Get­ting ready to plant cu­cur­bits

Farmer's Weekly (South Africa) - - Contents - FW

Be­fore plant­ing a land to any of the cu­cur­bits, you should kill off all broad-leaved weeds nearby, prefer­ably well be­fore­hand.

Aphids feed on these and then en­ter the land and in­tro­duce viruses. Once the virus is in a land it will usu­ally spread. There is cur­rently no cure.

Have a soil anal­y­sis done to get the nutri­tion cor­rect be­fore pre­par­ing the land. I’m con­stantly asked for a fer­tiliser pro­gramme for spe­cific veg­eta­bles, but in fact you need to fer­tilise the soil to suit a wide range of veg­eta­bles.

the ef­fects of a lower ph value

The soil pH should be about 6,5, but can go a lit­tle lower or a fair amount higher.

If you have pota­toes in the ro­ta­tion, opt for a lower pH; this will re­duce the risk of scab but still be suit­able for the other crops grown.

Be warned, though; a lower pH will greatly in­crease the pos­si­bil­ity of a molyb­de­num de­fi­ciency. As a pre­cau­tion, soak the seed in 25g sodium molyb­date per 5ℓ wa­ter for a few hours. Also keep an eye out for signs of molyb­de­num de­fi­ciency, seen as a yel­low­ing and burn­ing of the leaf edges. In this case, you can ap­ply a fo­liar feed, which will cor­rect the prob­lem rapidly.

When you get the soil anal­y­sis back, cal­cu­late the amount of ma­jor el­e­ments to ap­ply. The lab­o­ra­tory can usu­ally ad­vise on what’s nec­es­sary. You can then top it up from year to year if nec­es­sary. For veg­eta­bles, be gen­er­ous with your ap­pli­ca­tions, then use ni­tro­gen to reg­u­late growth ac­cord­ing to the crop and growth con­di­tions.

A pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion is where you are us­ing leased ground and don’t want to spend too much on im­prov­ing the ‘gen­eral fer­til­ity’. If this is the case, rather band-place the fer­tiliser.

You can also use this strat­egy when start­ing off on a tight bud­get, although it is not a good long-term so­lu­tion.

Never take a chance with cut­worms; they are highly de­struc­tive

Pump­kins and cut­worm con­trol

In the case of pump­kins, plant pop­u­la­tions are rel­a­tively low, so ev­ery plant counts. Due to its higher yield and fruit qual­ity, the hy­brid seed used these days is ex­pen­sive.

En­sure a good stand by pro­vid­ing the right con­di­tions for op­ti­mal ger­mi­na­tion and mak­ing sure you don’t lose plants to cut­worm dam­age. If young weeds are grow­ing on the area be­fore prepa­ra­tion for plant­ing, scout the land to see if cut­worms are present.

The signs are easy to spot: af­ter bit­ing through plants, cut­worms drag the leaves un­der­ground and these can be seen clearly next to a dam­aged plant.

proac­tive spray­ing for cut­worms

If you find ev­i­dence of an in­va­sion, be­gin cut­worm con­trol well be­fore plant­ing by spray­ing a pyrethroid over the weeds.

Even if you don’t find ev­i­dence of cut­worms, it is still worth spray­ing the land. Moths lay their eggs on the leaves and these will sur­vive on plant ma­te­rial un­no­ticed un­til large enough to start their dam­age. Never take a chance with this de­struc­tive pest!

• Bill Kerr is a veg­etable spe­cial­ist and a breeder of a range of veg­eta­bles. Email him at farm­er­[email protected]­ton. Sub­ject line: Veg­etable pro­duc­tion.

Bill kerr

ABOVE: Mal­va­parv­i­flora is a reser­voir for a num­ber of viruses. The plant on the left is healthy; the oth­ers are in­fected. An out­break was traced to these plants.

bill kerr

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