Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2023

Weekly vegetable update 8/31/23

Authors: Natalie Hoidal , Shane Bugeja   Our food systems team has been on the road this week touring farms across north central Minnesota to make new connections. In general, crops are ahead of schedule this year. We had our first sweet tango apples (about two weeks early near Little Falls) and saw plenty of winter squash ripening early. For the most part, peoples' crops are doing quite well despite the dry summer. It seems like in our third year of drought most growers have caught up, either by investing in more irrigation infrastructure or by adapting farm plans to accommodate less water availability. This update includes discussion of how heat and drought impact curing and potassium availability, as well as two types of Alternaria causing problems for fall crops. A hot labor day Forecasts are showing temperatures potentially reaching 100 degrees this weekend in Southern Minnesota, and low to mid 90s in the north. Thankfully, forecasts are projecting lower humidity than the last

Tour and soil discussion with Urban Roots at Rivoli Bluffs Farm

Join Extension and the Twin Cities Metro Growers Network for an educational tour of Urban Roots' Rivoli Bluffs Farm and Restoration Site. This is the last Twin Cities Metro Growers Network event of the year! There will be a guided walking tour and opportunities to learn about the many on-site projects Urban Roots is involved with, including ecological restoration work, an orchard, hoop houses, a medicine garden, a nature path, a community garden, and a community space. The farm has been trialing cover crops and new ways of managing their soil's nutrients, which will be a special focus of this tour. University of Minnesota Extension Educators will also share soil management practices and soil compaction research that has been conducted at the farm in cooperation with the farm staff. Urban Roots is a youth development and employment organization that builds economic and educational opportunities for under-resourced BIPOC youth. The Twin Cities Metro Growers Network is a coll

Weekly vegetable update 8/24/23

Authors: Natalie Hoidal and Marissa Schuh We hope you’re all staying cool and taking plenty of popsicle breaks. This week, humans, pathogens, raccoons, and birds alike are enjoying all of the fruits and vegetables that August has to offer. Crop updates Watermelons: During a farm visit this morning we saw a field of healthy watermelon plants with no signs of disease on the leaves and a good crop of nearly ripe melons. However, there were some small melons rotting throughout the patch. We determined that we were seeing small fruit that had aborted due to issues with pollination - when it’s hot, pollinators are less active and pollen can become sticky and deformed, leading to fruit that don’t set correctly. These fruit are then susceptible to secondary / opportunistic fruit rot pathogens as they die and decompose. However, there are plenty of watermelon diseases that you might also be seeing right now - you’re always welcome to reach out with photos to get a second opinion. We are also

Best practices for planting fall cover crops

Author: Natalie Hoidal Fall cover crop planting is right around the corner, and this blog post is full of resources to help you with species selection, seeding rate, and seeding methods.  Choosing a cover crop The first step to choosing a cover crop for fall is knowing when you'll be able to plant it. Some crops like oats, peas, and tillage radish are better suited to early fall planting since they die over the winter and need some time to get established before a hard freeze. Others like winter rye, winter wheat, hairy vetch, and red clover survive the winter and grow in the spring, so they can be planted a bit later.  For an overview of each of these cover crops and their pros and cons in a vegetable production system, check out our page titled Cover Crop Selection for Vegetable Growers .  Another great resources is the Midwest Cover Crop Council Decision Tool. To use this tool, select the county you farm in and (if you'd like) your goals for the cover crop. The tool will th

UMN Annual Grape Extension Field Day to take place on September 9th, 2023

Author: Madeline Wimmer Extension field days are a great way for commercial and backyard growers to come together, ask questions, and learn from each other.  This year's UMN Annual Grape Extension Field Day will showcase research in cold-hardy varieties, pest and disease management, and winemaking best practices. A tasting of 50 grape varieties will be offered, some of which are not commercially available yet. Madeline Wimmer, who recently started as the new UMN Fruit Crops Extension Educator will also be attending and available to meet and connect with growers.  Date: Saturday, September 9th Time: 10:00am-12:00pm Location: The Horticultural Research Center, 600 Arboretum Blvd., Excelsior, MN 55331 The Annual Grape Extension Field Day is hosted by the UMN Grape Breeding and Enology Program, in partnership with the UMN Landscape Arboretum. This event is free and registration is not required. Please note the event will be gathering around Building #3 on the map. To learn more about t

Financial assistance for farmers who have experienced discrimination in USDA lending programs

On July 7, USDA and its partner vendors announced the opening of the application period for Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which directs USDA to provide financial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who experienced discrimination in USDA farm lending programs prior to January 2021. The opening of the application process is an important step in delivering on USDA’s commitment to provide financial assistance to those who have faced discrimination in USDA farm lending programs. The application process is open now and will close on October 31, 2023. Borrowers will have the option to apply for assistance online via or through a paper-based form. Details about the program, including an application and e-filing portal, are available at The website includes an English and Spanish language application that applicants can download or submit via an e-filing portal, information on how to obtain technical assistance, in person

Weekly vegetable update 8/16/23: Iowa State Fair special!

Authors: Natalie Hoidal and Marissa Schuh Our team is in Iowa this week for the National Association of County Agricultural Agents annual meeting, so we’re bringing you a special issue of vegetables from the Iowa State Fair. While the attractions the fair is known for are butter statues and beef sundaes (don’t ask), the state fair vegetable displays were the prime attraction for us. Whatever was in the rulebooks for the state fair vegetable judging had us (and incidentally, every other vegetable extension person at the conference) scratching our heads. But even in a room of blue ribbon “longest beans” and “best display of purple and orange vegetables,” physiological and pest issues abounded. We applaud the gardeners of Iowa for their hard work in growing the vegetables filling the Iowa State Fair Horticulture building, and we encourage the organizers to consider giving awards for vegetables presenting common vegetable issues. Veg on veg on veg. Every person in the picture is an ext

Dealing with root rots? Consider anaerobic soil disinfestation

Author: Marissa Schuh Growers have been reporting soilborne issues in tunnels from rhizoctonia in lettuces to tomato pathogens like Verticillium. One way of dealing with these pathogens is to starve them of oxygen, killing the microbes -- be they fungi, oomycetes, nematodes or bacteria. Bottom rot in lettuce caused by the soil borne pathogen Rhizoctonia solani. Photo: Gerald Holmes, Strawberry Center, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, The process of killing pathogens this way is called Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (I know, I hadn’t thought of anaerobic vs aerobic since gym class).  It has a big name, but it's a relatively simple process. There are three steps in anaerobic soil disinfestation... 1. Add a carbon source This will feed the beneficial microbes who are going to take the oxygen out of the system. The most common and most effective carbon source is molasses, but researchers have been exploring alternative carbon sources like wheat middlings and cover crops.

Weekly vegetable update 8/10/2023

Authors: Natalie Hoidal , Marissa Schuh , Anthony Adams We're reaching the summer tipping point where most people have planted their last successions of major crops like broccoli, carrots, beets, etc., and growers are shifting into a slightly different workload that's more focused on harvest and maintenance. That said, growers who focus on winter markets may be starting to ramp up seeding for winter high tunnel crops. As summer produce continues to ripen, we're seeing some common problems with fruit set, mostly related to heat and disease. Crop updates Cucumbers: Vines are producing a good amount of fruit on most farms. We are seeing some spots, high tunnels especially, where fruit are small and malformed. The most common cause of this is poor pollination. If you are in a high tunnel and working to exclude cucumber beetles, you may need to add additional pollinators if you are seeing lots of small, misshaped, or shriveled fruit. Pollination issues cause smaller, weirdly

A quick guide to harvesting and storing melons, squash, and pumpkins

Author: Natalie Hoidal, Reviewed by: Cindy Tong & Charlie Rohwer Melons are one of the trickiest plants to grow, because the guidelines around harvest are confusing and often contradictory. I often hear growers express frustration because their melons seem ripe but don’t have much flavor, or because they spoil faster than they should. This article presents an overview of ripening, as well as harvest and storage tips for melons, watermelons, squash, and pumpkins. Some ripening basics Fruit and vegetables are typically assigned to two categories that define their ripening behaviors: Climacteric: Climacteric fruits and vegetables continue to ripen off the vine. They experience a rapid increase in respiration during ripening. They also often produce a hormone called ethylene after harvest, which can speed up ripening and senescence. If eaten at an immature stage, these fruits and vegetables taste bland, and the texture is often not as soft as it is meant to be. If left at room tempera