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Cliff's Grower Log -- May 2003

May 5

Wow, so much to do and so little time. I'm very busy away from the patch right now. But things are going well, and I have a lot of catching up to do on the site.

Clockwise from upper-left: 296 inch Holland, 810 Christensen, 971 Zunino, 337 Card, 1049 Holland, 922.5 Emmons

The 922.5 Emmons was the most aggressive seedling, followed by the 1049 Holland the the 337 Card Squash. The 922.5 and 1049 are now securely installed in hoophouses. The 337 and the 971 Zunino are also in the patch, in little enclosures I've made from straw bales and panes of glass. I'm beginning to see that the hoophouses are the way to go. After having them up for a few hours, I couldn't believe how warm and humid they were inside, on a very cold and windy day!

The 922.5 Emmons, IS A MONSTER! ;-) What an awesome seedling!!!

Here is a hoophouse before the plastic was installed. Sorry I don't have a more up to date picture. Also, these hoops were even'ed out before the plastic went on...

Hoophouse before plastic

The lengths of PVC are eighteen feet. I decided to go with this because the widest roll of 6-mil plastic I could find was 20 feet wide.

Other seedlings will go in these straw huts:

Straw Hut

The bad news is, that the plants will outgrow these huts before I can quit providing protection. The good news is, the plants will outgrow these huts! If I look at last year on Memorial Day, well, I didn't really grow hardly at all in May. Hopefully I can keep them warm.

May 6

This morning's low, 25-28. Just a normal early May morning here. Last night I covered the straw and glass huts, but I thought the hoophouses would be fine, seeing how they hold heat during the day. This morning I have my doubts! I hope I didn't kill the 1049 and 922.5!

I'm waiting until about 10am... my wife will go out and see if they're black.

Update: They're fine... whew!

May 7

Well, the plants survived, but they did get zing-ed a little. The 1049 took it the hardest. But, it is alive. The 922.5 received a little damage. It should be OK.

I'm going to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Hoophouses at Night

Now that I have these lightbulbs installed, they're easy to turn on and turn off whenever needed. If I cover the plants, usually I need to leave in the morning earlier than I can safely remove the covers.

Today I need to plant backups in the hoophouses. A 652 Pukos, which looks great by the way, will join the 1049 Holland. And either the 296 inch Holland or a 925 Barenchi will join the 922.5 Emmons.

May 8

Yesterday I did plant the 652 Pukos in the hoophouse with the 1049 Holland. This seedling looks great, as good or better than the 922.5 Emmons. Interesting, the two best seedlings are the two from seed stocks with a "history", as the 922.5 has been shown to be quite vigorous, and the 652 has grown a 1000 pounder.

The 296-inch Holland went in next to the 922.5 Emmons.

May 9

Snow today! Sigh...

May 12

It's finally predicted to warm up a bit this week! Whew, we have had a lot of cold and rain, a lot for us anyway. I've had the lights on in the hoophouses and covered the other plants every night. So far, so good. I'm using those huge paper clips on the hoop houses, to create access to the houses, and to ventilate. These work great! I have pictures, if I can get a time to post them.

May 14

The 652 Pukos is the most beautiful and healthy seedling that I have seen in the three years that I have been doing this. I thought that the 922.5 and 337 squash were great seedlings, but this 652 is incredible. Simply amazing.

Please send all 652 Pukos seeds to me. I'll pay postage.

Yes, I'm trying to work on photos! But this week is extremely busy for me. Be patient!

May 15

I finally got sprinklers installed in the hoophouses yesterday. The 652 Pukos continues to amaze.

Here is a shot that shows how I access and ventilate the hoophouses using those giant paperclips:

I now have both ends configured this way.

So far this has been working great. We haven't seen 70 mph winds this year, not even 50 in fact! So I don't know if it'll work in a "typical" year...(!) ha ha, But this has been very easy to manage. You can open the clip to drop the vertical "end wall", while leaving the top part of the plastic clipped to the PVC. When you want to seal it up tightly, as if a wind storm was coming, you can wrap the plastic around the PVC and then seal it up... like I say, so far, so good.

May 19

This morning's low, 26. Another typical spring. But there is hope that when this current cold spell is over, we'll be home free until September. Hope... Possible? Yes. Probable? Hmmm...

This is what is out there now:

Site Protection Prime Plant Backup
Site #1 hoophouse 652 Pukos 1049 Holland
Site #2 hoophouse 922.5 Emmons 296-inch Holland
Site #3 straw hut 337 Card (squash)  
Site #4 straw hut 810 Christensen  
Site #5 straw hut 971 Zunino 925 Barenchi

Note that only one plant can survive in each site.

A key point I need to make: There are four plants in hoophouses, and four outside hoophouses. All of my plants in hoophouses are at least twice the size of the plants outside. Those inside the hoophouses are really getting me excited. I'm well ahead of my pace of previous years. And I need to be, as I just haven't been able to pollinate on time and in a desirable location in previous years. The 652 Pukos leads them all! Right now I have highest hopes on the 652 and the 922.5 Emmons. These will probably be the plants that make the difference this summer.

My plants that are outside hoophouses are about the same as I've seen in previous years. (Small.)

Conclusion: Hoophouses are definitely the way to go, if you have a climate like mine. They make May temperatures feel like July. It can be 50 degrees outside, and 80 degrees inside the hoophouses. Once the plants get that heat, they really start to grow!

The "paperclip system" has worked fine. We had some strong winds yesterday... but I'm not worried about the clips at all.

I need better spinkler heads for my overhead sprinklers in the hoophouses. What I have now are the very simple 49-cent sprayer heads... Upside down they don't give good coverage or an even pattern of spray. Finding something good will be difficult.

May 21

We finally have emerged from our latest cold spell of below-freezing temperatures. I do hope this was the last one of the season. In the space of a few days, the challenge shifts from keeping the plants from freezing overnight, to keeping the plants cool during the day in the hoophouses. Not much else to report, all plants are alive and well. I hope to have pictures of each plant, maybe tomorrow.

May 22

Do hoophouses, cloches, greenhouses, (whatever you want to call them) work? I've come to realize that in a climate like mine, they're essential!

With a little help from my pumpkin model, "Shasta", here is the lineup on May 21. First, the plants that are not in hoophouses:

810 Christensen 971 Zunino and 925 Barenchi 337 Card (squash)

The 925 Barenchi is the "leggy" one that stayed in the house way too long. I put it out there one day when the 971 Zunino decided to lay down on the ground for a while. But the 971 recovered, and now I have two in this site.

Now for the ones in hoophouses:

296 "inch" Holland 922.5 Emmons 1049 Holland 652 Pukos

One interesting point is that the 652 Pukos is one week younger than the other plants pictured here... and it's the biggest!

May 27

On Saturday we had a "microburst", a storm with about 70 mph winds and lasts only about 5 minutes. This one was really incredible. Lots of homes simply had things "blown off". My hoophouses, survived, barely. When I built them, I fortified the front end that faces the wind quite securely, and the back end, less so. When the winds hit my hoop houses, it pushed so hard on the front that the backs became dislodged, and one began flapping in the wind. I was lucky I was home. I ran out and held on... it took me about an hour to rebuild. The plants are fine.

The 652 Pukos is at 11 true leaves, and now looks like it's going to fall toward the east. Straight for the peas! The 296-inch Holland is the next largest with 10 true leaves.

I had been "brewing" some manure tea. Then down in our storage room we found some old jars of applesauce that had been pushed back on the shelf and forgotten. They needed to be dumped. No problem, I thought, I'll just add this to the garbage can full of manure tea! Hmmm... bad idea... When I went out yesterday, the "tea" was bubbling, all on it's own! It was active, and smelled like a mixture of hard cider and vomit. I think the sugar in the applesauce was a mistake! I dumped it and am starting over.

While I'm ahead of last year with the plants in the hoophouses, I'm way behind with all the others. Looking back at last year, I had really cool weather all through the first week and a half of June, and now I see that this is probably what kept me from pollinating when I needed. Cool weather will slow down growth. It's starting to look like all my hopes are on 2 (or maybe 3) of the 4 plants that are currently in the hoophouses.


Cliff Warren