East Michigan vegetable update – May 31, 2017

Growers are mostly on schedule with plantings. Moisture has been favorable for most, but overnight temperatures are delaying major growth.


I received reports that high winds caused wind-whipping and sandblasting damage on multiple crops, including corn, melons and strawberries in Michigan’s Bay area. Some replanting will need to occur.

Soil temperatures are solidly above 50 degrees Fahrenheit now and I won’t be reporting on them anymore this season.

The table below are growing degree-day (GDD) base 50 F since March 1, rainfall (inches since April 1) accumulations and soil temperature ranges (Fahrenheit during the last week) to date from Michigan State University Enviro-weather stations in the region.

Rainfall and GDD totals as of May 31, 2017
LocationGDD (+ added from last week)GDD 5-year averageRainfall (+ added from last week)Rainfall 5-year averageSoil temp. ranges
Emmett 285 (+ 105) 412.3 6.78 (+ 0.37) 4.56 52.3-71.8
Fairgrove 307 (+ 101) 422.2 5.24 (+ 0.18) 5.47 52.2-62.1
Flint 369 (+ 110) 457.6 8.77 (+ 1.27) 7.18 52.3-73.1
Frankenmuth 330 (+ 106) 445.7 7.76 (+ 0.35) 6.1 54.0-67.6
Freeland 312 (+ 97) 434 6.83 (+ 0.00) 6.27 53.3-61.8
Lapeer 348 (+ 108) 463 5.10 (+ 0.53) 6.3 57.5-73.3
Linwood 265 (+ 86) 383.4 9.54 (+ 0.46) 6.62 54.0-65.5
Munger 311 (+ 103) 430.8 7.13 (+ 0.40) 5.71 52.2-65.6
Romeo 318 (+ 109) 441.8 6.66 (+ 0.57) 5.64 51.3-69.9
Sandusky 263 (+ 98) 389.7 6.35 (+ 0.62) 5.64 51.5-66.9


Transplants that have come in from a greenhouse supplier sometimes experience pH-related stress if they are held too long on-farm with unconditioned irrigation water. Well water on most Michigan farms will be too alkaline for young transplants to handle prolonged watering. The potting mix does not buffer against the pH of irrigation water as well as soil does.

The more you water with high pH and high alkalinity water, the more the root zone of transplants will experience pH-related deficiencies. They will look stressed before becoming root-bound. The greenhouse where they came from was probably injecting acid into the irrigation water to keep the young root zone between a pH of 5.5-6.5.

If you need to hold plants for long, consider injecting an acid like sulfuric acid. This way transplants will remain healthy. Before injecting acid, prepare yourself with a water test for alkalinity (ppm or mg/L of bicarbonate HCO3). Then, use the AlkCalc tool from the University of New Hampshire to determine how much acid to inject per gallon of water.

Peppers, watermelon, cantaloupes and slicing cucumbers are still being transplanted on plastic beds. Melon transplants that went into bare ground rows while the soil was cool and wet do not look good. We need warmer nights. Melons on plastic and under protection look much better.

Carrot plantings on the west side of Michigan are experiencing some high insect pressure. Growers should check their crops for damage and for leafhoppers.

Asparagus picking is continuing, but low temperatures have resulted in low volume but high in quality. The tips are holding well.

Hoophouse ginger was going in last week. They were from Hawaii and certified disease-free.

The first plantings of potatoes are getting tall enough for a sidedressing and first hilling.

Garlic is shin- to knee-high at some farms. They are growing prolifically in this cool weather.

Squash are being seeded this week.

The first plantings of pickling cucumbers in the Saginaw Valley have begun.

Sweet potatoes were being transplanted last week and continuing this week and the slips were of high quality. Soil temperatures need to be reaching 65 F regularly for the best results. Slips are basically a mowed plant without a root system, so they do better if transplanted with water or before a rain. They will respire, wilt and look bad until their roots start growing again.

sweet potato clips

Sweet potato slips are basically snipped pieces of vine that re-root when transplanted. Have adequate moisture available since they have leaves and will be respiring as they grow new roots to seek water. Photo by Ben Phillips, MSU Extension.

Early kohlrabi, chard, spinach, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and radish were going to market last week.

Please contact me at phill406@msu.edu or 616-901-7513 to pick up any suspected disease samples from your farm, or send the diseased plant parts to MSU Diagnostic Services.

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