REPORTS FROM THE FIELD (as of Sept.24)
(Cambridge) Things are winding down, though with hired help gone, Iím working even harder. Tomato plants are starting to look terrible in the greenhouse so I may pull them soon despite the remaining green fruit, just to get the diseased material out of there. After voles ate every single pepper plant on the edge rows of the greenhouse, I planted bush Delicata in early June and they produced fantastic fruit. Fall brassicas did poorly in the spot I put them in but late plantings of mesclun, summer squash and haricot vertes will fill out the farm stand well and carry me through the next few weeks. A well-meaning husband tilled under a whole plot of shallots the day before harvest but the garlic is so big and beautiful this year - who needs shallots? It has truly been a gorgeous summer.
(Grand Isle) Dry weather for the past two weeks has us irrigating night and day. (Have you noticed how low the lake is?) How is a fella supposed to listen to the Red Sox games if he's moving pipe all the time?! We continue to marvel at the crops that have bounced back to some degree after severe hail damage in mid-August. We are encouraging our customers to accept tomatoes with spots. We were recently sent photos of square watermelons raised commercially in Japan. The growing melons mature in glass boxes so that they take the square shape of the container: no rolling off the refrigerator shelf!
(Plainfield NH) High levels of earworm moths are still arriving yet the corn is clean and we have a market, so I guess the spraying was worth it although the money spent on Larvin and Spintor could have paid down a chunk of the national debt. Fall manuring and cover crops going in, cleaning up melon and watermelon harvest, still have nice field tomatoes. Fall raspberries in full swing. Condensing all the broken machinery in front of the shop, anticipating fixing it before winter. Lots of fall projects facing us after the killer frost comes....
(Shaftsbury) Deer pressure is mounting as fall approaches. Considering permanent deer fencing. Had a 10-acre sunflower field reduced to ruble as a result of disease, birds and then deer eating whatever is left standing. Cover crops are growing well. Spuds being harvested and thinking about another round of soil tests as it has been a few years. Cleaned the sprayer and deep-sixed it for the winter. Hopefully no more cole crop worms or earworm invasions. Winter squashes almost finished curing the greenhouse.
(Starksboro) The season's been full of surprises. We had great August broccoli and usually it's a tough month for broccoli with the heat and all. The early tomatoes were great and the September tomatoes have been disappointing. I'm quite happy with the biodegradeable plastic mulch, this after 20 years of not using plastic at all. So far, a good year, but it's not over 'til it's over.
(Fairfax) The weather couldn't be any better. Dry and warm. Putting in overwintering spinach, might end up harvesting it in Dec. if this keeps up. Our July 5th sweet corn planting is finally maturing. Caroline raspberries are finally ripe. Now how long will they last? Sometines I think Iím crazy planting so much in August, but years like this itíll be nice to be picking new lettuce and greens plantings in October. Now on to finish picking the winter squash.
(Dummerston) Many fall crops are rebounding well from an extended dry period thanks to last weekend's rain. Montauk sweet corn showing poor tip fill from the dry weather though new planting of Providence sweet corn seems to have received the water just in time. We also had excellent yields during the dryness from Lancelot which is advertised to be a more 'drought tolerant' variety. Had to make another Dipel application on cole crops as crazy warm weather sent the cabbage moths parasailing again. Finally corn earworm trap captures have dropped off and we may be able to put the sprayer in the back of the barn. Late summer squash planting showing mildew and aphids but tired of picking them anyway. Still planting lettuce, radishes, spinach, chard and arugula in cleaned out tomato houses for Nov.-Dec. sales. Rule of thumb I'm told is that each layer of protection can gain you a zone. So if you put a crop in a greenhouse and cover it with remay, you can compete with New Jersey's zone 7 in late fall. I'm not sure how you get the ambition to get out there and harvest the stuff. Sept. sales exceptionally strong especially with autumn flowers. Rubberneckers should be arriving soon with their American Express cards so gather ye together thy fall ornamentals.
(Argyle NY) What an amazing growing season for most crops this year. Lots of irrigation, but the dry weather kept diseases away for the most part and the abundance of product has been nice to have for the very busy and growing farmers' markets. Our root cellar now has a cooling system in it, so it's being filled with tons of produce at this point (from our farm and several nearby) which will be sold all winter at the local winter markets. The high tunnel is being partly seeded with winter greens, but the peppers and eggplants are still producing well in there. All onions are pulled, dried and in storage. Leeks look great, and the fall lettuce and spinach is in great abundance.
(Little Compton RI) Each year has its lessons, even after doing this for 25 years. We had a prolonged drought like no other, and the big lesson this year was the futility of trying to grow brassica crops in the heat and drought of late July and early August. The drought seemed to amplify the disease and bug problems, especially Alternaria. I don't want to think how many fields of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage we lost. With the growth of our CSA and successful farmersí markets, we have found ourselves growing more and more Brassicas. With this high demand, itís becoming difficult to schedule sufficient fallow time between Brassica crops. As a result, Alternaria is becoming a big problem for us. Now, if a crop is clearly going to be lost to Alternaria, we get rid of it as soon as possible by flail mowing and discing in ASAP. The more the disease advances in the crop the longer the inoculum will persist and multiply in the soil creating problems in future years. A big winner this year with the drought was growing butternut and other winter squashes on top of black plastic. The soil moisture was definitely aided by the black mulch. We took the clear plastic mulch challenge and found that to be a winner, too, especially with fast growing cucumber and melon crops. The trick is getting your mulch layer working optimally so there are no gaps or valleys under the plastic. Where the plastic isn't touching or tight to the ground weeds will grow, well, like weeds!
(Durham CT) We are quickly converting our greenhouses from tomatoes to winter greens. It seems incredible that the life of tomatoes span almost 8 months. It was a great tomato year for us: so many great varieties, including green Moldovan, Paul Robeson, Cherokee Purple, Sweet Olive, to name a few. Next year we'll do a fourth planting, probably outside, to capture those late-season tomato lovers. My goal is to harvest greens outside until Thanksgiving. To do this we are using low tunnel hoops covered with construction grade plastic held down by sand bags. They work great, but make sure that the beds have a chance to germinate chickweek first, then flame them. Otherwise, the weeds win the race. Our champion winter greens choices are still kale, spinach and claytonia. Anyone have others that work as well? Weíre ready for a little rest, but that won't happen till January. We intend to keep selling greens till the end of the year, take January off and start again in February. It's hard to beat this kind of life.
OUT AND ABOUT
As usual, Ann Hazelrigg and I have been traveling around the state visiting farms (if it seems like a long time since we visited you, thatís because there are a lot of farms and not many of us!) It is great to see so many new horticultural operations and new farmers, young and not-so-young, that have started up in the past few years. We heard from farmer after farmer that sales are up and the market for local, fresh food is booming.
Here are some common problems weíve seen. In greenhouses, ventilation fans are often running for little or no reason: thereís a door or a roll-up side open nearby, thus the fan is pulling air from the point of least resistance rather than through the length of the house, so either shut the door or turn off the fan. In the field where black plastic has been laid, if it was not tight to the ground and there are spaces underneath where you can fit your hand, youíll notice that the soil underneath may be cooler than the nearby bare ground. Black plastic only heats the soil when it is in contact, so lay it tight and flat if you want to promote root growth. In farmstands where beautiful crops are displayed, the lighting is often too dim to see them well and thus sales may suffer. Use track lights or put in a skylight to show off your crops. In the soil I have been finding a layer of compaction in many fields on most farms when I push my penetrometer into the ground. The compacted layer is usually about a foot deep, where years of plowing, discing and rototilling have put pressure in the same place. Sub-soiling in fall when the soil is dry may help break up this layer and it could help improve root growth, drainage, and crop yields. Plant diseases weíve seen include edema on Delicata squash (many small brown dots which are not from a biological disease but rather due to surface cells rupturing from environmental conditions; sunscald on bell peppers (large dead but dry areas on mature fruit, try planting more densely next year); leaf mold on greenhouse tomatoes (pretty much only where ventilation is not optimal and susceptible varieties have been grown). Cucumbers went down fast on many farms recently, due to Fusarium foot and crown rot, or foliar diseases such as Ulocladium. Rotate, rotate, rotate. Cover crops should be sown to prevent soil nudity (and not just in Brattleboro!) As soon as a crop is done, harrow the residues and put on oats or rye Ė itís still not too late. Use higher rates the later you sow, to assure a sufficient cover to protect against erosion.
SOME UPCOMING MEETINGS (See www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/meetings)
Oct. 4. 3-5 pm. On-Farm Squash Peeling. Rockville Market Farm,
Nov. 13. Greenhouse Tomato Workshop. Sturbridge MA. (860) 626-6240
Dec. 11-13. New England Vegetable and Fruit Conf. Manchester NH. www.nevbc.org
Jan. 14-16, 2008. High Tunnel Growing. Saratoga Springs, NY. firstname.lastname@example.org
Mention of pesticide brand names is for your information only, no endorsement is intended nor is discrimination against other products not mentioned. Always read and follow the label.
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