Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

The idea for Senior Gardening came about from frequent postings I made about our garden on another web site. The idea was to create a place where folks could share garden lore via blogs and forums. While I'm still struggling a bit with the software that will eventually make that possible on, I thought I'd at least put up a record of our 2008 garden.

October 1, 2008

I can't think of a better time than the first of the month to post a reminder about ordering garden catalogs. Soon, the weather will be too bad to do any outdoor gardening, and garden catalogs can help the avid gardener pass the time productively. Even though I often order online, I still like to have a physical catalog to peruse, mark my favorites in, and check back into for variety information at later times.

Here's a listing of my favorite seed suppliers. Johnny's and Stokes get most of our business, but we use the others from time to time for odd items. I currently have an order in for elephant garlic sets from Johnny's. I was surprised to see that they're already sold out of some varieties of garlic for next year. If you plan to order garlic sets, better hurry!

  • Johnny's Selected Seeds - offers hardy varieties for northern latitudes
  • Stokes Seeds - offers an incredible variety of vegetable and flower seeds
  • Twilley Seed - our main supplier of sweet corn seed when we were farming and roadsiding vegetables (no online sales, but offers both a print and downloadable catalog)
  • R.H. Shumway's - offers many heirloom seeds in a unique, old fashioned looking catalog
  • Park Seed - provide a beautiful catalog - lots of gorgeous flowers and some nice accessories - we still use an electric grow mat we bought years ago from them
  • Gurney's Seed and Nursery Co. - a good lineup of items - we used to order seed potatoes from them
  • Thompson & Morgan Seeds - a British vendor that can ship into the US - their print catalog is gorgeous
  • Henry Field's Seed and Nursery - a long time supplier

I picked another huge (42 pounds) watermelon this week. I bought a peat pot of seedless watermelon this spring at a discount store, but apparently all the seedless died out and we're getting giant Charleston Grays (probably the included pollinator). I'd guess that's another reason to buy your own seed to put out!

bleached out gloxiniasGloxinias

When I checked my seedling gloxinias this morning, I was shocked to see many of them bleached out. Some appeared to have died as well. It appears that I got my plant lights a bit too close, so I've backed them off several inches. Fortunately, the whole planting wasn't lost.

Maybe to make restitution, I got busy on a continuing feature I'd started in August and got it up on the site. See Gloxinias.

October 6, 2008 - Sooty Mold on Apples

We are having another great apple harvest from our Stayman Winesap apple tree this year. Unfortunately, the apples are covered with a black substance I assumed was some kind of mold. When I did a little research online, I found it was called "sooty mold," a general name for several different fungi that can grow on honeydew deposited by sucking insects.

My wife and I spent a good bit of time this weekend washing the black stuff off our apples with scrubbie pad. The apples seem fine after washing, although the black covering appears to have impeded ripening a bit.

Sooty Mold Mold removed
Here's an example of a fairly nice apple with sooty mold. This is the same apple after washing (and a bit of polishing).

The real downside of all of this is that the black stuff can get on leaves and interfere with photosynthesis. I'd noticed we'd lost more leaves than usual by this point on the tree.

Control of the fungi can include organic or stronger materials. The honeydew was most likely produced by aphids tended by ants. So, controlling ants under and on the tree "should" stop the sooty mold.

October 8, 2008 - A Trick for Draining Wet Spots

Adding a dry sumpI got busy this week with a garden improvement for drying out persistently wet spots in a yard or garden. I put in a dry sump in the center of our raised bed garden.

This garden trick only requires a shovel, a post hold digger, some sand, and a bit of effort. While it's not a wetvac for the garden, it can help.

October 10, 2008 - The First Seed Catalog for Next Year Arrives

Today's mail brought a pleasant surprise - the first seed catalog for the 2009 gardening season. I just had a few moments to look at the Thompson & Morgan Seeds catalog, but the flower photography was as stunning as I'd remembered from previous years. You can use the link above or the banner line below to order a free copy.

Another Round of Kale Soup

Cart of applesAfter days of washing apples, making applesauce, and moving out the fruit to whomever could use it, it was a relief to get back to making and putting up something from the vegetable garden. We still have some apples on our winesap tree that need to be picked (or picked up) soon and a backlog of clean apples in a laundry basket on the back porch, but we're caught up for now!

apples in laundry basketThe lawn cart holding apples to be washed (now done) has been a dandy. We bought it fifteen years ago to ice down soft drinks, beer, and wine for our wedding reception. (We got married in our hundred year old farmhouse.) Since that time, it's served in a lot of capacities. About the same model is still available. It's an Ames True Temper 4 Cubic Foot Easy Roller Lawn Cart #2463875. While the link is to Amazon, you can probably find one at your local hardware store for about half of what Amazon wants. It appears they've bumped the price up to cover the "free" shipping.

Today's labor of love was making and canning another batch of portuguese kale soup (recipe). Unlike the previous batch of kale soup we did in August, this time around we had plenty of our own tomatoes for the hearty soup. I was pleased that we still had a nice picking of green beans to go into the soup. We're getting awfully close to our first frost date, if not there yet.

Kale Soup Fresh tomatoes for soup

Another really pleasant surprise in the kale making was the total absence of white cabbage moth and/or cabbage looper worms. I'm not sure if our spray regimen (liquid sevin to knock down the population followed a week later with thuricide), the cooler weather, the recent heavy rains, or some combination of the above or something else.

Although we absolutely love living in the country, my wife and I occasionally grouse about the drive to work, how far away the grocery is, and the lack of restaurants and such in our small community. Just as I was putting in the photos above, I looked out the west window on the gorgeous sunset shown below. It reminded me of how blessed we are in our country life.


October 20, 2008 - Where'd He Go

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. But I'll let you in on a little secret about what gets this blog written. I generally look at my picture files to refresh my memory of what I've done recently in the garden. Late in September, I put my Nikon Coolpix 4300 and an empty tea glass on the newel post at the top of the stairs. I frequently do that to remind me to take something down with me when I leave my upstairs office. Unfortunately, this time I forgot what I'd done and compounded the error by not turning on the hall light.

The tea glass and the camera made a quick trip down the stairwell. The camera really did far better than the tea glass (which took hours to clean up). With a bit of work, I was able to get the 4300's lens to extend and retract properly most of the time. It still worked, which is a tribute to the ruggedness of some aspects of the camera. But it was obviously on its last legs and needed to be replaced.

Nion Coolpix P60So my picture taking (and writing notes, as it were) was seriously diminished until a replacement camera arrived. I'm just getting used to my new Nikon Coolpix P60. I haven't as yet taken any "keepers" good enough to put up on my Desktop Photos page, but think I will like the new camera. I stayed with Nikon to ease the learning curve into a new camera. Most of the controls are the same as the older one, although there are some new and improved features. The spot metering is one I already appreciate.

And yes, if I weren't retired living on a somewhat fixed budget, I would have popped for the Nikon Coolpix P5100 that could still use my Coolpix 4300 teleconverter lens and macro light. Of course, if I weren't on a budget, I might have gone whole hog and gotten the Canon Digital Rebel SLR of my dreams:-). But on the really positive side, the new camera, although made of plastic, has more features and double the resolution (megapixels) as the older one and cost just a fourth of what the 4300 cost!

Senior Garden in October

Waltham Butternut SquashWith no killing frost as yet (or any frost), our lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes still continue to produce in the shortening days. I finally finished picking, washing, and sorting our winesap apples. We picked our last watermelon last week and harvested all of our butternut squash that were ready yesterday. My wife made a glazed squash dish for supper that was delicious. (And yes, there's that cart I wrote about last time.)

Some of our flowers in the Senior Garden are still blooming furiously in mid-October. In one corner of the garden we have snapdragons, vinca, petunias, and nasturtiums.

Flowers blooming in October

October 26, 2008 - Break Out the Cold Frame

PeppersWe're supposed to get a frost tonight, the first of three predicted frosty mornings in a row. I'm certainly not complaining, as an October 27th first frost is about a week or so later than the average for this area.

We've harvested the last of our gorgeous peppers, picked the last of the good tomatoes several days ago, and today brought in most of the lettuce that won't fit under the cold frame.

Our cold frame is a small one I built a number of years ago out of 2x4's. I've written up some very rough directions for building a cold frame in A Simple Cold Frame in the Features section of Senior Gardening.

Cold frame

October 30, 2008 - Frost

If there was any doubt about winter nearing with the light frosts of the last few mornings, today's hard frost brings home that the days of running out to the garden for a pepper or tomato are over for this gardening season.

Frost on nasturtiums

Even our late broccoli and cauliflower look a bit droopy from the frost this morning. They'll probably recover and may yet produce a crop. I knew when I put them in that it was chancy whether they'd make it.

The upside of the frost is that the flavor of kale is said to actually improve after a frost! So in the next few days, I'll dig out the big pot, pick some kale, add garlic, onion, and a bit of bacon for seasoning, and have one of the tastiest and most healthy vegetable dishes around.

September, 2008

From the at Senior Gardening


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