Definitely one of the most frequently asked questions.  This farm is certified organic so we don’t use toxic chemicals to kill insects.  We do use a lot of row cover.  Row cover is a light weight poly spun fabric.  We drape it over crops that are susceptible to insect damage.  We pin it down every several feet with large plastic push pins.  The plants grow under the cover.  The lightweight fabric allows sun and rain to penetrate.  We remove the row cover when the plants are blossoming so the pollinators can find the blossoms.  Once the plant is blossoming it is large enough to withstand insect pressure.  The very young, tender plants are so much more susceptible.

Which crops need protection?  Many crops will benefit from row cover.  We row cover eggplant, melons, cucumbers, winter squash, summer squash, radishes and turnips.

Who are we trying to keep out?   Flea beetles are a huge nuisance.  They are tiny insects that jump like flea when you touch them.  They feast on the leaves of many vegetable plants.  Sometimes they simply cause damage and make the plant look dreadful, sometimes they kill it.  They love the leaves of spring turnips and radishes.  They will devour the turnip leaves down to nothing if we don’t have the row cover on before the plant emerges from the ground.  When flea beetles  bore their tiny holes into the leaves they are weakening the plant, making it even more susceptible to insect pressure.   We keep the row cover on the turnips and radishes until shortly before we harvest them.  Flea beetles love eggplant leaves so we leave the row cover on until the eggplant is blossoming.

Cucumber Beetles are another problem insect for us.   They will kill cucumbers, melons and squashes.  We put the row cover on as soon as we transplant the young plants.   As a matter of fact, a row cover crew follows close behind the transplanting crew.  Once the insects are there, they have won.  Even one day without row cover can be devastating.    Yesterday we removed the row cover from our first planting of melons and from all of the winter squash.  Over a mile and a half of row cover on the squash alone.  The crew was mighty dirty when they returned from that four hour job.

Row cover on melons

Peeking under the row cover at the watermelon plants

The row cover came off this garden of cantaloupe today. If you look closely you can see some yellow blossoms.

Where does our straw mulch come from?  We grow it!

Bales of alfalfa, ready to be used as mulch (this is a different field than the one shown above. We grow ‘mulch’ in several fields).