I frequently reference putting a small block of untreated lumber under your pumpkins and Winter Squash. Many people note that they do not have the time to do so, but also note that wet weather and bugs caused their squash to rot in the field. I recommend making the time to protect your pumpkins with a little extra care. The way I look at it, by increasing your yield through the reduction of waste, you are saving time. I took these photos (below) to give people an idea of what squash that have remained in contact with the ground all season can look like, especially here in Hawaii. Keep in mind that in Hawaii, many of the Winter squash and kabocha that do well here take more than 110 days. Often more than 120 days until harvest. Somewhere in there, as the fruit sets, try to make time to “block” your fruits by lifting them off the ground with a scrap piece of wood. The scrap wood only needs to be 4″x 4″ or so. Once you have the wood blocks, you can use them over and over for years. I keep them in small stacks near the edge of the patch. It does take some getting used to, but it helps to safeguard from rot that can occur due to surface moisture as well as insects that can damage the surface of your squash.
The above featured squash shows what damage can occur. Luckily, the harvest occurred before it caused the pumpkin to degrade on the inside. Since I caught this while it was simply a surface issue, I happily made it into my beloved squash curry for myself. This could have easily gone deeper into the pumpkin and caused the entire fruit to be lost.
With the way I farm, there is no true “loss” because the damaged squash can become nutritious pet food, chicken food, and rich soil building materials. But when you farm small, you need to think smart and safeguard what you grow. Some squash simply drop from the vine, and others may only half develop due to incomplete pollination by bees at flowering. These things happen, and it is just simply part of the natural cycle of things. What you can do, is give a little extra tlc to the fruits, and you will be rewarded with picture perfect produce that inspire chefs to put them on display before heading into the kitchen. One chef that I will not name, has been seen giving a slight hug to the squash as they enter his kitchen domain. Huggable produce is good produce.
This extra step in protecting the skin of your squash will probably add an overall awareness by creating an intimacy with your farm as well. You can tell a lot from how your squash are flowering and fruiting. A watchful farmer can see signs of insects, powdery mildew, the need for some fish fertilizer, pruning, and more, by stepping carefully into the vines. These preventative observations can really make the difference in having a successful season. So while you are inspecting your fruits, give them a boost. You will be rewarded at harvest time.