Welcome to the July 2005 Edition of the High Mowing Seeds Online Newsletter!
In This Issue:
- New Developments at High Mowing Seeds
- Tomatoes: Tips and Troubleshooting, with a special report by HMS Plant Pathologist, Jodi Lew-Smith
- Great Seed Sale for July
- Recipies of the Month, and more!
What's New at High Mowing Seeds?
With this, our first edition of the online newsletter, we decided to present some of the many developments that are occurring at High Mowing Seeds, from plant to packet. For those of you familiar with High Mowing Seeds, you have seen many changes in years past, and this year is no exception. If you are new to our company, this will give you a good idea of the scope and breadth of our operations.
The biggest change, literally, takes place in the field production of our seeds. As the demand for organic seed increases, our business is striving to meet this growing demand, and we have responded by dramatically increasing our field production capabilities. In addition to working with a national network of growers to produce the highest-quality organic seeds, we take pride in producing a large portion of our seed inventory here on our own certified-organic seed farm. For years, we have been growing on fields close to our office base in North Wolcott, VT. One of the largest developments here has been the expansion of our trialing and research and development (R&D) gardens; we now have 2 ½ acres devoted solely to the improvement of our offerings of organic seed. Currently, we are undergoing an extensive variety trialing of all our current offerings. Each variety will be evaluated for uniformity, vigor, disease and pest resistance, and many other factors; varieties whose seed stock we source from multiple growers are cross-evaluated to ensure the consistency of the strain. In addition to plant breeding and genetics, we are researching agricultural technologies, such as the effectiveness of different types of plastic for field tomatoes and different timing and production techniques for brassica seed production. This work is all part of a larger R&D program the aim of which is to continue improving our existing seed lots, as well as develop new varieties to serve the needs of today's organic grower. Future development will include test plots for low-nitrogen conditions, weed pressure, and disease nurseries, as well as more extensive breeding and development efforts to bring new strains to the marketplace, including hybrids. The result is the preservation of our agricultural biodiversity and a catalog of the finest organic vegetable, flower, and herb seeds available.
We have transferred all seed crop production to our new fields at Rooster Ridge Farm in Wolcott, VT. Here at this beautiful high mowing, we have 8 acres of seed production, with an additional 18 acres turned over for expanded production next year, and plans for more in the years to follow. To prepare for expanded seed production, we follow a strategy of an initial plowing to turn under the sod, followed by carefully-timed periods of rest and harrowing, to control weeds without the use of herbicides. Stones are picked, and lime and rock phosphate are added to improve the pH and mineral content of the soil. In the last 25 years, the fields here have produced potatoes, corn, and hay; we are now working to revitalize the soil in a variety of ways to maintain the agricultural legacy for years to come. Soon, all of our agricultural efforts, including the R&D program, will shift to the Rooster Ridge Farm area, where 80-100 acres are available for potential cultivation in four distinct isolation plots (isolation between crops is critical for insect- and wind-pollinated seed production). We are planning on having more isolation plots in the future, and this area has some of the best farmland around, while still being affordable and isolated from other production.
Among the crops in the field now are brassicas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans, winter and summer squash, cucumbers, and radishes. Building on previous successes, we are continuing to refine the practice of large brassica seed production in the Northeast; this year, we are comparing direct-seeding to transplanting of Tat Soi, Red Giant Mustard, and Arugula; ¼ acre crops each of Mizuna and Green Wave Mustard are being grown and continuously selected for vigor, uniformity, and bolt resistance, which will each give expected yields of 300-500 pounds of high quality seed.
Our cucurbit transplants, including Marketmore 76 and National Pickling Cucumbers, Dark Green Zucchini, Red Kuri, Burgess Buttercup, and Sweet Reba Acorn Winter Squashes, were treated with Surround®, an OMRI-certified, kaolin clay-based treatment that helps deal with pest pressures; as this is the first year of cucurbit production at Rooster Ridge, we are enjoying relatively low pressure from cucumber beetle.
Cherrybelle Radishes were direct seeded in a ½ acre plot, and then thinned and selected for off-types and early bolters. 100 plants of French Breakfast Radish are being closely monitored to develop the highest-quality specimens of this strain. Seed saved from these plants will not be sold; rather, this crop will be grown for stock seed, part of our ever-expanding efforts at improving our varieties to ensure their high quality and viability for years to come.
Historically, lettuce seed production has been difficult in our climate of perpetual rain. We hope to address some of these difficulties with our hoop houses; two open-ended hoop houses have been erected in parallel, with drip-tape installed for irrigation. In these houses we are growing four varieties of lettuce: Vulcan, Galactic (AKA Merlot), Red Sails, and Plato II Romaine. We expect to yield 10-15 pounds of each variety, and continue to refine our techniques of producing viable rain-sensitive seed crops in the Northeast.
Tractor cultivation of Black Valentine and Golden Rocky Wax Beans has been so successful, we may not have to hand-weed at all! Plants are being selected for disease, flower color, pod color, and vining tendency.
Six tomatoes are in the fields, grown in both black and red plastic; we hope by the end of the season to know better which color plastic is more effective for field tomato production. Ceylon, Matt's Wild Cherry, Roma VF Paste, Glacier, Gilbertie Paste, and the popular Mountain Princess are among the familiar faces in the field this year. Filling out the rows are the King of the North Sweet Bell Pepper
To manage this increase in field production, we've expanded our inventory of tools and field equipment. We now have two tractors, the larger Massey Fergusson 1085 2WD, with loader and creeper gear, handles the plowing, harrowing, and larger work; a smaller Deutz-Allis 5230 31hp w/ hydrostatic transmission and creeper gear is used for cultivation, transplanting, spraying, and finer work around the growing crops. Our catalog of cultivation equipment includes the Perfecta field cultivator, which covers an acre in 15 minutes with sweeps, fingers, and roller; the Lilliston 2-row rolling cultivator, which is adjustable for hilling rows, pulling from rows, or keeping the soil level; the Lely tine weeder, which sports 2 units each with 4 rows of 14 tines per row, each adjustable to 9 tension settings, and can be pulled over crops that are fully rooted yet small, effectively hitting all weeds in the field; and various other tine and sweep cultivators. Other equipment includes a plow set, a 2-gang disc harrows, a two-row seeder, a one-row transplanter, and a variety of hoes and other hand tools for use by the hand crew. Joining the crops and equipment in the field again will be hives of honey bees; this year, we hope to find success in bringing bumble bees into the mix, to ensure full pollination of our seed crops.
In addition to the major changes in the field, we have major changes in the manufacturing and business side as well. The most substantial change is the new operations facility to which we will be moving. Currently, the High Mowing Seeds compound in North Wolcott includes separate facilities each for bulk seed storage, seed processing, packet inventory and fulfillment, and offices. This summer, we will be moving the entire operation under one roof - just down the road from the new fields at Rooster Ridge, in Wolcott, VT. Our new 13,000 square foot home features multiple offices, loading docks, large storage and warehouse facilities, outdoor area for greenhouses, and the potential for future expansion. Look for more updates as this exciting development continues! Also new in the business is the development of an Advisory Board, comprised of some of the brightest minds in the fields of business management, operations management, seed breeding, the organic industry, and more. Under the guidance of this board, High Mowing Seeds stands to maintain its position as a leader in the development of commercial organic seed production and sales for years to come. New faces in the office are of note as well, including Heather Jerrett, Assistant Manager of Research and Development and all-around seedswoman, and Dann Black, Operations Manager in charge of fulfillment and shipping, seed processing, inventory, and the seed rack program. More new faces will be visible soon, as we continue to expand to bring you the best in organic vegetable, flower, and herb seed. Thanks for your patronage - your continuing support of High Mowing Seeds means you are a part of maintaining healthy, sustainable agricultural practices in the Northeast and across the country. We couldn't do it without you, thanks!
Tips on Tomatoes
Looking to get the most out of your tomato harvest this year? Here are a few tips that can help bring in that blue ribbon at the county fair, that extra jar of sauce, or that extra sale at the market:
Start with the Soil
You are what you eat, and that goes for what you eat eats, too. The better the soil, the better the plants, and good soil preparation is the first and most important step in growing productive, uniform, healthy plants. Develop good tilth in your site, to mitigate the problems of too much or too little water. Keep your minerals up and in good balance to enhance the plants immune-defense systems and generate healthy fruits. This is especially important for those of you living with acid rain, which leaches minerals from the soil, not to mention drop your pH. If this is the case, prepare the soil with ag lime to bring the pH back into balance. Fertilize wisely - too much nitrogen (N) is a common problem that will lead to many leaves and few fruit. Potassium (K) will lend needed strength to the stems supporting the weight of your beefsteaks, while phosphorus (P) will aid blooming and fruiting. If you've not heard it before, here's the secret to addressing all of these concerns: COMPOST! Additionally, manure, minerals, lime, seaweeds, bloodmeal, bonemeal, kelpmeal, and other amendments can be added as needed; your needs can well be assessed by careful observation and an annual (or semi-annual) soil test from your local agricultural extension agency.
A Little Boost
Foliar feeding can give your tomatoes an edge and aid in transplant shock. Foliar feeds of seaweed, fish emulsion, and compost teas are often added to give the plants a boost. Be careful when using fish emulsion, however, if you live in heavy racoon habitat - your plants may not be there the next morning!
If your transplants have gotten a bit leggy, it's probably because they've been straining to reach the light - a common situation for those starting plants in windowsills. Not to worry - you can bury the stems right up to the leaves; the stems will root, adding stability to the plant as it reaches maturity. Plant horizontally in a trench if you are transplanting into cool soil; for warmer soils, plant down into the cooler soil deeper below the surface.
Mulching is a key ingredient to a healthy tomato patch. Not only will it keep the roots cool and hold moisture in the soil, it will help suppress weeds and keep soil-born diseases off the plant. Use straw, leaves, or clippings, or if you feel comfortable using black plastic, this will help fruits to ripen sooner and extend the season. Make sure the soil has a chance to warm up to about 65 degrees F before you mulch.
While some love the manic sprawl of Matt's Wild Cherry, caging or staking your tomatoes will not only aid in finding the fruit you've worked so hard to grow, it will keep the plant growing in a healthy form, and keep the fruits and leaves out of the soil and associated soil-borne diseases (see Mulch, above). Also, if you need to irrigate, stick to drip tape when possible; overhead and sprinkler watering can splash soil onto the leaves, increasing chances of disease.
So Long, Suckers!
Pruning a tomato plant may not be as obvious as pruning an apple tree, but the effects are the same. In the beginning season, pluck off the first few flowers until the plants have gotten established and gained some size; during the season, pluck the suckers - the small shoots that grow out of the main stem below the fruiting branches - to encourage the plant's energy towards the more prolific, established branches. Pruning in this regard can be especially helpful in trying to speed along the last few fruits as you anticipate the first frost.
Try, Try Again
If catastrophic damage does occur, there is still hope: if you can get to the plant before it has been fully dehydrated, cut a diagonal slice on the bottom of the stem and place in water out of the sun (like a cut flower) for a week or two; the stem will sprout roots, and you can transplant again.
Keep On Movin'
Crop rotation is a strategy valued by organic growers to help with weed and pest control issues. Pest problems can be mitigated by a three-year break between plantings of solenaceous crops (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers) in a given site. Avoid preceeding tomatoes with grass or grain crops, which can lead to cutworm or wireworm damage. If crop rotation is impractical due to space concerns, cover cropping, green manuring, and composting can help address pest management concerns.
Looking for a good variety to add to your garden or offer your customers? Check out our selection of certified organic tomato seeds!
sources: Organic Gardening online archives, www.organicgardening.com
Stive Diver, George Kuepper, and Holly Born, Organic Tomato Production, revised March 1999, ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas) website, www.attra.org
Special Report On Tomato Pests and Diseases
by High Mowing Seeds Plant Pathologist Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith
Luckily tomatoes can be grown in our area without too much pressure from pests and disease. In wet years we commonly see problems with leaf spot diseases such as early blight and septoria leaf spot, which are those leaf spot diseases that creep up the plant from the soil. They are caused by soil-borne fungi such as Alternaria alternata
and Alternaria solani
, (early blight) together with Septoria lycopersici
(septoria leaf spot). The OMRI-approved fungicide StorOx has been found to be effective for many fungal pathogens, including Alternaria and Septoria. Tomatoes can also suffer from soil-borne fungi that cause wilts, such as fusarium wilt (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici
) or, more commonly, verticillium wilt (Verticillium albo-atrum
or Verticillium dahliae
). Late in the season we can occasionally see an onset of late blight (Phytophthora infestans) that will wipe out the plants in a matter of days. There are no real treatments for wilt pathogens, you just have to use long rotations to make sure they're not in the soil.
For diseases that attack the fruit itself, the most common fungal disease is anthracnose, which you've probably all seen as those funny flattened spots on tomatoes. There are also several bacterial diseases that attack fruit, including bacterial speck (Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato
) and bacterial spot (Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria
), both of which can spread quickly and be highly destructive. Luckily these are relatively uncommon and are largely controlled by the use of disease-free seed.
As to insect pests, tomatoes are less subject to insects than most other vegetables. There are several types of aphids that like tomato leaves, and Colorado potato beetles will often find their way to tomatoes if there are no potatoes nearby. One treatment approach is to use Bacillus thuringiensis
(Bt), a common bacterium that grows in the soil and is harmless to humans and animals. This bacterium secretes a protein that is toxic to the beetles.
Greenhouse tomato growers have a different set of diseases to contend with than folks who grow their tomatoes outside. Greenhouse tomato growers often have to manage several mold species that love the warm moisture of the greenhouse, including gray mold (Botrytis cinerea
) and leaf mold (Fulvia fulva
, also known as Cladosporium fulva
). And then there are whiteflies, leafminers, and thrips that also like the moisture of a greenhouse.
But despite this long list of pesky pathogens who might want to share too much of our tomato crops, tomatoes are usually trouble-free and give us that bountiful harvest we so appreciate.
July Seed Sale
For the month of July, we are offering a 25% discount on the following varieties:
Purple Osaka Greens
Red Giant Mustard Greens
High Mowing Mesclun Salad Mix
Gourmet Lettuce Salad Mix
New Red Fire Lettuce
Detroit Dark Red Beet
Scarlet Nantes Carrots
Cilantro/Coriander Culinary Herb
Dill Bouquet Culinary Herb
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
Many of you have asked for some good ideas on how to prepare some of the lesser-known varieties. Since there is still time to plant (see our July Seed Sale!), we thought we would whet your appetite for our large selection of greens. Asian and mustard greens, while quite popular in many different ethnic cuisines, often mystify the American cook; they are frequently used only as green filler for a stir-fry. We offer two recipies that show how you can expand the potential of these terrific greens:
Salmon Curry With Mustard Greens
Creamy coconut milk balances the tang of mustard greens in this Southeast Asian style curry. Serve over jasmine or basmati rice. From Cooking Plesures magazine(Feb. 2002).
12 ounces mustard greens, stems removed
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 medium shallots, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar or sweetener of choice
½ teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
1 lb salmon fillets, skin removed, cut into 3/4 " pieces
2 tomatoes, diced (2 cups)
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
6 servings 25 minutes 10 mins prep
1. Place mustard greens in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water. Cook 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Drain; rinse with cold running water. Squeeze out excess moisture. Coarsely chop.
2. In Dutch oven or deep saute pan, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add shallots, jalapenos, garlic and ginger; cook and stir 1 minute or until fragrant. Add coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and hot sauce; bring to a simmer. Add salmon and tomatoes; return to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in mustard greens; simmer, covered, an additional 2 to 3 minutes or until salmon just begins to flake. Serve garnished with lime wedges. Enjoy!
Toasted Sesame Greens
A versatile recipe from Martin Yan...any type of leafy greens can be used, including asian greens like tat soi or bok choi, any mustard greens, or even spinach or kale.
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons chopped ginger
12 ounces leafy greens
¼ cup vegetable, chicken, or beef broth
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
3 servings 10 minutes 10 mins prep
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.
Name that Newsletter!
This newsletter has come a long way in a short time, and we are proud to be able to send to you each month information to help keep your gardens and farms growing well. Accordingly, the newsletter needs a name that fits the quality of the publication. Now, it's not that we don't like the name High Mowing Seeds Online Newsletter - it's just a bit dry. That's why we are turning to you, our valued customers, for inspiration. We need a name that will do justice to the contents, and sound good, too! In exchange for your intellectual property, we will send you a bundle of ten packets of seeds as a way of saying thanks. Send your suggestions to email@example.com, and title the subject "Newsletter Name". Thanks for your help!
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
Tom Stearns - Technical Editor
Jodi Lew-Smith - Pathology Editor