REPORTS FROM THE FIELD (as of June 6)
(Stamford) Wet weather has slowed down field work and transplanting.
Most cucurbits are up and doing well, though many if not all of any untreated
seed needed to be re-sown after that cool wet stretch back in mid May.
Sunflowers are thriving. Pole beans still need to be planted. Hopefully
we'll make some serious progress this week.
(Starksboro) It's wet. We had some minor flooding back in May. I'm managing to remain patient, but I fear the weeds are gaining on me. With the first glimmer of sunshine we'll hit 'em with all we got. I replanted some sweet corn for the first time in my career. That doesn't mean it was the first time I should have replanted, just the first time I've had the sense to go ahead and replant it rather than waste my time on a poor stand.
(W. Rutland) I was at the farmers market wondering if I could get any wetter when I started noticing something new. It appeared there was a lot of recently delivered pre-finished product at the market. Seen it with produce, which really turns my stomach but now plants?? Either I have been not paying or something is terribly wrong. Last I knew farmersí markets were for growerís locally grown products. I would like to know if you other growers are starting to see this or is it just me. Who knows, in time it won't be reports from the field, it will be reports from the brokers.
(S. Royalton) The weeds and everything else have finally started growing in earnest. However, itís been too wet to get at the weeds. Melons are in and taking off, thanks to my sandy loam not holding water. Being organic, itís been tough to find an early corn that germinates well when cold and/or wet. I planted Trinity and Delectable at the same time on May 7 on a fairly warm set of days. Trinity's germination was under 10% while I had a normal stand of Delectable. I guess I'm still looking for a good early variety.
(Plainfield NH) Wet conditions continue to hamper field activities. Leaf spot is rearing its ugly head in the strawberries; some fruit color starting in the beds on plastic. First plantings of peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and summer and fall vine crops all out and doing well. Laying plastic for second plantings that are coming along in the greenhouse. Have been laying quite a bit of the bio-degradable plastic with hopes high. Itís a little trickier to lay than conventional, but will be worth it if it holds up long enough to crop on it. Bedding plant sales took a jump for the better just before Memorial Day and continue strong. Trying to figure out how to care for my first peach crop, as trees set heavy. Summer raspberries took a big hit this year as voles moved in over the winter feeding on roots and girdling crowns. Took the occasion to replant to some hardier varieties and spent a chunk of change building and hanging owl boxes to encourage raptor predation on the vole population. Didnít initially realize that barred owl box made of pressure treated lumber weighs over 60 lbs. Itís good to have a few youngsters around...
(Londonderry) Standing water is in the fields after 5 to 6 inches of rain in 7 days. Waiting for sun and wind to dry things out. Still cool temps the last couple of days and 40's at night. Needed to get plastic down, kicking myself for not doing a bit last weekend, but too busy with sales. Some potatoes planted in April just coming up. I lost more then half the lettuce and spinach planting from early May. Have one third acre planted only need to get a couple more planted. Feeling some pressure, but it will all happen sooner or later. On an up note: sales over Memorial Day best ever in ten years! The annuals business is a good one and balances out some of the extreme spring weather; but propane is $3,000 for twelve weeks thus far - there is a cost to everything it seems. Have not had a frost for 10 days. Will plant as much as soon as possible.
(Little Compton RI) It has been a challenging year already, with record rain falls and wind. I once had a notion to put up a Haygrove gutter connect walk-in tunnel but this year has convinced me it would be a nightmare with our on shore winds. Plus bearing in mind that the manufacturerís recommendation for strong winds is to open up the tunnels rather than close them up tight! I would like to hear from anyone who has them that has seen them perform under high wind conditions well. Our wind blew the row covers off a large planting of cucumbers and summer squash. Everything perished except our old standby Marketmore 76! It was a decisive victory over seven other cucumber varieties! It is becoming the no-brainer variety for early plantings.
(Durham CT) In our heated hoop house we have three and four flower trusses and robust growth. It feels that as soon as we have pruned the last row, it is time to rush back and take all the huge suckers off the first row. Same deal for the unheated houses. Lots of green tomatoes. Next year, we'd like to have a bottom heat system in place. Tomatoes would sure be welcomed at our farm market. Outside, our field greens are going well. Flea beetle pressure seems less severe than in past years, however, tightly sealed rowcovers are essential to eliminate crop damage. The pea tendrils are just now beginning to germinate; less enthusiastically because of the heat of late. Shade cloth should extend this season a bit more. Micro-greens have grown great until the heat really came on strong last week. We've set up fans, cut down on the density and thrown a shade cloth over the house.
(Royalton) In spite of all the wet weather we are not to far behind in getting crops into the field, the blessing of having lighter soil at this time of the year although we pay for it in July and August running the irrigation till the pond is about dry. What is in the ground is looking good but with wet weather hard to do much cultivating. Allium family is looking good and harvesting early greens and head lettuce. Have been getting some leaf mold on our Buffalo tomatoes having sides of the greenhouse down a lot; guess we'll have to run circulation fans more.
(Argyle NY) It has been an interesting month with our earthworm episodes. In previous years, the earthworms were eating most of the pea seeds we planted, and this year, we re-planted hundreds of feet of onion plants 4 times because of them! They were fascinating to watch after dark as they reached up, grabbed onto the onion leaves and sucked them into their holes! We finally spread a bunch of soybean meal to appease them for a few days giving the onions a chance to root in well enough. Other than that, most crops are doing well. Spinach sections are going down due to too much water, but we still have full supply for the markets. Strawberries are kicking into full production (annual bed system) and look good, even with heavier slug populations. Cover crops and pastures have enjoyed the rains and we've had a few drier days to catch up on basket weeding, cultivating, and seedings. The radiant heated benches in our greenhouse have been a learning curve for us this spring, but what a great energy savings. Markets are going great and we have wonderful interns, so farming is a super way of life right now!
COMMON TOMATO DISEASES
(Eric Sideman, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners)
Three common problems with tomatoes grown in the field in northern New England are Early Blight, Bacterial Spot and Speck, and Septoria Leaf Spot. Early Blight is caused by a fungus; it starts on the lower leaves as small circular spots that have a target appearance of concentric rings. Leaves develop yellow blighted areas as the spots enlarge. Later the tomato fruit may rot on the stem end. The disease is carried over on tomato residue in the soil and can be seed borne.
Bacterial Speck starts as dark brown to black spots on leaves that later develop yellow halos around the area affected. On the fruit black specks develop that rarely get larger than 1 mm. Bacterial Spot starts as brownish, circular spots that may become as large as 3mm and irregular. The diseases may be seed borne and may be carried over in weeds. High humidity and low temperatures favor bacterial speck. Septoria Leaf Spot is a fungal disease that starts as spots on the lower leaves that have a dark brown margin and a tan center, and no target appearance like. Rapid defoliation can occur.
Crop rotation is the first line of defense from these problems: do not grow tomatoes near last year's crops. Sanitation is also important: remove or turn under all crop debris immediately after harvest ends. Trellising, staking, cages, etc. help but remember to disinfect posts, etc. if they were used last year (a 12x dilution of household bleach is effective). Prune off diseased lower leaves, but it is especially important to disinfect pruning tools if the problem is one of the bacterial diseases. Avoid working in the crops when they are wet. Scouting is going to be important this year. With this weather start early and if you decide to use a material, copper is probably the one most effective for organic growers. If you decide to do it, start at the first sign of problems and reapply so as to keep the new tissue protected as the plants grow.
ADDISON MARKETING GROUP SEEKS VEG AND BERRY PRODUCERS
A local group called ACORN (Addison County Relocalization Network) is working on organizing a direct market mechanism for county food producers. They are planning to create a data base of producers interested in being contacted directly by consumers. For more information contact: Susan Smiley at (802) 388-6601 or email@example.com
MANAGING CUCUMBER BEETLES
(adapted from UMass Extension Vegetable Notes)
Adult cucumber beetles spend the winter in field borders close to last yearís crop, so rotating to a field as far as possible from last yearís cucurbits can reduce beetle numbers significantly. Any barriers between the fields such as woods, buildings, fallow fields or other crops, roadways and waterways help delay the arrival of beetles.
Using three-week-old transplants can produce earlier and higher yields as well as plants that are bigger when beetles arrive. An insecticide or repellent can be applied to flats before plants are set out, making it less costly. For some crops, it may be possible to delay planting until late June and avoid the worst of the beetles. Of course, itís not advisable to hold transplants too long. If they are already flowering or have been stressed when they are set out, they tend to develop into small plants with early but small fruit. Large cell sizes (72, 36 or 24) or peat pots are recommended as roots should not be disturbed when transplanting.
Row covers can keep beetles off the crop during the critical early growth stage. They can also enhance growth and reduce wind damage in the early season. Covers must be removed at flowering to allow for pollination. Wire hoops are very helpful, to prevent damage from abrasion; these are usually used on single rows, but can also be used under wide sheets. Black plastic adds warmth and helps weed management under the covers.
Beetle numbers should be kept low, especially before the 5-leaf stage, to prevent the spread of bacterial wilt, which they can carry in their gut. Scout the crop at least twice per week, and treat if there is more than one beetle for every 2 plants in susceptible crops. This is a lower threshold than is needed to prevent foliar damage. Less wilt-susceptible crops (butternut, most pumpkins) will tolerate 1 or 2 beetles per plant without yield loss.
Broad spectrum insecticides which can be used for foliar control include Capture 2EC, Decis 1.5EC, Thoinex 50W, Asana, and Sevin. (See 2006-07 New England Vegetable Management Guide for details.) Carbamates such as Sevin and synthetic pyrethroids should not be used during bloom to avoid killing bees. Insecticides available for organic growers include kaolin clay (Surround WP), pyrethrin (Pyganic Crop Spray 5.0 EC)), and spinosad (Entrust). Pyrethrin is primarily a contact toxin, while spinosad acts both as a contact and a stomach poison.
Surround should be applied before beetles arrive. It can be tricky to mix and use; one approach is to mix a slurry in a bucket and then add the slurry to the tank, as the dry powder can cake if added directly to the tank mix. Another approach is to add the powder to water and allow it to settle slowly. Once the powder is fully wet, agitate gently. Regular agitation is needed during spraying. With direct-seeded crops, apply as soon as seedlings emerge if beetles are active. Transplants can be sprayed before setting out in the field.
(Mention of pesticides is for information only, no endorsement is intended nor is discrimination against products not mentioned; always read and follow the label.)
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