Welcome to the August Edition of the High Mowing Seeds Online Newsletter!
Welcome, Everyone! The heat of July has given way to a beautiful start to August here in Vermont. The days are noticably shorter, the evenings a bit cooler, and the harvest is rolling in. In this issue, we'll take a closer look at the world of specialty greens for market and garden. We'll also discuss approaches towards extending the growing season by planting a fall garden, as well as a few recipes to go along with that late summer salad. Don't forget to check out our August seed sale, going on now for this month only!
We've had many great entries into the "Name that Newsletter" contest; so many, that we're having a hard time deciding. Look for a new moniker in September, and if you have any last-minute bursts of inspiration, it's not too late to send them in for a chance to win free seeds!
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the harvest!
In This Issue:
- Spotlight on Greens: Tips for Growers and Gardeners
- Planting the Fall Garden
- Report by HMS Plant Pathologist, Jodi Lew-Smith
- Great Seed Sale for August
- Recipies of the Month, and more!
Spotlight On: Greens
The season is winding on, and fall crops are beginning to take the limelight. In this article, we will take a closer look at crop category that features many varieties suitable for cool-season planting. There are many leafy greens that thrive in both spring and fall seasons. Here, we will look specifically at specialty varieties of lettuce, with a mention of a few others that make valuable additions to any mesclun salad mix.
For many of you who are growing for the organic market, you know well the importance of including high-value specialty varieties to maximize your return per acre; the home gardener might well be interested in unusual varieties that cannot be easily found at the local supermarket. Whether sold or grown as micro-greens, mesclun or salad mixes, or grown out in heads, these varieties will generally lead to a higher price at the stand and greater pleasure at the plate than the standard iceberg varieties. Leaf-type lettuces shine particularly brighter than head-type lettuces, as the cook will find a great diversity of texture, shape, color, and flavor, while the grower will appreciate an early harvest, lower maintenance, and occasional cut-and-come-again harvests.
There are a wide variety of lettuce types out there, some more common than others, and most available in both red and green varieties. The grower will generally find a higher price for some of the more unusual or rare types, such as the oakleafs (open-growing, shaped somewhat like the leaf of an oak tree), smooth-leafs (open-growing, pale, tender leaves), and crinkle-leafs (like smooth-leafs, but with frilly, fringed edges). More common are the Batavians (tight-headed, but more flavorful than icebergs), Romaines (upright, coarse leaves with full flavor), and Bibbs (loose-headed, tender, and sweet). While some varieties are noted for their bolt resistance and ability to withstand summer heat, others are noted for their cold-hardiness and are well-suited for a fall harvest. Cold-hardy varieties include Green Deer Tongue, Pirat Butterhead (a bibb-type), and Rouge De Hiver Romaine.
Many growers have niche markets interested in specialty greens, especially those serving asian or ethnic markets, and many gardeners have particular favorites not offered in most stores. In addition to their appeal alone, brassicas and mustards are key components in quality mesclun mixes, which, along with many specialty lettuces, serve well both at the stand and on the plate. Some of these unique greens include: arugula, a spicy-hot mustard; mache, a delicate European green; sorrel, a lemon-tart plant also popular in Europe and best known in potato soups; chicory varieties, including Italian radiccio and Belgian endive, sporting bitter flavors; Oriental and mustard varieties, including tat soi, pac choi, mizuna, and purple osaka; and other unusual salad components such as dandelion, fennel, or even flowers like borage or calendula, which add delightful color and delicate flavor to any salad mix. Spinach, a crop which stands alone on its own merits, is also a very beautiful, flavorful, and nutrient-dense addition to any mix. In growing these greens for salad mixes, however, the cultural needs of one group may be quite different than those of others. For example, spinach has higher nitrogen needs than lettuce, and spinach and some mustard greens can be encouraged to overwinter in certain conditions.Growing lettuce, especially for market, requires attention throughout the cultural cycle. Beginning with soil preparation, well-drained, sandy-loam soils are preferable; lettuce is sensitive to salts, overly-nutrient rich, acidic soils, preferring a pH at or slightly below neutral. For bunching or salad mix harvesting, a heavy direct-seeding works well for many growers. For full heads, transplanting may be preferred, where both plug trays and soil blocks make for good propagation mediums. For the market grower or avid gardener, having a mature lettuce crop throughout the season is desirable, and can be attained through careful timing and variety selection. As mentioned above, there are some varieties that shine well in the heat of summer, while others are noted for their resilience in the cool of the fall. In addition to selecting appropriate varieties, growing times will change dramatically throughout the season; as the days grow shorter and cooler as the first frost draws near, maturity will take longer, and therefore succession planting strategies must account for this difference. See the previous article on planting the fall garden to learn more, and be sure to contact your local Agricultural Extension Service for information specific to your region.
There are a variety of pathology issues surrounding lettuce. Insect pressure in lettuce is relatively light; aphids and thrips tend to be the greatest predators, and can be controlled with insecticidal soaps such as M-Pede™ or Safer™. Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, strategies, such as introducing predatory insects like ladybugs, can also be used. Flea beetles can be an issue, especially for young plants. Transplanting starts may address the issue, as might the use of insect screens or row covers such as Remay™, which can also be used to extend the season (see previous article for more about season extension techniques). Cutworm, a small grey or black worm that eats at the base of the stem, can also be an issue, for which hand-picking might be the best non-chemical solution for the small-scale grower Cutworm can also be controlled by use of Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt (trade names include Javelin, Dipel™, Condor™, and Lepinox™), a well-known microbial pesticide commonly used to control lepidopterous pests. Given that cutworms reside in the soil and are difficult to target with sprays, another way to apply Bt for greens crops is to mix it with bran or corn meal and spread it on the soil prior to planting. The cutworms will ingest the Bt-laced grain and be largely gone by the time the greens are planted. For those starting plants in the greenhouse, many of the same insects can be present as in the field. There are a variety of IPM strategies that can help, including pheromone traps, hand-inspection, introduction of beneficials, physical barriers like insect screens, and cultural and cleanliness techniques that will discourage the presence of insects.
As for disease, while damping-off is the greatest concern for young plants, older plants are a different story, particularly those grown in the more cool and moist spring and fall seasons. Sclerotinia causes the dropping of lower leaves in contact with the soil and manifests as a cotton-like growth, and can lead to the collapse of the whole plant if left unchecked. Rhizoctonia causes bottom-rot, a condition in which rust-colored lesions appear on the leaves, and greatly shorten the post-harvest life of the plant, leading to early black, slimy decomposition. There are a few OMRI-approved biofungicides that can be used to treat these and other fungal diseases, including SoilGard™, which features the disease-controlling fungus Gliocadium virens, Storox™, Serenade™, and Champion WP™. Foliar feeds of compost teas and plant extracts such as nettle, horsetail, and valerian have been shown to have a positive effect in treating fungal disease as well, in addition to aiding the overall well-being of the plant.
Lettuce can also be beset by physiological disorders such as tipburn, which is caused by environmental stresses rather than a pathogen.. Manifesting as browning and rotting internal leaves, not always visible from the outside of the head, tipburn is caused by the outpacing of rapid water transpiration over water uptake due especially to sudden weather change. Calcium deficiency, high soil fertility (particularly nitrogen and potassium), high temperatures, and low irrigation or rainfall are all factors in this condition. Improving soil conditions by mineralization, balancing pH, and reducing salt, nitrogen and potassium levels, as well as reducing transpiration by misting or watering regularly and minimizing draft in the greenhouse, can all aid in avoiding tipburn in lettuce.
While specialty greens are superior to icebergs in many ways, they also require greater care in handling after harvest. While this may be of greater issue to the commercial grower, the home gardener can get more from their harvest by applying good harvest and post-harvest technique. The key step in maintaining quality is to rapidly reduce field heat upon harvest, which is best achieved by immediately submerging the plants in near-freezing water, or "hydro-cooling". Smaller heads or loose leaves can be packaged in mesh bags to facilitate this process. Careful washing, drying, and grading is another critical step. Many consumers do not expect to have to clean their greens, especially when sold as a salad mix. Dirty, damp, or ungraded leaves make for a poor-quality product, and can quickly sully many hours of hard work in the field. There are a wide variety of tools that can be used for this process, from sinks and salad spinners to commercial-scale washers and driers. After the washing, drying, grading, and mixing (if necessary), the greens should be packed into slightly breathable containers or packages, and kept at a high-humidity, near-freezing environment. It should be noted that throughout the entire harvest and post-harvest process, attention should be made not to bruise and damage the greens, especially the more tender varieties.
There is a variety of leafy vegetable out there to please every palate and fill every market niche; by careful variety selection, diligent growing practices, and refined harvesting and handling techniques, these greens can bring delight to both gardener and grower alike.
Looking for good varieties of greens to add to your garden or offer your customers? Check out our selection of certified organic seeds!
Sources: Bachmann, Janet, George Kuepper, and Raven Thomas, NCAT Agricultural Specialists, ATTRA. Specialty Lettuce and Greens: Organic Production. www.attra.org/attra-pub/lettuce.html. January 2002.
Cool-Season Crops for The Fall Garden
So your lettuce has bolted and your basil has gone to seed. The season isn't over yet! In addition to late-summer producing crops, now is the perfect time to start planting for the fall garden; even if you live in the chilly northeast, you can still breath new life into your garden with a summer sowing for a fall harvest - many varieties will even be standing long after the first frost. Many benefits await the fall gardener: heat-sensitive greens are slower to bolt, carrots and kale are sweeter and crisper, and of course, the yields last longer. Also insect pest pressure is often greatly reduced in the cooler temperatures of autumn. But the challenges can be different as well. Here are some tips to get you through to the final harvest:
Needless to say, you can't plant melons in August in Vermont and expect to get any fruit. Choose crops that will mature more quickly, such as beans, brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, and other greens), cucumbers, lettuce, and radishes. Also, take note that certain varieties may be better suited to fall planting than spring planting, such as Winter Bloomsdale spinach for fall plantings. The growing conditions are quite different between the two seasons. In spring, cool, moist germination conditions followed by longer, warmer, drier days for maturity is contrasted by the opposite for fall conditions, where hot days during summer germination are followed by cooler, shorter, wetter weather during maturity in the fall. After you've chosen what types of crops to grow, get specific and find the varieties that will thrive in late-season conditions. See the following article on suggested varieties offered by High Mowing Seeds.
Timing is Everything
For those of us who experience frost, a definitive end to the growing season for certain crops needs to be considered. For some in far northern New York and New England, this can come as soon as September. Not all crops, however, will meet their end the first time the thermometer dips below 32F degrees. Some crops, such as broccoli and cabbage, will tolerate a light frost but not a hard frost. While choosing appropriate varieties, consider the expected time to maturity, which should be printed on the packet or provided in the catalog. Add an extra ten days to account for the cooler, shorter days during maturity. For crops that will be killed by frost, two weeks before the frost-free date should be allowed for maturity. For crops that are frost-hardy, set your end date two weeks past your frost-free date. Then, do the math: if your frost-free date is October 15th, and your frost-sensitive lettuce will take 60 days to maturity (including the ten-day extension, assuming you are growing for full heads), an August 1st planting will be prescribed, while your 60-day frost hardy radishes could be planted August 15th.
If that first frost is creeping up sooner than you would like, there are a variety of season extension technologies that can gain you weeks or even months on your garden. Cloches, or individual plant protectors, can be made of large plastic soda bottles; simply cut off the top and perforate the bottle for ventilation. Larger plants can be covered by a clean, upside-down trash can. Rows can be protected by floating row covers, such as Reemay, a semi-permeable fabric that can keep the frost at bay when stretched over wire frames spanning the rows. Movable cold frames can be used to protect groups of plants, and are easily and cheaply constructed of scrap wood and old storm windows. Make sure the glass is angled slightly to receive more of the now-lower direct-angle sun. However you cover your plants, make sure there aren't gaps for the frosty air to penetrate, and be sure you remove your covers when the warm autumn sun comes out the next day, lest your plants overheat.
Keep it Moist
Unlike in the spring, if you are direct seeding your fall garden, your seeds will be subjected to hot, dry conditions not exactly conducive to germination. Make sure you plant into moist soil. Seeding slightly deeper or covering lightly with mulch can help keep the seeds from drying out. Laying drip tape or other soaking-type irrigation will be more effective, but do what you can to keep the soil moist during this critical time. Starting transplants may prove to be an easier way to control your water conditions during germination, and allow for an easier start to your young plants' lives.
Prepare the Soil
Unless you have started a new bed, chances are you will be planting into a bed that was inhabited earlier in the season. Make sure you clean house before you reseed: remove all old vegetative matter, and compost or dispose of appropriately if pathogens are present. Even if you fertilized in the spring, many nutrients may no longer be available. For example, water-soluble nitrogen can leach quickly from garden soils. Re-fertilize as necessary, and top-dress with compost to improve fertility and moisture retention. Lightly aerate the soil with a garden fork, cultivator, or rototiller, but be careful not to dig too deep, so as not to dry out the soil.
Be Part of Your Garden
The fall garden faces greater challenges than the spring garden. Drought can hinder germination. Weeds have a head start. Insect and disease pressure is more intense. All of this requires greater vigilance on the part of the gardener. Keep plants moist, making sure to water in periods of no rain. Stay on top of the weeds, and keep an eye out for pathological issues so that they can be addressed before they become a serious problem. Consider starting seeds in a greenhouse and transplanting stronger plants into the field. Make sure the plants' soil needs are being met by fertilizing and mineralizing appropriately. While this may seem like a lot, the fall garden is a wonderful way to incorporate a new cycle into the season, and continue your relationship with the garden well into the cooler months. With the fall garden, you can be afforded a second chance on crops that may have failed in the spring, and with careful attention, healthy plants and a strong harvest will be your reward long after the summer sun has set.
Looking for good cool-weather varieties to add to your garden or offer your customers? Check out our selection of certified organic seeds!
sources: Lindgren, Dale and Susan Schoneweis. Fall Vegetable Gardening. University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension Service publication G98-1343-A , 1998.
Sams, David W. Fall Vegetable Gardens. University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service publication SP291G, 1999.
Pathology Report for August
by High Mowing Seeds Plant Pathologist Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith
If you happen to be a tarnished plant bug, this is your year in the sun. I can count on one hand the people who haven't had problems with them this season. There are so many of them they're on crops you'd never imagine. Besides their usual haunts on the flowers and fruit of strawberries, raspberries, peppers, and eggplants, this year we've also seen them attacking the flower heads of lettuce, spinach, rye, and various flower crops, as well as chewing at the growing tips of cucumber plants. We've been hearing far and wide that no one is getting much pepper fruit set this year, and tarnished plant bug is probably at least a part of the reason.
TPB is quite tough to control because they fly away at any disturbance, and no OMRI-approved products completely eradicate them. The best organically-acceptable method we know of so far is to combine two and maybe three products that all have some limited efficacy against them. Products to try are beauvaria (Naturalis-O), neem oil (Aza-Direct ™, pure neem oil, or various other neem mixtures), insecticidal soaps such as M-Pede ™, and pyrethrum products such as Pyganic ™.
Interestingly, we've been noticing that cucumber beetles are rather scarce this year, which leads me to wonder whether the weather patterns in early spring that gave rise to such a blossoming crop of tarnished plant bug had the opposite effect on cucumber beetles, acting to suppress rather than encourage their numbers. Could there be some predictive value in analyzing the early degree days this year?
As to the effect of weather on disease this year, so far the overall pattern has been of steady drying periods between rains. Drying periods such as these prevent spread of fungal diseases, and so far this year looks pretty good for fungal disease (or bad for fungal disease, if you happened to be a pathogenic fungus). Many of these fungal spores are sitting around just waiting for a few straight days of rain, however, so be prepared to scout for symptoms. Products to use for the more common fungal diseases are Storox ™, Serenade ™, and/or copper hydroxide products such as Champion WP ™.
August Seed Sale
For the month of August, we are offering a 25% discount on the following varieties:
Red Cored Chantenay Carrots
Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled Cress
Early Mizuna Mustard Greens
Rouge De Hiver Lettuce
High Mowing Mesclun Salad Mix
Rocky Ford Melons
French Breakfast Radishes
Yellow Crookneck Summer Squash
"Santo" Cilantro/Coriander Culinary Herbs
Dill Bouquet Culinary Herb
Parsley, Moss Curled Culinary Herbs
Borage Medicinal Herbs
Sacred Basil Medicinal Herbs
Sunflower, Mammoth Annual Flowers
Sunflower, Ornamental Mix Annual Flowers
Dwarf Jewel Mix Nasturtium Annual Flowers
Sweet William, Chader's Mix Perennial Flowers
But this sale will be gone by August, so click over to our sale page now to catch these hot summer deals!
Recipe of the Month
In honor of our focus on cool-season crops, and lettuce in particular, we decided to provide you with a few recipes for dressings to accent your salad. Whether you are serving a mesclun blend or a plate of freshly-cut veggies, the right dressing can be the perfect touch. Here are some ideas to get you going:
Raspberry Walnut Vinagrette
1/2 teaspoon honey mustard
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons walnut oil
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
In a bowl whisk together the mustard, vinegar and salt; add the oils in a small stream, while whisking, until vinaigrette is emulsified. Stir in the tarragon.
Makes about 1/2 cup.
Green Chile Cilantro Dressing
1-3 diced green chiles (choose appropriate chile for desired spiciness)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon honey
4 drops hot pepper sauce (optional)
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1. Place a large pan over high heat until hot.
2. Add oil, swirling to coat bottom. Add ginger; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
3. Add greens and broth; stir once, then cover.
4. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring once, until greens are wilted, about 2 minutes.
5. Add sesame oil, soy sauce, and sesame seeds.
6. Toss to distribute seasonings and serve.
Place all ingredients in food processor of blender; cover. Process until smooth.
Makes 1 1/4 cups.
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
Stir together all ingredients until blended.
Makes 1 cup.
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!
Jacob Racusin - General Editor
Jodi Lew-Smith - Technical, Pathology Editor