Check out this quick and engaging two minute quick trip through my community garden to see what is happening right now. Hint: Watch out for the bugs!
The second year of the statewide Home Garden Vegetable Trials kicks off during the month of February. Citizen scientists are recruited to contribute to our vegetable trials for Ohio. We look for people excited about growing vegetables in their home or community gardens and then letting us know what they think. Youth and adults are welcomed to participate. Each trial contains two varieties that are grown side by side to compare throughout the season. They can select multiple trials with 5 cool-season vegetables and 5 warm-season vegetables available. For each trial, participants get:
- Seed for two varieties of a vegetable
- Row markets
- A garden layout plan to prepare your rows or beds
- Growing information specific to the crop species you, including planting date, plant spacing, nutrient requirements, etc.
- An evaluation sheet (can be completed online)
Participants may select up to 5 trials. We are now asking you to complete the sign up and send payment. The trial catalog has a description of each variety that will be used this year. On the last page is a registration page that can be printed and filled out by hand for those who do not use computers.
Some seeds are from organic sources, but a few are not. The vegetables are not experimental, but some have been released in the last few years. Others are old favorites being compared to new varieties to see if they still stand the test of time. All seeds are non-GMO (as all vegetable seeds available are non-GMO) Each trial is $3. We have created an online registration site. Please go through the sign-up process and select your vegetables. On the payment page, you can choose to pay by card or check. If you choose check, the details for filling out and sending the check will be displayed. Please send that in as soon as possible. You will also see the $8 charge for home delivery added to your bill. We have had to do this because our Extension Offices have been temporarily closed. You also have the option of registering and paying for more than one person while visiting the site. The deadline for ordering is February 28 for guaranteed participation and March 15 while supplies last.
VEGETABLE TRIALS web site
go.osu.edu/veggies2021 registration site
Cucumber beetles continue to have high populations in pumpkin fields. The spotted cucumber beetle, which is also the southern corn rootworm adult, are migrating in masses out of corn fields as corn silks dry down and finding their way into pumpkin fields. So long as the beetles are not chewing on the skin of the pumpkin, they are not anything to be concerned about, however, if they start damaging the skin of the fall vine crops, an insecticide application may be warranted.
Scouting your latest plantings of cole crops is recommended to make sure that cabbageworms do not get out of hand. It can be easy to let your guard down as the season winds down, but if you want to have a marketable crop, you need to keep an eye out for the imported cabbageworms doing damage.
Peppers, at this point in the season should be winding down, however, disease pressure can force a premature end
to the season quite rapidly. One disease that can cause a rapid decline in peppers is anthracnose. At this point in the season, it is not worth the investment in any fungicide applications. For future planning, practice a three-year crop rotation with crops that are not in the Solanaceae family and consider doing seed disinfestation before planting. This disease can be managed with fungicides; however, it is important to address the issue of the origin of the diseases, rather than trying to fix the issue by applying a rescue fungicide every year.
At this point in the season, it is of your best interest to consider the cost of any fungicide application in respect to how much more you expect to get out of a crop. With pumpkins, for example, as the plants are beginning to die off at this point in the season, it is not likely that any fungicide application will be effective or result in any increase of yield or crop value. For a crop like cole crops that are just a few weeks in the ground, then you may have opportunity to apply fungicides, should the need arise. As always, follow the label and pay close attention to the pre-harvest interval when applying a fungicide.
Stink bugs are still active and can be found along wood-lines and field edges. I am still finding the occasional fruit that has been damaged by a stink bug. The damage is typically occurring in trees along the edges of orchard blocks, especially near wooded areas.
As fruit continues to ripen and be harvested, we continue to move forward through the growing season without many disease issues in our area. If you are doing any final treatments for fruit diseases, pay close attention to the PHI on the product label. The pre-harvest interval determines how long after you applied that product that you may harvest the crop. This is especially important to pay attention to as many varieties of orchard crops as well as grapes are maturing and nearing harvest.
Stink bugs have started to feed on and damage crops such as tomatoes. The stink bugs activity and feeding starts to increase most noticeably from late July through August and they remain active through the end of the growing season. Their damage on green tomatoes may appear as small, whitish areas. On ripe tomatoes, the damage shows up as a golden yellow “starburst” pattern. While this damage is typically only cosmetic, higher amounts of feeding can result in infection and result in the fruit being unmarketable.
Flea beetles continue to feed on several crops including tomatoes and cole crops. The feeding on tomato plants is not of major concern mostly because the damage I am seeing is on the lower leaves. The damage on cole crops is of more concern due to the areas of the plants being damaged. The flea beetles are feeding on young tender leaves on kale plants as well as causing heavy damage on young plantings of broccoli and cabbage. Too much damage at this point can stunt the plants growth and result in reduced yield.
The trap counts for sweet corn pests in Wayne County are overall down. Sweet corn growers should be keeping an eye out for army worm damage as we have had reports of high fall army worm trap counts as well as damage that was being done by the yellow striped army worm. More on recent trap counts
Downy Mildew is in Wayne and Medina counties and likely in surrounding counties as well. Cucumber growers need to be spraying for downy mildew.
Powdery mildew can be just as destructive on squash as downy mildew is on cucumbers. I have been finding powdery mildew consistently in younger squash plantings. Unfortunately, the earlier the plant is infected with powdery mildew, the shorter the life span of the plant. With an infected plant having a short life span, the yield for the plant can also be expected to decrease.
Smut is especially prevalent on sweet corn this year. Smut is more common during hot and dry weather, especially when followed by a heavy, warm rain. This year has been the perfect year for prime smut infection and growth.
In some pepper fields, there has been a few spots of anthracnose found on the fruit. Anthracnose typically does not affect the pepper foliage; however, the pepper fruits are highly susceptible to infection from the disease. Peppers develop large sunken lesions with pink to orange colored spores. This disease can be found typically on the lower sets of fruit, where they are more likely to be splashed with soil from heavy rains.
Spotted wing drosophila have been active in small fruits for some time, but with peaches starting to ripen, the SWD can and will target the peaches as well. I have started to find peaches that have SWD larva feeding just under the skin.
SWD can also do damage to grapes. This week I started to find berries in grape clusters that were soft or looked poorly. Just under the skin of these grapes I found SWD larva feeding and moving around. Many grapes are ripening and getting close to harvest so anyone with grapes should consider treating for SWD.
Stink bugs can also do a lot of damage to fruit crops this time of year. We have traps out for the brown marmorated stink bug, which will help us monitor its population, however, I am already finding some stink bug damage on peaches and apples. This damage appears as a discolored depression in the skin with corking of the flesh all the way up to the skin. This damage can occur anywhere on the apple.
Overall, disease pressure has been fairly limited this year. Hot and dry conditions have prevented favorable conditions needed for disease development. As fruit continues to ripen and be harvested, we continue to move forward through the growing season without many disease issues in our area.
Some grape varieties are nearing harvest. At this point, there should be no significant disease concerns, especially so close to harvest. The same goes for orchard crops.
If you are doing any final treatments for fruit diseases, pay close attention to the PHI on the product label. The pre-harvest interval determines how long after you applied that product that you may harvest the crop. This is especially important to pay attention to as many varieties of orchard crops as well as grapes are maturing and nearing harvest.
Are you a local food producer? We are in the process of compiling a list of local food producers by county and want to include you! Use this link to be added to the list.
If you are searching for places to purchase local foods, be on the lookout for our updated list.
Pounds upon pounds upon pounds of potato chips are consumed each day. Few give the hard work on the farm or science and teamwork required to bring good chips to market one thought. Here, though, is a brief summary of recent activity in Ohio and elsewhere designed to help growers and processors and all others who rely directly and indirectly on local-regional “chip business.”
The Big Picture. USDA (e.g., https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Todays_Reports/reports/pots0918.pdf) and other information makes clear that potato production and processing remain important, enormously valuable industries throughout the U.S., Great Lakes, and, still, Ohio. Nearby on the ground evidence includes Lennard Agriculture (https://www.lennardag.com/) and impressive investments it and its cooperators have made in infrastructure (e.g., center pivot irrigation systems), expertise, research, and other assets in a four-county area of the Scioto River Valley, among other locations. Early, summertime harvests of large, high-quality crops suitable for use in chip-making are important to them. This activity maintains the strong tradition of supplying local-regional chipmakers … page 20 of the USDA report mentioned earlier shows that the U.S. contains approximately 89 chip-making plants with 15 (16% of the total) located within Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia. Thankfully in this case, it appears that little has changed since 2008 (https://www.potatopro.com/news/2008/ohio-boasts-second-most-potato-chip-manufacturers-us) and before.
Potatoes used to make chips must meet strict specifications. Tuber shape, size, specific gravity, sugar/starch content, flesh color, natural or man-made damage, and other characteristics influence the chip-maker’s desire for the crop. Since these traits hinge on each combination of potato variety, crop management, and growing conditions, the pressure is on growers to optimize each combination. Improved varieties better able to thrive in various conditions are always needed. With important exceptions, potato varieties used in chip-making in the U.S are bred by teams at USDA and a small number of universities, including Michigan State Univ. (http://potatobg.css.msu.edu/). In 2019, led by Chris Long of MSUE (https://www.canr.msu.edu/people/christopher_long), plots of a total of fifteen experimental selections from MSU, USDA, Cornell Univ., and North Carolina State Univ. were planted alongside ones of “check” varieties in fields in Ohio coordinated by Lennard Agriculture. During Aug 13-16, the OSUE team including Chris Bruynis and Ross Meeker (https://ross.osu.edu/about/staff), Brad Bergefurd (https://scioto.osu.edu/about/staff), Mike Estadt (https://pickaway.osu.edu/about/staff), Will Hamman (https://pike.osu.edu/about/staff), and the VPSL (http://u.osu.edu/vegprolab/) harvested the plots and collected key data on the tubers. The VPSL has a long history of cooperating with potato breeders and others in developing improved varieties (e.g., see reports at http://u.osu.edu/vegprolab/technical-reports/).
Yield was measured first and it ranged from 1.3 to 2.6 pounds per foot of row across all selections and varieties (these values equate to 226 and 452 hundred-weight/acre, resp.). Tuber specific gravity (S.G.) using the weight in air, weight in water method and a hygrometer was measured next (see URL above). This method involves placing exactly eight pounds of tubers (air, at left) into a basket attached to an air-filled bulb and calibrated meter. The basket-bulb-meter unit is then placed in water (middle and right). It will sink to a depth roughly consistent with the tubers’ combined moisture and dry matter (especially sugar/starch) levels. Tubers high in S.G. are needed in chip-making; S.G. is influenced by variety, management (especially nutrient and irrigation), and other environmental factors. The S.G. of experimental selections … lines still being tested and not yet named … is always benchmarked against the specific gravity of well-known standard varieties.
Next, tubers were peeled and placed in cold water until chipped. Tuber flesh that has been damaged and exposed to air typically begins to oxidize and brown. Submersion in cold water slows the process. Commercial chip-makers and other potato processors remove potato skin using various methods often involving pressure and/or steam.
In commercial chip-making, peeled tubers are then sliced to product-specific thicknesses. Chip enthusiasts know that products vary in chip thickness, a variable that has multiple significant implications for the chip-maker and for research teams working on their behalf. Slice thickness influences fry time, oil-absorption, chip texture, and many other variables which influence the suitability of a variety for the specific product. As in our other potato research, here, we produced slices measuring 0.051 inches thick using a DeBuyer Kobra mandolin slicer.
Slices were then fried for 3.5 minutes using oil provided by a local chip-maker (Shearer’s Foods, Inc.) and a standard tabletop fryer (left). The target oil temperature was 350 deg F and the actual oil temperature was monitored throughout and allowed to reach the target between batches. Finally, the color of completed batches was scored against the industry-wide standard Color Chart developed by the Snack Food Association of America (sfa.org; below right). A rating of 1 (upper left of chart) is desired by most chip-makers. Many batches completed on 8/16/19 using tubers harvested in the Scioto River Valley area scored 1-3, a very promising result. Remaining tubers have been placed in cold storage and will be chipped again later, as one assessment of the rate at which each genotype converts starch to sugar when exposed to storage-like temperatures.
Land. Equipment. Good varieties and growing methods. Proper inputs. And, crop-friendly weather. These are just some of the resources needed for success on the farm. However, a great team is also essential … just as in research, extension, and other activities. In 2019, for the VPSL, like for other teams, data collection is ongoing. The potato evaluation outlined here will be followed by work with tomato, squash, watermelon, carrot, and other crops, with plots in fields and high tunnels and at OARDC and on commercial farms.
For many backyard growers, community gardeners and urban farmers, growing the cucurbits can be a challenge. This vegetable (fruit?) family is affected by a large number of garden insects as well as both bacterial and fungal disease. There are a few tips and tricks that can be used to make sure some harvest makes it to the table or sales booth in 2019.
First thing to do is mind your pollinators. Cucurbits are commonly dependent on pollinators as they have separate male and female flowers. Once the flowers emerge, use of pesticides can damage pollinators and lead to decreased harvest.
Scouting is a very important part of the Integrated Pest Management strategy. I had not seen cucumber beetles in large numbers until the July 4th holiday weekend. Then I started to see them in moderate to large numbers on my summer squash in central Ohio.
These plantings of winter squash, both Waltham Butternut and Buttercup, died over the last weekend in July while the summer squash persisted. Suspects include squash vine borer damage or bacterial wilt from cucumber beetles.
Squash bugs are another common pest of cucurbits that can be present in large numbers in plantings.
One great strategy to get a harvest of summer squash is to plant a summer planting now for a fall harvest. Many of the pests of cucurbits will be transitioning to their over-wintered habitat and become less of a problem in fall.
It is hard to imagine with tomatoes barely starting to ripen that now is the time to start planning and planting for the 2019 fall garden harvest. The backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer should plan one season ahead to make sure they maximize harvest in the future. Right now is the time to think about filling the spots in the garden that will open up after the spring and early summer plants are removed.
The goal is to make sure the garden is planted with no bare soil the entire year, including winter. That requires planning. First consider crop rotation. To do this you need to know your vegetable families.
Take this opportunity to make sure that you keep your ground planted at all times. There are a number of short term crops that could go into the garden right now that will allow harvest prior to the frost date:
- Green Beans – can be planted every two weeks for the next month. Choose rapid bush type varieties.
- Peas – Sugar Snaps are 70 days until maturity. Germination can be tricky with hot, baked clay soils.
- Summer Squash/Zucchini – plant now or wait until closer to the end of the month in order to miss cucumber beetles for a fall harvest.
- Swiss Chard – plant now for a fall harvest
- Green Onions – plant now for a fall harvest
- Tomato/Pepper – transplants of short season varieties(if you can still find them locally) are possible right now in case the grower has lost plants due to pest damage. Rotate to another spot in the garden.
- Lettuce – can be planted from seed or transplant. May need shade cloth to protect from heat. Start transplants indoor every two weeks for the next three months for a fall and early winter harvest.
- Brassicas – start indoor transplants of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Asian greens now to transplant outdoors in late August.
- Radish – wait until later in the season to direct seed.
- Beets – can direct seed in the garden now for fall harvest.
- Carrots – can direct seed in the garden now for fall harvest.
- Herbs – start more basil now from seed outdoors for a late summer harvest to pair with fresh tomatoes.
- Cover Crops – keep your garden planted. Summer cover crops like buckwheat can be planted now, plan on your over wintered space.
Think about the spot that you will use for over-wintered spinach production using low tunnels and row cover.
Make sure to address fertility. Did your most recent harvest take out your nutrition? Address that prior to planting the fall garden.
We are in the middle of a period of wet weather that is predicted to deliver multiple inches of rain to central Ohio and even more to other soaked parts of our state. Tomatoes are a crop that can suffer several problems related to heavy rainfall that can shorten the harvest period and affect yield. There are a few things that the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer can do to keep their tomato plants healthy and productive though heavy rain periods.
Key Garden Tasks to Keep Tomatoes Healthy in Wet Weather
- Mulch – organic or non-organic can both be used. Be careful if your plasticulture is not permeable to air and water, the heavy constant rainfall may saturate the soil and drown the roots if the soil cannot dry out. Mulch also acts as a barrier to keep soil borne fungal spores off lower tomato leaves.
- Fertility – contstant rainfall can leach fertility from soil making it unavailable to the plants. Make sure to monitor plant growth and health carefully to avoid a nutrient deficiency. Foliar feeding can be used when the ground is too saturated to irrigate with water soluble fertilizer.
- Pruning – promote air circulation by pruning lower leaves. Try to minimize lower leaf contact with soil. Use sterilized pruners to remove any diseased leaves and make sure to put diseased leaves in the garbage and not the compost after pruning.
Monitor tomatoes carefully for signs of blight, remove the diseased leaves promptly with sterilized pruners and dispose of disease materials in the garbage, not the compost pile.
Make sure to address fertility needs as production increases. Heavy rain can leach nutrients into the subsoil where they are unavailable to plants, decreasing yield as the season progresses.
Ohio State University Extension has an excellent fact sheet on Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden. There is also a plant disease diagnostic laboratory on campus where the grower can send samples if an accurate diagnosis needs confirmed on possible diseased leaves.
Cover Crops are a valuable tool in the toolbox of the backyard grower, community gardener and urban farmer. I planted a mix of cover crop species last fall in my community garden plot to keep the soil alive over the winter, prevent erosion and increase soil organic matter.
This species mix, especially the winter rye component, can be challenging to manage in the spring depending on when the soil is worked. The winter rye will die from mowing or crimping when it is going to seed and nearing maturity, but when tilled young, some of the grass will continue to grow.
The majority of my plot will be used for summer vegetables. I do not want to leave the ground bare until that point as the cover crops will continue to grow in spaces and weeds will fill in the rest. I would also lose organic matter and fertility from spring rains.
I rototilled over half of the plot to create a seed bed about 10 days after initial tillage. This will kill most of the remaining over-wintered cover crops and created a seed bed for planting. There is a loss of organic matter from tillage, but I did not have the option to drill in the seed.
I followed up with a planting of Buckwheat. Buckwheat is a versatile cover crop that tolerates poor soils, rapidly germinates, weed suppresses, attracts pollinators and when mowed, will rapidly break down prior to the next planted crop.
I will let the Buckwheat grow until mid-May. Then I will mow the space which will kill both the cover crop and any annual weed that germinates within the Buckwheat planting. It will also weaken any perennial weed that is growing. I will let the residue decompose for a few days and then till and apply plasti-culture mulch in the pathways prior to summer vegetable planting.