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Farm Diseases and Critter Pests

Here’s part 2 of our Farm Foes series. This week it’s diseases and critters!DISEASES:

  1. Downy Mildew – Wondering why the onions are so small this year? Blame the mildew, which killed their leaves before the onions had a change to swell up. Luckily small is still yummy. It also our afflicts our Russian kales in the late summer and fall.
  1. Sclerotinia – A fungus that affects the roots and stems of lettuce-family seed crops, including sunflowers. We lost a couple lettuce crops to the fungus this year.
  1. Late Blight – We haven’t seen any this year, thank goodness, but when it does rear its head you can say goodbye to all the tomatoes. We’ve only had a couple years when it’s been a major problem. Growing under tunnels and greenhouses generally keep the tomatoes dry and fungus-free.
  2. Powdery Mildew – Not a serious disease, but a life-shortener of chard, zucchini and cucumbers. Good riddance. Who wants to pick those plants for months on end anyway.
  1. I can’t think of any more economically significant diseases, which is pretty great!


This heron isn’t a pest, but it’s finch friends are!
  1. Birds! – We love em, but they’d completely annihilate many of our seed crops without bird netting. Finches are the worst for small seeded things (brassicas, cosmos, spinach), and blackbirds for larger seeds (sunflowers, corn).
  1. Slugs – We all know what slugs do. I think 20% of our farm budget went to Sluggo during that endless wet spring of 2022. Unfortunately, our ecological management practices like cover cropping and maintaining undisturbed perennial zones also create ample slug habitat.
  1. Voles – Come fall, these critters get audacious and develop a particular taste for carrots, beets and radishes.
  1. Deer – They can’t do too much damage on the vegetables, but can wreak havoc overnight on our little fruit trees if we leave the gate open.
  1. Coyotes – We’ve lost a chicken or two or thirteen to these wily beasts.