Now that the gardening season has come to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made 2014 a productive year and to provide you with a year-end report.
Two graphs are provided below. The first graph compares our harvests from 2010 – 2014. The second compares our major crops from 2012 -2014. Thanks to a long growing season, a heavy apple crop and many generous property owners who donated land and allowed us to glean fruit from their orchards, this year’s harvest was 63,768 pounds, bringing the total pounds donated over the past five years to almost 1/4 million pounds.
What went well
2014 was our second largest harvest, surpassed only by 2012. This year, we had a record harvest of tomatoes (29,837 pounds), green chile (5,601 pounds) and fruit gleaned from local orchards (25,899 pounds).
Increase in Volunteer Hours
We had higher volunteer turnout this year. Volunteers contributed over 3000 hours planting, maintaining and harvesting the gardens. Besides Seed2Need volunteers (Sandoval County Master Gardeners and the general public), we hosted six Eagle scout projects – three to plant the gardens, one to glean fruit and two to clean up the gardens at the end of season. In addition, we received help from several Corporate volunteer groups such as Jiffy Lube, Smith’s grocery stores, Heads Up Landscaping and CarMax, from church groups, boy and girl scout troops, Los Ranchos 4-H and students from Bosque School, the US Forest Service, Roadrunner Food Bank, Albuquerque Academy, UNM Sustainable Studies and Kappa Omicron Nu, a nutrition and family studies honor society at UNM. We sincerely appreciate all of the volunteer hours worked to provide fresh produce to less fortunate families in our community.
Control of Root Knot Nematodes
In 2013, root knot nematodes killed most of the tomato plants in one of our three gardens. Root-knot nematodes are tiny parasitic worms that form galls or knots on the plant roots which block the flow of nutrients to the plant. The pest is found worldwide but thrives in the sandy soils common to New Mexico. Thousands of root-knot eggs or worms may be present in one tablespoon of soil.
Internet research came across a study in Texas that used a biological fungicide called Actinovate to control nematodes. We added fertilizer injectors to the irrigation systems at all 3 gardens, injected Actinovate into the drip irrigation system 2 weeks before planting, at planting and 2 weeks after planting. When we pulled up our tomato plants this fall, very few plants showed signs of root knot nematode damage. Click here for more information on the Texas study.
Control of Broad Leaf Weeds
In 2013, we had a heavy infestation of pigweed (Amaranth) following the summer monsoon season. We were concerned that this would lead to pigweed sprouting next to our tomato plants this spring. Because we cover all 2200 of our tomato plants with row cover and do not uncover them until the 1st week of July, this gives the pigweed time to reach 5′ tall and 1-2″ in diameter before the tomatoes can be weeded. Pigweed this size can easily choke out and kill the tomato seedlings.
Internet research led us to a study at Iowa State University that found corn gluten to be 87-99% effective in controlling broad leaf weeds. It also adds 10% nitrogen to the soil. We found 40# bags of corn gluten at a local nursery and sprinkled it around the tomato seedlings as they were planted. When the tomato plants were uncovered in July, there was very little pigweed. Click here to download the pdf on this study.
Codling Moth Control
This year we purchased an orchard sprayer and sprayed the fruit trees to reduce codling moth damage. While researching pesticides effective for controlling codling moths, we found a table that listed pesticides based on their toxicity to bees.
To reduce our impact on the pollinators, we sprayed the orchard with a pesticide called Intrepid. Intrepid was effective. We had very little codling moth damage. Intrepid is expensive and difficult to find locally. However, less pesticide is required per gallon making the cost less prohibitive.Infrastructure
We built a garden shed so we could store all equipment and supplies on site (see photo below). We also purchased a single bottom plow for the tractor.
In addition, we installed a pallet scale and purchased forks for the tractor so we can move and weigh produce by the pallet rather than by the individual crate. This saved time and back breaking labor. It also allowed us to load produce onto the food pantry trucks with the tractor.
What did not go well / New learning opportunities
After we spread manure in the corner of one garden plant growth in that corner showed signs of herbicide damage. We sent plant samples to NMSU and this confirmed our suspicions. Further research pointed to herbicide damage caused by using manure from animals that ate hay harvested off of a pasture treated with a broad leaf herbicide such as picloram, clopyralid and aminopyralid. Click here for a pdf with more information.
An article published by Clemson University reported that spreading activated charcoal on a contaminated field will deactivate the herbicide.
We will do additional research over the winter and we will probably treat the garden with activated charcoal this spring.
This spring squash bugs killed most of our cucurbit crops (cucumbers, squash and melons) before the plants were 2″ tall. This reduced our total harvest by approximately 10,000 pounds. The only cucurbit crops that survived the season were covered with row cover until the 1st week of August.
Over the years we have tried a variety of ways to control squash bugs, e.g. pesticide, examining every leaf, killing the squash bugs and smashing their clusters of eggs, planting companion plants that are purported to repel squash bugs, torching the squash bugs when the infestation gets out of hand and trap cropping (planting a crop that attracts the squash bugs to encourage them to stay away from the other cucurbit crops). So far, the score is Squash Bugs 5, Seed2Need 0. Nothing we have tried has been effective.
If we decide to grow cucurbit crops next year, we will plant them under row cover and leave them covered until late summer. Besides protecting the young plants, row cover provides a white background that makes squash bugs easy to spot and kill.
This year we hauled most of our tomato vines to the Sandoval County Landfill rather than composting them so we don’t provide a pile of vines to serve as cover for over-wintering squash bugs.
Our tomato crop was heavily hit by blossom end rot this year despite spraying the foliage with gypsum (NMSU’s recommendation was to spray the foliage with a mixture of 1/4 c. gypsum per gallon of water.). We will research other solutions over the winter.
Bacterial Blight on the green bean crop
In 2015, we will look for a variety of green beans that is resistant to Bacterial blight.
Plans for 2015
We are already planning the 2015 gardens. There is a seed starting workshop in mid-March, and we will be planting 30 more bare-root fruit trees this spring thanks to a grant from Keep New Mexico Beautiful. Additionally, we will be speaking to other civic and community service groups over the winter to recruit help gleaning fruit from local orchards.
We plan to hire a part-time student intern to help with spring garden prep, garden maintenance and supervision. Most of our core Seed2Need volunteers are 55+. We need more strong backs and youthful enthusiasm!
We are looking forward to another successful garden season.
Thanks again for supporting Seed2Need and for helping us provide fresh fruits and vegetables to the families in our community facing food insecurity. Your participation and support is greatly appreciated.
Best wishes for a joyful holiday season,
The Board of Directors and Volunteers of Seed2Need