25 Oct Learning the hard way with Baby Marrows
Our summer 2018 planting season started off with a bang and great excitement, however the excitement was cut short by adverse weather conditions, guinea fowls and rat feeding activities. We started planting our marrow seeds on the 2nd of August 2018, which is slightly earlier than usual, believing that summer had eventually arrived as temperatures were above seven degrees celsius on most mornings. But little did we know that our early summer calculations were misjudged resulting in a short-lived joy for planting and major financial loss. We ordered 80 000 seeds of baby marrows and started planting half a hectare each week. Towards the end of August we had already planted about 3ha of baby marrows but its sad to say that we lost a good 2ha of the baby marrows.
Well the early planting from the first week of August was surely an error in judgment and miscalculation on our side. Yes, the temperature on most mornings in Boksburg area were a bit low however between late morning and mid afternoon it was much warmer. This then resulted in a slow germination growth, meaning that the seeds stayed longer underground, thereby creating an enabling environment suitable for consistent attacks from the birds, rats, moles and unwanted pests. This was our second major problem. We used every trick in the book to win the battle between rats and guinea fowl firstly by setting up rat traps in and around the farm and planting area. Needless to say, this worked for a few days but the rats kept on coming, and we tried to maintain the consistency of setting up these traps however too much damage had already been done. Another trick in the book we tried using was covering the planted blocks with the excess shade nets that were lying dormant in the shed, and whilst this proved effective for some time, the rats and guinea fowl became too clever. The rats would find small entrance points where they could force themselves under the netting and dig out the seeds from the ground and what the guinea fowls would do is follow the drip irrigation holes and try pluck the seed out the ground over the net. It really was a nightmare. In addition to the above, the two days of frost experienced in the 3rd week of August and 2nd week in September further decimated the crops that had germinated and survived – even those that were already on a tripod development stage were not spared.
After losing 2ha of precious seed, we decided to plant the new seeds which we received from our supplier at no additional cost to us (thank goodness for good relationships) in the 3 tunnels that were awaiting pepper plants. So our solution was to put the seeds under protective area, let them germinate and grow to a certain level which would allow us to transplant out onto the fields, as you would do with seedlings. As the headline picture shows, we just randomly inserted the seeds on the ground with no particular spacing, rows etc..in attempt to intentionally confuse our enemies (rats and guinea fowl)
What did we learn?
What we take from this entire experience is that farming is about trial and error, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Farming is risky however you have to learn how to manage those risks. Thirdly, you cannot measure what you don’t know, therefore you have to try different things in order to get to your desired outcome.With respect to perfect planting season timing – there can never be a better solution than to widely consult with our technical partners and seasoned farmer friends for advise and knowledge.