Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

Our Senior Garden - 6/14/2013

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June is another month of mixed activities in the Senior Garden. While our asparagus harvest is now over, we should be cutting lots of broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. If the weather stays cool, our lettuce and spinach harvest will continue. One of my favorites, early planted peas, should mature in just a week or so. Our yellow squash, already in bloom when transplanted, will bear lots of squash for a short time before needing to be replaced by new plants. Fall planted garlic usually is ready to dig sometime this month. And the flowers we've transplanted into the garden should come into full bloom.

Amazon - ThuricideAmazon - SerenadeWe'll continue to tend maturing crops such as our onions, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, and melons. Our asparagus will require regular weeding until its fine, but scratchy foliage canopies over the beds. We'll also have to become vigilant for insect pests and plant diseases. Regular treatments with biologicals such as Thuricide and Serenade can sometimes eliminate or postpone the need for stronger pesticides and fungicides. We'll also have to pump up our critter control measures this month. Deer absolutely love tender, young sweet potato and sweet corn plants. Raccoons become a problem later on as the sweet corn matures and melons begin to set on the vines. I haven't totally eliminated the possibility of camping out in the East Garden overnight with my double barrel at my side.

And since we've had such a late spring, we'll still be working to get crops such as sweet corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes started that usually would go in sometime in May. We'll also begin succession plantings: green beans and kale will replace our lettuce patch; cucumbers will take their turn on the trellis our peas vacate late this month; and I still have lots of flower transplants to get into the garden.

As mentioned late last month, we'll also be starting some of our fall brassicas this month so that we'll have healthy transplants ready to go into the ground in August.

And since we didn't get them done in May, we'll be starting several experiments in seed saving this month. With the disappearance of the supersweet Eclipse pea variety from garden catalogs this year, I hope to plant a 30 foot row of them for seed production in our East Garden. I had some commercial seed and some of my own saved seed on hand when I discovered that the variety might be in danger. I was able to acquire several more small seed samples via Seed Savers Exchange members and an online vendor.

I still need to get our Quinte tomatoes in the ground. Last year was our first in over twenty years of growing the variety from a seed sample supplied by the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). We also will be growing out and hopefully saving seed from the related Earlirouge variety, seed for which proved almost impossible to find in the United States...until I checked my frozen archive of old tomato seed. I had a generous sample I'd saved in 1988 that germinated at around 50%!

I have several very healthy Japanese Long Pickling transplants ready to go into the ground. This planting will be made up of plants from some of our saved JLP seed along with some from seed from Reimer Seeds. If the seed from Reimers proves true-to-variety, crossing between our strain and theirs should add a bit of genetic diversity and vigor to future seeds and plants. This planting will go in by the barn at the far end of the field from our East Garden to prevent cross pollination with all the squash and melons in the East Garden. And just in case the Reimer seed isn't what I hope it is, a planting of our own Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers will take over the trellis in our narrow raised bed plot when our early peas come out. That trellis is separated from our other JLP planting by a high hedge and over a hundred yards in distance. It also should be isolated by time, blooming well after the mixed planting of Reimer and our JLP plants by the barn.

More Rain

As I write this posting in the wee hours of Saturday morning, the storm system that ravaged Oklahoma and other areas yesterday and last night has arrived in western Indiana. The Robinson, Illinois, Weather Underground reporting station, located about ten miles west of us, is already showing over two inches of rain in just a couple of hours. And when I opened the back door to let one of our indoor/outdoor cats inside, I could tell that it was raining about as hard as I've ever seen it rain here.

A Quick Plug for WunderMaps

Wundermap 1:37 amWundermap 3:17 amI really could have done today's posting sometime during daylight hours. I opted instead to do it in the early hours today, as I was concerned about the nasty storm coming in. In the past, one was at the mercy of radio and TV weather advisories, but the advent of live, online weather radar allows folks like me to view what is coming in real time. I could see that there were some strong thunderstorms coming in, but also saw that the color coding showed orange at worst, with no red (a real warning to head for the basement) in the offing.

Let me give a "hats off" to the folks at the Weather Underground and Google and NOAA for combining to give an old gardener a little control and peace of mind on a stormy night.

Update: We ended up getting 2.25" of rain overnight!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gray skies over the Senior GardenLettuce and broccoli drying in kitchenUnder gray skies, Annie, granddaughter Katherine, and I got out and made our first harvest of June. While Annie and Kat worked at picking the few Amish Snap peas that were ready, I cut two good heads of broccoli and a bunch of good sized sideshoots.

Despite their name, we use the Amish Snap variety as a shelling pea. We added the pods Annie and Kat picked, and that Kat didn't eat raw, to the half dozen I'd picked a day or so ago in the fridge. It's going to be a few days before we have peas for supper.

The main broccoli heads were a welcome sight, as our previous pickings had been undersized. We have one Premium Crop broccoli plant in the main garden that hasn't put on its main head as yet. After that, it will all be sideshoots from the main garden. And of course, hopefully, we'll get some more main heads from our row of later planted brassicas in our East Garden plot.

The lettuce I cut today was gorgeous. I cut head, butterhead, and romaine, both green and red. We already had a few heads become overripe before I got to them, but it appears the rest of the lettuce in the patch will hold for a few more days.

The ground here is still really, really wet from recent rains. The tops of the timbers of the raised bed were wet when I got up this morning, but there wasn't enough rainfall to even register in our rain gauge beyond the usual overnight dew. With things so wet, our gardening for at least a day or so will have to be confined to pulling weeds from the edges of the main raised beds.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Damaged bedReplanted bedThe ground here is still quite wet, but I was able to get in some good gardening this morning working from the edges of our raised beds and using walking boards in interior sections of the beds. Our pets seemed to have declared war on our onions and carrots for a time this year. They'd peed on one tray of onions that was hardening off on the porch, and then the dogs dug up almost half of our onion and carrot area in the main raised bed. Now that it seems we have the digging under control I set about transplanting more onions and finishing mulching that area of our raised bed.

With pleasingly cool, cloudy weather this morning, I next turned my attention to our fall planted garlic. I'd heavily mulched the garlic at planting, only to have to remove the mulch this spring, as it had matted and was impeding the growth of the garlic. I later mulched again around the emerged garlic with grass clippings. In the months since, the mulch decayed a good bit, and we had a lot of weeds emerging through the remaining mulch. So this morning I weeded and added some rather wet, hot grass clippings around the garlic to suppress weed growth. I tried to be careful not to cover any of the garlic with the mulch, as the grass clippings had heated up in a pile and might still harm (cook) the plants.

Mulched garlic

Pea bedPeas to shellI ran out of mulch but not weeds to pull. I got all of the garlic mulched again and some other areas in the bed where weeds had broken through. Since I need to mow (again!) as soon as it's dry enough, more grass clipping mulch is on the way.

One last pleasant chore of the morning was picking a few more peas. We're only picking Amish Snaps, as our Champion of England and Mr. Big peas are running a bit behind the Amish Snap variety in maturing.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Territorial 2013 Fall CatalogSG - May 26, 2013Yesterday's mail contained what I initially thought was yet another duplicate seed catalog. But the 2013 Fall & Winter Gardening Catalog subtitle caused me to give the Territorial catalog a glance, instead of my usual practice of pitching duplicate catalogs. I was glad I did.

The folks at Territorial have spent some time putting together a nice fall planting chart, some special fall seed assortments, and streamlining the catalog to include only late summer, fall, and overwintering vegetable seed, along with some appropriate supplies and cover crops. Paging through it may give you some ideas of new things to try in a fall garden.

I didn't see a place on the Territorial site to specifically request this particular catalog, but I bet they'll be happy to send you one if you contact them. And if a copy shows up in your mailbox, it's not just another spring seed catalog with a different cover from the last one, two...five or six a company may have sent you.

Last month, I wrote in Thinking About Fall Planting about the fall planting calculator from Johnny's Selected Seeds, so I won't repeat that here. I still have "Start cauliflower" on my to-do list for this week.

Friday, June 7, 2013 - Spraying

When I mowed grass on Tuesday, it was the first time in a long while that I could mow at a normal height. The mowing also didn't produce enough grass clippings to merit getting out the lawn sweeper and raking them up to use as mulch in the garden. At a certain point each spring, it seems our grass stops producing the incredible volume of clippings for mulch we've enjoyed so far this year. Maybe it was just a fluke, and I'll be raking when I mow again over the weekend. But the easy mowing (and it really was easy) also left me in a fix for mulch that I needed.

Weeds in melon aislesAs much as possible, I try to keep the aisles between our mulched rows of melons weed free by either scuffle hoeing the areas or tilling the weeds under. But neither a scuffle hoe nor a tiller is much good in very wet ground, which is what we have. When we had a small push mower, I used to mow the aisles until things dried out enough to till. But the mower wore out and didn't get replaced. So...

I broke out the herbicide sprayer and Roundup yesterday and sprayed the aisles between the melons. The wind was calm most of the time I was spraying, but I still used a cut down piece of plywood to shield the row from herbicide drift. At one point when the wind picked up, I just had to quit spraying for a few minutes. And before I could spray the area where I still hope to plant sweet corn (if the ground ever dries out enough for tilling), the wind really increased, and I just had to quit for the day.

One of my sons-in-law suggested a homemade substitute for Roundup made up of salt, dish detergent, vinegar, and water. I plan to try the recipe, but with the grass in the melon aisle approaching turf, it was no time to experiment yesterday. If the concoction works, I'll pass along the specifics of the recipe here.

I must have been in a spraying mood this week, as I sprayed all of our brassicas with Thuricide on Wednesday. When done, I loaded the pesticide sprayer with Serenade biological fungicide and sprayed our tomato plants as a precaution. We've had problems with bacterial spot and anthracnose in our tomatoes in the past. Serenade, if used on a regular schedule, seems to hold back and possibly even prevent those plant diseases.

While it may sound like I was organized with the spraying, it all really got started after I cut an early maturing head of cauliflower and found a half inch hole and a very plump white cabbage moth worm in the middle of the head! Interestingly, we've only had one worm in the heads of broccoli we've cut so far.


Our flowerbeds typically don't get much attention until either our garden is in, or as is the case this year, things are just too wet in the garden to do much there. I spent one evening clearing big weeds from our front flowerbeds, the next evening grubbing out smaller weeds and working the top inch or so of the soil in the beds with a scratcher tool, and finally got the soil leveled out and some transplants in the next night.

Front flowerbeds

One side of the front flowerbed had been dug up a bit by a dog, and only one dianthus survived in that bed. I moved the survivor to the other bed where three out of four dianthus overwintered well and just started with fresh dianthus transplants on the damaged side. We have perennial hostas coming up in the beds, and I also added some impatiens to the shadier parts of the beds. Sadly, I never got around to starting dusty miller and alyssum which both go well in these flowerbeds.

Our long flowerbed along the east side of our house is still in pretty rough shape. The dogs love to lie in that bed and have killed all but two or three of the two dozen dianthus I had planted there. They didn't for whatever reason mess with the one rose bush we have there. It will probably be some time before I get that bed looking nice.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Saturday, June 8, 2013 - Breaking the Rules a Bit

Senior Garden - June 8, 2013I got tired of waiting for the ground to dry out and rototilled several small areas today. With a good chance of rain for tomorrow and Monday, and having had a light shower almost every day but today, I decided to go ahead and till areas outside our garden proper for tomatoes, paprika peppers, and cucumbers we want to isolate for seed production. While tilling wet soil can ruin the soil structure for a year, leaving hard clumps when it dries, the areas tilled will all be heavily mulched when planted. And the planting will all be transplants that I can dig deluxe holes for, mixing in peat moss to help loosen the clay soil a bit. We'll be isolating Quinte and Earlirouge tomatoes, Alma and Feher Ozon paprika peppers, and Japanese Long Pickling Cucumbers in the areas tilled.

Brady picking peasAfter tilling small patches (around 3' x 12') for the tomatoes, peppers, and cukes we want to isolate, I also tilled a row in what used to be our main garden plot. We've been slowly retiring the ground, as it's a bit low and had been gardened for many years before we bought this property. I'd set aside the area for our Sugar Snap peas, but only got one light tilling in before things turned wet. So I went ahead and tilled the row even though the soil was still damp. We often plant peas into cold mud in March, so I'm hoping the Sugar Snaps will come up okay when I finally get the seed in the ground. This is awfully late to be planting peas in our area, but our grandkids already have noticed we have regular peas, but not Sugar Snaps. They still cheerfully participated in picking (and shelling and eating raw) snap peas this afternoon.

With wet ground, I got some of those round-2-it (when I get around to it) jobs done this week. I started a couple of fourpacks of cauliflower for our fall garden and a replacement Slick Pik yellow squash for when our current plant gives out. I rooted the last of our sweet potato slips in potting soil, although I wonder if we can make a crop getting our plants in this late. I also started some marigolds, something I'd totally forgotten to get going on time. Marigolds are pretty forgiving about being planted late. They seem to grow and bloom profusely whether planted in early spring or late summer. And I finally got caught up on repotting gloxinias that had broken dormancy this spring. I had seven or eight plants that I hadn't treated to fresh potting soil since they resumed growth.

Noticing the wind was dead calm this morning, I was able to get out and finish spraying the areas we've set aside for sweet corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Eclipse peas (for seed). I was glad I got started early, as the wind picked up in the afternoon.

Burpee Gardening

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I got one of our isolation patches planted today. Since we grow and save seed from Moira tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet peppers in our East garden and have both tomatoes and peppers in our main raised garden bed, a remote location was necessary for our Earlirouge tomatoes from which we plan to save seed. Since I was already planting in a location somewhat remote from our other garden patches, it provided a good opportunity to isolate Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers and Alma paprika peppers as well.

New plot by barnEast Garden in distanceI selected a location close to the barn that is at the far end of a one acre field where our East Garden is located. I'd grown Quite tomatoes north of the barn last year, but the soil there was pretty poor. Trying a spot a bit east of the barn revealed better topsoil, although a bit rocky. Having done an initial turn of the soil yesterday, I was able to till the soil 4-6" deep today.

Today's planting gave me a great deal of respect for folks who garden at a location away from their home. I only had to make two trips with the truck to get all the plants, t-posts and driver, shovel and trowel, lime and solid fertilizer, tomato and pepper cages, peat moss, water, and trellis material. Then I made another trip when I ran out of water! Since I was only driving a hundred yards or so, it wasn't much of a chore. But folks who garden at community gardens must be really organized.

Loading truck Rough plot Trellis up

Once I got all my gear together, it was just a matter of setting out the tomato and pepper cages to see how much room I'd have for the cucumber trellis. I'd extended the patch to fifteen feet long when tilling this morning. It turned out I had seven feet available for the trellis. For such a short distance, I just used two t-posts to hang the trellis netting, using rubber coated clothesline wire to support the netting.

I dug a foot wide and deep hole for each plant, backfilled with peat moss, a bit of lime and commercial fertilizer (12-12-12 for the peppers and cukes, 5-24-24 for the tomatoes), and filled each hole with water that had just a bit of starter fertilizer in it. The transplants then went in. Some of the taller cucumber plants got pushed deep into the mud. Then I drew the dug soil back around each plant, doing my best to sort out the clumps of grass and weeds still remaining in that soil.

I ended up setting out two Earlirouge tomato plants, two Alma paprika peppers, and nine Japanese Long Pickling cucumber plants. Of the JLPs, six were from our seed stock and three were from seed obtained from Reimer Seeds. I'm hoping the Reimer plants will prove to be true to variety and add some genetic diversity to our strain of Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers via cross pollination. But just in case the Reimer seed isn't the Japanese Long Pickling we save, I'll be setting out more JLPs in our main garden when our spring peas are done producing and their trellis becomes available.

All planted Closeup of cukes

Mulched melon rowSugar Snaps seededWhen I got done transplanting, I quickly mowed and raked part of our yard, adding the grass clippings around the new transplants, but not touching any of them. The fresh clippings, especially after getting rained on this evening, will begin to decompose and heat up quite a bit. That should kill any grass and weeds under them. I'll need to hand weed around the new transplants until the mulch cools down enough that I can draw it around the base of each plant.

I went ahead and mowed and raked the rest of our yard (and the grounds we mow), using part of the grass clippings to mulch a bit more of our melon patch. Another couple of loads of clippings went to another remote patch at the back of the yard where I'll be transplanting Quinte tomatoes and Feher Ozon paprika peppers for seed production (and table use). And the final two loads of clippings went around an early evening planting of Sugar Snap peas.

It was a really busy day today. But when my wife, Annie, got home from dropping off the grandkids, she made another killer salad for supper with lettuce from our garden. Our spring lettuce season is about over. I've had to pull and pitch several plants that bolted and quickly cut all the rest of the mature lettuce a day or so ago. There are still a few small lettuce plants in the patch that I transplanted late to replace early harvested plants. But I think the heat will probably get most of them.

Annie remarked this evening, "I think this is the best year that we've had for lettuce." I have to agree.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - Hot

I think today was the hottest day we've had so far this season. I worked in the garden until just after noon, calling it a day when the temperature reached 86o F. It topped out a bit later at almost 93o.

Another Isolation Planting

Quintes and Feher OzonsBefore surrendering to the heat and humidity, I put in one more isolated bed of tomatoes and peppers. This bed went in a bit behind Bonnie's Asparagus, at the far end of our mow area. I transplanted two Quinte tomatoes and two Feher Ozon paprika peppers. The ground they went into was lousy, so each transplant got a deluxe hole with lots of peat moss mixed into it.

East Garden - June 12, 2013I have one last isolation planting for seed saving yet to do, but it will go along the edge of our East Garden. If I can get the area tilled, I plan to plant a thirty foot row of Eclipse supersweet peas, mainly for seed production. The Eclipse variety disappeared from seed catalogs this year. I happened to have a little of the seed left and also located some more via the Seed Savers Exchange and an online vendor.

And as you can see from the image at right, our last spraying with Roundup has knocked down most of the weeds in the aisles between our rows of melons and the areas we hope to use for sweet corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and the isolated peas in the East Garden. Hopefully, I can get the aisles mulched with grass clippings soon, eliminating the need for spraying or tilling there.

Another Day, Another Trellis

It feels like all I've done of late is to put up trellises in the garden for various crops. The one I put up today was actually just our third trellis, and I may still need to do one more...a long, short one for the Eclipse peas. I read somewhere that for seed production, one needs to trellis even short varieties such as Eclipse to keep the the peas off the ground where they could absorb moisture and rot.

Pea Trellis and main garden plot

Nylon Trellis NettingToday's trellis will support our planting of Sugar Snap peas. I did it about the same as our other trellises. I used three T-posts to support a fifteen foot run of nylon netting strung on plastic coated clothesline wire. When done, I transplanted a few snapdragons at the center and ends of the trellis, as they can coexist with the peas and then will really take off once the peas vines are cleared off the trellis. When I was transplanting the snaps, I was pleased to find lots of Sugar Snap seeds germinating.

Let me add a quick plug here for Dalen Gardeneer Trellis Netting. While I have a brand new bag of the netting in the box that holds our trellising supplies, I find that I keep reusing old netting that simply refuses to rot or tangle! I like the six inch holes in the netting that give our peas and cucumbers just enough support without getting in the way too much.

Our early peas are now coming on strong. The Amish Snap variety has been maturing pods for a week or so, but out Champion of England and Mr. Big are beginning to mature pods as well. Both of the latter varieties produce large pods that in good weather may be filled with eight or nine large, sweet peas. And both are a whole lot easier to shell than the Amish Snap variety!

Elsewhere in the Garden

Cauliflower (Amazing)Lettuce patchOur garden plots are really in pretty good shape so far this year. We've had a few setbacks, but have enjoyed fresh asparagus, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and a few peas out of the garden already. I noticed another head of cauliflower that is ready to cut while checking our brassicas today. If temperatures stay as high as they were today, it will definitely cut short our cauliflower harvest.

I quit replacing cut lettuce plants with fresh transplants several weeks ago, knowing that the coming hot weather would make them bolt before they matured. But our lettuce patch still has some pretty Red Lollo plants that probably would taste quite bitter by now. There are also a few red and green romaine plants that just may produce a last bit of sweet lettuce before the summer's heat really sets in.

When the brassicas and lettuce wind down in our main raised bed, they'll be replaced by succession plantings of green beans and kale.

We're getting right about to the deadline for planting sweet corn in our large East Garden this year. Frequent and welcome showers have prevented getting the sweet corn and potato areas ready for planting. We have storms predicted for tonight, although we're a bit south of the area that is threatened with the possibility of derechos, "straight-line windstorms...that can reach hurricane force." If the rain misses us, I may be able to till and plant tomorrow or the next day. But we're getting close to the point where there just won't be enough days to mature sweet corn before fall.

Likewise, if we can get our potatoes and sweet potatoes in the ground this week, we should still get something from them. Any later and I'm not sure it will be worth the effort. Of course, I could mess with our main garden plan, pull the rest of the lettuce, put off planting beans and kale until the brassicas come out, and put a row of potatoes in what is now our lettuce area. Hmmm....

I laughed and told Annie at dinner tonight, "When Senior Gardening gets picked up for syndication or I sign a contract for a TV gardening show, I'll hire an assistant to help get everything done in the spring!" I think that will happen just after I cash in that winning lottery ticket. Grin

Thursday, June 13, 2013

It's just noon, and I'm worn out already.

The rains missed us last night, so I got going early this morning and switched out the mower deck from our John Deere lawn tractor to the 30" tiller attachment. While the soil in our East Garden wasn't as dry as I'd like for tilling, turning it over a bit damp was a better option today than missing the opportunity before it rains again. Any more delay in getting our potatoes and sweet corn planted would probably preclude making a crop of either. And it does look and feel like rain today.

East Garden - June 13, 2013

I did a a fairly shallow tilling of the areas for our potatoes and sweet corn (shown above) that pretty well tore up any grass clumps that had survived spraying last week. Then I reset the tiller to its maximum depth (about 6") and covered the area again, keeping my wheel speed down and overlapping the tills. The second, and in some cases, third pass pretty well incorporated all the grass and weed trash into the soil.

It's definitely not my best job of soil preparation. I'm still learning how to use the new tiller. And I didn't put down the fertilizer for the sweet corn, as I may be able to do another till of that area tomorrow before planting.


I was able to get back outside a bit later today and actually got some planting done in the East Garden. I dug shallow trenches for two rows of potatoes, adding a bit of 5-24-24 commercial fertilizer covered by peat moss in each furrow. One row was planted to Rio Grande, Sangre, and Yukon Gold, while the second row was all Kennebec. I actually planted a bit less than I had planned, as our Kennebec seed potatoes hadn't fared well in storage, and I had to pitch several of them. But two, almost thirty foot rows of potatoes should supply all we need for the winter if they do well.

Planting potatoes

Note that the area where the potatoes were planted was treated with sulfur last fall to lower the soil pH to around 5.2 to help fend off potato scab. The acid peat moss in the row should also help.

I also was able to prepare a bed for our sweet potato slips. I didn't do anything fancy. I just sprinkled a good bit of 5-24-24 fertilizer and about half a bale of peat moss down the row and tilled it in. While I had the tiller back out, I tilled in 12-12-12 fertilizer for our sweet corn. I hope to transplant sweet potatoes and direct seed sweet corn tomorrow morning.

And at dusk, I was out seeding a thirty foot row of Eclipse peas! Since we'd had a good bit of surface erosion in the area this spring which may have washed sulfur into the area for the peas, I tilled in a good bit of ground limestone and some fertilizer before planting. I soaked the shrunken pea seed in water for several hours before planting. And actually, I had planned to seed the peas in the morning, but could tell that soaking overnight was going to be too much of a good thing for them. So I drug my aching bones back outside at 9 P.M. to seed the row of peas!

Now I'm really tired, but it's sure a good tired when you can get out and actually get some serious gardening done in a day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sweet Potato PlantsOur sweet potatoes are in and our sweet corn has been seeded. Those items, along with others completed this week, wind up the spring plantings that I would ideally like to have completed by the end of May! Like farmers and other gardeners throughout the midwest, we're running a bit behind. But compared to the drought conditions at this time a year ago, things are absolutely fabulous!

Sweet potato in glassI got out into the garden early this morning to do the transplanting before things got too hot (and the UV index got too high). Transplants do better when put in the ground in the early morning or evening, giving them a little time to adapt before facing daytime heat. I put in about 25 Nancy Hall sweet potato slips that I had rooted over the last month or so. The slips all came from one sweet potato, about the only one that reached full size in last year's drought. While not great for genetic diversity, we sure got a lot of cuttings from that one sweet potato.

It had begun to get really hot and humid outside when I got around to planting our sweet corn. The tillings I'd done on the plot Wednesday and Thursday had it planting ready this morning. Sweet corn areaDespite things drying down a bit from last month, I still planted our sweet corn fairly shallow (around 1-2" deep), as it's supposed to rain over the weekend. We grow all sh2 supersweet varieties, and the shrunken seeds don't have a lot of seedling vigor to push up through several inches of soil. We also wait to plant our supersweets, as they don't germinate well in cool soil. Of course, once the soil warmed this year, things turned wet, and we're just barely getting our sweet corn planted in time to make a crop by late August or early September.

Plant row markersI planted three half rows each of Mirai 336BC, a new bicolor for us, and Summer Sweet 6800R, an old standby early yellow. Both are listed as 73 days to maturity. For our main crop corn, I seeded four rows of Summer Sweet 7640R, a tried and true 84 day variety that produces excellent corn for the table or freezer and has good growth characteristics.

It's been a few years since we've had a really good crop of sweet corn. The drought took our corn last year, and we've had germination problems, deer and raccoon damage, and even a puppy that developed a taste for sweet corn lessen our harvest in the past. We also fight corn smut each year, despite rotating our sweet corn to fresh ground each year. I suspect the smut spore blow in, rather than being soil borne.

Even though I was quickly getting weary of planting, I took the time to replace our wooden row marker stakes with flowers. Doing so allows me to use the wooden stakes elsewhere, and the flowers eventually add a lot of color to the garden. Of course, I've never had a deer eat a wooden row marker, or for that matter, have one wilt and die. But the plant row markers often remain until frost, long after the rows they marked are gone.

Amazon - Sweeney's Deer Repellent StationsI also filled a spot left bare when I ran out of Kennebec seed potatoes yesterday with a Black Beauty eggplant. And simply because I stumbled across them in the garage, I put out six new Sweeney's Deer Repellent Stations, a product that really seems to deter deer from nipping our sweet potato plants. I put three of them in our row of sweet potatoes and the other three in our sweet corn planting, although nothing seems to discourage deer for long from browsing on corn tassels.

HarvestOur harvest for today included a lovely head of cauliflower, several nice broccoli sideshoots, and a miniature yellow squash. I could have picked peas as well, but decided to wait until tomorrow when a young granddaughter can help with the picking (and shelling and eating raw).

There's still a spot in one melon row where I could and may put in a hill of pumpkins, but for the most part, our East Garden is finally planted. I still would like to run a row of zinnias down the east side of the plot, but that's just an extra.

Getting all of our isolation plantings and the East Garden done should allow me to do a little better job caring for the plants we already have going in all our garden plots. After watching a couple of white cabbage moths dance in and out of our row of brassicas in the East Garden this morning, I grabbed the sprayer, which still had some Thuricide/Serenade mix in it and sprayed the brassicas and the tomato plants in the East Garden.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with where we are so far this gardening season.

East Garden - June 14, 2013 Main Garden - June 14, 2013
East Garden Main Garden

Botannical Interests

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I'm almost afraid to say it after waiting so long for our East Garden to dry out enough to till and plant, but we need a good rain. Actually, I'm not sure area farmers need a good rain just yet, as some still haven't finished planting soybeans. But after planting potatoes and direct seeding sweet corn and peas this week, I need a good rain to get our stuff going and growing.

Mowed alfalfa areaAfter switching our mower over from the tiller attachment to its mowing deck, I spent most of the rest of the day mowing and raking. The first area to be done was our cover cropped area in the East Garden. The 40' x 80' patch was supposed to be in alfalfa, but native grasses have been outgrowing the legume. I had to make several passes, mowing and raking and then doing the same again, to get the area cleaned up.

Waltham Butternut Squash VinesAll of the alfalfa/grass mulch ended up going around our Waltham Butternut squash, as the plants were quickly outgrowing the ring of mulch I'd originally spread. I grow our butternuts separate from the rest of the garden, usually on the site where our last compost pile was. When I've tried growing butternuts in our melon rows, the butternut vines quickly have overwhelmed our cantaloupe and watermelon plants with their vigorous vine growth.

Growing our butternuts (and pumpkins) separately has worked out fairly well over the last few years. Since the butternuts usually end up on the shaded side of the field, I have to check them frequently for powdery mildew, as it thrives in a moist, shady environment. The butternuts also are usually the first of our squash to be attacked by squash bugs each year. If I'm on my toes and eradicate the early intruders on the butternut leaves, it saves me a lot of trouble later on with our yellow squash.

I didn't get past "mow and rake" on my job list for today. I didn't even get all the mowing done, and it appears we have rain on the way tonight. Maybe I'll get lucky with overnight rain and a sunny day to mow tomorrow. At any rate, one of the items on my list, "start fall broccoli," has to be done tomorrow.

A Bit of Fun in the Kitchen

I took a day off from my diet today and tried my hand at making Braised Beef and Tortellinis, one of my favorite things to order when eating out at Olive Garden. I'd picked up ingredients earlier this week, and the cheapie beef strips I'd bought were about to go over the hill today. So during a break from mowing, I got things started, roughly following the ingredients from Julie Deily's Braised Beef Short Ribs with Tortelloni in a Marsala Cream Sauce. Her recipe is for a slow cooker, but using a pan on the stove, with Annie making sure things didn't cook dry while I was out mowing, worked out pretty well.

Cutting corners on the beef turned out to be a bad idea, but didn't totally spoil things. The recipe title doesn't reveal that the dish includes portobella mushrooms, a favorite at our table. And of course, we love cheese tortellinis, as evidenced by our recipe for Asiago Cheese & Tortellini Soup elsewhere on this site.

One major difference from the online recipe was that I also used a lot of Swanson beef broth while cooking the beef, carrots, and mushrooms. Julie's recipe calls for chicken broth.

Sunday, June 16, 2013 - Father's Day

Rainy Senior GardenIf one was planning on trying out a new Father's Day grill or some similar outdoor toy, today wouldn't be the day for it here. We had just enough rain overnight to wet the bottom of our rain gauge. Starting at daylight, we had gentle, off and on showers, the kind that soak into the ground far better than a downpour. And then we got a downpour that will probably come close to an inch of rain.

I obviously won't get my mowing done today, but the potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, peas, and various flowers we seeded and transplanted towards the end of last week are getting just what they need...soil moisture. Our last significant rainfall came at the first of the month, so we were ready for rain, although our ground still had plenty of moisture to support plant growth.

My gardening efforts for today have been confined to starting two fourpacks of Premium Crop broccoli for our fall garden. After really pushing to get our potatoes and sweet corn in for several days, it's nice to have a day off.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cauliflower and broccoliI cut two heads of cauliflower, our last main head of broccoli, and several broccoli sideshoots this morning. We may get a bit more broccoli and cauliflower from a late row I planted in our large East Garden, but that row is maturing slowly and may get ruined by hot weather. The broccoli and cauliflower, along with some heads I'd cut over the weekend, all got blanched and frozen.

We'll still have fresh broccoli for a while, as several of our broccoli plants continue to produce nice sideshoots after their main head was cut. There's one more cauliflower plant with a head almost ready to cut and two more a bit behind that in maturing.

Pea plants on trellisWhile out picking, I also filled an eight quart pot with peas. Shelled and frozen, they made a little over two pints frozen. Shelling was considerably easier today, as most of the pea pods were Champion of England and Mr. Big, both far easier to shell than our early pickings of Amish Snaps. Still to come in our pea harvest is a small sample of Spanish Skyscraper peas. They're the very tall peas on the left end of the trellis (in the photo at left). I shelled and tasted an early maturing pod of them today, and found them to be quite sweet.

Sugar Snaps emergeOur row of Sugar Snap peas planted a little over a week ago are beginning to come up. I goofed and didn't get this variety planted until a week ago. Sugar Snaps can tolerate a bit more heat than spring peas, so I'm hoping we'll still get a good crop of them from our late planting.

Lettuce patchOur lettuce patch, at one time the star performer of our spring garden, is now down to just a few plants. I pulled two red lollo and a red romaine plant today that had bolted. I wonder if the remaining plants have gone bitter tasting, but will leave them in place until they bolt, we need them, or I'm ready to turn the area over to a succession planting of green beans and kale.

Onions and carrotsNext to the lettuce area, our early planting of onions, carrots, celery, and leeks is recovering nicely from a digging episode by a couple of puppies. The dogs dug up almost half the bed, presumably going after a rabbit or mole. This abuse came after something (cat or dog) killed a good many of our onion transplants (apparently by peeing on them) while they were still in a flat on the porch. I'm really pretty happy to have any onions and carrots after all the pet problems we've had this year.

After taking a bunch of pictures this morning and then freezing brassicas, I finished mowing and raking the field next to our house. I use the grass clippings (wet hay) from the field for mulch. The big news today was that I was finally able to complete mulching the aisles between our rows of melons. Each year it's a race to see if I can get the aisles mulched before the melon vines grow into the aisles. Training the melon vines to run up and down the rows helps, but I did cheat a bit on holding back weeds this year. When things were too wet to till, I used Roundup to hold back the weeds until things dried out enough that I could till. Now with a heavy layer of green grass clippings on them, our weeding in the area should be minimal. And of course, I forgot to go back out and get a photo of the mulched melon area.

As I was sitting on the back porch this afternoon shelling peas, a strong thunderstorm rolled in. I had to take the peas inside to finish up, but we ended up getting a very welcome 5/8" of rainfall.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - Mulched Melon Patch

Okay, here's the shot I should have taken yesterday afternoon of our fully mulched melon patch.

Mulched melon patch

Agri-Fab 44" Lawn SweeperEarliest Red Sweet pepper plantI'm not sure, but I think this is the earliest we've been able to fully mulch our melon rows in the East Garden. Doing so will save hours of weeding and tilling later on. Of course, I mow and rake several acres to get all that mulch. Not everyone has that chore advantage, but one can do much the same with hay or straw. Raking clippings has become a much easier job since I replaced my original lawn sweeper last summer. While the sweeping is now easier, spreading that much mulch is still a pretty nasty job.

Of course, we don't treat any of the areas we mow and rake with herbicides. Herbicide (weed & feed type products) treated grass clippings can kill ones garden plants if used in close proximity to the plants. Treating grass clippings used in a compost pile can also create what is known as "killer compost."

Tendersweet cabbageSince our Earliest Red Sweet peppers are located at the ends of the melon rows with Moira tomato plants at the opposite ends, they get mulched right along with the melons. I was pleased this morning to find one of our ERS plants with two healthy peppers on it already. I guess that's why "earliest" is part of the variety's name. I think one of those peppers may already have been set on the plant when I transplanted it into the garden. Often fruit that has set on transplants gets self-pruned as the plant adapts to its new environment.

While out checking the garden and snapping pictures this morning, I once again noticed a huge Tendersweet cabbage I need to harvest. It's at the end of our row of broccoli plants in our main raised bed plot. While it was protected from full sun by nearby broccoli leaves, it's now exposed since I pulled the Goliath broccoli plants (which weren't producing any sideshoots this year!). I need to cut the cabbage before it splits open or bolts.

We don't grow a lot of cabbage in the Senior Garden, simply because we don't eat a lot of cabbage. I have two other cabbage plants in the row, a savoyed Alcosa and a Super Red 80. Both are a little slow in maturing because they also have overhanging broccoli and cauliflower leaves around them. I need to do that one a bit better next year.

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 4.33 0.15 5.53 4.13
Totals2 34.10 10.96 27.33 20.42
1 2011 & 2012 precipitation data from the Kinmerom2 weather station, Merom, IN. Average precipitation for Indianapolis, IN
2 to date (Jan. - June)
Drought Information

U.S. Drought Monitor
U.S Drought Monitor

U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook
United States Seasonal Drought Outlook

Click on the title or the graphic (above) to access the
U.S. Weekly Drought Monitor

PDF Version of Graphic Adobe PDF Reader
Click on the title or the graphic (above) to access the
U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook

PDF Version of Graphic Adobe PDF Reader

The afternoon thunderstorm that passed through yesterday took down a relatively small maple tree on our property, but also brought our monthly total precipitation to 4.33", a bit above the average rainfall for June in this area (4.13"). It also rearranged some melon vines that I had to retrain into the rows this morning. But the abundant rainfall so far this year stands in stark contrast to the drought conditions we were already experiencing at this time a year ago. By mid-June, 2012, any soil not heavily mulched was bone dry...and things only got worse through the bulk of the summer.

While we're experiencing delightfully good growing conditions, a good bit of the western United States remains painfully dry. The graphic and links from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center pretty well tell the story.

East Garden - June 19, 2013 Main Garden - June 19, 2013
East Garden - June 19, 2013 Main Garden - June 19, 2013

This season promises to be a pretty good one for us in our various garden plots.

Friday, June 21, 2013 - First Day of Summer (in the Northern Hemisphere)

Around noon
Evening thunderstorm

Watering zinnia dibbleIt's now officially summer, as a small entry down the page aways on the Weather Underground reminded me: "Length of Day - 14h 55m - Tomorrow will be 0m 3s shorter." While not noticeable to us, the continued shortening of days triggers important responses in some plants. Onions begin bulbing as days shorten and soybeans begin to bloom and set pods.

Our first day of summer certainly felt like it with high temperatures in the low 90s, followed by a strong evening thunderstorm. The storm actually negated a little trick I did this morning while planting a border row of zinnias in our East Garden. Soaking some seeds before planting improves and speeds germination with stuff like beans and peas. It also gives the soaked seed a bit of a head start in competing with surface weed seed. But zinnia seed would be a mess to soak, so I simply water the bottom of the furrow I'm going to seed to zinnias. Any weed seed present in the furrow also gets the same head start on germination that the zinnia seed gets from the moisture, but it does seed to give the zinnias a head start on small surface weeds. The zinnia seed then is covered with relatively dry soil and firmed.

Wearing Myself Out with the Scuffle Hoe

Scuffle hoeing sweet cornSome of our sweet corn had just begun to spike through the soil surface this morning. While I was glad to see the corn coming up, the myriad of weeds that were also germinating made me grab my scuffle hoe and get to work. I really didn't try to hoe between corn plants in the row, as not all the corn is up. I didn't want to inadvertently kill any emerging corn. Instead, I ran the scuffle hoe down both sides of each row of corn. Weeds germinating in the middle of the aisles between rows I can turn under later with the rototiller. But for now, it was important to suppress the weeds coming up beside our sweet corn. I'll obviously have to go back and either scuffle hoe or hand weed in between individual sweet corn plants in the row.

Amazon - scuffle hoeIf you're unfamiliar with the scuffle (action, hula, or stirrup) hoe, you're probably having to work way too hard at weed control in your garden. One drags a scuffle hoe just under the soil's surface, letting the hoe's blade cut off weeds and break up the surface soil. The tool works best just before or after weeds germinate. In other words, it's not all that effective against established weeds and grasses. But used early and often, it can keep a row, flowerbed, or whatever pretty weed free. You just have to be careful not to get reckless with it, as it will cut off crops just as easily as it does seedling weeds. And sadly, a scuffle hoe doesn't work well in wet soil.

Sweet potatoes cultivatedHaving scuffled up and down each of our seven, 30' rows of sweet corn, I also scuffled our sweet potatoes today. With them, I was able to go all around each plant, cutting off weeds and cultivating the soil a bit.

Our two rows of potatoes and a row of Eclipse peas weren't far enough along to risk trying to hoe alongside their rows. That's probably just as well, as after a couple of hours of hoeing, seeding, and working our compost pile a bit, I was worn out.

Withered muskmelon vineOne disappointment today was the collapse of one of our Pride of Wisconsin muskmelon plants. It simply withered overnight. I looked for vine borer damage and also for evidence of moles undermining the plant's roots, but didn't see anything. (I'll never make a good CSI.) There were some guilty looking boxelder bugs around, but they're not supposed to be harmful to melons. I watered the hill a bit, more to protect the remaining Pride of Wisconsin plant growing in the hill, but also hoping to resurrect the wilted vines.

Before calling it a day, I mixed Thuricide and spreader sticker solution in a sprayer and put a heavy layer on all of our brassicas. Our broccoli and cauliflower so far have been almost worm free, but I've noticed a few white cabbage moths and cabbage loopers flying around recently.

While I feel pretty good about what I got done today in the garden, the thunderstorm that dropped and inch and a half of rain in an hour or so this evening may wipe out most of my efforts. Obviously, the rain steals any advantage I might have gained by watering the furrow where I seeded zinnias. The upside is that the zinnias should have all the moisture they need to germinate. But so will all the weeds.

Scuffle hoes don't cut every seedling weed in half. Some get buried and others pushed to the top of the soil where their roots dry out. A good storm like we had tonight can allow buried and surface weeds to reroot.

And with as heavy a rain as we had with very strong winds, I suspect that most of the Thuricide I applied today has now been washed off our broccoli and cauliflower.

The rain should definitely help our freshly cultivated sweet potatoes and our sweet corn still germinating. So all in all, especially after last year, I'm happy with the rain. I can always go back out and spray and scuffle hoe again.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

After another storm last night, ground conditions today were really wet. While that's not very good for general gardening, it's great for pulling weeds. So after removing the last of our bolting lettuce plants today, I went ahead and hand weeded the area instead of waiting to till the weeds under. When the bed dries out enough for tilling, the area will be planted to bush green beans.

Lettuce out

CobraHead WeederSome of the grass weeds had formed pretty deep root systems, giving me a chance to try out a freebie CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator the folks at CobraHead LLC sent me to evaluate. I'd used the CobraHead last week just a bit while cleaning up a still unplanted flowerbed, but gave it a good workout today on big clumps of grass and dandelions. The curl of the head allows one some good lever action in pulling up deep rooted weeds, rather than just snapping them off at the surface.

On the whole, I'd give the CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator a definite thumbs up. It's a good tool to add to ones collection and could make a great gift for a gardening friend.

First carrots of the yearAfter dumping the overripe lettuce and weeds I pulled on our compost pile, I moved to the next section of our raised bed to dig a few carrots. I'd been checking the plants for a week or so, digging a bit with my finger to reveal how far their root formation had gone. With five different varieties of carrots planted in the double row, maturation was a bit uneven, but I found about a dozen nice, early carrots to dig and sample. After the problems we had with pet damage this spring, I was thrilled to see that we're going to make a fairly nice crop of carrots this year. The one I sampled was sweet with good carrot flavor.

Intercropped beets
Clipped beet plant

I really thought I was being pretty sharp this spring when I intercropped beets in between our cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage plants. The beets did come up, but quickly were covered up by the profuse foliage of the brassicas. As I've pulled brassica plants over the last week or so, I noticed that the beets have survived, and in a few cases, looked pretty good.

When I looked at the beets this morning, I was surprised to see that the tops of some of the plants had been neatly clipped off. Since beets aren't one of our primary crops for canning or freezing (several packages remain in the freezer from last year), I was more amused than upset. Earlier this year, our celery got eaten off almost to the ground.

With the very wet ground conditions we have, I would have noticed tracks if the damage was from deer. I suspect the rabbit I've seen peeking out of the bushes this spring caused the damage. That's actually pretty impressive, as we now have a five dog security system on our property (3 ours, plus 2 strays). Shep, a border collie cross who adopted us six or seven years ago, has been observed catching and eating rabbits in the past, so it must have been a pretty brave or hungry bunny to risk the trip in the open to get to our main raised bed.

Spotty sugar snap germinationOur spring pea harvest is winding down, although I've been picking, shelling, and freezing some each day. The vines will need to be pulled before the end of the month to make way for vining cucumbers. Our Sugar Snap peas planted several weeks ago are having a tough go of it with all the rain. Whether from too wet conditions or bad seed, the nearly half pound of Sugar Snaps I seeded along a fifteen foot trellis haven't produced a solid stand as yet. While some plants are still emerging, I poked more Sugar Snap seed into the wet ground today to fill in the row.

I also spent some time in our East Garden doing the same task with our sweet corn. Again, whether bad seed, too wet growing conditions, or just an impatient gardener, I poked sweet corn seed into the bare spots of our seven rows of sweet corn. But unlike the peas, I used a different, shorter season corn to fill in the bare spots for our main crop, 84 day corn, I used a 77 day variety, Bountiful, that hopefully will silk about the same time as the main season corn, Summer Sweet 7640R. In our early, 73 day corn, I had to go with another similar maturity corn, Mr. Mini Mirai, as I didn't have a really, really short season corn to fill in with. The variety is a miniature corn I tried a few years ago, and it does silk early sometimes. (No link for the Mirai variety, as I'm still boycotting the rude vendor it came from. They also continue to sell corn seed treated with a chemical linked to honeybee hive collapse!)

And having mentioned honeybees, I've seen quite a few Italian honeybees this year. Last year, most of the bees I saw visiting the blooms in our garden were bumblebees, along with a few Midnight honeybees. I wouldn't really know one bee from another, but my oldest son kept bees for 4-H one year, and we ordered the Midnight hybrid bees because they were supposed to be a gentler variety than Italians. Whether hives are doing better this year, or the bees are just drawn to the dutch white clover in bloom in our yard (that rather desperately needs to be mowed again), I don't know. But it's good to see that some of the most common honeybees in the past are still around.

Monday, June 24, 2013 - Green Bean Monday

Rather than wait (and wait and wait) for the soil in our main raised garden bed to dry out enough for tilling, I went ahead and planted green beans in the area I cleared of lettuce yesterday. I raked back the thin layer of grass clipping mulch remaining on the soil and gave the area a quick pass with my scuffle hoe to clean up any remaining seedling weeds.

Cleared soil

While too wet to till, the soil worked up well with a hoe in the rows. I dug a fairly shallow furrow with a garden rake and sprinkled a bit of granular soil inoculant along the bottom of it. Then I rather heavily seeded one row in thirds to Burpee's Stringless Green Podicon, Bush Blue Lake, and Contender. The second row received Maxibel, Provider, and Strike.

Seeded bean rows

The heavy seeding rate was on purpose, as only the Maxibel seed was new. The oldest of the seed, the Strike, was saved seed from 2009. Hopefully, a heavy seeding will eliminate any need for reseeding and may even produce a heavy stand of each variety.

All six green bean varieties are around 50 days to maturity, so we should have a lot of green beans all at once towards the end of August for canning.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - A Little Housekeeping

Google announced some time ago that they would be closing their Google Affiliate Network at the end of July. Some of the affiliates we really wanted to keep have moved on to other advertising consortiums, and we've renewed our relationship with them there. But having to clean up our advertising list also propelled me to trim our affiliate listings of many non-gardening related advertisers from other affiliate networks with which we were associated. Many of them are educationally related businesses we featured during the eleven year run of our now (mostly) inactive Educators' News site.

So our current list of affiliated advertisers became dramatically shorter early this morning, well before the GAN closing deadline. (I'd set a July 1 deadline for myself to get this job done and have been working on it for several weeks.)

To those of you who have taken the time to click through one of our affiliate links when purchasing something online, my sincere thanks.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - More Rain

Standing water in main gardenWet pea rowIt appears to finally be done raining here for today. Since midnight last night, we've received 4.7 inches of rain (by our rain gauge). Obviously, there's standing water everywhere. I had been concerned this morning when I saw our Sugar Snap pea bed submerged, as I'd just poked more seed into the ground on Sunday to fill bare spots. Now, our main raised garden bed has water standing in almost all of it!

Since I'd gotten our lawn mowed and raked yesterday, I thought this morning that we were in pretty good shape for the day, despite the overnight inch plus of rain that had covered our Sugar Snap row. I got started early pulling the remaining spring pea vines from the trellis and gleaning what good pods remained.

While it was definitely time for the pea vines to come down, I was surprised to see that the Mr. Big variety still looked pretty good. Some of the vines were beginning to form blooms again. It would appear the variety has more heat resistance than I'd previously thought.

All four varieties of spring peas we had planted did well this year. The Champion of England was my favorite for its long, full pods that shell quite easily. Mr. Big puts on similar pods that also shell easily, but often doesn't fill the its large pods completely with peas. Both Amish Snap and Spanish Skyscraper are a bit hard to shell, but are quite productive. But most importantly, all of the varieties produced good, sweet peas with excellent flavor.

After cleaning up the pea row a bit and tightening the clothesline wires that hold the trellis netting, I transplanted Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers and snapdragons along the trellis. This is our second planting of JLP cukes. An earlier planting located over a hundred yards away used JLP plants grown from our saved seed and some seed I obtained from Reimer Seed. If the Reimer Seed is true to variety and crosses with our strain of JLP, it should add some genetic diversity to our strain of the excellent cucumber. If not, today's planting was all plants grown only from our saved seed.

Digging garlicGarlic in cartOn a roll on a rather cool and overcast morning, I moved on to try to dig some garlic. I found that even though the garlic leaves were browning a bit, the bulbs hadn't reached full size as yet. When to dig garlic is an iffy proposition. Dig too early and you limit the size of your garlic. Dig too late and the garlic may begin to rot in the ground. With all the rain today, I wonder now if I should have gone ahead and dug all of the garlic. As it was, I dug a few bulbs of all of the varieties we're growing this year from each end of the bed.

The new garlic varieties we're growing this year, Mother of Pearl and Late Italian, were a disappointment today. That shouldn't have been, as their growth habit had been far weaker than our German and elephant garlic. Their slight leaves and stems should have been a tip-off that the bulbs were going to be small.

Before winding things up in our main garden, I took a bit of time to transplant a few more flowers along the borders of the raised beds. Pea vines that blew off their trellis had choked out a couple of flowers, and there were several openings here and there that cried out to be filled with something that will soon be beautiful.

While our East Garden was as wet or wetter than our raised beds, I worked along the sides of it, transplanting a Slick Pik yellow squash plant in the last opening in our melon rows. I pulled tiny weeds from around tiny Eclipse peas along the back border of the plot. And outside the plot, I spread yet another ring of grass clipping mulch around our incredibly healthy hill of butternut squash plants.

After about three hours of really successful gardening this morning, the rains returned...and pretty much stayed for the day and evening. In the days to come, I may have to deal with plants damaged first by standing water and then, if the water hasn't drained, by sun damage through standing water. But that's tomorrow or the next day's worry.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Things are beginning to dry out from the incredible rains we had this week. The ground no longer squishes everywhere one steps, just some of the places. Apparent damage from the storm and standing water appears to be minimal so far, but it may take a day or two more to really tell. Our brassicas seemed to take a real beating from the storm, but I was able to pick two main heads of broccoli in the East Garden and a bunch of sideshoots in our main garden. I had to replace one pepper plant whose stem had broken in the storm. Fortunately, I still had a transplant of the same variety (Sweet Chocolate) available. But whether the standing water has started mold in our onions and garlic remains to be seen. On that front, I went ahead and dug our German and elephant garlic today, leaving only the Mother of Pearl and Late Italian rows still in place.

Eclipse peas emergingWith the wet conditions yesterday, I pretty much stayed out of our garden plots for fear of compacting the soil, and also having my foot covered in mud. I did once again weed our row of slowly emerging Eclipse peas. I really thought we'd lost the row (and the variety) earlier, as germination has been very spotty and the surrounding weeds pretty vigorous. I knelt in the mud earlier this week and tried to weed the row as best I could. I did the same again yesterday, noting a few more pea plants had emerged along the thirty foot row.

Peas, Sweet Potatoes, and Potatoes weededSince I had grass clippings on hand, I mulched along both sides of the pea row to suppress weeds there. I'll still have to hand weed the row several more times until the peas get established enough that I can draw the mulch up around them. And having lots of mulch on hand, I went ahead and extended the mulch to the next row, our sweet potatoes.

This morning, I began working in the same area, scuffle hoeing our two rows of potatoes. The potato vines had emerged just enough that I could scuffle down the aisles and even between the plants without fear of cutting off one of them.

While the soil in the potato area was dry enough to effectively scuffle hoe it, the adjacent sweet corn patch was a good bit wetter. I hoed a bit there, knocking down the worst of the emerging weeds in the aisles, but had to stay away from the rows. The seed I pushed into the soil earlier this week to fill bare spots was just spiking out of the soil this morning.

Waterlogged Sugar Snap pea plantsIn our main garden, the area hardest hit by standing water was our row of Sugar Snap peas. The low end of the row looks pretty sad right now. I have more seed I can fill in with, but it's getting pretty late for that. I may just see how the row recovers. If it doesn't produce a good stand, I can always try for a fall crop of Sugar Snaps.

Although our large main raised bed had an inch or so of water standing in it for several hours, things look pretty good there. The rows were I planted green beans this week look as if beans are pushing up through the soil! I guess I'm glad I didn't presoak our green bean seed this time around. Mother Nature took care of that for us.

Our narrow raised bed that had our early peas and now has cucumbers planted along the trellis (with tomatoes in cages at the ends) never did have any standing water in it. It's the best drained of our garden beds and plots, sometimes almost too well drained in dry weather!

While the shot below really doesn't show the cucumber transplants very well, it does show that the flowers around the edge of the bed and the tomato plants came through the storms pretty well. In the past, similar storms have blown over our tomato cages, partially uprooting our tomato plants. This year I anchored the tomato cages to the T-posts beside them.

Blue skies, pretty flowers, deep green plants: Who would have thought there'd been a horrible storm 24 hours earlier!

Narrow raised bed

And veteran gardeners may get a grin out of this one. When I was digging garlic today, I took a break under the shade of a nearby mulberry tree (that my wife won't let me cut down). Just behind the tree is our asparagus patch, which was showing some very healthy weeds under the asparagus foliage. So...I decided to pull just a few weeds on one end of the raised bed. A half hour later, I felt totally refreshed after weeding all around the raised the shade of the asparagus.

Still Starting Seed

Starting cukes, squash, and pumpkinsI transplanted a Slick Pik yellow squash into the East Garden and four Japanese Long Pickling Cucumbers along our former spring pea trellis on Wednesday. For the squash, that made it time yesterday to plant another pot of the delicious yellow vegetable. I find that our yellow squash do quite well for a time, but then succumb to old age, insects, disease, or whatever after producing for a time. To have a steady supply, I simply seed another pot of them when I transplant one into the garden.

The JLPs seeded yesterday were simply insurance plants. I transplanted four plants along the trellis in our narrow raised bed a day or so before I usually would have. The plants hadn't had much time to harden off, but I also had a fairly cool, overcast (and later rainy) day to get them in the ground. If the transplants make it, fine. If not, I'll be covered and still may add the plants I started yesterday to the planting.

I also seeded a single large pot to Howden pumpkins. I wait a bit late to get our pumpkins going each year, trying to time them to ripen just a few weeks before Halloween. Our pumpkins, like our plantings of butternut squash, usually are transplanted to or direct seeded in an area outside our garden plots where a compost pile previously stood.

And today, I started a fourpack of Moira tomatoes. One of the four Moiras I transplanted into our East Garden is a sickly plant that I need to pull. (I gave all my extra Moiras to a son-in-law.) Counting on my fingers a bit, I could still get some late tomatoes from a replacement plant started now.

Heat Wave in Southwest

Temperature MapThe National Weather Service is predicting dangerously high temperatures for much of the southwestern United States for the next few days. Their advisory states:

The heat wave in the Western United States is expected to continue for the next several days. Many locations will break daily records and even approach all-time records. One of the hottest areas will be Death Valley, California where temperatures will be near 130 degrees on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

BuzzardsIt was just a year ago today that we began a ten-day heat wave that, combined with the drought, wiped out several of our major crops (sweet corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes) and severely reduced harvests in the rest. Our high temperatures then topped out just shy of 106o F.

In a moment of dark humor last June, I ran the image at left of buzzard (turkey vultures) perched in a dead tree across the road, wondering if they were there waiting to pick my bones. I can't imagine 130o.

Our five-day forecast calls for cooler weather than the 90s we've had recently, with highs in the 70s and, of course, more rain.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

June, 2013, 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
Totals2 41.95 10.96 27.33 20.42
1 2011 & 2012 precipitation data from the Kinmerom2 weather station, Merom, IN. Average precipitation for Indianapolis, IN
2 to date (Jan. - June)

We're winding up the month of June with what promises to be yet another rainy afternoon. That's sort of appropriate for what has proved to be the wettest month so far this year. All of the precipitation has proved to be a bit of a mixed blessing, with area farmers still unable to get some fields planted and garden chores often delayed. But the abundant rain has also allowed our various crops of vegetables to get off to a great start. In the last week, we've already been able to have steamed vegetables several times. We've feasted on broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and yellow squash seasoned with garlic and onion from the garden with a few portobellos (not from the garden). We steam them in water, olive oil, and a touch of lemon juice.

As I thought about what to write today, it occurred to me that one of the positives of this wet spring has been the lush growth of grass in our lawn and the adjacent property we keep mowed. Mowing isn't one of my favorite outdoor chores, but mowing and raking the grass clippings has allowed us to thoroughly mulch many of our crops, saving hours of weeding and providing some protection for when things begin to dry down a bit. Generally, we have have a fairly dry spell here from around the Fourth of July through the end of August.

I was able to fully mulch our 40' x 45' melon patch in our East Garden quite early this year. Doing so saves a lot of weeding in the aisles between rows of melon plants and lessens the amount of training of the vines necessary. I also remember being amazed last fall when I pulled our melon plants and vines at how far their roots ranged under the mulch.

Melon patch

One concern I've had with all the rain and especially with standing water in our main raised bed is the possibility of black mold getting started on our onions. We've had problems with black mold in our onions before, and I need to spray the onions with a strong fungicide to try and avoid future problems. But as I write, it's raining again outside.

Exhibition onions

A pleasant surprise this year has been the performance of a new to us sweet spanish onion, Exhibition. As you can see from the gaps in the row in the photo above, we haven't waited until the onions are fully mature before using them in the kitchen. I do have some Walla Wallas planted, our usual sweet onion, but they took some of the worst of the abuse our dogs dealt to our onion and carrot rows earlier this year.

Adelaide Baby CarrotsCauliflower, carrots, and yellow squashAnother new variety we tried this year, Adelaide Baby Carrots, looks to be a good one. Despite being pushed around in the bed a bit by digging puppies, the Adelaide's may prove to be a good replacement for the now discontinued Baby Sweet and Sweet Baby Jane baby carrot varieties. I may have let these carrots get a little too big, as the John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog suggests one should harvest them "no larger than 3" - the smaller the better." The ones I dug today were just a bit over the recommended length, but still quite sweet.

Sage plant in mayTrimmed sage plantOur single sage plant is looking pretty bedraggled these days. It had a gloriously long blooming period through May and June and is beginning to bloom a bit again. I set it back considerably this week by trimming not only the spent blooms, but a good bit of the leafy stems. While I wasn't trying to create an eyesore, I think I did. The spent blooms may prove to be as valuable to us as cut sage, though.

I read recently that deer really don't like the smell of sage. So the spent blooms and leaves got crushed and scattered across our sweet corn and sweet potato areas in the East Garden. This trick may really backfire on me, though, as I know I was also spreading sage seed across the area. Sage could become our worst weed in the East Garden! But if it works, I may end up permanently planting some sage along the borders of our East Garden.

Grilling veggies

Some of the Adelaide carrots mentioned above, along with broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, portobello mushrooms, and yellow squash, got used up this evening when we grilled out (between showers). My wife, Annie, had given me a really nice mesh grilling basket last summer that I hadn't put to use until now. I sauteed a bit of garlic in olive oil on the stove, adding the cut carrots to the pan to give them a head start on cooking, before bagging all the veggies with a bit of water, lemon juice, and various spices to coat the mixture with flavored oil.

The Mesh Basket with Lid iconAnnie got at Sam's Club turned out to be an excellent tool. It was much easier to use than my previous flat grill cover, and cleaned up quite easily. Sam's Club appears to be out of stock of the item, but it might be worth waiting for, as the $14.91 price is considerably less than what a vendor on Amazon is asking!

Sam’s Club

May, 2013

From Steve, the at Senior Gardening


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