REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
(Jericho) All the hot weather crops are late this year. Our watermelons looked like they were ripe ten days ago but they really weren’t. Then we got a few days of heat and had to pick them all at once. The peppers, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes growing outside are much later than normal due to the weather, but also because they got pummeled by hail in late May which set them back. Even in the greenhouse our second planting of tomatoes has been slow to ripen, but is coming on now. With all the humidity Botrytis is a problem in the greenhouse tomatoes, I think next year we will use less dense spacing for better air flow. It’s been a great year for things like beets, turnips, and Swiss chard, which is doing well but usually is long gone by now. Sales are pretty good.
(S. Royalton) Tomatoes very slow in ripening. Cantaloupes and watermelon are producing as they should but with smaller fruit. Diseases are only slightly ahead of last year but I have a feeling that will soon be changing. Has anybody seen summer?
(Killington) Picking lots of green beans (fillets) and getting top dollar for them. There is some mold but there's always some mold. A great crop of broccoli finished up about 2 weeks ago. Broccoli transplants have been in the ground for two weeks, they should be ready by mid-September. Onion sets, green beans, sugar snaps, spinach, zucchini, summer squash, and salad greens have all been replanted to get ready for the busy fall season. We ran out of mixed greens for a week and a half but we're back in business now. Tomatoes slowed down for a bit, but didn't run out, and now they have started to come back slowly. Grasshoppers are our biggest problem. Flea beetle is under control.
(Starksboro) We're managing OK with all the rain, but we're on very well drained land. That's not to say it hasn't been without troubles. According to TomCast, the Early Blight forecasting model, it's a good year to be spraying fungicide on tomatoes every 5 to 7 days. If it ever stops raining, (and it will) we're going to have a great fall.
(Samford) High yields on summer squash this year. Winter squash look good, beginning to color up. All of the pole beans have flowered. Will start picking beans and hopefully some eggplants this week. Japanese beetles have been the biggest pest for both the beans and eggplant this season. Squash bugs have hatched now too. Running behind with both the tomatoes and peppers this year. Too much rain along with this season's cold spring weather have resulted in much catfacing along with lots of scars both on the blossom end and also around the stems. Early yields are down. Peppers have been slow to flower. Maybe too many cool nights, although the transplants were also put out later in June this year. First pickings on green bell peppers were back on July 30th. Cucumber harvests have been good. Both the gladiolas and asiatic lilies along with the sunflowers are all looking great. Extensive planning went into the flower selections for this year. Cut flower sales are brisk. P.S. The NE Veg Guide Pest Identification Supplement is much appreciated; the photos are great. (Contact my office for a free copy - Vern)
(Plainfield NH) Struggling with weeds and fertility, especially in strawberry beds as a result of excess rain. Cool weather last week had us struggling to have melons and sweet corn in a time frame that we normally would be swimming in both. Still, harvesting of field tomatoes and cherry tomatoes has come along about the same time as last year. Blights and leaf spots thus far are in check. No powdery mildew of any consequence in the fall cucurbits, but I am expecting to see that change any day now. We are doing a pretty decent job of scouting and spraying the corn for corn borer and fall armyworm but this last batch of southerly storms and spent hurricanes will doubtless have dropped off some nasty vermin. Despite the problems in the field, our farm stand is having one of its best years.
(Little Compton RI) Two hurricane remnants in 48 hours and only 4" of rain on the ground! We consider ourselves lucky. Still a banner year for weather over all. Our first field tomatoes came in this week, which is late for us. But with greenhouse tomatoes carrying us up to this point, we have gained a good reputation in the market and shouldn't loose momentum going into the late summer and fall tomato harvest. Cucumber beetle has been very low all year. The only persistent pest is leafhopper on potatoes and beans. Entrust is keeping that down to a dull roar. We are doing 85% of our potatoes under plastic for the third year in a row and can't believe how well it fits our operation and needs. Doing primarily CSA and farmers markets we really only want "B" and "C" sizes, which is what you get with plastic culture. When the vines are mowed down the crop keeps well under the plastic until we pull it back and dig down with the forks to pull them out; four bushels at a time. Our experiment with cherry tomatoes hanging in 4-gallon buckets from the greenhouse rafters is going well and we are cautiously optimistic; though in the last week, during hot days, we have had to be on the ball watering them. Next year it will pay to have a good automated irrigation system that can meter out the water probably three times a day.
‘WORKAMPER’ LABOR ON OUR FARM .
Leslie and Ron Blair, Blair's Berry Farm, Rochester, Vermont
During the summer of 2002 we had a couple of customers come to our berry farm who were volunteering for the Forest Service as ‘workampers’. They gave us a copy of Workamper News, a bi-monthly magazine that matches up businesses and workers who travel in their RVs, working as volunteers in exchange for a camp site and the necessary hookups (power, water, septic, telephone). They recommended the program very highly. We advertised in the winter issue of the magazine and received about a half dozen inquiries and resumes. After speaking to the applicants on the phone, we asked two couples to come work with us in the summer of 2003. It went so well that we put in a third camp site, anticipating more business with the growth of the farm. We have three couples with us this summer (one of these was also with us last year).
Workampers are generally retired, and the ages of our workers have ranged from 55 to 70 years old. Each couple works as a unit. Their priority job is taking care of customers (you-pick as well as those buying pre-picked berries from our shop), and when they're not busy with customers they do some picking, sorting, weeding, and other crop tending as well as keeping the shop clean. Some workampers want extra hours for hourly pay and some don't. That's one of the things that helps both parties decide whether or not it's a good match. In our case, we offer the site from May to October in exchange for 8 weeks of work, approximately 5 hours per day, 5 days a week per person. We have offered only a small amount of additional per-hour work. Two of our sites are gravel and one is a grassy pad. The cost of putting in the sites can be considerable and depends upon what you need to do to get power, water, and septic set up for each of them. And of course there are various state regulations to be dealt with. We highly recommend the program. We've been enjoying all of our workampers and find them to be very congenial and hard working. All of the information you need is available on line at www.workamper.com or call (501)362-2637.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR LATE SUMMER DISEASES
(adapted from John Mishanec, Cornell Extension)
Late blight, downy mildew and late blight are diseases that can come onto your farm with storms from the south. This time of year it’s important to scout your fields at least twice a week to look for disease problems. They need to be found early before they spread. A strain of late blight that only affects potatoes is fairly widespread in western NY. In NJ and elsewhere a different strain of late blight is causing loses in tomatoes. I have not yet heard of any in Vermont. When scouting for late blight look for large black spots the size of a half dollar. In the morning, before things dry out, the spots will have a white halo of spores ringing them. You may also have infections on stems and not see leaf spots. Look for blackening where the leaflet meets the stem. Anywhere that humidity is high will favor the disease. A 5 to 7 day fungicide spray program is needed to protect plants. If you find the disease early removing infected plants may slow its spread.
If you have noticed there are not a lot of flower blossoms on your tomato plants, it is caused by all the wet weather and botrytis gray mold. Flowers will just drop off once they have formed and you will not get a good late set.
Where there is standing water in fields the big risk is Phytophthora. I have seen this affecting squash, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes and (new host!) green beans this year in Vermont. Usually it starts in a low spot in the field, where water collects then all the plants in that area wilt and slowly die. Once an area of plants is infected it is best to disk it in right away to help minimize spread - they will not recover and fruit will become infected too. In future you should consider taking steps to improve drainage in these areas, or else put them into a permanent cover instead.
Downy mildew has been reported to our south. On cucurbits look for dark green, angular shaped splotches the size of a quarter on the upper surface of the leaf. With humid conditions, you will see sporulation on the underside of the leaf. If you find this disease in your vine crops, you have just a few days to apply a systemic fungicide. Left untreated, after 5 or so days, the leaves will go limp while the stems will stay upright and it will look like the field was frosted. This disease can be a very serious problem but thankfully it does not occur here in most years. Powdery mildew, which does occur every year, can be found to some extent in most squash and pumpkin fields in Vermont, but since it prefers hot, dry conditions it does not appear to be a major worry this year. Photos and in-depth information about these and other vegetable diseases can be seen at http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/
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