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Our Senior Garden - August 2, 2015

One of the joys of getting a bit older is having the time to putter around in the garden. Below is my garden blog. This site also contains sections of recipes and features about specific, and often obscure, gardening lore.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Watering brassicasGreen bean rowsI was surprised this morning to find our newly transplanted cauliflower and broccoli a bit wilted. I'd heavily watered the holes before transplanting and immediately mulched the plants. But they were still dry this morning and required a good watering. There aren't all that many plants in the row (7), as I'd planned on putting in a double row, but the space just didn't work out.

While the brassicas soaked up the needed water, I started mulching our rows of green beans that I seeded on Saturday. I had to re-string the rows so I could effectively bring the grass clipping mulch right up to the edge of each planted row. After applying the mulch, I thought I watered the bean rows pretty heavily. But when I scratched the soil a bit with my finger, the soil was wet only a half to an inch down! So I watered some more.

We really need a good rain. And, we have a 58% chance of it tonight, the best we've seen for some time.

While I was watering the bean rows, I was entertained by what I later identified as a zebra swallowtail butterfly that seed determined to get watered as well. It's just barely visible in the image below, although I got a slightly better shot of just it later on.

Mulched and watered bean rows with zebra swallowtail butterfly

Sugar Snap peas upOur Sugar Snap peas are now up and looking pretty good. They only got a minimal watering this morning, as we try to conserve our well water as much as possible.

Too Much Red?

Magenta Orbit GeraniumAs I've looked out at our garden this summer, I keep wondering how I got so many red flowers planted. It's almost too much red for my liking. Of course, almost all the reds are from our geraniums that I liberally edge our raised beds with. When I seeded them in January, I started 15 Maverick Red seeds and a packet of 10 Orbit mixed seeds. The Orbits usually supply some nice pastels and whites, but this year turned out to be mostly reds! And since I usually transplant the geraniums before they've bloomed, I had no idea what colors the Orbits were going to produce. There is one pastel magenta Orbit, but it's hidden behind a tomato cage on the far side of our main raised bed where we can't see it from the house. I still have some petunias and marigold transplants on the porch that I could use to correct the color imbalance, but like all our crops, they'll need lots of water to get started at this time of year.

I'm not really complaining, just evaluating.

Too much red in the garden?

One red in our garden I certainly won't complain about is the abundance of deep red Earlirouge tomatoes we're enjoying.

Earlirouge tomato Earlirouge tomatoes Another view of Earlirouge tomato plants

We started growing the Earlirouge tomato variety a couple of years ago. We'd previously grown and liked the related Moira and Quinte tomato varieties developed by Jack Metcalf in the 1970s. Earlirouge was the most commercially successful variety of the series of the canning/slicing tomatoes with deep red interiors. I hunted high and low for Earlirouge seed for almost a year before discovering I had some we'd saved during our last year on the farm. The vintage 1988 seed had remained viable through 25 years of frozen storage!

We now share Earlirouge tomato seed via the Seed Savers Exchange. When I first listed the variety in the fall of 2013, I was pleased to see that the Seed Savers Exchange also had the variety in their storage vault. While it might sound cool to be the only one growing, saving, and offering seed for a vegetable variety, that also puts a lot of pressure on one to make sure nothing goes wrong.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Our Senior Garden - August 1, 2015Sam's Club Back To ClassAugust is often a busy month in our Senior Garden. I think we're going to get off easy this year, as we don't have crops such as sweet corn, potatoes, and melons to harvest. Without our large East Garden plot this year, seeded to a cover crop because of my hip surgery in May, we'll only be harvesting tomatoes and cucumbers for the next few weeks.

Our fall garden is pretty well planted now. One of my most important jobs will be watering new plantings of brassicas and beans until they're well established. A good rain would certainly help, but that's not something we often see during our usual late July through August dry spell. But we'll make the best of it. We have thirteen quarts of whole tomatoes canned, far below what we did when we had kids home, but certainly enough for just Annie and I through the winter. We froze lots of peas, broccoli, and cauliflower in June, so we're covered there. And our onion and garlic crops are now safely stored in our basement.

I still need to get our fall spinach and carrots seeded. Spinach is always a short term crop for us, easier to grow in the fall than in the spring. We love fresh spinach salad and spinach in various alfredo-type dishes, so it's worth the effort. Since our spring carrot crop wasn't all that great, it would be nice to put a few more carrots into storage for the winter. Our fall lettuce starts are still under the plant lights in the basement and need to go to our back porch soon to harden off before going into the garden.

Garden Planning

When planting our kale yesterday, I used up the last of our Red Ursa kale seed. That reminded me that I needed to get started listing items on our garden orders spreadsheet that we've run out of or just want for next season. With a much smaller garden this year, we didn't exhaust much of our seed, but did finish off a packet here and there.

I also started recording some ideas that had been buzzing around in my head about crop placement or rotations for next season. With our large, main raised garden bed and two narrow raised beds, it's not too awfully difficult to make sure I don't grow the same or a similar crop in the same space two years in a row. While I keep our garden records on computer, my desk in the office is littered with scraps of paper with ideas and drawings that later end up being recorded on our garden maps and plans.

2015 Main Raised Bed Map

2015 Plots A1 & A2 Map

2015 Unused East Garden PlanThe garden maps above show how we're finishing up the 2015 growing season. I'll soon save the files to a new folder for 2016 and begin moving things around. Our experience with a smaller garden this year has me leaning towards continuing cutting back some of our plantings from what we'd done in the past. We've ended up with way too many carrots, peppers, and other stuff several years in a row before this year.

Our East Garden plan for next year should be pretty easy, as I can just use the plan for this year that we didn't get to use. I'm wondering now if I should, and if I physically can, fall till the East Garden plot or just wait until next spring to turn the alfalfa and grass mix under. Turning it soon will make for easier planting next spring, but it also will leave the soil bare and subject to wind erosion over the winter. Of course, if I turn it early enough, we're certain to get a bunch of grass and weeds germinating in it that will supply some winter cover.

The various outlying plots that we've used to isolate crops for seed production were all allowed to return to grass (and weeds) this season. Two of the three isolation plots have really lousy soil and possibly should be left to grass. But it is nice to have places to isolate seed crops well away from anything that could cross pollinate with them. I'm still trying to get a good crop of Paprika Supreme peppers for seed, but haven't had much success with that project. While we've been able to grow good peppers for drying and grinding, saved seed from them is invariably sterile or almost so. And we use a lot of ground paprika browning and seasoning chicken.

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