August 1, 2016

Winter Squash Deadline


Planting winter squash is a delicate business; planting must happen in July. This is a crucial deadline because if this crop is planted much later than the fourth of July there is a chance that the weather will cool down and get wet before the squash has had a chance to mature. This happened to me once, in my younger days, and I do not plan on ever letting it happen ever again.

This year’s actual wet date of the winter squash was July 8. The wet date is the day that the seeds received water; if a crop is planted into dry dirt, the seeds do not begin the process of growing. It is for this reason that we monitor wet dates, not plant dates. After the aluminum sprinklers put their two inches of water on the winter squash, it did not take long for the little seeds to pop neatly out of the beds. This is the first chance one has to really take a look at the spacing that the seeder delivered. Everyone was pleasantly surprised to see one plant every 10 inches – just as planned.

It did not take long for the weeds to shoot up, occupying all of the other space on the beds. When the little grasses were just under an inch tall the first set of cultivation and hoeing happened. The tractor hooked up to the cultivating sled and proceeded through the field. The cultivating sled is equipped with a series of metal knives or blades that pass just under the soil's surface, cutting the weeds from their roots. These cultivating blades are spaced in such a fashion so that they kill all of the weeds to the left and right of each line of winter squash, leaving a four-inch swath down the center of the bed that is home to the squash plants. With 90 percent of the weeds killed, the next step is to send a hoeing crew through to kill the weeds that have found refuge in that four-inch swath next to the winter squash. This process was just completed and the fields look very healthy.

The winter squash is growing quickly and soon the plants will cover the whole bed, shading out any chance for new weeds to begin the process of making seeds. By the first part of October, the Sugar Pie Pumpkins, Delicata, Kabocha, Red Kuri and Butternut squashes will be ready for harvest.
While we are in the peak of our summer harvest, the farm’s production team is focusing its efforts on the growing of your fall and winter veggies.