Compiled by Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 or

Heirloom tomatoes are increasingly popular. Here is a summary of a variety trial conducted by Jeremy Plotkin, who evaluated 38 varieties in western Mass, with funding from Northeast SARE and Mass NOFA. Contact me for a copy of the full report with tables showing all yield results.

The black tomato varieties had the best flavor of any of the tomatoes, but for some reason they performed well at one location but not the other. Cherokee Purple and Black Prince both had good flavor and uniformity. Black Plum and Russian Black both had high yields but small fruits and unremarkable flavor.

Among the yellow to green tomatoes, Green Pineapple had beautiful fruit, great flavor, and high yields. Tasty Evergreen and Green Zebra were dependable and flavorful. Garden Peach and Plum Lemon had distinctive appearance though flavor was not the best. Yellow Brandywine and Aunt Ruby's Green were low-yielding and inconsistent in appearance.

The yellow-orange tomatoes Nebraska Wedding, Moonglow, Russian Persimmon, and Amana Orange were all similar in appearance, being relatively round, defect-free, and a nice bright orange color. Golden Sunray was a strange off-orange color, and inconsistent shape. Elberta Girl was supposed to be a striped tomato, but came out practically identical to Garden Peach: pale yellow, small and fuzzy, with pleasant but not dramatic flavor.

Striped tomatoes were the highest yielding tomatoes, but the large fruits can be hard to sell at a premium retail price. Marizol Gold, Striped German, Northern Lights, Hillbilly and Pineapple were similar in flavor and appearance. Georgia Streak turned to be an orange tomato with no stripes and inconsistent appearance. Gold Medal had less distinct stripes than the other varieties, but had a uniform appearance.

Pink tomatoes were less affected by the drought than other types. Eva's Purple Ball had good flavor and yield and was very consistent. Caspian Pink was also free of defects, and had the highest yield, but less flavor. Pruden's Purple was the best of the pink beefsteaks.

Tomatoes of several colors were also grown an unheated high tunnel. First harvest was 3 weeks earlier than field tomatoes, and the early harvests were heavier than in the field. Fruit quality was higher and cull rates lower than in the field. Most varieties did well in the hoophouse, with yields as follows (lb/100 sq ft): Persimmon (135), Marizol Gold (119), Black Plum (113) Nebraska Wedding (111), Green Zebra (100), Moonglow (94), Gold Medal (79). Tigerella had decent yields (94) but was uninteresting in appearance and flavor. Cherokee Purple (50) and Black from Tula (48) were lower-yielding than they had been in previous seasons.

(adapted from Tails and Tassels, New York Certified Organic, Inc. newsletter)

To assure good nodulation and nitrogen fixation by legumes, it is a good practice to mix the
appropriate inoculant in with the seed before planting. But make sure to use a Rhizobium strain that is appropriate for the crop you are growing. For example, a soybean inoculant will not be of  benefit to clover or alfalfa. And if you are an organic grower, beware: some Rhizobium inoculants are genetically modified organisms and are NOT allowed under organic standards, such as Dormal Plus/PC2 (Urbana labs) for use on alfalfa and clover. The following inoculants
do appear to be non-GMO, (but to be sure, you should get a statement from the company): HiStick, HiStick 2, MicroFix, HiStick L, HiCoat, Dry-Coat, HiStick N/T (manufactured by MicroBioRhizoGen Corp., Helena Chemicals is a distributor). All Urbana products EXCEPT Dormal Plus are not genetically modified, this includes NOD+, Dormal, RhizoStick, MegaPrep, and Traditional Humus. Cell-Tech, NitraStik, Soil Implant, and Nitragin Gold (manufactured by LiphaTech) are also non-GMO.

(summary of articles by Stephen Reiners, Ted Blomgren and Chuck Bornt; ask me for copies.)

It costs more to transplant pumpkins, and rooting depth will be shallower than with direct-seeded plants, but there are several advantages. Spotty emergence is eliminated and a more uniform stand can be established. More importantly, yields may be increased. A trial at 2 sites in NY using ‘Magic Lantern’ compared direct seeding to transplants started in 24-cell or 38-cell flats. Transplants were started 3 to 4 weeks early, then set out on the same day as direct seeding was done (June 14 upstate, June 25 on Long Island). Single plants were spaced 4 feet apart in rows on 6 foot centers. Transplants flowered, set fruit, and were harvested earlier. Transplanting increased yield (by 1 to 2 tons/acre), resulted in more fruit per acre and larger average fruit size. The larger transplant size was not significantly better than the smaller size.

Another trial in the Hudson Valley of NY compared ‘Howden’ transplants grown in 48-cell or 72-cell plug trays to direct seeding. Transplants were set out at 18 days old, and direct seeding was done at that time. Three different planting dates were compared: June 5, June 15 or June 15. Transplants were set with a water wheel transplanter. Raised beds, black plastic and drip irrigation were used. Single plants were spaced 3 feet apart in rows on 6 foot centers. Transplanting was far superior to direct seeding with respect to both number and weight of fruit with the first two planting dates. Marketable yields were increased by about 70%, but on the latest planting date there was no difference among the planting methods and yields were poor in all the treatments. Plug size did not matter with the earliest planting date, but on the second planting date the larger plug size produced slightly better yields, probably due to less transplanting stress and faster growth.


Trichogramma ostriniae is a tiny wasp that kills and reproduces inside European corn borer eggs.  Since 1991 researchers from Cornell have been releasing this parasitoid in sweet corn fields and studying its effectiveness. It is exceptional at dispersing and attacking ECB eggs, and has repeatedly reduced the pest population by more than half. An on-farm trial of  T. ostriniae is  described in the video ‘Farmers and their Ecological Sweet Corn Production Practices’ (see For detailed information and photos see the web site:
Now in 2002 for the first time T. ostriniae will be commercially available in the U.S.; the cost is $15 or less per acre, depending on the number of acres treated. If you are interested in releasing this beneficial insect in your sweet corn this year you must contact the distributor and place your order as soon as possible. IPM Labs, Inc. (315) 497-2063 or E-mail
(excerpted from George M. Darrow, The Strawberry: History, Breeding and Physiology)

The 19th century in America witnessed the establishment of commercial strawberry production - from 1800 to 1858, the native Virginian varieties were mostly grown; then, with the advent of hardy, large-fruited varieties, came the great expansion from 1858 to 1880, when acreage increased 50-fold and growing areas extended to the farthest boundaries of the country; and lastly, toward the end of this period, the introduction of hundreds of varieties whose screening was necessary in order to determine their adaptability to certain areas. After 1900, and extending to the present, began the later period which involved on the part of breeders and breeding work the increasingly considered selection of varieties for their ability to replace older varieties in particular regions. Nine especially notable strawberry varieties were grown from 1900-1950: Marshall, Klondike, Missionary, Dunlap, Howard 17 (Premier), Aberdeen, Blakemore, Fairfax, and Aroma. Although Dunlap has been most notable for its hardiness, and for its extension of strawberry growing farther north, it is also notable as a parent of hardy everbearing varieties. One other variety was outstanding as an ancestor. Nich Ohmer, introduced in 1898, was never widely grown but is found to the extent of 25 to 30 per cent in every California variety.


At the recent potato school in W. Lebanon, Dr. Steve Johnson of UMaine recommended the use of Japanese millet as a cover crop prior to planting potatoes in order to suppress Rhizoctonia (known as black scurf - or ‘those spots that won’t wash off’). This crop releases cyanide-type compounds that are disease suppressive, and Dr. Johnson has conducted field trials and replicated research showing that Rhizoctonia is significantly suppressed in the year following Japanese millet. In northern Maine Japanese millet is planted the third week of June and then fall plowed prior to potatoes. We can probably plant a little earlier in most Vermont locations, but it is critical to wait until all risk of frost has past. It may be possible to delay planting until July if there sufficient moisture to get the crops to grow, and still get the disease suppression effect, but waiting too long will reduce biomass production and root growth and may reduce disease suppression. The growth of this crop will also be significantly suppressed by drought or lack of nutrients. Irrigation and/or a light application of nitrogen may be advisable to get optimal growth. A seeding rates of about 30 pounds acres is sufficient if grain drilled, use slightly higher rates if broadcast or if fields have a lot of weed pressure. The crop can be allowed to frost kill and remain in place over winter, or it can be turned under. Disease suppression has been observed in the field with either fall or spring plowing.