BEACON GETTING READY FOR MANGEL CROP
The last time we planted Mangels was May 2020. We hope to plant another crop this year, possibly in the Research Garden now that the Tobacco that was growing there have been harvested.
This crop of mangel beets will be used as a research and exhibition crop. Growing them in the Research Garden will give us a bit more control as we fine tune our fertilizer schedule and organic pest control measures for this crop.
ISSUES WITH MANGEL BEET PROPAGATION
In June, five rows in the Research Garden were sown with mangel beet seeds. The beet seedlings were expected to emerge in 4 - 5 days, but very few seedlings came up! Then even those seedlings disappeared!
We had to do some detective work to determine the problem. First, we planted some seeds in seedling trays to see if the seeds were still viable. Just about all the seeds we planted in the trays sprouted so it was not an issue with germination.
We then thought that it might be a pest problem. There are cutworms and millipedes that can damage seedlings as they emerge from the soil. We pulled back the plastic and found many millipedes enjoying the protection the plastic was providing. It is easy to imagine that under the cover of darkness, these pests have been feasting on the tender seedlings as they emerge from the soil.
This led us to asking how we can control these pests in an organic manner, as we do not use harmful pesticides at Beacon Farms. We thought to remove the plastic cover altogether so that they no longer have a hiding place, but removing the plastic invites weeds and chickens to disturb the beds.
There is also diatomaceous earth which is an organic substance that might work. It must be applied regularly and when we go into large scale production, it will be difficult to use this method of control.
Our final thought is that we may need to start the beets in trays and then transplant them out into the field when they are bigger and heartier. This would also be difficult to do on a large scale but, if we can mechanize this process with a planter attachment for our tractor, this may be the solution.
Stay tuned for the update with the solution to this frustrating problem!
ROUNDING UP THE CHICKENS
Sometimes there is a roundabout way of solving a problem!
We have found millipedes sheltering under the plastic covering the plant beds and we believe they are destroying the mangel seedlings. We would like to take the plastic cover off the rows of mangels but if the plant beds are left uncovered, not only do we get weeds, the chickens dig up the plants. So, to be able to remove the plastic, the first step is rounding up the chickens!
We are building a large coop to house the chickens. We also have a trap to catch the chickens so, while we build the coop, we are getting them comfortable with the trap to make it easier to catch them when we have the coop prepared.
MANGEL BEET CROP RE-DO
The Mangelwurzel Beets that we planted in the Research Garden didn't amount to much (see above posts regarding our struggles).
We ended up clearing and preparing a section of our Commercial Fields for a new area to plant our mangel crop. This area came with another set of problems in that the peacocks were making a meal of the seedlings, so we had to put in fencing to keep the birds out.
The new crop has been planted and we hope to harvest these large fodder beets in about 6 - 8 months. Hopefully they will reach the size of the few mangelwurzel beets that survived in the research Garden!