VERMONT VEGETABLE AND BERRY NEWS, Oct. 15, 2001
Compiled by Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 ext. 13 or vernon.grubinger@uvm.edu
www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry

REPORTS FROM THE FIELD (as of Oct. 15)

(S. Royalton) It's been a great season. Strong market sales, made easier by the fantastic weather. Under lessons learned I'd list that pumpkins harrow up very nicely when still green, and that more then ever I'm convinced that the key to this business is not growing but selling. I went to an excellent workshop on selling that should be mandatory for all growers/ small business owners.  Under the failure column I'd list water, water, water. Even when I thought I was getting enough water on carrot, parsnips, and beet seeds they still needed more, more, more.  My field tomatoes got wacked by disease at the same time as they always do, surprising given that I had the same spraying schedule and the dry weather we had.

(Dummerston) 2001 was a challenging year in more ways than one. The past month's events have put trivial problems and weather incidents in perspective, however. We have seen an increase in tourists at the farm stand this autumn as people seem anxious to get out and enjoy life. A relatively mild fall has produced extra crops and kept heating costs for hoop house vegetables low. Still picking quite a bit from the fields, really nice weather for broccoli. Large installation of drip irrigation last year paid off and we plan to further develop the system for 2002. We purchased a vegetable washer this summer and it was one of our better investments, saved many labor hours. Planning on a big year for flowers and food in 2002 as people still need to eat and gardening is cheap therapy.

(E. Alburg) Overall it was a fantastic year, especially for my fall raspberries, but if I hadnít watered I wouldnít have had any. I use overhead irrigation though mist sprinklers. I started watering heavy in June and watered right straight through the year. Fall-bearing Heritage were being harvested by the end of August. I had tomatoes coming out my ears and I didnít even water them. Pumpkins and winter squash in a new field, with no water or fertilizer had an unbelievable crop, likes grapes on the vine. I retailed them all at the roadside stand, Iím getting rid of buttercup and butternut for 35 cents a pound. Iíve had TPB from May through now. I even find them in the refrigerator where I keep the raspberries.

(W. Rutland) All plowing is done, all cover crops are seeded and up, and I am glad. An overview of this summer: First let me say that once again the mighty Vern has proved to be a champion extension agent. Holding meetings, farm visits, listing organic and conventional information and putting up with my %&!#. Second, I still believe I was unfairly censured in this newsletter and hope this unfortunate episode does not happen again (smile). Third, it was a !#%&$ hot summer and I hope I never see another one like it. Fourth, my labor was the same as before, I work cheap. Fifth, The crops that germinated sold well. The ones that were flooded, eaten by deer, froze in the ground or I ignored, blew big time. In closing I can say I love farming and look forward to next year...I Ďm goiní trappin.

(Starksboro) So far, it seems like a good year. Despite dry weather we managed to keep up with irrigation, but only by starting early, at the first hint of dry weather. Diseases were insignificant due to low rainfall, and insects were successfully kept at bay with very few sprays thanks to
some very methodical scouting by an intern from UVM. Thoughts on marketing: Remember when Broccoli and red potatoes were trendy new vegetables back in the 80s? Now they're just staples - and priced accordingly. Even mesclun is pretty main stream.

(Plainfield) A great September and October. Seems like we have been harvesting non-stop for weeks. Good crop of acorn squash and pie pumpkins, but butternut are still about one third immature. Greens that got irrigation did very well. Downy mildew on the march through my fall plantings of Asian greens (bok choi, napa, etc.) Just starting to dig carrots, which are finally making some size.  Just a beautiful fall to be outdoors.

(Argyle NY) The 2001 season was a challenging one for labor and we have continued to scale back a little in production and mechanize where we can to reduce the labor. Pests overall were not a problem except the cabbage loopers which B.t. controls well. The disease-suppressive compost we've used for 2 years has helped keep our disease pressure down to almost nothing, even with the wet periods. The farmers' markets have been strong and continue to build more and more customers each year, and our supply will never meet the demand, which is good news for new organic growers who want to take on the challenge and fun of being a farmer. It was another great year and we look forward to 2002 after a winter's rest.

(Amherst MA) Harvest continuing in abundant fashion. We've had the best August to October in the farm's history with 30 to 40% increases in winter squash, sweet potatoes, red peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and leeks. There were only a few losses associated with our early season (late April/early May) drought and we weathered the late August/early September drought with good irrigation. It was a difficult time to work, but the results of the timely irrigation were very positive. The good heat and general early moisture of this summer were a welcome change from last season, which was one of our worst. All in all the farm has felt like "no problem" for at least 4 weeks. What a miracle. We've still got lots of roots and leaves to harvest in the field, but we can see a big nap coming on Thanksgiving day.

SUMMARY OF A COVER CROP TRIAL

Lee Stivers, Director of the New York Crops Research Facility, recently conducted a 10-acre trial of cover crops over 2 years in western NY with funding from the USDA Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. The soils in this field had been heavily cropped, primarily in turf, for many years. There was a standing crop of wheat in the field when the project started in March, 2000.  Large (3/4 acre) plots were established with different combinations and timings of the following cover crops: frost-seeded mammoth red and medium red clover, sudangrass, buckwheat, yellow blossom sweet clover, rye, and hairy vetch.. The findings:

Medium red clover survived the winter of 2000-2001 (relatively severe) better than mammoth red clover. Increasing the seeding rate of medium red clover from 10 lb per acre to 15 lb per acre increased dry matter production in both the first and second years. Spring frost-seeding of clovers into wheat was much more successful than fall seeding onto bare ground.

In a single year, Sudangrass can produce as much dry matter as a well established clover stand, but in less time. Sudangrass produced about as much biomass from July through September, 2000, as did red clover from March through October.

Over the course of the entire year and a half, no cover crop combination tested in this demonstration out-produced a good stand of medium red clover. It took a combination of three annual cover crops, requiring considerably more tillage and planting passes, to equal the dry matter production of a good stand of medium red clover. Groundcover was constant with the frost-seeded clover plantings. Annual cover crops, while allowing more flexibility for integrating with cash crops, always required tillage and a period in which the soil was exposed.

Hairy vetch planted alone did not provide a great deal of groundcover over winter. However, it survived the tough winter very well and produced a considerable amount of spring re-growth. In this demonstration, the rye greatly out-competed the vetch when they were grown in combination.  While vetch seedlings were quite evident in this plot in the fall, during the spring re-growth the rye greatly dominated the plot.  This is surprising since the conventional wisdom is that in poorer soils, vetch will compete better with rye since it is not dependent on soil nitrogen.

It is extremely difficult to manage a rye cover crop if it has been allowed to head-out before incorporation. Even after bush-hogging the rye in late May, we were unable to get it properly incorporated into the soil well enough to plant anything back into the plot. The extreme lack of rainfall made the situation worse, and that section of the plot was left fallow over the summer of 2001.

Relying on a winter vetch cover crop and cultivation alone did not provide adequate weed control for sweet corn during the dry summer on this poor soil.  Early in the season, weed control in the sweet corn looked very good considering there had been no herbicide applications. However, the lack of rainfall resulted in such poor sweet corn growth that weeds had gotten completely out of control by August.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Plasticulture and High Tunnels Short Course. October 24 and 25. Clayton, (southern) NJ on. Registration is $60 for one day, $100 for both days. Contact Michele Infante-Casella, Rutgers Extension (856) 307-6450 or minfante@aesop.rutgers.edu

New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association Meeting. November 3. UNH, Durham, New Hampshire. Morning program to focus on bramble production. Contact Dominic Marini (508) 378-2546

Greenhouse and Garden Retailers Expo 2001. November 13, 14, 2001. Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, Marlborough, MA. Contact Tina Smith (413) 545-5306

The Soul of Agriculture, New Movements in New England Food and Farming. Nov. 18-20, UNH, Durham NH. Contact El Williamson (603) 862-5040

Community Supported Agriculture Conference. Dec. 7-9, Claryville NY (~2 hrs south of Albany). Contact Beth Holtzman (802) 229-1206. Visit www.csacenter.org

New England Vegetable and Berry Conference and Trade Show. Dec. 11-13, Sturbridge Host Hotel, Sturbridge MA. Contact: Vern Grubinger (802) 257-7967 or visit www.nevbc.org