Welcome to the August edition of the Seed Bin - High Mowing Seeds Online Newsletter!
The dog days of summer are upon us. For those of you wondering, the Dog Days are so named not because of the misery suffered by the hairier of our canine companions, but because of the Great Dog in the Sky, Canis Major
, which features Sirius, the Dog Star, as the brightest star in the constellation. During the hottest days of the later part of the summer, Sirius ascends to its position as the brightest star in the sky. The ancient Romans made this connection, and considered Sirius to be the cause of the heat - thereby, the Dog Days were born.
In keeping with the extreme weather reports of last month, heat waves continue to break records and claim lives across the country and the northern hemisphere. Those of us growing solenaceous crops have reaped some benefit, as the hot temperatures are lending spice to the jalapenos and sweetness to the melons.
But it's never too early to think of the changes ahead - soon enough, Jack Frost will be nipping at the vines, and now is the time to be ready. With this in mind, we feature a report this month on the use of floating row covers and field tunnels in season extension. While this is of particular importance in northern climes, it is relevant for use in all climates that can experience frost, and is a great tool for gardeners and growers across the country. The pathology report takes a break this month, as High Mowing Seeds Plant Pathologist Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith finds herself spending long hours in the field pollinating plants in the trial gardens; High Mowing Seeds Farm Manager Charlie Rowland will explain more in the on-the-farm rundown for August.
Speaking of goings-on at the farm, we will be hosting two Field Days
to showcase some of the work being done in our extensive trialing gardens, on August 16 and September 20; Read on for more info. In this month's Ask The Grower feature, Jodi will answer a question about dealing with cutworms. And with the Dog Days of summer comes the beginning of the ever-bountiful zucchini harvest; we'll share with you a few recipies that go beyond zucchini bread.
Thanks for Reading, and Keep Cool!
In This Issue:
- Row Covers and Field Tunnels for Season Extension, by members of the USDA's NRCS
- On-The-Farm Rundown from HMS Farm Manager Charlie Rowland
- Ask the Grower
- Announcing High Mowing Seeds Field Days on August 16 and September 20
- Clearance Sale on Stella Natura Calendars!
- Web-Only Specials Page at Highmowingseeds.com
- Recipe of the month, and more!
Row Covers and Field Tunnels for Season Extension
Extending the growing season in many gardens is essential if quality vegetables and seed are to be successfully grown. A number of season extension techniques are available to the gardener. Costs for season extension range from tens of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the type of season extension employed. In this article, we will look at the use of two types of season extension: Floating Row Covers and Field Tunnels.
Methods and Materials
Floating Row Covers are lightweight blankets made from spunbonded polyester or polypropylene. There are two basic types of Floating Row Covers: 1) frost protection, and 2) insect barrier. If the desire is to protect crops from low temperatures, be sure to purchase the frost protection type. Floating Row Covers generally come in rolls 6 to 30+ feet wide to nearly any length desired. Typical lengths range from 50 feet to over 2,000 feet.
Field Tunnels are small, temporary structures assembled in the field that create a micro-climate favorable for plant growth when properly used and managed. The environment created by Field Tunnels provides frost protection, insect protection, and season extension benefits to the plant. There are several types of Field Tunnels available that can be used. The Field Tunnel structure consists of hoops of heavy gauge metal wire, woven wire, or plastic tubing anchored in the ground and covered with season extension material.
There are a variety of covering materials for Field Tunnel. The type of covering has a direct bearing on the internal heat of the structure. Following is a general guide as to how warm a covering will be in relative terms, with the warmest materials listed first, and the coolest last: Clear plastic with holes, Spunbonded fabrics, White plastic with holes, Clear slitted plastic, and White slitted plastic.
Several types of hoop support material may be used for Field Tunnels. Pre-cut, 76-inch 10-gauge wire hoops and uncut wire roles are available. Black plastic pvc water pipe may also be used to fashion hoop supports. The cost differential between wire and plastic hoops is negligible. Welded wire may also be used to fabricate tunnel supports. Costs associated with welded wire are usually significantly higher and the stability of this hoop support structure is similar to metal and plastic hoops. Plastic water pipe and welded wire hoop supports are more resilient in windy conditions. Wire hoops have a tendency to deform in very windy conditions, compromising their original shape.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages Using Row Covers and Field Tunnels:
1) Frost protection, +2-4 F.
2) Wind protection for plant seedlings.
3) Insect protection.
4) Low cost.
5) Transmits light (85-90+%), water, and air.
6) May be reused 2 to 3 years.
7) Slitted cover for Field Tunnels allows pollination.
8) Works well in conjunction with plastic mulch.
Disadvantages Using Row Covers and Field Tunnels:
1) Disposal costs of season extension material.
2) Weeding under covering requires removal and reinstallation of staples.
3) Installation time required per linear foot of row is significantly higher than unprotected crops.
4) Pollination of crops is prevented when using polyester and polypropylene coverings unless the fabric is periodically folded back to expose flowering plants.
5) Plastic water pipe hoops are more difficult to install, requiring the excavation of a small hole in which to place the pipe end.
6) There is some potential for plant abrasion by the Floating Row Cover on sensitive plants such as tomato and pepper seedlings.
Floating Row Cover and Field Tunnel Installation
Row covers can be anchored by piling loose soil or stones over the edges or by using special staples. Two types of staples are available for anchoring row covers, plastic and metal. Plastic staples are easier to install in soft soil, are more expensive, and may be reused for many years. Metal staples are easier to install in firm soil using a hammer and usually last about 2 to 3 years. They tend to accumulate rust scale below the ground. The rust scale tends to make it difficult to reuse the staples as they are more difficult to drive into the ground because of increased friction. Metal staples that are not retrieved at the end of a growing season could provide a potential source of tire punctures. Most row covers come in standard widths of 83 inches (6-9 feet). These are designed for use over plants in beds 3 to 4 feet wide. Pick a calm day to install the row cover. If the winds are over 2 to 3 mph, delay installation. The plant bed to be covered should be fertilized and planted prior to installation of the row cover.
To properly install a Floating Row Cover, double up the fabric and pierce both layers with the staple and press firmly into the ground. This will help protect the fabric from ripping in windy conditions. Staple first one side with approximately 6 feet between staples, then pull the fabric lengthwise to remove any folds. Then anchor the opposite side with several staples to hold it in place. After one side is stapled, secure the other side 3 to 4 feet parallel from the side that was first stapled in place. When properly installed, the fabric should be loose on the top to allow for plant growth.
Planting sites exposed to winds should have Field Tunnels oriented parallel to the prevailing winds. Sites protected from wind should be oriented in a north-south direction to maximize sun exposure to plants. The first step to installing a Field Tunnel is placement of the hoop structures. The closer to a straight line the hoop structures are, the easier the entire installation. Measure 1.5 to 2 feet away from the plant row and place the hoop ends in the ground at about a five foot spacing. Install one side completely. Then affix the other side. Install the row cover material by doubling up the cover material and pierce both layers with the staple and press firmly into the ground. This will help protect the fabric from ripping in windy conditions. Staple first one side with approximately 5 feet between staples. Then, pull the fabric lengthwise to remove any folds. Anchor the opposite side with several staples to hold it in place. Complete stapling the first side, then secure the other side in a similar fashion. When properly installed, the Field Hoop material should fit snuggly across the field hoops. Leave the ends of the Field Tunnel open to allow for adequate air exchange and ventilation. The ends may be closed when frost threatens.
Management of Floating Row Covers and Field Tunnels
Floating Row Covers and Field Tunnel cover materials will last up to 3 years with proper care and if the season length is not too long. The hoop supports last several years.
Once installed, plants can be watered directly through the Floating Row Cover material. Increased protection of the planted crop can be achieved by using double row covers. Lay one row cover over the other and staple both in place. The additional row cover will add another 2 to 4° F of extra frost protection. Adding more than two layers of row cover is not recommended since each additional layer also reduces light transmission 10 to 12 percent. Watering of plants is relatively difficult when using Field Tunnels. The use of trickle irrigation is recommended when employing this extended season production technique. Weeds will grow very well in the microclimate created under the Floating Row Cover or Field Tunnel, and it is essential that weeds be controlled for maximum crop production. To weed the covered plant beds, remove staples from one side (preferably the leeward side if there is any breeze). After pulling weeds, reinstall the row cover and all staples. To minimize the need to weed, a plastic mulch can be used under the row cover. As the plants grow, the Floating Row Cover will be lifted up, providing protection for the plants. The row cover can be left on until the plants pull the slack out of the row cover. The Field Tunnel can remain in place until the plants fill the tunnel. At this point, the row cover must be removed to enhance plant growth. Remove the row cover when dry and roll it up, paying attention not to damage it and store for another season. Store it in a dry place that is free of rodents. Many row covers are attractive sources for rodent bedding materials.
The following plants will perform well when using Floating Row Covers and Field Tunnels for plant protection and season extension: carrots, chard, cucumber, green beans, lettuce, pumpkin, summer squash, and winter squash.
You can also use Field Tunnels for the following crops: broccoli, cabbage, muskmelon, peppers*, strawberries, tomatoes*, watermelon (* Field Tunnel must be removed when plants begin to flower because high tunnel temperatures will cause blossom drop).
You can find two different weights of row cover for purchase on our website
Thomas Cogger, Tribal Liaison, NRCS, Ashland, WI
David Burgdorf, Plant Materials Specialist, NRCS, East Lansing, MI
Wisconsin State Plant Materials Committee
Rose Lake Plant Materials Center, NRCS, East Lansing, MI
Glenn Lamberg, American Indian Liaison, NRCS, Fremont, MI
Rose Lake Plant Materials Center, NRCS, 7472 Stoll Road, East Lansing, MI 48823-9420; telephone (517) 641-6300
David Burgdorf, Plant Materials Specialist, NRCS, East Lansing, MI at: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Leif, Plant Materials Center Manager, NRCS, East Lansing, MI at: email@example.com
On-The-Farm Rundown - July 2006
by HMS Farm Manager Charlie Rowland
So here we are, another month down in the season, and things are looking good, considering the spring’s wet weather. The times have changed since that weather a few months ago. Now it is hot and sunny with a few showers every now and then. Perfect weather for the plants to do their thing and grow, grow, grow.
A lot has been happing, and even more is about to happen. Right now, we feel like Doctor Joyce Brothers around here. What I’m saying is there is a lot of sex happing on the farm, and the crew and I are feeling like sex therapists. I know you are reading this, wondering “what is that freaky farmer rambling about now?” The answer is, we are self-pollinating our cucurbit seed stock plot. This means we are taking male flowers and putting the pollen on the female flower which grows off the fruit. We do this in order to ensure the genetics are being distributed correctly amongst a variety of different varieties of cucurbits, to avoid the “Frankenfruit” you get from cross-pollinated plants. This work has been very tedious, with a few hours in the afternoon setting up for the pollination to be done the next morning. This is done seven days a week for about a month; we should be done in mid-august. The seed that we collect from this work will go into seed stock (the seed from which we grow seed crops for sale), and later grown out for production.
Also on the farm, other crops are almost ready to be or have been harvested. This reminds me that the summer is very close to coming to an end up here in the northeast, and those cool fall days are right around the corner. The crops that are ready to come in are mizuna and stock seed of spinach, and we just brought in a high-yielding crop of chives and evergreen bunching onions.
For the past month, the farm has been receiving labor help from a band of young musicians who are on there summer college break. These guys are called the Powder Kegs; they play old-time music, and play it well. We only have them for a few more weeks, but they have been a huge help weeding and keeping up the positive energy. So, keep a lookout for their name next summer as they head out on tour to a town near you.
We are now three weeks into having Salvation Farm coming twice a week to pick produce from our trial fields, which is then taken to the Vermont Food Bank. This is a great program that helps us on the farm while helping people in need out there in the community. We grow many different varieties in our trial fields primarily to evaluate their performance; by Salvation Farms harvesting these crops that we have grown for observation, it helps us by not having to put the time harvesting, when we have no market to sell this product. Even with what we pick for ourselves, there is more than plenty for Salvation Farms to take to the Vermont Food Bank for distribution to the people.
Well, I believe that is about it for this month. I could keep on rambling on, but the sun is out and there’s work to do, so I’ll be seeing you in the fields.
Ask The Grower
This month, HMS Plant Pathologist Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith answers the question:
I am currently working for an organic farm down on the Cape (in MA) that has a wicked cutworm problem. We have Entrust but it's not as effective with all the rain. The farm is large enough (about 3 acres) that collars are too time consuming. How can we deal with this pest?
I'm afraid that we actually don't have a problem with cutworms here, so I have very little experience with them. Hopefully Entrust is getting in there to do some help now that the weather has dried up some.
There is some promise of a bio-control agent for cutworms in the form of a pathogenic virus. I don't know of a commercial preparation for it yet, but your farmers there might want to keep an eye out for one - or do some more research on who might have some to experiment with. Look at this article
to learn more.
Best of luck!
Have a burning gardening question? A pesky path problem? A vexing marketing quandry? Send us your questions, and we'll get you answers! We will publish one of your questions, with an answer given by one of the experienced growers on our staff, in each issue of the Seed Bin.
Send your questions to
, and please write "Ask the Grower" in the subject line.
Summer Field Days at High Mowing Organic Seeds
We will be hosting two Field Days to open our Trial and Breeding Gardens to the public at the High Mowing Seed Farm. Don't miss this opportunity to see what's ahead on the cutting edge of organic production varieties, and to give your input and discuss your questions and interests with members of the HMS Research and Development team!
August 16, 2006 – 3-6pm – Come tour our Trial and Breeding Gardens!
We will focus on tomatoes (including hybrid slicing, orange and yellow slicing, and cherry), eggplants, asian and slicing cucumbers, summer salad mix, summer squash, and zucchini squash.
September 20, 2006 – 3-6pm – Come tour our Trial and Breeding Gardens!
We will focus on fall broccoli, head lettuce, colored peppers, winter squash, and pumpkins.
We will offer a wide display of varieties and discuss our stock seed and breeding program. We would also like to get input from growers and gardeners about what they are looking for in these specific crops, as well as your favorite varieties. We will have taste tests for all available varieties.
For directions and more information, please visit our website
. We look forward to meeting you there!
Clearance Sale on Stella Natura Calendars!
We may be well into the calendar year, but the growing season is still going. So whether you are looking for a great planting calendar, a terrific biodynamic agricultural reference, or just a boost of inspiration, take advantage of this clearance sale, while supplies last. Take 50% off the price of the Stella Natura Calendar
Simply enter the coupon code "stella06
" in the Discount Coupon box at the bottom of your shopping cart - it's that simple!
We use this calendar ourselves to increase our awareness of what is going on in the heavens as we are busily planting and tending our crops on the ground. Each month is beautifully illustrated and includes fascinating and inspirational articles. The calendar itself provides a detailed daily account of the activities of the sun, moon, planets, zodiac as well as eclipses, conjunctions, ascending and descending nodes and so much more stuff you didn’t even know was going on.
To learn more about biodynamic agriculture, visit www.biodynamics.com
, then order your copy of Stella Natura
today, and bring more vitality into your farm or garden!
Don't forget - to receive the 50% discount on this product, please enter the coupon code "stella06" in the Discount Coupon box
at the bottom of your shopping cart! Available while supplies last.
Take advantage of great deals on great seed! Maybe there was an inventory adjustment or an overstock, or maybe we just want to promote a favorite variety. Whatever the reason, save 20% on these discounted seeds when you order online at www.highmowingseeds.com
- but order now, because the sales won't last! 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 available on sale for a limited time, so buy now before the sale ends.
Recipe of the Month
If your garden is anything like mine, it will inevitably produce more summer squash than you can eat, and usually more than you can give away. This month, we'll show you how gardeners the world around use the abundance of fruit - beyond entry in the annual zucchini regatta - with recipies from Turkey, Italy, and Spain. These recipies can also be adapted for use with many other types of summer squash. Bon Gusto!
Turkish Zucchini Pancakes Recipe
Not unlike potato pancakes, these tasty fritters are a real treat!
1 pound zucchini, trimmed coarsely grated
2 cups chopped green onions
4 eggs beaten to blend
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill or 1 1/2 Tablespoons dried dillweed
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 3 ounces)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (about 3 ounces
Place zucchini in colander. Sprinkle with salt and let stand 30 minutes.
Squeeze zucchini with hands to remove liquid, then squeeze dry in several layers of paper towels.
Combine zucchini, chopped green onions, eggs, flour, chopped dill, parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Mix well. Fold in feta cheese. Fold chopped walnuts into zucchini mixture. (Note: zucchini mixture can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Stir to blend before continuing.)
Preheat oven to 300 deg.F. Place baking sheet in oven. Cover bottom of large non-stick skillet with olive oil. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, drop zucchini mixture into skillet by heaping tablespoons. Fry until pancakes are golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer each batch of pancakes to baking sheet in oven to keep warm.
Makes about 20.
Italian Zucchini a Scapece (Marinated Zucchini)
Marinated Zucchini belong to Italian's antipasti. They are great served with a choice of the following: olives, fresh or sundried tomatoes, mozarella, parmesan or other Italian cheese, parma ham and of course crusty bread. They need to be marinated for at least 2 hours.
1.5 lbs zucchini
olive oil (for frying)
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup white wine
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
1. Cut zucchinis lenghtwise into 1/4 inch thick slices.
2. Heat plenty of olive oil in a griddle pan and fry the zucchini in a single layer on both sides. Put fried ones aside.
3. Pound salt and chopped garlic with your pestle and mortar. If you don't have that, use a small bowl and the bottom side of a spoon.
4. In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic-salt mixture and fry it for 1 minute.
5. Add white wine and bay leaves and bring to a bowl.
6. Add 1 layer of fried zucchini into container. Sprinkle with some oregano leaves and pour some of the hot wine mixture over it. Cover with another layer of zucchini, sprinkle it with oregano and pour over some of the liquid. Repeat this process until all ingredients are used.
7. Cover with a lid or foil and marinate for at least 2 hours in the fridge. Serve at room temperature together with ingredients mentioned in the introduction or as a side dish with a fried or barbecued piece of meat.
Cook time: 2 hours 25 minutes (25 mins prep)
Pastel de Chocolate Con Calabicita (Spanish Chocolate Zucchini Bread)
Try this as an alternative to the traditional sweet zucchini bread.
3 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups oil
9 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup chopped dates
3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
Beat 4 eggs until frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar, then add the oil.
Add cocoa, vanilla and almond extract.
Fold in sifted ingredients.
Add grated zucchini, nuts and dates.
Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes; it may take up to 1 hour and 30 minutes. When done, let stand upside down on a rack for at least 20 minutes before removing from pan.
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!
Thomas Cogger, David Burgdorf, Glenn Lamberg, and Rose Lake Plant Materials Center, of NRCS/USDA, with Wisconsin State Plant Materials Committee - Feature Writers
Charlie Rowland - Farm Editor
Jodi Lew-Smith - Technical, Pathology Editor
Jacob Racusin - General Editor