Well, first the good news:
I have temporarily solved the groundhog problem. I've been picking up bags of dog hair from local dog-grooming places and scattering it around the edges of the fields. This is supposed to scare away groundhogs, deer, and possibly rabbits. So far they've eased off enough for us to have harvestable lettuce in the new few weeks (if we get there before they come back!). I will continue to re-apply this newfound free repellent... it's easier than keeping a dog around, plus it's a good addition to the soil anyway! Did you know that hair has some of the highest nitrogen content (once it's composted)?
Okay, now the sad news:
We've been getting too much of a good thing: rain. Cold, cloudy, thunderstormy weather is great for spring and fall crops like spinach, cabbages, lettuce, etc. but AWFUL for heat-loving plants like tomatoes. Green fruit is hanging off the vines, just waiting for that 80 degree July weather we usually get. ( They don't know about global climate change yet.) But while the tomatoes are waiting to ripen, the constantly wet days we've been having are creating the perfect environment for disease to spread. Maybe you've heard:
1. Big box stores imported tomato plants to sell in their "garden centers" that happened to have "Late Blight"... a pretty serious fungal disease that affects tomatoes & potatoes, and actually caused the Irish Potato Famine.
2. Home gardeners took these plants home and grew out the disease. Spores from these plants became windborne, carried in the storms, and started infecting commercial farmers' fields.
3. I have found a section of my first planting of tomato plants that have been positively identified by Cornell experts as Late Blight.
I am looking into options to prevent the rest of the plants from becoming infected. They include:
1. Removing & destroying the infected & surrounding plants.
2. Praying for a week of hot, sunny weather. Apparently UV rays kill the spores, or at least stop them from spreading as fast.
3. Using a certified-organic spray. While I am usually against spraying anything, at this point it might make the difference between having tomatoes this summer or not.
On a brighter note, humans can't contract Late Blight, and many other crops seem to be coming along quite fine, not a bit concerned that their solanaceous sisters are shivering in their roots! Unlike the Irish at the time of the famine, we have a diversified palette of food options here at Mud Creek Farm... coming up soon: onions, carrots, more beets, more cabbages, kale, more swiss chard, more scallions... and then later in the summer: beans, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, melons, corn, & more.