Monday, October 8, 2007

Baseball Bat Squash

I found this huge baseball bat of a squash under the stem of a Costata Romanesco plant, where it was hidden from view until it got too large to miss. It weighed 4.2 lbs. The second large squash was also hidden, but I found it sooner. It weighed 1.2 lbs.

I was prepared to sell the huge squash at the Farmers' Market for about 50 cents, a tremendous bargain on a per pound basis, but there were no takers. The three smaller squash sold, however. Huge squash like this are often used for stuffing, or grated for zucchini bread.

I brought it home, and we sliced it into large rounds and grilled it, along with an eggplant, for sandwiches. Most of the grilled slices were frozen for winter use. I was surprised that the squash had not yet developed seeds; it was solid all the way through, and reasonably tender. When the plant is investing resources in a large squash like this, it tends to reduce the resources that it puts into making new flowers and small squash. Eventually the huge squash fruit slows in growth while the seeds mature. We rarely allow the seeds to reach maturity, unless we want to save them for next year. It may have taken another two or even three weeks for the seeds to mature in this fruit, if I hadn't harvested it. Hopefully the plant will start producing flowers and small fruits again.

Temperature were cold all of last week, barely making it into the 60s during the day, and hovering in the 30s and low 40s at night. The squash didn't grow very much in this cold. At Saturday's market I wore my down jacket and felt like I was in the refrigerator. Not many customers came to market, and only a few of them bought squash. I brought about 29 lbs of mini squash, 349 little fruits, to market, plus about 18 large squash. I only sold $18.50 of squash, not a good yield for 4.9 hours of harvest. Bon Appetit was not interested in buying the rest from me, as they have done the past few weeks. The executive chef told me he was over-stocked this week. So, Parma Senior Center will be the recipient of the excess. They are appreciative.

Saturday evening after dark I checked the weather report and saw that there was a a freeze warning; temperatures were supposed to fall to 34oF. It was too late to cover the plants. Fortunately, we didn't get frost after all. This week temperatures are due to rise into the 70s, an Indian Summer. Development of flowers and fruit should speed up again.

With warmer temperatures we'll need to get some water on the patch. Irrigation water has ended for the season, but John attached a hose from our well to our irrigation system . The pressure isn't as great as water from the canal, so we can only turn on two sprinklers at a time, but at least I won't have to drag soaker hoses and occillating sprinklers around.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Waiting for frost

Here's how the squash patch is looking these days, in full maturity. We've escaped a frost so far, but we could get one any day now. Saturday night - Sunday morning our temperature was supposed to drop to 34oF. That's close enough to freezing that there was some risk of a frost, particularly in my squash patch which is at the bottom of a slope. In a light frost, cold air accumulates at the bottom of the slope, so that part of my garden is the first to freeze.

Saturday at dusk John and I were in the patch spreading shade cloth, remay row covers, and assorted sheets and table cloths over as many plants as possible. In a light frost they could save the crop.

This morning when I went out, there was no sign of frost. But I'm glad we took the precaution. The rest of this week is supposed to have nights in the 40s, so we'll continue to have squash at the market.

In addition, Thursday was the last day for irrigation water from the Black Canyon Irrigation District. We gave the garden a good soak. From here on we depend on rain (some is due this morning, but it's not arrived yet), or on well water. From here on in, anything we harvest is icing on the cake, more than can be expected.

Our income from squash at the market this week was just $29.50, for squash accumulated between Tuesday evening and Friday evening. I spent a total of about 4 hours to harvest a little over 16 lbs of squash during that time period. We sold about 4 lbs to Bon Appetit after the market, about 25% of our harvest.

I'm hoping for a few days of Indian summer to boost squash productiviy for these last few weeks of market.