One of the Joys of Maturity
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.
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.
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We'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 also 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.
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.
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.
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, and spreading squash varieties. It's also far enough away from our main garden to isolate tomato and pepper varieties we grow there for seed production.
In March, 2009, in a day of what must have been madness, I expanded our small, original plot in the field to a 30' x 120' section. We planted sweet corn where the melons grew the previous year and planted the rest of the area to vining crops (squash and melons), tomatoes for seed production, and potatoes.
After having the local raccoon population feast on our melons in 2009, we reconfigured the East Garden for 2010 to keep it a bit further from the woods. It measured 40' x 75'. The raccoons never found our melons, but the deer found our sweet corn and nearly ate it all!
We once again reconfigured the East Garden in 2011 to a 30' x 75' area, running east and west. We rested a section of the original East Garden, planting it to alfalfa to correct some nasty compacting of the soil. We also had a few crops growing outside that area, as I didn't have room in all that space for our sweet potatoes and butternut squash! Since then, we've often grown our butternut squash and pumpkins somewhere outside the confines of the regular East Garden, usually on the site of a previous compost pile.
For 2012, I went a little nuts and turned all of the ground we'd previously used for the East Garden and a little more. It ended up being almost 80 feet square! A little less than half of that area ended up in cover crops. We seeded a 30' square section to alfalfa in the spring. Once I determined that foraging deer, a naughty puppy, and the drought had ruined our sweet corn crop, I seeded that 30' x 40' area to buckwheat as a green manure crop. So our main melon area ended up being three 10' x 80' rows.
In the fall of 2012 and into the winter, I spent some time thinking about what we wanted to do with the East Garden, long term. With the addition of a pull type rototiller, working a large area became considerably easier.
The plot was "slid" a bit east and about fifteen feet south to get it away from the woods a bit more and squared out to 80'. All of the old ground was thoroughly tilled in the fall. The new ground turned was a tougher proposition, but finally gave way to turning grass and weeds under in the spring of 2013.
More importantly, a long term rotation plan, much like what we'd already been doing, was committed to paper. The alfalfa cover crop was seeded in early April failed, was turned under, and replanted to what turned out to be a fabulous cover/smother crop of buckwheat. So far, it appears that our plan for rotating our growing area 90o each year may work out fairly well.
And of course, with the rotation plan in place and working, something changed. Total hip replacement surgery scheduled for January, 2015, got delayed due to some heart issues. The entire East Garden was allowed to rest in 2015 while I got a new hip. I hated missing our melons and such, but was a much more mobile gardener in 2016!
About the Senior Gardener
I'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-three 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.
I'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 Alibris. 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.
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 skin cancers.
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. 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-three year old MTD we bought 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
I may have to change web hosts again late this year. We happily used MacHighway.com for our first fifteen months online, but a server failure there compelled a switch. Hostmonster provided pretty good service for several years before becoming difficult to work with and far less reliable.
Do note that although our main page truely 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.
From Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening
last updated 4/15/2017