Rain, raccoons and books to look forward to.

This week has come with a lot of rain, which has restricted what we can do in the garden, but saves me from running irrigation systems. It means the weeds are growing too well, and there is no chance to hoe: the soil is too wet, the weeds won’t die, just re-root. We’re about 40% down our 265′ long carrot rows (15 of them), weeding, but the weeds are now bigger than the carrots. Meanwhile, other timely tasks are going begging. probably we’ll have to draw a line in the mud and give up on the lower part of the carrot patch. Too bad.

Farming is completely non-linear! You don’t finish one task, then start another. Every day involves a juggling of priorities. At this time of year, harvesting takes a lot of time. And naturally, it’s very important to do it! After all, why grow food if you don’t harvest it? An added challenge this year is that for most of the summer crops (tomatoes, beans, eggplant, squash, cucumbers), it’s better not to touch the plants while the leaves are wet. Fungal diseases spread easily when it’s warm and wet. Many mornings the dew is heavy, so we start our shifts with some hoeing (if the soil and the forecast are dry enough), or carrot weeding (most days). Our next priority, after harvesting, is planting. “Prioritize planting during the planting season!” is one of our mantras.Here in central Virginia, the planting season runs from mid-February to the end of September (ignoring the garlic planting in November).

Yesterday we caught our eleventh raccoon in the sweet corn. We’ve probably lost close to 2000 ears of corn to these pests this year. (Two whole sections 6 rows x 60ft with a plant every 8 inches, plus serious inroads in three other sections.) We’re looking at installing an electric fence, but several crew are unenthusiastic, foreseeing problems with the fence shorting out on the grass, and inconvenience working around it. We need to do something different. This morning both raccoon traps had the bait eaten, but no captives. One trap was open and on its side – have the beasts figured out how to turn the trap and get the food out without springing the trap? The other was closed but emptied. Perhaps we have a giant raccoon that uses its butt to keep the door from closing while it eats the bait?

On a more cheery note, here’s two books to look forward to before next season. (People looking for gifts for gardening friends, take note).

51E7ayNJ7IL._SX260_Ira Wallace, from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Acorn Community, has written the Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast. It will be published in December 2013. The write-up says “Growing vegetables requires regionally specific information—what to plant, when to plant it, and when to harvest are based on climate, weather, and first frost. The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast tackles this need head on, with regionally specific growing information written by local gardening expert, Ira Wallace. This region includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.”

Ira’s book is for new vegetable gardeners, or ones relocating to the southeast. It includes month-by-month planting recommendations, skill-building tips, a primer for beginners and an A-Z meet-the-vegetables section. Paperback, 256 pp., 7½ x 9 in. (230 x 190 mm.), ISBN: 9781604693713.  It will sell for $19.95 and I recommend you support your local writers in the same way and for the same reasons we support our local farmers – buy direct from them and don’t line the pockets of the big corporations. Those places that sell books at big discounts don’t contribute much to writers and publishers! Southern Exposure will be selling the book through their catalog and at events where they have a booth.


Cindy Connor has written Grow a Sustainable Diet, which will be published by New Society in Spring 2014. Read what she has to say to introduce it on her blog Homeplace Earth. Cindy says: ” This book is for folks who want to grow all, or a substantial amount, of their food and do it in a way that has a small ecological footprint. Particular attention would need to be paid to crop choices for your diet and for feeding back the soil . . . If you wanted, you could use the information from this book to plan a complete diet of homegrown foods.” Or you could choose which bits best fit your life and use her worksheets, diet planning, garden planning and information on cover crops, livestock, food storage and preservation, sheds and fences to help you provide more of your own food. And you can enjoy her stories.

I haven’t yet got the price for Cindy’s book, or the ISBN, or a firm date, but check her website regularly or subscribe to her blog (which is always packed with good information). I will post more information as I get it. You can bet Cindy will be selling the book directly, and that SESE will also carry it.

2 thoughts on “Rain, raccoons and books to look forward to.”

  1. Coons, ugh. Last year we started putting a fiberglass post through the Havahart trap and driving it into the ground on the far side of the trigger to keep the coons from flipping the trap. We found that some peanut butter smeared kind of high on that post in the trap was also a good way to get them to step on the trigger since it required extra reach.

    Electric is our first line of defense, though. We use portable fences that surround only the crops that need it and only when they need it (maturing strawberries, corn, & melons for protection from coons; recently germinated legumes for protection from rabbits). Growth of grass/weeds is definitely a problem; I’ve taken to hoeing a swath of ground to bare soil where the fence is going to go, and that usually keeps the weed load off for the necessary duration. We use VersaNet fencing from Premier1 & recommend it (though the VersaNet Plus with closer post spacing is probably a good idea; we use a lot of extra posts to minimize sagging). When electrified, this is very effective against coons and moderately effective against rabbits. It is only ~2 ft tall & very easy to step over. Strands of portable electric polywire can also be pretty effective for coons; ~4 strands extending to ~2 ft high with closer spacing towards the ground will usually suffice. The trick with either type of fencing is to keep the electric hot every single night. We run an energizer off the barn, and during corn season we try to check the fence on a near daily basis.

    After dealing with a dozen coons last year, we haven’t had any coon problems this year…yet. I’d like to credit our methods, though I suspect it is largely a fluke of natural population cycles. We haven’t even seen evidence of coons in the tomatoes, which usually get some damage but not enough to justify fencing them in a way that would keep coons out. Anyway, good luck contending with yours.

  2. Thanks Joanna, I tried your suggestion of the stake through the trap, baited with peanut butter, but didn’t catch any coons last night. Either they gave up because they couldn’t flip the traps over, or they’ve gone away to Google “how can coons defeat staked-down traps” and will be back tonight with their redesigned tools! I’m also going to set up an electric fence. Just waiting for my local Southern States to get more solar chargers in. Maybe tomorrow.

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