September 15, 1998
Compiled by Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967


Cucurbit foliage looks surprisingly good around the state for this time of year. Pumpkins turning color early. Outdoor tomatoes look pretty bad, going down with foliar disease at most locations. Sweet corn crop is variable depending on timing of plantings and rainfall. Carrot tops look strong in most locations. Fall raspberry crop appears larger and earlier than usual, although gray mold is a serious problem. Strawberry foliage is not as vigorous as one would like in some places, due to dry periods and people too busy to irrigate as often as would be desirable. Potato yields look to be high, but because late blight is present on many farms, harvest should not be delayed. Be sure vines are good and dead before harvesting. Many growers are running out of steam and they will be glad when this season is over, but their good humor and optimism is inspiring. (VG)

Fall crops looking great except for pumpkins & winter squash which suffered from poor pollination and fertilizer loss due to wet summer. Tomatoes holding up well with copper protection, sweet corn looking strong thru end of September except for some borer damage to middle rows where greedy farmer tried to squeeze in a little extra and Bt sprays didn't penetrate. Mopping up some left over whiteflies in greenhouses, mums selling double the pace of last year, fall perennials still moving. Labor day crowds dropping big bucks over the holiday thanks to fantastic weather. Last planting of arugula, lettuce and radish under remay, time to start the "2nd" season with cooler crops thru October and beans, lettuce, beet greens, tomatoes and peppers in greenhouses. (Dummerston)

Fall crops generally look good, and I feel much of this is due to adequate nitrogen sidedressing after the heavy rains. I used the UVM Pre-Sidedress N Test (PSNT) and follow the recommendations for sweet corn regardless of the crop. The TomCast model I use to calculate tomato disease pressure calls for much less frequent applications of fungicide as the weather cools off. I often let it slide as we get into September, but with late blight around I think I'll keep up applications for another week or two. Leaf blights on carrots are barely under control. Alternaria on carrots ceases to be an issue when night temperatures drop below 60 degrees F. We should be out of the woods on that one soon. While caterpillar activity drops off as the weather cools, keep an eye out for fall army worms especially in October when you thought the battle was over. (Starksboro)

Slugs continue to plague plants, thanks to the wet summer. Tomato suffers from early blight (Alternaria solani), late blight (Phytophthora infestans) and gray mold (Botrytis cinerea), thanks to the wet summer. I was hiking around the Intervale in Burlington last weekend, and noticed the wet summer even predisposed the wild hemp to gray mold - I've never seen that in 20 years of admiring disease?free stands in the Intervale. (Middlebury)

Labor day comes, all our laborers go. Sales strong over the holiday period. Have been picking fall raspberries and field tomatoes for a month now. Raspberries starting fully three weeks early. How all the vegetables and fruit will get harvested now is a great challenge. Dry weather (and a little fungicide) has kept the blight in check on the tomatoes considering how far along in the harvest we are. I am picking my October "hope it makes it"corn this week. Strange season indeed. (Plainfield, NH)

We are winding down on tomatoes, cukes, zucchinis, and sweet corn and had good crops with all of these, except the late corn which was pretty small and drought stressed. We started digging potatoes this week and find a fair yield with little scab. The leafhopper did his damage, but not the devastation of last year. We also started harvesting cauliflower which is small due to August
drought, red & yellow peppers which are beautiful and plentiful, and leeks which look good. Celery and winter squash begin next week. (Amherst, MA)

The Call for Proposals is out for the Northeast Regional USDA/SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) Farmer/Grower Grants. These grants are a unique opportunity for farmers to get financial assistance with the investigation of innovative production or marketing practices. Past grants have ranged from $300 to $8500. Funding is not usually provided for capital expenditures however the grants can pay for labor costs, as well as supplies, travel, and lease of equipment or land. Projects that will help other farmers will have the highest chance of acceptance. A list of previously funded projects is available. For this or an application call (802)?656?0471, fax (802)656?4656, E-mail

This problem often results in cukes exposed to hot dry conditions following milder weather. Some observations on bitterness: older, open pollinated varieties are worse than hybrids; bitterness is greatest at the flower end (lower 1/3 of the fruit); bitterness is greater at and just below the peel; bitterness can sometimes be reduced by slicing and soaking in water for a short period (if that is possible with the intended use); under some conditons, bitterness is so intense that the entire fruit is bitter; later forming fruit may be normal?bitterness seems to be a short term problem if the weather modifies; bitterness seems to be a greater problem in slicing vs. pickling cucumbers although both will become bitter in extremes; don't make a big batch of pickles without first sampling the fruit in hot, dry conditions. (Adapted form Kansas State E-mail)

Don't let low soil pH rob you of yields! One way or the other test all fields on a regular basis. The standard UVM soil test for vegetable crops costs $10 and includes pH and a lime recommendation, or you can test soils on the spot yourself. Generally you get what you pay for as far as testing equipment. Nursery pH test kits are OK to within 1 or 1.5 pH units accuracy. They are usually color comparisons and everyone sees colors slightly different. For a little more accuracy there are pocket pH (and EC/salt meters) with digital readings. Companies such as Spectrum Technologies (800-248-8873), Griffin Greenhouse (508) 851-4346 and others sell them for around $55-65 apiece. To get better accuracy there are $250 instruments from such places as Extech Instruments (781-890-7440).A few other companies with soil testing equipment include Deltra Trak (800-962-6776), and Ben Meadows Co.(800-241-6401). (adapted from Univ. of Calif. E-mail)