“Bring in the Winter Squash Week” at Riverland and Picadilly.

Winter squash in the greenhouse at Riverland

This from Riverland:

“Starting in August with the onions there are a series of “bulk harvests” that we begin to do with crops that either need to “cure” (like onions and sweet potatoes) or simply will store better out of the field than in the field (winter squash).  The “curing” process for these crops improves their flavor and storage potential.  Toward the end of last week we scrambled around to get the major portion of our winter squash harvest done in advance of the weekend rain.  In the course of one morning and 2 afternoons we pulled about 30,000#’s of squash out of 1 of our squash fields getting the last bin in just before the rain drops started to fall.  We still have more to go but it is nice to have the majority of the squash harvest done.”

I (Jane) asked Bruce at Picadilly more about the “curing” or storage needs for winter squash.  He said ideally, after they’ve been harvested, the squashes sit in about 70 degrees for a couple of weeks, then get transferred to 55 degrees for the duration.  The initial, warmer, dry storage, approximately accomplished at Picadilly by putting them in the greenhouses with shade cloth suspended over them, serves to help them finish ripening and makes them store better once they hit the cooler temperatures.  The cooler temps then sweeten them up, as you may have noticed also with late fall greens that have been through a few frosty nights.

Jenny at Picadilly writes of this time of year, as the farm is gradually “put to bed”:

“With each passing day on the farm, another row is harvested clean. Yesterday, we rolled into the barnyard at day’s end, under a glorious September sky, with a wagon load of gorgeous butternut squash. Overall, we like what we’re seeing in the fall harvest, with good quality and fine yields. I’m getting antsy to dig some sweet potatoes (though we should give them a few more weeks to finish sizing up)…Once we finish harvesting a section of field, we seed it into a winter grain or legume cover crop, like oats, peas, rye or vetch. These crops are for soil building, not for harvesting (though we do bale up some rye straw in the spring, for mulching crop pathways). The cover crop roots keep our soils intact all winter, not subject to wind or water erosion. I can see the very first shoots of oats emerging in the field just outside my office window….It will be plowed and planted with our early spring vegetable crops next April, hopefully all the better for a rest and a healthy dose of chicken manure…. After today’s final wagon loads, the butternut field will get tucked in…”

Butternut all picked, “windrowed” and waiting to be put in the greenhouse at Riverland.


And more about other winter share crops from Rob and Meghan at Riverland:

“Probably the best part about fall for a vegetable farmer is the feeling of relief that it brings on.  At this point in the season we have a decent idea of what the season as a whole will turn out to be…

Muscular spinach! Remember the pelting rains crusting over the soil?

“…Kale and Collards are going gang busters!  Cauliflower and Storage Cabbage looks to be about 75-80%.  We had a pest called the cut worm in some of our fall brassicas for the first time.  Cut worms do exactly that…. they cut the plant off at the stem.  These worms did a number on the Cauliflower and Cabbage.  We’ll hopefully still have a decent crop of both but the yield will be reduced.  Brussels sprouts look good now but we did just find the presence of a bacteria commonly called “Black Rot”….Going with the recommendations of the UMASS Extension Service we will start spraying copper on the brussels sprout field to control the spread of this disease.  We are hoping for success…

“…The sweet potatoes are a win!  We haven’t dug up a lot yet but the ones we have dug are beautiful and it looks like the yield will be fantastic.

“…The garlic crop is really nice.   The onion crop that initially seemed so great has been a little disappointing.  Much of what we harvested hasn’t been curing well…. We’ve had to diligently sort out the good ones and as it stands now we are only finding about 25% that are storable.”

“The Carrots…didn’t germinate as well as we hoped but there will still be an abundance of great carrots to go around.  The beets we couldn’t seed until early August because we didn’t have irrigatable land to put them on in July… they look good now but will likely be a little smaller than normal a a result of the late planting date…  We do have a few roots that are either uncertain or didn’t make it.  For the second year in a row we’ve suffered a complete crop loss in our parsnips.  Our celeriac looked incredible and then suddenly succumbed to what we believe is a micronutrient deficiency (Boron) that caused crown rot.  1 other root crop that we simply did not get in the ground this year is rutabaga.  It does however look like we’ll have a nice crop of purple top turnips, watermelon radishes, black radishes, and for the first time in 6 years we decided to try our hand at growing daikon again (we had severe root maggot problems with it in the past).  While we are going to be short on some root crops, we’ll try to do a crop swap with some of the other valley organic farms where we trade something we have in abundance for something we are short on that will hopefully make the difference.”

This is the beauty of the multi-farm winter share.  With the monthly box share, Picadilly and Riverland have time to coordinate between them to compensate for loss and take advantage of surplus in order to guarantee a nice bouquet of vegetables for us!