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Cliff's Grower Log -- April 2002

Today is April 15th. Supposedly Tax Day, but I'd rather think about giant pumpkins. However, we have another surprize today in southeast Idaho, snow!

snow in Cliff's yard
Tax day was a whiteout in Idaho.

Actually, I'm glad for this. This is the first moisture that we've had in weeks, and we really need it. I won't be starting seeds for at least another 10 days.

Here is the patch a few days ago. Over the winter, I did nothing. Are you kidding? It was nearly impossible to do anything in the patch between the day after Thanksgiving when winter hit and mid-March, when the snow had finally melted and the ground dryed up enough to walk on. But before winter I added several pickup loads of well composted manure. I've also added amonium sulfate, and plan to add more.
There are three spots where I have dug down into the subsurface about 2.5 to 3 feet down, and refilled the holes with a mixture of well composted manure, dirt, and other organic material. On one of the spots, I tried to make a "hot bed" with fresh manure about 2 feet down. I'm not sure if this will work. Maybe the snow over that spot will melt a little faster than the surrounding area?
I'm going to try to limit myself to three main plants this year. I may grow a fourth, but that will be all.

April 16 - Ouch! We have 6 to 8 inches of this stuff, and its blowing all around. And to think that I was wanting to mow the lawn for the first time yesterday! It'll be a few more days before this stuff melts off. Oh well, at least it isn't May 15 or June 15. (Its been known to happen...)

I'm providing this for the edification of those growers who live in a place where it rarely snows. Here, Elise peeks around the 18-inch drift left in the wake from the edge of the house.

April 19 - More snow. We were almost melted from Monday. Still haven't had much time to work in the patch.

Later in the day I added 30 pounds of gypsum to the patch, which this year is about 2700 square feet.

April 20 - In this photo, you can see the first of my hexagonal wind protection structures. Wind and cold protection is a big concern here. The hexagon is wrapped in plastic, and a heating cable provides warmth. At night, a tarp will be drawn over the hexagon to keep the plants warm. I'm not sure how well this system will hold up to our wind, but this is what I've decided to try. I've got it up early to see how it flies. Ooohhh, bad choice of words.

The plastic is wrapped tightly around the rebar, and a line of duct tape is used to help hold the plasic in place at each rebar node. I need to find some of those plastic caps to put on top of the rebar, to avoid tearing the tarp when I put that over the top. The tarp can then be staked down tightly at night, holding the heat from the heating cable.

One issue that we have in this area, is in the spring it can be in the 80's during the day, and low 40's at night. This system allows me (I hope) to drop the top in the day and let full sun in, keep the wind protection, and stay warm at night. I hope we're past the danger zone for freezing when the plant outgrows this hexagon. Once the plant outgrows this system, I'll use the rebar to construct a wind fence.

As you can see in the photo, I've compacted the soil outside the hexagon by walking on it too much while moist. I'll need to re-cultivate that, and also add a layer of soil around the outside to prevent air seepage underneath the plastic.

April 22 - Its been two breezy days since the installation of the hexagon, and so far its holding up very well. I hope it holds together when the 50 mph winds come... I've also been dreaming of all the cool things I could do if I had the ability to weld pieces of rebar together.

April 23 - Speaking of 50 mph winds, we have them today! I called home and so far, so good. If the structure passes this test, I'll be happy.

April 24 - The morning after... ugh. April 23rd had winds of 45 with gusts to 60mph all day long. It was a "pulsating" wind, when you're out in it it feels like you're getting slapped in the face. This morning's low temp was 20 F. Hard to believe that I was planning to start seeds today. Oh, the structure... no it didn't survive, but it did better than I expected. At mid-day it was still hanging in there. But by 7 pm after the full day of pounding, that was all it could take. After muttering a few well placed words and vowing to forsake this silly hobby, my wife reminded me that one, this was a test, and two, it probably would have survived with heavier plastic and a lot more duct tape.

I will rebuild. In addition to the heavier plastic, I need to use 1/2 inch rebar, not 3/8. The 3/8 inch rebar actually flexes in the wind.

I'd like to say that this 60mph wind stuff is an odd occurance, that it doesn't happen every year, but I'd be fooling myself. We get several of these wind storms every spring.

Thank you all who sent seeds!

April 25 - Yesterday evening I started some seeds. Here is the lineup for 2002, may the most vigorous seeds win:

Of course, none of these seeds are "proven", but all are promising. In making my final selections, I focused on whether or not the seeds came from a notably orange pumpkin, and if the mother and father were known as significantly orange.

Here is a simple tip for making a nametag marker to go with your plant.

April 29 - WooHoo! Six of seven seeds are up!

On Saturday afternoon the 842 Mitchell (pictured) was the first to pop up, in just under 3 days. But on Sunday morning, I had 5 up and by afternoon all but one had sprung to life. As of Monday morning, only the 847.5 Christensen hadn't come to the party. It's still early. I really hope the 847.5 comes around. This pumpkin had the most beautiful color ever. No guarantees on what color it will throw, but I think a lot of people are interested in this seed this year.

April 30 - The 847.5 is also up. Seven for seven!

But I can see why the 847.5 is a little slower. About half of each seed leaf fails to develop. This little plant may "grow out of it", but its facing stiff competition for a spot in the patch. If it survives, I'll make sure it gets planted somewhere.

This is just the "luck of the draw". Any other seed from the 847.5 would likely be fine.

My other seedlings look great! Under the grow lights they turn a rich, dark green.


Cliff Warren