Vermont Vegetable and Berry News – October 10, 2007
Compiled by Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Extension
(802) 257-7967 ext.13,


This biennial event will take place December 11, 12, and 13 at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, NH. The program features 27 different half-day sessions on topics such as strawberries, blueberries, brambles, apples and grapes, as well as tomatoes, sweet corn, pumpkins, leafy greens, and many other vegetables. In addition, there will be sessions on organic production, renewable energy, soil health, weed control, and season extension. In between these sessions are ‘Farmer to Farmer’ discussions focused on topics like: crop planning, cucurbit disease management, greenhouse tomatoes, cultivation equipment, cut flowers, garlic, and organic Sweet corn. The trade show features over 100 exhibitors. Pre-registration to attend the conference and trade show is just $70 for the first member of the farm or business and $40 for each additional member (family or employee) when pre-registered with first member. The fee for students (high school or college) is $30 each when pre-registered by the instructor. Pre-registration must be received by November 30, 2007.  There is an additional fee of $10 per person for late registration or walk-ins. (check or cash only if registering at the door). The complete conference program and registration form are on-line at or call me for a printed copy of the conference brochure. If you need overnight lodging, be sure to make hotel reservations soon. The Conference takes place at the Radisson Hotel, (603) 625-1000, The rate for conference attendees is $97 per night plus 8% tax; mention "vegetable conference" to get this rate; the deadline is November 18, 2007. Just down the road is the Hilton Garden Inn, (603) 669-2222, A limited number of rooms are reserved for conference attendees at $119 per night plus 8% tax. Again, mention "vegetable conference" to get this rate; the deadline is November 19, 2007.


As of Oct. 15 the UVM Agricultural Testing Laboratory will limit its services to soil testing. It will no longer offer water, manure, compost, fertilizer or leaf tissue analyses. I suggest that Vermont commercial growers wanting those services send their samples to the UMass Soil Testing Lab, which is reasonably priced and provides excellent service; or (413) 545-2311. Please ask them to e-mail me a copy of your test results so I can follow up if necessary. Note: the UVM plant diagnostic clinic will continue to identify pest problems.


This two-farm meeting will take place at 11:00 am at Walker Farm, Dummerston VT to see the corn furnace in operation and then 1:00 pm at Five Point Farm, Northfield MA to see how corn is dried, stored, and bagged. Jack Manix of Walker Farm recently installed a 165,000 Btu corn-burning furnace ( in one of his two dozen greenhouses, with the help of a small grant from UVM Extension. Although it’s operated for just a short while, the fully-automated furnace seems to be working well. Jack is using local shelled corn available for $200/ton in bags (or $170/ton in bulk). This compares favorably with the price of propane. (Conservatively estimating 15.5% moisture content of corn and 75% efficiency of the furnace, a ton of shelled corn has the same energy content as about 133 gallons of propane.) The furnace burns very clean, and what little emissions it does produce smell like corn muffins. The corn being burned comes from Five Point Farm in Northfield, MA ( about 25 miles to the south. This dairy farm in the Connecticut River Valley is milking 200 cows and also grows, dries, and stores over 1,000 tons of fuel corn. Bill Llewelyn will tell us how it’s done and explain the equipment he uses for harvest, drying, storage and packaging. It may be possible for other dairy farms in the region to grow shelled corn as a local fuel for greenhouse growers in their community.

Directions to Walker Farm: Take Exit 3 off I-91 in VT (Brattleboro, Keene NH). Go 3/4 of the way around the rotary, onto Route 5 north. The farm is 3 miles up on the right. Directions to Five Point Farm: Take Exit 28 off I-91 in Bernardston MA. Turn east towards Northfield on Route 10. Go 5 miles to the intersection with Route 63. Turn right (south), go one mile to Upper Farm Rd. on right. Five Point Farm is a half mile on right.


Conservation of natural enemies of insects (predators and parasitoids) and pollinators (bees) around the farm or garden can help suppress pests and increase crop yields. Many beneficial insects rely on plants for nectar and pollen or shelter. Plants commonly recommended to provide these resources are non-native annuals such as: buckwheat, sweet alyssum, faba bean, dill, and coriander. A recent Michigan State University project identified 23 native Midwestern perennial plants that could provide similar resources. Many of these plants are also native in the Northeast, including: wild strawberry, golden alexanders, Culver’s root, blue lobelia, and New England aster. The project’s web site has a wealth of information about native plants and pollinators and how to encourage them: The site includes the bulletin ‘Attracting Beneficial Insects with Native Flowering Plants’ with color photos of the plants, pollinators, and beneficials. Call 517-353-6740 to order copies of bulletin E-297 for $2.


“Vegetable Farmers and their Sustainable Tillage Practices” shows what some farmers and researchers are doing to protect soil health while preparing ground for growing crops. The video starts with Dr. Harold van Es, of Cornell University talking about the effect of different tillage implements and how farmers can create a balance between practices that improve the soil, and those that degrade it. At Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook NY a soil spader is featured that incorporates cover crops and compost. At Ledgewood Farm in Moultonboro NH a chisel plow, field cultivator, and high-residue seeder have made the rotovator obsolete. At Four Winds Farm in Gardiner NY no-till is done on 4 acres of vegetable using compost as mulch. Zone tillage is explained by Dr. Anu Rangaranjan of Cornell, and George Ayers of Fresh Ayr Farm shows his custom-made zone-tiller. In Woodstown NJ, Erik Buzby demonstrates no-till using killed ryegrass. Dr. Chuck Mohler explains his USDA organic ridge till research project at Cornell, and then Eric and Anne Nordell, of Trout Run PA describe their system of ridge till and cover crops for soil improvement, weed control, and energy conservation by working with horses. To order the video on DVD, see and click on ‘videos’ or call the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture at (802) 656-5459 to order with a credit card.  Cost is $15 including postage.


I get a fair number of calls from people eager to plant fruit crops on new ground. My advice is that it pays to be patient and properly prepare the soil prior to planting, especially when it comes to perennial crops. A key goal of pre-plant activity is get rid of perennial weeds. Cover cropping the site, repeated cultivation during bare fallow periods, or covering the site with black plastic for several months can be effective strategies, ideally in combination. Well before planting a cover crop, the soil needs to be tested for pH, major  nutrient levels (potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium) and the trace element boron. Samples should be collected from at least ten locations in a field. If you have areas that have been managed differently (manured or not, for example) they should be tested separately. It takes a year for either lime or sulfur to fully react in the soil, so these should be added one year before planting and the soil pH re-tested a year later. Fresh animal manures should be avoided since they can contain weed seeds, but well-made compost will enhance the physical condition of soil and provide slow-release nutrients. The choice of cover crops to use prior to planting includes winter rye, oats, or annual ryegrass for fall seedings, followed by a bare fallow in late spring, then buckwheat in early summer, followed by fall cover crops again on soils with low pH and/or nutrient levels. If the pH is in the 6’s and nutrient levels are moderate or high, then a longer-lasting smother crop like Japanese millet or Sudax can be used as a summer and fall smother crop, adding organic matter and suppressing weeds with less tillage required since they can remain in place until the following spring as winter-killed covers.