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Early Snow Complicates Fall Harvest

At the start of October we were treated to an early dump of snow here on the prairies and that has made things interesting for the last few weeks of our season.  Thanks to weather forecasts, we had the foresight to get some key crops harvested before the snow came, but we actually had quite a bit out in the field yet.  

Our primary concern was for the salad greens.  While they can handle temperatures a few degrees below freezing, the weight of the wet snow on top threatened to damage their fragile leaves.  The photo above shows our bed of swiss chard fully covered in a blanket of snow.  It was strong enough to actually support the weight, but since it wasn't covered the leaves eventually suffered from frost damage at around -5 degrees Celsius.  Our other greens, such as lettuce and spinach, were covered with a floating row cover which held the snow on top of the crop and added a couple degrees of frost protection.  Because of this, we were able to harvest some nice looking salad mix amid all of the snow for our final harvest week of the season shown below.  We would finally lose our remaining lettuce to frost damage when we experienced a low of -8 degrees in mid-October.

The root crops were fine with the heat of the earth to keep them from freezing.  Carrots and parsnips actually get sweeter when their tops freeze so the cold temperatures were good in that sense.  We could certainly taste the difference in our carrot crop that was harvested after the snow fall.  It took a bit more work to get at them, but the extra effort may have been worth it for the improved flavour.

It is rare that we get much snow in October, but it is probably a good thing that it happened this year while our farm is still small.  We extended our harvest season to 15 weeks this year, ending on October 19, and since we would like to do this again, it was helpful to experience the full range of weather conditions that can occur in October on the prairies.  With the knowledge we gained, we will be a little more prepared the next time around.

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