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Cliff's Grower Log -- June 2005

June 3

Well, I'm a slacker. No pictures this week. Actually, I've been extremely busy. What a week! I've got so much to say and little time to write it down. But there are some points that I want to record for future use.

We've had some cold weather and some big storms. I've had to tape up some of the hoophouses. This leads to point number one: 4-mil plastic is much better than 6-mil! Or at least, I think it lasts longer in our cold weather and high wind. This is counter-intuitive. Others have made this claim, but until I saw it in my own patch with a mix of 4-mil and 6-mil plastic, I wouldn't have believed it. I'm tired of using duct tape to hold my 6-mil plastic together. It's all 4-mil in the future for me!

I spend most of the winter pondering hoophouse design. This spring when I was desperate to get a hoophouse installed, I had some trouble with the plastic (of course). I decided right at that moment, out in the wind and cold, to scrap one of the large hoophouses with a 2x4 frame and just build a smaller, simpler one with only two hoops and a center-post. No plan, no design. No thinking about it in advance. Wow. This has turned out to be my most wind-resistant and reliable design! I have three designs currently in the patch. This one is best with regard to heating (not too hot), materials needed, and wind-resistance. The only drawback is that it is difficult to get in and do much weeding. But! But, this design is so simple that next year I'm going to plan it such that I can just raise the plastic off the ground when the wind is calm and just do maintenance with no plastic in the way at all!

Well, I should provide a picture of this latest miracle. It's coming, I promise.

All plants are doing well. The 891 Tanner sustained some damage to it's largest leaf when a huge gust of wind pushed the hoophouse down on it. But it's fine. The 753 Pappas has the largest leaves I've ever seen, but it just wants to lay on the ground. The 981 Zunino reminds me of the 1005 Mombert... awesome!

June 7

Wow... Here we are, two weeks from solstice. Highs in the 50's, lows in the 30's. Lots of rain. The patch is too wet to walk on, other than on the boards I have layed out. Several plants need to come out of their hoophouses. I need to start burying main vines. Pruning has begun; This is the first time that I have really understood the method and importance of pruning. We'll see if it helps. In the meantime, I need to put up the wind fence and start cutting holes in hoophouses.

June 10

Finally, some pictures. We finally have returned to decent weather after our typical June cool down. Overnight lows are STILL below 40! This morning was 35. Sigh.

This year's Big Kahuna, the 981 Zunino.

I'm daily pruning all tertiaries while they are still small buds. This is the first time I've done this. I hope it helps.

Foreground, the mini-Kahuna 753 Pappas; background is the 500 Beauchemin.

Squashers unite! I have two, ready to cross.

Squashers: On the left, the 874 Dieffenbaugher. On the right is the 861 Beauchemin. That's a mouthful.

The following 891 Tanner got a slow start, and has suffered some damage from the wind pushing in on the hoophouse. Notice the top leaf is broken. This hoophouse *was* in the wake of my new shed. I guess what they say about structures is true... in the wrong spot the wind can be magnified! I still think it will be a good plant, however.

891 Tanner

June 21

It's a bad sign when you begin thinking of next year, and it's only June. Actually, my season isn't quite a total loss, but it's getting close.

Back on Saturday June 11th, I had just taken down the hoophouses (except for the fact that I left a "half-dome" up on the 981 Zunino) in preparation for a business trip that I needed to take. That night strong winds commenced and continued for about 24 hours. The pounding of 30 to 50mph winds for that length of time devastated my plants, despite my wind fence. The 500 Beauchemin actually had it's main vine snapped off! The 753 Pappas was also hit hard.

Fairing slightly better were the two squash plants. They were closer to the wind fence. Still, they're recovering, but behind at this time. The 891 Tanner had been battered previously, and this latest wind didn't help things, although there really wasn't much plant to damage. (Hmmm...)

The only good news is that the half-dome that was up on the Big Kahuna 981 Zunino protected it quite well. This one is doing fine. But! But, of necessity, I needed to remove the last pieces of the HH yesterday. Which means, within about 3 days it will get clobbered.

Here is a picture. Enjoy it.

981 Zunino, June 20

The main vine is at 8 feet on the 20th of June. Not great, but considering our weather, that's the best I can do.

So, what's up my sleve for next year? I'm thinking of moving the patch to the very south-west corner of the garden, leaving behing the soil that I've worked to build up over these last four years. There I will plant on the south and west sides a solid wall of lilac bushes. The lilacs will get to 6 or 7 feet, and they are the one plant that is guaranteed to grow dependably here in my climate. Adding to the fortification will be cotoneaster bushes and a big willow tree.

Right now I'm a little depressed. I see this as my only option. This is too much work, to spend all this time and effort, and be virtually assured that the wind will destroy my plants. I realize that this new patch won't happen overnight. The journey begins with the first step.

June 27

The 981 Zunino has a nice female about 9.5 feet out. The vine is at about 10.5 feet today. Likewise, the 681 Beauchemin has a vine in the 10 foot range, but there are no females on the plant. Ah, females... I have about five on the 981 (one on the main), and one on the main of the 753 Pappas. That's about it. No other females in the patch, and, what is it? Last week of June? Ah...

I would really like to see some females on the squash plants soon.

Here is a run-down of the plants:

981 Zunino - Doing fine. Has a female at 9.5 feet out on the main. This should open in less than a week. There are several other females on secondaries. I'm going to go "all out" with this plant, so I need to cull these female bulbs. Perhaps I will polinate one of them, other than the one on the main, but in the long run I'm going for one pumpkin on this plant. I would cross it, but... (see below)

681 Beauchemin (squash) - Plant has recovered well from the wind storms, and the main has reached 10 feet. Vines are very slender. No females yet.

874 Dieffenbaugher (squash) - Is a little smaller than the 681. These are planted back-to-back. No females yet. Vine is at about 8 feet. Thicker vines than the 681.

753 Pappas - This plant suffered a lot of wind damage, and it has an odd habit. This plant just seems to "lay on the ground". Stems are very short, leaves are huge, and it just wants to hug the ground. This could be a good thing, with my wind. It has a female at about 8 feet on the main. (I haven't measured.)

500 Beauchemin - This plant suffered severe damage in wind... It was nearly "blown away", with all that that envisions. The main vine was snapped off in wind! Still, much of it is now buried, and I will keep it going. I'm trying to train a new "main" vine.

891 Tanner - For some odd reason, this plant has never wanted to "kick it in gear". Even from the time it was a seedling. It's just slow. It has no competition for space, so it will remain. The main vine is probably about 6 feet long... just taking it's time. No pruning done, no pruning needed!

So, will I self the 981? Each of the candidates has some "issue" which I wouldn't want to preserve for the future. I could cross it with the 874... that would be interesting... red-orange with true green. The 500 is also a candidate. But it's looking like selfing for the 981.

June 28

Some good news! I have found a female on the main vines of each squash plant. Likely I'll be able to get a pollination on each in the first week of July.


Cliff Warren