And it was Field Day!
Tropical storm Fred hit New England on Thursday, causing flash floods all over the area. Our garden suffers from runoff coming down the hill, which moved loads of bark mulch from the playground and crushed stone from the path into the garden, leaving a serious rut outside the gate.
Knowing that Hurricane Henri is due to hit the region tomorrow, we are attempting to reduce the damage by filling the gully in the path with rocks, and placing a temporary barrier across the gate. The slurry of water and debris has to go somewhere, but we’re hoping to divert it away from the garden beds, or at least slow it down and spread it out to reduce the damage.
A: About one inch per day.
We’ve had success growing successive crops at the garden, most with very little trial and error. Yet, this was our first successful year with a second planting of zucchini and yellow squash. Now that we’ve done it, let’s document it.
We seeded our first crop indoors on May 16, planted the seedlings in the garden on May 31, and harvested 48 days after seeding on July 3. (That’s our normal schedule.) The second crop was seeded indoors on June 13, planted in the garden on July 5, and harvested 55 days after seeding on August 7.
Four weeks between seeding the crops seems right, and using a super-size 6-pack for the second crop was also helpful because the space for the seedlings wasn’t open for 3 weeks. It’s important to note that giving the seedlings their own space in the garden (rather than tucking them between the older plants) also made a big difference.
For the record:
In 2019, the second crop was seeded on June 22, planted on July 13 and did not produce a harvest, primarily because the seedlings were crowded and shaded.
In 2017, the second crop was seeded on July 9, planted on August 19 and did not produce a harvest, primarily because it was seeded too late.
Our potatoes this year aren’t as perfect as they could be due to scab disease, all the little brown bumps on the skins. Potato scab is caused by a common bacteria found in soil There are plenty of good references discussing scab, its causes and prevention, like Vegetable: Potato, Scab | UMass Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment and Potato Scab (cornell.edu). Scabby potatoes are edible, but the scabby parts should be peeled, which reduces the nutritional value.
A summary of how we can reduce the risk of scab on our spuds:
- Grow scab-resistant varieties, such as Superior, Russet Burbank and Red Norland, and others listed in the references. We’ve had pretty good results with Red Norland in the past. We should always check our selections for scab-resistance.
- Buy certified scab-free seed potatoes from reputable sources. We do that.
- Keep the soil pH below 5.2. We really can’t do that because of our crop rotation, unless we want to juggle sulfur and lime ever year and do a lot of soil testing. Most of our other crops do best in a pH of 6.0-7.0, and would suffer in acidic soil.
- Keep the beds well watered in the 2-6 seeks after planting. We can do that.
- Minimize organic soil amendments, which encourage scab growth. So we shouldn’t add compost or manure to our potato beds.
- Don’t plant potatoes in the same bed more often than every three years. Our crop rotation does that.
Accessibility improvements to the garden were included in the Robbins Farm Park Field and ADA Renovation Project, which was overseen by the Park and Recreation Commission, approved by the Friends of Robbins Farm Park, and funded through the Community Preservation Act Committee. These improvements were made in coordination with the garden cooperative’s plan to replace the aging fence and gate.
Though other portions of the park project were completed previously, it has taken time to implement the garden updates because much of the labor was done (as planned) by the gardeners.
On April 18, we planted about 7.5 pounds of seed potatoes from High Mowing (from left to right – Red Chieftain, Adirondack Blue, Peter Wilcox), at a total cost of about $37, and today harvested about 45 pounds. 6X – not a bad return.
A: 2.5 inches in 4 days.
|Month||First Sighting||Insect||Plant||Treatment used|
|May||Leaf miners||Beets, swiss chard||agrofabric (late)|
|June||5/28||Aphids (black)||Fava, borrage||Insecticidal soap (2x / week)|
|June||6/3||Colorado potato beetle||Potatoes, tomatillos||Hand removal|
|June||5/28||Cabbage worms (green)||Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli||Hand removal|
|June||6/19||Squash vine borer moths||summer and winter squash||Lures/sticky traps|
|July||?||Tomato horn worm||Red October tomato||Hand removal|
|Late July/Aug||7/24||Squash vine borer grubs||summer squash, pumpkins, delicata||Hand removal (surgery)|
|Aug||8/14||Aphids (gray)||Brussels sprouts, tuscan kale||Insecticidal soap (1-2x/wk)|
Leaf minors got into the spinach and beets before we were able to cover them and caused significant leaf damage. We covered the beets with agrofabric after the early signs of damage, but that seemed to make it worse since the leaf miner flies were trapped inside the cover.
28 May — first sighting on Favas. Treat 1-2x per week with slightly weaker mix of insecticidal soap to avoid leaf burn. Reduced aphids and successfully keeping them under control with regular application. Similarly, the insecticidal soap was effective on the borrage which was affected by aphids at the same time, but was also successfully cleared of aphids after several treatments.
28 May — found on broccoli. We had relatively few cabbage worms this year and the ones that we found seemed to be on the broccoli and cauliflower rather than the cabbage. There have also been a few cross-stripe (black white and yellow) cabbage worms found on the brassicas in addition to the green cabbage worms.
3 Jun — beetles and eggs found on potatoes
10 Jun — eggs found on tomatillos
17 Jun –larva on potato leaves
Relatively minor damage by potato beetles this year.
Squash vine borer (SVB) moths
May 29th — 3 traps set using lures from IPM (3 for $6+S&H) and general pest glue traps from Agway. No moths were caught using the general pest glue traps over the next three weeks.
Jun 19th — switched out the general glue traps for these yellow delta insect monitoring cards from Arbico (10 for $11+S&H) and got immediate results with the first moth caught within a couple of hours on the same day the traps were set. By Wed 6/23 we had caught about 15 SVB moths and replaced two of the insect monitoring cards with fresh ones. We continues to switch out the traps about once per 7-10 days over the next 2 months. By Aug 7th, the frequency of moths in any of the traps was very low, so we put away the traps for the season.
Final tally of borer moths caught with the lures and sticky traps
June 19-30th ~37 moths
July 1-31st ~59 moths
Aug 1-7th ~ 2 moths [removed traps on 7th]
The first clear sign of borers damaging the squash vines was mid-to-late July. Frass was found on the summer squash plants first. On 7/24, Lisa extracted 4 borers from the summer squash including some relatively large borers, so they had probably already begun to do damage in the prior week or two. By the following Saturday, 7/31, the pumpkins were clearly suffering from stem damage and more borers were extracted from the pumpkins and summer squash. On 8/7 at least 3 pumpkins and 3 delicata plants had surgery which involved taking a steak knife, cutting a vertical slit along the stem where there is fresh frass, and removing the SVB grub with tweezers. The cut to the stem can damage the plant, but it has at least a chance of surviving. We pack dirt over the location where the stem was cut to encourage the stem to send out new roots to support the plant. If we leave the borers without extracting them, they will certainly kill the plant within a week or two, so surgery is usually the better path.
8/7: Multiple borers were found in several plants (e.g. extracted 2 or more borers from a single plant). All of the pumpkins were in very bad shape from borer damage and surgery. Similarly 2-3 of the delicata plants have severe borer damage and had significant damage from the surgeries as well. The second planting of summer squash does not seem to be affected (so far).
8/14: All pumpkin plants have died and several delicata plants have also died from borer damage. The second planting of summer squash has some signs of borer damage.
8/21: All but one delicata plant has died from borer damage. The honeynut and butternut squash appear to be resistant. The mystery squash (possibly spaghetti squash) has borer damage, but is still reasonably healthy.
Cucumber wilt is caused by a bacteria spread to the plant by cucumber beetles feeding on the leaves. Once the wilt begins, the entire plant will be infected and will die within a few weeks. The first sign of cucumber wilt was Sat 8/14 and only appears to affect one of the cucumber plants so far. On Sat 8/21, still only one plant shows signs of wilt, but it has spread over more of the plant.
Our annual seed selection meeting will be held on Saturday, January 23 from 10 am to Noon. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the meeting will be held virtually. Please contact us to get info to join the meeting.
Everyone interested in the crops and varieties we plan to grow at Robbins Farm Garden this season is welcome. Prospective new members of the garden group are especially encouraged to attend and join in the discussion. Bring your seed catalogs and great expectations for the upcoming gardening season!