Vermont Vegetable and Berry News – August 25, 2005
Compiled by Vern Grubinger
University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 ext.13

REPORTS FROM THE FIELD (as of August 22)

(S. Royalton) I've never seen things grow like this before, I'm having more problems then normal trying to keep up. All my plantings have managed to catch each other.  Watermelons and cantaloupe are numerous and large, field tomatoes by the boatload.  Corn is ripening just ahead of the pace that I'm selling it. Disease remains under control, which surprises me because of the heat. On the down side, most of the broccoli is unsellable because of disease. If that is the price I have to pay, I'm willing to pay it.

(Plainfield) It’s been a great season, with plenty of heat balanced by timely rains. I should be irrigating more to supplement the rains to ideal water amounts. Weed control has not been good, except where we have gone back for a third time, like in the carrots. Galinsoga wins again in some fields that have been too long without fallowing and cover crops. Strawberries have renovated nicely. I mowed, ripped the aisles with a chisel, spread CheepCheep processed poultry manure and compost, and continue to keep the rows narrow with the Lillistons. I irrigated a couple of times because the ground is sandy, and I’m optimistic about next year’s crop. Winter squash is maturing early, looks like a terrific yield of Early Butternut Hybrid, spraying Oxidate to control powdery and downy mildew. Fall brassicas are doing well as the temperature finally cools off. I’m making a list of crops not to grow next year.

(W. Rutland) Great time in the fields this year, hot and dry now but I am getting a good garlic crop and a decent cabbage crop and a healthy cutting of zinnias. The rest is just dried up so I am moving on to the wood pile. I'd say we are nearing drought levels of a few years ago. Went on the upper field to plow and it was like plowing ledge.

(Dummerston)  As the college kids head back to school and the earworm moths start flying north, it's time to start the second season. Soaking rains have made us much more optimistic and fired up to plant everything possible for the fall. Second generation cuke beetle and flea beetle are now on the decline so arugula and radishes are clean. As I saw from earlier reports, we also had good luck on tough-to-kill pests with a cocktail of Entrust, AzaDirect and Pyganic as they were rather ineffective by themselves. Entrust has also been great in rotation with Dipel on recent heavy second generation corn borer and light infestations of earworm. When earworm moth counts get into double digits, we go to the Zealator (hand-held oil applicator). Sales of heirloom vegetables continue to rise and we're excited about the variety of vintage melons and pumpkins we'll have available for autumn ornamental season. Check out Baker Creek Heirlooms at for great selection of hard-to-find varieties. Fall greenhouse tomato plantings introduced us to a new pest, the tomato russet mite. Nasty suckers drained the life out of some plants in a hurry during a hot, humid stretch but applications of micro-sulfur have slowed them down. Amazing how little foliage tomatoes need to produce a great crop. Flower sales continue strong, mums and asters coming up now - a lot easier money than carrots. So far it’s been a great growing season.

(E. Dorset) I had an excellent blueberry season with a record crop, just closed last Friday after 37 days of pick-your-own. I’m seeing good new growth on most plants. During bloom the plants in one field were defoliated by caterpillars but they seem to be recovering. I’ve also had a lot of bear problems. I bought a black metal hawk that hangs about 6 feet over the bushes. It was very effective in keeping robins, grosbeaks and bluejays out of my 4 acre planting. Wild turkeys are coming in now which I’m glad about as they clean up the drops.

(Starksboro) Our field tomatoes don't look very good. The conventional wisdom is that you don't need to spray for leaf diseases until July 4th, but this year torrential downpours and warm temperatures in June gave diseases an early foothold. I had very little Colorado potato beetle in the potatoes in July when they're usually the worst, but lately (and uncharacteristically) they've been quite severe.

(Stamford) Extremely hot and dry with very little rain except for a few quick showers. Eggplant and peppers are yielding well, both have had some irrigation. Some sunburn with the peppers though. Most of the staked heirloom tomatoes plants are suffering from a lack of steady water. Unstaked field hybrids look better but tomatoes are small on both, a lot of blossom end rot on the plum types. Marketable cucumber yields are way down from last year, with many misshapen fruit. Don't know if it’s all the dry weather or a pollination problem. Summer squash yields have been good. Many customers seem amazed with yellow zucchini having never seen them before. Costata Romanesco proved popular at Farmers Market, bringing back fond memories for some people with deep ethnic roots, and intriguing others with its unique shape and taste. Cousa squash is also a big seller there along with eggplant and cubanelle peppers. The Applegreen eggplant has been selling well, nice size, not to large to be intimidating to some consumers along with the color being so different. Tastes great too! Sunflower heads are smaller than usual this year too. Keeping them looking good at market has been hard with all the heat and humidity. Daily gladiola sales are picking up especially during the evening hours. Most of the winter squashes are looking good and starting to color up nicely. Squash bugs love both Sunshine winter squash and Raven zucchini. Both plantings have been decimated. Nothing I do has controlled them.

(Danby, NY) I sprayed a combination of Surround (kaolin clay) and Entrust (Spinosad) on cabbage plants that were heavily infested with flea beetles 10 days ago, and they are still virtually free of beetles. The plants were pretty small, so I only used 12 gallons on .6 acre with a backpack sprayer. In those 12 gallons were 8 lb of Surround, 1.5 oz. Entrust, and 4 tsp. of Therm X-70, an organically approved sticker spreader which I like. The combination appears to be very effective against both crucifer and striped flea beetles. Entrust will also help against thrips. A week previously, I had sprayed Pyganic against the flea beetles. An hour after I finished there were none, but a couple days later there were more than ever.

(adapted by Mike Collins from Quebec ministry of agriculture web site)

If you are planning on topping your plants, leave two leaves after the last blossoms. The last cluster needs to be in bloom before topping the plant, or the fruit size will be greatly reduced.  Extra fruit can be left on the last cluster, up to six. It is preferable to top plants that are generative, rather than vegetative, since they will produce fewer suckers. As usual watering correctly is extremely important. From reading these bulletins, the most important improvement most of us can make is with our irrigation systems and practices. At this time of year condensation will begin to be a problem in the mornings and will result in disease and fruit cracking. Heating the greenhouse as the sun comes up is recommended to help manage this problem.

(adapted from Cathy Heidenreich, Cornell University)

Each of the 100 to 125 pistils in a bramble flower contains 2 ovules. One develops into a seed and the other into a ‘druplet’ that surrounds the seed. About 75 to 85 druplets mature into the ‘aggregate’ fruit we call a berry. Sometime berries will have druplets that are white in color. This can be caused by high temperatures, exposure to sun, and/or stinkbug damage. Stinkbug damage results in a random pattern of white spots on mature fruit. Sunscald (sunburn) differs from stinkbug damage in that the shoulder or side of the fruit exposed to sun will be white, while the shaded side appears normal. In white drupelet disorder, drupelets develop normally but are lacking in color, usually making the berries unacceptable for fresh market but still usable for processing. Berries with full exposure to direct afternoon sun appear most susceptible to sunscald and/or white drupelet disorder. However, high temperatures also appear to be involved as berries shaded by canopy in may also develop white drupelet disorder, which may become quite prevalent during hot growing seasons. Injury has been observed to rapidly increase as berries move from green to white to pink stages during ripening. To prevent white drupelets avoid planting on sites with strong hot summer winds. Orient planting rows north south to minimize sunscald on south sides of rows and maximize fruit production on both sides. Use of a ‘shift trellis’ that concentrates all fruit on one side of the canopy can be used to minimize sunscald. Researchers have used an overhead system for evaporative cooling twice a day for about 15 minutes between 10 am to 3 pm to prevent sunscald. Using it later in the afternoon is not recommended since the canopy needs to be dry before evening to minimize disease problems. Shading may help minimize the occurrence of white drupelet disorder by reducing associated UV radiation. Shading should be applied to the crop after pollination.

(adapted from UMass Extension)

Establishing small grain winter cover crops like rye, oat or wheat after vegetables are harvested is a good way to reduce soil erosion and runoff during the late fall and winter. These cover crops are also known to take up available nitrogen that can be found in the soil as nitrate after the harvest of crops. The nitrate may come from unused fertilizer, or it may be released from decomposing manures or compost. Capturing this ‘extra’ soil nitrate with cover crops helps minimize nitrate leaching to ground water, and it also ‘stores’ nitrogen in the cover crop biomass, some of which will be released for use by subsequent crops as the covers are broken down by microbes. Research at UMass and elsewhere indicates that crops like rye and oats do a better job of capturing nitrate and preventing leaching when they are sown in August rather than September. This makes sense since the more time the covers have to grow, the more extensively their roots can colonize the soil and take up nutrients.  So don’t delay, clean up your fields as soon as harvests are complete and sow a winter cover crop.

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