Tomato and bean crops have been excellent this year. We are already picking and drying pole beans for seed and we have been canning tomatoes. I get asked quite a few times "how much do you can?". From year to year it changes a lot but we like to keep 2 years worth of canned green beans and tomatoes at all times. This time of year I look thru what we have left and decide from there how much to put up. We can both red/pink tomatoes and yellow and bi-color tomatoes. I pressure can everything except pickles. On pickles and relish, I can these once every 3 years on average. I also make a sweet pickle mix with summer squash as a nice change. Some years we make salsa and sometimes I will put oregano and basil leaves in certain jars of tomatoes while canning to preseason them for pasta sauce.
This is the time of year to watch insect populations as they are growing. Minor damage is acceptable but Bean Leaf Beetles and Mexican Bean Beetles can destroy a bean patch in a short time resulting in very poor crop harvest. Aphid populations can build pretty high as we go into August. Stink bugs and Cucumber beetle populations are also getting quite large, specially on the vine crops. Not only do insects feed on folage they also can transmit various diseases which will stunt or kill the plant. This is the time of year I get people asking why their cucumber plants suddenly died. Usually they look limp for a few days to a week or so before they finally give it up. The plants die from a virus transmitted by feeding Cucumber Beetles. This is one reason I recommend a steady replanting of vine crops every 30 days thru the summer months. As some plants are dieing off, young plants are coming into production as replacements. One nasty little critter I am seeing a lot of this year is Margined Blister Beetles. Immature larva feed on grasshopper egg masses which is good but adults feed on plant foliage and if these beetles are squished, will cause a nasty blister to develop on the skin.
To my surprise, I am not seeing many benefical insects so far this year except for Praying Mantis. While bush hogging last week, I lost count on how many Praying Mantis I saw (close to 50?). So...what am I doing bug wise on the farm? Nothing...yet. I will only take an active role if things get pretty far out of balance. If things get to that point, I like to use a broad spectrum product along the lines of Pyrethrins. These are natural derived insecticides from Chrysanthemum plants. Pyrethrins have low toxicity to mammals, they kill insects quickly and in sunlight they break down and are non-toxic within a day or less. A good choice for treating the silks on corn to fight Corn Earworms is BT (Bacillus thuringiensis). It is another all natural insecticide that is essentially nontoxic to people, mammals and birds. Available in liquid and powder form, apply to silks on the ear as soon as the silks emerg. As of this writing, I have not sprayed anything on the farm, no pesticides or fungicides. Yes I do give some things up to mother nature but as long as things don't get too far out of balance, I am fine with that.
On a personal note, Mary lost her oldest sister (Bettye) to breast cancer a few weeks ago. She is greatly missed by all.