Fall Vegetable Planting Update October 2018

For the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer, there is still time to put seeds and plants in the ground.   There are many choices available in vegetables and cover crops to take advantage of the cooler fall harvest weather and utilize the abundant rainfall and still optimal soil temperature, especially if the grower has the ability to utilize season extension.

As of 10/8/18, soil temperatures as recorded in central Ohio on the OARDC website temperatures were still above 70 degrees.

CLICK THIS LINK to see soil temperatures in your part of the state.


Those who followed the Fall Vegetable Planting timeline are harvesting basil, lettuce, radishes, green beans and summer squash now.  Monitor for frost closely and be ready to use season extension to protect tender crops.

There are still some choices to direct seed,  these will need season extension to allow harvest into November and later:

  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Asian Greens
  • Carrots
  • Radishes

This arugula was started from seed under grow lights. It will be transplanted outdoors in a week. This was done to allow more time for flea beetles, a major pest of arugula, to finish its life cycle.


I still have several lettuce plugs from an earlier project that will be transplanted outside under row cover in a week.

There are several pests to continue to monitor for this time of year.  Slugs will be numerous if organic matter levels are moderate to high.  Deer are a serious threat due to decreasing amounts of fresh forage.  They will consume nearly all fall planted vegetables without protection. The  Cabbage White butterfly can persist in the environment deep into fall and their larvae can eat large amounts of foliage.

Spinach that will be grown overwinter in low tunnels under row cover should be planted withing the next couple weeks from direct seed.

Check out this VegNet Newsletter post for a documentation of that process.


Cover Crops:

It is important to keep something growing all year long and avoid bare ground.  This is especially critical over winter to avoid loss of fertility and organic matter from erosion.  There are still several choices available including grasses such as rye or oats, legumes such as crimson clover or vetch and brassicas such as forage radishes.  The choice of what to plant depends on what the goal is, what crop will follow and the grower’s ability to manage the crop in the spring.

This past weekend I prepared the area that had previously grown cucurbits into a seedbed.


I had used woven plastic landscape fabric as mulch and weed suppression for my winter squash and pumpkins.  This was my first foray into using this method and I was impressed by how effective it was.  The only drawback was that after removal the ground had reverted to its base state as a heavy clay soil.  I think it is imperative that I cover crop following plasticulture to improve soil health going forward.

Note the bindweed seedling that persisted under black heavy weight landscape fabric. The fabric was placed in early June and temperatures were in the 90’s multiple times this season.

There is still time to plant cover crops.  I planted a mix of winter rye, hairy vetch, crimson clover and forage radish.   This mix will require intensive management in spring, but will persist over winter and provide multiple soil health benefits.


Biodegradable Mulch: Your Next Production Tool?

Vegetable extension-research personnel from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Iowa met on October 5, 2018 to discuss ongoing work and to plan follow-up activities … all toward helping improve short- and long-term farm success. Biodegradable mulch (BDM) was among the most talked-about topics. Dr. Annette Wszelaki of the Univ. of Tennessee led the BDM discussion and she provides comments for VegNet readers below. Also, note that Dr. Wszelaki will expand on these comments and summarize the large amount of research that her and other teams in various states have been doing with BDM, including on commercial farms, at the OPGMA-led Ohio Produce Network Meeting in Dublin, OH in January-2019. That presentation will be an excellent opportunity to gain a thorough update on BDM and its possible place in your toolbox.

Comments and Photos by Dr. Annette Wszelaki, Professor and Commercial Vegetable Extension Specialist, Univ. of Tennessee

Plastic mulches provide many advantages for vegetable production, such as weed and disease management, earliness of harvest, increased yield and quality, and moisture retention. However, plastic mulch use is not without disadvantages, including the cost, labor and environmental issues associated with plastic mulch disposal. Biodegradable mulches (BDMs) offer a potential alternative if they can provide similar advantages to plastic mulch without the disadvantages.

BDMs can look similar to traditional polyethylene mulch (i.e., stretchy and black or white-on-black) or in the form of paper (brown or black, sometimes with creping to give it stretch). They can be laid with a standard mulch layer. BDM’s are designed to cover the soil during the production season, and then begin to degrade as harvest nears. At the end of the season, BDM’s can be tilled directly into the soil. There they will degrade into carbon dioxide, water, and the bacteria and fungi that eat them. The degradation rate varies depending on environmental conditions, but by spring, most remnants will have disappeared.

At the University of Tennessee, we have been working with BDM’s on a variety of crops (tomatoes, pumpkins, and peppers) for 10 years. We have found comparable yields and quality to traditional plastic mulch with these crops, but not all biodegradable mulches and crop responses are equal!

Want to learn more about biodegradable mulches? Come to the session Could biodegradable mulches replace plastic in your production system? at the 2019 Ohio Produce Network in Dublin, January 16-17, 2019. In the meantime, please contact Annette Wszelaki (annettew@utk.edu or 865.974.8332) or visit www.biodegradablemulch.org for more information. Many thanks to Jenny Moore, Jeff Martin, the East TN Ag Research and Education Center Farm Crew, and many students along the way for their contributions to this project.

Figure 1. Creped paper biodegradable mulch just after field laying.

Figure 2. Stockpile of polyethylene plastic mulch on a Tennessee tomato farm.

Figure 3. Biodegradable plastic mulch in the newly planted pepper field.

Spotted Wing Drosophila: Fall Update – Jim Jasinski, Celeste Welty

Several Extension educators, specialists, and growers have been diligently trapping for spotted wing Drosophila (SWD) in berry crops at multiple sites across 20 counties in Ohio since June. In general, SWD populations at most locations have peaked at this point, but they can remain abundant for several weeks longer. Even after the first frost, some SWD adults are usually active in the field.

At some monitoring sites where growers have been spraying through the season, we are still able to trap SWD adults. Adults are also being trapped at sites where fruit is no longer being produced. While this is concerning to growers with fruit still in the field, there doesn’t seem to be any significant fruit infestation or damage, which is good news.  If you haven’t kept up on your spray schedule and still have fruit out in the field, it is strongly recommended that you check your fruit with a simple salt water test to see if you have any infested fruit. Here are the directions from an OSU factsheet (https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/u.osu.edu/dist/1/8311/files/2017/04/SWD-salttesthandout-updated-pnd335.pdf) or via an OSU IPM YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtMXHxqcSVs).

Our closing message is that if there is still fruit on your farm worth harvesting, keep up on your spray schedule in order to protect those fruit from infestation.  If you deem it necessary to spray for another few weeks, it is important to keep an eye on the PHI of products used.  Most PHI’s range between 0-7 days, but some products labeled for grapes have a 30-day PHI. Here is the complete list of insecticide PHIs and maximum number of applications allowed: https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/u.osu.edu/dist/1/8311/files/2017/02/SWD_insecticideOptions2018-1ppr7m8.pdf.

Spotted wing drosophila baited Scentry trap.

Spotted Wing Drosophila Exclusion Netting Workshop- Jim Jasinski, Celeste Welty & Ashley Kulhanek

While most growers manage spotted wing Drosophila (SWD) with insecticide sprays once this pest is detected on their farm, there are other non-chemical ways to successfully grow cane berry and blueberry fruit using finely woven insect proof netting.

A workshop will be held on Oct. 13th to demonstrate the basics of designing and building an enclosure around susceptible small fruit plants and then covering it with insect proof netting to prevent SWD adults from attacking the fruit. The workshop will be co-taught by Jay Cooper (grower), Celeste Welty (Extension entomologist), Jim Jasinski and Ashley Kulhanek (Extension educators).

Topics covered in the workshop will include a review of other exclusion netting projects, plant and pollination considerations, a tour of an existing exclusion netting structure on-site, and then a hands-on session to experience the process of building a second exclusion netting structure.

The workshop will run from 10am to 2pm on Oct. 13th, located at 7010 Chatham Road, Medina, OH, 44256. Registration is $20 per person and includes handouts and lunch, but must be completed by Oct. 8th. For more information on the workshop and registration details, visit https://medina.osu.edu/events/managing-spotted-wing-drosophila.

Please note this workshop is limited to only 15 participants. For additional questions about registration contact Ashley Kulhanek (kulhanek.5@osu.edu) or for questions about the program contact Jim Jasinski (jasinski.4@osu.edu).

Designing and building insect exclusion structures and netting like this will be the focus of the workshop.

Downy Mildew Confirmed in Pumpkins in Clark County, OH

A severe outbreak of downy mildew was confirmed on pumpkins from a field trial at OSU-OARDC Western Agricultural Research Station. This is the first confirmed outbreak of downy mildew on pumpkins in Ohio, although it is likely elsewhere in central Ohio, if not even more widespread.  Symptoms on pumpkins are somewhat different than on cucumber – the lesions on pumpkins are smaller than on cucumber, although both are angular, look watersoaked on the underside of leaves (upper right photo) and yellow on the upperside  (upper left photo) initially. On pumpkins the older lesions appear bronze-brown in color (lower right photo). Pumpkin leaves can be completely destroyed if not treated with effective fungicides.

With cooler temperatures expected for the rest of this week, as well as rain showers and storms, downy mildew risk is high for most of Ohio and all cucurbits should be protected with fungicides that are effective against downy mildew. Although the season is winding down, if pumpkins still need some time to reach maturity, the foliage should be protected. Information on fungicides can be found in the Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers 2018; in addition, fungicide efficacy rankings from our 2017 bioassays can be found here. Control of downy mildew requires preventative fungicide application – inadequate control is often observed when fungicides are applied after infection, even if symptoms have not started to appear.

Growing Spinach Over Winter Using Low Tunnels and Row Cover

Ohio is a FOUR season growing environment.  Winter is often under utilized by the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer  as viable production time.  Using inexpensive equipment with a little planning allows for production of spinach over the winter under row cover with surprising success.

Site selection and preparation is very important for over wintered crops.  These crops will be challenged by weather and sunlight issues.  Areas with shade from deciduous trees in the summer can often be used as an over wintered production location when the leaves fall.  Soil enriched with organic matter will hold on to water and nutrients better as both of those inputs are not easily added over the winter season.

Spinach is an excellent choice for over winter production as it is extremely cold hardy.  As the temperature decreases the plant increases the sugar content in its vasculature.  This essentially acts as an “anti-freeze” to protect the plant.  Growth is greatly slowed by temperature and lack of sunlight.  Growth will pick back up with the arrival of spring.  Seed can be difficult to source in fall if none is left from spring planting.  Make sure to plan to have extra seed for next fall’s crop.

Planting  needs to be completed prior to Mid-October in most years to allow for decent germination and root growth.  Follow the weather prediction models carefully as this can affect timing of planting by several weeks in either direction.

Prior to planting:

  • Remove any prior season plant material
  • Amend the bed with compost and fertilizer based on prior season crop use
  • Observe crop rotation
  • Create a seed bed to ensure adequate germination



Row cover was applied immediately after planting.  This may or may not need to be done depending on location and security.  This row cover was applied as the location will be checked infrequently and deer pressure is a constant concern.  Row cover is fairly effective at preventing this predator.


Germination of spinach seed typically takes about 7-10 days.  Water as needed to maintain enough moisture for good germination.



If the weather allows, the row cover can be carefully lifted off,  making sure not to drop soil or debris onto the leaves, to inspect the planting.



Carefully monitor the weather predictions so that you know when to add or remove additional layers of row cover.  The ten day weather prediction showed that the weather would drop from a high in the 50’s to lows in the teens.


A second layer of frost blanket was added to ensure that the micro-climate under the row cover would be adequate to protect the spinach plants.  Spinach is extremely cold hardy and will make it through intense cold with proper protection in most cases.  Deep cold may terminate less cold hardy crops like lettuce if the temperatures drop very low for any period of time.



Extreme cold, wind, ice and snow were experienced over the end of December 2017 and through the beginning of 2018.  Snow is actually helpful to over wintered plantings, providing an extra layer of insulation.


Picture taken on January 16th. Note that the video shown next was taken approximately one week later showing the extremes that are common in Ohio weather. Removing the row cover inappropriately, even for a short time, can interfere with the micro-climate under the row cover and cause damage to the spinach plants.


As the weather allows, once temperatures have risen to at least the 40’s or higher, the row cover can be lifted to inspect the plantings and take a small to moderate harvest.  Make sure to replace the row cover with enough time to allow the temperature under the cover to rise prior to any over night cold periods.



Growth will be rapid once spring warmth and sunlight return.  The grower will be able to take many harvests during warm days at any point after February in most cases.



As long as harvest is taken before flowering and temperatures have not risen too high, harvest can continue.  A large volume of spinach can be harvested from a small area using this method.

Fruit Yield and Quality in a Strip-Till Tomato System as Influenced by Grafted Plants and Crop Biostimulants

Fruit yield in systems relying on tilled strips or some other form of reduced tillage tends to be lower and delayed compared to systems containing standard plastic-covered raised beds. Still, reduced tillage offers other benefits. If the productivity of reduced till (e.g., strip till) systems could be increased, their use and overall value may also increase.

We have experimented with various approaches to strip-till tomato and pepper production at the OARDC in Wooster consistently since 2014 and during previous years. Excellent work on the same topic has also been completed at other universities (e.g., Iowa State Univ., Michigan State Univ.). With support from the USDA SCRI and ORG programs, SARE, and industry, the current approach by the OSU VPSL is to ask if strip-till systems can be made more productive by including grafted plants and/or crop biostimulants; both may help address the ‘tight’ soils and other limitations associated with some strip-till experiences. At the same time, folks interested in grafted plants and/or crop biostimulants on their own merits — but questioning their returns on investment — may find that returns are beneficial if either technology helps make it more feasible to adopt reduced tillage approaches. The thirteen panels below outline the experiment underway at the OARDC in Wooster. Contact Matt Kleinhenz (kleinhenz.1@osu.edu or 330.263.3810) for more information. Special thanks to Sonia Walker, Nicole Wright, Mark Spigos, Dana Hilfinger, the OARDC Farm Crew, Stephanie Short, and others for contributing to this effort.



2018 Central Ohio Fall Weather Predictions and El Nino Update

The most recent edition of OSU Agronomy’s C.O.R.N. newsletter published by my Extension colleagues gave the September and October weather predictions that will impact harvest of agronomic crops.  The backyard grower, community gardener, and urban farmer can use this data to make plans for season extended plantings by applying frost dates and predicted temperatures and rainfall amounts into the planting schedule.

September/October Temperature and Precipitation Forecasts

(credit Jim Noel, C.O.R.N Newsletter, 2018-28)

  • September
    • Temperatures will be a little warmer than normal, with normal predicted rainfall
  • October
    • Temperatures and rainfall are both predicted a little above normal
    • Frost and freeze dates are predicted to be in the normal range



What does this mean for plantings? 

  • Make sure to keep row cover or other season extension fabric on hand and monitor overnight temperatures carefully as we reach the October 10th – 20th time period to allow maturity and harvest of late summer plantings of green beans or zucchini.
  • General above average temperatures should allow for harvest into fall of late summer plantings if protected as needed.
  • Watch for frost or freeze events to plan harvest of sweet potatoes prior to overnight cold temperatures which may damage tubers and decrease storage life.
  • Timing of over wintered spinach plantings should target early to mid-October for completion.


El Nino Update (8/9/18)

El Nino winters in central Ohio average warmer than normal temperatures with less than normal snowfall.  Currently the National Weather Service has an El Nino Watch in place.

  • Fall – 60% chance of El Nino formation in September – November
  • Winter – 70% chance of El Nino formation in winter.

Source: National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center

Pumpkin Field Day (Aug. 23rd) – Last Call

No matter if you have been growing pumpkins for over a decade or new to the crop, there will be something interesting to ponder at the Pumpkin Field Day on Aug. 23rdfrom 6-8 pm at the Western Ag Research Station in South Charleston. The station is located at 7721 South Charleston Pike, South Charleston, 45368.

New this year will be a presentation and demonstration of cover crops used in conjunction with pumpkin production by Extension educator Alan Sundermeier.  When it comes to weed biology and control, Brian Reeb from Horticulture and Crop Science will be on hand to help growers minimize weed issues.

In the later half of the growing season, plant and fruit diseases figure prominently into crop management. Dr. Claudio Vrisman of Plant Pathology will be at the field day to discuss and diagnose common diseases of pumpkins, such as powdery mildew, downy mildew, plectosporium and others.

To round out the field day, IPM Program coordinator Jim Jasinski will talk briefly about two powdery mildew fungicide trials at the station, and then allow growers to walk through the trials to evaluate disease control. Growers will also be afforded an opportunity to walk through the 27 pumpkin and squash hybrid trial where current and new hybrids can be seen and evaluated for size and color first hand.

Wagons will take attendees out to the field where the trialsare being conducted, and light refreshments will be provided.

Registration for the field day is required by Aug. 20thplease visit this site surveymonkey.com/r/pumpkinreg18 and let us know you plan to be there. If you can’t register online, call 937-462-8016 and leave a message.

There is a $5 fee for attending which will be collected prior to the event at the research station. We welcome you on site to check in at 5:30pm and then officially start the field day promptly at 6pm. Looking forward to seeing you there!  For more information, contact Jim Jasinski, jasinski.4@osu.edu.

Cucumber Downy Mildew in Medina County, OH

Tape mount from the underside of a cucumber leaf with downy mildew. Characteristic branched sporangiophores (center) and oval, brown sporangia. Micrograph by Francesca Rotondo.

Downy mildew was confirmed today on cucumbers in Medina County – the field is in the Homerville area and symptoms were just beginning to show.  The pathogen that causes cucurbit downy mildew, Pseudoperonospora cubensis, was sporulating well on the underside of leaves (see photo).

This is the second confirmation of downy mildew on cucumbers in Ohio this year – the first was on August 11 in Huron County.  Please see my August 11 post in this blog for management recommendations.

We still have not confirmed downy mildew on squash or pumpkins, but we have received quite a few lookalikes, most of which were bacterial spot or angular leaf spot (also a bacterial disease). Bacterial diseases will not be controlled using any of the fungicides recommended for downy mildew, with the exception of copper-based products. However, these are only partially effective against downy mildew and bacterial diseases. If you are not sure about your diagnosis, send samples to the OSU Vegetable Pathology Lab – diagnoses are free for OH growers.