This morning our New York State Ag inspector paid us an surprise greenhouse inspection visit just as he does each year. The state likes to keep tabs on us and this is only one way they do it.First since we are a business we are obligated to collect state sales tax. We keep track and file paper work 4 times a year, sending them a check for what we collected each quarter less some very small percent for our trouble.Next since we grow the products we sell we are obliged to pay a fee for a permit to do so and we are inspected once a year.
We also have a state inspected kitchen but for some reason that was a one time deal and there was only a one time fee.
Last since I am a certified wild life rehabilitator there was a fee, tests, and more paper work to be submitted.
Sometimes it seems like they could save some money by setting up an office in the spare room. At least we would save the postage.
The greenhouse inspector looks over the plants to make sure they are healthy and pest free. He also looks over the greenhouse to be sure we are following good practices. He has always been helpful and offers suggestions when in the past there might have been issues. This is not to say we had any big problems, but when we were starting up we wanted to be sure we were conforming to the rules and regulations.
Keeping the greenhouse free of pests is not so hard as we were led to believe. When we were just beginning we were talking with a fellow greenhouse owner and we mentioned that we intended to use only organic means of pest control. He was doubtful that we would be able to control pests with out the modern pesticides, particularly since we keep the greenhouse heated in the winter.
For the first year we had no problem at all but into the second year we began to see aphids on some plants. This was a big disappointment as we were under the impression that if we kept the house in order and inspected every plant brought in we would have no problem.
After talking with some other greenhouse operators we realized that aphids are a very common occurrence.
The trouble is we keep the greenhouse working except for a few months in the summer when it is too hot. During the summer we empty the house and take the shade cloth off. The temperature inside sores to more than 130 f and that helps to kill bugs. We also disinfect the benches with a 9 to one Clorox solution. ( nine parts water, one part Clorox. ) In the fall we bring plants in from outdoors and that is when we began to see aphids.
We used soap water and we picked them off by hand. We captured hundreds of lady bug beetles and let them go to work. The beetles would fly to the plastic and bask in the sun. They did not seem to be doing much at all in the eating aphids department.
Then one day while re potting a plant we notices a very fierce looking bug. It was black and orange and looked like a small crocodile. I went to our library and looked in the insect field guide to find that this was in fact, a lady bug beetle larvae. It turns out the larvae will eat more aphids than an adult and as a matter of fact they ate all the aphids in the greenhouse. With all the prey, ( food ) gone the predators, ( lady bug beetles ) disappeared to who knows where. And we were back to square one again.
This method was not going to work out for us. We could not catch enough beetles. The beetles would not stay when there was no prey and we were not willing to pay for mail order bugs. There had to be a better way for us.
After looking around we found a product called pyola. Its a combination of emulsified canola oil and pyrethrins which are derived from plants. Its safe to use, not harmful to the environment and , safe to use, and not too expensive. We mix it up in a sprayer and go through the greenhouse once every 7 to 10 days.
Insects can not form an immunity to oil and it works on all stages including eggs. I have read that you could go to the supermarket and get canola oil, mix it with soap and use that but for my money the pyola works fine so why bother just to save a few bucks. We found it best to use a pressure sprayer with are really good nozzle. Not a cheap wal mart plastic junk sprayer but one of the really nice enamel lined metal ones with adjustable, and cleanable, brass nozzle. The finer the spray the better the coverage. The long wand lets you direct the spray into and under all the leaves and this would be a problem when using a bottle type hand sprayer.
Not that bottle sprayers are not useful for a smaller number of plants. We recommend adding a sprayer used for cow udders to your arsenal. These ingenious hand held trigger type spray bottles have the sprayer head pointing up. Farmers use them to spray disinfectant on the cows udders prior to milking. Real handy for spraying ferns too. If you can not find one locally, these guys have them.
The inspector looked around, poked some plants, shook others over his clipboard and that was it. We passed again and are now officially endorsed by the State of New York.
Its ironic though, the state is so fussy about inspecting the greenhouse for bugs but when it comes to our kitchen, where we are certified to prepare food for sale, the inspection was a one time affair and that’s all.
Think about it. Where is the potential for the greatest direct harm to the public. Selling you a plant with an aphid, when the chances are the plant could get them anyway, or fixing jam, cakes cookies and pies and handling food with out washing my hands after using the bathroom. Something to think about at the farmers market.
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