Text by Frances Dowell
Photos by Randi Byrd
The last month in Randi Byrd’s pumpkin patch has been a nail biter. In May it was all good news—the seedlings bursting forth in their little seed cups, tiny leaves unfurling and then almost immediately entering into a gangly, adolescent stage. Mid-May, five plants were transplanted into the prepared patch, protected from the sun by shade cloth, beautifully transitioning to outdoor life. But make no mistake: no matter how happy those early days, heartbreak is imminent. Of the five transplanted plants, only two will make the final cut. And yet it is impossible not to cheer for all of them.
Early June saw high heat. In her June 10th Facebook entry, Randi wrote, “I’m starting to be grateful for having bought the shade cloth given it’s only early June and we’re expecting upper 90s for the next 5 consecutive days. Will be up very early tomorrow morning watering before powwow. This year I think it may come down to who has a pumpkin still alive by weigh-off.”
The following morning, Randi spotted deer tracks in the patch and signs that something had been snacking on pumpkin leaves. This called for fishing line strung around the perimeter to keep the taller four-legged critters out. Other worries: evil squash vine borers and stink bugs, which Randi squashed by hand. Time for the sticky traps, which seemed to do the trick, ensnaring any number of pesky cucumber bugs on their way to do damage.
Things remained calm for the next few days, and then tragedy befell the patch: On June 15, the 1912 Carter (so named for its seed variety) met its demise, its main vine broken by some unknown assailant. “I’m going to have to move on from this fast,” Randi wrote on Facebook, “because there’s no time to pout. On the plus side, it’s one less plant I have to cull.”
Later that afternoon, Randi reported that the plants are now bigger than she is. It is only a matter of days before it will be time to cull the plants down to three.
On June 20th, the Summer Solstice, Randi posted the video of pulling up a plant—it’s the 1873 Steil—interestingly enough the biggest plant, but the others appear healthier and therefore win the day. It’s the sort of difficult decision every champion grower has to make, but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch the beautiful vine ripped up by its roots. RIP, 1873 Steil.
Two plants down, three left. Stay tuned to see which pumpkins will go the distance.
Video link: https://www.facebook.com/RandiByrd?fref=ts