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Cliff's Grower Log -- May 2004

May 3

So much to say, and no time to write it down...

Let's begin today with a soundtrack of something really sad, melancholy, the blues... Yesterday I had some seedlings out on the back patio taking in some sun. I went to bring them in...

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid... (Ever try typing "stupid" rapidly? It's hard.)

The tray which was holding the seedlings, heavy from a recent application of water, collapsed and all my seedlings fell, crashing on the back steps!

Stupid, stupid, stupid.........

Miraculously, the two Momberts survived without major damage. The 567 Michalec is ok, as is the 255 Warren. The 666 Sawtelle (the one that was outside) was a total loss, and it really wasn't growing anyway.

Unfortunately, (I'm way "ahead of myself" in this lament) the other 666 Sawtelle wasn't growing either. Neither seedling came up on it's own. After 6 days, I extricated the seeds to see what was going on. Both seeds had germinated, but neither apparently had the strength to rise above the surface. I carefully removed the remaining seed coats, and put them back in their pots. After a few more days, no real growth. So, now they're gone. Sorry Madman, I gave it my best.

The 978.6 Berard has been a sickly little runt. (Oh, there I go again, think positive!) The seed leaves are all shriveled and small. One leaf is about 3/4 size and the other is about 1/2 size. I really should take pictures (the one thing I can do well). Pictures are coming soon.

In the meantime, I've started some backups:

I haven't been "this bad" at germination in a while.

On the bright side, I have 3 of 4 hoophouses up. The two Momberts and one other will go out into the patch tonight! The Momberts are amazing, already throwing roots out the bottom of the peat pot, despite being dropped by a clumsy fool.

May 5

I realize my standards have fallen... pictures are coming soon, I promise. Meanwhile, the three plantinhas out in the patch seem to be thriving, despite the weather and despite my attempts to smash them on the back porch.

From the set of backups, the 691 Michalec is breaking through today. I need to put the 978.6 Berard and 255 Warren out there soon, probably tonight. My challenge will be to avoid crowding the plants in the hoophouses like I did last year. I do have the material to build one more dome.

May 6

Last night the 255 Warren went out to join the 1005 Mombert, and the 978.6 Berard joined the 867 Mombert. If anything happens to either Mombert, these others will take over. If not, they will be culled. This strategy has the two "real orange" plants together in one house, and the two more pale plants in the other.

Also yesterday the 691 Michalec and 1134 Holland sprouted. I'll keep these inside for a few days, and then put them out in a yet to be constructed dome home. The better of these two will survive in the patch.

I have neighbors who will plant giant pumpkins, given the chance. If any other seeds germinate I will get on the phone and try to find a home for them.

May 10

Finally some pictures.

The hoophouses are almost complete.

I have one more of the dome shaped hoop houses to build. Here is a comparison between the hexagonal dome shaped hoophouse versus the more traditional version:


Dome Shape

The jury is still out on how this dome shaped hoophouse will do. I will probably need to cut the other side to ventilate it better. Here are some more pictures:

This is smaller, but sooo easy...

Note in the photo below, the PVC pipes are bolted together. I just have tape there to minimize abrasion on the plastic, and to keep the nut from working it's way off the bolt. Likewise with the riser, it is strapped to the PVC with a metal bracket, and this is covered with tape. At the base of the riser, I have pounded a hefty rebar into the ground, and the wood is lashed to the rebar with zip ties. So far it appears to be quite solid.

The pipes are bolted together!

If this works out, I'll document how it is built. There is only one measurement to make! It is so easy and cheap... The question is, will it work?

My best seedling happens to be in the dome. Here is the 567 Michalec (squash):

Please ignore how I spelled "Michalec" on the tag...

Yesterday I gave the 1134 Holland seedling to a good friend. He is a novice at this, but he is also a farmer and quite adept.

The 691 Michalec and 482 Christensen will go out into a new dome house tonight. After today our high temperatures will be 15 to 20 degrees cooler than we have been, and we will flirt with freezing temperatures overnight for the next few days. I was hoping to get away without needing to install lamps, covering the plants, etc. Oh well.

May 11

Ah, round-one was a split decision. We had about 10 hours of winds between 30 and 60mph yesterday. Two of my hoophouses, including the dome, survived. The other one, well, I have some trouble with the 6mil plastic I have. It tends to rip along the spots where the plastic was folded when it was packaged. Anyway, HoopHouse1 is now gone!

Last evening was a disaster. I placed "hot caps" over the seedlings in the patch. I refilled overturned wall-of-waters. I got completely muddy and cold. So I came in and wanted a nice hot bath. Alas, the power to our community well was out and there was no water.

Anyway, I'm impressed at how well the dome held up. When I rebuild, I just might go with the dome.

May 17

Catch-up time! Things are going pretty well, all things considered! I rebuilt traditional hoophouse #1, and added another dome. It's become the Mombert and Michalec show:

Where Main Plant Backup
Hoophouse #1 1005 Mombert 255 Warren
Hoophouse #2 867 Mombert 978.6 Berard
Domehouse #1 567 Michalec none
Domehouse #2 691 Michalec none

So far the 1005 Mombert and 567 Michalec plants are just great, growing very well. The 867 Mombert plant also looks very good. The 691 is also doing well, especially since it is a week younger than the others. Four plants is about right, I don't have time for much more than that.

The gloomy clouds on the horizon are... hoophouse #2 is destined to suffer the same demise as #1, in that it is made from the older batch of plastic that has trouble with tearing along the seams where it was folded. It's already tearing in at least 4 places! The newer plastic is better in that regard, BUT....! The newer plastic actually has small holes in it! That is, when it was manufactured it wasn't spread too evenly. Ah, next year I gotta find another brand of this stuff!

May 20

Here are some photos of the plants, taken May 19:

1005 Mombert 2002 Awesome plant, next to the squash in greatness.
255 Warren 2003 Suffering due to my mistreatment, it is a backup to the 1005 Mombert so it probably won't survive. Now that it is mulched, it should do better. (See below).
867 Mombert 2000 A little small, but OK. It's my last hope for vibrant orange color.
978.6 Berard 2003 Has always been on the small side. It is competing with the 867 Mombert, so it's chances to survive are only if the Mombert collapses somehow. Same issue with mulch as mentioned before.
567 Michalec 2003 Good squash genes, and my best plant overall. This one is competing with no other plant, so it looks like I'll have a squash this year!
691 Michalec 2003 A week younger than the others. Interesting cross of 1026 Holland X 940 Mombert. It was needing "first aid" when I arrived home yesterday due to lack of mulch.

OK, what's the deal with "mulch"? Well, the three plants that are doing really well, these same three had a black weed mat placed around them when they were put out. They other three didn't get one. (I was too busy that day, my generic excuse.) The weed mat amounts to a "synthetic mulch", it holds moisture in the soil. After a day of high temperatures in the greenhouse the three plants with the weed mat were "perky", while the others appeared to need life support. Mulch, it's that important. Learn something new everyday...

I have since repented and all the plants are now outfitted with their own synthetic mulch.

There is a little yellowing of the leaves on the two older plants that didn't have the weed mat (until yesterday). This is a sign of lack of nitrogen (I think) but I attribute it to lack of nitrogen due to drought. All the plants got a good watering and a drench of seaweed and fish fertilizer last evening.

May 21

Cool and unsettled yesterday, and predicted to be the same for the next few days. Still warm and humid in the cloches. ;-)

I should mention a part of my "long term" wind strategy. This spring I received a shipment of 75 cotoneaster plants which I'm planting along the southern edge of my garden. These are spaced two feet apart. While they started out as twigs, every one of them is sending out leaves and actually growing! This is quite an accomplishment in soil like mine. I've heard that cotoneaster is a tough plant. Nice to see it actually work. I can't wait for the coming years when I can start to reap the benefits!

May 24

For several days we've had conditions that are windy, cold, rainy, etc. I'm looking forward to later this week when we should be in the clear for a while. Meanwhile, last night the prediction was for 34 to be the morning low. That is too close to danger for me. So I decided to light up the hoophouses to ensure that my plants don't freeze...

Hmmm... an orange glow???

This photo has not been modified or enhanced in any way. I think this is a good sign that something big and orange is going on in there!

Hoophouse #2 is being held together with "duct tape and chewing gum". Or maybe just duct tape. But it is holding!

May 26


A break in the clouds...

This photo kind of sums up the weather we've had this second half of May. Unsettled. Today is raining again. Lots of cool weather, wind, rain. Fortunately, the wind has not been able to maintain a sustained attack on hoophouse #2. It's still there. I think I've demoralized the wind, it is getting depressed trying to mount a challenge. OR...

I don't think we're hot enough now to see a microburst. That is the main fear now, a microburst of 60-70mph winds that lasts only 5 minutes. We seem to get a few every year. But we really haven't hit a summer pattern yet.

The 1005 Mombert has already started leaning to the west, exactly in the direction I intended. The 567 Michalec is also an awesome plant, and looks like it will head east, which is what I want. That was a major mistake that I made last year, not planting the seedlings in the right directions. It meant that I ran out of space in the hoophouses way too early.

May 27

We had a Troy-Bilt tiller (not a real Troy-Bilt, a newer one...) that was running and then went "CRUNCH!!!". After talking with my repair guy we think it is a broken rod, or in other words, toast. All this after 5 years.

Beware of the newer Troy-Bilt's... many of them are junk. Likewise the Briggs and Stratton "Intek" engines. If you think I'm being overly harsh, this was just the final act in the sorry existence of this piece o' garbage. It's been troublesome from day one. Both the transfer case and the engine have always leaked oil. Much later I find that the air filter had been improperly installed and allowed dirt to easily enter the engine. All sorts of plastic parts break and fall off.

This tiller came in a box with wooden slats to give the box support. I cut the cheap wood into stakes which I still use in my garden. Still! I still use those stakes but the tiller is gone.


Cliff Warren