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Harvesting Winter Vegetables in the Snow

Himachal Pradesh is likely to witness water crises, and at that time, snow harvesting would help meet the growing demand. The project would be studied, and if proved successful then a bigger project would be developed for around 50 sites of Kinnaur and Lahual Spiti districts.

Chander Mohan

Himachal Pradesh is likely to witness water crises, and at that time, snow harvesting would help meet the growing demand. The project would be studied, and if proved successful then a bigger project would be developed for around 50 sites of Kinnaur and Lahual Spiti districts.  

The snow harvesting technique would be tested at Pooh (located at an altitude of 2,662 meters) where apple orchards are there. As rainfall remains negligible during summer, to have plenty of ice during winter to meet the irrigational needs for agriculture in the summer months. 

Europe and the US use the techniques of snow harvesting to accumulate the maximum amount of snow at a particular place with the help of engineering design. 

Although cool damp weather conditions have halted harvest operations in many areas, this has led to normal precipitation accumulations for most areas of the province. Adding to this was the large snowfall event in the southern and western parts of the province. The cold weather is predicted to persist into next week, but weather permitting, farmers who have access to grain dryers are likely to be combining, with priority given to higher valued crops. 

Snow on the winter vegetable garden does not mean the end of harvest. Snow will insulate winter crops from freezing temperatures and protect them until harvest. A killing frost or freeze will do more damage to winter vegetables than snow. 

Carrots, turnips, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, chard, and head lettuce can be harvested from under a blanket of snow. Scallions and fall leeks to the size of scallions can be harvested from under snow. Onions can remain in the garden under snow if a protective layer of mulch lies in between. Parsnips and Brussels sprouts will taste sweeter after being covered by snow. If plant cell damaging freezing temperatures accompany snow, protect crops with mulch, plastic tunnels, or cold frames. Loose straw or fallen leaves can insulate plants from freezing temperatures as well. 

The best time for harvesting cold-weather crops from under snow temperatures is when temperatures are in the high 20s or low 30s, especially if you are uncovering only a portion of the crop for harvest and leaving the rest for later harvest. 

If freezing weather threatens to freeze the soil, all crops should be lifted from the garden. Frozen soil or sustained freezing air temperature will freeze plant cells and cause them to burst, ruin crops, and kill plants. Crops that can survive under snow—but not sustained freezing temperatures or ice–include asparagus, rhubarb, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cress, rutabaga, spinach, endive, horseradish, kohlrabi, kale, leek lettuce, onions, parsley, parsnips, radishes, and turnips. 

Growers braved Winter Storm Bruce in Michigan last weekend as workers continued harvesting turnips. Despite six inches of snow falling from a blizzard the previous night, the workers were out there gathering some of the remaining turnips before freezing weather put a halt to harvesting, likely for the winter. 

"We were still harvesting in Michigan, which is surprising because of all the snow on the ground," said Jordan Bremer of Victory Farms Sales in Hudsonville. "Winter Storm Bruce delivered six inches of snow but that didn't stop workers from harvesting." 

Bremer added that this is typical for this time of year and that it's normal for some turnips to remain in the fields. "The ground will likely freeze solid after tonight and we will only resume harvesting if there is a thaw in the next week or so," he said. "Whatever remains in the ground until spring will not be harvested because typically the frost damages the product." Michigan has enjoyed generally good, stable weather since the summer months which has been beneficial to many of the state's root crops. The same can be said for turnips of which there are steady supplies. This comes at a time when the market also picks up in response to the holidays as well as generally higher demand over the winter months. 

"Supplies of turnips are average and we have not seen particularly high or low production," Bremer observed. "During winter, we see higher demand as more people use the vegetable over these months. Thanksgiving and Christmas are also times when see an increase in demand. The majority of our turnips are sold in 25lb bulk bags." 

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