic. A recent proposed rule change to the National Organic Program would add elemental sulfur to the list of allowable materials for livestock pest control. If added, elemental sulfur would be permitted for use as a topical pesticide treatment in organic livestock production to repel mites, fleas and ticks from livestock and livestock living quarters.
What does this have to do with garlic, you might ask. Well it so happens that garlic’s sulfur content is highest of all vegetables and three times higher than those vegetables known for their sulfur content—onions and broccoli. In fact, it’s well known that sulfur gives garlic it’s bitty spiciness.
So, one could reasonably conclude that because of the high sulfur content in garlic that it is indeed a natural deer tick repellent when consumed raw. And it just might be true, that a patch of Garlic is a pungent natural remedy to help keep away that increasingly bad mite, flea and tick population in our backyards.
Because garlic eaten raw is too spicy for many, we are growing a milder tasting hardneck garlic, that can be easier to enjoy raw.
So, Eat More Raw Garlic to help keep those deer ticks away.
Yesterday was a full day of intense agricultural learning at our land-grant university, Penn State at State College Pennsylvania. At the school, a group of fifty (50) entry level crop scouts were provided with the fundamentals necessary for scouting in corn, soybeans, forages, and small grains.
The Agronomy Scout School is mainly designed for scouts working for crop consultants, industry agronomists, or Ag service providers throughout Pennsylvania or neighboring states. Figuring that, as an Organic Inspector, basic scouting knowhow is also an important part of the job to assess the organic field crops during my farm visits.
Some of the sessions were hands-on. Each participant received Agronomy Field Guide handbooks and a some basic tools to use in the field. Topics covered were:
- Introduction to crop scouting
- Soil fertility basics and nutrient deficiencies
- Alfalfa and grass growth and development
- Corn, soybean, and small grain growth and development
- Insect ID
- Disease ID
- Weed ID
- Non-pest crop response symptoms
- Sampling techniques and reporting
- Stand and population assessments and estimating yield
The added treat was the vanilla bean ice cream from the Berkey Creamery.
In case you were wondering, a steely-eyed missile man is A NASA astronaut or engineer who quickly devises an ingenious solution to a tough problem while under extreme pressure. Similar to those of us who farm, and need to make quick decisions on the fly.
And, much is happening this week. First off, Organic Inspection work has begun for the 2018 season, on certified organic farms around the regional area. Just so you can sleep better at night, know that organic integrity checks are being made. Rest assured that there is a former Steely-eyed Missile Man checking those organic regulations accurately and thoroughly. All to the benefit of the consumers who prefer certified organic items as an integral part of healthy eating.
A point occurred me recently. A farmer mentioned that a vegetable seed supplier told them that … “It’s ok for organic farms to buy untreated non-GMO seeds because they the same as organic.” In fact, often this sales claim is flat-out untrue. And worst yet, it might be intentionally done and meant to mislead the organic-minded buyer. Especially when there is an equivalent organically produced variety available. For example, we prefer to grow a pickling cucumber, called Jackson Supreme, because of it’s shape, good yielding traits and broad range of disease resistance. After an exhaustive good-faith seed search, we found that this cucumber is not available in an organic variety. As a result of our documented seed search of at least three seed sources, we purchased the conventional untreated Jackson Supreme seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. However, for our preferred winter squash variety, Delicata, organic seeds are commercially available at Johnny’s. So, we therefore purchased the organic Delicate seeds. And, GMO seeds are never allowed in organic production. And, prohibitive conventional seed treatments are not allowed in organic production either. And lastly, some organic seeds are treated with organically approved coatings, such as naturally occurring inoculants, and therefore are allowed for organic production.
On a slightly different note, today we ordered a new bale of seed start mix. Happily, it was found that our favorite organic SunGro medium still is available. The Sun GRO Sunshine Mix was recommended to us by internationally recognized potato and tomato breeder Tom Wagner aka “Tater-Mater” for seed starts … “where high air capacity and fast drainage are needed: during winter months, with water or salt sensitive crops, or where frequent leaching is required.” We ordered our last bale in the winter of 2015. We had just enough from that old bale to get our tomato and cucumber seeds started this spring resulting in 4 trays of tomatoes and 2 trays of cucumbers. So, it begins anew.
The following narrative provides a story line about organic inspector trainings and a trove of facts about the training sites. Last year was substantially a year of education. It began with International Organic Inspector Association (IOIA) livestock training that occurred near a 3,800-year-old archaeological site along the Iowa River, in a place called Coralville. This town’s name comes from a fossilized coral reef in Iowa formed during the Devonian period. That being a period of time in the Paleozoic Era occurring about 419.2 million years ago. My IOIA livestock training at Coralville was last spring, almost a year ago already. It seems like yesterday.
In Coralville, there is also a significant Late Archaic site dating back 3,800 years called Edgewater. The archaic period most notably began with mobile hunters and gathers, ending with the adoption of sedentary farming. In terms of years, that period ran from around 8000 to 1000 BC. Artifacts that were found at the Edgewater site include cooking hearths, flintknapping tools, spearhead points, bone awls and hooks. As a collection the site shows that the food production at that time most likely came by the way of game hunting and fishing in the river waters. However, perhaps the most interesting find at the site were the ancient seeds of little barley and barnyard millet. These seeds finds suggests that the inhabitants were involved in the early stages of grain cultivation.
And, without a doubt that trend caught on. Now about 90 percent of Iowa is dedicated to farming. Finding foodstuff of the Late Archaic was called gathering, now we call it wildcrafting. Hunting is still done, but it is now more of a sport than a necessity of life. And, farming is still farming but not much of the modern farming remains organic. So then, farming seemingly started with the crops and included livestock later on. Much like it was for the completion of IOIA training courses; a lengthy hunting and gathering period, followed by the cultivation of the crop course in Mt. Sterling, Ohio in the spring of 2016, and then the harvest of the livestock course in Coralville, Iowa.
Digging a little deeper – well maybe not literally, other interesting tidbits about Coralville’s past were found. During the westward migration of the mid-1800s, Coralville was a waypoint where travelers made handcarts of native woods to continue their westward trek. It was recorded that each adult was expected to haul 600 to 700-pounds in their handcart and cover about 15 miles a day during the journey. Those journeyers undertook a tough expedition, and in some ways not all that much different than what was expected of participants during the IOIA training course.
(Stay tuned more to come in the following days as the storyline will occur piece-meal)
Yesterday was scionwood gathering day. These grafting sticks are from local apple trees making them the best material possible. We will be doing grafting onto rootstocks in a few weeks — so stay tuned for grafting announcements. Until then, the scionwood will be stored in the refrigerator and wrapped in damp paper to keep them fresh.
Four varieties were pruned from the dormant (pre-budding) trees.
- Northern Spy
- Chenango Strawberry
- Summer Rambo