Flint, Michigan area urban agriculture report – May 4, 2016

Growers in urban and semi-rural small scale diversified vegetable farm fields, hoop houses and market gardens are busy planting in this cool, moist spring.

The indoor growing season is underway via season extension growing practices in urban and rural hoop houses, with early harvest greens going to market.

The indoor growing season is underway via season extension growing practices in urban and rural hoop houses, with early harvest greens going to market.

Weather

According to the Michigan State University Flint Enviro-weather station, temperatures for the past 10 days ranged from a low of 28.8 degrees Fahrenheit to a high of 73.6 F. We are at 157 growing degree-days (GDD) base 50, which is close to the five-year average, and matches last year’s total on this date. April was cooler and wetter than normal, according to our MSU agricultural meteorologist, and was the first month since last August (2015) reported to be cooler than normal.

The rainfall total for the year to date in Flint, Michigan, is 7.2 inches, which is above-average when compared to recent years. We have had rain seven of the last 10 days in the Flint, Michigan, area. Fortunately, it is gentle enough to allow most growers to get field work done.

Crop reports

According to research done in the MSU hoop houses located at the Student Organic Farm and MSU Extension educator observations from the field, warm season crops are being planted and earlier seeded, cool season crops are being harvested due to season extension technology at this time of year. In area hoop houses, planting of warm season crops such as tomatoes and peppers continues.

One grower reports flea beetles in the hoop house on mustard greens, which damages plants by chewing small shot-holes in the foliage. Flea beetles can be a serious pest in leafy vegetable production, and are one of the earliest pests found in spring. The use of floating row covers to exclude the beetles from susceptible crops is one barrier tool our small scale growers employ. Another is to use trap crops; fast-growing plants like radish are vigorous enough to tolerate the insect, and when planted near the more susceptible crops like seedling mustard greens, they can divert a large number of flea beetles to protect the main crop. Aphids have also been found on arugula and kale in the hoop house.

In outdoor fields, growers are continuing to plant cool season vegetables like beets, carrots, kale, peas, scallions, Swiss chard, leeks, Pak choi, spinach, salad mix, head lettuce and radish. Some crops are being seeded, other crops are being transplanted, and succession plantings to extend the harvest season are part of the plan. Potato plantings will be going in this week outdoors, along with onions, cabbage and other Brassica family vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, mustard greens, turnips, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and rutabaga).

Going to area farmers markets now

According to a MSU Extension food systems educator, area growers are harvesting salad mix, kale, Napa cabbage, spinach, head lettuce and radishes from area hoop houses this week. Asparagus and rhubarb should be appearing in farmers markets this week.

Concerns about lead in farm and garden soil in response to the Flint, Michigan, water crisis continues. Please visit the MSU Extension Fight Lead Exposure website for current information on lead safety in the garden, along with the additional resources, related articles and events.

For helpful information on how to select, prepare and safely preserve Michigan’s bounty of fresh, locally grown vegetables, fruits, ornamentals, meats, eggs, nuts and fish, check out the MSU Extension Michigan Fresh program. The Michigan Fresh website offers fact sheets on over 50 crops, general food and ornamental gardening information, food preservation information, recipe cards, a seasonal harvest availability guide and a guide for donating fresh produce.

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