REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
Most things have been plowed in and put to bed. We're still selling a little mesclun mix but will not have it as long into the season as usual due to the warm September weather that forced the greenhouses ahead of schedule. I do hope that someone will drive a tomato stake through the heart of this season and kill it. Looking forward to snow. (Charlotte)
We are picking the last of the outdoor cilantro, with plans for a winter crop in cool greenhouses. The last basil has been transplanted into nice warm raised greenhouse beds, and should last until early December. Rosemary, mint, tarragon and chives all look good. A new seeding of thyme, oregano, and marjoram is shaping up quickly under the lights, and there is ample dill. So far, the season has been tricky to say the least, but sales are up. I won't push my luck with basil, like last winter, and will pull the plug when the propane deliveryman starts to get too comfortable. Hopefully a small but focused effort on cool tolerant herbs will keep me busy. (Thetford)
Temperatures that are still relatively mild have allowed us to continue marketing lettuce, radish, chard, scallions and beet greens under row cover. Even had live pepper plants under cover until Oct. 20. Nice fall Buffalo tomato crop in greenhouse with just enough green beans for fall sales thanks to good light levels from sunny days. All potatoes finally out of the ground, best yield in years. Garlic planted and mulched for 1999. Started propagating cuttings for next year so flower sales can continue to subsidize our vegetable growing hobby. (Dummerston)
Pretty much finishing up, digging the last potatoes, washing all the root crops, pulling the tomatoes out of the greenhouses and cleaning them out. Cover crops are in, garlic is mulched, half the crew left this week, other half finishes next week. (Plainfield)
Field Crops: Corn silage harvest is finished on most farms. Yields were amazingly variable ? excellent where soil is well drained and nutrients adequate; very poor yields where conditions not favorable. Corn matured and dried down earlier than an average year. Mycotoxins are likely this year in all corn silage because of the wet condition ? test through the UVM Ag Lab. Alfalfa final cut: root reserves are again key to winter survival. Best bet is to leave it unless you have only taken 2 cuts; you should be "safe" in taking it now... cold enough that it will not grow enough to stress roots ? mow high enough for stubble to act as a snow catch and to poke through any ice crust that may form. Things you should be doing NOW for next year's success: take soil tests; have a manure/compost sample analyzed (take it as you spread so it will be representative); apply lime if needed; complete records of 1998 cropping: inputs, activities, yields, etc... this will allow you to analyze your successes and failures and give you information for future planning. (Sue Hawkins, CV Crop Management Assoc.)
AVOIDING DISEASES NEXT YEAR
In a wet season many disease organisms flourish: they infect a lot of plant tissue and produce a lot of inoculum- the stuff that does the infecting. Some of these diseases are moderately aggressive such as species of Botrytis (gray mold) and Alternaria (early blight), which are around in most years to some extent but don't usually cause major losses if prevention tactics and timely controls are implemented. Other diseases are more aggressive and can be very destructive and hard to control such as species of Phytophthora (late blight and various root rots) or Sclerotinia (white mold). Although there is always disease inoculum around, in the soil, on plant residues, on equipment, in hedgerows, after a year like this, inoculum levels are likely to be higher than normal for many diseases. Plan to employ as many preventative practices as possible to keep diseases from becoming a big problem next year. Such practices include: thoroughly chop and incorporate crop residues to promote decomposition, remove culls from the field of potato, onion, etc. and then bury them deeply, power wash all equipment that has field soil on it prior to storing for the winter, and plan ahead for crop rotation next year. When ordering seed, seek out resistant varieties if you had a problem such a bacterial leaf spot on pepper for which resistant cultivars are available. For many other diseases such as late blight on potato and early blight on tomato there are no resistant cultivars available there are differences in cultivar susceptibility. Be sure to record your own observations of this in the field. Do some homework to find out what the life cycle, host plants and preventative strategies are for the diseases you had the most trouble with. Extension people like myself can send you information that will help with that task.
AVOID WHITEFLIES IN GREENHOUSE NEXT YEAR
Greenhouse whitefly adults and eggs are moderately winter hardy and may survive on weeds and residues in and around the greenhouse. Sanitation is key to preventing reinfestation next year. Be sure to dispose of any straw, hay or plastic mulch used in the greenhouse (burn or landfill, don't compost organic mulches as they probably won't heat up and kill pests this time of year). Completely remove all crop and weed residues from greenhouse, and open it up to allow it to hard freeze this winter. Mow turf very short for 20 to 30 feet around greenhouse. Next year set up lots of yellow sticky tape/traps and be ready to order Encarsia formosa biocontrol upon finding the VERY FIRST whitefly ? if not before! Some growers just assume they will arrive and set up a delivery schedule soon after tomatoes are set (ie better safe than sorry).
In 1998, there were 177 certified organic farms in Vermont. Of these, about 135 were vegetable and berry farms. To become certified organic for 1999, renewal applications will be due in early April. New applicants will have until mid-May to apply. For a copy of the certification standards, call the Northeast Organic Farming Association office at 434-4122.
Nov. 3 - North Country Fruit and Vegetable Seminar, 9:00 am, Cabot Motor Inn, Lancaster NH. Annual Hill Strawberry Production, Selling on the Internet, Fertilizing Pumpkins, New Season Extending Technology, Production and Marketing at Brookdale Farm. Call Steve Turaj (603) 788-4961.
Nov. 7 - New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association Meeting, 10:00 am, Comfort Inn, Portsmouth NH. Weed Control Between Plastic, Wildlife Problems, Crop Insurance, Federal Child Labor Laws, H2A Program, Food Safety on the Farm, Vegetable Growing in Puerto Rico. Call Dom Marini (508) 378-2546.