This week, in true spring fashion, the farm exploded. Seedlings grew inches overnight. Weeds sprung up higher than the lawn mower was ready for. Peepers were singing in the back fields and the bugs came out to play.
With so much to do, all at one time, it’s the bugs who are on my mind.
I love bugs. And I appreciate that growing organically can be a delicate dance with nature. But, at times, it can feel like a ten-round cage fight.
Earlier this year, while in Savannah for a veggie conference, I attended a lecture on organic methods to control the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. The BMSB, aka ‘veggie terrorist’, is a killer who snuck in on a boat from the Far East. Over the past two decades it’s been migrating throughout the East Coast wiping out fruit and vegetable crops along the way.
These are the disgusting buggers that show up in your house, hide in your drapes, fly around your light fixtures and, if you’re unfortunate enough to squish them, stink up the room.
If this little guy was on a WANTED poster it would read: Wanted DEAD or DEAD. Any ideas about how to wipe him out, without decimating my good guys, was news for me.
The professor giving the lecture explained the theory of “trap cropping” or planting a crop to attract bad bugs, specifically the BMSB, away from the valuable crop. In his trials, he used a combination of sunflower and sorghum. Both are planted a few weeks before the main crop in order to attract early BMSB arrivals. The sunflower lures them in and the sorghum follows up with a plentiful food supply.
The plan, much like any good cook already knows, is to feed the trouble-maker into a blissful stupor. Then kill it. With organic or conventional sprays, whichever way suits your philosophy.
So, last week we planted our first trap crop. The sunflowers and sorghum share a bed together and soon will be the tallest plants on the farm. Nestled closely by, hopefully safe from the deadly BMSB, will be the tomatoes and squash, eggplant and cucumbers.
The thing about growing organically, like most growing, is that hope springs eternal in spring. By July it’ll be an all-out war against bugs and weeds. I’m in round one of what promises to be a long and exhausting campaign but I’m feeling good. Rested. Ready.
I’ll keep you posted and let you know when I’m ready to tap out.