Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

Our Senior Garden - 10/19/2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October is the month when we shift our main focus in the garden from harvesting to cleaning up our garden plots and getting them ready for next year. We'll still be harvesting tomatoes, fall lettuce, bell peppers, and possibly some pumpkins and paprika peppers right up to the first frost, but soil preparation and having all of our garden plots totally "put to bed" for the winter before the weather turns bad will be our primary goal.

We want to have all of our various garden plots cleared of garden refuse, tested for soil pH and limed if necessary, and tilled. Especially important is determining where our spring peas will go and getting that bed ready. We try to plant our early peas in March when working the soil is usually not possible, so fall preparation allows us to be ready to plant, even if the ground is still wet and partially frozen.

Getting our fall garlic planted this month is also a priority. We've cheated in the past and waited until November to plant garlic, but I really think that's hurt our garlic harvest in past years.

We'll definitely see our first frost this month, but may get past it with floating row covers to protect some late fall crops.

Butternut Squash

Butternut patch
Butternuts on truck

Today's garden cleanup was focused on picking the last of our Waltham Butternut Squashicon. We grow our butternuts outside our East Garden proper, as their vines tend to overwhelm any other crops growing nearby. Outside the rows of our East Garden, we encourage such vigorous growth by planting the butternuts on the site of previous years' compost piles, hold back weeds with grass clippings, and give them all the space they want.

Having picked a few butternuts last month, I was better prepared today to cut the tough stems of the squash. I usually use hand pruning shears to cut the butternuts, but today took our lopping shears to easily snip the butternut stems from the vines. That turned out to be a very good idea, as there were lots of butternuts mature enough to save.

The butternut vines and immature squash all went on our compost heap. I'll run the mower over the area sometime in the next few days to chop up and spread the remaining grass clippings. Re-seeding the area with grass seed really isn't necessary, as the area isn't lawn and has lots of field grass (and weed) seed in it from the mulch.

While I had the hand shears with me, I also cut a few eggplant.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013 - Carrot Day

Carrot rowsDebbie Meyer Green BagsThis is the first year I've grown fall carrots, but it probably won't be the last. We usually get our carrots seeded in April and harvest a good crop of them in June and July. Even with a spring/summer crop, we have no problem storing carrots through the winter in Debbie Meyer Green Bags. There's been a lot of online chatter about those bags being overrated and ineffective, but we've had good luck with them for carrots. Of course, I got a bunch of boxes of them on a closeout sale last year at a local grocery (50¢ a box!).

Our spring carrots this year were terribly disappointing. First, one of our dogs dug up part of our planting. Then just before we were ready to harvest what was left, strong rains flooded our main raised bed, causing a good bit of rot in our carrots.

Having had a poor carrot crop during last year's drought, I was determined to get some good carrots this year for winter use. While mid-summer direct seedings are usually difficult here due to dry soil conditions, we had just enough soil moisture to get good germination from a July 21 planting. Some timely rains before things dried out in August and a bit of watering got the carrots off to a fantastic start.

I should add here that the area where we grew our fall carrots is probably the best soil in our garden. When I harvested our garlic crop in June, the soil seemed a bit heavy to me, so I renovated it with a good bit of peat moss dug in deep with a garden fork along with some commercial fertilizer (5-24-24) and lime. Then the plot was tilled two different times to break up the heavy clay soil clumps left by digging garlic in wet conditions and the deep digging in of the peat moss. By the time I was ready to plant, I was working with nearly perfect loam soil.

Once the carrot plants emerged and had a bit of size on them, it was just a matter of keeping the narrow rows (4" spacing) weeded until I mulched them with grass clippings. As the season wore on, I found that most of the "weeds" I pulled that had emerged through the mulch were tomato plants! I'd added some compost last fall that obviously hadn't heated up enough in decomposition to kill the tomato seed.

For our fall crop, I went with Mokum, Scarlet Nantesicon, Laguna, and Adelaide carrots simply because that's what seed I had on hand. I had looked and even filled my shopping basket at Johnny's Selected Seeds with great fall carrot varieties, but dumped the order because of Johnny's exorbitant shipping rate (and no online coupon or promo for free shipping) for four light, tiny packets of seed. As things turned out, all four varieties produced lovely carrots.

Digging carrotsLifting soilI purposely picked a day to dig carrots when the sky was heavily overcast, allowing me to work without any of my usual sun protective clothing. As I worked the carrot rows, it misted and even began to drizzle at one point, but never really rained. The soil was moist, however, from a rain a day or so ago. It was really a glorious day to dig carrots.

But I really didn't dig the carrots. It was more a case of using a garden fork inserted deeply 4-6" to the side of one row to lift and loosen the soil a bit. Then I gently pulled bunches of carrots before moving on with my garden fork to loosen another area. I think today's effort has to be the easiest "digging" of carrots I've ever done.

The dug carrots got shaken off a bit and then swished around in a bucket of water. I'd leave each bunch to soak a bit until I came back with another bunch of carrots to clean. I nearly filled our entire garden cart with carrots.

Carrots in cart

Soaking carrotsTrimming carrotsWhen done, I filled the garden cart with water and allowed the carrots to soak a bit.

While digging (or lifting) the carrots really didn't take all that long, I spent the rest of the day cleaning, trimming, and storing our harvest.

I took a cutting board and knives outdoors to trim the tops and long roots off the carrots. While trimming, I also tried to sort out any carrots with insect damage, as they will spoil more quickly in storage. (More about the culls later.)

Final soaking and cleaningBagging carrotsOnce trimmed, the carrots came inside for yet another soaking in the kitchen sink. If needed, the carrots were brushed to remove as much dirt as possible. Since most of our carrots are small, a thorough cleaning may eliminate the need for tedious peeling later on.

The carrots were sorted by size and allowed to air dry. Then they went into green bags for long term storage in the refrigerator.

Our yield was about twelve pounds of bagged carrots for storage. That's not nearly what we got from our last good harvest in 2011, but still pretty good for a fall crop.

Cull carrotsI have almost five pounds of ugly duckling culls currently drying on the kitchen counter. Tomorrow, I'll cut out the bad spots, peel where necessary, slice, blanch, dry, and freeze the culls as cut carrots. While we like using our stored carrots in our cooking, there are times when it's nice to be able to just pull a handful of frozen cut carrots out of a bag for whatever we're cooking. We should have plenty!

I titled today's posting "Carrot Day" because the process of digging, cleaning, and storing carrots is usually an all day activity. As it turned out, I ran out of energy before I got the culls processed for freezing, so that will have to be done tomorrow. I also have two buckets of carrot foliage and such and a cart full of dirty water to take care of in the morning. The contents of the buckets will go on the compost pile, while the water, with all the garden soil I washed off the carrots, will get dumped back into our main raised bed.

Thursday, October 3, 2013 - Freezing Carrots

Yesterday's Carrot Day fun and games spilled over into today when I ran out of time and enthusiasm last night for the task of freezing our carrot culls. But I got on the job this morning, spending a couple hours peeling and chopping carrots. While I'd hoped some of the carrots might be clean enough to freeze without peeling, almost all had small white roots that needed peeling. And of course, all of the carrots had bad spots to be cut or peeled out, the reason they got culled from the carrots to be stored fresh.

Drying blanched carrots Frozen carrots on cookie sheet Bagged carrots

After peeling and chopping the carrots, they got a good rinse before being blanched (or scalded as the Ball Blue Book says) for three or four minutes. I air dried the carrots on towels before moving them to a cookie sheet for freezing. After about four hours in the freezer, I moved the frozen carrots into quart freezer bagsicon, being careful to squeeze out as much air as possible.

Beyond freezing carrots and hauling cuttings to the compost pile, I didn't get any gardening done today. I was on the road a bit hauling all of our extra butternut squash and a few melons to The Light House Mission in Terre Haute. I'm glad they can use them, as we had a bumper crop of butternuts this year.

Light House Mission

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Red Candy grape tomato plant
Red Candy grape tomatoes

Hummingbird at feeder Oct. 6After having very little rain most of August and September, we received just shy of three inches of rainfall in the last twenty-four hours! The rain came with a cold front that really feels like fall. Even so, the current ten day forecast shows no prediction of frost or near freezing overnight lows.

One plant I haven't mentioned much here is our Red Candy grape tomato plant. I'd let our grandkids handle most of the picking from this plant over the summer. Just as we were getting into our recent dry spell, I rather severely pruned the plant back to within the confines of its tomato cage. It has finally resumed producing. I picked a pint or so of vary flavorful grape tomatoes today.

Going just from memory (not always a good thing), I don't remember hummingbirds staying around this late in previous years. But we still have at least three hummingbirds visiting our feeder(s). Early this morning as I was making coffee, I noticed two hummingbirds just sitting at the feeder without feeding from it. They seemed to be huddled around it like campers around a campfire trying to stay warm. I didn't get a good picture of them then, but later in the day snapped a shot through our kitchen window of just one hummingbird on the feeder.

Sam’s Club

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - content deleted

Saturday, October 12, 2013 - Earlirouge Tomatoes

Earlirouge tomatoesWhen I finished up writing the feature story Working to Save a Pea Variety, I realized that we'd been lucky enough this year to pull not one, but two rabbits out of the hat. Besides nursing a very small stand of Eclipse peas into producing a nice seed crop, we also had a great harvest of, and saved seed from the Earlirouge tomato variety.

Quinte tomatoesI started to do a posting here about Earlirouge tomatoes before realizing that I'd already written about them extensively last month. Not wanting to waste what I'd written, I just put it up as a feature story, Earlirouge Tomatoes.

Apparently not to be outdone, our Quinte tomatoes yielded quite a picking today. Annie, grandson Brady, and I half filled a four gallon bucket this evening with Quinte tomatoes. The Quintes were the last of our tomatoes to get transplanted this year and went into some really nasty, clay soil. They took forever to ripen, but that has worked out well, as some of our other tomato plants are finally fading out.

Not Getting Much Done

Bell peppers

Before planting After planting
Before planting (buckwheat) After planting

While there remains lots of garden cleanup to be done, my body has once again betrayed me. I'm taking it easy for a few days to let my bum leg heal up a bit before getting back to things. Of course, the leg doesn't stop me from working at the computer, hence, two feature stories added in just a few days. The stories were already in the pipeline, of course, and there's still one more almost done. I planted a bit of buckwheat where our green beans had previously been to help the soil a bit and also for the upcoming feature story. I only had to clear some mulch away and work the soil a bit with a rake to get things planting ready.

And besides picking tomatoes, we're still getting some nice bell peppers, despite a bit of bacterial spot here and there. This is the first year we've grown Sweet Chocolate peppers. They make a nice color contrast in the image at left.

Raised Beds

Monday, October 14, 2013 - Coming Soon...

Weather Channel Ten Day ForecastFor those of us gardening in temperate climate zones, a change will be coming soon. I've been keeping an eye on the ten day weather forecast and noticed over the weekend the first posting I've seen of a potential, upcoming frost or freeze. Of course, as one local weather person recently commented, "Hey, it's mid-October and we've been having sunny days in the 70s!"

The current 10-day garden forecast from the Weather Channel warns of three upcoming potential frosty mornings. While the overnight lows for those three days are still in the upper 30s, it doesn't take much of a change in the weather to bring those temperatures down into the frost danger zone.

October 20, 2011Being prepared for a frost can extend ones gardening season well beyond a first frost that is often followed by a week or more of good growing weather. Tender crops such as lettuce can be covered with light floating row covers to protect them down to around 28o F. Heavier covers that provide even more protection are available, although they also limit the amount of sunlight reaching the covered crops. In the late fall we experienced in 2011, we used floating row covers to allow us to pick green beans and lettuce in November, almost up to Thanksgiving Day!

All manner of blankets, cold frames, and such can be employed for frost protection for crops, although it can be a hassle covering and uncovering crops each evening and morning. One item to avoid is plastic. While clear plastic is a good choice for holding in heat in a cold frame, plastic anchored over tender crops seems to allow too much cold to penetrate it to provide much protection.

We're in an unusual situation this fall with few crops we wish to push past the first frost. Our tomato plants are pretty well played out for the year after heavy pickings last week. Our row of bell peppers plants, however, still have lots of large, green peppers on them we may want to pick early or cover. With shorter days and less sunlight in the fall, things don't ripen as rapidly as in summer, so we'll probably opt to just pick lots of green peppers instead of messing with covering the plants. And our fall lettuce will also probably just get picked early. I didn't put in a lot of fall lettuce, and sadly, several of the transplants went to seed fairly early.

Brassicas such as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli can handle a light frost, with kale seeming to be even more frost hardy. We'll hope they make it through any initial frosts. I'd like to get one more good picking of kale. Our cauliflower and broccoli were set back severely when rabbits ate our transplants just after we put them in. I direct seeded some more, but the chances of them maturing and producing a crop before a killing frost are slim.

Having just put up whole tomatoes again yesterday, I find my enthusiasm for pushing the growing season past our first frost to be pretty limited. I may concentrate more this year on getting our garden plots cleaned up and ready for winter and spring...and getting our fall garlic planting on time for once.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Trellises still upTrellises downI had a not so quick reminder yesterday that taking down and storing trellises takes just about as much time and energy as putting them up. Possibly the biggest difference in the processes is that taking them down isn't nearly as much fun as putting them up in anticipation of new crops.

But I did get three of the four trellises we used this year taken down. I store the nylon netting in plastic bags labeled with the netting's size and condition noted in marker. The plastic covered clothesline wire also gets saved for future use.

T-post painting rackThe T-posts got washed off and temporarily placed on the wood frame of our cold frame. I'll need to wire brush the posts to get the last of the dirt off of them and to remove any loose rust. Then they'll get another wash before getting a coating of Rustoleum iconand being stored in the garage for the winter.

We got just enough light rain today to prevent any serious gardening or mowing.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Broccoli 1
Broccoli 2
Broccoli heads

Having taken down the trellises in our main garden on Monday that also supported our tomato cages, one of the cages promptly blew over in the wind last night. I hadn't kept up pruning our Red Candy grape tomato plant, so it was rather top heavy. While I had other things on my to do list for today, clearing the two tomato plants from our main garden became job one.

While in the area, I grabbed a shot of our marigolds that are now in full bloom and also took a quick look at our broccoli and cauliflower. I'm glad I checked the brassicas, as two heads of broccoli were ready to be picked! These heads of broccoli are an unexpected bonus, as rabbits ate our fall broccoli transplants off to the ground. Even though I thought it was probably too late, I went ahead and direct seeded both broccoli and cauliflower into the area, as I had nothing else to go there this season. Even if we only get the two heads shown at right, that's two more than I thought we'd get.

Alma paprika pepper plantI'd originally planned to start my gardening day by picking paprika peppers. When I took a good look at our Alma pepper plants shown at left, I realized that the peppers still needed a few days to ripen. Our Feher Ozon paprika peppers are at about the same stage of ripeness. Our late planted Paprika Supreme pepper plants have no peppers on them at all!

The ten day weather forecast appears to show that we won't have our first frost until around Thursday next. That should allow the Almas and Feher Ozons to redden up a bit (well, orange up a bit in the case of the Feher Ozons).

The main event of my morning of gardening turned out to be clearing the last of the sweet potato vines and bringing in just a few more Nancy Hall sweet potatoes. We got a lot more vine than sweet potato this year, possibly due to too much nitrogen in the ground. At least the vines added a good bit of material to our compost pile.

To celebrate the event, I donned my I Have a PhD in Compost: It's Piled High and Deep T-shirt.

Old Guy's Compost T-shirt Compost - East Garden Compost PhD  Phd White T-Shirt by CafePress

And as you can see above, we're getting close to the point where I'll be able to till our entire East Garden for the fall.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My wife, Annie, commented this week that we're not seeing a lot of fall color here yet. Our youngest daughter, Julia, had asked Annie to send her a picture of trees in their fall reds and oranges. Living in Louisiana, Julia apparently was a bit homesick for at least the color of the change in seasons we experience here.

A bit of fall color

Weather Channel 10-day Garden ForecastFeher Ozon paprika pepper plantOur current weather forecast includes five straight days with overnight lows at or near freezing, so our fall view is likely to become much more colorful in the next week or so. Such a forecast also puts some pressure on us to either pick or protect any existing crops we have growing from the coming frost. Sadly, it also lets us know that the end of another growing season is at hand. Some crops, such as our Feher Ozon paprika peppers shown at right, simply won't have enough growing season left to ripen.

I transplanted our paprika peppers into plots isolated from our other garden patches to insure purity of pollination for seed saving. But I didn't get the isolation plots turned until well into June. I've already saved seed from a few Alma and Feher Ozon peppers that ripened early, but we will probably will end up with a very small batch of ground paprika this year.

Bonnie's AsparagusOur asparagus patchAnother sign of fall is the browning out of one of our asparagus patches. Bonnie's Asparagus, an old, old stand that actually is off our property but on land we care for, browned out early this year. Our much younger asparagus patch has just a bit of brown, but remains predominately green. The difference isn't any cause for alarm, as the two patches are distinctly different varieties of asparagus.

Fall tilling is currently on hold, as we've had a bit of rain each night for the last several nights. The morning started out cold and cloudy, after overnight showers. My hands were quite cold after going out to check our paprika peppers.

With the wet weather, I doubt I'll get much gardening done today. I'm glad I got our yard mowed yesterday. I'd still like to mow the field our East Garden is in one more time before fall turns into winter.

With all this talk of fall and fall colors, let me leave you with a shot of our main garden which is resplendent with the color of summer flowers...

Main Garden, October 19, 2013

...and an oldie with possibly a touch of fall humor.

Summer's Gone - Paul Anka

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bell and paprika peppersThe predicted low temperatures in our weather forecast have bounced around a bit, but the constant has been freezing or near freezing temperatures for the next five or six mornings. Those predictions, along with a good bit of end-of-the-season gardener weariness, led me to pick as much produce from our garden yesterday and today as possible, rather than trying to cover things with floating row covers, blankets, and whatever else I might have at hand. A predicted overnight low of 25-26o F for Thursday morning weighed heavily in my thinking, as row covers generally only protect crops under them down to around 28o.

Since we'd picked tomatoes last week, most of our recent picking was of paprika and sweet bell peppers. I dehydrated and ground a small batch of ripe, paprika peppers today, but am waiting and hoping the immature ones I picked will color up a bit more before processing them. Some of the bell peppers will be frozen for winter use, although most of the green ones will go to my wife's coworkers.

I also sprayed for bugs and brought in our two hanging basket wax begonias today. The rest of our basket plants on the porch were all annuals and pretty well spent at that. They went onto the compost heap, along with some bolted lettuce. I did bring in a nice head each of Crispino and Skyphos lettuce.

I had taken down our rain gauge last week when I pulled the trellis on which it was mounted to protect it from freezing and splitting open. I had also taken down our hummingbird feeders, but didn't get finished cleaning them until today. They're now stored in the basement until next spring. Our last hummingbird left just two weeks ago!

Summer came and passed away,
hardly seemed to last a day
but it's over and what can I do?
Music playin' in the air,
silence on a darkened stair
'cos it's over and what can I do?
Amazon - ELO - It's OverTrying to extend the ad theme from yesterday (Paul Anka's Summer's Gone), I had to scramble around and hunt a bit before finding a song with a few words about the end of summer. As with Anka's hit, today's choice from the Electric Light Orchestra, It's Over, has little to do with the end of summer and more to do with the end of a relationship. But what the heck, it does begin "Summer came and passed away..."

If nothing else, Out of the Blue has to have one of the coolest album covers ever.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - First Frost

As was long predicted, we had our first frost of the season this morning with temperatures reaching just below freezing (31o F). I was actually a little surprised at how little frost damage there was in our main garden. The tops of our caged pepper plants had been nipped, but I also picked some lovely spinach leaves this afternoon that showed little ill effect other than some severe curling.

Frost damaged pumpkin vines

If I had missed weather reports of the frost, our pumpkin vines would attest to the overnight low temperatures. The hill has five or six good sized, green pumpkins that may color up by Thanksgiving! I got them in late this year and paid the price.

Rather than bemoaning the end of the growing season, I spent a good bit of time today starting germination tests on saved seed and bagging and freezing the remainder of that seed. I had two batches of Alma paprika peppers to test, along with a small batch of Feher Ozon paprika pepper seed. I try to do germination tests on all of the seed we intend to offer via the Seed Savers Exchange Annual Yearbook.

Peppers ready for freezingThis evening I cored, seeded, and washed red, green, and chocolate sweet bell peppers in preparation for freezing them. Noticeably absent from the colors are any gold or yellow peppers. Our yellow and gold peppers didn't do very well this year. We freeze the peppers without blanching them and haven't killed anyone yet with them. Once frozen, they go into a ziplock freezer bag.

And...we had spaghetti and salad for supper tonight. The spaghetti sauce included garlic, onions, basil, oregano, and tomatoes from the garden. The salad was from garden lettuce with grape tomatoes and carrot shavings from the garden.

I wound up my gardening and writing day listening to the latest podcast of A Way to Garden with Margaret Roach. Lee Reich was her guest, talking about How to Make Compost and Use It.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We didn't have another frost last night, but when I got out to the pumpkin patch, the vines were just as dead today as they were yesterday. I cut six green pumpkins, several of good size and weight. After loading the pumpkins on the truck, I was able to just pull the base of the vines and drag the whole mess to the compost pile in one trip.

Green pumpkins Compost Pile

Frozen pepper strips in bagPaprika peppers in dehydratorThe peppers I put in the freezer last evening ended up filling a gallon freezer bag. That's just about what we'll need for winter use.

Enough of our paprika peppers had colored up, or my standards had changed enough, that I started dehydrating another load of them today. The house is filled with a sweet, but sharp aroma of peppers. And if you happen to wipe your eye after cutting the peppers, oh my! It's not nearly as bad as it would be with hot pepper residue on your hands, but it does sting.

I also cheat just a bit with my paprika, including any odds and ends of good red bell peppers we have to add a bit more color to the finished ground paprika.

We still have a few green bell peppers left, along with just about enough paprika peppers for one more load for the dehydrator.

Peppers, dehydrator on dining room table

It appears that the coming hard freeze has been pushed back a day with our overnight low tonight predicted to be 36o F. That gives me one more day to look for ripe or nearly ripe peppers and tomatoes before Friday morning predicted low temperatures in the mid-20s pretty well end the growing season.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Saturday, October 26, 2013

We finally got that frost that ends the growing season for most crops on Friday morning. Temperatures dropped into the upper 20s, taking out our tomato and pepper plants. On the positive side, that motivated me to really get going clearing our East Garden of tomato and pepper plants and cages. If compost piles could burp from "overeating," ours would.

East Garden Cleared (October 26, 2013)

Brady and KatherineBrady and Katherine in truck bedThe last item to be cleared was our 45' row of zinnias that had been in full bloom right through Thursday, but blackened with Friday morning's frost. While I cut, grandchildren Brady and Katherine loaded the cuttings on the truck and later pushed them off onto our compost pile.

The grandkids thought the short ride across the field to the house in the bed of the truck was like a ride at an amusement park. While I drove slowly, the field is really bumpy and the kids squealed with delight at each bump.

Part of supper for the grandkids last night was garden salad with lettuce, broccoli, carrots, and grape tomatoes from the garden. Annie and I had spinach salad...the last of our garden spinach for this year with delicious, but probably not all that healthy, poppyseed dressing.

And One More Thing

Mavericks - MapsOS X Mavericks IconIn between clearing the East Garden, freezing peppers, and cutting paprika peppers for the dehydrator this week, I installed Apple's latest and greatest operating system, Mac OS X Mavericks (10.9) on two of our computers. I installed it first on a rarely used partition of my main Mac, a mid-2010 Mac Mini. When that went well, I also installed the free upgrade on my late-2011 13.3" MacBook Pro laptop.

The free upgrade downloaded and installed very slowly. I did one upgrade on Wednesday and the other on Thursday, checking status bars in between gardening chores.

While a slow upgrade, it was a free and trouble free one, well worth the effort. If you work on a modern Mac, I recommend it. But at the same time, I must add that I'm writing this update in the main partition of my Mac Mini. It runs the old Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.8) operating system. Like an old favorite shoe, it's comfortable to me.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

It appears we have just a couple of days to finish our garden cleanup and tilling before a rainy period sets in. Area farmers, always aware of the weather forecast, are racing to bring in their fields of corn and soybeans. What wheat is grown in this area is winter wheat and got harvested in June or July. And it's been years since I've seen a field of sorghum, once a common crop, grown around here.

I'm also pushing to complete more of a goal than a deadline, getting our garlic planted before the end of October. We've gotten our garlic in late for several years in a row, and I think it's hurt our harvests a bit. So I'd long ago resolved to get our garlic planted a bit earlier this year, although I'm still trying to decide just where it will go!

What won't get pulled as yet is our fall cauliflower and broccoli in the main garden, as both survived the frosts last week as expected. Our row of kale also remains, as a bit of frost is said to actually enhance its flavor. Some gardeners are able to winter over kale under heavy mulch. I've tried, but ended up with dead kale stalks to clean up in the spring, so I just let it grow as long as possible in the fall before pulling it.

Letting the brassicas grow a bit longer has its trade-offs. While we may get some nice harvests, it also prevents us from tilling those areas until the crops come out. And usually by the time the brassicas are done, a fall wet spell has set in that lasts right up until the ground freezes, preventing fall tilling and soil preparation. So I may yet change my mind, pull and pick the brassicas, fall till the plot, and make one last, glorious batch of Portuguese Kale Soup for the season.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Botanical InterestsAs I write this posting late Tuesday night, it's raining outside. While we're not totally done with our fall garden cleanup and soil preparation, we're almost done. I tilled our 80' x 80' East Garden and all of our outlying isolation plots on Monday. I even broadcast a little alfalfa seed over the north half of the East Garden which will not be in production next year. It's probably too late for the alfalfa to get going well enough to survive the winter, but I had the seed on hand...

East Garden Tilled for Winter (October 28, 2013)

Very ripe Alma (left) and Feher Ozon (right) paprika peppers

Mostly Feher Ozon peppers on tray
Feher Ozon and Alma peppers

As I write, the last of our Alma and Feher Ozon paprika peppers are in the dehydrator. I let the last batch of these peppers sit and ripen indoors a bit, almost to the point of losing them to rot. My purpose in this was twofold. I wanted good deep reds and oranges for our paprika, and I also hoped for more viable seed from this batch. Our previous saved seed from our Alma peppers didn't do well in germination tests. This time around, we had extremely ripe peppers, and I only took what seed naturally dropped off the interior structures of the pepper instead of tweezing every last seed out of each one. After getting the pepper flesh washed, dried, cut, and in the dehydrator, I started new germination tests on the seed I saved this evening.

Bonnie's Asparagus cut down
Our asparagus

I cut and composted the stalks from an area we call Bonnie's Asparagus on Sunday. The asparagus had almost completely browned out already, although there were still a few new shoots emerging.

In contrast, our asparagus patch is still quite green and won't get cut until it browns out. Letting it grow deep into the fall allows it to hopefully store more energy in its roots that will produce shoots next spring.

Both asparagus patches have received a good bit of compost the last two falls, but I don't have any compost to spare this year. Both patches will be mulched with grass clippings for the winter.

Fall kale, broccoli, and cauliflowerThe only crops we still have growing in our garden now are our brassicas. A couple of our broccoli plants are putting on heads, but the cauliflower takes a bit longer to head than the broccoli. Our row of kale is ready for its final picking, but there's really no hurry on that. Kale is pretty frost resistant and will just put on more growth the longer we let it grow.

And yes, that's a petunia plant still in bloom in the photo at right. Other than a few stray snapdragons, our petunias are our only flowers to survive the frosts we had last week.

Major garden jobs I hope to squeeze in before the end of the month include getting our garlic planted, preparing a bed for our spring peas, and screening the last of our finished compost. Some of the compost will go where our row of Eclipse peas will grow in the East Garden next year. The bulk of the compost will have to go in our narrow raised bed. It's soil level has dropped precipitously the last two years. That's somewhat understandable, as I filled the bed with a lot of compost and peat moss when I established it. Both materials break down and compress as time goes on.

Mountain Valley Seeds

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Precipitation (Inches)1
  2013 2012 2011 Ave.
Jan. 6.33 3.20 0.84 2.48
Feb. 2.24 1.10 2.28 2.41
March 2.10 1.52 3.79 3.44
April 8.75 3.80 11.51 3.61
May 10.35 1.19 3.38 4.35
June 12.18 0.15 5.53 4.13
July 6.40 1.89 3.25 4.42
Aug. 3.12 1.99 0.32 3.82
Sept. 1.70 4.59 3.76 2.88
Oct. 5.67 3.31 2.31 2.76
Totals2 58.84 22.74 36.97 34.30
1 2011 & 2012 precipitation data from the Kinmerom2 weather station, Merom, IN. Average precipitation for Indianapolis, IN
2 to date (Jan. - Oct.)

October, 2013, Senior GardenWell, turn the page on the calendar, as we all just put another month behind us.

The Senior Garden is pretty well put to bed for the winter now. Our large East Garden has been tilled and seeded to a cover crop and our outlying isolation plots cleaned up and tilled. Most of our main raised bed has been cleared, other than our fall brassicas and a couple parsley plants that I need to cut and dehydrate leaves from.

My to-do list still isn't cleared as rain and gardener laziness prevented getting our garlic planted or a bed for our spring peas prepared. All the T-posts we use for trellises have been wire brushed, but need a coat of paint before being stored for the winter. And of course, a general tilling of our main raised garden bed along with the addition of some much needed peat moss will come sometime in November.

But looking back at this month's blog made me realize that we really had an excellent month in the garden. We brought in a bumper crop of butternut squash and and excellent harvest of fall carrots. We brought in a surprisingly good seed crop of the endangered supersweet Eclipse pea and the Earlirouge tomato which has also totally disappeared from seed listings.

We picked good tomatoes and peppers most of the month and also got a good late harvest of paprika peppers for drying and grinding. We froze some tomatoes (unusual for us as we usually can them) and bell peppers. And while our fall broccoli has already produced a couple of heads, those got eaten fresh pretty quickly.

Our late planted pumpkins didn't get fully orange before Halloween, but the grandkids appreciated their two-tone green and orange pumpkins nonetheless.

And of course, a series of frosts pretty well brought our growing season to a close.

I wrote the phrase "turn the page" at the beginning of this posting, and immediately began hearing the strains of Bob Seger's Turn The Page in my head. From an old, but really funny column by Stephanie Salter, The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play Mungo Jerry on your snout, I realized the cure for my earworms (stuck song syndrome) was to just give up and listen to the entire Bob Seger's Greatest Hits album. So the majority of the blather above might be blamed on the Seger influence...and you end up with Mungo Jerry stuck in your head for the day.

September, 2013

November, 2013

From Steve, the at Senior Gardening


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