REPORTS FROM THE FIELD (as of May 11)
(Starksboro) The weather is just right as far as wet and dry goes. Field preparation is progressing nicely, yet we have had just enough rain to take care of transplants going out. Despite some awfully hot weather early in May, and early snow melt, I still see the trees and bushes developing right on schedule, so I'm not rushing any planting. There's still time for it to become a cold May. I find there's so little to be gained from planting too early. So often it just results in poor germination and only a 1 or 2 day earlier harvest, which I calculate as a net loss.
(Plainfield NH) Cool dry windy weather here. Starting to irrigate earlier than usual. Corn transplants under row cover, seeded corn is in the ground. Setting up irrigation pipe in the strawberries, buds barely in popcorn stage. Two hard frosts last week. Early bedding plant sales strong, despite the cooler temperatures.
(Norwich) It’s wicked dry, we got a half inch of rain a while ago and that’s it. Transplanted corn may or may not have gotten frozen the night of May 8th. Have been irrigating to protect first year strawberries from plugs transplanted last fall since they are almost half in bloom; despite the plugs looking ratty last fall the plants look really good now. Strange thing is that the second year strawberry plants from plugs have not even started to bloom. Flea beetles coming on strong. Thrips in greenhouse a problem and Conserve is not providing control as it should - I suspect they are resistant. Bedding plant sales have been very good at the stand.
(W. Rutland) It’s good to be back after a year long hiatus. First I want everybody to know the shrinking deer herd is not my fault--completely. Second, Duragaurd is an excellent pesticide for ants in the greenhouse, though I will be switching to metal bench tops in the future. Wish I could say lots of field work getting done the past 2 weeks, but too busy in the greenhouses, though I did get a little corn planted. Cold Mothers Day, but sales were still good. Gotta go set some woodchuck traps.
(Stamford VT) Too much rain this spring. Only one piece of ground worked so far. Last year plastic mulch was down by May 7th. Tomato, eggplant and pepper transplants are all doing well. Started plants 1st week of April. All squash and cuke transplants started this weekend. Brisk sales over Mothers Day weekend of painted birdhouses from last season's gourd crop. Planting several different varieties this year. Winter squashes include Carnival, Festival, and Celebration. Also growing the poblano pepper Tiburon along with expanded selection of heirloom tomatoes.
(S. Royalton) We are dry. Despite that, beets, carrots, and other such stuff are up and going. I'm having my annual problems killing winter rye. It is one of my biggest spring weed problems. Spuds are in and am going to use the upcoming warm weather for planting corn. Early season greens in the hoophouse are paying a big dividend in the market.
(Argyle, NY) It's been an up and down spring, but the first crops were seeded in the ground March 29th and they look great. We are harvesting radishes and rhubarb from the fields (row-covered) and lettuce and spinach from unheated hoop houses. Farmers’ markets are in their second week. Our pea crop looks great this year, unlike last year when the earthworms ate a large percentage of the seeds after we planted them. We coated the seeds with hot red pepper this spring, so maybe that helped! A few slugs and asparagus beetles. It's quite dry with irrigation being set up. Off to a great start with a small labor force!
(Grand Isle) We started harvesting asparagus on May 6th which was a week earlier than last year. Crop looks good but we could use some rain. Peas and spinach are up a couple of inches and are waiting for warmer weather. Corn and bean transplants are "out standing in the field--shivering" They got too big for the greenhouse. Timing is everything. We are excited about a new season and hope we can find enough energy for all the farming projects that need to be done at once.
PUBLIC TELEVISION TO FEATURE VERMONT BERRY RECIPES AND GROWERS!
David Marchant, President, VT Vegetable and Berry Growers Association (VV&BGA)
Vermont Public Television (VPT) is teaming up with the VV&BGA to do a cooking show that will feature Vermont berries, with both chefs and farmers preparing their favorite berry dishes. This show will be a great opportunity to promote Vermont-grown strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. VPT will use the show for fund-raising, giving out gift baskets with products and recipes to people that pledge donations during the show. Contributing to the gift baskets is a great way to get some free advertising for your farm.
We need growers to provide recipes of favorite berry dishes, as well as jams, jellies and gift certificates to be included in baskets. The VV&BGA will reimburse member growers for the cost of products they provide, up to $50 per farm. Recipes should be accompanied by information about your farm stand, PYO, or other markets and this will be included with each recipe you provide. All recipes, products and farm information must be sent in or delivered by June 1 to: Neil Hilt, VPT, 88 Ethan Allen Ave., Colchester VT 05446. Phone 802-655-8071.
If you want to be a cook on TV, this is your chance! We need at least 3 VV&BGA members to share their cooking secrets on TV. The show will be taped June 16 and broadcast June 20. Call David Marchant at 802-849-6853 to sign up or for more information. This is a great opportunity to promote our organization, our products, and Vermont agriculture-- so please contribute to the effort, thanks.
P.S. If you have signed up to be on the list of farms on the VV&BGA marketing web site you’re in luck, because the web site will be shown on the screen for viewers to locate local farms and farm products using the Internet. If you’re not a member there’s still time to join the Association. For just $32 a year ($16 for first time members!) you get many benefits. To find out more and to get an application form see www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry and click on ‘Association of Growers’, or call Doug Johnstone at 802-885-2985.
REPORT FROM THE UVM PLANT DIAGNOSTIC LAB (Ann Hazelrigg)
I have seen a fair amount of iron chlorosis in bedding plants like petunia, nemesia, scaevola and calibrachoa. These require a lower pH and people should remember the importance of checking pH of the media they use if growing these plants. I saw a few cases of Sclerotinia blight in tomatoes and cukes a few weeks ago during cold wet weather. If growers see wilted plants they should check the base for fluffy white mycelium and black sclerotia and get the entire plant out of the greenhouse!
NEW ENGLAND SMALL FRUIT AND VEGETABLE MANAGEMENT GUIDES
The latest editions of these are available and members of the VV&BGA should have received their selections in the mail by now. To order a copy of the 2004-2005 New England Vegetable Management Guide ($15) or the 2003-2004 Small Fruit Pest Management Guide ($12) please send a check made to ‘UVM’ to my office. Please add $4 for postage.
A LOOK-SEE AT SOIL BIOFUMIGATION
Peter Sexton, University of Maine Extension
Some plants in the Brassicaceae family, when tilled into the soil, release volatile compounds that are reported to be quite toxic to nematodes and some soil-borne pathogens. Growing these varieties and tilling them in for control of soil diseases is termed "biofumigation". This is a relatively new practice that is the subject of research in a number of quarters. One place where this practice has taken off is in the Colombia Basin of Washington where it went from being practiced on one farm seven or eight years ago, to 20,000 acres of a mustard green manure being planted this past season. The mustard is allowed to flower and then flail mowed and disked in immediately for control of nematodes and of verticillium wilt. Besides helping to control these disease problems, growers also like it because it adds organic matter to the soil. The question arises, would this be of any use in New England? Some potato growers in Aroostook County, Maine, are currently experimenting with the same mustard variety that is being used in Washington in order to see if it will be of any use here. We managed to obtain a grant from the USDA to help cover the costs of evaluating the mustard green manure.
We will have several on-farm trials going in the coming season. f you are interested in trying a mustard green manure on an acre of two (or less) we can provide the seed. We won't be able to collect much data given the distances involved, but we would like to get your opinion on whether it helped your crops or not in the following season. This is a work in progress. We can't promise results - we are just taking a look-see at this point. One thing to think about is club root in Brassicas - this is a disease that has not been measured relative to the biofumigation effect. So if you are interested the mustard green manure, you might want to try it on an area where you won't be going into another member of the Brassica family for awhile. If you are interested please feel to call me at (207) 764-3361, or let Vern know.
FARMERS AND THEIR INNOVATIVE COVER CROP TECHNIQUES
This 70-minute video featuring 10 farms in 5 states is now available for $15 postage paid. Go to www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry and click on ‘videos’ for a full description and an order form.
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