Vermont Vegetable and Berry News - August 1, 2005
Compiled by Vern Grubinger
University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 ext.13


(S. Royalton) What a growth spurt, things are growing like mad. Starting to pick field tomatoes, but still no peppers and eggplant.  Having been using Serenade biofungicide
(organic) to control disease and thus far the tomatoes and melons look great.  I should be picking melons next week right on schedule.

(Starksboro) We had a great strawberry season. The weekend of  July 9 we had strawberries, and the following weekend July 6 we had sweet corn and field tomatoes. Can't beat that. Thereís very little Colorado potato beetle (CPB) activity in the potatoes. The larvae were getting infected with something and dying before spraying became necessary. So far we've only sprayed B.t. once. Brutal flea beetles in the cole crops. No cabbage worms yet....

(Plainfield NH) We have been extremely hot and dry recently. The humid weather has depressed sales of anything that requires much preparation or cooking, but probably has augmented interest in the bramble fruits which we are harvesting. Renovation of strawberry beds and general weeding continues in between harvesting crops. No European corn borer (ECB) or corn earworm yet in our traps, and field counts of infested corn plants are low (9% or below). There are lots of leaf hoppers around still and the CPB just will not go away from the eggplant. As I go about harvesting our transplanted and row-covered sweet corn and pulling up drip tape and plastic from our plasticulture strawberry beds, I am left to wonder about the true profitablility of the season extension devices. Are we revving up consumer demand or just dispersing it over a longer season? Can we not afford to avail ourselves of these tools when our clientele  is used to getting pretty good quality strawberries from California in the winter and Quebec in the summer? One thing for sure is that row covers, plastics and their management contribute to considerable up front and hidden costs to a crop.

(Shoreham) We began pulling garlic on July 19th, and also had our first picking of eggplant, peppers, field tomatoes, potatoes and corn this week. We are happy to move into the summer crops and say goodbye to this year's miserable spring crops. Rain showers that normally go around us have seemed to target us this year, although we haven't put away the irrigation pipe. Persistent spraying of Pyganic has given good cucumber beetle control so far, which I like to see as we go into August. The critical piece for me is catching the second flush that seems to appear in mid-August, in the hope that it will help reduce CB pressure next year. Separate spot sprayings of Entrust (less than twelve gallons total) has resulted in an acre or so of very clean potatoes. At $435/ lb., that works out to about $20/acre of material so far, which I don't call too bad.

(Brandon) Strawberry season ended with a lower than average yield, partly due to a shortened picking season, and a significantly low PYO turnout during the very hot stretch at the end of June. Taste was very good throughout the picking season. After what seemed like constant heat and wetness, we saw a good amount of fruit breakdown due to disease towards the end (more than usual). Though scouting numbers seemed high, tarnished plant bug (TPB) damage remained low except for the later pickings of our early varieties like Sable and Evangeline. Jewel, Mesabi and Cavendish were virtually untouched. There was a small gap in time between berries and the beginning of sweet corn harvest. Our first transplanted corn was ready for sale by July 12th, only four days behind last year's picking of same varieties. This surprised me after all that intense cold in May. Taste has been excellent and size of ears has been very good. Only complaint is that you need kneepads to pick it because plants are short. Once again, Temptation is a standout in these early plantings for overall taste and yields, though it is not our earliest.  One application of Spintor, after scouting showed a lot of ECB, has kept all early pickings clean. Iím thinking of marketing our compost next year at a premium under the guise "bedding plant infused."

(Stamford VT) The HEAT is on. Farmers Market opened July 16th. Iíve been tying up heirloom tomato plants all week. Summer squash yields are abundant right now. Planted some Costata Romanesco zucchini this season, it will be interesting to see how itís received at market. Should be picking green bell peppers this coming week. Eggplants are already fruiting, could be one of the earliest harvests yet. First plantings of pole beans are already over the top. Winter squashes look great. Out of 18 varieties planted, cucumber beetles prefer "Sunshine." On the downside no cucumbers yet, first set didn't pollinate well and this year a deer wiped out the basil plants. Should be cutting sunflowers next week. Asiatic lilies are blooming. Just noticed a squash bug hatch while harvesting yesterday, my field scout must have missed a few eggs. Japanese beetles again are the biggest pest. CPB are under control. Spinosad works well.

(Killington) We are having a good growing season. The first tomatoes from the hoop house have been on the small side but subsequent ones are 12 to 18 ounces. Zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers have started a steady flow of product with very little bug pressure. However, the eggplant plants are not doing well. Plenty of pest pressure there.  This is the third year in a row I've had problems with the eggplant. The second planting of broccoli is ready for harvest. Bush beans will be ready July 23rd and we have a lot of them. We have started selling corn that we buy from another Vermont farm.  Mid week business is lacking.

Sonia Schloemann and A. Richard Bonanno, UMass Extension

(editorís note: organic growers choosing to renovate should follow steps #2,3,4,5,7,8 and 9 below. However, it usually makes more sense to fruit organic plantings for just one year and then rotate and replant to avoid build-up of insects, diseases and weeds.)

Matted row strawberry plantings benefit from a process called 'renovation' after harvest to stimulate new growth to support next yearís crop and to interrupt the build-up of certain pests and diseases mid-way through the growing season. For best results, renovation should be started immediately after the harvest is completed to knock down two-spotted mites, sap beetles and/or root weevils and to promote early runner formation. Early runner-set translates to higher yield potential the following year. Build-up of leaf spots and other foliar pathogens can be cleaned up with this process, too. Renovation should be completed by late-July in normal years. The following steps describe renovation of commercial strawberry fields. Specific rates and timing of applications can be found in the New England Small Fruit Pest Management Guide.

1. Weed control: Annual broadleaf weeds can be controlled with the 2,4-D amine  formulation (Amine® 4 or Formula 40) applied immediately after final harvest. Be extremely careful to avoid drift when applying 2,4-D. Some strawberry damage is also possible if misapplied. Read and understand the label completely. If grasses are a problem, sethoxydim (Poast) will control annual and some perennial grasses. However, do not tank mix Poast and 2,4-D.

2. Mow the old leaves off just above the crowns 3-5 days after herbicide application. Be careful not to damage crown by mowing too low.

3. Fertilize the planting. The main goal is to deliver nitrogen at this time to help re-grow the canopy. Nitrogen should be applied at 25-60 lbs/acre, depending on vigor and basic soil fertility. Split applications (one now and the rest in 4-6 weeks) are better than a single fertilizer application. This gives plants more time to take up the nutrients in the fertilizer. A leaf tissue analysis (recommended once the canopy has regrown) is the best way to fine-tune your fertilizer program. This will tell you what the plants are actually able to take out of the soil and what nutrients are in sufficient supply or not.

4. Subsoil: Where tractor and picker traffic has been heavy on wet soils, compaction may be severe. Subsoiling between rows will help break up compacted layers and provide better infiltration of water. Subsoiling may be done later in the sequence if necessary.

5. Narrow rows and cultivate between rows: Reduce the width of rows to 12-18 inches at the base. More berries are produced along row edges than in row middles. Wider rows lead to lower fruit production (yield and quality) and increased disease pressure. Narrow rows also give better sunlight penetration, air circulation, spray coverage, and over-all fruit quality. Use a roto-tiller, multivator or cultivator to achieve the row-narrowing. Work in the straw between the rows at this time, too. If possible, try to throw one inch of soil on top of the rows at this time to stimulate new root formation on established crowns and new runners.

6. Weed control: Preemergence weed control should begin immediately after the plants are mowed and the soil is tilled to narrow the crop row. The most common practice at this time is to apply half the annual rate of terbacil (Sinbar at 4 oz/acre). It is essential that the strawberry plants are mowed, even if 2,4-D was not applied, to avoid injury from Sinbar. If regrowth of the strawberry plants has started, significant damage may result. Some varieties are more sensitive to 3 Sinbar than others. If unsure, make a test application to a small area before treating the entire planting. Sinbar should not be used on soils with less than 0.5% organic matter or on reportedly sensitive varieties such as Guardian, Darrow, Tribute, Tristar and possibly Honeoye. Injury is usually the result of too high a rate or overlapping of the spray pattern. If Sinbar is not used, napropamide (Devrinol at 4 lb/acre) or DCPA (Dacthal at 8- 12 lb/acre) should be applied at this time. Dacthal is preferred over Devrinol if the planting is weak.

If Sinbar is used, napropamide (Devrinol at 4 lb/acre) should be applied 4 to 6 weeks later. This later application of Devrinol will control most winter annual weeds that begin to germinate in late August or early September. Devrinol should be applied prior to rainfall or it must be irrigated into the soil. During the summer, Poast can be used to control emerged grasses. Cultivation is also common during the summer months. Cultivations should be shallow and timely (weeds should be small) to avoid root damage to the strawberry planting. The growth of strawberry daughter plants will also limit the amount of cultivation possible especially near the crop row.

7. Irrigate: Water is needed for both activation of herbicides and for plant growth. Donít let the plants go into stress. The planting should receive 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week from either rain or irrigation.

8. Cultivate to sweep runners into the row until plant stand is sufficient. Thereafter, or in any case after September, any runner plant not yet rooted is not likely to produce fruit next year and is essentially a weed and should be removed. Coulter wheels and/or cultivators will help remove these excess plants in the aisles.

9. Adequate moisture and fertility during August and September will increase fruit bud formation and improve fruit yield for the coming year. Continue irrigation through this time period and fertilize if necessary. An additional 20 to 30 pounds of N per acre is suggested, depending on the vigor.

Mention of pesticides is for information purposes only, no endorsement is intended nor is discrimination against products not mentioned. Always read and follow the label.