May 1, 2000
Compiled by Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967

Labor issues, demands in the greenhouse and cold rainy weather are hampering field operations.  Some manure spread, the well-drained areas have been worked a bit, but nothing in the ground yet. Strawberries uncovered on 4/15, they exhibit extensive winter injury. We are off to a fabulous start...( East Hartland)

Ground is too cold to plant and mostly too wet to work. Some vegetable transplants are getting too big. (W. Rutland)

Wet. (Burlington)

Some people complaining about the wet conditions down here, but I'm not one of them. After last season, I welcome all early-season moisture. We were irrigating May first last year to try to germinate carrots! The early crops are spread, plowed, harrowed, and planting has begun. First peas, onions, spinach, and chard seeds are in the ground. Roots and greens seeded today. This week we'll start planting lettuce, strawberries, and Chinese cabbage. Next week cabbage and broccoli. It was cold last week, but the rye is growing tall early and the fields look lush already. Plenty of time for projects around the buildings and grounds of the farm - and even rain days for
greenhouse work. (Amherst MA)

The cold, wet weather has set us back a bit. But the season is underway, and the cover crops are lush and green.   Field transplants of lettuce are out and under cover. Peas are in and nearly up. We  direct seeded onions, carrots, beets, larkspur, greens and lettuce on April 14. The greens and lettuce are up, and the rest should be up in a day or two.  We also put in onion sets to use as early scallions.  This week we will be direct seeding chard, spinach, white salad turnips, bok choi, cabbage and broccoli.  The cabbage and broccoli are seeded at high densities into nursery beds, and then covered with row covers.  In a few weeks all of the plants will be pulled and transplanted out. (Hadley MA)

This is the perfect spring to see the benefits of utilizing field houses (unheated hoop houses) due to the wet, damp, cold, snowy and rainy April that we have experienced! The field house lettuce, spinach and radishes will be ready about May 5th for the farmers' markets, as will the rhubarb which has been rowcovered for many weeks. Fourteen inches of snow plus several days of rain have not helped our seedings of field crops, and to date we have only 2 seedings in of peas, carrots, beets, turnips and radishes. Peas are germinating nicely. Garlic is up about 8 inches and transplanted lettuce and spinach under rowcovers is doing well. Watching for the first strawberry blossoms to pop open and praying for more sunshine. (Argyle NY)

TRANSPLANT MANAGEMENT TIPS (adapted from Ohio State Extension)
Water thoroughly to ensue the entire rooting volume is moistened. If not watered thoroughly, root growth will be confined to the top of the plug or other container. Allow plugs to dry down between waterings but don't let transplants wilt excessively. Less frequent applications of higher fertilizer concentrations may improve transplant quality. Increasing the volume of fertilizer solution applied per tray results in an increase in height, stem diameter and plant weight. Applying too much fertilizer solution results in soft, tall poor quality transplants. Growers should determine how much fertilizer solution is being applied per tray. Volumes greater than 500 ml (17 oz) per tray are excessive and will result in soft transplants if applied on a daily basis. Pre-plant conditioning involves holding the plants outside for 5 to 7 days prior to planting. This allows the plants to be acclimated to outside conditions while still in the tray. Plants which are hardened off in this manner often have improved field performance as compared to those directly from the greenhouse. This method of hardening transplants requires extra labor and close monitoring by the grower. Growers who are not prepared to put in this additional management should not attempt it.

(Follow up to last issue)  Almost anything going wrong can manifest as poor setting, but one obvious culprit is under watering. The flower will be the first part of the plant to suffer.  Another major problem is too high temperatures. If the temps go 89 F, setting problems will follow. Also note that in my experience, ethylene problems will almost always manifest as actually causing the flower to drop off the truss, accompanied by  a yellowing at the knuckle where the flower joins the truss, rather than just a failure to set. (Dave Chapman)

Last season, several strawberry growers observed decent fruit set even when row covers were not removed until after bloom. I asked Bill Lord, UNH Fruit Specialist about this, his reply "Strawberries are at least somewhat pollinated by gravity - pollen shed, especially as flower petals open, falls on receptive stigmae, resulting in seed and fruit development. The wind action against the floating cover, coupled with those insects under the cover may complete the job for many flowers, although bee activity (not necessarily honey bees) help to fill out fruits, increasing size. I get decent fruit from flowers under covers, but I do try to get them off when bloom starts."

Strawberry clipper (or strawberry bud weevil) overwinters as an adult in woody and brushy areas and moves into strawberries in the spring. Females deposit eggs into unopened flower buds and then partially clip the stem just below the bud, causing it to bend to the ground. This pest is more common in renovated beds than new plantings. Begin examining plants as soon as flower trusses are visible in the crown. Look for clipper adults in the unexpanded flower clusters and for clipped buds. This is "hands and knees" sampling, requiring close inspection. Gently sweeping the canopy with an insect net may also be effective for sampling adults. Concentrate on border rows nearest woodlots or brush. Rutgers Extension suggests insecticide treatment if an average of one clipper or more per row foot is found, or if several clippers are collected per 20 sweeps of the net. Treatment of the 5-10 rows nearest the field edges may be sufficient for control.

WEB SITES (from SW Florida Extension news)
Featured Creatures - A Florida web site contains detailed information on a number of beneficial and pest arthropods.  The site includes photos of wasp parasitoids that prey on vegetable pests. The Photo Gallery of Cucurbit Foliar Diseases has some good photos and diagnostic tips for most of the more common cucurbit diseases including downy mildew, anthracnose and gummy stem blight.

Dr. Fred Magdoff, Professor in the department of Plant and Soil Science at UVM, will be teaching Ecological Soil Management this fall at 5 pm on Tuesdays. Non-students can take the course through Continuing Education. The course will apply basic ecological concepts and principles to practical soil management. It will cover integrated strategies for building healthy soils, including management of biological, physical, and chemical properties. Emphasis will be placed on the goal of growing high yields of healthy crops with minimal adverse environmental effects. Subject areas include the following: organic matter management; making and using composts; use of animal manures; improving crop rotations integrating cover crops into rotations; minimizing soil compaction/improving tilth; reducing tillage intensity; minimizing soil erosion; improving nutrient management; and management strategies that reduce pest pressures.
For more information contact UVM Continuing Ed. at (802) 656-2085 or (800) 639-3210.

RAISED BEDS (compiled from veg-prod listserve discussion)
Raised beds are used for many reasons. They have better drainage than flat beds, they direct excess surface water in the desired direction,  away from plant rows; and they allow the soil to warm up earlier in the season than a flat surface bed, they create a surface (the bed shoulder) on which to set equipment so that cultivation very close to the plant rows is possible without excess crop damage. On the downside the furrows take up space. All equipment has to be set for the particular bed and row spacing.

Raised beds come in many shapes and sizes depending on the crop, the cultural practices you use, harvesting methods, irrigation methods, etc. Even on the sandy coastal plains in southern NJ, raised beds are used to gain earliness by warmer soils, and to improve drainage. Fresh market greens, lettuces and herbs are usually grown on a 4-6" high bed, 54-65" across with 2 to 8 rows per bed, depending on the size of the crop. Fresh market solanaceous crops, especially if plastic mulch and/or drip irrigation is used, are usually grown on a 36-42" wide bed that is 8-12" tall and crowned in the middle to aid drainage.

In addition to some of the benefits already noted, crops such as tomatoes and peppers may hold fruit above the water level on raised beds following heavy rains, especially on heavier soils with low water infiltration rates. The advantage of not having to bend over so far to the ground is somewhat lessened by having to stay off the bed (especially if plastic mulch is used) and lean over a little farther to the center of the row. So, if you have soggy and/or cold soils and if you have equipment to do it, raised beds can help. It is an extra step, another trip across the field, but most of the time, the benefits outweigh the risks.