Debbie's Blog

Van Till Family Farm & Winery

It has been a cool week on the farm….

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It has been a cool week on the farm, not in the way of weather, but lots of activity!  In the vineyard, the grape shoots have emerged on the vines and there are many grape flower clusters!  This doesn’t guarantee a big harvest, it just shows me that my technique for pruning was successful.  Pruning grapes when they are dormant, or look dead in winter,  is such an act of faith.   I am sure the more I

prune, the more confident I will be.  But for now, when I see the grape flower clusters, I am greatly relieved that they are off to a great start!

Here are some pictures of the beneficial insect activity ( the good bugs) in the hoop house. 

On my hand, I have a ladybug larva, which looks like an alligator.  The larva look like alligators before they

pupate to the adult stage, (round red and black spots)  which is much more familiar to most people.

But I love finding these guys!  The next picture is an alligator on the spinach that overwintered in the hoop house. 

The spinach were transplanted  in October and were covered with  row cover, which protected them  during  the winter.  When the weather started to get above freezing this spring, these spinach started to grow, but they had been really stressed during the winter and had attracted white fly and aphids, ( bad bugs.)  I left them alone, not willing to pull out plants that had survived -11 degrees and that were struggling.  I was sure they would pull out of it and give me a great early harvest.  I also  knew the aphids would not move over onto the lettuce I planted because the lettuce  was vigorous and healthy and bugs attack  sick or stressed plants, at least I hoped they wouldn’t.   And,   sure enough, there has been a lot of really green growth on the spinach these last 3 weeks , the aphid are nowhere to be found, ( they are not on the lettuce!) and there are alligators crawling all over the spinach.  It would be safe to assume the good bugs ate the bad ones.  Sometimes just waiting does have it’s rewards!

This picture shows another of  the deer repellent plants in the farmscape. This one is an allium, it is a bulb, and it is a  relative of  onions and garlic.  This one smells like onions and the deer don’t like that.

I have tulips planted everywhere, and the     

alliums give off enough odor that the deer don’t find the tulips.   I haven’t seen any deer tracks and all tulips are accounted for in the flower beds!  Sorry deer, no candy this spring.

This picture shows the lettuce growing in the greenhouse in one of our towers.  I can get an earlier start in the greenhouse by transplanting  lettuce and  other greens into these pots that stack 6 on top of each other.  This

lettuce is a Deer’s Tongue that is sweet and crisp.  The leaves come to a point and have good flavor. I can get 36 plants in a 4′ x 4′ space.  by picking the outer leaves 2 times per week,  3-4 towers gives plenty of lettuce for our farm crafted salads being served here on the farm.  More  about some other lettuces next week.

Thanks for letting me share about the unique aspects of farming here in Missouri!

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