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Cliff's Grower Log -- August 2004

August 4

I *think* that the effort to keep the fruits warm at night is paying off. Problem is, after coming back from a trip, everything looks much bigger than before. I don't know if my fruits are growing or if it's just my imagination.

What I have done: All the fruits that have a chance at glory are sitting on styrofoam panels, to insulate them from my rather cool soil. Then they get a blanket on top, and over that a tarp is placed to keep heat in and keep (most) moisture out. I've gone out in the morning and found that the fruit is toasty warm inside there, even on mornings in the 50's. I left on a trip, then came back in three days. The fruits are definitly growing, I just don't know how much.

So will it help? I measured yesterday, and will again today, this evening. I will also wait a week and take an average. Again, if we're finally growing, this is awesome, I may have found my limiting factor. If we're not, then I guess there is no hope for me unless I move to Oregon, Washington, Ohio, etc...

August 6

After the effort to keep the pumpkins warm, I'm now seeing 10 to 15 pounds per day. Better, but it will still be an uphill battle to reach 500. The two plants that I am focusing on are the 1005 Mombert and 576 Michalec. On the Michalec squash, I'm finally down to just one fruit on the main. Perhaps the effort to cull other fruit will help this one to grow.

Squash on main vine of 576 Michalec

This one had started as a "bell shape", but is recovering nicely from that. It's currently at about 134 pounds, and just starting to really grow.

My dilema with the 1005 is that I'm down to 4 fruits and it is hard to decide what to do next. Remember, this plant is twice as large as any other in my patch this year, and probably three times larger than any plant I've had in the past. I want to bring two fruits "to term" on it. Here is one of the smaller ones, (number 3 listed below):

Fruit on the 1005...

Number Size Pros Cons
1 Largest Good looking fruit Very short stem, I'm worried about vine position
2 Next largest Nearly as large as the first It's sort of lost in the center of the plant, hard to access
3 Third largest Good stem and vine position Open pollinated, two days behind the others
4 Smallest On the main, 17 feet out Very late pollination, a week or two behind

So, I've got some decisions to make. Hmmm...

August 9

The pumpkin pictured above is no more... or I should say, it has been removed from the vine. The other three are growing, and since I have been covering at night growth appears to be better. I can't wait until Tuesday evening. That will be exactly one week since my last serious measurement. At that time I'll pull new OTT numbers, find the weight and difference from last week, and divide by 7 to get an average daily weight gain.

All I want is one lousy stinkin' fruit that weighs 500 or more at any weighoff! THAT is the goal!

But, forget that... what I really need are some creative names for these. Hmmm... Anyone out there in cyberspace? Send me suggestions!

August 11

I measured yesterday and found that I'm putting on 9 to 10 pounds per day, averaged over the last week. That is not good enough to make 500. I don't know what else to do.

The largest is the squash at around 175. This is at a little more than a month old. Everything else is great. Plants look wonderful. I just can't get the fruit growth that I see others getting.

August 12

Here's a rundown of the patch:

This is currently the fastest grower on the 1005 Mombert, at about 12 pounds per day. Not a great vine/stem arrangement, but oh well. It has just started this "bulge" toward the rear...
This one on the 1005 is in the center of the plant, and one must wade through 10 feet of vines to find it. It started off very well, but appears to have slowed down. Very short stem, and I was moving it daily earlier in the season. Looks like I need to move it again. Fortunately, it's small enough to move....(!) The leaves are three, three and a half feet tall on this amazing 1005 Mombert!
17 feet out on the main of the 1005. Very late pollination. I don't know why I keep it, other than it's too cute to cull. And, this one actually has a good vine/stem placement!
This is the largest fruit in the patch. It's on the 576 Michalec, main vine, about 12 feet out. I really like this plant, and will grow it again.
This little blob is on the 691 Michalec, main, around 11 feet out. This plant has very thin vines, and I'm not sure what to make of it. But something, (probably salts) is holding my fruits back. I certainly can't blame any of these seeds for my lack of fruit growth.

August 16

Just a quick status... the big squash and biggest pumpkin are each measuring identically in OTT. They're at about 230 pounds. Wow.

We had an unbelieveably warm night last night. I went out and measured this morning. I'm not sure I believe what I saw... 15 pounds overnight? Not even for 24 hours, but overnight did I actually add 15 pounds? It's all very fuzzy...

August 19

This internet blog serves two purposes. One purpose is to provide fascinating hours of entertainment and enlightenment to cyber-surfers like yourself. The other is to force myself to chronicle my ups and downs, and learn from them. The following discourse probably falls in the latter category. But diehards can certainly keep reading if they wish.

I'm beginning to see the big picture of this season. I started out with a load (literally) of manure. For most people, something like this is described as being "too hot" and nothing grows. I've had phenominal growth. Perhaps I got a super dose of nitrogen from the manure? Then after fruit set (when it did set!) I couldn't get things to grow. Again, did I have too much nitrogen? Perhaps I won't know for sure, but it looks like I did.

The 1005 continues to throw more vines into the air and I continue to wack them off. The 576 is also very agressive, sending vines deep into the territory of the other plants. The canopy of leaves I have is thick and wind-proof. Just the other day I discovered a 100 pound squash hiding out underneath the canopy. This qualifies as the largest fruit I've grown without knowing it.

I culled the smallest fruit on the 1005. This leaves only two fruits there. At the present time, I have three "tier one" (ha ha) fruits, two on the 1005 and one on the 576 squash. One of these (probably a pumpkin) will go to the Eastern Idaho State Fair in early September. One or both of the others will go to Brian's weighoff in Rexburg. Maybe I will take something to Thanksgiving Point... the jury is still out on that. There are a few others on the 691 and 867 that will serve duty around the house, at neighborhood parties, and possibly go to the local nursery for their contest.

I do promise to take some pictures soon. The two remaining on the 1005 are growing quite well!

Aug 23

Lately I've been prone to slip out into the night darkness and take strolls through the patch. Am I nuts? I actually designed the patch to sit behind a stand of corn (strawberry popcorn...) to block the wind on the southern edge of the patch. The corn is doing a fine job of that. I should always use it. Anyway... I go out and slip through the corn... and disappear from my normal world into a world of peace and enlightenment, where (almost) all dreams are realized. OK, now you know the thought process behind "If you grow it, he will come."

These three are taping into the low 300's. It is quite a long-shot to get to 400 for the fair or 500 at the year end weighoffs, but I can continue to dream:

Shorty: Named for it's short stem. From the rear it looks impressive.

Hidden: (not creative with names this year) This one has an awesome shape!

Ghost Rider: A squash with a Dill Ring!

Part of me says that if I can just continue the 12 pounds a day I'll hit my goals. The dark side says, "It's taken this long to get to 300, how in the world can you add another 100 pounds in 10 days?".

One note to the technical observer: It seems that whenever I fertilize, fruit growth goes DOWN for a day or two! What's up with that??? So, I'm just going to let it go for the rest of the year.

Aug 24

This morning's low was below 50. I've been lax in covering but now it is a necessity. We're predicted to be even cooler, into the low 40's in a few days. Fall has arrived early this year! Cool is OK, as long as we don't freeze! Most years we freeze sometime in the second week of September, then we don't freeze regularly again until October. But one freeze is all it takes. I can cover a portion of a plant or two, but not all.

I still put on 12 pounds yesterday. As long as that can continue... Ten more measurements until the fair!

August 26

Well, a pumpkin can only take so much cold weather. Today it is 55 degrees... not the low, but at 4:30 in the afternoon! My measurement yesterday was a 6 pound gain, half of what I was getting before. Just when I thought that 400 was possible for the fair. One week until the Eastern Idaho State Fair!

If it is 55 now, our overnight low will likely be below 40.

August 30

Last week was very cold. Growth on "shorty" has dropped to 6 to 8 pounds per day. This week will be warm again, but of course I don't know if the pumpkins will return to the growth rate they had before. Here is a shot of "shorty", last Saturday. It is currently a little above 350, and will be cut this Thursday for the fair:

The low rider, shorty...

Once "shorty" is gone, all attention on the 1005 plant will go to this perfectly shaped fruit:

The gnome tells it all...

The above fruit is only one day behind shorty in OTT inches.

Finally, here is a long lost fruit on the 691 Michalec. This one has received almost no attention. It has never been covered. Like all of my fruits this year, it grew very slowly early on. Now, it's nearly the size of the others that I have been focusing on!


I would consider taking it to the fair, or to another exhibition around town, but where it is in the patch, I'd have to drive over all other plants to get to it. (I've got to plan for this in the future!)

Next update will be in early September, a report on the Eastern Idaho State Fair.


Cliff Warren