Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity


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The Old Guy's Garden Record

Our Senior Garden - 11/9/2013


Friday, November 1, 2013 - Seed Catalogs: Gardeners' Wish Books

2013 Seed CatalogsAs a child, I used to eagerly look forward to the arrival of mail order Christmas catalogs. My brother, sister, and I would spend hours looking at the illustrated offerings from Sears Roebuck, JC Penney, and Montgomery Ward before making a short list of suggestions for our parents.

2014 seed catalog coversAs an adult gardener before the advent of the internet, I found myself doing much the same thing I'd done with Christmas mail order catalogs as a child, spending hours looking at possible varieties to grow in our garden. Items would be circled in the catalogs and grandiose lists written, only later to be pared down to fit into a budget that demanded a garden more than pay for itself.

Interestingly (to me, at least), garden seed catalogs now begin to arrive in the mail just a bit later than the old mail order catalogs used to come in. It's important to us that our seed catalogs arrive at least by the end of November, as a few of our flower and vegetable varieties need to be started in late December or early to mid-January (geraniums, onions, petunias).

And while most seed houses now list their offerings online, print catalogs remain vital to our ordering process. While one could browse through all of a company's offerings online, it would take quite a while with many companies and their extensive web sites. A print garden catalog allows one to page through a company's offerings at ones leisure without any internet connection, often marking possible items for later consideration and leaving a folded down page corner or bookmark to pick up where one left off.

I still go through most of the major catalogs I receive, cover to cover. I enjoy seeing illustrations and reading descriptions of new (and old) varieties of flowers and vegetables we might try. And going through each catalog often saves me money, as I frequently happen upon something wanted or needed that I really wasn't looking for and would have missed online. With shipping charges ranging from almost reasonable to outrageous, filing multiple orders for things I simply forgot is a real no-no.

Recommended Seed Suppliers

Our list of Recommended Seed Suppliers is based on our recent and long-term experiences with the vendors listed, winnowed a bit using The Garden Watchdog ratings from Dave's Garden. Some of the relationships run back thirty or forty years or so! Others are more recent additions.

We shy away from seed houses that have been gobbled up by large, corporate conglomerates (Shumway being the lone exception), staying mostly with independent companies and a few still small, family owned and operated operations. All of our recommended suppliers have clearly stated in one way or another that they do not sell or intend to sell in the future Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Rather than try to list our absolute favorites in order, the listings are in alphabetical order. We've used each of them in the past with mostly good experiences. Note that links, where possible, are to the vendor's catalog request page.

Recommended Seed Suppliers

  • Annie's Heirloom Seeds - An interesting selection of seed from a family owned business - If you give them a try, be sure to use the "TryAnnies" coupon code for a discount on your first order! (DGW rating)
  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - offer an incredible array of heirloom seeds - good customer service...once you get their undivided attention (DGW rating)
  • Burpee Seedicon - the W. Atlee Burpee Company, the granddaddy of all seed catalog vendors, still around with lots of great seed - excellent customer service (DGW rating)
  • GenericSeeds.com - no print catalog and limited offerings, but good prices and fair shipping rates (DGW rating)
  • Heirloom Seeds - I ran across this one several years ago when hunting reasonably priced granular soil inoculant for our beans and peas. There again is no print catalog, but their item and shipping prices are fair. I also like that they're a small, family owned and operated supplier. (DGW rating)
  • John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds - lots of interesting varieties you may not find elsewhere (DGW rating)
  • Johnny's Selected Seeds - offers hardy varieties for northern (and other) latitudes - good customer service - one of our longtime seed suppliers (DGW rating)
  • R.H. Shumway - lots of heirloom (and other) seed presented in a catalog with lots of woodcut illustrations (DGW rating)
  • Seed Savers Exchange - offers small quantities of open pollinated seeds through their print and online catalog - far more variety in open pollinated seed through their members-only annual yearbook (DGW rating)
  • Territorial Seed Company - good variety of seeds - flat rate shipping for seeds (okay for a bunch of packets but prohibitively expensive for just one or two packets) (DGW rating)
  • Twilley Seed - our main supplier of sweet corn seed during our farming years - no online sales as yet (They're planning for it.), but offers both a print and downloadable catalog - good customer service (DGW rating)

I'm always on the hunt for reliable vendors of quality seed, especially those that offer open pollinated varieties. If you know of one we should consider, .

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Full disclosure: Botanical Interests, Burpee, and Mountain Valley are Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. We're also a member of the Fedco Seeds Cooperative. MVSeeds.com Fedco Seeds

Canadian Vendors and Other Supplies

Some of our recommended suppliers, Johnny's immediately comes to mind, also ship seed into Canada. The Seeds of Diversity site has a great resource list of seed providers, including sources in Canada (Seeds of Diversity is a Canadian outfit.), the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. I list a few other Canadian seed suppliers recommended by Senior Gardening readers on our Trusted Suppliers page, along with links to the place where we get pots, flats, trays, and such.

Seed Quality

We had some negative experiences in 2013 with the quality of seed we received from some of our most trusted suppliers. We've had to adjust our ordering a bit due to the problems and consequently, our recommended suppliers list. Sadly, our experience seems symptomatic of a much larger problem across the entire garden seed industry.

Shipping Note

It's not a bad idea to do a web search for coupon or promo codes for free shipping or other discounts from seed houses. If you're ordering just one or two packets of seed from a company, a free shipping code can make the difference between the order getting placed or being trimmed due to high shipping charges.

Note: This posting was edited 11/18/2013 to reflect a change in our recommended suppliers.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013 - First Seed Catalog

Twilly 2014 Catalog CoverWhat a surprise! Our first seed catalog for the 2014 gardening season arrived in the mail yesterday! We didn't start seeing seed catalogs last year until the second week of November.

Twilley Seeds could be working under the old adage, "the early bird gets the worm." And in this case, that may be right, as I spent several pleasant hours last evening paging through their attractive catalog. I ended up listing almost $50 worth of seed on my seed order spreadsheet. Of course, such listings are a lot like a Christmas wish list, being subject to competitive pricing and also getting pared down when the reality of total cost sets in. I won't be placing any orders quite this early anyway, as I haven't as yet updated our garden seed inventory spreadsheet for this year.

As I paged through the 2014 Twilley catalog, I was disappointed to see that our favorite, main season sweet corn variety, Summer Sweet 7640R, had been dropped. There obviously were other options available that we may try. I also noticed a good bit of movement on seed prices. Some, like Walla Walla sweet onions, remained at last year's pricing. On the other end, Trillion seedless watermelon doubled in price from a year ago. And sweet corn prices were generally up a good bit. But overall, the catalog made for an interesting evening's entertainment.

Twilley's continues to offer small packets (often 100 seeds) of some flower, vegetable, and herb seeds at very reasonable prices. I like that because it allows one to try several different varieties in a year without breaking ones budget.

I also noticed last night that Twilley's catalog request page carries the advisory: "PLEASE NOTE: The Twilley catalog contains mainly commercial varieties intended for Farms and Greenhouse businesses." My advice to home gardeners who haven't used Twilley Seeds in the past is to blow right past the advisory and get a catalog. We've used Twilley for well over 20 years for home garden seed. Admittedly at first, we used them for bulk supersweet sweet corn seed when we were farming and roadsiding a lot of sweet corn. We even used their seed one year when we grew a quarter acre test crop of eight varieties of pumpkins. (We grew a lot of great pumpkins, but realized it was too risky a crop for us. But the "neighborhood" kids sure loved having their own, local, free pumpkin patch.) Twilley's has definitely earned their place over the years on our Recommended Seed Suppliers list.

Monday, November 4, 2013 - Seed Savers Exchange Offerings

With our garden pretty well put to bed for the winter and our ground a bit too wet to work after three inches of rain late last week, I got busy and entered our offerings for the 2014 Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) Annual Yearbook today. I'd been waiting on several germination tests to complete before entering our offerings for this year, as it's not nice to ship folks bad seed.

The Seed Savers Exchange Annual Yearbook, now available online as well as in the traditional, large, paperback volume, is a listing of all of the seed from open pollinated plant varieties grown out and offered by Seed Savers members to other SSE members. To access its bounty, one only needs to be a member of the Seed Savers Exchange. One restriction in ordering is that varieties offered as "limited quantities" may only be purchased by SSE members who are "listed members," - those already offering seed via the yearbook.

We're offering three related tomato varieties this year: Moira; Quinte; and Earlirouge. All three were developed by Jack Metcalf at the Agriculture Canada Smithfield Experimental Farm, in Trenton, Ontario. Moira has been our favorite canning (and slicing) tomato variety for years. We got a start of Quinte tomato seed, which we'd grown in the 80s but lost our seed start, from the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) last year. Our Earlirouge seed came from our own archival seed storage after I'd searched high and low for seed on the web. All three related varieties are semi-determinates, producing medium sized tomatoes with great flavor and deep red interior coloring.

Moira tomatoes Quinte tomatoes Earlirouge plant and tomatoes
Moira Quinte Earlirouge

If you live in the U.S., you're just SOL on finding seed for these three varieties from commercial seed houses. Canadian growers, however, can find both Moira and Quinte seed available from Upper Canada Seeds.

And yes, I realize that it may be cruel to put up images of luscious tomatoes at this time of year when they are only a fond memory to many gardeners. To make things even worse, I still have a nice supply of ripe Moira, Quinte, and Earlirouge tomatoes in the fridge...and may make myself a BLT when I'm done with this posting.

We also are offering three pepper varieties this year in the Yearbook. We've offered the Earliest Red Sweet variety since we got a new seed start from fellow SSE member, Paul Hagan, after our saved seed went bad in frozen storage. Just for the heck of it, we're also offering saved seed from our Alma and Feher Ozon paprika pepper plants. Unlike most of our other offerings, both of the latter varieties are readily available from several commercial seed houses.

Earlliest Red Sweet peppers Alma pepper plant Feher Ozon
Earliest Red Sweet Alma Paprika Pepper Feher Ozon Paprika Pepper

Japanese Long Pickling cucumberEclipse peasReturning to our offerings this year after a year off is the Japanese Long Pickling cucumber. Our strain of the excellent bread and butter pickle cucumber that was produced from one lone seed that germinated from a long frozen packet of 1994 seed began showing the effects of inbreeding depression several years ago. I had to hunt a bit to find other JLP seed not directly related to our strain to cross with our JLPs to restore their vigor and vitality.

Possibly the star of our SSE offerings this year is the supersweet Eclipse pea which simply disappeared from seed catalogs last year. Eclipse is a rather recent introduction, but a pea variety that is reportedly 20-30% sweeter than most peas is certainly a variety worth preserving.

I'm really gratified that we were able to produce good seed crops of both the Earlirouge tomato and Eclipse pea this year. Earlirouge seed, to the best of my knowledge, isn't available from any commercial vendor anymore, nor was it listed last year on the SSE. After beginning my quest to save the Eclipse variety from extinction, I did find one other SSE member who offered seed from the excellent variety. I'm hoping a few more seed savers will pick up these varieties and help preserve them this year.

I wrote separate feature stories about both seed saving efforts this year:

No, we haven't gone into the seed vending business. Our participation in the Seed Savers Exchange is an attempt to help preserve several varieties of vegetables in danger of disappearing. As mentioned, a few of our offerings are currently available from commercial seed vendors.

Membership in the Seed Savers Exchange currently runs $40 per year. Reduced income memberships (no questions asked, I think) run $25 (used to be you could name your own amount).

Update (11/8/2013): I just learned that non-members can now view listings in the online Seed Savers Exchange Annual Yearbook.

Seed Savers Exchange

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Senior Garden - November 1, 2013Senior Garden - November 5, 2013We had light showers this morning and are supposed to have heavy rain tomorrow. With the cool wet weather, I've pretty much stayed inside lately trying to hold off my annual fall respiratory infection by keeping warm, taking vitamins, and enjoying lots of our Portuguese Kale Soup.

The biggest change in our main garden of late is actually just outside of it. From the images left and right, you can see that the cornfield next to us has been harvested. Todd (the farmer) and his crew started on the 90 acre field Sunday afternoon and finished up on Monday before it began to rain just a bit.

I still need to get our garlic planted and our main raised bed tilled, but for now will turn to doing our annual seed inventory to keep me out of trouble until we get a sunny day or two.

Looking out over the garden last evening, I grabbed the camera and recorded one of the magnificent sunsets we often get this time of year.

Senior Garden Sunset - November 4, 2013

Rakuten Camera

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - Seed Inventory

Seed Inventory on Dining Room TableGreen Onions - Amazon MP3Since it rained all day today, I got busy and did our entire garden seed inventory. I usually spread the job over two days, as it's tedious, somewhat boring work. But today, I took over our dining room table, spread out the many bags of seed to be checked, and got to work. While I was pretty careful at first about weighing large seed packets and counting some small seed, by the time I got done, I was feeling packets and estimating the seed remaining on non-essential stuff.

The job probably would have gone faster if I'd had on some good "gardening music." When I started writing this posting last night, by sheer luck my playlist moved to Green Onions by Booker T. & The M.G.'s.

For a very long time, I used up a lot of legal pads taking inventory each fall of what good seed we had on hand before starting the process of ordering garden seed for the next season. About four years ago, I did one of those duh, hand smack to the forehead things, realizing that I was somewhat computer competent and could much more easily record our garden seed inventory in a spreadsheet. I'd already been recording our seed orders on a spreadsheet for several years.

I set up my spreadsheet to suit my needs. I left out days-to-maturity at first, but began adding that information last year, as it's helpful to have those figures all in one place. My column headings are:

  • Family (brassicas, cucurbits, etc.)
  • Type (broccoli, etc.)
  • Variety
  • Days-to-maturity
  • Year (Seed was purchased or saved)
  • Hybrid or Open Pollinated
  • Size or Amount of Seed
  • Seed Source
  • Price
  • Comments
  • More Comments

I've also made my order spreadsheet conform to the columns of the inventory so that I can just copy and paste items ordered into the inventory.

This is what part of my inventory looks like. Items in bold face type are reminders to me of items I need to reorder.

Seed Inventory Spreadsheet

One doesn't have to be a computer wizard to set up such a spreadsheet. And with OpenOffice available for free download, there's no software cost involved. (I still use Office/Excel 2008 for Mac for my spreadsheets.)

With my garden seed now inventoried, I only need to get the charting done for next year's garden to know what and how much seed I'll need to order. Of course, that's based on the assumption that the seed inventoried today is in good shape. I did start several germination tests today on suspect seed samples. I also pitched several packets of seed that had proved bad this year.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I put up a new feature story today about Growing a Buckwheat Cover/Smother Crop.

Bee on Buckwheat

Hope you enjoy the article as much as we did growing our buckwheat.

Sierra Trading Post

Friday, November 8, 2013 - Where'd I Put It?

Dibbler/Bulb PlantericonDibbler - bulb planter repairI'd planned to get our garlic planted today, but life didn't cooperate. I was sure I knew just about where I'd put the fancy garlic dibbleicon I bought from Burpee last year, but when I looked amongst our garden trowels, it wasn't there. I later, much later, discovered the dandy tool in a box in our plant room. By that time, my bum leg had reminded me that I really am a senior citizen and working on my knees was out for today.

BTW: The handle on my dibble came off after digging just a few holes last year. A bit of sanding to remove the varnish off the wood and some carpenter's wood glue firmly re-attached the handle. I also took that opportunity to improve the tool by adding inch graduations on the wooden handle with a permanent marker. The rivet holding on the metal tip also required a whack or two with a hammer to tighten it up.

Burpee apparently heard from a lot of dissatisfied customers about the dibble, stopped editing out negative reviews of it on their site, and amazingly refunded my purchase price plus shipping for the dibble. Actually, the Dibbler is a good tool for planting standard garlic. It makes too small a hole to plant our elephant garlic cloves, however. If you order one, just be sure to have some wood glue and a hammer on hand in case the manufacturer hasn't fixed their problems. Amazon also carries the dibbler, but at almost double the price Burpee is asking.

Burpee Gardening

Still Learning

My Earlirouge SSE ListingMy SSE Eclipse ListingI recovered nicely this evening from my non-gardening day by haunting a few Garden Web forums. I learned there that non-members may now access the Seed Savers Exchange Annual Yearbook. For folks hunting a specific open pollinated plant variety, that's a plus. They would still need to join SSE to order seed, but if they came up dry on their search, they wouldn't have invested in a membership they may not have wanted or needed to see the listings.

Shown at left and right are my listings this year for Earlirouge tomato seed and Eclipse pea seed. Interestingly, going online with the annual yearbook has apparently allowed SSE to open up offerings from their seedbank not previously offered in their commercial catalog. It turns out that they had both Earlirouge and Eclipse in their seedbank.

Update: The Eclipse posting on the Seed Savers Exchange got quickly deleted. It turns out that the Eclipse pea variety is a patented variety owned by Seminis/Monsanto. While Seminis/Monsanto no longer offer the variety, their patent prevents home gardeners from selling the seed to other gardeners. It does not, however, prevent me from growing and saving seed from the variety.

In another Garden Web forum thread, Help with dry peat moss, I learned that adding a bit of dish detergent to water will help dry peat moss absorb water. Of course, using warm water also helps peat moss to absorb water.

Saturday, November 9, 2013 - Keep an Eye on those Stored Onions and Potatoes

Senior Garden - November 9, 2013

Garlic, onion, and potato storage
Sweet potatoes and butternuts in burlap

We have another sunny, fall day here, but with morning wind speeds at around 25 MPH. If the wind lets up, I'll get our garlic planted today. If not, I'll do it in the next few days when wind speeds are predicted to be a bit less.

Yesterday, while hunting my garlic dibble in our messy plant room, I found a bunch more onion/potato bags I'd tucked away in a box and forgotten. That got me rebagging some of our potato harvest along with checking our stored potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, and onions for rot and/or sprouting. Several of our sweet onions had sprouted and had to be discarded along with one that had begun to rot. Sweet Spanish onion varieties such as Walla Walla and Exhibition don't store all that long. But we like the flavor of them and often use most of them fresh, for summer canning with green beans and pickles, and in Portuguese Kale Soup. If we don't get the last of our sweet onions used up in the next week or so, I'll have to discard them. Fortunately, we have a bag or two of now rock hard Pulsar and Milestone yellow storage onions that should store well over the winter.

Our stored sweet potatoes and butternut squash don't get as good of treatment in storage as do our onions and potatoes. Because of their weight, they stay in burlap bags set up on boxes on the basement floor to keep them dry. Hanging them from the ceiling rafters might pull down the house!

Having somewhat recently harvested all this stuff, it's easy sometimes to forget to check ones stored potatoes and onions. And of course, when one begins to rot, it may spread to the whole bag. I generally try to check our stored onions and potatoes once a month during the winter.

Good Gloxinia Article

Alcie Maxwell's My First Time Growing Sinningia speciosa in the September issue of Gleanings was an interesting read for me. Alcie had shared some of his gloxinia seed with me a year ago and was also kind enough to include a link in his article to our Gloxinia page. Gleanings is the monthly newsletter of The Gesneriad Society.

Sadly, we had another major setback with our gloxinias this fall. After having almost all of the topgrowth of our plants brown out this spring, I cut them back and let them regrow. The browning out returned, and we began to have plants die. I've never experienced such a problem with gloxinias before.

Dying gloxinias 1 Dying gloxinias 2 Dying gloxinias 3 Gloxinias on Porch

With such a total collapse of our gloxinia plant collection, I took some pretty drastic measures, as it appeared we were going to lose all of our plants if I didn't do something quickly. Unsure of the cause of the malady, I moved all of our plants to the back porch and cut out all of the dead and browned leaves. That turned out to be cutting most of the plants back to their corm. Suspecting a plant disease, I treated all of the plants with fungicide and some insecticide for good measure. Since such browning out can also be caused by a mineral deficiency, the plants were treated with calcium, boron, and a liquid seaweed fertilizer for trace elements.

Gloxinias under lights

The gloxinias stayed on the back porch for two weeks, receiving repeated doses of fungicide and a last round of insecticide before coming back inside. In the interim, I disinfected our plant rack and the surrounding area.

It's still too soon to tell if our problems will return. I still have not identified the cause of our problems, although I suspect I brought in a disease from outside on a dirty flower pot. On the positive side, I ran across a couple of good university extension pages about growing gloxinias and gloxinia diseases:

Another Possible Seed House for Canadian and U.S. Gardeners

West Coast SeedsWhen I published our annual Recommended Seed Suppliers update this month, I started a discussion on a LinkedIn forum for the Garden Writers Association about seed houses and catalogs. Sue Fleming, the Garden Coordinator at the Intergenerational Garden on Edge Street, responded, "Being in the Vancouver, BC area, I like West Coast Seeds for organic, open-pollinated seeds."

When I checked out the West Coast Seeds site (DGW rating), I found that they have a really nice selection of not only open pollinated seeds, but of hybrid varieties as well. I was quickly captivated by a small entry (shown at the bottom right of the site image) that read, "Cauliflower: Sow Galleon overwintering cauliflower in July and August. Harvest in April!" They also rotate in a similar blurb about overwintering broccoli.

Trying to pin down my source for the site, I googled Sue and the garden and was led to their lovely Facebook page today about the Intergenerational Garden on Edge Street. I'd missed the page when I searched for it a week ago, having typed in "international" instead of "intergenerational." The page is loaded with lots of gardening lore and fantastic garden photos. It's definitely worth a look if you have a Facebook account.

Raised Beds

Sunday, November 10, 2013 - Planting Garlic

Prepared raised bed

Holes dug
Elephant garlic clove in hole

In some gorgeous sunny weather, I planted our garlic this afternoon. I really wanted to get the garlic planted in October, but I didn't have the ground ready in time. But the soil had dried enough last week for me to till a large bale of peat moss, some ground limestone, a bit of 5-24-24 fertilizer, and a heavy dose of Milky Spore into our narrow raised bed. The Milky Spore was added because when I worked the edges of the bed with a garden fork, I found some of the biggest, healthiest cutworms I've ever seen!

Our narrow raised garden bed has interior dimensions of 3' x 15', allowing me to plant five long rows of garlic with six inches between the rows. I allowed about seven inches in the row between each garlic clove and offset the planting in the rows to allow a bit more space between plantings. This spacing is about as tight as I've ever used.

Since I was planting into very loose soil, the work went quickly. I used my garlic dibbleicon to make a hole about seven inches deep for each elephant garlic clove and about four inches deep for our standard garlic. That put the tops of the garlic cloves around two inches below the surface of the soil. Each hole also got a very light sprinkle of bone meal.

Our garlic starts this year were all ones saved from our last crop. I put in two rows of elephant garlic and three rows of mixed German Extra Hardy, New York White, Late Italian, and Mother of Pearl.

I still need to mulch the garlic with a mixture of leaves and grass clippings after I do what I suspect will be our last mowing (and raking) of our lawn for this season. Before doing so, I may topdress the bed with a layer of compost if we have enough.

BroccoliThis posting is pretty much the short and sweet version of planting garlic. Maybe I'll do an in depth feature story on it someday. But for now, Burpee has an excellent, free, video tutorial available on how to plant garlic. And below are some excellent sources on growing, harvesting, and storing garlic.

When I finished my planting chores, I thought to check our broccoli, as I'd noticed some heads coming along nicely last week. I cut one smallish main head and a couple of tiny sideshoots. We still have about five more broccoli plants and seven or eight cauliflower that are still maturing heads. With a predicted overnight low of 19o F Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, our brassica harvest may be over. Broccoli can stand some fairly cold weather, but nineteen degrees will probably be too much for it.

Besides our rows of broccoli and cauliflower, the only remaining crop we have growing is a row of kale. It should get picked in the next week or so for one final batch of Portuguese Kale Soup. And while the broccoli and cauliflower will probably get nipped by the predicted freezing weather, the taste of kale is said to improve with a good frost/freeze.

Monday, November 11, 2013 - Veterans' Day (U.S.)

I realized last night when cleaning up yesterday's posting a bit that I hadn't offered any images of what garlic bulbs and cloves look like. By the time I made that discovery, it was late and dark, and I didn't want to do the shots with the puny flash on my Canon XSi (one of the few weak points of the camera).

Even though it was fairly dark and threatening rain all day today, I had just enough light to get a couple of shots to illustrate garlic.

Garlic bulbs and cloves Garlic bulb and clove
Garlic bulbs and cloves (11" left to right) Elephant garlic bulb and clove

WFO Philippines ReliefAnd of course, after taking the shots and then running some errands, I realized I hadn't included a size reference once again in the shots...and it was already dark again outside. But luck would have it that I used a sheet of typing paper lengthwise for the shot above left, giving one some sense of size as the paper laid lengthwise was a standard eleven inches. If it helps, standard garlic bulbs run 1-2" or a bit more in diameter, while elephant garlic runs 3-3 1/2" in diameter.

I should add to this discussion that elephant garlic is really more closely related to leeks than garlic, but does have a very mild garlicky flavor. One also has to work at it a few years to build up a good supply of elephant garlic from a minimum purchase of bulbs. Elephant garlic bulbs and cloves are outrageously expensive, even for a minimum order, so one has to build their "seed crop" a few years before one can really do a lot of cooking with elephant garlic cloves.

The good news is that elephant garlic is just as easy to grow as regular garlic.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - Garden Planning

I think I'm set on my basic garden plan for next year...until I change my mind again. Part of my joy in gardening is finding ways to grow lots of stuff we like within a rather small area and still have room for a few experiments and the flexibility for last minute changes. Of course, we have our large East Garden for spacehogs such as sweet corn, melons, and squash. But finding a way to squeeze in everything we want in our main garden is always a pleasant challenge.

I begin my garden planning with an idea and sometimes even a list of everything I want to grow in the main garden. Having completed our annual fall seed inventory also reminds me of things we'd like to grow. Then I begin mapping where things will go in the garden with an eye to crop rotation to prevent disease carryover and depleting specific nutrients from the soil that some crops feed heavily upon. Those considerations weigh much more heavily on our East Garden where continuous corn or squash after melons could produce some real disasters. But even in our main garden, moving the few tomato plantings we have there is essential to fending off bacterial spot and anthracnose, two soil borne tomato diseases that plagued our plants for a few years. (Good crop rotations, hot water treatment of all of our tomato seed, and regular doses of the biofungicide, Serenade, have allowed us to continue growing tomatoes in our main garden plots.)

I moved from mapping or charting our garden plans and records from paper to computerized records in 2000. Having previous records readily available and being able to map our garden plots to scale has proved to be a good system for us. Not having found any software I like better, I continue to stay with the old AppleWorks 6 draw program. Besides general mapping of our proposed plantings, I also use our garden maps to record when specific varieties were put in.

While the areas we garden don't change much now from year to year, what goes in them and where certainly does.

2013
Plot A - 2013 Plot B -2013 East Garden - 2013

The center image of Plot B above comes from a multiple page master where I've put in the basic outlines in a master and then use multiple pages of that master to plot out our succession plantings. The letter plot designations are a carryover from when we had Plots A-D down the side of our back yard. Plot C went back to lawn when a mulberry tree my wife wouldn't let me cut overgrew the area. Plot D is now our permanent raised bed for asparagus. And Plot A, once much, much larger, used to be our entire garden.

2014
Plot A - 2014 Plot B - 2014 East Garden - 2014
Plot B - Softbeds
Plot B - Lettuce softbed
Plot A - Softbed detail

One of the reasons I haven't changed to a more modern software mapping tool is that once you get everything set up the first time for a plot, new planning is just a matter of mostly moving things around. It all takes a bit of time and I even have more detailed maps of our intensive plantings. While sometimes a headache to keep up with, I always appreciate having good records whenever I need to look back at what specific variety grew where and when.

And even with our full page garden maps, I end up doing lots of detail maps of sections of our garden, especially our softbeds where our intensive plantings usually go. By doing so, I can easily show varieties that are mixed in a planting as we often do with our spring and fall lettuce.

Our garden plan is probably going to be a lot different than that of many gardeners. While we enjoy a lot of fresh produce from our garden, especially our annual melon patch, our focus is more on what we can dry, store, can, and freeze each year for year round use.

A Few Words about Software

Apple Computer end-of-lifed the ClarisWorks/AppleWorks software I use in 2007, replacing it with the disappointing and supposedly more consumer oriented Pages from the iWorks suite. The most recent release of iWorks now runs on both Macs and iPhones, allowing folks to have the same lousy software on both their computer and mobile phone.

For our current purposes, I can still run AppleWorks (and even ClarisWorks 5) under the Rosetta emulator of Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6.8) on my Mac Mini and under SheepShaver Classic emulation on my newer MacBook Pro that runs Mavericks (Mac OS X 10.9).

I've hunted over the years for an alternative software application in which to do our garden planning. There are lots of commercial garden planners, but they seem to be heavy with cute plant images that I really don't want. I recently searched for open source alternatives, but only came up with a CropPlanning application that leans more towards small farmers and market gardeners than home gardeners and lacks a mapping feature.

For folks looking for a garden mapping application, I'd suggest looking for some kind of a draw program with easy controls for shapes (rectangles, ovals, etc.) and text manageable as moveable text boxes. I became very comfortable doing such things in ClarisWorks/AppleWorks when I was creating lots of learning materials for students in my classroom. Some of the math pages eventually became the freeware MATH DITTOS 2 series of math workbooks.

Sam’s Club

Thursday, November 14, 2013 - Another Seed Catalog

Baker Creek Whole Seed Catalog - 2014The Whole Seed Catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds came in yesterday. It's a new, paid version of their catalog that includes lots of interesting stories and recipes not included in their free, regular seed catalog along with all of their regular seed offerings. Someone at Baker Creek apparently has me on their "media list," and I got a freebie. I do wonder a bit at how well the new catalog from Baker Creek will sell, as their usual, free catalog has been one of the most attractive seed catalogs I've received over the last few years.

If you're unfamiliar with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, they sell only "non-hybrid [open pollinated], non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented" seed. We've relied on them for several years for a number of open pollinated varieties that we grow that we don't save seed from.

Tuesday Dinner and Sweet Potatoes

I planned a big meal for Tuesday evening, preparing ribeye steaks, baked potatoes, and freshly picked broccoli. Since our potatoes have some bad spots on them, I also baked one Nancy Hall sweet potato along with our usual Kennebec potatoes as insurance.

The cheapie ($5.95/lb) Save-A-Lot ribeyes turned out to be tougher than shoe leather despite being marinated all afternoon and then tenderized with Adolph's Meat Tenderizericon. I think they must have come from an old milk cow. Half of my steak was gristle, which made the dogs happy, at least. Annie's steak, fortunately, was somewhat better.

Sweet potato plant in glassCut slips rootingThe star of the meal turned out to be the sweet potato that I split for Annie and I. I noticed recently that R.H. Shumway didn't carry the Nancy Hall heirloom variety in 2013. We got our start of Nancy Hall's from them, but our sweet potato slips this year came from a saved sweet potato in a glass on the kitchen windowsill. Since starting with certified disease free plants is really a good idea, I did a web search tonight and found that George's Plant Farm (DGW rating) in Martin, Tennessee, carries the variety.

We've had pretty good luck keeping our sweet potatoes disease free, but I'll probably give George's a try next year for some fresh Nancy Hall and Beauregard slips. Our track record with getting living plants shipped to us from traditional seed houses, who job out the orders to third party growers and suppliers, has been pretty dismal. Usually, half of the plants arrive dead! Hopefully, ordering directly from a grower will turn out to be a better experience.

While we like sweet potatoes, we've found that we like butternut squash cooked like yams better for our family Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I'll probably only put out around six sweet potato plants of each variety, as they're very productive and digging potatoes and sweet potatoes is something my senior leg really doesn't much like!

Interesting Link

When I put together our list of Recommended Seed Suppliers in late October, I really debated as to whether R.H. Shumway should remain on that list. The list is made up of seed vendors we trust and have used in the last twelve to eighteen months. Shumway got their 2013 catalog out really late last year and therefore didn't get an order from us. I also was worried, as I'd seen some stuff online about the parent company, Jung Seeds, being owned by one of the really bad guys in the seed industry.

I found a very clear posting this evening on the Jung site, Jung Seed Company Is Not Owned By Monsanto, that allayed my fears about continuing to do business with Shumway and Jung. There have been a lot of inaccurate and irresponsible postings online over the last few years saying that various companies are owned by the Monsanto Corporation. These erroneous reports have resulted from well respected seed houses that buy seed from Seminis Gardens which was bought out by Monsanto in 2005. Many seed houses have tried to move away from purchasing seed from Seminis, a difficult proposition since they were "the largest developer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world" at that time. Jung Seeds has published a list of seed varieties they still buy and offer from Seminis. Rather than boycotting Jung and Shumway, I commend them for their honesty, notably lacking from a lot of other seed vendors.

Two really good postings may help you if you're determined to avoid the "evil empire" of Monsanto/Seminis. A 2009 article on Chicago Garden by Mr. Brown Thumb, an incredible garden blogger, The Boycotting of Monsanto-Seminis Seeds, debunks some of the irresponsible articles that have appeared online over the last few years while giving some good suggestions for avoiding seed from Monsanto and their subsidiary, Seminis.

Surprisingly, the second posting appears on the Monsanto owned Seminis site, An Introduction to Monsanto’s Seminis Home Garden Seed Business! While they state that they sell no home garden GMO seed, they also are pretty evasive in their comment about selling GMO sweet corn. My question would be, "Who are you selling the GMO sweet corn seed to?"

Old Seed for Early Orders?

I usually get most of our major seed orders submitted by the end of November which allows us to get our petunias, onions, and germaniums started in late December through mid-January. A rude awakening has caused me to rethink our ordering timetable a bit.

When I did our seed inventory earlier this month, I was suprised to find that several of the seed packets I'd ordered in November, 2012, had an expiration or sell by date of December, 2012. While the seed was technically still good, it was packed for the 2012 gardening season but still sold to me in November in what was obviously an order for the 2013 gardening season.

Call me naive, but I always thought when one ordered seed for say, 2013, one would receive seed grown out in the 2012 gardening season. It turns out that re-testing old seed and relabeling and/or repackaging it with fresh "sell by" and "packed for" dates may be fairly routine across the seed industry. If the seed meets federal germination guidelines, such practices are apparently legal!

So, I'm going to order some of our garden seed just a bit later this year than usual to have at least some chance of getting fresh seed.

Note: Parts of this posting were deleted, edited, updated, and rewritten 11/18/2013 to reflect a change in our recommended suppliers.

Saturday, November 16, 2013 - More Kale Soup

Canning kale soupKaleI'm babysitting the pressure canner this evening while writing this posting. I started our second batch of the season of Portuguese Kale Soup last evening and am just finishing up now. I thawed chicken and broth and frozen tomatoes last evening. After adding lots of onion and garlic to the pot, I let it simmer overnight.

I got started early this morning picking some of the cleanest kale I've ever grown. I guess the recent freezing temperatures have knocked off all the tiny worms that plague brassicas throughout the summer months. I didn't find a single worm while cleaning the kale.

This is a large batch of the soup, completely filling our twelve quart cooking kettle. I filled a four gallon bucket twice with pushed down kale for the soup as I never seem to get enough kale into it. Other than the smoked sausage, chicken and broth and some kidney beans, all of the ingredients for this batch came from our garden. Some, of course, had been frozen or canned during the summer, but we still know where almost everything in the pot came from.

I didn't deviate from the ingredients posted in our online recipe, but I did wait until the soup was almost done before adding the potatoes. In the past, I've added potatoes along with the other ingredients. That works well for fresh eating, but after a quart of soup goes through 90 minutes in the pressure canner (with another 30 minutes of cool down time until one can safely lift the lid of the canner), the potatoes get pretty mushy.

Lacinato, Red Urse, and Vates Kale

While I did add some Lacinatoiconicon (left) and Red Ursaicon (second from left) kale to the soup, the majority of the kale was our old standard, Vates ("Also called Dwarf Blue Curled or Dwarf Blue Scotch," just to confuse things a bit.)

Picking kale Hole by barn Kale stalks fill hole

As I picked today, I simply pulled up the kale plants and stripped off the best leaves from each. Since we're not going to try to winter over the kale, it was time for it to come out. The kale stalks went into a hole left open by someone on the farm next to us. Since the three foot deep hole was an invitation to an injury, and brassica stalks don't break down well in our compost pile, we've been filling the hole over the last few years with used cat litter, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale stalks. A couple of years ago, I put some asparagus stalks in it, only to be surprised the next spring to find baby asparagus growing from around the edges of the hole.

We ended up canning twelve quarts of kale soup after Annie and I had eaten our fill.

Sunday, November 17, 2013 - Stormy Weather

Stormy November 17, 2013
Canned kale soup

Like a good bit of the midwest today, it's wet and extremely windy outside. It is warm (70o F), but I think I'll just take it easy today, eating kale soup and watching football.

Other Vendors We Hope to Try in the Next Year

Just like the mental list of restaurants you'd like to try sometime, I'm always looking out for seed houses I'd like to try or support. But instead of just trying to remember them this year, I've been writing them down as I see them or someone recommends them. None of the following vendors are currently on our list of Recommended Seed Suppliers. Most of the vendors below have great ratings (DGW rating) from Dave's Garden Watchdog. As long as my seed budget holds out, I hope to give each a test order.

One More

I had no more than finished eating (and spilling) my bowl of soup before I ran across a truly unique seed vendor. Lisa Von Saunder's Amishland Heirloom Seeds (DGW rating) is a one-woman operation specializing in rare varieties she has obtained from "Old Order Amish, Old Order Mennonite, and Pennsylvania German farm families on their multigenerational farms" in her area of Pennsylvania. She also offers "rare colored, unusual, landrace, exotic, and foreign seeds from around the world," including "a growing collection of rare Belarusian/Russian/UKrainian tomatoes."

You can read more about Lisa Von Saunder's story in the articles below:

Monday, November 18, 2013 - First Seed Order

SSE - 50% Off SaleI placed my first seed order for the 2014 gardening season today! While I've not forgone my decision to delay most of my garden seed orders for the 2014 gardening season, I took advantage of a 50% off sale on 2013 seed packets from the Seed Savers Exchange. It's a "while supplies last" deal, so the selection is a bit spotty and quantities are undoubtedly limited.

I ordered three packets of Champion of England pea seed and a couple of packets of Milkmaid nasturtium seed. With the 50% sale and my SSE member discount of 10%, the five small packets of seed ran $6.21. The real surprise was that the shipping & handling charge was only $1.93!

The Milkmaid nasturtium variety is one that didn't do well for us this year, but none of our nasturtiums planted along the back edge of our East Garden did well. So we'll try them again along with a few other nasturtium varieties along the west side of the East Garden next year. For some reason, there seems to be less weed pressure there. While our nasturtiums this year didn't germinate well, they also suffered from intense weed pressure, eventually getting overgrown despite my efforts at trying to keep the sparse planting clean.

Amish Snap and Champion of EnglandPeas in 2012Our early spring pea planting next year will include an expanded planting of Champion of England, Mr. Big, and possibly some Spanish Skyscraper peas if I can find seed for them again. We were really impressed with the large, full pods produced by the Champion of England variety the last two years. To make room for the expanded planting, we're dropping the Amish Snap variety. It produced lots of peas for us last year, but the pods dried out quickly, were hard to shell, and weren't as sweet as we hoped. Of course, we were using a snap pea for shelling, so that may not be a major knock on the variety. And...we're planning on planting a forty foot row of the Supersweet Eclipse pea in the East Garden next spring.

If I am able to get some Spanish Skyscraper pea seed, I'll plant them around a utility pole with trellis netting extending at least eight feet high. Our small planting of them last year quickly outgrew our five foot high trellis. I've read of them growing to incredible heights and up, over, and down trellises!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - Gluten-Free Rolls

Grandma's Yeast RollsCinnamon RollsFive years ago, I posted our family recipe for Grandma's Yeast Rolls here on Senior Gardening. It's been handed down at least three generations and is a family favorite. There's even a variation of it for making Cinnamon Rolls.

Getting ready for our family Thanksgiving dinner put me online earlier this week in search of gluten-free roll recipes. Since several of our family members have gone gluten-free for health reasons, I'd tried just substituting gluten-free flour in our yeast roll recipe last November. The result was some pale hockey pucks.

I found the recipe I wanted on Michelle Palin's My Gluten-Free Kitchen site, Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls (Gluten-free). After hunting in vain most of yesterday afternoon in Terre Haute for the Mama’s Almond Blend Flour Palin specifies, I went ahead and did a test batch of the recipe last night using the King Arthur Multipurpose Flour leftover from last Thanksgiving's hockey puck disaster. I also had a bit of trouble finding affordable xanthan gum, but finally found small, 49¢ packages of it at Walmart.

Gluten-free rollsThe rolls were great! Well, the rolls were great for gluten-free rolls. Mine didn't turn out as pretty as Michelle's did, but they were certainly edible and really come fairly close in quality to our family yeast roll recipe. I think the gluten-free crowd (all three of them) at our Thanksgiving feast will like them.

Making the rolls is a bit different than making standard yeast rolls. For one thing, you don't have to knead or double-rise the dough. The dough is actually fairly wet and sticky when you spoon it into a cake pan. Michelle gives excellent instructions on her site, making the process pretty easy.

Since I used regular dry yeast instead of the rapid rise Michelle lists in her ingredients, it took about three hours total to make the rolls.

Now I need to figure out what to do for gluten-free stuffing.

Celebrate Thanksgiving with a smile! Save $10 when you spend $59.99 & Up on Flowers & Gifts. Use Code TURKEY59 at checkout

Celebrate Thanksgiving with a smile! Save $10 when you spend $59.99 & Up on Flowers & Gifts. Use Code TURKEY59 at checkout.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Senior Garden - November 22, 2013

Defrosting - 2011
Broccoli on November 22!

It's cold, wet, and windy here today. I think I've really gotten spoiled with some of the nice fall weather we've had this month. But it does feel like winter outside this morning.

Rather than doing much gardening these days, Annie and I are in full, flat out Thanksgiving preparation. When she got home from work last night, she found me just beginning our biennial task of defrosting our self-defrosting refrigerator/freezer. The drain line from the freezer to a drip pan under the fridge freezes up every so often and requires a bit of work with a hair dryer to get it open and flowing again.

I went out to our main raised bed this morning in the mist to see if a head of broccoli I've been watching was ready. I could have cut it, but decided to leave it a day or so more. We still have several more small main heads maturing, but at some point the frost will get them. One small head already is showing some frost damage. Surprisingly, our row of cauliflower has pulled through all the freezes we've had so far. The cauliflower heads have a very heavy leaf cover, so maybe we'll get really lucky and get a head or two there.

New Boston Album

AmazonSomewhere in my many travels on the internet, I ran across the information that Boston (the band) has a new album coming out. Life, Love & Hope will be available on December 3, 2013. I've already pre-ordered it from Amazon, as they offer the physical CD plus the download at essentially the same price as iTunes gets for the download only. If you have an aging rocker on your Christmas list, this album might be something they'd like.

I've caught two Boston concerts over the years. The first was their Walk On Tour at Deer Creek in Indy back in the days where you could get a cheap high just by breathing the air around you! Both of my sons were with me for the event. Much later, Annie and I took in their Corporate America Tour concert at the same venue.

As usual, the cover art on the "album" is great. The Amazon ad (above left) really doesn't do the image justice. The full size image (1500 x 1500 pixels) shows the Boston spaceship with the city of Boston riding atop it in a dome over a background of part of a nebulae.

Back to Gardening

Cauliflower tight leaf coverRed Ursa KaleAfter zoning out on Boston a bit, I realized that our one mature head of broccoli might be damaged by a coming cold spell. So I went back outside and cut it. While I was there, I grabbed a shot of the leaf cover over a developing head of cauliflower. I also cleared the last of the kale, retaining enough of the Red Ursaicon leaves to make a nice mess of boiled kale seasoned with garlic, onions, and a bit of bacon for supper. I pulled all of our Vates kale when picking for Portuguese Kale Soup last week. Our remaining Lacinatoiconicon kale didn't look appealing, so it all went into the cart rather than into the picking pot. Three immature pumpkins that were trying to "melt down" on the back porch also went into the cart. It's contents are all destined for the compost pile and a special hole we're filling with tough, fibrous stems.

Saturday, November 23, 2013 - Brrr

Weather Channel 10-day ForecastBotanical InterestsIt's cold outside this morning. It's almost noon and the temperature hasn't gotten to or above freezing yet. Looking at the Weather Channel's 10-day garden forecast doesn't offer much hope. I guess I have to accept that it's late fall going into winter at last.

Now I'm glad that I went ahead and picked our one mature head of broccoli yesterday, as our rows of broccoli and cauliflower look pretty droopy this morning. And of course, the kale I picked and boiled, seasoned with salt, garlic, onions, a bit of bacon, and some ham chunks and drippings, was delicious.

Now On The Cutting Room Floor

When I looked a bit at the photo I ran yesterday of some Red Ursa kale, I liked the picture the more I looked. So this morning I added it to our Cutting Room Floor page of free, downloadable, desktop images and added it to my desktop image rotation. The Cutting Room Floor page is where images bumped off our regular Desktop Photos page go and photos such as the kale, which are good enough to go on Desktop Photos, wait until I get around to modifying the main desktop page.

Red Ursa Kale Desktop

Mac users may get a kick out of seeing all the add-ons I use, here in my Snow Leopard partition, to make my Mac do what I want. Because vertical desktop space is precious with widescreens, I keep the Mac dock on the left. Corner hotspots are from MaxMenus from the now defunct Proteron shareware folks. A DragThing dock also eases navigation to frequently used folders, applications, and documents. Users of the SheepShaver emulator will recognize the "Shared" folder on the lower left of the desktop. I run Classic Mac 8.1 under SheepShaver on my Mac Mini.

Along the top toolbar, PopChar allows me to quickly add special characters such as the cents sign (¢) to text. The still free Sophos Antivirus for Mac helps keep my Mac safe from viruses. SMARTReporter reports the S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) test of hard drive reliability done on all drives at startup or mounting. StuffIt compresses and decompresses files. And of course, Little Snitch keeps track of all the applications and add-ons on my Mac that want to phone home and allows me to allow or deny them access to my hard drive.

Back to Gardening

I realized over the last year that the intro to our recipe and feature story on Portuguese Kale Soup is now totally pretty well outdated. It currently states:

Kale is a little known vegetable, other than often appearing as garnish on salad bars in restaurants. That's too bad, as it's a tasty green that has fabulous health benefits. With a lush crop of kale ready to be picked, I decided to grab the camera and document what passes for a kale soup recipe at our house.

Since I wrote and posted the kale soup recipe in 2008, the world has finally discovered kale. It's become an "in thing" to order when eating out. While I still haven't made a kale shake, I still delight in having boiled kale and kale soup. When I finally get around to updating our kale soup recipe, I'm going to want to do some searching and experimentation with other kale recipes that now abound online.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dead cauliflower and broccoliMain raised bed - November 24, 2013The low last night dipped to 15o F. That's the lowest temperature we've had so far this fall and was more than enough to do in our rows of broccoli and cauliflower. That we were able to pick any broccoli at all was surprising after rabbits ate our transplants off to the ground in August. The broccoli we did get came from direct seeding I did on August 9 after the rabbits had done their dirty deed.

I gave up watching the Colts miserable performance against the Cardinals in the second quarter and went out and pulled all the dead plants. That leaves only a few, rather sad looking, spinach plants in our main raised garden bed.

I've saved three large bales of peat moss to work into the northern half of our main raised bed. I'd worked a similar amount of peat moss into the southern half of the bed in July. The peat will improve the organic matter of the soil, making it easier to work and for roots to penetrate. It will also raise the soil level a couple of inches, a need that became obvious last spring when the raised bed flooded in both May and June. Being able to work the area will depend on any more precipitation holding off for a few days and the ground thawing in the afternoons.

Flashback

As I looked over past postings this evening to nail down when some of the flooding of our main raised bed occurred, I ran across a shot of our main garden that reminds me why I go to all the trouble of gardening.

Our Senior Garden - 7/15/2013

I begin and end each day with a prayer of thanks for the day. Having the time and health to continue doing something productive is an incredible blessing. Views such as the one above are another.

Weekly Deals from Ritz Camera

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - Correction (We Keep Learning!)

Mike Bryce had written to me earlier this month questioning whether geranium seed had to be started in total darkness. I thought it did, but wasn't certain of my source. When I researched a bit, I only found a few references that backed up my recommendation in our Growing Geraniums from Seed feature story for germinating the seed in total darkness! I wrote Mike as much and had to admit that I really wasn't sure on the issue.

Mike wrote a seed supplier and was sent a copy of a geranium growers' guide by Goldsmith Seeds. The guide does not recommend total darkness for germinating geranium seed. In fact, it states that "providing a light source of 10 – 100 foot candles (100 – 1,000 lux) will improve germination and reduce stretch."

I tried researching footcandles and ended up with a quick headache. But from one source, it appears that "10 – 100 foot candles" is in the range of normal room lighting, with a hundred footcandles being a pretty bright room.

My thanks to Mike for following up and finding the correct information. I didn't find the guide online until late last night, but was really pleased to be able to provide a link to the page. The information came from Goldsmith's Technical Services Library which has fact sheets for many different flower varieties. While intended for professional growers, my experience shows even we home gardeners can learn something useful from such publications.

Mike also allowed me to publish some great images of his home, garden, and greenhouse in an April, 2012, posting. Sadly, in the storms that swept through the midwest a week or so ago, Mike "lost the door and several roof panels of the greenhouse."

Mountain Valley Seeds

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - Thanksgivings Past (in the garden)

The Senior Garden - November 27, 2013
The Senior Garden - November 28, 2012
The Senior Garden - November 23, 2011

I took a look back today at how our garden looked around Thanksgiving the last few years. Both last year and this, things are pretty well done, but in 2011, we were still actively gardening! I'm actually sorta glad we're done for the year at this point.

Getting Ready

I spent a good bit of time yesterday chasing down the (almost) last few items we needed for our Thanksgiving Day feast. Since we're a blended family, we actually have two Thanksgiving dinners, one on Thursday and another on Saturday for those who have other commitments on Thanksgiving Day. Having two big dinners is a lot of work, but it also cuts down the amount of leftovers. But I think one last trip to town for some bags of ice, of all things (It's 21o F outside as I write this morning.), and we should be all set.

Oops, I forgot Reynolds Turkey Bags!

Amazon - Nesco Roaster OvenMy wife's birthday happens to fall on Thanksgiving this year, so getting a cake was part of my shopping yesterday. Along the way, I was given what appears to be a great recipe for a fruit, gluten-free cake from the owner of a local health food store. It wasn't one of those fancy, commercial, preprinted ones, but one he cranked out a copy of from his simple, printed copy. If it turns out well, I'll share the recipe here sometime in the future. But I also have a white cake and chocolate cupcakes from Kroger for the birthday party.

Since we have a lot of items to go into the oven on Thanksgiving, we bought a Nesco Roaster Oven several years ago to ease the traffic jam in the oven.

I was at the health food store looking for gluten-free stuffing (dressing) mix, but they didn't carry any. So last night, I combined a couple of recipes (1, 2) I'd found online and made a small, test batch of gluten-free dressing that was at least edible. Annie thought it was good. If Stove Top ranked a seven on a one to ten scale of goodness, I'd give the gluten-free dressing around a four!

Barring any last minute ideas (or disasters), we'll be having peas, green beans, sweet corn, and butternut squash (cooked as yams) out of the garden tomorrow. Of course, there'll be onions, carrots, garlic, and lots of herbs from the garden as well used in seasoning the turkey and dressing. We'll be hosting 9-12 people tomorrow.

Have a great Thanksgiving Day!

Thursday, November 28, 2013 - Thanksgiving Day (U.S.)

Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing Give Thanks:
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Happy Thanksgiving

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November, 2013, animated gifAnother Thanksgiving is now past with a couple of joyous family gatherings. I'm especially thankful that once again I didn't kill anyone with my cooking! No one raved about it, but also, no one went to the hospital.

The gluten-free cake recipe I mentioned on Wednesday turned out to be a bust. sad The gluten-free rolls and dressing were okay, and as always, Grandma's Yeast Rolls (non gluten-free) rocked. For the dressing, I modified the recipe, replacing the cooking wine with extra chicken broth.

We're also at the end of another wonderful season of gardening. A few end-of-the-season chores remain to be done, but we're now at the point of enjoying the bounty we put by over the season and preparing for yet another gardening season.

Johnny's Selected Seeds 2014 Catalog CoverOur copy of the 2014 Johnny's Selected Seeds catalog came in yesterday. It was a delight to look through, as usual. As I paged through the catalog, I found several items I'd like to try next year, including Patterson storage onions, Coastal Star romaine lettuce (said to be heat tolerant), Sweet Sunrise yellow bell peppers, and Red Pearl grape tomatoes.

It appears that Johnny's has bumped up the base price of packets of the kinds of things we order from $3.45 to $3.65. While Johnny's didn't increase base packet prices for 2013, they boosted them a whopping 17% (50¢/packet) in 2012. For seniors living on Social Security, such price increases are a bit tough to swallow when next year's COLA will only be 1.5%.

Even with the price increases, Johnny's will get a good bit more of our garden order this year than last. They sell quality seed, have good customer service, and, I just like doing business with an employee-owned company.

Like many retirees, watching our pennies on seed orders allows Annie and I are able to do some things now that were simply impossible when we were raising and supporting our (combined - yours, mine, but all ours) six children. One of those things we can now do is to support and publicize the ministry of one of our nieces and her husband, Elisabeth and Wayne Bloomquist. They are missionaries in Cambodia, doing the Lord's work. If you're looking for a good place for end-of-the-year charitable contributions, Wayne and Libby would appreciate your support.

See Wayne & Libby Bloomquist: How the Lord Called Us Both into Ministry for details.

October, 2013

December, 2013

From Steve, the at Senior Gardening

 

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