Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dream Job and Bad Bugs

Our son, Jonathan, is a 2004 graduate of NC State University and has worked in the so-called "real world" since that time. He has enjoyed jobs in Silver Spring, Maryland; then Cary, Raleigh, and Greensboro. He has been bossed around, and has been the boss.  His last job was such a nightmare that he doesn't even mind working for his work-aholic parents.

Not so much each individual task, but overall, Jonathan calls working here on our tomato farm his "DREAM JOB".  SWEET!!!! 

Being a little obsessive (like his mother),  Jonathan not only does the job at hand, but also grooms the plant of anything else that needs attention.   During the weekly leaf pull, we average pulling off 2 to 3 leaves per plant, per week.  This occurs at the bottom of the plant where the oldest leaves are. This time consuming job is not glamorous, but must be done for the overall health of the plant. We must be careful to break leaves off without breaking the plant and leave clean breaks so no disease will begin on the plant scar. 

While Jonathan is pulling leaves, he has started noticing tiny fruit that needs to be pruned off the plant, so he does that.  In addition, he notices plant scars that haven't healed properly, so he carries his trusty paring knife and scrapes the area clean.  He also sees plants that haven't slipped and broken (nearly half into without breaking completely) and repairs the damage with duct tape. (What else?)  He has an eye for details about the plant and will multi-task until he is satisfied with each plant's appearance and health.  That's a good thing unless you are dealing with 3,500 plants and must complete the leaf pull task by day's end.  (Thankfully we have Jeremy and Daniel pulling leaves with Jonathan and are able to finish one house in under a day.)

With all that observation and a "case of  tomato plant OCD", Jonathan has also found nasty little aphids!  He marks the spot where he has found them and Tim does his microscopic study of the little boogers and tells us that they are potato aphids.  Do those aphids not know that ours is a TOMATO, not potato, house?!?

Although we have already been putting our friends, "aphidius ervi", in the house, it seems that these GOOD bugs cannot keep up with the new outbreak of  BAD aphids.  The kind of aphid explosion we have witnessed this week was more and likely brought on by the lack of a good, cold winter.  Yes, we fight aphids, spider mites, and white flies every year, but this year, the aphids seem to be fighting back.  Since the really warm weather isn't even here yet, we have to step up our plan of attack.    We need more aphidius ervi to the tune of $700.00 this week.  Yes, $700.00 is an outrageous amount of money to spend on bugs that are practically invisible, but they are such a necessary part of our working paradise. 
Aphidius Ervi - aphid destroyer, magnified a jillion times
So we all continue to work and wage war against our enemies, the aphids, white flies, and spider mites.  Coming soon, a special treat the spider mite cannot resist.