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New Terra Farm News -- Factoids of Interest to the organic foodie
February 10, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Written & Published by Scott Kelland
Written at New Terra Farm
13510 County Rd 15
Merrickville ON

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Wow, a new growing season is starting! Despite a really tough season last year, we are looking forward to getting in the greenhouse and getting our hands dirty once again. Hope you all have a great year; we are planning on it!

The 411 on this issue:

1. Opening Notes

2. Market Gardener Minute - Pest Control in the Organic Garden

3. Farm fun - Spring low-ku

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1. Opening Notes

Here we go, another year older and a little bit wiser. As we mentioned last issue, we are not going to try to expand our garden this season, but we are trying some new methods to (hopefully) avert some of the problems from last year.

And, dependng on survey results, we are going to try to add some other organic products to our line.

Speaking of the survey, if you were a customer last year you should have received one by now. Please return to us as soon as possible in the enclosed, stamped envelope, so that we can finish up our plans for this year. All input gratefully accepted.

We already have some responses that reminded us we left sugar snap peas off the list - oops! Rest assured we like the sugar snaps too much not to grow them - and we'll see if we can spare a few for you as well .

One final thing, we have added the capability to pay for your CSA veggie basket by credit card or PayPal, securely through our website. You will see the 'pay now' buttons on the New Terra Farm page

2. Market Gardener Minute - Pest Control in the Organic Garden

I thought a discussion of natural and organic pest control methods might be of interest to you market gardeners and home gardeners in the crowd. This information is based on our experience in the New Terra Farm garden, supplemented with some research and discussions with other organic growers in the area. We already use many preventative and passive pest control methods, and will be implementing others, based in part on your feedback in the survey.

The various pest-control methods are presented in order from least-invasive/toxic to most potentially harmful; this is approximately the order to try the various remedies in, depending on the problem.

Step One - Grow Right. The organic gardener's number one defense against pests is (drum roll, please . . . ) good cultural practices! This means:

  • maintain soil fertility and organic matter by adding aged manure or compost
  • maintain a steady supply of moisture to the soil
  • rotate crops to prevent build-up of pests

Healthy, unstressed plants are more resistant to bugs and will survive weed pressure better as well. This is another good reason to maintain a home compost bin, and to use drip irrigation in your home garden. Drip hose makes it easy to supply a steady, constant supply of moisture to your soil.

Something new, the organic farm that supplies my feed grain just told me about a product called CAL-T; it is reported to be a totally natural blend of calcium carbonate, trace minerals and natural enzymes that has been specially treated to improve the absorption of minerals and nutrients by the plant. In theory this strengthens the plant and its immune system, thereby making it more resistant to disease and pests. We have obtained a sample for trial this year in our gardens; you can check the product out at

Preventative/Passive Measures. This includes using physical barriers to insects such as row cover and cloches, mulch to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture, and sticky traps to control pests such as whitefly. It also includes special techniques such as companion planting to deter pests and support plant growth, and close planting (in wide rows or raised beds) to shade out weeds. Using these methods is just a matter of preparation and planning; we do all these things in our gardens.

Active Bug Control. This includes hand picking, and spraying and dusting various substances to kill or deter pests. Handpicking works well in small gardens, and in fact we hand pick Tomato Horn Worms from our tomatoes because these BIG caterpillars are easy to find and remove. For potato beetles, keep a thick straw or hay mulch around the potato plants; once a day walk down the row and jostle the plants. Many potato bugs will be dislodged, and will be unable to find their way back to the plant through the mulch.

Spraying starts with the least-toxic choice, plain water. A strong spray of water can dislodge many pests including aphids and spider mites. Homemade insecticidal soaps can be made by adding 4-5 tablespoons of dish soap or liquid hand soap to a gallon of water. This spray will actually kill many insects if it comes in direct contact with them. The soap, naturally, is non-toxic to people or pets. If you use dish soap, rinse your plants off with plain water about an hour after spraying.

Other homemade mixtures include hot-pepper sprays, and garlic sprays. Dice up some hot peppers or garlic, pour boiling water over them, and let sit for an hour. Then strain the liquid into a container and cover for storage.

BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a mostly non-toxic control for pest caterpillars such as cabbage loopers, coddling moth larvae, cabbageworms, and tomato hornworms. It is harmless to people and animals, but don't spray indescrimnately as it will also kill 'good' caterpillars such as those of the monarch butterfly.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is not actually a pesticide; it works by physical action. It is non-toxic and in fact can be consumed (food grade only) by humans. Diatomaceous earth is the remains of microscopic one-celled plants (phytoplankton) called diatoms that lived in the oceans. When diatomaceous earth comes in contact with insects, the sharp edges lacerate the bugs waxy exoskeleton and the diatomaceous earth absorbs body fluids, causing death from dehydration. Note: use only food grade DE in your garden. At the farm we are also trialing the use of food grade DE as a vermicide (internal parasite killer) in our sheep, chickens, and horses.

Botanicals. This includes pyrethrins, with active ingredients extacted from the pyrethrum or painted daisy. Note: pyrethroids are synthetic and much more toxic, check your labels to make sure which product you are using. Pyrethrins will kill many chewing and sucking insects.

Neem. Neem oil is used as a miticide, insecticide, fungicide, nematacide, and insect repellent. It is considered almost non-toxic to mammals and is bio-degradable. It is thought to be milder on beneficial insects than many botanicals, while controlling many insect pests. Pure unrefined Neem oil is usually mixed with water and a little liquid soap (to emulsify the oil) before spraying on plants.

Rotenone is a plant-based slow-acting toxin. It kills most beetles and insects with chewing mouth parts. It is toxic to birds, fish and beneficial inects, and requires at least a 2 week wait period after last application to plants used for food. We do not use rotenone in our gardens.

That's it, next newsletter we'll talk about managing some other garden problems such as weeds and diseases, both from a home garden perspective as well as in a CSA market garden.

3. Farm Fun

A Spring low-ku

Spring, a noun, a verb
and a season all imply
bouncing back, or outflowing

Have a happy,


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