February 19 Somewhere it’s spring…..

Pretty odd winter thus far. But that’s New England, where only the unexpected is expected. It’s been very open and very snowless, and pretty warm.

There are some who remain unmoved by the warm winter…

I can already hear the  incessant line of questioning:  “What is this doing to the strawberries??   It is a year that allows me to keep the answer succinct…which is simply “I have no idea.”  What happens to  our berries, legumes in the forage fields, the  maple syrup crop or the flowering perennials in home gardens is yet to be determined by what the weather in the  next two and a half months has to offer.  As a  person  who is in his advancing years, and profits more from the lack of ice to fall on or shovel from around the barns and greenhouses than the good snow cover for winter athletic activities, I can’t say that I have minded the mild conditions too much,  and now with March getting close,  we are getting the seasonal urges to get farming again. Today my son Ray and his cousins boiled their first 22 gallons of maple syrup of 2012.

Things keep getting ramped up in the greenhouse and it feels like spring in there when it’s sunny outside. We are well into seeding and taking cuttings of ornamentals….dividing begonias and grafting tomato plants.  Many perennials were seeded last week and there are flats of tomato seeds waiting to germinate along with browallia, portulaca and dusty miller, to name a few.  Some cuttings are just about ready to be  potted up already, and many of the salvias will be stuck this week. We are currently also seeing a particular aphid population expand with the lengthening daylight.

We are  beginning to release  beneficial  predatory and parasitic insects into our greenhouses in an effort to establish populations of good insects to balance the emergence of  things like our aphid population, aka The Bad Guys. We purchase from 3 insectaries nationwide, but they are primarily brokers for European concerns that grow for a much more developed and sophisticated market in Europe.  Here in the US the science of  beneficial pest control is really just getting a foothold. We here have been working with University and Extension Service entomologists for 20 years trying to get a handle on how to make it work for us, and it remains a work in progress. But we have definitely  gotten better at it,  and there is a lot of  info sharing going on between growers as other growers come on board.

Geranium cuttings ready for pots

Just an addendum in regards to globalization. A real downside to globalization is the rate that it brings in new  pests to our growing areas.  Historically, it has always happened – the  Colorado Potato Beetle came from Europe originally in the mid-nineteenth century and I believe it took over twenty years to work its way westward to Colorado. Dutch elm disease took 60 years to move through the US elm population. However, the latest huge concern to New England fruit and vegetable production- the Spotted-Wing Drosophila fruit fly that attacks all fruit and tomatoes- hit the west coast in 2009,  and was found burrowing in fall raspberries in southern NH last fall.  The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is another little gem that showed up within the continental US in the last ten years, and is now part of our reality. There are some pretty nasty Bad Guys moving into the ‘hood, and I am sure you will become more aware of them in the future. But for now it is still winter even though it is comfortable to sit in the lawn chair on a sunny day with some warm clothes on. The bugs are not moving outdoors, anyway. Yet…