REPORTS FROM THE FIELD (as of July 12)
Many farms are reporting a poor strawberry year, probably as a result of drought last year combined with winter injury due to lack of snow cover, followed by standing water in fields this spring. Cedar waxwing damage to ripe fruit at many locations in the state did not help, either. The blueberry crop looks to be heavy and is just starting to ripen at most locations. Many growers sprayed last week for early blight and Septoria on field tomatoes, the next 4-6 weeks is a critical time to keep foliage protected and healthy. It'll frost soon after that anyway. In greenhouses, there's a fair amount of leaf mold and Botrytis on tomatoes, aggressive ventilation to reduce humidity helps control these diseases; variety selection is key to avoiding leaf mold. Sclerotinia (white mold) has also been identified on greenhouse tomato and on greenhouse cucumber. Carefully remove and dispose of infected plants. It was a wicked year for seed corn maggot on beans in some locations and the pressure was slower to pass than usual. Tarnished plant bug pressure is low this year, but cucumber beetles are out in force. Flea beetles were abundant. Squash bugs are about and laying eggs. European corn borer damage is evident in many places but generally not at threshold levels. Be on the lookout for earworm as soon as corn is in silk; pheromone traps are the best early warning system. Potato leafhoppers are numerous and since they are less obvious than some other insects the populations are often quite high before growers realize a control is needed. Diamondback moth and imported cabbageworm larvae are feeding on cole crops and should be scouted for. (Vern Grubinger and Ann Hazelrigg, UVM Extension)
(E. Hartland) Wrapping up strawberry picking and peas. Berries did better than I though they would do when I uncovered them in April, nonetheless an off-year. Green beans and potatoes coming in. Weather's been great for hiking this past week (I should take it up), not so impressive for growing melons and heat loving field crops. There will be a gob of produce to harvest in the late summer and early fall this year with all the different day length varieties bunching up. Spraying for early blight in the tomatoes (it was there when the row covers came off), cabbage loopers in cole crops. Some CPB larvae emerging that I just may ignore. So far our IPM scout says there's nothing to spray for in the sweet corn. Starting to see some second generation of cuke beetle that concerns us. In general, just another normally abnormal year here in New England...
(W. Rutland) Sweet corn and flowers doing well, beans were slow but now catching up. Only bug problems so far were squash beatles.
(Charlotte) Things look great compared to last year. Finished with first round of brassicas. Tomatoes ripening in greenhouse. Lots of haricot vert to pick and capes gooseberries. Got some 4 inch peppers on plants. Field tomatoes a bit leggy but looking good Very little CPB considering we planted 850 pounds of seed potato. Plants look wonderful with some flowering. The CSA going well. Some new flea beetles in greenhouses, plan to spray. Cucumber beetles still a pain, but less than last year with the heat. Harvesting field beets and carrots now. Getting some timely showers on and off.
(S. Royalton) Crops in general all look good, our worst pest problems have been from flea beetles with some leafhoppers on green beans and a few on potatoes. First spray of Novodor Bt on potatoes had excellent results. We have seen little sign of cuke beetles, squash bugs and TPB so far. First harvest of some crops such as eggplant, greenhouse tomatoes, onions and cukes is running 10 to 14 days behind last year. Weeds have been coming on strong with warmer weather but we have great germination in root crops for fall harvest.
(Killington) Greenhouse tomatoes are being harvested but coming slowly. Zucchini and summer squash are doing very well but laden with cucumber beetles, which are hitting hard. Have been picking sugar snaps since the 4th of July. Bush string beans in raised beds are flowering and could be ready by July 20. Great crop of carrots presently. Started mesclun seeds for fall sales. The pepper plants, which were under rowcovers for the first four weeks they were in the raised bed, have small peppers at this time.
(Argyle, NY) Sunshine and rain has been in good measure, but cool temperatures (47 degrees the other morning) are slowing the summer crops. First time we've ever had peas and beans at the same time. Best lettuce and pea year ever; apples are sizing nicely and blueberries are huge and now ripening. Raspberries are about 2 weeks behind a "normal" year. Deer ate half the celery crop, but no diseases except gray mold in matted row strawberries (annual bed produced nicely). Cucumber beetles are here in multitude--worst we've ever seen them, however, we've seen no tarnished plant bug and very few potato beetles. Definitely a different kind of year but isn't it nice to have some variety to keep us challenged?
(Montreal) First cropping of sugar snap peas July 6 - a great crop! Kohlrabi growing well and will go in CSA baskets July 20. The cool weather that has persisted even now in southern Quebec has kept summer squash crop growing at a modest rather than rambunctious pace. Potatoes growing well with all the moisture and fewer potato beetles this year. I think they drowned in their soggy overwintering soil ?
NOTES FROM SMALL FRUIT TWILIGHT MEETING
Bill Lord from UNH Extension and Sonia Schloemann from UMass Extension graciously attended the twilight meeting at Don Harlow's farm in Putney on July 11. Here are some key points that came from the discussion they led: Strawberry yields were off this year throughout New England. Black vine weevil did a lot of damage in some locations. Good rotation is the most effective control. If an insecticide such as Brigade is to be used on adults, spraying late at night is recommended by Jon Turmel as that is when they are feeding on foliage. This year's weather proved that applying fungicide for gray mold at bloom is effective, and that post-bloom applications are not necessary. Even with the frequent rain, Botrytis was not a problem for growers who sprayed during bloom. More and more growers are going to annual hill production of strawberries. One of the main advantages is better (and cheaper) weed control. Flavor seems to be better, too. The strawberry plugs planted in the fall don't look like much, they're small and have few leaves, but they put on tremendous growth in the springtime under the row cover. The lowest temperature under Typar row cover in northern NH was 5 degrees warmer than under 3 tons of straw mulch. The row cover seems to help catch the snow. Varietal selection is important for success with this system. Chandler, Jewel and Cavendish have all performed well in NH trials. Be on the lookout for potato leaf hopper in the terminal growth on canes of fall bearing raspberries. Phytopthera root rot is causing problems in wet sites on both raspberries and blueberries. When blueberry canes have lots of fruit and few leaves it can also be due to the cumulative effective of several years of drought, or root damage from insects such as grubs or root aphids. It can be helpful to apply a foliar feed of 3 lb urea in 100 gallons water per acre when the fruit is still small to get those fruit to harvestable size, but next year those canes will probably be dead or dying. Don Harlow noted that a more aggressive pruning program in his blueberries seems to be paying off. He also showed where making raised beds by chiseling between rows then throwing soil up into the blueberry beds with discs has improved plant growth. The homemade blueberry and raspberry ice cream was awesome!
SUMMER COVER CROP OPTIONS (adapted from Cornell Extension)
Rather than let unplanted fields go to weeds in the summer, plant a cover crop or green manure to help reduce weeds, minimize pathogens, supply N and P or generally improve overall soil health. Choices include:
Sudangrass or sorghum-sudan hybrids. Seeding rate: 30-50 lb/Acre. Seeding time: late spring through August.Heat loving annual. Apply supplemental N to encourage growth (especially in soils where N has been leached). Mow when 3 feet tall to encourage greater rooting and manage top growth. Incorporating green prior to frost may suppress some diseases and nematodes. Produces large amounts of organic matter and roots penetrate compacted soils.
Buckwheat. Seeding rate: 60 lb/Acre. Seeding time: Late spring through summer. Warm season annual. Mow or incorporate at early flowering to avoid seed set and subsequent weed problems. Grows rapidly and thrives on poor soils Two successive buckwheat crops followed by winter rye can effectively reduce weed pressure in a field. Also makes P more available to subsequent crops.
Cowpeas. Seeding rate: 70 - 100 lb/Acre. Seeding time: Late spring through mid-summer. Heat loving legume. Look for forage cultivars as they will put on more vegetative growth. Before incorporating, mow or roll and incorporate green. Can add 100-150 lbs/A of N but remember to inoculate seeds wth a "cowpea" type inoculant. Adds 1 to 2 tons of dry matter per acre.
Annual Alfalfa - Nitro. Seeding rate: 15 - 20 lb/Acre. Seeding time: Late spring through early summer. Annual alfalfa that normally winter kills. Produces good top growth as well long taproots to break up compacted layers. Be sure to use an inoculant to maximize N fixation.
Japanese millet. Seeding rate: 20 - 40 lb/A. Seeding time: up to Mid August. A fast grower that will produce good biomass in 6 weeks, when it should be mowed or plowed in. More drought tolerant than buckwheat. Not winter-hardy. Inexpensive seed.
Hairy vetch. Seeding rate: 20 - 40 lb/A alone, half that if sown with a small grain. Seeding time: July and August. Winter hardy and will produce heavy biomass in the early spring. Seed is expensive. Use pea-vetch inoculant.
Crucifers such as Brassica nigra (black mustard) or oilseed radish can be sown at 5-12 lb/A. If you grow significant amounts of crucifer family cash crops such as cabbage, broccoli, etc, do not use these cover crops, as they can increase disease and insect problems.
NEW BLUEBERRY COOKBOOK AVAILABLE
Scott MacKenzie of Wildwood Farm in East Dorset has recently written ‘The Blueberry Farm Cookbook'. It contains 365 recipes you can prepare year-round. The recipes were collected from customers at his PYO farm over many years. Included are such tempting entries as: chilled blueberry soup, blueberry bluefiush, Mad Tom blueberry wine, blueberry nut sticks and blueberry vinegar. To order send $12.95 plus $3.20 shipping to ‘Wildwood Farm' 2682 Mad Tom Road, E. Dorset VT 05253.