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Vegetables

Fact sheets

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As organic producers, we try to mimic nature in order to grow food with a minimum of external inputs. If we plan to mimic nature, we need to understand as much about the biology of plants and ecological systems as we can. The following introduction may be a review for some, but it will hopefully give new producers an understanding of seed and seedling biology and a framework for analyzing cultural practices for producing healthy seedlings.

This article outlines basic recipes for potting media and research on organic transplant production.

I like to do my initial crop plan in the winter. Planning takes time. It may be a part of farming that many of us avoid. But I find that having a good plan laid out in an easy-to-read map makes it possible to quickly do what needs to be done during the season, know what my contingency plans are, and avoid the major problems with pests, weeds, and fertility that are more common with haphazard plantings.

Photo credit: B. Gugino

What is a plant disease? A plant disease is a dynamic process where a living or nonliving entity interferes with the normal functions of a plant over a period of time. Things that happen just once, like lawnmower blight or lightning strikes, are not considered diseases, but rather injuries. Plant diseases result in visible symptoms that can help diagnose the disease or disorder.

Something is wrong with your plant. What is the cause? Don’t assume you know the answer and accidently treat for the wrong problem. Use this step-by-step method to narrow down the possibilities, but don’t forget to ask the experts, if you need to.

In order for a plant to become diseased, three conditions must be present: (1) a pathogen, (2) a favorable environment where the pathogen can thrive, and (3) a susceptible host. All the strategies we use to manage plant diseases work to remove or limit one of these factors, thus breaking the plant disease triangle.

Photo credit: D. Paashaus

Successful weed management can make or break a new organic farm. These steps will help you get the upper hand on weeds.

Figure out which strategies and what equipment fit with your scale, your finances, and your style with this overview.

Videos

The cornerstone of any integrated pest management program is regular scouting. With regular and systematic scouting you will be more able to detect plant problems before they get out of hand.

A spader is a conservation soil preparation tool. This short video demonstrates pros and cons, set up, and use.

Raised bed plastic layers are standard equipment on vegetable farms. This video shows set up, and use.

Small scale farms often use hand push seeders. This video shows Earthway, jang and European push seeders.

The paper pot transplanter is designed to allow small farmers to plant many small transplants such as onions in a short period of time. This video demonstrates set up and use.

Quiet Creek Farm shares their transplant production system.

As part of the Penn State Start Farming Farm Profiles, John shares his experience with insect management.

As part of the Penn State Start Farming Farm Profiles, Quiet Creek shares their experience with weed management.

This video outlines the basic steps you can take to plan a vegetable crop rotation from the start.

Tomatoes are an important and profitable crop for many vegetable growers. This video reviews the basics of proper scouting and identification of common diseases and their symptoms.

Farm Profiles

Farm Profiles are designed to give new producers ideas and advice from experienced producers. Individual products are mentioned as examples not as an endorsement.
Teena Bailey

An overview of transplant production at Red Cat Farm, Germansville PA. Farm Profiles are designed to give new producers ideas and advice from experienced producers. Individual products are mentioned as examples not as an endorsement.

Propagation Facility

An overview of transplant production at Shooting Star Farms. Farm Profiles are designed to give new producers ideas and advice from experienced producers. Individual products are mentioned as examples not as an endorsement.

Plastic tunnel for early transplants

An overview of transplant production at Eckerton Hill Farm. Farm Profiles are designed to give new producers ideas and advice from experienced producers. Individual products are mentioned as examples not as an endorsement.

Mark Dornstreich

An overview of weed management at Branch Creek Farm. Farm Profiles are designed to give new producers ideas and advice from experienced producers. Individual products are mentioned as examples not as an endorsement.

An overview of disease management at Branch Creek Farm. Farm Profiles are designed to give new producers ideas and advice from experienced producers. Individual products are mentioned as examples not as an endorsement.

Mark Dornstreich

An overview of insect management at Branch Creek Farm. Farm Profiles are designed to give new producers ideas and advice from experienced producers. Individual products are mentioned as examples not as an endorsement.

flea beetle on eggplant

At Pennypack farm in Horsham PA Andy and his crew grow thirteen acres of produce using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. The farm feeds 350 CSA members during the spring-summer and 150 CSA members during the winter. They also provide many educational programs for the community.

Soil at Liberty Gardens has many aggregates (small clumps) and if you look closely many small insects and living soil organisms.

An overview of soil health and management at Liberty Gardens, Coopersburg PA.

An overview of soil health and management at Eckerton Hill Farm, Lenhartsville PA.

Belly mounted sweeps on John’s Kubota tractor. These sweeps can get very close to crops killing weeds between rows and throwing soil in row burrowing in row weeds.

An overview of weed management at Quiet Creek CSA, Kutztown PA.

Articles

Early winter is the time to develop your crop plan for next year because it will soon be time to start seedlings and the whirlwind will begin.

Early winter is the time to develop your crop plan for next year because it will soon be time to start seedlings and the whirlwind will begin. At a recent CSA day organized by Lehigh County Extension’s Brian Moyer, I shared some tips for crop planning. What follows is a teaser, just the first few steps of the crop planning procedure I put together based on the great crop planning information Josh Volk from Slow Hand Farm recently shared with us.

Cornell Cooperative Extension, NY State IPM, and the NY State Department of Agriculture and Markets teamed up to product Organic Production Guides for: Snap Beans, Carrots, Cole Crops, Cucumbers, Squash, Lettuce, Peas, Potatoes and Spinach.

Scouting frequently and regularly could save your crop.

Plant, weed, hoe, cultivate, water, plant, fertilize, water... No time to stop and take a close look for pests and diseases? Take a few minutes. It could save your crop.

As you plan for successful organic transplant production here are a few things to consider for healthy transplants.

If you are going to spray it is important to use products with good efficacy in a way that makes them most likely to impact the pest of concern. Here are some suggestions from researcher Galen Dively, University of Massachusetts.

For small scale vegetable growers just getting started, these two hot bed systems are a step up from growing under lights or in your kitchen window without all the costs of heating an entire greenhouse.

John Grande, Snyder Research Station showing how to modify your sprayer.

If you rely on a backpack sprayer, it is important to choose the right sprayer, calibrate correctly, measure correctly and use the right nozzles. Rutgers has a new set of online videos to help you with this process.

Do you know what pests and diseases are a problem in your area? There are several online tools to help you monitor and keep up to date on the proximity and likelihood for pests and plant diseases. If you grow vegetables take a look to make sure you are receiving current information.