Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity


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Our senior garden

One of the joys of getting a bit older is having time to putter around in the garden. Another joy is just sitting around the virtual "coffee shop" chatting via email about gardening and other stuff.

The idea for Senior Gardening came about from frequent postings I made about our garden on my old Educators' News web site. I'd originally hoped to create a place where folks could share garden lore via blogs and forums. Software issues and legal concerns blunted that effort, and others are now doing it far better than I could. For now, I've organized the site to share my garden blog, a few favorite, time-tested recipes, and some how-to and feature articles.

About the Senior Garden

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Our Senior Garden is located in west central Indiana, just a few miles east of the Wabash River and about twenty-five miles south of I-70 and Terre Haute, Indiana. The soil is predominately clay, although just a few miles west and south of us, farmers grow great melons "on the sand!" Our frost dates are about April 15 and October 10.

Note: You may have to refresh or reload this page to get the Google Map at right to load properly.

Off Merom BluffWe're also about two and a half miles northeast of a formation known as Merom Bluff. The bluff rises several hundred feet from the Wabash River and is probably responsible for the area being quite windy. The local lore is that it somehow prevents tornados in the immediate area, although 40-50 MPH straight line winds are not unusual! Fortunately, they're also not an everyday affair. But I often think that this area would be an ideal location for a wind farm.

Probably like many of you, the original senior garden patch was an area formerly gardened by the previous owners of our property. The ground was pretty well spent, and we've poured soil amendments and organic material into it over the years. The original 16' x 25' section eventually grew to about 19' x 39'!

As our space needs increased, three additional plots were turned from yard to garden. With our children now grown and with some of the rigors of age, our main garden is growing smaller. The plot shown below was reduced in size, deep dug, manured and fertilized, and planted to asparagus, eventually becoming a raised bed.

Asparagus

Another section just beyond the tractor tire and tree in the photo below was returned to lawn. The original garden patch, somewhat prone to flooding, has been reduced in size each year for several years, now just being two narrow raised beds. It also helped make room for a replacement tree for a grand old maple tree that was really too close to the house and died after too many lightning strikes.

Senior Garden, May 2008

The main Senior Garden is a 16' x 24' raised bed where I do a lot of intensive gardening. We delayed planting a bit in 2008 to put heavy timbers along the low sides of the plot to correct a soil erosion problem. In March, 2009, the other two sides went in, changing the patch from a terrace to a true raised bed.

I'm still not sure I like this large of a raised bed! I can work the edges about three feet into the garden from all sides, but have to use walking boards in wet weather to prevent soil compaction to access the interior of the bed.

An intensive senior plot

Our East Garden

2008
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East Garden - 2012
East Garden -2013
East Garden - June 30, 2014
East Garden - 2016
East Garden - July 23, 2017

As I write about cutting down our garden area, I should also add that the farmer who rents the fields around us graciously has allowed us to use part of a one acre field east of our home for space hungry crops. We'd planned to plant sweet corn in it for 2008, but I had one of those senior things with my arm that required surgery just at planting time. So when the arm was healed, I grabbed some melon and squash plants at the garden store and stuck them in that area. To distinguish this new area from the rest of our garden plots, we simply called it our East Garden.

The field where the East Garden grows is an old farm field. The soil is mostly heavy clay, and parts of the field slope a good bit. Despite the slope, there are areas that are poorly drained. The field sits next to a nature preserve, just a short ways from a creek. We always have lots of deer and raccoons who want to visit the East Garden for a snack.

All of the reasons above along with the small size of the field combined to make the farm renter happy to leave the field fallow. But for us, even with all the field's limitations, it has allowed us to grow melons, sweet corn, spreading squash varieties, and pumpkins. It's also far enough away from our main garden to facilitate isolation of open pollinated crops we save seed from in either our main or the the East Garden plot.

Buckwheat cover/smother cropOur East Garden plot has changed shape and size several times. It's now an 80' x 80' area. Generally, we garden half of that area, leaving the rest in cover and turndown crops to improve the soil.

I've tried rotating the area used 90o each year so that the rotated out areas get two years rest between two years of plantings. That plan has been interrupted a couple of times, once for hip replacement surgery and another year due to torn knee cartilage. Those years, the plot sat idle, other than some butternuts and pumpkins I got planted in the spring of 2018 before I tore up my knees.

In most years, we've grown sweet corn, melons, squash, and potatoes in the plot. Sweet potatoes, kidney beans, and various tomato and pepper varieties also have been grown in the plot. Even though we don't consider them space hogs, we also grow our yellow squash in the plot.

About the Senior Gardener

The Senior GardenerI've gardened most of my life. I grew up in the "big city," just a few blocks from the Indiana State Fairgrounds. But even as a kid, I still grew strawberries and sweet corn in a bit of our back yard. When I got out of college and began teaching, I kept a garden in the back yard. Over the years the gardening came inside a bit with plant lights to assist starting transplants and later for growing all sorts of houseplants.

For eight years I owned and operated a 40 acre general purpose farm in southwest, central Indiana. We grew and roadsided lots of sweet corn. We were early adopters of the then new sh2 super sweet varieties. We also raised hogs, chickens, cattle, and experimented with goats, ducks, and honeybees. We had some incredible gardens on the farm and produced much of our own food.

I am a person of faith, even though I don't write about it much. I wasn't for a long time, but in the depths of my despair when my first marriage ended and we lost the farm, the Lord lifted me up and graciously granted me a new life and family. Living in retirement with all the problems of aging, there's so much to be thankful for and praise the Lord.

My wife and I have lived at the senior garden for twenty-four years. I retired from teaching in 2004 and went to work at a small college for several years before really retiring. During the last ten years of my classroom teaching career, I became heavily involved in technology in education. As with many teachers, I often worked a part-time job, and during some of the teaching years, the job was as a paid writer for various web sites. With the dotcom bust, such positions that paid well pretty much went away, but my interest in web sites continued. In addition to Senior Gardening, I published the Educators' News web site until April, 2012, and still write an occasional column or editorial. A bit more standard bio appears on our mathdittos2.com site.

Crockett's Victory GardenI've tried to model my garden blog after the book Crockett's Victory Garden by the late James Underwood Crockett, sharing gardening lore by the month. I also have specific feature stories on plants and garden tasks and a few recipes on the site. Although long since out of print, Crockett's Victory Garden, Crockett's Indoor Garden, and Crockett's Flower Garden are still the best reference volumes I have on gardening. Fortunately for others, they're still available used at very reasonable prices through Amazon and Alibrisicon. Many of the things I write about on Senior Gardening, such as intensive gardening and grass clipping mulch, came from Crockett's books and the old PBS TV show, Crockett's Victory Garden.

I don't limit myself to just Crockett-inspired gardening advice, as there are things I've picked up from years of gardening and the few years we owned a small farm that may be useful to others, such as using a dry sump to dry out wet spots in a yard or a "how-to" on Saving Tomato Seed. I also try to include some of our failures in gardening, as we learn a lot from them. It's really a lot of fun to write. And I find the web site construction and photography a good challenge for my old mind.

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Full disclosure: Botanical Interests, Burpee, and True Leaf Market are Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. Clicking through one of our ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale. We're also a consumer member of the Fedco Seeds Cooperative. True Leaf Market Fedco Seeds

With many in our nation still un- or under-employed, I'd guess lots of folks may be growing "Victory Gardens" for summers to come. They may be a first garden or a return to gardening. With that in mind, I try to make my posts not just reflections on what we've done, but somewhat instructive tutorials about various gardening tasks.

One thing I've tried to do on Senior Gardening is to provide larger images where possible of the views shown on this site. Even though many of the images on this page are really pretty big, each one links to an even larger view of the same image. I've often strained to see just what an author is showing from small images on other sites. I also began adding mouseover text for most images in 2013.

You'll also notice that the default font size used on Senior Gardening is quite large. It you're a senior, you already know why. For younger and better sighted readers, while gardening is truly one of the joys of maturity, small print and mature adult eyes aren't a good match.

You'll also find frequent references to sun protective clothing, as many seniors face challenges as I do with all too frequent skin cancers.

MTD Tiller
John Deere tiller

Advertising

Let me add that Senior Gardening is supported entirely from affiliate advertising revenue. I often use embedded advertising links such as the Crockett titles above to add to or illustrate content on Senior Gardening. Troy-Bilt Tiller If I lack a picture of an item, say a Troy-Bilt Rear Tine Tiller, I can usually pull one in from Amazon or one of our other affiliate advertisers (list).

An no, the "senior tiller" isn't a new Troy-Bilt. It's a twenty-five year old MTD we bought new when we moved to this property. While I hope both it and I last another twenty-some years, I did give in to a leg injury several years ago and bought a pull type rototiller that mounts on our lawn mower for working large areas such as the East Garden.

We're not paid by the number of impressions (number of times an ad shows) or even by click-throughs on ads. We are paid by folks clicking on an ad on the site and then purchasing something.

What all of this gets around to is that if you appreciate the content on Senior Gardening, why not come back and click through one of our ads the next time you plan to buy something online.

Our Web Host

We used MacHighway.com for our first fifteen months online, but a server failure there compelled a switch. We moved the site to Hostmonster.com for several years. After they got bought out and service seriously declined, we moved to A2 Web Hosting.

Do note that although our main page truly is a blog, I don't use any of the popular and often free blogging sites. I prefer the creative control one maintains with a traditional web site.

A2 Web Hosting

From Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening

 

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last updated 11/27/2018
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