Welcome to the September Edition of the High Mowing Seeds Online Newsletter!
Welcome, Everyone! The harvest is rolling in steadily, as tomatoes are dropping off the vines and corn is roasting in the grills. The hills are starting to blush, as the days in the fields and evenings in the gardens grow noticably shorter. The end of summer is upon us, as we move on towards fall. In this spirit, we devote the September issue to the members of the Curcurbita family that come now into their prime: winter squash and pumpkins. We'll take a look at the basics of growing, harvesting, and storing these wonderful crops for both growers and gardeners. In this month's plant pathology report, Jodi Lew-Smith will discuss some of the disease and pest issues for squash and pumpkins. And, of course, we've got a few recipes for what to do with the fruits once you've grown them. Don't forget to check out our September seed sale, going on now for this month only!
We apologize for both the tardiness and brevity of this month's newsletter; as this edition was "going to press", we were in the process of moving our entire operation over to our new facilities in Wolcott, and this diverted a good amount of energy from all of our normal operations. Stay tuned in October for a full report on our new digs. We appreciate your patience.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the harvest!
In This Issue:
- New Home Update
- Autumn Jewels: Winter Squash and Pumpkins
- Report by HMS Plant Pathologist, Jodi Lew-Smith
- Great Seed Sale for September
- Recipies of the Month, and more!
New Home Update
As of September 1st, we have officially made our transition into our new home in Wolcott, VT. Conveniently located right off of Rte. 15 between Wolcott and Hardwick, VT, our new facilities include: a main office suite with conference room, four smaller offices, a two-part pathology lab, a break room and library, a showroom of seed racks and other promotional displays, a loading dock, a large seed processing area, a climate-controlled seed storage unit, a seed packing wing, a seed packet storage area, and a shipping area. This brings us to about 13,000 square feet of space under one roof devoted to all of the non-field operations of the company, and that doesn't include the on-site greenhouses, storage facilities, and machine shop! We are thrilled to have the opportunity to expand into these new facilities, as they will allow High Mowing Seeds plenty of growing room into the future, strengthening our mission to support sustainable agriculture by providing the highest quality certified organic seeds to gardeners, growers, and retail stores, for years to come. More details, complete with photos, are coming up in next month's issue. Stay tuned!
Autumn Jewels - Growing, Harvesting, and Storing Pumpkins and Winter Squash
One of the real delights of the late summer and early autumn season is the bounty of squash and pumpkins that adorns market stands and vegetable gardens. The diversity of size, shape, and color is astounding, and is matched only in applications for the fruit: from Jack O'Lanterns to desserts and from soups to side dishes, there is a squash or pumpkin for everybody.
Winter squash and pumpkins are members of the Cucurbita family, along with summer squash, muskmelons, watermelons, and cucumbers. The three most common species in the Cucurbita genus are Cucurbita pepo
, Cucurbita maxima
, and Cucurbita moschata
. Pepos include some pumpkins (both pie and decorative) , summer squashes, acorn squash, delicata squash, and spaghetti squash. They feature hard, woody, furrowed stems. Maximas include many winter squash, such as hubbard, buttercup, red kuri, and turban, as well as some large pumpkins. Maxima stems are squat and round, and the fruit of the flesh tends to be dry and flaky, often with a nutty flavor. Moschatas are best represented by the butternut squashes, and also include the cheese squashes. Moschata stems tend to be smooth, pentagonal, and ridged, and flesh of the fruits is smooth and moist.
Squash and pumpkins have been cultivated in South America since pre-colonial times. The seeds migrated north, and proved to be a valuable culinary and medicinal cultivar for the early colonists. Although the culinary use of pumpkins has largely faded from fashion, winter squashes are featured in a wide variety of dishes from appetizers to desserts.
As with any organically-grown crop, successful squash production starts with the soil. A sandy loam with good drainage and high organic matter content is ideal; the pH should be slightly below neutral, between 6 and 6.5. Soil testing can help determine the nature of the soil, in terms of tilth, pH, nutrient balance, and more. Composted manure has long been used as a soil amendment for squash production, for both home gardeners and commercial growers alike. A good broad-spectrum fertilizer can be applied to the soil at the beginning of the season, and a side-dressing of Pro-Grow™ or other similar organic fertilizer can be applied before major vining occurs. Many growers have found success supplying needed nitrogen through cover cropping and 'green manure' crops. These can be used as part of a successful no-till production strategy, incorporating fertilization, pest management, and weed control. More information on this can be found in the resource listed at the end of this article.
Planting squash, pumpkins, and other cucurbits should be timed well, especially in places with shorter growing seasons. The soil must be 60°F for direct seeding, and seeds germinate best with a soil temperature around 86°F. Transplanting from a greenhouse is generally recommended in colder climates, as most cucurbits need 90-120 days to mature. Start your seedlings 3-4 weeks before the last frost, but not so early that they have slowed their growth prior to transplanting. You want them to be in a vigorous growth stage at transplantation time, andtake care not to disturb the root systems of starts when transplanting. Consider sowing one or two seeds per cell, and using tapered cells or fiber-based containers to minimize damage when removing the starts. You can also start your plants in peat pots, which can be planted directly into the ground. When planting, some like to use the "3-5 rule": plant in hills along rows, 3-5 plants per hill, with 3-5' between hills, and 3-5' between rows. Thinning down to 1-3 plants per hill or increasing the spacing between hills may be necessary. When seeding in rows, mechanically or by hand, expect to use 2-3 pounds of seed per acre, to get the recommended 3,000 - 4,000 plants per acre.
Cucurbits like it warm, preferring daytime temperatures of 75-86°F, with evening temperatures around 65°F. Many commercial growers now plant cucurbit crops into strips of plastic, both to suppress weeds and to increase soil temperatures early in the season. Home gardeners can do likewise simply by using plain plastic sheeting (of a dark color) on their cucurbit beds. If you prefer to use organic mulch such as hay or straw, it's best to let the bare soil warm up before applying the mulch to cucurbits, since organic mulches tend to cool soil rather than warm it. Later in the season, however, organic mulches can prove beneficial for preventing heat stress, as stressed plants slow in growth and are more susceptible to disease. (Please see associated Pathology Notes for information on cucurbit pests and diseases.)
Controlling weeds in cucurbit production is, like in all crops, a matter of timing; the fact that winter squash and pumpkins are heavily vining plants makes it all the more so. Early mechanical or hand cultivation is important before the vines develop too much to use tools; after this point, hand weeding is required. If your crop is kept clean of weeds until the plants are well-established, there should be little need to hand weed, as the prolific vines will outgrow the competition. Other weed control strategies include applying mulch, with drip tape installed underneath, and growing a weed-supressing mulch crop, as used in the aforementioned no-till system.
Harvesting winter squash and pumpkins is a bit different than other, fresh-from-the-field vegetables, in that they generally undergo a curing process to facilitate proper storage qualities. The squash are ripe when the rind is fully-colored and quite hard, and when the ground spot has turned to a cream or gold color. Leave 3-6 inches of stem on the fruits (longer for hard-stemmed fruit like pumpkins, shorter for fleshy-stemmed fruit like hubbard squash) In addition to looking pretty, this will aid in protecting the point of stem attachment from pathogens. Never carry the fruit by the stems, as this can cause the stem to break, and possibly damage the fruit; this is especially true for larger pumpkins and squash. A light frost will kill the vines, but not damage the fruit. However, a hard frost (below 27°F) can do damage to your crop and provide access for pathogens. When handling the fruit, be careful, as bruises, cuts, and other injuries will lead to early spoilage. If possible, wash the fruit gently to remove soil and reduce pathogen contamination. Curing squash for 10 days at about 85°F and 85% humidity will help to fully ripen immature fruit, strengthen the rind, and heal any cuts or bruises, which are important steps to promote longevity in the stored fruit. If weather conditions permit, fruit can be cured in the field, otherwise, a greenhouse or other facility may be required. Acorn squash should not be cured, however, as this process diminishes the storage potential of this crop. After curing, fruit can be sold, eaten, or stored for future sale or consumption. Proper storage conditions are 50-55°F and 50-70% relative humidity. Too much humidity will cause early decay, and too little humidity will cause dehydration in the fruit. Allow for adequate ventilation on all sides of the fruit and throughout the room, storing the fruit in a single layer with space in between, on pallets, gapped shelves, or something to keep them off of the floor. Cull damaged fruit routinely from the storage room, as they can spread pathogens to the other fruit. If harvested, cured (or not cured), and stored correctly, acorn and delicata squash will last 5-8 weeks, butternuts 2-3 months, and hubbards and kuris 5-6 months. If all goes well, this will keep you - and your customers - in good food throughout the cold winter.
Looking for good winter squash or pumpkin varieties to add to your garden or offer your customers? Check out our selection of certified organic seeds!
sources: Bachmann, Janice. Organic Pumpkin and Winter Squash Production. Current Topic, ATTRA, 10/2002. http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/PDF/pumpkin.pdf
Ogutu, Maurice. Harvesting and Storing Pumpkins, Winter Squash, and Gourds. Home Hort Hints, University of Illinois Extension, 10-11/2004. http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/hortihints/0410c.html.
Pathology Report for September - Highlight on Cucurbit Pathology Issues
by High Mowing Seeds Plant Pathologist Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith
Cucurbits, in all their variable forms, are one of the easiest crop groups to grow in the Northeast. Given the fleshy nature of the fruit, cucurbits all need ample water for fruit development, and thus appreciate our cool, moist climate. But cool, moist climates always have more than a fair share of fungal diseases to consider, as well as the usual suite of bacterial and viral diseases and insect pests. We'll discuss them all in this article.
Beginning with fungal diseases, the most common and well-known cucurbit fungal disease is powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca fuliginea
or Erysiphe cichoracearum
), the familiar powdery white spots that typically appear on the tops of leaves in early August. Powdery mildew does not overwinter in our region, and thus travels here from parts south every summer as airborne spores. Damage from powdery mildew is correlated to severity and time of infection, where early infection on a highly-susceptible variety can lead to premature death of the plant and highly reduced yields, whereas infection later in the season when fruit is close to maturity might have minimal impact on yields. Similarly, the severity of infection tends to be highly variety-specific; most of the Cucurbita pepo
(summer squashes and pumpkins) and Cucurbita maxima
(hubbards and kuris) varieties tend to be highly susceptible, whereas the Cucurbita moschata
(butternuts) tend to be more naturally resistant. As you'll note in seed catalogues, however, many of the newer cucurbit varieties have been bred to include some measure of powdery mildew resistance (noted as "PMR" in catalogues) or powdery mildew tolerance ("PMT").
Similar in many ways to powdery mildew is downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis
), which primarily infects cucumbers and muskmelons. Downy mildew is also a snowbird, traveling here every summer from further south. Downy mildew typically arrives later than powdery mildew and is considerably more destructive when it does. Downy mildew is characterized by necrotic spots on the top of leaves mirrored on the undersides by spots containing bright white spores, giving them a "downy" appearance. For crops that are highly susceptible to downy mildew, especially greenhouse cucumbers, its appearance is followed by rapid plant decline and death. Both downy mildew and powdery mildew are obligate parasites, meaning they cannot grow on any medium other than their host plants, and neither one is significantly seed-borne.
Another common fungal disease of cucurbits in our region is gummy stem blight (Didymella bryoniae
). Unlike the two mildews, gummy stem blight can be seed-borne, but usually overwinters in residue from diseased plants, and thus appears earlier in the season. Symptoms include stem lesions that may exude a golden brown gum, and then yellowing and browning at leaf margins. Fruit symptoms include gray-green lesions that may exude a sticky, orange "gum," with the lesions finally darkening to black.
Other fungal diseases in our area include anthracnose, scab, fusarium wilt, fusarium foot rot, alternaria leaf spots, gray mold, white mold, and a number of rots caused by Pythium spp. Organic control of fungal diseases relies mainly on good sanitation and healthy plants, together with assistance from either oxidate (e.g. Storox™) or copper hydroxide (e.g. Champion WP™). Oxidate and copper hydroxide are best used in rotation with one another, where oxidate is a contact fungicide that destroys fungal spores but then dissipates immediately, while copper hydroxide is more of a preventative treatment that remains on the plant and prevents fungal invasion. (Remember, though, that oxidate leaves no residue whereas repeated copper hydroxide applications can raise copper levels in soil).
Of bacterial diseases in cucurbits, the most common is probably angular leaf spot, found typically on cucumber. Angular leaf spot (Pseudomonas syringae pv. lachrymans
) is primarily seed-borne, and thus pathogen-free seed should always be used. Angular leaf spot causes yellowish spots on the leaf that then drop out, giving the leaves a 'shot-hole' appearance. This disease hastens plant decline but does not cause immediate death.
Another common bacterial disease is bacterial wilt, caused by Erwinia tracheiphila
. The bacterial wilt pathogen is not seed-borne, but rather depends entirely on cucumber beetles for transmission, even overwintering in the gut of adult beetles. Infected plants begin to wilt one leaf at a time and may appear to recover at night, but eventually turn yellow and die. Bacterial wilt can be distinguished from wilts caused by fungi, such as Fusarium wilt, by the presence of a sticky white bacterial gum stretching between two sections of cleanly-cut petiole. Plants with bacterial wilt should be pulled up as quickly as possible to prevent spread, as there are no controls beyond control of the cucumber beetle vector.
Which brings us to the joy of discussing the insects that share our passion for cucurbits…the most notorious of these being the cucumber beetle. Cucumber beetles come in two flavors of striped cucumber beetles (Acalymma vittatum) and spotted cucumber beetles (Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi). The beetles do most of their leaf-chomping damage early in the season when cucurbit seedlings are just beginning to establish themselves in the field. Most seedlings live through the chewing, but some are done in, and all are set back. A number of growers experience sufficient control by means of pure kaolin clay (e.g. Surround WP™) applications, usually applied to transplants prior to setting them out in the field. If beetle pressure is high enough, however, clay may only provide partial control. Another approach might be application of a mixture of several deterrents such as neem (Aza-Direct™ or pure neem oil), insecticidal soap (e.g. M-pede™), kaolin clay, and/or Beauvaria bassiana (Naturalis-O™), an insecticidal fungus. Another effective strategy for cucumber beetles is to plant a "trap crop" that they like better than your own crop. The standard trap crop is blue hubbard squash, apparently a delicacy for cucumber beetles.
Other insect pests on cucurbits are squash bugs, which suck sap from the stems of leaves and vines, squash vine borers, which invade stems, and tarnished plant bugs, which feed primarily on new growth. None of these compares to cucumber beetles, however, in terms of overall yield loss.
Despite this impressive suite of diseases and pests who like cucurbit crops as much as we do, cucurbits continue to grow and flourish in our region - so don't be discouraged And don't forget that new and (hopefully) improved varieties are always being developed, so look out for disease-resistant varieties the next time you're shopping for cucurbit seed alongside the January fireside!
September Seed Sale
For the month of September, we are offering a 25% discount on the following varieties:
Danvers 126 Carrots
Scarlet Nantes Carrots
Ruby/Rhubarb Red Chard
Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled Cress
Green Deer Tongue Lettuce
Yellow Crookneck Summer Squash
Black Beauty Zucchini Summer Squash
Cinnamon Basil Culinary Herbs
Sweet Basil Culinary Herbs
Italian Parsley Culinary Herbs
Moss Curled Parsley Culinary Herbs
Sacred Basil Medicinal Herbs
Sunflower, Mammoth Annual Flowers
Sunflower, Ornamental Mix Annual Flowers
Dwarf Jewel Mix Nasturtium Annual Flowers
But this sale is only valid through September, so click over to our sale page now to catch these hot summer deals!
Recipe of the Month
Autumn is around the corner, and the gorgeous colors of the turning leaves show up on the table with some of these dishes; enjoy the last recipe at your next harvest festival or Halloween potluck!
Curried Winter Squash Soup
by Chef Larry
3 to 4 pounds Delicata squash (or any other golden or yellow fleshed winter squash)
4 tablespoons peanut oil
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
5 medium jalpeños, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
3 ounces brandy
1 quart chicken broth
1 pint water
¼ cup coconut milk
For optional garnish:
¼ cup unsweetened cream
2 fresh red jalpeños, sliced
Parsley springs as needed
Preheat oven to 400°. Carefully split the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Rub the interior with peanut oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake 20 to 30 minutes, until a sharp paring knife can be easily pushed through the flesh. Remove, cool just enough to handle, then scoop out the flesh and mash it. Set a side.
While the squash is baking, heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in a heavy 2-quart sauce pan. Sautee the onion, carrot, and jalapeno with the curry powder until vegetables begin to brown. Add the brandy, chicken broth and water and bring to a simmer. Add the mashed squash flesh and simmer 15 minutes. Puree well in a blender, return to the stove, bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Stir in the coconut milk. Adjust the seasoning.
Serve garnished with lightly whipped cream, thin slices of jalapeno pepper and parsley. This soup is good the day after it is made as well. Chill well and re-heat slowly, thinning with a little water as needed.
Real Pumpkin Pie
2 c. pumpkin, cut into half-inch pieces
1/4 cup liquid from cooked pumpkin
1 c. raisins, soaked in 1/4 cup dark rum
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 tbsp. molasses
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk, beaten
This recipe uses cubes of raw pumpkin rather than canned pumpkin. Winter squash may also be used.
In medium saucepan, add 1 tbsp. of butter and 1/2 cup water to pumpkin, and simmer over medium heat, which should take approximately 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup liquid. Mash or puree pumpkin. Add raisins, rum, cooked pumpkin, and remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined.
Turn into pastry lined 9 in. pie plate. Flute edges. Set in preheated 400 degree oven. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake about 30 minutes longer.
A traditional, healthy snack to enjoy during fall pumpkin carving. Make sure to check out the various different flavors you can use. Leftover seeds can be kept fresh in an airtight container or frozen for extended periods.
1. Extract sees from pumpkin.
2. Separate and discard pulp.
3. Thoroughly wash seeds in warm water.
4. Spread seeds out onto a cookie sheet.
5. Sprinkle generously with salt.
6. Put into oven and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.
7. Check every five minutes and stir, adding more salt to taste.
8. Check seeds to see if they are done by taking a sample out, allowing to cool and tasting. If the insides are dry, they are done.
9. Allow to cool and serve.
There is no rocket science required here. You can make as many different flavors of pumpkin seeds as you can imagine. Replace the salt from the recipe above with the suggested seasoning. Here are some we suggest you try:
- Tex-Mex Style - Sprinkle powdered taco seasonings (such as cumin or coriander) onto the seeds. This is better mixed in a bowl first. Add more red pepper powder for a really hot seed!
- Garlic Salt - yum!
- Tamari and Maple - mix in 1:1 ratio, stir with roasted seeds just until coated, and then return to the oven for a couple of minutes to finish the glaze
Let's Make it Better
This is your newsletter, not ours - we just write it. Just as your comments, questions, concerns, and field experience have helped to guide our business in every way, from variety selection to customer service, we rely on your feedback to guide the creation of a publication that is informative, inspirational, entertaining, and enjoyable to read. What would you like to see more or less of? Technical advice? Seed saving tips? Tools and techniques? Information about High Mowing Seeds? We want to give you what you want, so please let us hear from you! Write to email@example.com with your comments, critiques, and questions. Thanks for reading - and responding!
Jacob Racusin - General Editor
Jodi Lew-Smith - Technical, Pathology Editor