REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
(S. Royalton) With no sun through April, I'm about a week behind in greens from the hoop house. Mesclun, spinach, beets in the field are just poking through. The sun and major league wind over the past three days is sucking all moisture from the soil and all transplants are in need of heavy watering. Conditions are like transplanting in July without the sweat.
(Cambridge) We got our propane bill for the greenhouse for March and April. Ouch. Everything is appreciating the sun but the enemy seems to have arrived all at once. I noticed thrips, aphids, some new white mold, a hatchling of voles and a wicked outbreak of fungus gnats all in one day. The long dry spell has allowed us to get out and plant in the field; peas, spinach, onions, leeks, carrots and a few patches of spring cover crop. A spring this dry is rare for our area.
(Grand Isle) We have taken advantage of the relatively warm and dry spring weather. We got the peas, early potatoes, spring spinach, radishes, beets, all seeded on schedule. Broccoli transplants are out. With no appreciable rain forecast for the next two weeks, this may well prove to be the year irrigation systems truly pay for themselves. Our two tomato houses are planted and plants look good at this early stage. We have taken sanitation to a new level for us: some grafted plants, all "new" composted horse manure in the beds, new strings and clips and the like. As far as overwintered things, strawberries look great, especially if you try to turn a blind eye to some weed pressure from grass and chickweed. It frightens me that some seed catalogues sell chickweed seed for salad mixes. We got some introduced years ago in some baled straw and it has spread ever since. Our list of ‘least favorite weeds’ has changed over the years but chickweed has been the winner for a while. By all rights it should be smothered by our thick plantings of rye and sorghum. The sweet william, campanula, and overwintered spinach came through fine. We had to put an electric fence up earlier than usual to save the spinach. Twelve deer on a half acre can do fast work! We are looking forward to our first farmers market on Mother’s day weekend and are hoping we will have had our first picking of asparagus by then.
(Craftsbury) Too wet to dry as a bone in a week. I can't remember such an extended stretch of sunny days, cold nights, and dry wind. It's great working weather but not great growing weather. I've already irrigated nearly as much as all last season. But it's great for field prep and we are way ahead on that.
(Shaftsbury) Aphids are starting to break out on ornamentals in greenhouses. We’re using various beneficial bugs and other means for control. Early stuff is popping up in the field finally. Tomatoes look great in greenhouse. They started getting browning on leaf edges--potassium deficiency and lowered humidity (as we learned at the tomato school) but with our automatic environmental controller we totally stopped the progression. Last week the lime truck got stuck; this week it is as dry as a chip and we are irrigating.
(S. Royalton) The wind finally stopped blowing enough so we could get back to field work and transplanting without being blown away along with the row covers. Our first batch of grafted Buffalo greenhouse tomatoes was planted in the ground. We only lost 6 out of 350 seedlings - not bad for the first time, thanks for the great grafting CD with Michael Collins and the tomato workshop back in March for help and inspiration. We have been harvesting overwintered spinach from unheated greenhouse for the past three weeks and have seen a few TPBs in there as well. I finally sent in soil samples for saturated media testing of greenhouse soil but haven't heard back yet.
(St. Albans) It’s going well up here. The greenhouses are really good this year. I think plants in greenhouses loved the lower light levels that cloudy days earlier in the spring forced upon us. They're not so stressed.
(Argyle NY) This is the latest spring for us in 20 years of farming; we are planting in the fields 3 weeks behind last year. However, the high and low tunnels are wonderful for winter production and early spring season extension. We attended 2 winter markets every week, and the customer response is unbelievable...now to increase production. We grew a lettuce/greens mesclun on our radiant-heated benches very economically all winter and spring, and our root cellar under the barn (20x30) just got equipped with a cooling system to assist with keeping it about 35 degrees all the time. We have been renting pallet space for folks, and will continue doing that. First spring plantings germinated nicely and first potatoes were just planted. Irrigation has been running for days and the orchard is coming into flower. There are lots of aphids and even flea beetles. Never enough labor, but away we go into another great farming season.
(Little Compton RI) We got our greenhouse tomatoes in a month late, so we won't open with them at the farmers market. I’d rather keep the price reasonable by burning less fuel, and miss a market or two. We are putting in a Clean Burn furnace to burn used fryolater oil or used motor oil. The boiler will cost us ten grand and I am sure another three grand piping it to our satisfaction. We figured if we didn't do it now and set up relationships with resources it would be too late when Middle East oil hits $100+ a barrel. It will happen sooner than we think. No flea beetles yet on the arugula but row cover is at the ready. We have two acres of plastic mulch down with this nice dry weather. We think our purchase of a RainFlo raised mulch layer with drip tape and electric organic fertilizer attachment is probably the best $4000 dollars we’ve ever spent. We use it to plant: sweet potatoes, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, shallots, eggplant, peppers, cut flowers, the list goes on. Our next agricultural challenge is high tunnel brown figs! Stay tuned.
PREPARE FOR CUTWORMS
By Eric Sideman, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners.
This is the time of year to start thinking about cutworms which often become a real challenge especially for transplants and carrots and onions. Cutworms are the caterpillar of a few different species of night flying moths. Some of the species fly in very early in the spring and others in the fall. They lay eggs at the base of plants (weeds and cover crops in the fall). The eggs hatch into tiny, dark gray, greasy caterpillars that feed at night. Some species just simply cut off your plants just about at ground level. Other species climb up and cut off leaves. The caterpillars can be found in the soil by digging around. They curl up into a "c" shape when you handle them.
The big problem is you never know whether it will be a problem or not. On a small scale, Dixie cups with the bottoms cut out placed around a transplant make a good barrier. One method that works on a large scale but is usually not practical is to starve them out. If you can keep a field completely free of any growing plants (weeds or crops) for a few weeks after they hatch then they will die.
I have received good reports about making a bait from bran, a Bt solution and molasses and then sprinkling it or making patties and putting the patties along the row of affected crops. I have also heard very good reports from folks who have used parasitic nematodes. The best results for cutworms is achieved when a combination of two types of nematodes are applied in a mixture because the different species work different levels in the soil and attack the cutworms both while they hide deeper in the soil during the day and when they move up at night. A mixture of Heterorhabditis bacteriophorea (Hb) and Steinernema carpocapsae (Sc) has essentially eliminated cutworm problems for some of our growers. The nematodes are usually shipped on a sponge ready to mix with water and apply to the soil. It is important not to let the soil surface dry out shortly after application. A few suppliers of insect-attacking nematodes are The Green Spot (www.greenmethods.com), IPM Laboratories (www.ipmlabs.com), and ARBICO (www.arbico.com).
NEW IDEAS AVAILABLE FROM NORTHEAST FARMERS ON VIDEO
The following horticultural videos are now available for just the cost of shipping ($5) as VHS tapes: Farmers and their Weed Control Machines, Farmers and their Diversified Horticultural Marketing Strategies, Farmers and their Ecological Sweet Corn Production Practices, and Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Strategies. All of these videos are also now available on DVD, for $15 each, including shipping. Also available on DVD only for $15 is the brand new video: ‘High Tunnels’ featuring six northeast farmers. All of these were funded by Northeast SARE, and are available from the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, 63 Carrigan Ave., Burlington VT, 05405. Make check to ‘UVM’ and please include complete contact information including phone or e-mail. For more information, go to www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry then click on ‘videos.’
Brand names are mentioned for your information only; no endorsement in intended nor is discrimination against products not mentioned.
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