Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity


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The Old Guy's Garden Record

Our senior garden - 8/9/2010


Friday, August 6, 2010 - Hot!

With the heat index hovering around 115o several days this week, I tried to get my gardening done in the mornings. I had several areas of the garden that needed tilling that I'd turned with a garden fork last month when I cleared them out. Wet weather, surgery, and a tiller breakdown put off a good tilling until this week. Future brassica patchTwo sections in our raised bed garden got a good bit of peat moss (and lime to neutralize the acidic peat) to loosen the soil a bit and also to raise the soil level some. I was able to be rather generous with the usually expensive peat, as our local TSC was closing out its peat moss at $2/2.2 cubic foot bale. (I took the whole skid of peat moss!  grin )

Green bean patch?The area at left will be used for our fall broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. I started our transplants inside in July and just moved them outdoors to harden off a bit this week. The area shown at right was supposed to be for green beans. The plan was to follow our spring broccoli grown in the area with beans, but the broccoli kept producing good sideshoots well beyond the time I thought it would. When I finally pulled the broccoli, we had a number of delays (rain, surgery, tiller breakdown) that delayed planting. It's getting late in the season to plant green beans. With adequate moisture we could still make a crop, but the soil is pretty dry right now for germinating seed. I may still give it a try with some seed saved from last summer's crop. On the other hand, our Kentucky Wonder pole beans are doing quite well, so we should still have some beans this summer.

Red CandyLong clustersIt was quite hot on the day I tilled the main garden sections, but I took frequent breaks and also treated myself to a good number of grape tomatoes while working. I was out of grape tomato seed this year, so I decided to try a new variety from Stokes Seeds, Red Candy. I was a bit disappointed with the flavor of the first grape tomatoes I picked from the plant weeks ago, but should have realized that early fruit doesn't always accurately predict the flavor of later pickings. Red Candy is an indeterminate variety that sets long clusters of good sized grape tomatoes. Our one plant seems quite healthy, and the flavor of its tomatoes is now excellent.

Tomato cagesGrandkids eating grape tomatoesOur tomatoes in the main garden have all overgrown their tomato cages. I really should have pinched back or pruned some of them. Last year, some of our tomato cages, top heavy with tomatoes, blew over in heavy storms, ripping out some roots and generally decreasing our harvest. This year, I sunk our cages about four inches deeper into the soil than in the past. We've had some strong winds, but so far, the cages have remained upright. And of course, whatever grape tomato variety I grow always goes on the close end of the row for grandkids (and others).

I finished cutting and composting our corn stalks yesterday and immediately tilled the ground. As I finished tilling, the mail conveniently arrived with some buckwheat seed I'd ordered from the Territorial Seed Company. I haven't grown buckwheat in years, but it's an excellent green manure crop to add tilth to tired soil. I broadcast a pound of buckwheat seed over an area 20' x 40' and raked a bit of soil over the seed. I'm not sure what I want to grow on this ground next year, and the buckwheat is definitely just an experiment.

Buckwheat planted

The East Garden has produced a bounty of melons this year. I really planted too many, but wanted to try several new varieties. When we'd given all the melons our family, co-workers, and friends could use, I took a marker and wrote "Free Melons" on a big box. I filled it with cantaloupe and some smaller watermelon and put larger watermelons around it and set it by the road. It's worked well.

Roadside HybridCut Roadside HybridOur best cantaloupe (muskmelon) this year have been from the Roadside Hybrid variety. While the hot, humid weather has produced some cracking along the seams of the heavily ribbed melons, they're large and have an excellent flavor. They're also quite productive.

Our Athena melons have been good, although for some reason, they didn't go to half slip or full slip when ripe for a while. Our new varieties, Sugar Cube and Sarah's Choice, both have produced good crops of tasty melons as well.

Our one hill of Crimson Sweet watermelon produced several large, good tasting melons early on, but hasn't done much since then. Crimson Sweet is still one of my favorite watermelons. I wish I'd planted more of them. Our hill of Moon & Stars watermelons has produced six or seven large melons.

Our new seedless variety, Farmers Wonderful, produced six or seven medium sized melons and is still setting new fruit. The melons had some seeds, but not many. This is a variety I'll definitely want to try again next year, as the melons had good color and flavor.

Our hills of Kleckley Sweets watermelon (also called Monte Cristo melons) are producing lots of monster melons in the forty to fifty pound range! Kleckleys have a great flavor, but their rinds aren't all that tough, so commercial growers don't mess with them. They also have a lot of seeds, and for me, are difficult to tell when ripe.

Melon vinesAll of our melons this year have produced larger than expected fruit. Our period of very wet and warm weather created ideal growing conditions. The vines all still look healthy, other than our hill of butternut squash. We're still seeing blooms and new fruit setting on, so we may have an extended melon harvest this year.

Our local grocery is running a special this week on bone-in chicken breasts with skins, so we're stocking up in anticipation of making our first batch of Portuguese Kale Soup of the year. I remove, filet, and freeze the chicken breasts, before boiling and boning the rest to make a meaty condensed chicken broth that will be the base of our soup. I freeze the breast meat on cookie sheets coated with olive oil spray and then transfer them to freezer bags for storage in our big freezer.

Chicken breasts breasts frozen on cookie sheet Bagged frozen chicken breasts Chicken and noodles

Of course, the kale soup has to compete with chicken and noodles for the chicken broth! But with the broth condensed and frozen, we're only waiting on potatoes from the garden to make our soup.

We have lots of flowers in bloom around the garden this year, although not quite what we've had in the past. I foolishly got our pea trellis too close to our flowers, and the peas overwhelmed the flowers early in the season. Fortunately, most of the flowers survived being covered with pea vines and are now in full bloom.

Flowerbed Snapdragon Petunia, vinca, geranium

Sunday, August 8, 2010 - What's This?

While cleaning up our kale row today, I got a surprise. What I think was an immature mockingbird had taken refuge amongst our kale leaves. It persisted even when I broke away a few kale branches to get a better photo of it. After grabbing a few shots, I carefully moved the young bird before resuming my efforts with our buggy kale row.

Baby mockingbird

I'd gotten behind on our spray regimen for the kale, so I had a lot of nasty leaves and branches to remove. The recent hot, dry weather also has been hard on the kale. After cleaning the row, I worked in some lime and 12-12-12 fertilizer around the plants before running our soil soaker hose close to the base of the plants and mulching it in with grass clippings. Then the row got a heavy dose of the biological, Thuricide (BT - bacillus thuringiensis). The row should have enough time to put on some clean, new growth by the time we dig potatoes and need kale to make our first batch of Portuguese Kale Soup.

small white caterpillarSomething I've noticed over the last few years may be of help to you. The same cabbage loopers and small white moths whose caterpillars can create so much damage in brassicas often move to other crops when I spray our kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. They seem to like our flowers, beans, and especially our pepper plants. Since BT isn't a harmful insecticide (to us), I generally mix enough to not only spray our brassicas but the surrounding crops as well. The product also does a good job of controlling bagworms on our blue spruce trees.

WateringWe rarely water our garden with the hose, as our well can run dry during the summer months - fortunately, only for short periods of time. When we do water, it's usually with the soil soaker hose, as its slow output is a little easier on the well. I had the soil soaker out today to try and get some green beans planted in soil that was bone dry to about four inches down. This planting is definitely a gamble. The only precipitation in our near forecast is a 40% chance of thunderstorms Tuesday. If I get enough water down today and we get a rain on Tuesday, we may make a stand of beans. Before I began watering the furrow, I worked a small handful of 5-10-5 fertilizer and some soil inoculant into the row with a hoe.

As I write this evening, I'm waiting for it to cool down outside and also listening for the well pump. (It makes a nasty noise when it runs dry.) Later, I'll poke seed into the bottom of the furrow one at a time before pulling soil back to cover the row. The seed will be in about 4" deep.

Monday, August 9, 2010 - Sun Protective Clothing

Sun GuardI'm taking it easy inside this morning while I wait on a load of wash to dry. All of my long sleeved sun protective shirts are in the load that I treated with a UV protectant. I'd run across Rit Sun Guard Laundry Treatment UV Protectant on Amazon while hunting for protective garments some time ago. When I checked the reviews, I found one that directed me to a site that had Sun Guard Laundry Aid for about half the price of Amazon! So I'm trying it on some of my Coolibar garments that are all several years old and probably have all their protection washed out.

My introduction to UV protective wear came ten years ago when I had my first skin cancer removed. The surgeon was pretty stern in his admonition of a maximum of one hour in the sun each day and that only with maximum sunscreen. For an avid gardener, it sounded like a death sentence. It takes an hour just to mow our back yard.

Sun hatBut I soon discovered the world of protective garments that although hot to wear, allowed me to be out in the sun (within reason) for longer periods of time. Coolibar is the big name in sun protective garments, but their stuff is often a bit pricey. I've accumulated four shirts and just one hat from them over the past ten years. (I have a number of other floppy, but not UV treated, gardening hats.) My wife noticed a sale on their stuff (20% off all items including sale items through August 26) from their site. Sun Escape shirtWhen I checked on Amazon, I found that their Coolibar UPF 50+ Featherweight Bucket Sun Protective Hat, my favorite of all my garden hats, was on sale there, too, with free shipping. So, while writing this posting, I ordered two more hats and a Sun Escape casual shirt!

Let me wind up this orgy of imbedded advertising by saying that the sun protective shirts do seem effective. I still have to do the cream chemotherapy bit (Efudex) periodically to remove actinic or solar keratoses. And from time to time, I still have to have a squamous cell carcinoma removed. But putting up with wearing a treated long sleeved shirt over a T-shirt and always wearing a hat and gloves (or using sunscreen on my hands) in the garden and while mowing has allowed me to continue my passion for the outdoors and gardening.

Lettuce seed packetsHaving seriously decreased my disposable income for the day (week, month...), I turned to getting some fall lettuce started. My biggest problem with starting lettuce is that I've saved lots of lettuce seed packets over the years and have trouble deciding which varieties I want to grow.

Lettuce and gloxinia startsWe love romaine lettuce, so some Winter Density and Defender from Johnny's Selected Seeds, plus some colored romaine were automatics. I always like to have some Red Lollo as well, even though it can go bitter fairly quickly. It's attractive in the garden and a tasty lettuce if you pick it early enough. Rounding out the lettuce seeding is a highly rated summer crisp, Barbados, which hasn't germinated well for me before, and some Crispino head lettuce.

The flat above is a Perma-Nest tray. They're a bit expensive, but much heavier than standard flats.

You may also notice two, very old bottom reinforcers from coke bottles of years ago at the back of the flat. I've saved three of them for starting gloxinias. They're just the right size to hold around 20 seeds and are fairly shallow, so I don't waste potting mix. I had to restart my Double Brocade and Empress, as I forgot to add Captan to the soil mix last month. I ended up with a nasty mess of mold over what should have been my new gloxinias for this winter.

Even though my "play clothes" are now treated and dry, the heat index has already reached 108o in the early afternoon. I think I'll stay inside and mop the kitchen floor (where I started the seeds and made a mess).

BTW: While Amazon is a Senior Gardening affiliated advertiser, Rit, Coolibar, Johnny's Selected Seeds, and Harris Seeds are not. Links to the latter are provided for your convenience.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - Bagworms

BagwormsWhile mowing over the weekend, I noticed that one of our blue spruce trees had a moderate bagworm infestation. It's the tree furthest from our garden, and I probably shortchanged it on BT spray in May and June.

blue spruceSo yesterday I set about picking off as many of the bagworms as I could reach from on the ground and also from a 12' stepladder. A few remained out of my reach, but most of the bags were concentrated about midway up on the west side of the tree.

After the picking, I thoroughly sprayed the tree and the surrounding trees with the biological, Thuricide (BT - bacillus thuringiensis). Since the systemic insecticide, Cygon, was taken off the market a few years ago, I've found BT to be quite effective in controlling bagworms on our pine trees. I'll have to be vigilant next spring for any signs of infestation, as this isn't really the time to be using BT for bagworm control. That's usually in May and June.

I dumped the bagworms in an open trash can I was getting ready to put out for the scavenger service. When I came back with a second load of bagworms to dump, some of the original group were hatching from their bags! One looked as if it had wings.

At that point, I decided I needed to learn a bit more about the life cycle of bagworms and consulted an Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, Bagworm And Its Control, Penn State's Bagworm Fact Sheet, and PestProducts.com's Bagworms.

It turns out that bagworm eggs hatch out from the mother's bag in mid-May, begin building their own bag and feed until August. Then they pupate for several weeks before emerging. Females don't fly, but the males do and mate with the females, only to die shortly thereafter. The female then builds the overwintering bag which is somewhat smaller than ones I picked off today.

Peppers

Red Knight peppersWe appear to be doing well with our pepper plants this year despite the intense heat wave we've had. Our Red Knight plants have produced our largest red peppers. They also have been the earliest of our hybrid sweet bell peppers. Our open pollinated Earliest Red Sweet plants produced red, ripe fruit somewhat earlier, but have much smaller peppers and also are more prone to rot. Of course, they're growing in an old, burnt out cornfield! I already have a jar of ERS seed drying in the kitchen in anticipation of offering the variety next winter via the Seed Savers Exchange annual yearbook.

And while I noted last month that our Paprika Supreme plant had appeared to have been a cross of that variety with a bell pepper (saved seed from last summer), our Alma and Feher Ozon paprika peppers are now beginning to ripen. The Alma plants seem to be tolerating the heat better than the Feher Ozon, one of which required a bucket of water yesterday to revive it.

Paprika Pepper - AlmaPaprika Pepper - Feher OzonThe Almas produce a small, round, red pepper that could easily be mistaken for a small tomato. The Feher Ozon produce an elongated pepper, still with good size, that ripens to a yellow-orange color. Both are supposed to have a bolder taste than the Paprika Supreme which we dried, stored, and have been using over the last year. I have no idea whether we'll like the taste of the new paprika varieties. They're an experiment for us this year, but get good reviews on other garden sites.

Melons

We're still picking lots of melons from our East Garden. We're also getting to know lots of passers-by and neighbors who stop to pick up free melons we leave by the roadside. One neighbor commented that her young son especially liked our small Sugar Cube muskmelons. They're a bit larger than a softball and have good flavor. Our Athena melons are done for the year. They're a commercial hybrid designed for a concentrated fruit set and picking. But our Roadside Hybrids have set on several new melons, so I hope to get a few more of the delicious muskmelons.

Our Everglade "seedless" watermelons have come in over the last week or so, producing nice 10-12 pound melons that look a lot like a small Crimson Sweet (striped) melon. They have good flavor, but like our other seedless varieties this year, have too many seeds to really be called seedless. We're still getting a few Farmers Wonderful "seedless" melons. They also seem to be setting on new fruit in spite of the extremely hot and dry weather. And we're still picking some Kleckley Sweet watermelons.

Tomatoes

I picked over a gallon of grape tomatoes yesterday and could easily have picked over twice as much. The Red Candy variety has turned out to be and excellent producer with good disease resistance. I ate a dozen or so of them while picking. They're sweet with a good, tangy tomato flavor.

Our main crop tomatoes have been a disappointment so far this summer. We appear to have several tomato diseases. We're also getting a lot of cracked fruit and have had lots of bird damage to what would otherwise be good fruit.

Other Stuff

I've held off transplanting our fall broccoli, as the upper 90 temperatures might do in both the transplants and the transplanter! We've had a brief respite yesterday and today in temperatures, with highs only in the upper 80s and low 90s, so I may yet get the brassicas in.

Hummingbirds at feederAt dinner over the last few weeks, Annie and I have enjoyed the antics of the hummingbirds that visit our three feeders on the back porch. With their clutches of eggs hatched out, the hummingbird population has swelled over the last month. As nightfall approaches, the action at the feeders picks up, often with 4-8 birds vying for a one of the four feeding spots at each feeder. They become quite aggressive with each other.

Conjunction

No, I'm not getting ready to do a lesson on parts of speech here. Last week, I did several posts on my Educators' News site about the conjunction of Mars, Venus, and Saturn in the western sky. The best viewing for it was supposed to be, coincidentally, last Thursday, the height of the Perseid meteor shower. Our evening sky was cloudy, so we missed the conjunction that night, but did see a few shooting stars later on when the skies cleared a bit.

But the next night, we were able to catch the conjunction in twilight. I had my camera set up on a firm tripod and got some nice photos of the conjunction. The prettiest is below. Several other shots are on the EdNews posting.

Conjunction

Saturday, August 21, 2010 - Paprika Peppers

I wrote briefly last September about drying or dehydrating paprika peppers. We had one Paprika Supreme plant that produced enough fruit that we were able to dry and grind enough paprika for our use and our family for a year.

This year we planted five paprika peppers: two Almas; two Feher Ozons; and one plant that was supposed to be a Paprika Supreme. I'd saved seed from the Paprika Supreme last year, but the plant appears to be a cross of the Paprika Supreme and a sweet bell pepper. I really didn't want to up our production of paprika this year, but I did want to try some other varieties.

Paprika peppersI picked all the ripe peppers I could find from all five plants last evening. There is still lots of immature fruit on the plants, although one plant seems to be really struggling with the dry weather we're experiencing. But we have a bountiful harvest of paprikas.

The photo at right shows our small, red, round Almas, the elongated, orange Feher Ozon, and the bright red Paprika Supreme crosses.

As I write, the cleaned and sliced Almas are in the food dehydrator (at about 120o F). Since we had far more than our dehydrator could hold, I decided to dry the peppers by variety and then experiment with using the paprika both straight and blended. Our main use for paprika is usually in browning chicken, but the Alma and Feher Ozon are supposed to be good in stews and hash.

As I mentioned last year, Things to Do with Chile Peppers from Mike's Pepper Garden is a good page on the preservation of peppers.

Possibly the World's Most Expensive Row of Green Beans

Green bean rowI wrote a few weeks ago about putting in a row of green beans despite the very dry conditions. I also noted that while I did use the soil soaker for the beans, we rarely water our garden due to a well that can easily run dry this time of year.

I noticed this week that we had a few, irregular green bean plants up in the row. Since the soaker was still in place, I turned on the hose to see if I couldn't help the germinating beans a bit. The soaker also runs past our kale, which definitely needs all the moisture it can get right now.

I'm known in our family for being a bit absent minded. I once flooded the kitchen while taking pictures of barn swallows nested under our front porch and writing a column. Our daughters often have a good laugh at my searches at local stores for pots and pans identical to those my wife has bought...and that I've forgotten when boiling sugar water for iced tea or hummingbird nectar.

Having gotten caught up in writing something for another site, I didn't hear our jet pump grinding away in the basement until it was too late. I shut off the overheated pump, but when it had cooled and the well recharged, the pump was locked up. A quick trip to the hardware store and five hours of plumbing fun restored our house to the glory of having indoor running water again.

I hope those beans are the best green beans I've ever tasted.

Twilight Gardening

I didn't get around to picking (cutting) watermelons until around 9 P.M. on Thursday. Part of my twilight picking was due to the hot weather and part due to wanting to stay out of the intense sunlight. I had just barely enough light to fill our garden cart with a few small cantaloupes and some watermelons. It probably was our last big picking of melons. Our cantaloupe are pretty well done for the year, other than a few Roadside Hybrids that may survive the dry weather. We still have a few watermelon growing, but with the heat and the damage to the vines from walking through them to pick and carry out melons, we may be done there, too.

Several of the melons went to work with Annie for distribution to coworkers. The rest went by the side of the road with our now worn "Free Melons" sign. Maybe I should put out a tin cup to help pay for the new well pump!

A Good Idea

Gloxinia startingSeed packagingI currently have three pots of gloxinia seed germinating in the basement under our plantlights. A seeding earlier this summer failed because I forgot to include some captan in the soil mix to hold back mold and moss. This time around, I have a pot of Double Brocade, another of Empress, and a third from seed I received in a swap with John Rizzi. He'd been kind enough to share some of his gloxinia photos and experiences with me.

When I opened up the package of seed from John, I got a very pleasant surprise. John sent his seed in one of those small, plastic ziplocks commercial seed vendors sometimes use. Dustlike seed such as gloxinia often sticks to the plastic, and I often seem to lose some of the seed. But John took the extra step of carefully putting a generous amount of gloxinia seed in a paper wrapper, secured by a piece of tape, before sealing it from outside moisture in the plastic bag.

BTW: The gloxinias are germinating in a perma-nest flat with a clear plastic cover. I uncovered them to get a clear photo. Gloxinia seed requires light to germinate, along with adequate moisture. The moisture part can be a problem. If you get the soil too wet, you end up with mold and moss taking over the planting. With good fortune, this seeding of gloxinias should begin producing blooms in January if I don't pinch the plants back to promote branching. It won't be until March or April that we'll see full flowering plants. And gloxinias do even better in succeeding years after their required period of dormancy.

Fall lettuce startingAlso sharing plantlight space in the basement are our fall lettuce seedlings. They'll stay in the basement for several more weeks before going to the back porch for hardening off and then eventual transplant into the garden.

My homemade plant rack holds six, four foot fluorescent shop lights. In peak plant production time, all six may be in use for just a few weeks. We generally have four units working through most of the winter, but currently are down to just three.

Our Begonia

Three years ago I happened to notice some marked down hanging plants at a local discount store. While I like to grow most of our flowers from seed, a red begonia just sorta called out to me that it needed a good home. Since that time, the begonia has summered on our back porch and wintered under our plantlights in the basement. It's been repotted several times, and at one point looked pretty sad. But this summer it's returned to more than its original beauty.

Red begonia

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - Fall Brassicas

Planting fall brassicasI transplanted our fall broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower into the garden yesterday afternoon. It was one of those warm, overcast days with a cool breeze at times that hinted of a coming shower. The shower never came, but it was still great weather for working outdoors. And we did get a half inch of rain on Saturday.

I planted three Premium Crop broccoli, six Amazing cauliflower, and one each of Super Red 80 and Alcosa cabbage. I would have planted more broccoli, but that was all that survived the rigors of hardening off on the back porch.

The fall brassicas went into the area that had been open since I harvested the last of our carrots, onions, and lettuce. I'd taken two shots at renovating the area. In mid-July, I spread lime, peat moss and a bit of bone meal and turned the area as deeply as I could (10-14") with a garden fork. Going so deep, I managed to turn up some really ugly orange and gray clay.

1994 MTD tillerThe plot just sat for almost a month, as I planned to use it for fall brassicas. Our rototiller also broke down about that time, so I was on the hunt for a clutch cable for a 16 year old machine. Luckily, Jack's Small Engines had the part and my 1994 MTD tiller will probably last at least one more season. Once the tiller was repaired and things dried out, I added a lot more peat moss and lime to the area, as I'd caught a closeout sale on peat at our local TSC. I'm still building up the soil level in our large raised bed, and with a thorough tilling the soil is now fluffed up to the very top of the timbers that surround the bed. I'm sure the soil will settle and inch or so with a bit of time and rain.

My hard work in renovating the area was rewarded, as when I dug holes for the plants and mixed in some lime to control clubroot and some 12-12-12 fertilizer to feed the new plants, I was easily able to mix the soil a foot deep. Each hole got a generous watering of a gallon or more with a bit of transplanting fertilizer mixed in. Having enough water wasn't a problem, as I hadn't emptied the grandkids' wading pool from last weekend and used that water for most of the watering. Planting in such dry weather, I'll have to regularly haul buckets of water for the brassicas until we begin to get some good rains.

Mulched broccoli and cabbageBean rowAfter transplanting the two rows of brassicas, I mulched the area with a generous amount of aged grass clippings I had on hand. Since we haven't had that much rain, I was really careful to tuck just an thin layer of clippings in close to the base of each plant. With a good rain or watering, the clippings could still heat up and "burn" the transplants. Once mulched, the slightly wilted plants seemed to almost disappear in the mulch. But by this morning, they'd recovered nicely.

Our row of green beans is now beginning to fill in a bit after the shower on Saturday and me sticking in a bit of seed to fill the bare spots. This section was tilled at the same time as the brassica area.

Saving Seed

Moira tomatoesThis hasn't been our best year for tomatoes, but it wasn't a stretch to find a few perfect Moira tomatoes to use for seed saving. The seed, juice, and jell are now fermenting in a plastic container which has a snug cover. Tomato goo fermentingAfter about four days of fermentation, the extraneous material will be ready to float off when I rinse the seed. I may try using a hot water treatment on half the seed as a precaution against seed bourne diseases. I'm also taking an extra step in drying saved seed this year, putting the seed in a jar with some powdered milk. I read that is one way to lower the moisture level of the seed below the normal humidity in ones house before freezing the seed for storage.

Our Senior Gardening feature, Saving Tomato Seed, gives a bit more detail on the process.

According to the Seeds of Diversity site, the Moira tomato variety was developed by Jack Metcalf at the Agriculture Canada Smithfield Experimental Farm, in Trenton, Ottawa. It was released in 1972 as part of a series of tomatoes developed there that included the famous Earlirouge variety. Although Moiras never gained the following the Earlirouge has, they are my favorite variety for canning whole and are also an excellent slicing tomato. I had Moiras and cottage cheese for lunch yesterday. Their biggest claim to fame is their deep red interiors, but the taste is great as well.

Japanese Long Pickling cucumberI'll be offering Moira seed again next year via the Seed Savers Exchange annual yearbook. Pepper seed in drying jarThe yearbook is a members only deal, with membership now running $40 per year. There are reduced fee memberships available for those on limited income. I'll also offer Earliest Red Sweet bell pepper seed (now drying in a jar with a bag of powdered milk) and Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed. Our JLPs now have several cucumbers on them and appear that they'll make a crop this year despite their late start. I tell about getting down to my last seed and almost losing the variety in the feature, A Cucumber of Distinction.

Flowers

ZinniasOur row of zinnias that I put in as an afterthought has turned out to be a real eyepopper. I'd planted some garlic bulblets (that didn't grow) and decided to also put in some zinnia seed leftover from last year. While it took a while, the zinnias are in full bloom now and drawing lots of butterflies and moths.

PetuniaAnd while watering the brassicas this afternoon, I couldn't help admire one of our purple petunia plants. I like to have flowers at the ends of our vegetable rows. They make pretty row markers, and also lift ones spirits when the veggies are possibly not going so well.

I also noticed today that our second round of yellow squash are putting out fruit, but it's considerably thinner than usual. The dry weather continues to take its toll.

Fireblight deathAnd speaking of things not going well, our Stayman Winesap apple tree finally succumbed to fireblight a month or so ago. We cut out infected limbs last year and tried to fight the disease with streptomycin this year, but the damage done was too great. I do have a replacement on order for fall planting, but you always hate to lose a tree.

Volunteer apple treeOn the brighter side, our Granny Smith apple tree recovered from the fireblight after severe pruning last year and streptomycin spray this year. And the volunteer apple tree along the roadside is putting out larger fruit than in the past. That may be due to my clearing out some surrounding brush and trees that had limited both light and airflow to the tree. It still has a wild cherry tree that towers over it to the east, but it now gets pretty good direct sun from the south and west. It's fruit is like a firm Red Delicious with lots of juice and flavor.

The Shumard Oak I planted on the west side of the house to replace a grand old maple that got hit by lightning too many times died out early in the summer. When I dug it up, I found that its taproot had been cut. Somehow I didn't notice that when I planted it. Rather than get a replacement from the tree vendor, I moved a volunteer oak that had sprouted in the garden to the spot where the shumard had been.

Volunteer oak

The volunteer oak is still a tad less than a foot tall, but seems to be doing okay in the heat. To protect it from critter damage and fools (like me) on riding lawnmowers and with weedeaters, I put a small tomato cage around it. To make things a bit more difficult for mice, I also wrapped some hardware cloth around the tomato cage. Together, the protective barriers often create a gleaming image when I take shots of the garden. It will be long past my lifetime before the tree provides much shade, but by going with a native tree, I hope it will be a good, healthy one.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pyrex cup and Weston darkroom thermometerI've updated our Saving Tomato Seed feature story to include the powdered milk seed drying trick I mentioned earlier this month and hot water treatment of tomato (and other) seed. I was pleased to find that my 30+ year-old Weston darkroom thermometer was still accurate for holding the tomato seed at the required 122o F for 25 minutes.

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July, 2010

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