REPORTS FROM THE FIELD (as of October 1)
(Monkton) Pumpkins are almost all harvested, pumpkin sales are better than last year. Cucumber beetles still a big problem. They actually eat the green part off the handles of the pumpkins. Raspberries are looking real good, hopefully harvesting will continue for a couple more weeks.
(Putney) Two weeks ago, strong winds blew down 70% of the Indian corn but did not break it. We're mid way through harvesting the corn and hanging it up to dry. Some of the ears have worms, but with the drying and grinding process, they shouldn't pose much of a problem. The pole beans are still growing and some will be ready for harvest this weekend. The pumpkins and butternut squash are slowly ripening.
(S. Royalton) Fall carrots, cabbage, beets and broccoli are way ahead of where they have been in the past. Field tomatoes looking very, very tired and are about ready for a killing frost (or is it me that is ready?). Sweet potatoes are big and numerous, probably averaging 4 to 5 pounds per plant. I have already sold more pumpkins at market this year then all last year but I swear 9-11 took the Halloween spirit out of everyone.
(Starksboro) August and September have been frightfully busy, and Iím relieved to see mid-October around the corner, because I know itís all downhill from there. The dry weather has been OK for us, resulting in a spectacular tomato crop. Itís getting a bit wet now, but so far nothing we havenít dealt with before.
(Brandon) I planted a quarter acre of Chandler plug berries on Sept 6 on black plastic and drip and irrigated frequently to keep them moist. We put the row cover on the last week of September. I might take it off later and then cover with straw for winter to avoid deer damage to the cover. The plants look really nice, and they did not send out as many runners as last year perhaps because we planted a week later and also backed off on the fertility. The plug berries that were renovated last year did well, and they came on a week earlier than the matted row. I fed them a lot with conventional fertilizer and the size and yield was OK. Iím still not convinced plug berries are the only way to go, as the matted row late varieties like Jewel and Allstar produced much longer into the season. I think the plugs work well in combination with matted row plantings.
(Dummerston) Please let it frost. Can't get anything done because we spend so much time picking beans and summer vegetables that should be over. Sweet corn that was treated with the Zea-Later oil applicator is still coming in clean of ear worms. For God's sake we're still picking okra. Can't put the sprayer away yet because there's plenty of cabbage moths hanging around in the warm weather waiting to make Swiss cheese out of my turnip and cole crop leaves. Hopefully one more B.t. spray will keep them clean. Not a bad year for vegetable growing if you could get water to the crops. Fall flower sales stronger than usual, so that should subsidize the bean picking.
(Plainfield NH) Closed the farm stands this past weekend. In sum it was a great season for us financially, but we didnít do as good a job in the field as we like to. Dealing with the drought and just being behind hampered our use of green manure crops. There were some colossal patches of weeds that should have come under the scrutiny of a cultivator long before we got to them with the bush hog. Had a great experience with H2A workers and our field crew was excellent. We will pull up more plastic this week, finish putting down winter rye now that we have some soil moisture from the rain on Sept. 26, and start machine and greenhouse repair. Strawberry plug plants were put in Sept 5 and cultivated yesterday and we'll row cover them soon. While we will still be picking some produce for wholesale, most of what will be done will be with an eye towards the winter and next spring.
(Amherst MA) We have turned the corner here with the winter squash out of the field, the last fall crops weeded, and tender crops (peppers, eggplants, basil, and beans) set up with irrigation in case of frost. We had some big winners this year - tomatoes, Brassicas, eggplants, peppers, leeks, and onions. And some serious losers (spinach - poor seed perhaps, but terrible growth all around, potatoes - leafhopper induced premature death, and corn - crows, crows, crows, and some poor fertility). Overall the season was a good one, despite the drought of July and August. No flea beetles this fall at all (no greens covered - no holes in them!). Lots of cabbage moths as usual. Renovated my Chandler strawberries at the end of July and they look the best right now of all the varieties - will they bear good fruit next year!? We need some way to manage potato leafhoppers organically! We've got lots of carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, etc. The market (CSA shares) remains incredibly strong, with people coming to sign up for next year literally every day.
(Little Compton RI) We made 4 plantings of ĎHail Maryí broccoli starting August 15th and ending September first and they are looking very good thanks to 4 inches of rain which temporarily broke the drought in these parts. I fear we are in for more drought so Iím putting in hydrants around our fields to get the water where we will need it next season. Our 3000 gallon retired fire truck for drip irrigation will be tuned up and at the ready come next spring for off-farm rental fields. We were inspired by a visit from Paul and Sandy Arnold to try harvesting spinach by leaf once again and sell it in 1/3 lb. bags at the farmers market for $2.00 each. We start picking next week and are liking the concept much better than the open bushel basket approach. Another good idea for farmers markets is to do more Ďhalf dození marketing. We clearly found that people resisted buying sweet corn at $5.00 a dozen but two weeks later didn't mind paying $2.50 for a ½ dozen.
LET THE BLUEBERRY PRUNING BEGIN!
Late winter/early spring may be the best time to prune blueberry bushes since thatís when winter injury can be seen and removed, but for many growers it makes more sense to start pruning in the fall after leaves have dropped since thatís when the labor is available. Hereís a quick review of pruning advice. Prune out canes older than six years old. Prune out weak, dead, winter injured, low growing, or diseased canes. Shape the bush through pruning to create a more upright growing plant. Wood that rubs against other branches should be removed to prevent further canker infections. Remove canes that will not receive sunlight and become unproductive and stunted. Removing older canes will stimulate less regrowth than removing young canes. Detail prune to remove twiggy wood. Prune to the ground unless there is sparse cane growth, then leave a stub. Thin out canes leaving a couple with the most vigorous shoot growth. The goal is to have around 10 to 20 healthy canes varying in age from one to six/eight years old. Young canes are more efficient producers than older canes. Blueberry leaves need to have 30% of full sunlight for maximum fruit production. Moderately annually pruned bushes produced the highest yields in a recent study. Weak plants should be detail pruned instead of whole cane elimination. Vigorous plants should have whole canes removed. Making cuts at ground level instead of leaving stumps will help protect against winter injury. Pruning has shown to increase the size and sweetness of berries. Pruning will not cost money but save money if done correctly.
MINIMIZE SQUASH BUG OVERWINTERING
Iím getting reports of a lot of squash bugs in some fields. While the immature stages (nymphs) do not survive the winter, adults will hibernate under dead vines, leaves, clods, stones, piles of boards, and outbuildings. In spring the adults emerge during the first extended warm spell. By the time vines begin to run the adults will be flying into the fields, mating and laying masses of a dozen or more orange-yellow elliptical shaped eggs on the leaf undersides. The eggs turn bronze-brown just before they hatch, usually in 10 to 14 days. The nymphs pass through 5 instars, reaching maturity in 4 to 6 weeks. The overwintering adults continue laying eggs until about midsummer. New adults do not mate or lay eggs until the following year. There is only one generation per year. To minimize overwintering adult populations keep the margins of fields as free as possible of crop refuse, piles of leaves, trash, and other winter shelter. It is especially critical to reduce the overwintering population of squash bugs by working the soil and/or removing foliage and fruit immediately after harvest. This deprives nymphs of the necessary food source to complete their development. Also, recently-matured adults are denied a food source with which to build up enough food reserves required to see them through winter. Next year, rotate pumpkins and squash as far away as possible from this year's fields.
AGRICULTURAL LABOR MANAGEMENT WORKSHOP
This workshop takes place on November 6, at the Sturbridge Host Hotel, Sturbridge MA, and it will provide an opportunity to examine and improve your people management skills. Featured speakers are experts on managing farm labor, including Don Rogers, of First Pioneer Farm Credit and Thomas Maloney, of Cornell University. Workshop topics are: What Employees Expect from Family Business Owners; Getting Your Staff to Step Up!, Setting Employee Performance Expectations, and Do I Have to Have an Employee Handbook? Registration form and $10 fee is due by Oct. 30. Contact Jon Clements, UMass Extension at 413-323-4208.
NORTH AMERICAN DIRECT MARKETING CONFERENCE
The 2003 North American Farmers' Direct Marketing Conference and Trade Show will be held Feb. 3 -10 at the Adam's Mark Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C. Conference organizers are expecting at least 1,000 direct marketers from around the world to attend. For registration information, call Jonathan Bates at (413) 529-0386, e-mail: email@example.com, or visit www.nafdma.com
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