Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity


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The Old Guy's Garden Record

Our Senior Garden - 7/15/2013


Monday, July 1, 2013

Senior Garden - July 1, 2013HummingbirdsWe're starting July with yet another stormy day. Gardening and mowing are absolutely out of the question, making it a good day to run errands.

Annie and I were entertained on our back porch this evening by swarms of hummingbirds around one of our feeders. It appears that a couple of nests of new birds have hatched out. Our other feeder still has only a few birds visiting it.

Sorry about the poor quality of the image at right. It was taken in poor light late in the day and through a rather dirty kitchen window!

Mountain Valley Seeds

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - Another Non-gardening Day

Botanical InterestsUnless you want to count the ten small broccoli sideshoots I picked, today has to be counted as another non-gardening day due to ground and weather conditions. We're close to two inches of rainfall for the month already, and we had standing water once again over our Sugar Snap peas and our emerging planting of green beans. The Sugar Snaps will have to be replanted. The beans might make it.

While I didn't plant, weed, or harvest much of anything today, I did spend some time in the kitchen that will pay off this fall. While at our local Save-A-Lot grocery, I noticed that they had split fryer breasts (bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts) for 99ยข/lb. I picked up two packages (around 9 pounds total) of the breasts, which when on sale are usually a bit larger, older, fatter, and tougher than true fryer breasts. But the difference is fine with me. I skin the breasts, fillet the main breast portion and freeze them and the chicken tenders (the strip of meat under the breast that has the trachea in it) on cookie sheets. The frozen breast meat gets bagged and goes into our big freezer for long-term storage.

Portuguese Kale SoupAsiago Cheese & Tortellini SoupThe rest of the breast (skin, bone, etc.) goes into a big pot to boil down. After boning out the meat, I freeze the chicken and broth for future cooking sessions of Portuguese Kale Soup, Asiago Cheese & Tortellini Soup, chicken and noodles, and all the other recipes we make that call for chicken broth.

If the weather stays wet, I may go back to the store for more chicken breasts, as we always seem to need more broth than we save when we freeze breast meat. The funny thing is that I went to Save-A-Lot to stock up on sugar, as the hummingbirds really went through their nectar yesterday. Today, of course, after I set up our GardenWatchCam time lapse camera to record the birds' antics at the feeder, only a few hummingbirds were present.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013 - Independence Day (U.S.)

Digging garlicCleaned garlicWith our yard still way too wet to mow, I decided to dig the rest of our garlic this morning. I'd previously dug our German and elephant garlic, but had left the Mother of Pearl and Late Italian varieties in the ground to give them a little more time to mature. The extra week or so really didn't seem to help, and both new varieties (to us) produced disappointingly small bulbs.

Since we planted our garlic late last fall, this season may not be a good test of the new varieties. Also, I haven't cooked with them as yet, so their flavor may outweigh size considerations.

Carrots

Digging carrotsWhen bringing in the garlic, I stopped for minute to check our rows of carrots. When I dug one carrot near the end of the row with my finger, I found that it was rotten! After getting the garlic laid out to cure on a makeshift table in the garage, I went back to the carrots and began digging.

I had remarked here last month that damage from standing water might take a day or so to become apparent. It was obvious as I worked my way down the rows that the standing water had definitely taken its toll on our carrots. At least a third of them were rotting in the ground with more showing partial rot somewhere on the root.

The harvesting was easy, at least. I just dug a bit with my finger and pulled the carrots instead of having to use a garden fork to lift them out of the row. When cleaned, we got around 3-4 pounds of baby carrots from this digging.

The good news is that we still have time and space this summer to start another carrot crop, as what we've brought in is about half of what we'll use over the winter. And of course, the carrots I brought in today may not store as well as ones grown and harvested under better conditions.

On a more positive note, I cut two nice sized main broccoli heads in the East Garden today and picked three mature yellow squash.

Perspective

Pet damage and standing water cut our carrot harvest more than in half of normal this year. Last year, the drought delayed and somewhat diminished our carrot harvest. Actually, the drought pretty well took or lessened everything we grew.

Each gardening season produces its successes and disappointments. Spring carrots were off this year, but we're getting better cauliflower than we ever have. Our peas so far have been iffy, but we had so much asparagus that we got sick of it before the season ran out.

It's rare when one has a season such as last year when the drought took or damaged nearly everything we grew. An incredibly wet spring and early summer such as we've had this year is almost equally unusual, but learning to accept and learn from crop failures is just part of the gardening game. I obviously have some drainage issues to deal with. I'm also going to get to learn how to grow fall carrots this year. And it's only the Fourth of July, and we still have half of another wonderful gardening season to go.

Friday, July 5, 2013 - Re-Seeding Day

Re-seeded Sugar SnapsRe-seeded row finishedOur recovery from heavy rains that produced standing water even in one of our raised garden beds continues. Yesterday, I dug the rest of our garlic, which showed little damage, and our carrots which suffered significant rot from the standing water.

I decided to give our current, water damaged row of Sugar Snap peas one more try at renovation before possibly turning the area with the tiller and starting over. I wet our seed last evening and then coated it with powdered captan to prevent seed rot. Seed treatment probably wouldn't have helped the low end of the pea row anyway, as we had water standing there for over a week! But hoping that our rains will become a bit more moderated, I went ahead and treated the seed.

After building up the low end of the row a bit, I simply scattered the treated seed down the row amongst the few surviving Sugar Snap vines. I covered the seed with a layer of commercial bagged garden soil I picked up at a local discount store and firmed the soil with my hand and with a hoe.

I've used this method of planting (and replanting) successfully in the past, although not using commercial garden soil which has fertilizer pellets in it that can burn emerging seedlings. It's a nice trick to get something going when soil is too wet to work but clear of weeds.

Sugar Snap row with garden in background

Our two rows of green beans seeded late last month also required re-seeding today. A few beans were still emerging in the rows, but it was obvious that there just weren't going to be enough to make a good stand. Fortunately, I had plenty of bean seed on hand.

Green bean rows

For this seeding, I moved my walking boards between the rows of green beans and just pushed seed into the ground.

Raised Beds

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - Sweet Corn Plant Population and Weed Problems "Solved"

Overgrown sweet corn patchClipped cornI've been anxiously watching our sweet corn planting for some time now. Wet weather along with some bad seed left us with a really poor start, despite my repeated filling in blank spots in the rows with short season corn seed. The patch was also becoming pretty weedy, as it remained too wet to run the tiller between the rows.

Our plant population (and weed) problems sorta got solved Sunday night. When I checked the patch yesterday, fully planning to get the tiller out and clean things up, I saw that all our deer deterrent methods had failed once again. All but one corn plant in the patch had been bitten off.

One of these days I'm going to get smart and stop trying to grow sweet corn in a field that abuts a nature preserve.

Later...

Somewhat cleaned up corn rowsAfter a night's consideration, I stopped to take another good look at the sweet corn this morning before giving up on it. Corn can get nipped early, but still produce a tassel and ears. Sometimes even when the tassel has been eaten or broken off, ears will still pollinate from surrounded corn and produce.

Tilled corn patchWhen I looked, there was more good corn in the first two rows than I had thought, and all of the corn appeared to have put on some good growth overnight. So this afternoon, I tilled the aisles between the corn rows, attempting to throw as much dirt as possible into the rows to suppress weeds. I also went back and put a little more seed, actually, a lot more seed, in the bare spots in the first two rows. I ran out of soaked seed and drive. I'll need to go back when things cool off this evening and fill in the bare spots in the other rows.

Obviously, this isn't "the right way" to grow sweet corn. I'm trying to save the planting, as it's really too late to till everything under and start over again. I was sort of surprised at how disappointed I was yesterday that we appeared to have lost our corn for this year. At best, we may get some corn for our efforts, but even with the tilling, re-seeding, and some future hand weeding in the rows, it doesn't look very promising.

Sweet potato and potato plants

Since I was in the area with the rototiller, I tilled up and down the aisles between our rows of sweet potatoes and potatoes. While we've had a rough start getting some of our crops going this year, and especially with just getting our potatoes in the ground, they really look pretty good at this point.

Papriak peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers

Alma paprika peppers
Japanese Long Pickling cucumber

When I was back at the barn today, I stopped to take a few pictures of our remote planting of Earlirouge tomatoes, paprika peppers, and Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers. These varieties have been isolated in this plot for seed production.

I brought in one cucumber that had dropped off the vine and saw quite a few more in various stages of maturation. We also have Alma paprika peppers almost ready to pick. The tomatoes are running a bit behind.

Our garden plotsThe cuke I picked up off the mulch from under a cucumber plant grown from Reimer seed looked a bit greener, fatter, and more spiny than our usual Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers. It remains to be seen if the Reimer variety is what we were looking for to add a bit of genetic diversity to our Japanese Long Pickling strain (shown at right) while still keeping it true to variety.

To give you an idea of how spread out our plantings are, I labeled a Google Map photo to show the location of our various garden plots and rows this year. Since the image is a year or so old, I used white circles and rectangles to show plots too new to be included in the photo.

While the East Garden was originally intended to be an area big enough to grow sweet corn and spreading crops such as melons and butternut squash, it has become our primary area for isolating varieties of tomatoes and peppers from which we plan to save seed. Since we're trying to save seed from several tomato and pepper varieties this year, two more remote planting locations had to be added to insure the plants wouldn't cross-pollinate with other tomatoes and peppers.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - Renovating Soil

Rough bedPeat tilled inAfter digging our garlic last week, I had left the end of our main raised bed in pretty rough condition. There were huge clumps of heavy soil and lots of grass clipping mulch. At the time, I was sort of hoping that the mess would get rained on, which would have evened out the soil a bit, but it didn't.

With storm clouds rolling in this morning, I went ahead and renovated the end of our main raised bed, starting to get it ready for a fall crop of carrots. Since the soil seemed quite heavy when I dug our garlic, I incorporated two large bales of peat moss into the soil. I also gave it liberal amounts of 5-24-24 commercial fertilizer and ground limestone. I forgot to sprinkle some Milky Spore on the section, but we haven't had too much trouble with cutworms there this year, so we should be okay for now.

The bed will need to be tilled once more before I plant carrots, as there are still some nasty, hard clumps of soil in it. I created the mess by digging our garlic when the soil was wet.

Green beans coming up

Japanese Long Pickling cucumber plants
Narrow raised bed

Moving just a bit up the bed, our planting of green beans is finally getting going after being nearly drowned out. I'd gone back and pushed more bean seed into the soft soil last week and was rewarded today with what may prove to be an excellent stand of green bean plants. Of course, there are also lots of seedling weeds germinating, so I'll have a bit of hand weeding to do soon.

My first job this morning was to finish mulching our narrow raised bed that contains a couple caged tomatoes and our trellised Japanese Long Pickling cucumber plants. After I last mowed, I'd mulched one side of the bed, but hadn't gotten around to finishing the job until this morning. I also transplanted a replacement cucumber plant, as one of the original JLPs had died.

Our narrow raised bed is quickly becoming the star of our main garden plots. The geraniums at its corners are now in full bloom, and the petunias and vincas along the long edges are adding welcome color as well. There are also a few snapdragons along the trellis, but they're just getting going right now. They'll come into their own this fall, possibly after the cukes have produced and the vines have been pulled.

When I got done with mulching and renovating, the rain still hadn't started, so I was able to pull a few beets and cut one head of cauliflower and several nice broccoli sideshoots. As I'm writing, the rain has finally begun. While we had more rain than we needed for some time, this shower should help settle in the peat moss in the renovated section of our main raised garden bed and also help get those beans going.

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - Not-So-Perfect Tens

UV IndexI remember watching the Olympics on TV and every now and then seeing the judges award a perfect set of tens for an athlete's performance. Beginning today, we appear to be facing a much less desirable perfect set of tens. According to the UV Index on the Weather Channel's Gardener's Local Forecast, the UV Index will be at the maximum danger level of ten for the next ten days!

Sun Protective ClothingI won't repeat here all the information I shared in an April posting, Your Annual Nag about UV Exposure, but am adding this section as a gentle reminder to be careful about sun exposure. I count myself lucky after my last visit to my skin cancer surgeon, having three places removed, two of which were squamous cell cancers, but that he got all of it in one try. I've had far worse visits.

I keep a collection of various UPF Hats and UPF Clothing just inside our back door to make it convenient to put on a long sleeved protective shirt and hat before venturing out into the sun. I also have to wear gloves outside most of the time, as my first skin cancer, a pretty serious one I let go far too long, was in my hand and required regular surgery to remove. My collection of sun protective clothing was originally all Coolibar products. Since Coolibar's stuff is pretty pricey, most of my shirts are now brand-x that feature good UPF numbers.

AmazonAs I was looking at the listings for bucket hats on Amazon, I had to laugh at one review of the Coolibar UPF 50+ Men's Shapeable Wide Brim Hat that was titled, "Hiking - yes, heavy wind sailing - probably not." My humor came from my experiences mowing with a similar hat on windy days. Wide brims are great for keeping the sun off ones forehead, ears, and neck, but they can also obstruct ones vision in the wind.

Obviously, I prefer sun protective clothing over sunscreen, but during these maximum ten days, both are really a good idea.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Main garden from back porchGarden from porchA recent discussion on a Garden Writers Association message board concerned an article about ones favorite view of their garden and whether we really take the time to stop and enjoy the beauty of our garden plots. I didn't participate in the discussion, although I enjoyed reading the comments. The GWA folks lean more towards urban garden design, and I'm basically a country boy who likes stories and pictures of vegetables and flowers.

The point of the GWA contributor was a very good one. I just have trouble picking out one view of our garden plots I like best. Leading the list of views I sit and enjoy would be of our main garden from our back porch. After a hot day working in the garden, sitting on the shaded porch with a cool drink looking at the colors of the garden is a real treat.

I generally ignore crop rotation and put a geranium at each corner of our raised garden beds each year, preferably a Maverick Red. Since our geraniums get transplanted before they're in bloom, and I'm lousy about keeping them tagged correctly, there occasionally may be a Horizon Salmon or a dazzling White Orbit at a corner. The paired Maverick Reds at one end of our narrow raised bed are simply gorgeous right now.

Geraniums in narrow raised bed

Cantaloupe vines and bloomsYellow squashThe contrast of yellows and greens in our large East Garden are also an eye catcher. Our cantaloupe are now covered with small yellow blooms with a few melons set on as well. The large yellow blooms of our butternuts are also great, although I didn't grab a shot of them today.

The yellow squash on our Slick Pik plants make quite a show against the plants' green foliage. I always have to stop and look at them.

We've been enjoying grilled veggies, including yellow squash, for several weeks now. Our spring broccoli and cauliflower are about played out, though, so we'll have to fall back on what we've frozen to continue having one of our favorite summer treats (until the fall broccoli and cauliflower come into season).

Now that things are going a little better in our corn and potato areas, our East Garden is once again becoming a favored view. Our melons are doing well, although there are the usual concerns with insects and diseases. The potato plants are incredibly tall, possibly indicating too much nitrogen in the soil, although I used 5-24-24 at planting. It's too early to tell if we're going to face late blight again in our potatoes, but for now, they really look good.

East Garden - July 12, 2013

Sugar Snaps upThe piles of grass clippings shown in the photo above got spread around our potatoes today. I didn't get a shot of the finished job, as I was so hot by the time I got done, I just grabbed the camera and headed for the house. Since we've had lots of grass clipping mulch available this year, I decided to mulch our potatoes instead of hilling them. Mulching is easier than hilling and harvesting under mulch is much easier than digging potatoes. I'm old enough that ease of harvest is getting to be an issue, even if mulching may slightly diminish our harvest.

Beyond the wet spring, I think part of the reason we've had good mulch is that last fall I broadcast some lime over the field the East Garden is located in and also spread a bit of fertilizer there. I didn't spread what I would have if I were farming the field, but just what I could afford. I also started doing something a little weird last year. Each time I have a little lime and/or fertilizer left in a coffee can (my preferred container for small amounts of that stuff) after working the garden or compost pile, I shake the remaining lime and fertilizer over different areas of the field instead of returning it to the buckets I store such stuff in. The white clover in the foreground of the photo above shows what a bit of lime can do for an old, burnt out cornfield.

And one last item today is that my trick of spreading Sugar Snap seed on the wet ground and covering it with commercial garden soil appears to be working. Although I blew a bunch of grass clippings onto the row when I mowed yesterday, it's obvious that we're finally getting good germination on the snap peas. The grandkids will be thrilled, as they get to pick and eat Sugar Snaps off the vine at will. I'm pretty happy about it, too.

Monday, July 15, 2013

We're into what is normally a dry period in our area that usually extends from after the Fourth of July through most of August. After an incredibly wet spring, I find it strange to be writing that we definitely could use a good rain now! We still have good soil moisture in most of the mulched areas of our garden, but areas without mulch, such as sections of our raised bed I've been renovating, are really too dry for direct seeding crops without lots and lots of watering.

Even with the wet spring and extensive mulching of our crops, some of our outlying, isolation plots are showing stress. I replaced a Quinte tomato and a Feher Ozon pepper plant over the weekend that had just never gotten off to a good start. Fortunately, I had kept our extra Quinte and one Feher Ozon transplant on the back porch in flats, repotted from their original fourpacks to four inch pots. After getting the plants replaced, I did go ahead and dump the remaining tomato, pepper, and some sweet potato transplants I had left on the porch.

Plants replaced

In something akin to "nature abhors a vacuum," our back porch is almost never clear of plant flats throughout the summer. I moved our fall brassica transplants today from under our plant lights in the basement to the back porch to harden off. During this time of the season, I have to be especially careful to keep those transplants watered, as fourpacks don't have a lot of soil to retain moisture during sunny, dry, 80-90o days. Also making their way outside were some Paprika Supreme pepper plants I finally got to germinate. It's really getting late in the season to put them out, but I'd like to include the variety in whatever paprika we dry, grind, and save this year.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - Processing Garlic for Storage

Garlic sortingBagged garlicI've had our garlic curing in our garage for about two weeks. I'd previously avoided curing garlic and/or onions in the garage for lack of available flat surfaces to lay out the plants and also because of a lack of good air circulation. After having some storage problems last winter with onions that got rained on while curing on the back porch and to a far lesser degree, our garlic, I created the needed flat surfaces this year and opened some garage windows to provide at least a little air circulation.

I'm not quite done trimming tops and roots, sorting, and bagging the garlic, as there are a few large elephant garlic that still need to cure a bit. We had quite a few elephant garlic with stem rot, which ruins the bulb for storage. We also have an awful lot of culls (foreground of image at left) where there was some rot, a bad wrapper, or something else that would cause problems in long term storage. I'm toying with the idea of chopping, dehydrating, and grinding the culls for garlic powder. I also found an interesting recipe online for Roasting Peeled Garlic.

By the time I get all the garlic cleared from my makeshift table in the garage, we should have sweet onions to cure on it. The sweet onions won't store for very long (about two months maximum), but if not cured properly, they won't store at all.

The Boundary Garlic Farm has good directions online for curing and storing garlic and also preserving it as dried garlic.

Lettuce and Kale

Having just pitched the last of our stored spring lettuce last week, I seeded a few fourpacks today for fall lettuce yesterday. I'll be starting more lettuce at one to two week intervals to hopefully provide a good fall lettuce harvest right up to Thanksgiving (with good weather and floating row covers).

While I was seeding stuff, I also started several fourpacks of kale. I usually direct seed our kale, but the soil in our main raised garden bed is really too dry right now for direct seeding. Kale doesn't seem to transplant as well as most brassicas, but it certainly won't hurt to try. I suspect I'll try direct seeding some kale when I start our fall carrots (which will require a good bit of watering from our sometimes iffy well).

East Garden

We're now harvesting lots of yellow squash from our East Garden and similar amounts of cucumbers from the remote, isolation patch in the same field. Since we can't eat that many squash and cucumbers, Annie has been taking a bag of produce to work each day for her coworkers.

East Garden

I grabbed the shot above with my back against the garage wall. To get the whole patch in the shot, I need to move the garage back a bit or get a wider angle lens!

The trellis at the back of the East Garden is for our planting of Eclipse peas. I'd delayed putting it up because I thought at one point we weren't going to get enough of them up to merit the trouble of the trellis. While there aren't all that many plants up, there's enough that we can save seed from them this year and possibly make a good crop of them next year. The supersweet Eclipse variety disappeared from seed catalogs this year.

We now have lots of melons set on the vines in the East Garden. My mouth is watering already for a taste of fully ripened, homegrown cantaloupe and watermelon. If we have as good a harvest as it appears we may, I'll be sharing the surplus again this year with The Light House Mission in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Light House Mission

Thursday, July 18, 2013 - Making Hay

Gathering grass clippingsMulched potatoesI spent about five hours yesterday mowing and starting to sweep the field where our East Garden is located. The grass was high, so I had to raise the mower deck a bit and also keep my ground speed down.

What usually takes just a few hours has turned into a marathon. Since the grass was so thick, I couldn't windrow it as I mowed, making the raking/sweeping process take much longer than usual. I'm still not done after several more hours of gathering grass clippings today before finally giving in to temperatures in the high 90s and calling it a day early.

Not all of that time was spent on the mower, as I was also using the fluffy hay clippings to add more mulch to our potato rows. I decided a few weeks ago to go with mulch, rather than hilling our potatoes. I'm really lousy at hilling, and digging potatoes (and hilling) really kills my bum leg, so it was an easy decision even though mulching sometimes reduces yield.

Yellow squashBumper Crop of Yellow Squash

When I put out the first of our yellow squash this year, there were two plants in the pot of Slick Pik. Rather than thin to just one plant, I went ahead and transplanted the two plants into the same hill. While an open pollinated yellow squash variety transplanted the same day produced only one squash before succumbing to the heat, the Slick Piks are filled with much larger than usual yellow squash. Of course, this bounty won't last forever, as the plants will wear themselves out, but I already have another Slick Pik at the opposite end of the same row just beginning to bear fruit and yet another transplant on the back porch that is ready to go into the ground.

Expositions and Conferences

A mailing today from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed's Kathy McFarland announced the third annual National Heirloom Exposition. The event will be held September 10-12, 2013, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California.

Along the same line of thought, the 33rd Annual Seed Savers Exchange Conference and Campout starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday at the SSE's Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa.

The Organic Seed Alliance will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a dinner, art show, and live music on October 26, 2013, at Port Townsend, Washington. From the OSA home page: "The evening will include a look at OSA’s roots as Abundant Life Seed Foundation and the advancements we’ve made since our launch".

The Heat Continues

While admiring our yellow squash, I noticed that our hill of Boule D'or honeydews had withered and died in the heat. This is the second year we've tried the highly recommended variety, only to have it again not be able to stand our admittedly somewhat difficult growing conditions. Had I hauled water to the hill, it might have made it, although doing so last year didn't save that planting. Our hills of Tam Dew and Passport honeydews also seem to be struggling, so it may be the heat, the row they are growing in, late planting, or something else altogether. Almost all of our cantaloupe and watermelon seem to be doing fine in the hot weather, although I did notice that our hill of butternuts looked really stressed yesterday afternoon.

And while the heat stresses our plants, it also is hard on gardeners. Be sure to take frequent breaks and hydrate when working outside on these hot days. Sun protective clothing and/or sunscreen should be employed, as the UV Index seems pegged at 10 (out of 10) these days.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Friday, July 19, 2013 - Not Tonight Deer!

Not Tonight Deer!I really hadn't planned on doing a posting today, as about all I did was sweep up hay and mulch with it and transplant a few more flowers into our main raised bed. But this evening I realized that we were getting close to the manufacturer's recommended ten-day interval for treating our sweet corn with their deer repellent.

Our sweet corn planting germinated poorly this year due to a combination of bad seed and wet soil conditions. After plugging in lots of seed into the bare patches of the rows, deer clipped almost every corn shoot that had emerged. Ten days ago, I was ready to turn the whole mess under and try again next year. But I let the corn go a few more days after treating it with a new product I'd bought this spring only because I found its name humorous. I've had some pretty spotty corn patches in the past that produced a surprising amount of sweet corn.

Clipped corn stalkSo I found myself in nine o'clock twilight sprinkling Not Tonight Deer! deer repellent on our sweet corn. Since our first clipping of the corn by deer and my subsequent tardy treatment of the crop, we'd not had any deer damage apparent...until this evening. I noticed one pair of corn stalks growing together at the end of a row that had been clipped, presumably last night.

While the package label lists the ingredients as "Dehydrated whole egg solids 97%, white pepper 3%," the stuff sure smells to me like it has hog urine in it. But whatever the makeup may be, it seems to be working. Of course, various deer repellents we've tried in the past have seemed effective, right up until the time the deer decimated our sweet corn crop.

While the jury is still out on this product, it looks promising. I got our package of it from Heirloom Seeds. I ran across a web page by Arlene Lind, the developer of Not Tonight Deer, that has a little more information about the product.

And as I wrote before, the product name and the package graphic almost make it worth the money, whether it repels anything or not.

Full disclosure notice: Nope, we're not affiliated with Heirloom Seeds or Not Tonight Deer. If you click through the graphic and buy some of the stuff, we won't make a cent off of it. But it does seem to be working for us, and Heirloom Seeds seem to have good prices and fair shipping rates.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

I had plans to get out early this morning and get our fall carrots seeded. But by the time I was ready to go, Annie was filling the wading pool for the grandkids, so I backed off my plans a day. Our well is doing much better this summer than last, but there's no reason to push our luck with it, and starting carrots will require a lot of watering. We may even get some rain today, so waiting sounded like a good excuse idea. And it doesn't seem to take all that much these days to get me to take a day off from working in the heat and just goof off.

So instead of really working, I walked around a bit of our garden with the camera this morning, grabbing a few shots that interested me.

Our 40' x 45' melon patch is almost solid with vines now. I reduced the aisle space from 15' last year to 10' this year. It appears I should have stayed with the wider spacing!

Melon patch

WatermelonsAthena melonBesides the breakthrough weeds apparent in the photo above, there are lots of good looking melons set on the vines. The different varieties we grow make for some different looks amongst the vines. A striped Crimson Sweet and a pale green Ali Baba in the photo at left make for quite a contrast, along with the Moon & Stars melons (not pictured) with their deep green hides with yellow blotches on them.

A huge Athena melon also caught my eye while I was looking for mature melons today. I'll need to watch the Athena closely for maturity, as we've had poor luck with them going to half and full-slip like most cantaloupes do at maturity.

Boule D'or hillEcllipse pea vinesThe hill of Boule D'or honeydews I had pronounced dead earlier this week, but not pulled, is showing some signs of life again. Some melons and especially squash appear to wilt during the heat of the day. I believe this phenomena is part of the plant's way of conserving moisture. But since the plant isn't dead after all, I hauled five gallons of used wading pool water to it today.

Our rather sparse row of Eclipse peas is beginning to look pretty good. With the addition of a trellis to support the plants and some potting soil and mulch around their stems, what appeared to be a failure may just produce the seed crop we're hoping for. The Eclipse supersweet pea disappeared from seed catalogs this year, so we're hoping to preserve the variety.

Moving to our sweet corn patch, I began using some of our bounty of grass clipping hay to mulch the first few rows of corn. I'm trying to suppress weeds in the row more than anything else with the mulch, but if we get a good rain, it should help conserve moisture in the soil. Despite the dry weather, deer browsing, and generally lousy germination rates, we're seeing a few short season variety plants expose their tassels.

Corn tasselling Sweet corn patch

On the way to and from the East Garden, I usually pass our apple trees in the lot by our garage. The Stayman Winesap we put in last year to replace our standard Stayman Winesap that succumbed to fire blight is still too young to bear fruit. And our pollinator, a volunteer tree just off our property that I heavily pruned last winter, self-pruned all its fruit this year. But it sure did pollinate.

Granny Smith apple tree

The semi-dwarf Granny Smith apple tree is filled with apples this year. It also was infected with fire blight several years ago after bearing fruit for a year or two. An incredibly severe pruning and fire blight spray (streptomycin) saved the tree, but it hasn't borne a full crop until this year.

I haven't used any of the usual orchard sprays on the tree this year, instead relying on several applications of dormant oil spray. Some of the fruit shows insect damage, but most of the apples are blemish free!

The rest of the wading pool water mentioned above got distributed amongst the plant trays still on our back porch and the tomato and pepper plants I had to replace at the back of the property. Hauling water is always a bummer, but in a dry spell, I'm certainly not going to just dump a wading pool full of water.

Fall brassicas and paprika peppers Mixed transplants Tomato and pepper plants

In our main garden, I was glad to see most of the flowers I transplanted yesterday made it at least overnight. One marigold looked pretty sad today, but the rest appear to be okay. Transplanting in hot, dry weather is always pretty risky.

Transplanted flowers Onions bulbing Sugar Snap pea vines

Of course, the hot, dry weather is just the ticket for bulbing and curing onions and shallots. The tops of our Exhibition sweet spanish onions browned out a week or so ago, so I tipped them all over to possibly encourage a little more bulbing (or drying). I really need to get them out of the ground and into the garage before it rains again.

And our row of Sugar Snap peas is finally looking really good after several replantings.

Another view

The garden looks pretty good at this point. Some rain would be nice, but we're oh, so much better off than a year ago at this time.

And as I finish writing, I hear thunder outside!

Sunday, July 21, 2013 - Storm Damage

apple tree damagedtomato uprootedA strong thunderstorm swept through here yesterday afternoon, dropping almost three and a half inches of rain. The precipitation was welcome, but the wind damage that came with it certainly wasn't. We had several trees lose limbs. The worst of it was that our Granny Smith apple tree, which was ready to bear its first full crop in years, had a major limb break.

Our best Moira tomato plant also got partially uprooted when the wind tipped over its cage. Tipping over in the wind is one drawback with using tomato cages made from welded wire. They get top heavy with fruit and foliage, and unless the base is deeply buried, can go over in a strong wind. We've had it happen before, and plant our cages pretty deeply, but actually, I'm surprised more of the cages in the East Garden didn't go over with the savage winds we had yesterday. Our two caged tomato plants in our main garden remained upright because they are anchored to T-posts.

First Melon of the Season

While walking around checking storm damage and uprighting a tomato cage, I noticed that the wind had exposed another huge cantaloupe beside the jumbo I saw yesterday. When I checked the stem for half-slip, I saw that the rind had been damaged. That was all the excuse I needed to pick the melon early, as it would have rotted from the rind damage.

Athena or Avatar Cut melon Gallon of cantaloupe

The damage did run into the flesh of the melon a bit, but only affected a few small areas. The cut pieces filled a gallon ice cream container. And despite being picked early, the cantaloupe had good flavor.

I really should have measured and/or weighed this jumbo. It was that big. With the heavy cover of vines in our melon patch, it's really hard to tell what variety of melon I picked. From its place in the row, it could have been an Athena melon. But this one was a good bit larger and earlier than most Athenas, so I'm wondering if it's an Avatar, a new variety we're trying this year, that is growing alongside the Athenas.

Kale and Fall Carrots Seeded

Planting carrotsThe rain yesterday made for good planting conditions today. I seeded a double row of carrots and a single row of kale in the moist soil. Before planting, I scratched the soil surface with a garden rake to loosen up the soil and even out the high and low spots. Flipping the rake upside down, I used the tip of the handle to make very shallow dibbles for the seeds. Both carrots and kale need to be planted shallow.

Debbie Meyer Green BagsFor the carrot rows, I went with Mokum, Scarlet Nantesicon, Laguna, and Adelaide. I haven't grown Scarlet Nantes in years, but had an unopened freebie packet that I used today. The other varieties are all ones we've previously grown successfully in our soil. Adelaide was a new variety for us this spring, so we have no experience with its storage capabilities. Both Mokum and Laguna stored very well for us over the winter in Debbie Meyer Green Bags in the refrigerator.

I've never grown fall carrots before, possibly because it's usually too dry to get them to germinate at the right time. We typically don't see much rain here from just after the Fourth of July until late August or early September. Yesterday's rain should have recharged our soil with moisture, but I also placed our garden "walking boards" over the planted carrot rows to discourage weed germination and to conserve soil moisture. We have a good chance for more rain in the coming days, but if it doesn't pan out, I'll need to water the carrots until they emerge.

Crockett's Victory GardenWhile we usually just grow (Scotch) Vates Blue Curled for kale, I seeded some Lacinato and Red Ursaicon kale as well today to add some variety to our planting. When we get around to making Portuguese Kale Soup this fall, the half row of blue curled kale will be mature enough to supply all the kale we really need. If the new (to us) varieties turn out to be something we like, we'll add them to our delicious home soup concoction whose recipe originally came from Crockett's Victory Gardenicon.

I'm frequently amused to realize that an awful lot of what I pass along here originally came from either the PBS show, Crockett's Victory Garden, or the companion books. Portuguese Kale Soup is just a tangential entry in Crockett's Victory Garden, but has become a family favorite. Walking boards are a very simple way, again from Crockett, to prevent soil compaction in ones flower beds and garden plots. Since I'd just worked a bunch of peat moss into our main raised bed with the rototiller, and we'd had a heavy rain, stepping into the freshly tilled soil without walking boards to spread my considerable, but currently diminishing, weight would have seriously compacted the soil.

Our widespread use of grass clippings for mulch also came from a Crockett tip. Likewise, narrow spacing for intensive plantings of carrots and onions were another Crockett idea, if not original from him, new to me, years and years ago on his show.

Something I Found Interesting

Annie and I were at the kitchen table last night, and she brought up a figure she'd read for the percent of people in the United States who garden. The number she'd seen sounded a bit low, so we grabbed my laptop and began searching for her source, which we never found. We did, however, find a really interesting graphic (to which I do not have publication rights) on the Mother Nature Network's Infographic: Home gardening in the U.S. page that had the info we wanted and a whole lot more.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Large Avatar CantaloupeTen Pound CantaloupeIt's really muggy here today, so I'm trying to put off most outdoor chores to another day. With both of our compost/garbage buckets nearly full, a trip to the compost pile was something I couldn't put off. But that turned out to be a good thing, as when I passed our melon patch, there was another huge cantaloupe ready to be picked.

On the way back to the house, I thought, "There's no way this is an eight pound melon" (the average size of Avatar melons). And I was right. The cantaloupe weighed in at 10 pounds, 10 ounces!

It's obviously the same variety of melon I picked over the weekend, and most likely is an Avatar. This one had similar rind damage as the previously picked one, although not quite as bad. As a home garden melon, Avatar would appear to be a real winner. It's early, large, and quite flavorful. As a market melon, I suspect the rind problems I've seen won't make it a favorite with melon farmers.

As I was enjoying my healthy, senior citizen's breakfast of melon and oatmeal, I thought ahead a bit to when our Sugar Cube melons would come in. I like the flavor of the Avatar melon, but the personal sized Sugar Cubes have a distinct flavor all of their own that has become a family and neighborhood favorite. Of course, Athena melons, Roadside Hybrids, and all the rest each seem to have their own distinct flavor, and we'll enjoyed them each in turn as they ripen.

BucketBuckets

I mentioned above about needing to empty our kitchen compost buckets. For a time, we used the plastic buckets cat litter came in to store any number of things, including kitchen scraps for the compost pile. But then someone decided bulky packages and boxes were a better way to sell cat litter.

Fortunately, our local grocery's bakery sells used icing buckets and lids every so often. The lids have a rubber seal, probably to seal in freshness, that do a dandy job of sealing in odors as well. Whenever the bakery has buckets set out, I try to pick up a few of them, as they're ideal for storing lime, solid fertilizers, and many other things including used cat litter. Even with the seal, the litter bucket stays on the back porch and gets dumped when needed into washes and holes that seem to magically appear around our property and the grounds we take care of.

More Fall Garden Prep

Fall brassicas hardening offIn just a few days, our fall brassicas should be hardened off enough to set out into the garden. I started ours last month, the cauliflower a week or so before the broccoli, and moved them outdoors a week ago. When I ran outside to get a picture of a clean bucket (most of ours aren't very clean), I grabbed a shot of the broccoli and cauliflower hardening off in a flat, along with some paprika pepper plants I also need to get into the ground.

I have a flat of lettuce and kale transplants still under the plant lights in the basement that should be ready to harden off later this week. I'll be doing repeated plantings for fall lettuce for a continuous harvest through the fall. The kale was started when things were really dry as a "just in case" kind of deal if it didn't rain. If necessary, I can still use the kale transplants to fill in open gaps in the row I direct seeded yesterday.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer showerToday started out sunny and hot, making it a good day to finally start cleaning up the mess created by a storm on Saturday. I had to severely prune our Granny Smith apple tree, as the storm had ripped off a large branch, leaving a wound too large and deep to heal. There were also many major limbs to be cut up, along with some old, rotting firewood that needed to be disposed of. By one o'clock, I'd built a pretty impressive burn pile, but still had a good many limbs and trees down to cut up.

My workday got cut short by a summer shower that swept in, dropping three-fourths of an inch of rain in just twenty minutes and bringing down yet more tree limbs to clean up.

The good news is that a "cold" front that followed the showers will make outdoor work a good deal more pleasant tomorrow.

With my day rained out, I drove a few miles north to the barbershop for a much needed haircut. They hadn't had any rain there, nor had they even had dark clouds or heard any thunder!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pulled onionsKale row from ground levelAfter several days of clearing downed trees and limbs and mowing and raking, I was glad to get back to a little gardening today. The last of our Exhibition sweet Spanish onions were ready to be pulled. At first, I just left them on the ground to dry a bit, but realizing there was a good chance for rain tonight, I moved them into the garage to our makeshift curing table.

Two crops we just couldn't get started at this time last summer are up and on their way for us this year. We only got one kale plant and a few green beans last year. The kale I seeded on Sunday has germinated fairly well and appears to be off to a good start. I was renewing the mulch around our caged pepper plants today and brought the mulch right up to the edge of the emerging kale row.

Our rows of green beans got off to a rocky start, being flooded just as they began to germinate. After poking a whole lot more seed into the wet soil, we finally have a fairly nice stand of beans in both rows. Since the beans are on the other side of our caged peppers, I ran mulch up to the edge of the first green bean row and down the aisle between the two rows.

Green beans mulched

Mulching with grass clippings under kale and green beans is a bit of a mixed blessing. The mulch conserves soil moisture, holds back weeds, and prevents mud from splashing on the kale or beans during a heavy rain. But if beans or kale leaves touch the mulch, it sticks and makes cleaning the crops a real chore.

I also added more mulch to our rows of potatoes yesterday. The tallest of the potato plants have started falling over from their own weight, and I mulched the stems, leaving about six inches of top growth above the grass clipping mulch.

Bonnie's asparagus and remote tomato and pepper patch

Newly transplanted pepper
Feher Ozon pepper plant

My gardening day began with a bit of a jolt this morning, as I observed a rabbit making its way to one of our remote, isolated plantings of tomatoes and peppers I plant to save seed from. I called our dogs, who all seemed to be off duty at the time, and eventually ran out the back door yelling and waving my arms and quite probably looking like a lunatic. But the rabbit scooted off into the corn field and apparently didn't return. When I checked the planting later in the day, there didn't seem to be any bunny damage (usually obvious from plants eaten off right to the ground), although it appears some bugs have nipped at them a bit.

Interestingly, we haven't seen any Japanese beetles or squash bugs so far this year. Japanese beetles can seriously damage green beans. Their absence may be because the field adjoining our property is planted to corn this year instead of soybeans. The beetles migrate from soybeans to our green beans quite readily in years when the farmer plants beans. Early green bean plantings seem to suffer less damage from the pests.

I'm sorta holding my breath on the squash bugs, as when they appear, one has to swiftly deal with them or possibly lose their squash crops. I've kept a pretty close eye on both our butternuts and yellow squash and haven't seen any squash bugs or signs of them as yet.

Another pest, actually two species, not present in any numbers as yet are cucumber beetles. They come here in both striped and spotted varieties and can harm almost all vining crops. One year they appeared early...under our cold frame and nearly decimated our vining crop transplants!

Swarm of hummingbirdsI began this month's postings with the rather poor image at right of a swarm of hummingbirds at a feeder. Apparently, several clutches of hummingbirds had just left their nests, and things got really crowded at our feeders. The next day, I set up our Brinno GardenWatchCam time lapse camera to catch the action, but the youngsters had all moved on by then.

Today, the traffic at one feeder increased a great deal. I'd guess some of the hummingbirds have hatched out a second clutch of eggs and the young have just left the nest. To add to the flurry of hummingbirds, I moved our two feeders together. Although the action still wasn't as intense as that at the first of the month, I thought it was pretty cool and enjoyed watching the birds all day. The video is of about five hours of action compressed down to a little over a half a minute.

I hope you enjoy it.

Since I'm sharing, here's a photo I snapped today that I really liked. I was walking back from checking one of our remote plantings of tomatoes and paprika peppers, and noticed how different the garden looked from this perspective. The telephoto lens really compresses distances in the image. The wall of pine trees and the corn make it appear as if our garden is set way out in the boonies. It is, sorta, but on the other side of those pine trees is a major county road.

Main garden

I think what really caught my eye was the variety of greens in the image, set off by the color of the flowers edging our garden beds. When I started shooting the series of shots, our senior dog, Mac, was in the foreground. He moved towards me, and only his top half was recorded in the cropped image above.

Alibris

Sunday, July 28, 2013

New compost pile, pumpkins transplanted, butternut vinesCompost PhD  Phd White T-Shirt by CafePressI finally got around to working our compost pile today. Last fall's compost pile never did heat up to my satisfaction, so most of it got layered into the current compost pile. Without proper heating from decomposition, seed and soil borne diseases can be carried over in compost. We've had lots of tomatoes and other stuff sprouting out of the old compost pile this year.

What got me going on the compost was that I needed the space where the fall pile sat for our pumpkins. After having pumpkins and butternut squash overwhelm melon plantings in the past, both have been exiled to areas outside our East Garden proper, usually on the site of a previous compost pile. Since only about a half inch of topsoil is created under the compost piles, I'm not sure planting on the previous sites is all that effective, but we've had good results from doing so in the past, so I'm not about to change our practice.

Pumpkins transplantedI layered in the remains of our brassica row from the East Garden along with a lot of grass clippings with the old, semi-digested compost. I also added a good bit of lime and 12-12-12 fertilizer. The lime cuts odors and keeps the pile a reasonable pH, while the nitrogen in the fertilizer feeds the decomposer bacteria present in most soils.

It's actually almost too late to be starting pumpkins to have them mature by Halloween. We're growing Howden pumpkins again this year, a 110-115 day variety (from direct seeding). Since our transplants were quite mature (read that as really getting old in the pot), we may just make a crop by Halloween. And if not, pumpkins always make nice Thanksgiving decorations if they don't get nipped by an early frost.

I did use a good bit of the compost mixed with peat moss, lime, and 12-12-12 fertilizer in the hole for the pumpkin transplants. It also got a bucket of water to make sure the transplants get off to a good start. I left a thin layer of compost across the top of soil surrounding the pumpkin hill. A think layer of grass clipping mulch finished off the planting.

And while I won't torture your eyes with a photo of it, our fall carrots are just barely emerging. By "just barely," I mean that I can see tiny, less than an eighth of a inch spikes emerging down the row of planted carrots. Since I've not previously grown fall carrots, and they reportedly are a crop that can be difficult to get started in hot, dry weather, I'm excited.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - Transplanting Fall Brassicas

Fall BrassicasCarrots emergingIt's cloudy and rather cool today with thunderstorms headed in from the west. Since I'd raked out, measured, and staked the area for our fall broccoli and cauliflower last evening while weeding our emerging carrots, I was ready to transplant this morning.

The carrot weeding involved restringing the row so I wouldn't hurt any of the emerging carrots. I ran the scuffle hoe down each side of the double row of carrots. Then I got to painstakingly hand weed between the 4" spaced carrot rows and any weeds I'd missed with the hoe.

Our rows of fall brassicas are fairly close, just twenty inches apart with transplants set eighteen inches or so apart in the row. The outside aisles by the fall brassicas are a full 36", as broccoli and cauliflower spread out quite a bit and can smother nearby plantings if one doesn't leave enough space.

Most of the transplanting was pretty normal. I dig a deep hole (about 8-12") and mix lime and 12-12-12 fertilizer in the bottom of it, water the hole, and plop the transplant in and firm the soil around it. Since I have some screened compost on hand, I added compost to a few of the holes where the subsoil seemed rather heavy.

I put in nine Premium Crop broccoli, five Fremont cauliflower, and three Amazing cauliflower. The cauliflower transplants were rather puny, but I decided to go ahead and get them in the ground on a cool day with showers approaching.

One departure from our usual transplanting practice today was that I omitted using cutworm collars. The ground where the transplants went has been heavily treated with Milky Spore, and I detected no signs of cutworms when I tilled the section last week or when I worked it since then. It's a risk to skip cutworm protection, but the collars do somewhat impede the plants taking hold, and I'd rather not break out any heavy duty poisons to treat the soil.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July animated gif

Precipitation (Inches)1
  2013 2012 2011 Ave.
Jan. 6.33 3.20 0.84 2.48
Feb. 2.24 1.10 2.28 2.41
March 2.10 1.52 3.79 3.44
April 8.75 3.80 11.51 3.61
May 10.35 1.19 3.38 4.35
June 12.18 0.15 5.53 4.13
July 6.40 1.89 3.25 4.42
Totals2 48.35 12.85 30.58 24.84
1 2011 & 2012 precipitation data from the Kinmerom2 weather station, Merom, IN. Average precipitation for Indianapolis, IN
2 to date (Jan. - July)

Weather wise, July has turned out to be yet another surprising month this gardening season. Climatic rainfall averages in the table at right don't reflect it, but we usually experience a hot, dry spell here beginning around the Fourth of July that lasts through most of August and occasionally even into September. While not as wet as the incredibly soggy months of May and June, we ended up with over six inches of precipitation this month. Some of the rain came all at once, causing some problems with rot in our carrots and drowning out most of our first seeding of green beans. But we also had dry periods that allow the soil to dry enough for mechanical tilling.

Temperatures in the second half of July have been considerably below normal, setting several record low temperatures. Watering needs have been minimal, and while we had some really hot days early in the month, daytime temperatures the last few weeks have been moderate enough to make working outside in the heat of the day quite pleasant.

We harvested broccoli and cauliflower, garlic, carrots, yellow squash, cucumbers, sweet onions, grape tomatoes and a few standard tomatoes, and cantaloupe in July and are poised for what may be some really nice harvests of melons, tomatoes, and possibly even sweet corn next month.

The moist weather also has had one other good effect. Our lawn and the other areas we mow have not dried out as they usually do at this time of year. That has allowed us to mow and rake a bounty of grass clipping mulch which we use for weed control and moisture retention in our garden plots. The volume of "hay" also allowed us to try mulching our potato crop for this year, something we've only played with in the past.

It seems appropriate that we're ending the month today with a heavily overcast day, having had a light rain (0.14") overnight.

June, 2013

August, 2013

From Steve, the at Senior Gardening

 

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