Welcome to the April edition of the Seed Bin - High Mowing Seeds Online Newsletter!
Those of us living in the Northeastern United States were recently treated with a rare and delightful phenomenon - a week of glorious sunshine and 60-70 degree weather! Perhaps this should have been expected, what with our record-setting mild winter; regardless, it was a welcome jump start to the growing season, with the last bits of snow melting from the fields, the ground firming up nicely, and wonderfully warm - if not too warm - weather for germinating plants. On this last note, now is the time to get your seeds, especially if you plan to start anything early! Some popular and limited varieties are already starting to sell out, and if you haven't already started some of your longer-season crops (like onions
, and peppers
), there's little time to lose. In this April issue, we'll look a bit more closely at the production-end of all these seeds, specifically the cleaning process, as we share highlights from Seed Cleaning Manager Heather Jerrett's 2005 High Mowing Seeds seed cleaning report. We begin two new features this month: a regular update from Farm Manager Charlie Rowland, with a preview of what's happening on the High Mowing Seed Farm, and the first installment of Ask the Grower, with an answer to one of your burning questions. And as always, we have the recipe of the month. So sit back, have a cup of tea, and enjoy this month's Seed Bin.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy your mud season!
In This Issue:
- Highlights from the 2005 Seed Cleaning Report, by HMS Seed Cleaning Manager Heather Jerrett
- Pathology Report from HMS Plant Pathologist Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith
- Field Report from HMS Farm Manager Charlie Rowland
- Ask the Grower
- Weekly Featured Products On Sale Now
- Upcoming Event: Vermont Soy Farmer's Forum
- Recipe of the month, and more!
2005 High Mowing Seeds Seed Cleaning Report
by Seed Cleaning Manager Heather Jerrett
In September of 2005 we moved into our new warehouse facility, including a large heated area designated solely for seed cleaning, know to us as the Seed Mill. The Seed Mill allows for year-round seed cleaning and much more organized and comfortable conditions.
There are a number of different functions of the Seed Mill. The most obvious is to clean seed coming directly in from the field, removing chaff, weed seed, and immature seed, to produce a good-looking seed lot. Another purpose of the Seed Mill is to increase germination rates by removing less dense seed. This allows us to produce high germination rates of new lots and also to reclaim low germination rates of existing lots. The Seed Mill is mainly used for lots we will be selling, but is also available to other seed companies for custom seed cleaning jobs.
We use a variety of equipment in the Seed Mill. The Spiral seed separator separates seeds by shape, specifically roundness. Seed is poured into a hopper at the top of the spiral; round seed descends to the bottom, while imperfect seed is sent out the sides of the spiral. The Sortex aspirator separates by density. Seed is poured into a chamber, mounted with a fan blowing air up towards the top. Good seed falls to the bottom, while the fan blows out light (immature) seed and fine chaff. The South Dakota blower is a small aspirator, used to clean small, sample-sized lots. The Eclipse separates seeds by size. The seed passes through a series of interchangeable screens to filter out both large chaff and fines, and is aided by vibration and a fan. The Clipper office tester is a small version of the Eclipse, and is used for smaller seed lots. The Oliver gravity table separates by density. Seeds pour out of a hopper over a vibrating, tilting, mesh-topped table equipped with a fan blowing air up through the bottom of the table. Adjustments are made by hopper pour rate, table vibration speed, table tilt and pitch, and fan speed. Seeds are separated by density, with stones going to one area, good seed to another, and immature seed to a third. A household dryer is used for de-fuzzing seed (new this year). We also use numerous screens and fans. 2005 seed cleaning was carried out by Heather Jerrett, Tom Stearns, Dana Szegedy, and three interns Marielle, River and Amanda. Seed cleaning started in late September of 2005 and was an ongoing process until January of 2006.
A total of 5,691 pounds of seed was processed this season, resulting in 4,371 pounds of marketable seed, or an approximately 23% reduction. High Mowing Seeds produced 32 lots weighing 4,775 pounds initially. We received 10 lots consisting of 916 pounds of initial weight from other grower sources.
We grew, and therefore cleaned, many lots of many different types of seed this season. Some seed came to us very clean, while other lots were very dirty. Here is a summary of the notable lots we cleaned this past winter:
The dirtiest seed we encountered by far was beans. High Mowing Seeds produced two lots of beans this year, Black Valentine and Golden Rocky. They were both extremely dusty, with a large amount of chaff, splits and crushed seed (possibly caused by the thresher). The Black Valentine resulted in a loss of 39% initial weight.
The cucurbits weighed in at 1,100 pounds total for eleven lots. The Delicious 51 Melon was phenomenally clean. The Delicata Winter Squash was also extremely clean, only needing minimal work. The Burgess Buttercup Winter Squash, Dark Green Zucchini, and Success Straightneck Summer Squash all had large amounts of chaff stuck onto the seed. This condition results in unnecessary loss of good seed and extra labor costs since the lot needs to be hand picked for not only cosmetic purposes, but to preserve an accurate packet weight: seed count ratio. The Baby Blue Hubbard was virtually clean, having only some chaff and the typical fine layers of the placenta to remove. However, a large portion had produced moldy spots while in storage which were subsequently hand picked out. This condition reduced the lot by 31% of its clean weight.
The Brassicas are another large portion of our seed crops. Total incoming weight was just under 800 pounds. Most brassica seed came in from the field very clean, with minimal amounts of chaff. All lots had portions of moldy and immature seeds that were removed easily. In late September 2005, we realized that some of our seed lots did not dry thoroughly and mold had started to form on the seed. We immediately cleaned out the moldy seed and set the rest out to dry further, and there seems to be no further problems. It seems as though with Brassica juncea
varieties (Red Giant and Green Wave) there is some sort of dormancy for germination. Seed is often cleaned hard – more seed is cleaned out of the initial lot – to increase germination rates. Therefore, some lots have been set aside for further evaluation when we are ready to use the seed. 279 pounds of Arugula were harvested at High Mowing Seeds in 2005. The lot had a good amount of chaff with shriveled and immature seeds, as well as a large portion of white seed that at first seemed to have mold on its seed coat. After further evaluation, it was determined to be merely the remaining placenta from the pod. There was a noticeable amount of naked seed, as well. Cleaning reduced the seed weight to 241 pounds (14% reduction) with an 80% germination rate.
This was HMS’s first year growing a lettuce seed crop, producing over 20 pounds of marketable seed. There was a large amount of chaff consisting of seed heads, stems, and leaves, as well as immature seed. The seed came clean easily, but some lots had been contaminated with other lettuce seed. Most noticeable was the Vulcan lettuce; this white-seeded variety had a fair amount of dark colored seed mixed in. Unfortunately, the only method available to us to remove the off-types was by hand, with tweezers. Some lettuce lots were separated into sub-lots to distinguish the first harvest and then a later harvest. Germination results indicate an 18 point drop in the Vulcan and a 19 point drop in the Plato II. The similarity suggests the second harvesting results in a lower germination rate. All Vulcan and Plato II lots will be treated with hot water to decrease the incidence of disease and increase germination rates to 95%.
High Mowing Seeds will finally be able to offer singulated and de-fuzzed tomato seed in 2006. All lots grown in 2005, along with substantial lots from previous years remaining in inventory, have been singulated and de-fuzzed using a standard household dryer. This process, on average, reduces the seed weight by 13%. Most of the tomato lots were very clean when they came in from the field. Only the Matt’s Wild cherry tomato had a large portion of calyxes and skin that were difficult to remove. The tomatillo lot this year had a very large amount of immature seed, chaff and clusters. Seed weight was reduced by 42% to obtain an 86% germination rate.
Overall, seed cleaning went very well this year. Our new facility, as well as excellent help from our interns, made the process move swiftly. We look forward to making improvements to our operation for the next season, as we continue to strive to provide our customers with the finest organic vegetable, flower, and herb seeds available.
Pathology Report for April 2006
by HMS Plant Pathologist Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith
Basics of Plant Pathology: Viruses
Last month we did a mini-review of bacteria and fungi, and how to get a handle on telling them apart in the field. This month I’ll talk about viruses, and also about control measures for viruses. Next month I’ll talk about control measures for fungi and bacteria.
Unlike bacteria and fungi, which can be difficult to distinguish from one another in the field, and which attack all the parts of the plant in many different guises, viruses are much simpler to I.D. on a plant as “Oh, that’s clearly a virus.” They typically induce highly distinctive symptoms of mottling and/or crinkling of leaves, and general deformation of other aerial plant organs. So any time you come across a plant that looks twisted and/or discolored, but not brown, you’re probably dealing with a virus. Bacteria and fungi are much more likely to cause necrosis, meaning dead, brown areas on the plant. And the logical extension of this distinction is that bacteria and fungi are typically more likely to actually kill their host plant, while viruses are much more likely to be carried along inside the plant for the whole ride, all the way up to seed production, which means that many of them can be internally seed-borne. When bacteria and fungi are seed-borne, as many of them are, they are more likely to be externally seed-borne, meaning that they are residing on or just under the seed coat, rather than in the embryo itself. If you think about this for a minute, it makes a lot of sense; pathogens that utterly take out their host are not going to expect a free ride on seed, since the plant is unlikely to ever get that far, whereas pathogens that let the host live to seed production stage are more likely to find a way into the seed, as it represents an excellent means of transmission to the next host.
And so, we’ve determined that viruses are not typically as deadly as bacteria and fungi (although they can cause just as much economic damage by rendering produce unmarketable), and they are relatively easy to distinguish as a virus. But if you are a person with aspirations to actually identify WHICH virus you are seeing, now you’re asking a lot. A few are easy, largely based on how much more common they are than other types, which means that if you can rule out seed-borne transmission by virtue of spread patterns, you can narrow it down to just a couple possibilities and one is usually much more likely than another. This still isn’t a positive I.D. And the truth is that most virologists cannot make a firm and positive I.D. in the field; viruses cause too great a range of symptoms, most of which are similar between viral species, to distinguish them from one another on that basis alone. And so, viral I.D. is laboratory work. But for our purposes as farmers, it makes little difference which virus we’re seeing because they all cause similar symptoms and there are no control measures for any of them. The only remedy is to pull up the plants as soon as you see them to prevent spread. And then next year, knowing that you have that virus lurking in plant matter, practice strict sanitation and think about planting resistant varieties.
The one virus I’ll talk about specifically is Cucumber Mosaic Virus, the ubiquitous CMV. Unlike most viruses, which are fairly discriminating in their host ranges, CMV will happily infect over 200 different host species, including many common weed species. This means that once CMV arrives at your place, and it’s probably already there, it’s there to stay. Luckily, though, CMV is of the class of plant pathogens that I characterize as “common and weak”, as compared to “uncommon and strong.” There are almost no pathogens that fall into the class of “common and strong,” as they kill hosts too quickly to persist very long in any one place. Another classic case of “common and weak” is the fungus Alternaria alternata
, the ubiquitous soil-borne Alternaria
species that causes upwards of 80-90% of all the alternaria leaf spot diseases that we see in the Northeast. CMV is similar. It is by far the most common virus in the Northeast, but it tends to be less destructive. Unlike many other pathogenic viruses, CMV is insignificantly seed-borne, and is spread largely by insects traveling between weed species and crop plants. You see it most often as mottling of leaves of cucurbit plants, and as yellow or green spotting on cucurbit fruits. It is also problematic on peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant, and causes heart mosaic of celery and spinach blight of spinach and beet. Where the disease becomes problematic, the planting of resistant varieties is by far the most effective means of control. Resistant varieties are now available for spinach and for squash, melon, and cucumbers, and are being developed for peppers as well.
And so, the take-home message is that there is very little “control” for viruses, such that we either choose to live with some damage or opt for resistant varieties. For bacteria and fungi, in contrast, control measures include both preventive and ameliorative measures. We’ll talk about some of those in May.
On-The-Farm Rundown - April 2006
by HMS Farm Manager Charlie Rowland
So, spring is finally here, and we are getting warmed up and excited about this coming growing season. All the snow is off the fields and the ground is drying out fast; hopefully, we’ll have enough rain coming to keep the ground from getting too dry this spring. The weather has been unusually warm, which has been helpful with getting work done up here in the Northeast Kingdom, but is scary when you think about the potential link to global climate change.
There is a lot of excitement in the air here at High Mowing Seeds, with summer right around the corner. In preparation of this, we have finished our report of what we are producing this year. Some highlights are 14 varieties of tomatoes, many different winter squashes, peppers, beans, brassicas, and more. We are also growing out some hybrid varieties this year for the first time; we are looking forward to offering more and more hybrid varieties in the future, and much will be learned from this season’s work. We also have finished the report dictating what will be grown in the trial and research garden. We will be planting approximately 700 varieties of different veggies and flowers. This promises to be a wonderful place to walk around come August; it will provide a feast for the senses!
We have just finished building a new greenhouse and associated infrastructure. This will be where many of our plants will start their life before moving to their beds in the fields at Rooster Ridge. The greenhouse is 100 ft. long by 30 ft. wide, which gives us a lot more room than we have worked with in the past. It is equipped with two 200,000 BTU heaters for those cold nights that we are still getting up here. By the time you read this, we will have started our first plants, and with more seeds waiting in line.
We will be enjoying a brand new 68 hp Kubota Tractor for all our big jobs this season. This will improve our efficiency in the field, by not having to devote time tinkering on the old Massey Ferguson, which is the tractor we have been running the last few years. The Kubota will have a nice new bucket that we get to scratch up with all the rocks that we harvest here...
So to all you gardeners, growers, and everyone else, good luck and see you in the fields!
New Feature: Ask The Grower
This month, we begin a new feature in which we will answer your growing and gardening questions. This month, High Mowing Seeds Farm Manager Charlie Rowland answers the question:
"What seeds are best to start indoors, and when should I plant them?"
Seed starting is a big topic, and depends on the farm location and plan; here is a brief rundown on some veggies that normally get an early start.
Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants seem to be the talk of the town when the season is just getting started, mainly because it helps to have a well-established plant before transplanting (but not started so early that they get leggy). Further south than we are they are started in and around February. Up here in the north most people start these three crops around the first of March and think about putting them outside 7 to 10 weeks later for tomatoes and peppers and 8-12 for eggplants. The timing is around your last frost date. For us, that is June 1st, but as you go south, of course it changes. This information on frost dates can be found in many books and the NOAA
Other crops started early for some folks, mainly in the north, are leeks and onions. These are timed like eggplants, 8 to 12 weeks before last frost. In the southern states most of these can be direct seeded, and are not needed to be started and transplanted.
Also, remember that row covers are always a good thing to have around, in case your little plants need to be tucked in with a blanket because of a late frost once they are outside. You can also hose them down right at nightfall, and the frozen water will protect them from frost burn. Starting these plants early should give you a nice, early harvest and well-established plants. Good luck, and thanks for your question.
Have a burning gardening question? A pesky path problem? A vexing marketing quandry? Send us your questions, and we'll get you answers!
Beginning in the April edition of the Seed Bin, we will publish one of your questions, with an answer given by one of the experienced growers on our staff.
Send your questions to
, and please write "Ask the Grower" in the subject line.
Weekly Featured Products On Sale Now!
Every Wednesday, we unveil a new batch of three featured products that we offer to you at a discount. Maybe we have extra supply of seed, or maybe we want to show off a particular variety. Whatever the reason, you can enjoy 20% off our featured varieties
when you order your seeds online at www.highmowingseeds.com
! Just add the varieties to your cart, and your discount will be applied automatically when you checkout. And yes, all sizes of the featured products are on sale, so the more you buy, the more you save! But remember, the products are only good for a week, so buy now before the sale ends.
Vermont Soy Farmer's Forum
Interested in diversification? A steady market? The Town of Hardwick and Vermont Soy invite ALL Vermont farmers to a Farmer's Forum to discuss growing soybeans for the new Soy Processing Facility in the Hardwick Industrial Park. Among the panelists attending the forum will be High Mowing Seeds President Tom Stearns.
The event will be held Wednesday, April 26th, 6:00 - 9:00 pm at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Rte. 14 just south of Hardwick village. Enjoy the delicious and FREE catered buffet made with local organic food highlighting the delicacies with soy. The evening will be filled with many experienced and resourceful panelists hoping to answer all your questions.
For more information please contact email@example.com
or call (802) 472-8500.
Recipe of the Month
Last month, we took a bite out of onions. This month, we'll explore its culinary cousin, the leek. The leek, while by no means as omnipresent as the onion, is a unique and elegant addition to meals from breakfast to dinner. Well-suited to growing in a variety of climates, leeks are also well-suited to a variety of culinary applications. We look at three such dishes in April.
Potato and Leek Soup
2 lbs. Russet potatoes
1 lb. leeks, washed and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
5 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons cream or half-and-half
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese or chives
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the potatoes, leeks, onion, celery, carrot; cover, and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the chicken stock or broth, 1/2 cup milk, salt and pepper. reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender and potatoes are soft.
Mash the potatos and vegetables in the pot or transfer to a blender or food processor in batches and process until smooth. Make sure the soup has cooled for 15 minutes before putting it into a food processor.
When ready to serve, reheat the soup, serve in bowls and swirl 1 tablespoon half-and-half into each serving. Sprinkle with chives or shredded cheddar cheese.
Leek and Feta Quiche
4 sheets (double over) filo pastry
6 tbsp. melted butter
4 sm. leeks, sliced (use some greens)
1/4 c. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
125 grams Feta cheese, drained and finely crumbled
2/3 c. cream
Pepper to taste
With pastry brush, brush melted butter on each layer of filo pastry dough. Place in quiche pan, overlapping edge and trim to 1/2 inch.
In skillet, saute' garlic and leeks in 1/4 c. butter for 5 minutes.
In bowl, mix together lightly beaten eggs, Feta cheese, and cream, mix well adding pepper, and pour into quiche dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let quiche settle before serving.
Chicken with Leeks and Cream
1 (3 to 4 lb.) chicken, cooked, skinned & deboned
3 to 4 leeks
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 c. whipping cream
Fresh parsley for garnish
Tear chicken into bite-size pieces.
Cut the leeks into 2 inch pieces up to the point where the leek begins to turn green. Slice the piece once lengthwise, and divide the leaves. Rinse if dirty.
Saute the leek leaves in the oil along with the garlic if desired. Do not allow leaves to discolor; cook until barely tender.
Add the chicken to the pan, cook until hot. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well and add the cream. Heat and serve. Decorate with parsley. Serve with plain white rice on the side.
All recipies' source: www.cooks.com
Read a Previous Seed Bin Issue
Looking for an old article or recipe? You can read old issues of the Seed Bin here
. Please note that Sale items listed in these archival issues are no longer valid.
Let's Make it Better
This is your newsletter, not ours - we just write it. Just as your comments, questions, concerns, and field experience have helped to guide our business in every way, from variety selection to customer service, we rely on your feedback to guide the creation of a publication that is informative, inspirational, entertaining, and enjoyable to read. What would you like to see more or less of? Technical advice? Seed saving tips? Tools and techniques? Information about High Mowing Seeds? We want to give you what you want, so please let us hear from you! Write to firstname.lastname@example.org
with your comments, critiques, and questions.
Thanks for reading - and responding!
Heather Jerrett - Feature Writer
Charlie Rowland - Farm, Technical Editor
Jodi Lew-Smith - Technical, Pathology Editor
Jacob Racusin - General Editor