Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity


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The Old Guy's Garden Record

Our senior garden - 5/16/2012


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Foggy May 1The quiet fog that envelops the Senior Garden this morning belies what a busy month is ahead of us. While the initial crops in our main raised beds were planted last month, they will require lots of thinning, weeding, mulching, spraying, and...some harvesting. We've been picking asparagus for some time, but this month we should begin picking peas, harvesting broccoli, and cutting lettuce and spinach for the dinner table. I may even sample a radish or two before thinning the nurse crop from our rows of carrots.

Some of our crops (asparagus, garlic, and peas) are weeks ahead of where they'd normally be at this time of year due to the warm, early spring. I've talked to other gardeners in the area who are already picking radishes and lettuce from their gardens!

While keeping up with our main gardens, I'll also need to put in some serious time in our East Garden. It's an area in the small field just east of our property that the landowner and farm renter generously allow us to use for our spacehog crops. I tilled a 75' square area there in mid-April, but haven't been able to do much more with it due to damp soil conditions. Once it dries out enough to be worked again, we'll be planting potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, yellow and butternut squash, cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon there. We also use the field to isolate the tomato and pepper varieties from which we save seed from cross pollinating with their brethren in the main garden.

But with heavy fog this morning and thunderstorms apparently on the way for this afternoon, I'm just going to relax and enjoy the quiet beauty of living in the country.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Front flowerbedsWith the return of some hot, muggy weather here, I chose to turn my attention this morning to our front flowerbeds...which are in the shade. And that's part of the problem with these beds: They are on the north side of our house, and only the front 12" or so of each bed receives any appreciable direct sunlight. The soil is also quite heavy and contains lots of small roots from nearby evergreens. And every so often, our dogs will decide to dig in these beds, trying to find a cool spot on hot days!

Bed in 2009We've actually been able to get the beds looking pretty good at times. A row of dianthus across the front of the beds gets just enough sun to survive. Because the beds are somewhat protected by bushes, the porch, and steps, the dianthus overwinter quite well. I also added some hostas I picked up on sale last summer to the middle of the beds. Two of them are doing quite well, and the other two are just getting going this spring.

Having cleaned out the beds of leaves and weeds last week, I got an early start on transplanting today. Our best display in these beds was two years ago when we used a mix of dusty miller and impatiens, along with the dianthus and some alyssum. Actually, the alyssum got almost totally crowded out, but the bed was pretty that year. So, I'm trying the same thing again this year, but keeping the dusty miller and impatiens to the back of the bed with the alyssum towards the front, around the dianthus plants. And I did have to replace two dianthus plants that didn't do well last summer and died over the winter.

Left front bed Right front bed

Our original dianthus plants are from the Carpet Series. We've saved seed from them for several years and had good luck with succeeding generations of the plants, despite the carpet series being listed as a hybrid. For a little variety this year, I started some Chabaud Picotee Fantasy dianthus. I thought I'd also started some of our saved carpet series seed to fill in blanks spots, but can't seem to find it anywhere. So I used the Chabaud, which grows about a foot taller than the carpet series, to fill in the blank spots. Our front bed may end up looking a bit strange.

Repotted geranium cuttingThe dusty miller is the common Silverdust variety. I started some in the basement, but it didn't take (old, old seed), so I picked up a couple of six packs of dusty miller yesterday at the garden shop. And the impatiens are from seed we've saved from some long forgotten variety. Actually, I could have just let some of the volunteer impatiens grow. They were all over the bed when I weeded last week.

The alyssum was some Clear Crystals Mix, which had a nice variety of red, purple, and white blooms, although the plants were awfully small. I guess I should have started them earlier.

Other than picking a bit of asparagus and repotting a cutting from my wife's favorite geranium, that's about all the gardening I did today.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

ForecastRemoving cutworm collarsIt appears our hot, sunny weather will end tomorrow, followed by several days of rain. I'll need to mow this afternoon, limiting gardening today to just a few chores this morning.

I took a pair of scissors along with me for my usual morning garden walk to remove the cutworm collars from the pepper plants I put in last week. I make a cut down both sides of the bottomless paper cups I use as cutworm collars. Then I hold the soil around the plant in place with one hand while pulling the cup halves, one at a time, with the other. I'm really careful doing the removal, as I don't want to disturb the roots of the young pepper plants any more than necessary. When done, I worked the soil around the pepper plants a bit with a soil scratcher and added a bit of dilute starter fertilizer.

Spinach emerging Lettuce Pea pods

While working the peppers, I had to be careful not to disturb the row of spinach I'd planted between the peppers and the edge of the raised bed. I was also pleased to see that our lettuce transplants had all "taken" and appear to be doing well. I also noticed that our Amish Snap peas now have pods on the vines!

Kale in 2008 gardenKale soupEven before I got out into the garden this morning, I saw an article on CNN by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Omega-3 may curb memory loss, study says, that I knew I wanted to share here. Tucked away in the final paragraphs of the story were the usual recommended sources for "foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids...mackerel, trout, herring, tuna or salmon." But as a gardener, the next line really caught my eye, "Non-fish options include kale, tofu, soybeans, walnuts and flaxseed."

I don't have our kale planted as yet. While I love boiled kale seasoned with garlic, onions, and bacon drippings, we seed our kale as a succession crop after an early crop comes out of the garden. I want our kale to mature along with many of the other ingredients from the garden we use in our Portuguese Kale Soup. But it was still good to see kale mentioned in a favorable light in the article.

Bad Corms from Nature Hills Nursery

I finally gave up this morning and admitted to myself that I'd made a bad choice in ordering an assortment of gloxinia corms from Nature Hills Nursery. Nature Hills is the only U.S. vendor I've found for such corms, but they also have a really spotty record on Dave's Garden Watchdog. When the corms arrived in early April, I potted them up in sterile planting medium and monitored them and the soil moisture level carefully. But today, it was obvious that only one of the corms, a variety I really didn't care much about, was going to produce anything.

Bad corms from Nature Hills Nursery

When I called Nature Hills, I got the customer service runaround, eventually resulting in an email that basically told me that I'd messed up somehow and no refund would be forthcoming. Only after I'd fired off a "flamethrower" email to the owners of Nature Hills, revealing myself as the author of this blog and our popular feature story, Gloxinias, did I receive a phone call with an apology for the experience and the promise of a refund.

I'm disappointed that the two varieties I especially wanted, Emperor William and Emperor Frederick, didn't grow. And I'm even more disappointed that I don't have a supplier of gloxinia corms that I can enthusiastically recommend. Had "Bill" really wanted to win me over as a Nature Hills customer and proponent, he would have offered to send me some of their corms to try out when they come in again next spring. Instead, I may see a refund on my credit card, but I'll still have lost the hours spent wrangling with Nature Hills today.

I'm going to go "cool off" in the hot sun mowing grass.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Plant rackCut asparagusAs predicted, we have some pretty good thundershowers moving through our area today. The rain held off long enough for me to get in a hurried garden walk this morning and pick some asparagus for supper. But any further outside work is a definite no-go, as it's supposed to rain all day. I'm glad I got our lawn mowed yesterday, as it appears we may be in for daily rains until the middle of next week. Considering how dry a winter we had, I'm happy for every drop we get!

With most of our garden transplants under the cold frame (only for protection from the sun and wind), lining the back porch, or already in the ground, our plant rack in the basement is considerably less crowded than it has been for the last few months. I'm in the process of raising the shop lights to allow some tall gloxinias a bit more space. Once I get the last of the transplants moved outside, I'll begin to spread out the plants to improve air circulation and allow them a bit more room to grow.

And this time of year produces some pleasant choices to be made: Which blooming gloxinia(s) do I bring upstairs to put in our kitchen window? Sometimes I switch them almost daily.

Gloxinias under lights

Gloxinia in windowPetra in crateToday's pick for "stardom" is an open pollinated gloxinia (of Empress heritage) with medium sized, velvety blooms. I chose it over several other blooming plants because of the abundance of maturing buds it carries, portending lots of beauty to come. Since our window ledge is too narrow to accommodate the four and six inch pots we grow our mature gloxinias in, we use coffee cans on the counter to boost the plants up to window level. Behind the gloxinia is a sweet potato producing shoots for our East Garden, along with a Wandering Jew hanging down. And of course, one can make out our rows of peas outside the window.

Since I'm rambling just a bit here and snapped a shot of her this morning, at right is our latest "rescue" from the shelter, Petra. While we do crate her at times, she often chooses to snooze in her crate on a nice pillow Annie got for the crate. And yes, this is the dog that dug up the first of the onions I transplanted last month!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Brady's fourth
Hutch and Glenda

Our rainy weekend didn't materialize, which was great for a grandson's fourth birthday party and his dad's college graduation yesterday. It also let me get to an essential, if not too exciting, gardening chore today: weeding.

Possibly the best advice one could give on weeding is to never let the weeds get ahead of you. And of course, they do sometimes because of schedules, weather, and in my case, just plain laziness at times. But today, I got our raised bed that is planted to onions, carrots, and beets in shape before the weeds had taken it over.

Scuffle-stirrup hoeWith lots of rain over the last few days, we had lots of seedling weeds just getting started in the 4'x16' raised garden bed. Normally, my best weeding method when weeds are just getting started is to use a scuffle hoe to cut off the roots of the weeds while also working the top half inch of soil. But since this bed is an intensive planting with just 4" between rows, my scuffle hoe wouldn't fit.

Soil scratcher The answer today was to carefully work the soil with the tines of a simple soil scratcher tool. It took about two hours to work the entire bed which has four rows of onions (two double rows), two rows of carrots, and two rows of beets. A good bit of that time was consumed by the need to carefully remove the radishes I'd oversown in the carrot rows to help break up any crusting of the soil which would impede the carrot seed from emerging. Sometimes one can actually harvest mature radishes using this seeding method, but our carrots got going too quickly, and it was time today for the radishes to make way for the main crop. The only way I know of to get rid of the radishes is to carefully pull the plants one at a time.

When I had finished weeding and loosening the soil, I mulched the onion rows with grass clipping mulch. The clippings had sat for several days so they wouldn't "burn" the plants they went around. The beets and carrots will get some mulch later on when the beets have recovered from the cultivation and when the carrots are big enough to not be overwhelmed by the mulch.

Mulched bed

I'll need to go back and lightly weed this bed frequently in the coming weeks, but only to catch any weeds I missed today or ones that germinate late. And with the mulch added, weed germination under it should be about zero.

I had a bit of mulch left over today, so I sprinkled a little 12-12-12 fertilizer under our brassicas, scuffle hoed it in, and mulched the broccoli row with grass clippings. Our other row of brassicas will have to wait for mulch until I mow again...and will probably need weeding again before the mulch goes on.

Everything doesn't always go as planned in the Senior Garden. When we got home last night from the graduation and birthday festivities, I saw that one of our dogs had dug up part of one of our freshly planted front flowerbeds! I smoothed out the soil with a garden rake last evening, but haven't replaced the plants that got ripped up as yet.

This morning, I realized we had a massive infestation of striped cucumber beetles decimating our melon transplants that are still in our cold frame area! I sprayed with rotenone-pyrethrin to knock down the infestation, but may have to go back and spray with something stronger to keep the surviving plants clean. From the looks of the plants (and no, I didn't get a photo of the damage), we may lose up to a third of our melon and squash transplants. Of course, all is not lost, as it is still early enough to direct seed melons and still get a nice crop.

Having pulled our paper cup cutworm collars last week from our pepper plants, I was dismayed this morning to see that one of our pepper plants had been cut off to the ground by something...probably a cutworm. So I replaced the plant, as I don't immediately get rid of extra transplants, and watered the area with some insecticide. Generally, our soil treatments of Milky Spore and using cutworm collars until the plants can withstand cutworms does the trick for us.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

HaystackWe're having a wonderful stretch of dry, sunny, cool days, ideal for gardening. I spent a couple of days mowing, raking, and mulching this week. The field beside us produced so much mulch (hay) that I simply stored the excess in an old fashioned haystack until I need it to mulch our melons.

Letttuce mulchedOf course, such great weather is also great for weed growth, so I did a good bit of weeding by hand, with a soil scratcher, and with my trusty scuffle hoe before mulching several areas of the main garden. Our lettuce and onions in the main raised bed look great in a bed of grass clippings. I also mulched the rest of our garlic and our brassicas.

The ground has dried out enough with the sunny, windy days that I was able to work part of our East Garden today. While the center of the patch is a bit boggy as yet, the high side of it was ready to be worked. I made two passes with our rototiller over an area about 15' x 75'. Part of that area will need to have some sulfur and peat moss tilled in before I plant our seed potatoes.

East Garden

I'd made one complete pass and a partial pass over the East Garden in April, and pretty well expected it to take several more passes with the rototiller before it was planting ready. With all the rain we'd had a week or so ago, I really thought the ground wouldn't be dry enough to work until the weekend, so I'm a happy gardener that I could work part of it today.

Besides potatoes, our East Garden will receive melon and squash transplants, direct seeded sweet corn, and our tomatoes and peppers we isolate there for seed production. I have some leftover brassica transplants that may end up there as well.

Not all of the patch will go to vegetables, though. At least a fourth of the 75' square area I turned in April will be seeded to a cover crop to help improve the heavy clay soil a bit.

White Empress GloxiniaGloxinias under plant lightsEven though I'd rotated new gloxinias into our kitchen window just a week or so ago, I changed them again this week. While spreading out our gloxinias growing downstairs under plant lights, I saw an amazing white Empress gloxinia that I just had to bring upstairs to enjoy. It has lots of dazzling white blooms with many buds forming underneath the canopy of flowers. And I'd forgotten how big the leaves are on a mature, Empress gloxinia. This plant is in its fourth growing season (has gone through four blooming and dormant periods). The leaves and blooms seem huge compared to the smaller, purple blooming, open pollinated gloxinia next to it.

I usually seed some new gloxinias at this time of year to have them in bloom by Thanksgiving or Christmas. But our older gloxinias that have been dormant seem to be responding to the season, breaking dormancy and beginning another growth and blooming cycle. While I was downstairs today, I spied two more gloxinias in our dim, dormant storage area that have put up growth from their corms. I'll need to check all of our dormant corms tomorrow to make sure I don't miss any that may be emerging from dormancy. With most of our garden transplants now out from under our plant lights, there's plenty of room for more gloxinias.

Update: Oh, my! There were fifteen gloxinias that had broken dormancy! I have a lot of repotting to do.

Thomas Jefferson's Gardens

While driving home from town today, I heard a great story from NPR's The Salt blog, Thomas Jefferson's Vegetable Garden: A Thing Of Beauty And Science. I looked up the blog online this evening and found the story also came with some fabulous photos of the Monticello gardens.

Friday, May 11, 2012 - Planting Potatoes

Potato area in East GardenCut seed potatoesHaving tilled some of our East Garden yesterday, I was able to go back to that section today and plant our potatoes. I cut our seed potatoes just this morning, treating the cut surfaces with captan to prevent rot. It's really better to cut seed potatoes a couple of days ahead of planting to allow the cut surface to scab over, but with our current good weather, I went ahead and cut and planted in the same day. I didn't cut all of the potatoes, as some of them, often some of the larger ones, only seemed to have one viable "eye." When cutting seed potatoes, you want a good eye on each cutting. So I ended up planting some cut potatoes and some whole potatoes. (The image at right is of our Kennebec seed potatoes. I also planted a row of Red Pontiacs.)

I tilled in a 3.8 cubic foot bag of peat moss into each of the 30' rows where the potatoes were to go, along with about three pounds of sulfur. The peat will add some acidity to the soil, but is mainly to loosen the soil to enhance production of tubers. The sulfur should drop the soil pH enough to prevent potato scab disease which thrives in "sweet" soil.

Fertilizer in furrowI made one last pass with the rototiller down what would become the planting rows, tilling as deeply as possible. Then I used a shovel to open a furrow about 4-6" deep, scattered some 11-23-11 fertilizer into the row, and hoed it into the soil. I also went down each row with a heavy garden fork, pushing in as deeply as possible and lifting slightly to break up the soil beneath the furrow a bit.

Working the fertilizer into the furrow fluffed the soil a bit and also filled in the furrow somewhat. Rather than use a trowel, I just dug a little deeper into the furrow with a gloved hand to place each potato set cut side down in its hole. Since I had plenty of seed potatoes, I spaced them around 6-8" apart, a bit closer than I normally do. I drew a bit of soft soil over each set before going on to the next planting. When done with the row, I used a garden rake to pull the rest of the soil I'd shoveled out of the furrow back over the planted potatoes.

Let me add that I've not had a lot of success growing potatoes in the Senior Garden. We've had them flooded out, killed by drought, and infected by disease via pure stupidity on my part. Our best crop of potatoes was a couple of years ago, grown in the heavy clay of the East Garden, so I'm trying there again, although in a different part of the East Garden. So don't take any of the above as the gospel for planting potatoes. I went back and reread the potato planting entry in Crockett's Victory Garden before planting today! If I ever get good at growing potatoes, I'd like to try some of the purple, blue, and yellow fleshed varieties. But it's hard to beat a baked Kennebec potato freshly dug from the garden.

Monday, May 14, 2012 - Our East Garden

2008
2009
2010
2011

With our main garden plots close to the house pretty well planted, I've turned my attention to our East Garden. That's sort of an exalted name for a garden patch we tend in an unused farm field just east of our property, but it's also a bit of a gardener's dream for those who don't have a lot of gardening space. We use the East Garden primarily for crops such as sweet corn and melons that require far more space than we have available in our main garden beds.

We lucked into getting to use the area in a conversation back in 2007 with the farmers who rent the farm ground around us. They had decided to let the field lie fallow, as it's too small for large, modern farm equipment to maneuver in easily, and quite frankly, has pretty poor soil. Since we already cared for the barn lot for the landowner, the farm renter suggested we make use of the field if we wished for our "spacehog" crops. In return, I've begun mowing the unused portions of the field, relieving the farm renter of that chore required by the contract with the landowner. It's turned out to be a win-win situation for all.

Our first crop in the East Garden in 2008 was a limited planting of melons and squash, as I had elbow surgery that spring that prevented getting sweet corn planted in a timely fashion. The melons went in late, but still produced a nice crop. The next year we were able to plant sweet corn and melons, but also began to learn about how poor the soil was and how hungry the nearby raccoons and deer were. We got a bit of sweet corn and melons, but shared a lot with the critters!

MelonsIn 2010, we reconfigured the plot to lie a bit further from the woods, opening up some "clean ground" for that year's sweet corn. We also began isolating our open pollinated Moira tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet peppers in the field, as it's far enough away from our other plantings of tomatoes and peppers that cross-pollination is unlikely. Our melons were incredible, although the sweet corn production, while tasty, was still a bit disappointing. We also grew a fair crop of potatoes that year, with a late drought, insect damage, and possibly late blight somewhat limiting the crop. (We did harvest enough potatoes to last us all that winter, though.)

We again reconfigured the East Garden in 2011 to include some fresh ground for our sweet corn and to rotate out most of the ground we'd used in 2008-2010. Deer clipped many of the tassels of our sweet corn, and we again had a bit of raccoon damage in the melons, but still got enough for us and for "them." The ground rotated out was seeded to buckwheat and alfalfa, an experiment that didn't work out all that well, but taught me a lot. I mowed the buckwheat when it threatened to crowd out the alfalfa, but the weather turned bone dry and little of the alfalfa survived. I'll be seeding some areas to buckwheat and alfalfa again this year, but not together.

The biggest surprise from the 2011 East Garden was a bumper crop of sweet potatoes. We'd grown small, test plantings of them in past years and got a few nice tubers. Last fall, I dug lots of giant sweet potatoes, many severely cracked due to the dry summer and a late wet spell that encouraged late growth...and splitting. But it was the kind of fun crop to grow that one probably wouldn't try without lots of space to experiment.

And we finally get to this year's East Garden. When part of the ground dried enough to be worked, I got our potatoes planted last Friday. On Saturday, I finished another tilling of the ground. I'd done a first turn in April of almost the entire area we've used over the past few years.

East Garden - 2012

This second pass got some of the ground planting ready. Other areas still have lots of grass clumps to till in. And while most of the ground was fairly dry, I hit one area in the middle of the 75' square plot that left mud on the tires of the tiller.

East Garden planI also deeply tilled the area where our sweet corn will go, working in the corn fertilizer. With some fairly sore muscles still from the tilling, no rain in the immediate forecast, and the corn ground being a bit dry, I'm holding off seeding the sweet corn for now. I've planted before in dry conditions, only to get spotty germination necessitating replanting.

Part of the fun of having such of what to me is a huge area to garden, is that I can try this and that without a lot of pressure of potential failure. Lots of things we try in the East Garden just don't produce a good crop. Others do, but it's all interesting.

The image at right shows the general plan, so far, for our 2012 East Garden. But it's a fluid plan, getting changed and adapted almost daily. When I looked at it over the weekend, I realized that I had allotted far more foot-row for melons than I had transplants, so the ends of those rows will probably be planted to buckwheat or alfalfa (but not both!!). I'd also like to fit a row or short row of sweet potatoes into the plan. But I'm late on getting our sweet potato slips rooted, so...

My next planting in the area will be one of those experiments, as I'm going to transplant our leftover brassicas into a row beside our potato rows. I've not planted brassicas this late, and they may all bolt in the heat. But I have the space, the plants, and the time...once my muscles loosen up a bit more, so why not try? Mixed

And once I get the melon rows tilled to my satisfaction, I'll begin transplanting and mulching in our melon transplants. Even with the dry weather, I can haul buckets of water to get the melons off to a good start.

But today, I'm just taking it easy. I may seed a few things, transplant some gloxinias, and pick some asparagus. But for the most part, I'm taking the day off from gardening. It's Annie and my eighteenth anniversary, and I don't want to be a gimpy old man tonight for the event!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - Little by Little

Mulched brassicasI'm slowly, oh so slowly, getting our East Garden planted. We have little chance of rain until the weekend, so I'm holding off planting our sweet corn. Instead, I'm concentrating on transplanting into the plot, as I can haul water to the transplants if and when needed.

Today's main task was transplanting leftover brassica plants into the East Garden. The seedlings really didn't look all that good, having remained in fourpacks on the back porch for far too long. Each broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and even a kohlrabi plant got a deluxe hole with a bit of solid fertilizer and lime, along with a lot of water. I also made a soil ring or dam around each plant to facilitate watering in case things stay as dry as they have been so far this month. Having stored grass clippings cut from the field the East Garden is in, I also mulched all the transplants. In all, seventeen brassica plants plus marigold row marker plants at the ends of the rows went in.

East Garden - 120515When done transplanting, I got out the tape measure and permanently marked the rows for our melons. I'd made several extra passes with the tiller last Saturday over where I thought those rows would go, having paced off the spacings. I was pretty close, but now have stakes in the ground to mark the exact rows until I get something into them. I wound up my gardening chores for the day by making another pass with the tiller over the melon rows.

Since we mulch our hills of melons for weed control and moisture conservation, I can probably go ahead and begin transplanting our melons any day now. Parts of the East Garden still look pretty rough with lots of clods of grass still apparent. If they should root again, I can still till between the rows until they get mulched, or even resort to using Roundup. But once the melons go in, we hand weed around them along with relying on the mulch to hold back weeds.

I'd begun my gardening day by getting a good spray of Thuricide on our brassicas in our main garden and the leftover transplants on the back porch. While our brassicas in the main garden aren't showing any insect damage, I did see a couple of white cabbage moths flying around this morning! And since I had the sprayer out, still partially filled with a biological, I added some Serenade (another biological) to the mix and sprayed our tomatoes and peppers, hopefully for prevention, but if not, control, of anthracnose and bacterial spot.

Friday, May 18, 2012 - Transplanting Melons

Rough East Garden soilAs our fair, but dry weather continues, I'm taking my time getting our melons planted in our East Garden. I'm still tilling a bit, as parts of the area still have clumps of grass to be broken up and worked into the soil.

I began transplanting into the first row for melons on Wednesday. The process has ended up taking a bit longer than I anticipated, as I'm having to haul a lot of water to give the transplants a good start in the dry ground.

Melon holeBecause our clay soil isn't ideal for growing melons, I enhance it a bit when transplanting. I first dig a hole around a foot wide, retaining the dug soil in a wheelbarrow. Then I fill the hole with peat moss, some lime and fertilizer, and work those materials as deeply as possible into the bottom of the hole.

Adding waterThen I begin adding water with a bit of starter fertilizer mixed into it. I add lots of water to each hole, usually around three gallons to start with, but ending up with another gallon or so after the plant goes into the ground. I generally just carry buckets of water to the East Garden for transplanting. With our very dry soil condition this spring, I've resorted to filling our four cubic foot garden cart with water and pushing it to the garden for watering. While the cart sloshes a bit on the trip, I usually get about twenty or so gallons per cart load to the garden plot.

While the water soaks into the peat and soil mix, I stir a good bit of peat, fertilizer, and lime into the soil in the wheelbarrow. I return it around the outside of the hole, placing the transplant in the middle of the hole and sort of squish it into the wet mix under it. Then I draw the soil over the transplant's soil ball, firm it a bit, and rake up a small circular dam around the new planting before adding more water.

First melon rowNote that most of the East Garden soil isn't as poor as the photo at left. The first of the melon row is going in where we grew sweet potatoes last year. In the process of digging the sweet potatoes, I turned up some really heavy clay. It has tilled down to a powdery soil that would eventually pack and dry almost as hard as concrete if not amended with peat in the hole and a good layer of mulch over the rest of it.

Mulched rowI started transplanting on Wednesday, took Thursday off to let my muscles recover from tilling, and finished up our first row of melons today. I ended up using the full 75' tilled length of the row, as I put in four hills each of cantaloupe and watermelon (usually two plants per hill), and four yellow squash plants towards the end of the row. The head of the row has a Moira tomato plant and the very end of the row has an Earliest Red Sweet pepper plant. Both are for seed production and are grown in the East Garden to isolate them from our tomatoes and peppers in our main garden which is over a hundred yards away.

The final step in putting in our melons usually occurs over several weeks. We use grass clipping mulch from the field the East Garden is in to suppress weeds and hold in soil moisture. I was able to mulch the whole row today with the mulch (hay) I gathered last week after mowing the field. Usually, I have to mow several times to get enough mulch to do the initial mulching around our melons. Of course, I still have two more rows to plant. And once we get our melons (and squash) in and mulched, then it's an all summer race to stay ahead of the melons rapid growth to keep the ground mulched and weed free.

If you have the space and are considering growing melons in your garden, don't let my descriptions here discourage you. Transplanting melons doesn't have to be as hard a job as I make it. With good soil and adequate rainfall, one could just plunk the melon transplants into the ground or direct seed even and get good results. We're growing nice melons on some spent farm ground. We've added lots of lime and fertilizer to the soil, grown cover and turndown crops, and the soil is still terrible. But it's improving...very, very slowly.

And it's really pretty cool when the big boys who raise corn and beans and melons exclaim, "You grew those melons on that ground!"

Melon row in

I still have two more rows I can plant to melons and squash, and I have lots of transplants left. I also hope to direct seed some cantaloupe and melons in the last row to provide a sustained harvest through the fall. With our next good chance of rain being next Monday, I may have to break off of melon planting and get our sweet corn seed into the ground this weekend. But the hardest work of planning, measuring, and the initial tilling of the ground, some of which hadn't been worked up in years, is done. Even with a heavy rain, I can still get into the plot and "mud in" our transplants in the next week or so. Come to think of it, "mudding in" the melons would be far, far easier than hauling all that water!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Planting sweet cornI finished transplanting melons yesterday, although I still have part of one row that I'll direct seed for late melons.

Today's task was getting our sweet corn planted. I'd tilled in about 60 pounds of 12-12-12 fertilizer a week or so ago, and the plot tested in the 6.5-6.8 range on pH, pretty much ideal for corn. But the ground was very dry, not tilled as deeply as I'd like, and still had lots of dry grass clods to be raked out before planting.

With the possibility of rain tonight or tomorrow, I went ahead and hoed furrows and planted four half rows of ACcentuate and Bountiful, and six full 30' rows of our regular, full season sweet corn, Summer Sweet 7640R. I used standard three foot spacing between the rows and placed the seed about 8 inches apart in the row a couple of inches deep. In dry weather, one might normally place the seed a bit deeper (3-4"), but it's pretty well dry down to about 6" deep, far too deep for corn to germinate. And since we use all sh2 super sweets which don't have a lot of seedling vigor anyway, I had to plant shallow and just hope for rain.

East Garden ChartWe're on a short rotation for sweet corn on this patch of ground, as I grew sweet corn on part of it just two years ago. I like to have a three year rotation on ground for sweet corn, as corn smut, which can overwinter in the soil, is a real problem in our area. The corn on this ground two years ago had little smut (and little corn!), so I think we'll be okay.

The chart of our East Garden, which was pretty bare just a week ago, is filling in nicely. I still have a good bit more tilling to do in between melon rows and for our alfalfa cover crop, but the East Garden is really pretty well planted. I'll be adding some more flowers to it here and there, and actually put in a bunch of snapdragons and marigolds and our last geranium transplant today as row markers for the sweet corn rows. A marigold row marker adds a bitof color to the garden, although a bit of deer browsing can leave one without any row markers!

While I've focused on getting our East Garden planted over the last week or so, my wife and the grandkids have picked asparagus and peas. I'm looking forward to getting back to working in our main garden plots again this week.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I finally got back to working in our main garden plots this morning, and oh, what surprises were there for me. While getting our East Garden worked and planted last week, I'd only given our main garden plots in our back yard a cursory glance each day. I knew stuff was getting close to ripening, and also knew I had some serious weeding to do.

Pea trellisesAmish Snap and Champion of EnglandI began with the fun stuff, picking almost a gallon of spring peas from our tall pea trellis. We have four varieties planted along it, with three now producing. Our Amish Snap, Champion of England, and standard Sugar Snaps all had some filled out pea pods. I had to replant our Mr. Bigicon peas, as we had a failure with the first planting of them.

The Champion of England variety is turning out to be a very pleasant surprise, producing long, thick pods filled with up to ten large, sweet peas in them. The Amish Snap variety has seemed to suffer a bit from the dry weather, but has produced a good many fully filled smaller pods. Our Sugar Snaps are just coming on, and I simply picked the few ripe pods on them for shelling, as they'd been heavily "sampled" by a granddaughter over the weekend! Grape tomatoes and Sugar Snaps are items our grandkids know they can always pick and eat fresh from the vine (without having to ask permission).

Our trellis of short peas, planted a good bit later than our tall peas, is now in bloom. The Encore and Eclipse varieties both usually produce an abundance of extremely sweet peas. Eclipse peas require fairly warm soil to germinate well, so I just wait to plant them and the Encores.

Beets and peasSoftbedOnce the peas were picked, I moved on to checking our bed of onions, carrots, and beets. I'd noticed a beet that was about picking size over the weekend, and ended up picking several beets that never made it to storage, but were promptly cleaned, cooked, and eaten.

While I'm not surprised, I was a bit dismayed to find a lot of grass seedlings growing in the area between our peas and carrots. I had mulched the onions right up to the edges of the beet and carrot rows several weeks ago, but didn't mulch the then tiny carrots or the then spindly beet plants. I pulled a few weeds while picking today, but need to go back and carefully weed the bed while also thinning the carrots.

I really like the way a bed of onions, carrots, and beets looks at this stage of growth. The reds and greens make for an attractive bed of vegetables. I do wish I'd gotten our geraniums in at the corners of the bed a bit earlier, though. They're just beginning to bloom.

Broccoli readyBroccoli headAfter finishing up with peas and beets, I began weeding and cultivating around our caged tomato plants. I haven't mulched them as yet, but have held down seedling weeds with a weekly round with the scuffle hoe and soil scratcher. Glancing past the tomatoes, I was a bit startled to see how much growth our broccoli heads had made in just a few days. I cut two heads to send home with a son-in-law who was working on the roof today, but still have five more main heads to cut tomorrow before they bolt and get bitter!

Looking at the broccoli, I really should, maybe could, have cut it over the weekend. It's that mature, but I got absorbed in planting the East Garden last week and missed the sudden growth.

I'm not terribly thrilled having all seven of our broccoli plants, 3 Goliath and 4 Premium Crop, all ripening at once. But I put them in all at the same time, so it's not terribly surprising that they matured at the same time. We'll have lots of sideshoots for another month from the plants. I also transplanted our extra broccoli plants into the East Garden last week, so if they withstand the heat, we may yet have another harvest of main head broccoli.

Lettuce softbedCistern planterAs I moved down our main, raised garden bed, I also saw that we can start having salad each night this week with dinner. Our lettuce is ready to pick, with an assortment of varieties and colors available. I sorta hate to start picking, as our lettuce softbed is always one of the prettiest areas of our garden. But I still have a few transplants I can plug into the spaces cleared by harvesting, although the summer heat will probably claim those plants before they mature. But, they'll be pretty for a while.

Our spinach row, not pictured here, is also ready for a light picking of baby spinach leaves!

I haven't written much this year about our flowers in the garden, as I've been a bit slow getting them in. I'm still working on that one. But I did get an early start on our cement planter that sits atop the cover to the cistern, putting one geranium and four petunias into it a good bit before our last frost. With some covering on a few cold nights, the flowers have survived and the petunias are now threatening to overwhelm the poor geranium in the center of the planter. Part of the "problem," if profuse growth can be described as a problem, is that I've been pretty good about pinching off old blooms from the petunias which seems to have encouraged them to branch out with more growth. I also put fresh potting soil in the planter this spring, which may have as much or more to do with the lush growth than the pinching.

Hanging baskets

Our back porch that got a new roof, siding in places, and several coats of paint in others last summer, is now lined with our hanging basket plants. Looking east from our back door, we have a wandering jew, an ivy leaf geranium, a wax begonia, and a pot of petunias (which I severely cut back a week or so ago). Just keeping all the plants watered is becoming a real time eater, but when Annie and I sit on the back porch, the work is certainly worth it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Even though the calendar doesn't say so, you know it's gotta be summer when I'm planning our evening meals around what fresh picked vegetable we have in abundance. Last night it was peas and lettuce salad (with a small, "brown meat" roast, mashed potatoes, and gravy). The night before we had steamed broccoli, as our first planting of broccoli almost all ripened at once. Turkey manhattans, dressing, and gravy rounded out the menu. This evening, it was just salad, as Annie and I had both had big, late lunches. And that's a pity, as I got our first good picking of Sugar Snap peas today.

Mulched tomatoesBesides picking peas and cutting the one last main head of broccoli in the main garden, I transplanted some flowers into the tomato bed before mulching in the tomatoes for the season. I'd transplanted flowers around the caged tomatoes earlier this month, but about half of them dried up and died, so I stuck in whatever I had left to fill in blank spots.

LettuceI also transplanted four lettuce seedlings into our lettuce softbed to fill in areas opened up by what I picked yesterday. I just moved the holes for the new plantings a bit off from where I'd harvested, giving each transplant a lot of water.

I have no illusions about lettuce transplanted in our area at this time. The plants will look nice in a week or so, but will probably bolt from the heat before they're ready to pick. But I had the time, plants, and space, so why not!

ForecastSpeaking of heat, we're supposed to get a blast of it over the weekend. While it was warm today, there was a cooling breeze all day as well, making the job of mowing the field next to our house a pleasant task. But we're still without rain, having received a bit less than a half inch so far this month with not much hope in sight.

Of course, weather forecasts can vary, depending upon the service. The Weather Underground's forecast gives a bit more hope for rain, but just a 50% chance at best. With the dry weather, I'm hauling a lot of water to the East Garden to keep our recent brassica, squash, tomato, pepper, and melon transplants going. I'm also mulching the hills whenever I have clippings available to hold in the precious soil moisture.

WUnderground forecast

Garlic headSage plantI was rather proud of myself for remembering what I'd read on the Boundary Garlic Farm site last year about letting garlic form bulbils. I let three of our elephant garlic form seed heads. Then I remembered that elephant garlic really isn't a true garlic, but is related to the leek family. So...we'll see what I get. It makes a nice photo, anyway.

Another photo I've been trying to include but keep forgetting is a shot of our one surviving sage plant. I moved two plants from a raised bed late last fall to an area I hope to develop as our herb garden. But one plant didn't make it. You always wonder why one plant makes it and another doesn't, until I saw one of our cats peeing on the spot where the dead plant was!

One sage plant should give us all the fresh sage we need. We still have lots of dry sage leftover from last fall. I just wanted two sage plants side-by-side in the future herb garden.

I still haven't gotten a shot of the sage plant that I really like and that shows its deep greens with purple blossoms. I didn't think to take any photos today until evening, so all of today's shots are tinted a bit from the evening light. I also had a lot of trouble weeding around and mulching the plant. Bumblebees seem to absolutely love sage blossoms.

So...not a lot of gardening to write about today, as I spent a good bit of the day mowing and raking...and mulching.

And about that brown meat...

When I was in college (in the 60s!), I worked at a small, rural grocery in East Tennessee. Our produce manager often would get a steak from the meat department that was outdated and changing color. He'd slow cook it in an aluminum tray set on the warming pad used to seal packages in the produce area. When I asked about the meat, he patiently explained that beef often has its best flavor just about the time the meat department folks were ready to pull it from the display cooler. It was aged beef. Of course, the difference between tasty, aged beef and a rotten hunk of meat is a pretty narrow one. But since that time, I've haunted marked down, "old" meat at various groceries, sniffing the packages and checking the color of the meat. It's generally best to immediately cook such finds, but I do freeze some of the "fresher" pieces of brown meat I find, such as the small (less than a pound) sirloin tip roast we enjoyed last night.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I'm being a bit lazy over the holiday weekend. Our predicted highs are close to 100, so any gardening will have to get done very early or late in the day. I didn't even do my customary morning garden walk today.

PowerbookPossibly part of the reason I'm not out hauling water or pulling weeds is that a new laptop came in the mail on Friday to replace my ancient 12" PowerBook. The Slab-O-Mac appeared unable to take a charge after taking one too many tumbles off its usual perch on a book on top of a wastebasket by my easy chair. Of course, once my order for a new laptop had shipped, the PowerBook magically healed itself and began charging normally again! But it was definitely time for a new laptop, as the PowerBook's screen was dim, it's case sprung in several places, and its WiFi card often had to be reseated. The battery, its third, would deliver power for a maximum of about 20 minutes. But it had served me well for over five years, and it was paid for.

MacBook ProThe new laptop was, of a necessity, a bottom of the line MacBook Pro. But the 13.3 inch laptop doesn't look, feel, or perform like a relatively low cost model. It has a bright screen, a backlit keyboard, and has handled everything I've asked of it so far with ease.

Brady in poolWhile most of Senior Gardening gets written on a used Mac Mini I purchased in February, I do lots of work (and play) on my laptop from my easy chair in the living room. This time around, Annie and I are sitting like his and her nerds on the back porch watching a grandson in the wading pool. Annie has her iPad, and I'm writing this section on the new MacBook.

Transferring filesThe image at left shows the screen I use with the Mini in "target mode," as its hard drive is mounted on the laptop, transferring my iTunes Library to the new computer earlier today.

I still enjoy working with older computers, and also enjoy growing some of the better heirloom vegetable varieties available. But for my day to day computing needs, it's really nice to be working on modern equipment again.

Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's a little hard to grow a garden without any rain. But in spite of the dry weather, our East Garden continues to surprise me at how well it is doing.

East Garden, May 27, 2012

Potatoes emergeWhen Brady, one of my grandsons, and I were watering the East Garden this morning, I was pleased to see that a few potato sets had put up shoots. While the emergence is really spotty at this point, a good rain should have them on their way.

Sweet corn upThen I noticed that some of our sweet corn, planted a week ago into bone dry ground, had emerged! Again, germination was spotty, but I was amazed to see any of it up. I'm really not sure if we'll get a good enough stand of it to go with, or will have to replant.

BrassicasOur row of late brassicas is still doing well. I've watered the transplants about every other day during this dry spell. Each plant has a small ring of mulch around it to hold in moisture. I'll need to expand that mulch ring a bit, as I noticed and pulled a number of seedling weeds as we watered this morning.

Melon rowAnd of course, our melons are still doing pretty well. We've lost the plants in a few hills, but had direct seeded the hills where we put in weak transplants. So we should have a nice field of melons later this summer.

Our saved Moon & Stars watermelon seed failed to germinate this year, but some replacement seed from the Seed Savers Exchange has produced some of our healthiest transplants of the year. The yellow spots on the leaves of the plants (shown below) aren't signs of disease, but the characteristic yellow spots of the Moon & Stars variety that appear on the leaves and on the melon rinds. Moon & Stars are a seedy melon, but the have excellent growth vigor and wonderful flavor.

I kidded a bit yesterday about working with old computers and heirloom garden varieties. While I like preserving old varieties of vegetables, I really avoid some of the really nasty ones that get preserved simply to preserve the genetic base. Moon & Stars isn't one of those varieties. It can hold its own with any of the more modern watermelon varieties developed.

Moon & Stars watermelon

With the high temperature headed for a hundred today, I broke off work in the garden just after noon and watched the Indy 500 on TV while writing this posting (on my new laptop).

Monday, May 28, 2012 - Memorial Day

While picking and thinning our row of spinach this morning, I paused briefly to say a short prayer for the safety of one of our sons-in-law, Todd, and those serving there with him. While I frequently pray for our kids, Memorial Day is a good occasion to remember those in uniform...and their families back home. Todd is currently serving with a medical unit in Afghanistan.

Todd's unit

Spinach and peppersMulched spinach and peppersThe spinach really should have been thinned and picked some time ago. We love pasta over baby spinach leaves, but what I picked this morning was only fit for boiling, which should be pretty good, too. There also was a good bit of insect damage to many of the leaves. Since I'm fairly adverse to spraying poisons on leaf crops, I just discarded the damaged leaves, saving the best for the pot.

Once done picking, I spread a bit of Milky Spore over the area, as we still have some cutworm problems on this end of the main raised bed. I used a scuffle hoe to work in the biological grub control and also to cut off a few seedling weeds that had sprung up in the last week. The final step for the spinach and the nearby, caged pepper plants was a good layer of grass clipping mulch.

Spent pea vinesEncore peasI picked, cleaned, and froze what probably is the last of our peas from the two tall varieties that began producing first. The dry weather, heat, and time have pretty well worn out the vines. I'm glad I tried both the Amish Snap and Champion of England open pollinated varieties from the Seed Savers Exchange. The Amish Snap came on earliest, producing nice, standard pods of four to eight medium sized peas each. They aren't as sweet as some other varieties, but it also was a warm and dry spring. The Champion of England variety produces wide, long pods of up to ten, large, sweet peas, but not as many pods set on them as on the Amish Snap. Both are varieties that I'll want to grow again next year.

We still have some tall Mr. Bigicon peas about to bloom, and our Sugar Snaps are putting out peas, although the pods are suffering from lack of soil moisture. Our short varieties, Encore and Eclipse, both have bloomed and set pods, although they are also suffering from the lack of rain. With showers predicted tonight and a fair chance of rain during the week, I'm hopeful we'll still get some more good peas. Encore and Eclipse are the sweetest peas we grow.

CauliflowerBeetsI cut a bounty of broccoli sideshoots yesterday along with three medium sized heads of cauliflower. Some of the broccoli sideshoots were nearly as large as small main heads! Both our standard variety, Amazing, and a new one we're trying this year, Fremont, are producing good heads with good leaf wrap that prevents too much yellowing of the heads.

Our Premium Crop and Goliath broccoli will continue producing sideshoots, often of diminishing size, for some time. Eventually, when the plants age and the heat gets to them, the sideshoots will bolt quickly. At that point, it's time for the plants to come out, if we haven't pulled them already to make room for a succession planting. We often follow our broccoli with green beans with good results.

I was pleased this morning to see that our beets looked good in our raised bed of onions, beets, and carrots. By late yesterday afternoon, the beet leaves were all droopy, close to wilting beyond recovery. Many of the beets are ready to pick, and I'll be happy to get them out of the way to make room to weed and thin our carrots a bit. But...I'm waiting for a good rain before doing either.

Asparagus

With a good deal of reluctance, I've let our asparagus patch begin its annual summer growth. When to stop picking is always a hard decision for me. We enjoy fresh asparagus, but want the roots to strengthen each year for the next season's harvest. I need to weed the patch a bit and work in a bit of fertilizer before the foliage becomes too heavy to permit easy working of the ground.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - More Peas

I picked a gallon or so each of Sugar Snap peas and shelling peas yesterday. Removing the strings (and blossom remains) from the Sugar Snaps took several hours. But after blanching them and freezing on a cookie sheet, they almost filled a gallon freezer bag.

Sugar Snap peas

When I picked the Sugar Snaps, many of the pods looked more like snow peas than Sugar Snaps. The dry weather had the usually plump pods clinging to the peas, which showed as bumps through the pod as snow peas do. During the soaking and washing of the pods, they appeared to rehydrate, and the Sugar Snaps shown above look pretty normal!

The gallon of shelling peas, mostly of the Encore variety, made another pint for the freezer.

Lettuce

Lettuce row

Burnt lettuce
Bolting red romaine

We had another round of fantastic lettuce salad from the garden with our supper last night. But I'd noticed something yesterday, confirmed on this morning's garden walk, that suggests our spring lettuce season may be drawing to a close. While the shot at left looks pretty good, closer examination shows heat damage and bolting.

The combination of daily highs in the 90s, along with almost no rain, have taken a toll on the lettuce. At right, sun damage to a softhead is shown, along with what were two lovely heads of red romaine, now bolting.

While I feel a little bit like a kid who just dropped his sucker in the dirt, we really have had some nice lettuce already. It's obviously an early harvest, with and equally early end coming soon.

I'll pull and compost the bolted plants and accelerate my harvesting of the rest. Since we actually have rain and cooler temperatures in the forecast, I'll probably go back and put in some more lettuce transplants on the odd chance our weather will moderate a bit over the next few weeks.

And for us, any lettuce is a big success. I struggled unsuccessfully for years trying to grow good spring lettuce in our Indiana climate. I finally hit upon using transplants instead of direct seeding to give our lettuce a chance to beat the summer heat. So each year we now have a lovely softbed of spring lettuce that at some point burns and bolts. That's just the way of things.

While out walking the garden, I noticed that the last two cauliflower plants have nice, white heads ready to pick. Based on our experience this spring, I think we'll add the Fremont variety as a regular in our varieties to plant. Along with Amazing, that gives us two good varieties for our area that grow well and have the necessary, tight leaf wrap to prevent yellowing of the heads. There are still three more cauliflower plants in our East Garden. But the brassica row there was transplanted late as a bit of an experiment. I'm not expecting to harvest much from that row, as I'd guess it will get too hot by the time the plants would mature to produce good heads. But we might get lucky...and learn something along the way.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lettuce row replantedOnion-beet-carrot rowsOur gorgeous softbed of lettuce looks a lot different today than it did just 24 hours ago. Having noted the heat stress and bolting of several plants, I harvested almost everything. Five or six of the plants simply weren't usable due to bolting or browned and/or decaying leaves. But we did get several more nice heads and softheads and leaf lettuce. I immediately replaced the harvested plants with the last of the lettuce transplants I had on hand. I could have opted for a row of green beans or kale between the rows of onions, but we're supposed to have a bit of a break from the hot weather for a few days, so I stuck with lettuce for the area. Also, our garlic is just about ready to be dug. That will open up a nice spot for kale and/or green beans. I dug one head as a test today, and Annie and I were enjoying the pungent aroma of it all morning.

Our raised bed of onions, beets, and carrots looks terrific right now, as we're finally getting some rain. Everything in the garden has seemed to perk up and brighten up with the, so far, light showers.

Compost pile

Pea rows
Peas and brassicas

Our working compost pile almost doubled in size today with the addition of the lettuce trimmings and the vines from our first two varieties of peas. Our Amish Snap and Champion of England vines were played out and drying down, so it was time to pull them. I picked the first pods of peas from our Mr. Big peas that I had to replant this spring. The pods are quite long, even a bit longer than the Champion of England variety which produces huge pods. I still need to shell the half gallon of Mr. Big, Encore, and Eclipse peas I picked this morning and will be interested to see the pea count in the Mr. Big pods (and also the taste). It appears that we may be picking peas for another week or so.

Besides the lettuce and peas, I also cut two heads of cauliflower and some really nice broccoli sideshoots. I'm really pleased that despite the hot weather, our broccoli has continued to produce well.

I also finished tilling the last quarter of our East Garden this morning and seeding it to alfalfa. As late in the season as it is, the alfalfa may not take, but it definitely is worth a try. The alfalfa is to be a turn down crop to improve the heavy clay soil of the East Garden. With that section done, the East Garden is now pretty well planted. I have a few more hills of late melons to put in and possibly a row of sweet potatoes, but the heavy work of tilling is over.

East Garden - May 31, 2012

Hill of dead vinesAlfalfaAnd as a bit of a reality check, I'll offer the image at left. It's a hill of...dead vines! Not everything takes in the Senior Garden. We currently have a couple of such hills in the East Garden. The fix is to direct seed into the hill and/or start another pot of plants inside or on the porch.

Just after I took the shot of the empty hill, I came across several alfalfa plants from our experiment last summer with cover crops. The trial didn't go as well as I hoped, but some of the alfalfa survived. The plant at right is just outside our current East Garden, as I left about a ten foot strip that we had in cover crop last year unturned. The section where the alfalfa grew did seem to turn a little better and deeper this year, but maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part.

Even though May has turned out to be a bone dry month, we've been blessed to have begun harvesting and enjoying things from our garden plots. We've had asparagus, spinach, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower, beets, and peas. Although there have been lots of aches and pains from the effort, along with a good bit of aspirin and Bengay, I do thank the Lord each night for the bounty we enjoy and the good health we're experiencing.

MacCallie Jo in cartOkay, that may have been a little heavy and sappy. Let me lighten things a bit with a couple of our cast of four-footed characters who also inhabit the Senior Garden. Mac, who came to us when he was six and is now eleven or twelve, obviously knows how to enjoy life with a good snooze.

Callie Jo, on the other hand, looks a bit perturbed sitting in the cart. When I looked into the cart beside our bucket poor-man's rain gauge, I saw that she was sitting in a bit less than a quarter inch of water! Like most cats, Callie hates getting wet.

I hope your May garden has gone well.

Late Update:

Animated GIF for May, 2012I didn't get the anigif for May done until this morning (Friday, June 1), but have included it with the last May posting, as it sorta belongs there. I've played around with trying to show some kind of visual chronology of the Senior Garden by the month and by the year several times. It's an interesting exercise in image selection, cropping, and image size. I quickly found out that using larger photos created an animated file far too large for inclusion with our regular blog postings. So the size of the anigif is a bit of a compromise, but does show the changes that occur in our main garden plots.

Hope you enjoy it.

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April, 2012

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