Wild Men on the North Fork

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2004 NEWS:

January 2, 2004

I have an even dozen catalogs now. It is time to get serious about next year's garden.

January 30, 2004

The seeds I ordered are almost all here now. We will begin starting some plants in March.

March 1, 2004

We will start some onions today or tomorrow. We are trying some big varieties this year.

April 9, 2004

You can not get through this time of year without some minor disasters. Our early starts have provided. We had no Black Krim seeds, and so replaced those with Black Russian Tomatoes. This is a bigger tomato than Black Krim, and like Black Krim, Black Russian is an heirloom variety. But I would still rate it and use it as a 'specialty' tomato. We got lousy germination from old Garden Huckleberry seed. A result is that we will plant 9 suare feet instead of 18. The other 9 square feet will be filled by other tomato, probably Goliath.

We really push the indeterminant tomatoes because we think they outperform the determinants in a good year. But we have begun to rethink that stance, particularly after several contacts with other Casper gardeners. Next year may see us planting some main-crop determinant tomatoes.

We had some failures trying to start big onions (Candy, Alisa Craig, and Super Star) indoors. I have ordered a bunch of pre-started Super Star Onions, and have started all varietes in the tires down at the plots.

May 2, 2004

More disasters have occurred. My Cauliflower did not germinated. So we will be buying plants this year. We are just now seeing the snow melt off from the latest snow. It was the third daffodil-wrecker this year, so spring might actually be here. All our boxes and tires are moved and it is nice not to be facing the work that we did last spring. Onions are in. Peas are in. Potatoes are in.

I had a reader write in about replacing Lady Godiva since it is not being offered. Two suggestions:

1. Kakai pumpkin from Johnny's

2. Snack 'R Jack pumpkin from Jung, Territorial, and Vessey.

May 27, 2004

This is a cool and wet Spring. The danger is in putting seeds in the ground too early, and having them rot because there just is not enough heat. We have onions and potatoes in. Some of the squash and pumpkin were so vigorous that we just had to get them in the ground. If they freeze that's alright. With seed that strong we will do fine direct seeding. Today I put the corn in and tonight I will plant beans. We are planting two kinds of corn, two squares forming a rectangle. By using SE corn we should not have polination problems.

May 31, 2004

Planted now are: cucumbers, carrots, bush beans, pole beans, potatoes, melons, chard, radish, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, pumpkin, watermelon, corn.

June 1, 2004

We are rethinking our time to put out the tomatoes and pepppers. This year is much colder than the last two years.

June 4, 2004

We will put tomato and pepper plants in tomorrow. Lettuce seed will go in as well.

June 9, 2004

We got our tomato and pepper plants in, and the garden huckleberries. Now we will try to keep the soil moist to speed germination. Carrots, thyme, parsley, and basil will be slow to germinate. We really do not expect to see these up for at least another week. Meanwhile the rest of the garden is just popping up out of the ground, including beans, chard, squash, cucumber, pumpkin, watermelon, and corn. The recent heat has certainly helped. I am working on getting flowers into the garden right now.

Below is an explanation for our raised bed system. What's with the box? Quite a bit actually.

1. THE BOX: The box, filled with soil, gives the gardener a raised bed. This raised bed gets plant roots up higher than they would normally be and allows heat to be absorbed into the roots, not just from above, but also from the side. More heat gives better growth. Please click on the link to our Beds Page. Note that if you don't fill the box completely full of soil, you can then flood irrigate the whole box when you water (and plants are well established). This allows water to soak in slowly and deeply for 'deep watering'. We often line the sides of our boxes with plastic film to keep soil from washing out. Also, for plants that really love the heat (onions, squash, pumpkin, and melons) we plant in old tires.

2. SOIL: We plan what plants will be in what box or tire before the growing season begins. We then adjust the soils in each box accordingly. Some plant varieties like soil that is rich in Nitrogen from manure. Others like soil that has moderate amounts of manure. Some plants like soil that has no manure (Nitrogen) at all. To see what different vegetables like please click on the links to our vegetable varieties pages : beans to chard , corn to melon , onion to pumpkin , and radish to watermelon .

3. CLIMATE CONTROL/TUBES: Climate in Wyoming is harsh and unforgiving. We have found, over the years, that it is best to use short-seasoned plant varieties. In seed catalogs and on seed packages the days-to-maturity is usually given for every variety of vegetable. You will generally have better success in your Wyoming garden with the plants that have the lower numbers. A general rule of thumb is to consider carefully any variety that has a day-to-maturity between 80 and 90; and to not plant varieties whose days-to-maturity are greater than 90 (pumpkins may be the exception to this rule). For the past 30 years my gardening partners and I have experimented and collected data on which varieties work best in our climate. You can get this information by clicking on the links to our vegetable varieties pages : beans to chard , corn to melon , onion to pumpkin , and radish to watermelon . More information is also available on our climate page.

The tube, pictured above, is one of the very best ideas my garden partner, Paul Combe, ever had. We use then extensively now. They are PVC plastic, usually made for water or sewer lines. Short remnant pieces of tube are often found in new developments, and come in diameters of 3 inches up to 8 inches. We cut them to desired lengths with a hand power saw that has an abrasive, or masonry, blade. You could buy PVC pipe at your local hardware store, or substitute old plastic pots or coffee cans with the bottoms removed. When placed around plants just set out, the tubes act as the perfect wind-protection. The open end allows the plant to wiggle a bit in the wind, but does not allow it to be battered. You really do want your plants to experience this wiggling because this action builds up their main stocks, makes them strong enough to eventually withstand the wind when you remove the tubes. Some of our plants never do get the tubes removed. Tomatoes in particular do well with the tube on all season. Cut worms stay away and the tubes can be filled with water for 'deep-watering'. The tomatoes simply grow up out of their tubes.

4. THE PLANT: When not experimenting, we try hard to plant varieties that will give us abundant crops of delicious vegetables in our harsh climate. You can get more information by clicking on the links to our vegetable varieties pages : beans to chard , corn to melon , onion to pumpkin , and radish to watermelon . We also practice intensive planting in our beds. For instance, we plant carrots in 3 foot rows at the rate of 4 rows per foot. A 3 by 3 foot box, therefore, has 12 rows of carrots planted in it. Tomatoes too are intensively planted in boxes. A 3 by 3 foot box has 4 tomato plants in it. We use a kind of trellis system for the tomatoes. Cucumbers also grow up a trellis. We also do some companion planting in some of the beds. We regularly plant beets amongst the cauliflower. When the cauliflower gets ripped out at mid-season, the beets benefit by getting more sun to grow. To learn more about that click on this link.

Also, we try to put seeds and live plants in at appropriate times. Times vary from year to year. The last average day of frost for Casper is May 25. The operative word is average. That means that some years the last frost is LATER THAN MAY 25. The last frost this year was June 1. We delayed putting out tomatoes, peppers, and garden huckleberries this year, accordingly. We also delayed planting or putting out most of the other varieties we plant because the weather this Spring was very cool.

June 11, 2004

Wind! There is always a cold spell in June and always some wind. The wind yesterday and today though was as bad as I can remember. The sustained wind was 40 mph with gusts up over 60 mph. It blew hour after hour like that and did extensive damage to a lot of Casper gardens. We had planned for wind protection for our tomatoes and peppers, and so are in better shape than others. But it is very discouraging to have a garden wiped out by wind. We know this from bitter experience, and we feel sorry for our fellow gardeners who have seen their hours of work wiped out.

June 23, 2004

If it seems like your garden is going backward, it might be. This spring has been as cool as any I have known.

July 12, 2004

Tubes. We have gone tubular. We are using short sections of 4 inch tubes around all kinds of plants, particularly beans, cucumbers, and musk melons. We have discovered that the smooth-walled plastic tubes protect plants from the ravages of instects. Our first experiment equaled dramatic results. Newly risen pole beans did not get eaten and are now sending up their vines ahead of older, and beaten up plants. We prefer tubes to using chemicals, and tubes seem to be more effective.

Cool. This year has been the pits. Here are the degree days for this year and the last two years through July 4th. Degree days are cumulative, and are a way to measure the total heat we have received during the growing season. Judge for yourself: 2002 - 626dd, 2003 - 483dd, 2004 - 372dd.

Bush beans have been severely damaged. From worst to best: Royal Purple, Contender, Blue Lake 274, and Top Crop. The distance of the respective bean beds from the paths (where we think the bugs live) correspond perfectly with the results, with Royal Purple being closest to the path(s) and Top Crop the furthest.

Pole beans have also been severly damaged by insects. As with the bush beans, we are installing tubes and replanting and still hope to get some beans before frost.

Sun Jewel Melon was wiped out by insect damage. Our first plantings of both Sweet Success and Cool Breeze Cucumbers were wiped out by insects. Tubes are in place and replanting has occurred.

Trinity Sweet Corn and Golden Hawk Pumpkin had real germination problems in our cool spring. We are also disappointed in the onion plants we bought.

We are most pleased with the following: Better Bell Pepper, Packman Broccoli, Snow Crown Cauliflower, King and Queen Watermelon, Sunshine Squash, Sorcerer Pumpkin, Green Hubbard Squash, Burgess Buttercup Squash, and particularly Lady Godiva Squash/Pumpkin. All the tomatoes, while subdued by the lack of heat, are looking fine. Sweet Baby Girl and Bloody Butcher flowered early.

July 28, 2004

More on Tubes:

The success we have been having with the tubes since we started using them on a massive scale has us convinced that many of our problems in past years were due to insects. In the case of beans and cucumbers what we would see would be a plant, like that on the left, stunted, slow growing, and unable to get beyond the two-leaf stage. Now, with the tubes, we see the same plant coming on with its third and fourth leaves (right). Some of the pole beans are over 4 feet high only 2 weeks after the installation of the tubes. We are believers now.

Primo musk melons were struggling before the tubes, now they are progressing nicely. Sun Jewel Melon was wiped out first thing in the Spring. We think now that tubes would have prevented that. I am predicting less disease problems now that the bugs can't crawl all over the plants now. Our corn is tassling now, and most of it is under 3 feet tall. We will be lucky to keep any away from the mice and skunks. We are harvesting lettuce, chard and broccoli now. Cauliflower will be ready as early as next week. Cabbage may get the boot next year. The plots may be too hot for them. Potatoes are also dissappointing, possibly for much the same reason.

August 2, 2004

Squash and Pumpking are setting on fruit. We begin picking Cauliflower tonight. Tomatoes are setting a lot of fruit on, particularly the Valentine Tomato. Carrots are starting to shoot up in the heat. It looks like we are actually going to get some beans this summer, and we have a 50% chance of getting cucumbers this summer, all thanks to our use of tubes to protect the plants from marauding bugs.

Don't do what we did this spring. We had a big pile of vines and plants from the 2003 growing season stacked up in the corn area. We burned the pile. Right where we had the fire, and particularly right where the fire was hottest, the soil got sterilized, all the little microbes in the soil that help growth were destroyed. The lack of growth in this area by the 2004 corn is pronounced.

We are still way behind on the heat. Through the end of July we have recieved 853 degree days. Through the end of July 2003 we had recieved 1063.5 degree days, and through the end of July 2002 we had recieved 1252 degree days.

Below is my degree days chart for 2004. It is based on 50 degree (F.) average days. Note all the 'blue' lows in the 30's, and the fact that we started the chart in the negative. It has been cool indeed. June saw some hot days, but a lot more cool days. July has been warmer, but also scattered with rain.

August 31, 2004

Well, it is the end of August. This is the time of year we walk through the garden taking notes for next year. Here are those notes.

Cool Breeze Cucumber: We had dead and dying plants from bugs at night. Then, in July, we replanted inside 3 inch pvc tubes. The results were dramatic, and we will get a few cucumbers. Next year we will plant in tubes right at the start of the season.

Sweet Success Cucumber: We had the same experience with Sweet Success as Cool Breeze.

Bush Beans: It was a very cool summer, and it was buggy. We had a similar experience with bush beans as with cucumbers. Once in the tubes the beans took off. In this tough year the best producers are Contender and Royal Purple. Blue Lake 274 and Top Crop have not been as productive.

Pole Beans: Very similar results as the bush beans. The best producers are Helda and Stringless Blue Lakes. Musica and Ura succumbed to the bugs and disease. We will plant in tubes from the get go.

Lettuce: Green Ice hardly germinated. We may want to replace it. Olga did fine, as did Red Sails, Nevada and New Red. I was not impressed with the lettuce blend we tried. From now on I will make my own blend.

Peppers: Cherry Pic did just fine, as did Big Bertha, Fat N Sassy, and Better Belle. Guney Giant needed more heat and did not get it. The hot peppers (Thai and Jalapeno) neede a lot more heat.

Carrots: Slow growing year with all that cool weather. Will judge when we harvest.

Potatoes: We will not plant potatoes in boxes again. Boxes are probably a bad idea for potatoes.

Melon: Primo grew just fine once we replanted in tubes. There will not be enough time to get any melons. Sun Jewel was wiped out by the bugs and disease.

Chard: Bright Lights grew just fine this season. Next year I will add more red stemmed chard to Bright Lights.

Cabbage: Savoy grew just fine once we got it started. The Chinese Cabbage is going to get moved out of the boxes.

Garden Huckleberry: grew just fine. But getting enough plants started proved to be difficult.

Broccoli: Did just fine though it was only about half as tall as normal.

Cauliflower: was slow but did produce. It needed more heat.

Onions: Starting from seed was a disaster. Mail order plants had a hard time, but the ones that survived grew really big!

Squash: Lady Godiva is superb even in a tough year. Patty Pan, Heart of Gold, Buttercup, Super Zuc, Goldrush, did just fine. MooreGold and Acorn harly produced. The biggest surprise was how well Sunshine did in this very tough year.

Pumpkin: Tough year. We will plant Autumn Gold again and Sorcerer. Golden Hawk was a failure.

Watermelon: King and Queen outperformed Whopper.

Tomatoes:

Generally tomatoes did just fine. One reason is that we aggressively trimmed beginning in July. We have just the right mix (for us) of small tomatoes: 2 black plum, one yellow pear, one red pear, and one Sweet Baby Girl. Sweet Baby Girl is the newby for us and is a fine, productive tomato.

Perhaps the most productive plants we have are the Valentine, followed very closely by Goliath. Sunny Goliath and Black Krim were just fine. A pleasant surprise is how well Big Zac is doing in this cool year. Its crop of tomatoes is going to be large and heavy.

Bloody Butcher did OK, but nothing special and Black Prince was a failure.

Corn: It has been a bad year. Trinity, supposedly a 7 foot corn, is 1 to 2 1/2 feet, shorter than the Kandy Kwik. Kandy Kwik, supposedly a 6 foot corn, is 3 1/2 feet right now....at least we are getting some ears from it. We will be investigating much taller corn for 2005.

September 22, 2004

Here is a link to a new page featuring the garden of Bill Simpson. His approach to gardening in Casper Wyoming is very different than our own. I thought you would enjoy seeing what he is doing.

Here are some more notes from the garden to augment notes at the end of August below.

Peppers: While Gurney Giant Pepper does fine in an average to hot year, this year was neither. The Fat N Sassy outperformed the Gurney Giant.

Cool Breeze Cucumber: We actually got to put up some (14)quarts of pickles this year thanks to the pvc tubes. We will get a much better crop next year.

Sun Jewel Melon was not wiped out altogether. We got a few right at the end.

Squash: It was just too cool for the Acorn, though Buttercup performed well.

Tomatoes: They did more than just fine. This year was one of the best tomato years we have had. Aggressively trimming our indeterminate tomatoes helped, so did having lots of flowers around to attract bees. Big Zac turned out to be a big cropper. Our Black Krim grew larger tomatoes this year than last. Over the winter I am going to add comments on how to trim indeterminate tomatoes.

October 5, 2004

2004 was the eightth coolest summer on record for the whole U.S., and August was the coolest August on record for the country. So if you didn't have a great garden this year, that is probably why.


Degree Days:

Degree Days Comparison Chart
June 15 June 30 July 15 July 31 August 15 August 31
2002 231 528 888 1252 1530 1792
2003 253.5 401.5 709 1108 1496 1813.5
2004 181.5 314 584 853 1128.5 1326

Below is my degree days chart for 2004. It is based on 50 degree (F.) average days. Note all the 'blue' lows in the 30's, and the fact that we started the chart in the negative. It has been cool indeed. June saw some hot days, but a lot more cool days. July has been warmer, but also scattered with rain. August has been very cool.
MAY 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
HIGH 67 70 68 77 75 58 72 61 70 57 59 66 73 74 59 57 65
LOW 32 45 39 42 50 45 45 37 41 41 34 37 41 51 45 33 37
AVER. 2004 49.5 57.5 53.5 59.5 62.5 51.5 58.5 53.5 55.5 49 46.5 51.5 57 62.5 52 45 51
DD (50) -3.5 -2.0 5 17.5 19.5 14.5 15.5
JUNE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
HIGH 72 74 85 88 80 91 87 76 72 67 71 75 76 82 80
LOW 31 34 44 45 46 53 47 49 48 55 46 40 39 37 42
AVER. 2004 51.5 54 64.5 66.5 63 72 67 62.5 60 61 58.5 57.5 57.5 59.5 61
DD (50) 17 21 35.5 52 65 87 104 116.5 126.5 137.5 146 153.5 161 170.5 181.5
JUNE 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
HIGH 53 56 45 74 70 63 78 83 72 75 69 73 73 83 78
LOW 43 45 41 39 48 43 39 46 47 43 46 42 48 46 54
AVER. 2004 48 50.5 43 56.5 59 53 58.5 64.5 59.5 59 57.5 57.5 55.5 64.5 66
DD (50) 179.5 180 173 179.5 188.5 191.5 200 214.5 234 243 260.5 278 283.5 298 314
JULY 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
HIGH 79 81 82 76 68 77 93 86 90 91 95 96 94 93 79
LOW 52 48 48 50 52 41 53 56 40 56 46 50 53 62 63
AVER. 2004 65.5 64.5 65 63 60 59 73 71 65 73.5 65.5 73 73.5 77.5 71
DD (50) 329.5 344 359 372 382 391 414 435 450 473.5 489 512 535.5 563 584
JULY 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
HIGH 84 90 93 89 85 87 72 65 71 85 86 77 69 77 84 91
LOW 54 56 61 64 59 53 59 54 48 46 46 55 49 45 45 47
AVER. 2004 69 73 76 76.5 72 70 60.5 59.5 59.5 65.5 66 66 59 63 64.5 69
DD (50) 603 626 652 678.5 700.5 720.5 731 740.5 750 765.5 781.5 797.5 806.5 819.5 834 853
AUGUST 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
HIGH 93 90 85 88 82 87 90 80 76 76 76 78 82 83 89 86
LOW 50 60 59 49 55 57 60 49 47 47 39 37 41 42 44 45
AVER. 2004 71.5 75 72 68.5 68.5 72 75 64.5 61.5 61.5 57.5 57.5 61.5 62.5 66.5 65.5
DD (50) 874.5 899.5 921.5 940 958.5 980.5 1005.5 1020 1031.5 1053 1080.5 1088 1099.5 1112 1128.5 1144
AUGUST 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
HIGH 81 63 74 76 83 82 75 73 75 69 90 74 79 84 85
LOW 50 56 51 49 50 50 54 44 51 48 44 34 39 43 42
AVER. 2004 65.5 59.5 62.5 62.5 66.5 66 64.5 58.5 63 58.5 67 54 59 63.5 63.5
DD (50) 1159.5 1169 1181.5 1194 1210.5 1226.5 1241 1249.5 1262.5 1271 1288 1292 1299 1312.5 1326
SEPTEMBER 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
HIGH 89 83 68 54 68 74 80 84 85 82 86 85
LOW 56 57 50 48 51 39 40 45 51 49 38 55
AVER. 2004 72.5 70 59 51 59.5 56.5 60 64.5 68 65.5 62 70
DD (50) 1348.5 1368.5 1377.5 1378.5 1388 1394.5 1404.5 1419 1437 1452.5 1464.5 1484.5
SEPTEMBER 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
HIGH 69 68 67 77 86 86 89 64 42 55 67
LOW 50 46 37 40 47 49 64 49 37 34 32
AVER. 2004 59.5 57 52 58.5 66.5 67.5 76.5 56.5 39.5 44.5 49.5
DD (50) 1494 1501 1503 1511.5 1528 1545.5 1572 1588.5 1578 1572.5 1572

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