Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What's New At The Farm? 8/26/09

Three quarters of an inch of rain over the weekend helped out the crops and provided moisture for the land we seeded down last week. We seeded down about twenty acres, mostly oats and red clover but a couple of other mixtures as well; perennial ryegrass with oats and Austrian Winter peas with oats as a nurse crop. The moisture will get them started and they should have loads of time to get growth before cold weather starts.

We started harvesting tomatoes for seed last week. We harvested Washington Cherry and will pick Gold Nugget this week. It'll be good to get a couple out of the way before we get into the full swing of harvesting. The determinate tomatoes are always first, followed closely by melons and then indeterminate tomatoes, and then squash and pumpkins followed by cucumbers. By then it will be cool and crisp November.

Crops being harvested this week are the usual cukes and zukes, sweet corn, melons and peppers. The tomato trellising continues and I think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The tomatoes are getting quite tall and bearing fruit on all but the late tomatoes. Lots of cherry tomatoes ripening now.

I don't think anyone minds seeing cooler weather coming; at least drier weather. It's been so humid this summer, not hot and humid but cool and humid. Perfect disease weather and perfect working weather but not very good growing conditions. At least in the fall the weather is somewhat more predictable.

This time of year in a typical year is when we have some slack time. No, we're not lounging around but we usually have some time between crop maintenance and harvest. Time to get the harvesting equipment ready, the greenhouses cleaned out and all the tools and supplies we use to harvest ready. This year between the weather and the Late Blight, we haven't had nor will have any slack time. The equipment will have to get ready as we go along.

Normally this week in August is my summer week's vacation. I think I'll take a couple of days off but not the whole week. We went to the coast on Sunday last weekend and think we'll take the dogs and go to Sears Island this week. Sears island is a small island off the coast of Searsport, uninhabited and peaceful. No gift shops or restaurants; take what you need and enjoy the scenery.

Until next week, enjoy what's left of the summer.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Pest of the Week 8/24/09

Common name: Tarnished Plant Bug
Latin Name: Lygus lineolaris

Figure 1 The culprit

Figure 2 The damage

Life Cycle: 2-4 generations per year depending upon local climate; adults over winter in weed and plant duff. Eggs laid in plant tissue; 5 nymph stages – all eating the same food as adults.

Plants effected: Numerous vegetables, fruits, herbs, ornamentals, and weeds; foliage and fruit deformation and/or discoloration.

Insect Habit: Hide in leaf axils; piercing-sucking mouthparts injures flower and fruit buds. Not noticed until damage is seen.

Control: Removal with nets (only on plants where leaves and blossoms should not be injured), control weeds in and around garden/field, spray Pyganic®, white sticky traps, pyrethrums, Safer® Insect Soap, Diatect®V, Golden Spray Pest Oil™, Surround®WP (repellent).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's New At The Farm? 8/19/09

Finally we're getting some summer heat. Now that it's been cool and wet all summer it's into the nineties and humid; to say that we're not used to it is an understatement! Great growing weather and even better for killing weeds. Here's a good subject for today - what you do now will make life easier next year. And with everyone picking beans and harvesting other fruits interest in weeding is definitely waning but............

Weeds are survivors. How many weeds do you see dry up and die in the heat and droughtlike conditions of summer - none, that's how many. They haven't been bred to need TLC like so many of our vegetables we eat. They survived long before modern agriculture and have only thrived and become stronger by us feeding them. Weeds are one of the biggest challenges facing growers be they gardeners with a home garden or farmers with acres and acres. Identifying them and knowing their life cycle can greatly improve your control of them. Some weeds are sensitive to frost, some can be controlled with black plastic and some cannot. Some live in the soil as seeds for fifty years and some will be gone in a few. Some like fertile soil, some prefer poor and compacted soil. Many weeds will disappear if their home soils are altered by fertility or cultivation.

Weeds are setting seed now furiously to ripen ahead of fall frosts. The Hairy Galinsoga is blossoming like crazy and growing new plants from seed sprouted now. Galinsoga needs no dormant spell, so it will germinate and set seed up until frost. Whereas the spring and early summer Galinsoga plants will be as big as a bushel basket if unmanaged, the seedlings that come up now will be small and they go right to seed shortly after germination occurs. Galinsoga is called "quickweed" in some places and this is why; several overlapping generations per year are possible. Most weed seed needs a certain amount of time after blossoming to set seed and mature - not Galinsoga. Once it blossoms, the seed is mature and ready to grow. Normal weeds, if pulled out and left in the sun to dry, will not have mature seeds and can't make them. Galinsoga can. If you pull galisoga in bloom and do not remove it from the garden, you might as well not have pulled it at all. And, unless you have a hot compost pile, don't toss it in the compost pile. Toss it on the burn pile or into the woods. As you can tell galinsoga is my least favorite weed. Perhaps fifteen years ago we had a small patch in one field, now we have it in nearly every field we rent or own; a total of around eighty acres. Left unchecked it will overtake fields and choke out the very plants you're trying to grow. If you don't get to pull the tiny plants you're probably best off to get the ones going to seed; make it a goal to get all the weeds going to seed and you'll have thousands and perhaps millions less seeds next year to deal with.

Redroot pigweed and lambsquarters tends to put out large amount of seeds as well as the galinsoga. These, left unchecked, can produce between 400,000 and a million seeds per plant. A million seeds- that's a bunch; I think the average is less than that, but still a healthy amount of seed. Both of these species need time to mature seed after blooming. Once the seed in the seed head turns black, it is mature and will grow if giving the optimum conditions, like heat and sun next spring. As long as the plants are pulled before the seed becomes mature, they can be left on the surface of the garden to die, dry and become the ever important organic matter. If the weeds are really large and will pull up a garden plant when pulled out, they can be cut off with pruners just beneath the soil surface. As a rule they won't regrow.

Whilst writing this it occurs to me that not everyone knows how to pull weeds. There's a right way and a wrong way (yes, there's a wrong way to pull weeds). If weeds are pulled up by the roots (not broken off) the soil shaken off and put in a place where they can't reroot, they'll die. As an example two weeders in the tomato patch last week - one pulled them and tossed them in the middle aisles; the other pulled them up, shook the soil off the roots and tossed the weeds on the plastic between the plants. The first weeder was far faster than the second one. Which look better today? The second weeders weeds are dead; the first weeders weeds need to be pulled up again, a complete waste of time. The weeds were perhaps slowed down for a day or two but, with the soil still on their roots, rerooted and continue to grow with the ultimate goal of setting seed. The first weeds dried out in the sun in a matter of a couple of hours; they didn't have a second chance.

All weeds will die on a hot summer day if pulled in the manner described above with one exception - purslane. Purslane is a succulent which holds water in its stems. If purslane is pulled out, flipped over and left on the plastic to die, it will simply continue to grow, flower and set seed. There's only a couple of sure fire ways to kill purslane: you can eat it, feed it to the chickens or compost it. When small it can be killed by burying it; we do that with the cultivators. Otherwise removing it from the garden is the only option left.

Other weeds of interest are some of the easiest to kill but often overlooked ones: Velvet leaf, Prickly Lettuce, chickweed in the understory of crops, field bindweed and crabgrass. This late in the season, many weeds will go unnoticed in the understory of mature garden plants. Chickweed will thrive in the cool, shaded areas under garden plants. Bindweed will snake along throughout the crops hardly noticeable. Crabgrass will creep in on the edges of the garden, barely noticeable but spreading through roots and seed as well. Lastly we have Prickly lettuce and Velvetleaf - the easiest weeds to control. Pull them out or cut them off and they're done. That's kind of a bonus after pulling out galinsoga.

Until next week, Brian.

Johnny's at the Common Ground Fair

Visit Johnny's Selected Seeds at the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine on September 25-27th! Our tent will be located near the "Rose" Gate where we will be selling tools, seeds, books, and more...

On Friday the 25th at 2:30 p.m., Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch will be at the JSS tent signing their books. We will also have signed copies of Lynn Byczynski's books The Flower Farmer and Market Farming Success along with many other favorite titles available for purchase.

On Saturday the 26th at 11:00 a.m., we will be unveiling two new jack-o-lantern type pumpkin varieties bred by Johnny's. Be the first to see these exciting additions to our extensive line.

There's more...
Across the road from the tent is the "Johnny's Demo Garden Plot" featuring many of our organic lettuces, greens, and cover crops. "Hands-on" tool demonstrations will take place all weekend long. Come and see for yourself how the tools work and speak with an expert in the field about their use. Share your thoughts about the varieties and products on display.

Please stop by and say "Hello". Let us know how Johnny's can help you be successful in your growing efforts!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Garlic Harvest and More

The garden continues to grow at a breakneck pace, in this hot, humid weather. Summer of course continues to fly by, so this update is about a week out of date. As the garden grows, I have more pictures to share. By the end of the season, this segment might just be captioned pictures!

The garden is coming along strong. Tropical tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash and other varieties just love the heat and it shows.

On August 8th, I determined that the garlic was ready for harvest. The outer leaves were browning, and scapes were standing straight up. I grew hardneck garlic varieties, Russian Red and German Extra-Hardy, because both do well in my zone (5b).

In the center of this photo, note the upright scape. This is an indicator that garlic is ready to harvest. (Click on any photo to enlarge).

After harvest, these were the garlic plants that had scapes. Note the size of the bulbs - they are basically a single garlic clove. Looks like taking the scapes off makes a difference in bulb size, at least in my yard.

Some of the garlic started growing little bulblets at the top of the stem, even though I'd picked off the scapes. Our resident garlic expert said that this was another way for the garlic plant to reproduce, and that the wet summer may have spurred this behavior.

This is a picture of several of the largest cloves I got (bottom) with some "medium" ones on top. In previous years, I was lucky if I got a couple of cloves this large. Fresh compost and rain must have helped the plants this summer!

This year I got many large bulbs. I sorted by size, and small, medium, and large are in their bins from left to right. These are now in my uninsulated garage, curing in the heat. I'll have to bring them in before it gets cold out, so they don't freeze and spoil.

I canned pickles this past Saturday and picked out about a dozen of the medium bulbs - after cleaning and peeling, I had a half-pound of garlic cloves. We'll have plenty to enjoy this year, after sharing with family and friends. I'll also save some of the largest garlic for planting, as it is acclimated to my yard.

Now there is a lonely spot in the garden, but it will be ready for next year's garlic as soon as I add a bit of compost. I read that alliums do better planted in the same spot year after year, and if this year's garlic crop is any indication, that is apparently true!

Well, in my yard, anyway. I'm told by our resident experts that it is better to rotate crops, to prevent pests and diseases. However, this is the shadier end of my garden, and other plants would suffer more there.

We also picked our shallots - their leaves had laid down fully. They are also curing in the garage. Next year I should plant twice as many - I love shallots and they go quickly. It is so inexpensive to grow and store them, comparied to the exorbinant prices charged by the grocery store.

The onions continue to grow. This weekend I did notice some browning among the leaves, so we'll be harvesting them soon.

The tomatoes are growing nicely, and you can see that the eggplants have taken off of late.

Here are some ripening hybrid Tomaccio cherry tomatoes. You can see yellow leaves - these all had signs of bacterial speck. My tomato plants get bacterial speck every year, and it is a mere annoyance until late September, when the fruit start to get spotty. But they are still edible - we just cut off any really bad spots.

Here is a close-up of a leaf with bacterial speck. Of course, I've diagnosed it myself, so if you think it's something else, let me know!

Sungold tomatoes continue to grow and ripen on the "ringer" plant I bought. I'm never growing a garden without "ringers" again - so far they're my only producers!

The tomato trellis - they are growing, slowly but surely. In the back right of this picture (in front of the arborvitae trees) you can see oregano growing.

Rows of growing tomatoes - they're coming along.

Kellogg's Breakfast, a bright-orange beefsteak heirloom variety, coming along. Hopefully they'll be close to ripe before the f-word comes along. (I mean frost of course, what were you thinking?)

Tomato blossoms coming along - note the browning one toward the top. It wasn't fertilized in time, and will break off so the plant stops putting energy into it, and the others can grow into tomatoes. I believe this is Black Cherry.

I planted basil between my tomato plants. In addition to making my favorite summer caprese salad much easier to make, the basil is supposed to be a good companion for tomatoes, doing everything from repelling bad insects and attracting good ones, to making tomatoes taste better. (I originally read about this in an interesting book called "Carrots Love Tomatoes"). I learned that the two plants can get along, but the main reason I put the basil among the tomatoes is that I never watered my herb garden.

The herb garden (in the back perennial bed) now features a massive, self-seeding oregano bush (probably many plants but it is huge!) and chives. I also have some perennial vegetables back there - Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb and asparagus - and strawberries. They are in a lot of shade so do variably well - I did get about a quart of strawberries from my two-year-old never-properly-trained plants this year.

I tied the tomatillos to their stakes so they wouldn't sprawl into the onions.

The husk cherries are coming along - we'll see if I get a crop this year. I hope I do - they are supposed to make nice jam.

The sweet potatoes are vining well - they'll be trained toward the garlic now. In the lower left hand corner of this picture, you can see the volunteer tomato plant that had come up with the garlic. I am fairly certain that it is a Wonder Light plant - the tomatoes are shaped like lemons, and when ripe, will look like them.

The squash are coming right along. I think I didn't clear away enough garden fabric for some of the plants to thrive, so next year I'll change that.

I have been training the pumpkins to climb the trellis.

I have some baby pumpkins coming along. I need to dig through the leaves to find the variety tags.

Cucumbers are along the trellis on the right, and in front of the tomato trellis, you can see several dill plants I put in place of peppers which died. Dill is supposed to be a companion for cucumbers, so next year I'll plant it closer (and further from the tomatoes).

More companion planting: nastirtiums apparently attract predatory insects, and repel cucumber beetles and squash bugs, among others. (Wikipedia has more info about companion planting: So they don't just look pretty!

The bean trellises are very lush.

The Red Noodle Beans are climbing to the top of the trellis.

The Fortex and Marvel of Venice beans have done very well. As of 8/15, I've picked 9 pounds from 24 feet of plants (about 24 plants). And they are delicious!

The edges of the leaves on the potato plants in the compost are just barely starting to turn brown.

The potatoes in the compost bin are still growing - they even produced a little potato fruit. Do not eat!

The peppers are blossoming, finally!

The eggplants have grown nicely, and have buds.

I can't complain about this summer. Despite the slow start, things are going great guns now.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What's New At The Farm? 8/12/09

It rained. It rained Monday afternoon, it rained early Tuesday morning, it rained and rained and rained.....................

So now what do we do? We work in the rain. We thin fall carrots, we weed, we do whatever we need to that can be done in the rain. We can work in the greenhouses, although there's not a whole lot going on in them now. We get equipment ready for harvesting. We install electric fences to keep the critters out of the corn and the pumpkins. We trap and relocate animals that are foolish enough to go into the traps; mostly raccoons and quill pigs.

The list of what we can't do in the rain is longer. We can't rotovate, we can't seed any ground down, we can't paint anything out in the yard and we can't prune tomatoes. Standing water in several fields makes working them impossible. Who would have thought we'd have standing water in the middle of August? Weeding is more of a challenge as the weeds reroot easily if left on wet ground. Last year we painted everything that didn't move and put in place everything that did so we're in good shape now.

We've got one field I've been trying to get a crop established for going on four years now and there's standing water out there now. The first year I planted sweet clover which winterkilled, the second year I didn't plant clover as I intended to plant the field in crop, the third year someone, (who shall remain nameless, and, no it wasn't me) forgot to put the clover seed in the grain drill and this year it looks like it's going to be too wet. Maybe I'll try for five years in a row. A local farmer asked me what my plan was for that field because all we ever do is plow, field cultivate and harrow it and I told him that's exactly what we were doing - a plot to just plow and harrow and field cultivate, period.

Late blight continues to be an issue here as well as across Maine. Northeast Ag. has come in with their sprayer to spray our seed productions for us. Their rig is 12 feet wide and six feet high with a ninety foot sprayer boom. This long boom allows them to spray our tomatoes without damaging the crops as they don't have to enter the crops at all. They can do in one hour what it would take us two days to do. With them spraying, we can concentrate our efforts on pruning and weeding and the other activities associated with running a farm. We've also got some additional help in the form of temps so that's helping out; some farm crew taking time off in the summer creates a shortage. Honestly, I don't know why anyone would want to take time off in the summer when you could wait until winter and spend that time cramming wood in the stove. Beyond me.

If summer is going to show up at all this year, it needs to hurry up. The temperatures have been great for working but not great for the crops. In a short six weeks we'll be thinking about our first frost. Bad word - frost - I know, but it's coming. So's winter. That's a cheery thought.

The crops are ripening well now. We've been harvesting cucumbers and summer squash for a couple of weeks. This week we'll see the first of the peppers, sweet corn and probably a few tomatoes, in the hoop house at least. Lots of greenhouse cucumbers being picked now.

Until next week, the sun is out and I'm going to get some rotovating done.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Why I Love Summer

Exciting discoveries abound in the garden, and the backyard becomes your grocery store. Before long, this hod will be full when I go out - things are coming on strong, despite the slow start!

Have a great weekend!

(From left to right, Zephyr summer squash; Marvel of Venice (flat, yellow) and Fortex (green) pole beans; Tomaccio cherry tomato.)

What's New At The Farm? 8/05/09

The critters continue to elude us and are sampling the squash and pumpkins. I think squirrels are mostly to blame but we've also seen a few rats and some very fat woodchucks. When these guys have an entire smorgasbord of fruit to eat in the field, a trap with apples and peanut butter doesn't sound too appetizing. Jeff did manage to get a half-grown skunk this morning, but with 12 traps out daily we're not getting much activity. I've got some granular repellent coming so we'll see how that works to deter them.

Late blight continues to be an issue here at the farm. Scouting takes place three times a week. Scouting is what it sounds like; walking through each row of each tomato crop and making notes about the spread of the disease. Susie and I scouted five crops yesterday and I did two this morning. You can easily tell how much the disease has spread by walking the crops frequently. If the weather breaks and we actually get some sun and heat we'll be done with late blight as it can't survive these conditions, but if it stays damp - look out!

Insects are pretty much controlled. Mike sprays the onions once a week for thrips, the Mexican bean beetles are dead and there are a few Japanese Beetles around. Flea beetles are foiled by row covers and the potato beetles numbers have been severely reduced by using Entrust.

The cover crops I planned on planting this year haven't been planted yet; just too wet to work the fields much. It's still possible to bury a tractor, quite easily I might add. Six weeks ago I planted about three acres of oats and annual alfalfa mixed and we mowed it today. The oats were starting to head out in pretty good shape and as I didn't want them going to seed, we mowed them. The oats will die but the alfalfa, now that it's established, will grow and thrive without any competition from the oats. Sure, the alfalfa will winterkill, but it'll get some really good growth this late part of the summer and into the fall.

Harvesting will start in a couple of weeks with the determinate tomatoes. Washington Cherry will be one of the first ones to be harvested. We have eleven tomato productions here this year so we'll be busier than last year for sure.

The crops are coming in just about on schedule; lots of summer squash and cucumbers right now. Early tomatoes are also starting to ripen. I had a couple from a seed production Monday this week and they were pretty sweet. The next big crop will probably be melons and that's fine by me. Nothing like field fresh melons!

Until next week, enjoy the weather.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tater Blossom Time

This time of year, when it (FINALLY!!!) gets hot, the garden explodes. I took these pictures late last week, and worked in the garden this past weekend, getting rid of the few weeds there were, and trellising plants. I could swear that the tomato plants grew 3 or 4 inches last week, and there were a few baby beans on the pole bean plants. Even with the cold, wet July, there is hope that August's warmth will bring bounty to the garden.

I also checked my tomato, pepper, eggplant, tomatillo, and potato plants for late blight. (Luckily, all I found was the occasional dead leaf, and a bit of bacterial speck, which happens when mud splashes up on the leaves after a heavy rain.) They are all in the same family, and, while all might not be susceptible, I am a bit concerned about it, since I read an interesting article here about its prevalence this summer. If you weren't aware, late blight is the same fungus that caused the Irish Potato Famine back in the 19th century. These days we have fungicides and a good understanding of the disease's life cycle, but if you are a first-time gardener, it could be devistating, both to your plants and to your hobby. If it hits your garden, hopefully this article will help you to understand what's going on and what to do, and remember, life will go on next year! This is a bad weather year - they aren't all like this.

Garden on 7/29/2009.

The potatoes in their barrels, dirt has been added to the tops. They are looking terrific - it is a great year for potatoes, as long as late blight doesn't hit!

White potato blossoms on the Kennebec potatoes.

Purple blossoms on the Russian Reds or French Fingerlings (planted together).

Volunteer potato plants in the compost bin - last year, we got one that weighed a pound out of the compost. If my barrels don't work out, I might just dump my seed potatoes in the bin next spring!

Cherry tomatoes "Tomacchio" from the "ringer" plants - we've had a steady supply and have harvested about 2 pounds from them so far. They aren't as tasty as the heirloom tomatoes, but still tastier than those from the grocery store!

Brandywine tomato - ripened very quickly after this picture was taken. I hope this plant produces more. This was also a "ringer" plant.

Eggplants are growing, not as quickly as I'd like, but there is still time for them to catch up.

Peppers are also growing slowly.

The tomatillo plants are doing well and have many flowers. I need to trellis them better - I think I'll use rags from an old t-shirt to gently tie them to the bamboo stakes.

My pole beans have gone crazy. On the left and in the back on the right are Fortex and Marvel of Venice, both of which take about 60 days to produce, and in the foreground on the right are Red Noodle, which are 85 day producers. We ate a couple of baby beans off the vine on Saturday, and were they tasty.

Bean blossoms - I love the shape and promise.

One cucumber plant is starting to run. I'm lucky to work at a place that has an abundance of veggies, since my cukes never do too well. Working at Johnny's certainly keeps me in pickles.

I planted Nasturtiums under the trellises - they are doing very nicely.

The first Zephyr summer squash was picked on Saturday, and sauteed Sunday - delicious. I always plant this colorful variety.

One of the squash blossoms was just loaded with bees - a couple flew out before I snapped this shot. It's nice to see honeybees around again!

The garlic is just about ready to harvest. I spoke to Mike Brown, owner of a local farm and a product manager here at Johnny's, and he said a good tip for garlic harvest is to leave a couple of scapes on your plants - once they uncurl and point straight up, the garlic is ready to harvest. Saturday two scapes I missed were pointing up, but one was still curved over, so I think I'll harvest this coming weekend.

A volunteer tomato plant among the garlic. I never have the heart to kill them - and it has blossoms. It will be interesting to see what variety this is. I grow mostly heirlooms, so I am hoping its from one of those plants. Apparently this is the peril of not getting your compost bin hot enough (as are the potatoes growing in it!)

The shallots are ready to harvest, also - once their leaves lie down, they have stopped growing and are ready to pick.

The onions are growing strong. I'm hoping the get some size to them, but they might not, since I planted kind of late.

The sweet potatoes are vining - once the garlic is up, I'll train them over to that area.