Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

Our Senior Garden - June 15, 2015


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Our Senior Garden - June 3, 2015Small pea harvestAfter a couple of cool days, we're getting into a stretch of nice June weather. Temperatures will push into the 80s later this week, with a bit of rainfall also in the forecast.

We had broccoli from the garden with our supper last night before going out to pick peas. There weren't a lot of pea pods filled out, but there were a few. Shelling and eating a few peas raw proved that they were sweet. Since our vines are filled with blooms and pea pods, we're looking forward to a good harvest over the next two weeks.

When the peas stop producing, we'll clear the vines off the trellises and plant the row to Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers. I'm a bit late getting to it, but I started a couple of deep sixpacks today with our saved cucumber seed plus a little commercial seed. Since it's warm outside, and I still can't navigate our basement steps to our plant lights, I'll let the cukes germinate outside. Later this month, we'll need to start our fall brassica transplants.

Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers seededSetting up new laptopI've not had much to write here of late, as I'm still rehabbing from a mid-May total hip replacement. My surgeon, county nurse, and physical therapist all tell me I'm making great progress, although it feels very slow to me.

Another slowdown for my writing has been the absence of an easily accessible computer. My main computer is in my upstairs office, which I'm only now getting so I can reach without pain. But a replacement laptop for my old one that died from a thorough drenching with iced tea came in on Monday. I spent most of that day getting the new machine set up. The new computer is actually one model earlier than my old laptop. It had sat on a store shelf for years and was sold as new, but open box. I chose to go with an older model laptop, as it can still run the older operating system I use most frequently, which Apple's latest and greatest machines can't.

Water Charity

 
 

Saturday, June 6, 2015 - Peas

Our early, tall peas seeded on March 16 are now in full production. Annie and I picked a half gallon of them this morning. As an added bonus, our late, short peas seeded on April 16 are also just coming into bloom. The tall peas are Champion of England and Maxigolts. The short peas are Encores and Eclipse, varieties for which seed is no longer commercially available.

Tall peas Short peas Pea blossoms

The half gallon of peas we picked this morning along with a quart we'd picked a day or so ago shelled out to just three cups of peas. That's a lot of work for what we got, but it's hard to beat the flavor of freshly picked peas.

Broccoli

BroccoliAnnie cut two more nice main heads of broccoli today. While the broccoli was clean and worm free, I did see a white cabbage moth around our cauliflower, so it's definitely time to begin a regular spray schedule with Thuricide. With five more plants still maturing main heads and sideshoots coming after that, we should have plenty of broccoli for several more weeks.

Sweet Corn and Garlic

Sweet cornOur sweet corn shot up a foot or so in the last week. So far, it appears the new variety we're testing this year, Who Gets Kissed, is a vigorous grower. Of course, with sweet corn, taste is everything.

Garllic putting up scapesOur garlic looks a bit dry these days, as we haven't had a really good rain in weeks. The elephant garlics put up scapes (bloom spikes) that I broke off. One can actually leave the scapes and still get good garlic, but breaking them off allows the plants to put all their energy into growing their bulbs.

Sold Out

The offer we made for free Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed in February is now over. We've sold out of seed! A surprising phone call from a seed house wanting to grow out and possibly offer the variety took almost all of our surplus seed!

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Sunday, June 7, 2015 -Tomato Weeds, Asparagus, and Peas

Tomato weeds in lettuce patchI ran out of energy yesterday before I ran out of images to post here. So today, with gardening out of the question due to muscle soreness, I'll include the images here, plus one more I snapped this morning.

The image at left is of our rapidly fading lettuce patch. We've cut all but two or three of the lettuce. But what I found interesting when I took the shot was the weeds growing there. If you look closely, you may notice two or three ten inch high tomato plants.

If you're having trouble seeing the tomato weeds, click here.

Our compost piles often don't heat up enough to kill all the seeds in them. It's not uncommon to see small tomato plants sprouting around the edges of the compost pile. And when that incompletely digested compost is used in our garden plots, we have some interesting weeds emerge.

Our asparagus patchWe quit picking asparagus a week or so ago. As usual, I already miss our asparagus feasts, but it's really important to let asparagus begin to grow freely to renew its strength for the next season. Once we tame the weeds that are growing under the now lush asparagus foliage, we'll add fertilizer and/or compost to the plots.

A small package of frozen vegetables really doesn't make for an eye catching image, but it's special to me. The pint of frozen peas shown below is the first thing we've put up from this year's garden.

I chose to use a pint freezer bag, as I devoured the peas that wouldn't fit in the bag with my supper last night. I was flying solo, as my wife was away at a class reunion, so I got all the peas! I had steak, peas, and hearty white bread for supper, and as you might guess, the peas were the first thing to disappear off my plate.

Peas for the freezer

As I alluded to yesterday, we may have a really good pea harvest this year. Our tall, early pea vines are now filled with pods. Our short peas are just beginning to bloom, far earlier than I expected. The tall peas will all go for table use and freezing. The short peas will go for some table use, but since seed for those varieties is no longer available from seed houses, we'll also be saving seed again from the Eclipse and Encore peas. Monsanto/Seminis own the patents on the varieties. Even though they've chosen to stop development and production of the pea varieties, the patents prevent other entities from producing seed for sale, one of the major problems with the PVP act. The act does allow folks like me to save seed, but only for my own use.

Both of our pea rows are heavily mulched, but our ground is getting pretty dry. We have rain in our weather forecast for this afternoon and tomorrow, with almost an inch predicted for each day. That's good, as our ground really needs a soaking rain, and we're approaching the time of year when watering from our puny well isn't advisable.

Work never looked so good. See SKECHERS Work Collection!  SKECHERS Work - Made to Last

Monday, June 8, 2015

Our Senior Garden - June 8, 2015Save 15% on Father's Day Flowers & Gifts at 1800flowers.com and be the reason Dad feels loved this Father's Day! Use promo code: DADFFTN at checkout (Offer valid 06/01/2015 to 06/21/2015)A wide band of thunderstorms came through last night and this morning, providing slightly over two inches of much needed precipitation for our garden plots.

Our experiment with growing our tall peas on and between double trellises was tested by some strong winds as the weather front arrived. We've had problems in past years with mature pea vines, heavy with ripening pea pods, getting blown off their trellis and bending under their own weight. Such bends in the vines cut off moisture and nutrient flow and end the vines' productivity.

Vines blown off trellisDamaged pea vineI tried growing our wide row of tall peas between double trellises for the first time last year. The double trellis was only marginally successful, as many of the vines grew on the outside of the trellises and still got blown off in strong winds.

This year I tried widening the trellises from last year's eight inches apart to fifteen or sixteen inches. The peas still tended to grow on the outside of the trellises, but more were successfully contained between the trellises and the exterior vines seemed better anchored.

Last night's thunderstorms damaged a few vines, but the bulk of them remained undamaged on the trellises. Most of the bent and/or broken vines were ones that had grown off the trellis and onto a tomato cage at the end of the pea row. I snapped the damaged vines off and picked what ripe peas there were on those vines.

I'm not yet ready to declare success (or failure) for the double trellis method. Possibly a few less peas seeded might help keep the vines erect and attached to the trellises. I think I've about got the width of separation between the two trellises right.

I've gardened for over 50 years, and I'm still learning.

Cook's Garden Gourmet Herbs

Tuesday, June 9, 2015 - Freezing Broccoli

Premium Crop broccoliToday's brassica harvestWe're getting an incredible crop of spring brassicas this year. We've cut the main heads from seven or eight of our ten broccoli plants, and today got our first head of cauliflower.

The broccoli cut were two Premium Crops and one Goliath. The surprisingly early head of cauliflower came from a Fremont plant. While the cauliflower got washed and bagged for later fresh use, we'd built up six heads of broccoli plus a few sideshoots that needed to be frozen today.

Blanching broccoli (Lid off only for photography)After washing and stripping off the leaves from the broccoli heads, I separate the head leaving a bit of head with several inches of stem to be frozen. The broccoli then has to be blanched or scalded for 3-5 minutes and quick cooled in a sink of cold water before drying. I just spread the broccoli out on a clean kitchen towel for drying.

While one can stuff the broccoli into a freezer bag at that point, I prefer to spread the broccoli out on a cookie sheet for freezing. That makes taking a few florets out of the freezer bag a bit easier later on.

Walmart iconLet me insert a commercial note here. I use a Tramontina 8-Quart Multi-Cookericon for such blanching and a lot of other things. It's one of the very few, expensive pieces of cookware I use. I bought ours around eight years ago when they cost about half of what they do today. Unlike some cheapie cookware, the pot is quite heavy, which helps spread heat evenly and prevent burning along the bottom. The set comes with two strainer/steamers. I used the deep one today, filling it completely with broccoli.

Broccoli frozen and some ready for freezingAmazon Our six heads of broccoli and a few sideshoots completely filled one gallon freezer bag and almost filled a second. In most years, we have an extra row of brassicas growing in our East Garden to freeze. Without an East Garden this year, we'll have to rely on what we've already put up plus our fall brassicas to provide us with frozen broccoli for the winter. We will, however, have lots of broccoli sideshoots to harvest after all of the main heads are cut. As long as the weather doesn't turn too hot, sideshoots are excellent for freezing, just like the main heads are.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Our Senior Garden - June 11, 2015

Precipitation (Inches)1
  2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 Ave.2
Jan.
1.29
2.51
6.33
3.20
0.84
2.48
Feb.
1.03
2.05
2.24
1.10
2.28
2.41
March
4.22
1.66
2.28
1.52
3.79
3.44
April
4.03
8.88
8.75
3.80
11.51
3.61
May
3.56
3.67
10.35
1.19
3.38
4.35
June
2.10
6.51
12.18
0.15
5.53
4.13
Totals3
16.23
25.28
29.95
10.96
27.33
20.42

1Data averaged from Kinmerom2 and Kinmerom3 weather stations, and our own rain gauge during non-freezing weather
2 Average precipitation for Indianapolis, IN
3 to date for 2015

We're running about four inches behind our area's annual rainfall average this year. It took the two inches of rain we received Sunday/Monday to get us to that point. But our extended weather forecast suggests we may considerably improve those totals over the next nine to ten days. (Area farmers trying to finish putting up their first cutting of hay are going to go nuts with the rain.)

For my own use, I keep a precipitation table on my hard drive so I don't have to repeatedly look up area averages or totals for a specific month or year. During the summer months, the rainfall figures in the table are usually from our own rain gauge. For the rest of the year, we use data from two nearby weather reporting stations. For May this year, we had to use the reporting stations' data, as I wasn't able to get out to the rain gauge.

Weather Underground Extended Forecast

Peas

Shelled peasOur method of picking peas changed a little yesterday. Previously, we'd been hunting ripe, filled out pods of peas. Yesterday, we had to be careful not to pick any yellowed, overripe pea pods (which we'd evidently missed in previous pickings). Obviously, our pea harvest from our tall pea vines is winding down.

The pea harvest won't be over soon, though. Our short vine peas seeded on April 22 have blooms and a few pods on them and should be ready to pick in 7-10 days. They're coming in a bit earlier than their days to maturity figures would suggest. At 64 days to maturity for the Encores and 67 days for the Eclipse, days to maturity suggests they would mature June 25-28. I suspect our short peas would be overripe by those dates.

Last evening, my wife, Annie, and I sat and shelled peas while we watched the 1995 version of Pride & Prejudice. Tonight, we'll probably be shelling peas once again, this time watching Ken Burns The Roosevelts: An Intimate History which we'd been watching on PBS, but had missed a couple of episodes.

Note that we don't use any mechanical pea shellers. I keep looking at them on Amazon, but most reviews mention them smashing peas. While hand shelling peas is a tedious task, I really don't want to risk any of our precious pea harvest to something that may spoil many of the peas. If you've had good experiences with a pea sheller, drop me an email and let me know what kind and brand, please!

Friday, June 12, 2015 - Huh?

Our Senior Garden - June 12, 2015Single tassel visibleBleary-eyed, I looked out our kitchen window early this morning at our main garden plot. As my sleepy eyes focused, I did a double take at what I beheld. There in our small patch of sweet corn was a single tassel atop a plant!

Sweet corn tasseling isn't unusual: It's what the corn is supposed to do. But this was our new variety of open pollinated sweet corn that I seeded to deep sixpacks on April 17 and transplanted into our main raised garden bed on April 28! Rated as a 78-84 day variety, it had no business tasseling for another week or so.

As I mulled over the early tassel as I got ready for the day, I wondered if the it could simply be an unusual occurrence from the corn's open pollinated heritage. But when I finally got out to our garden plot, I found that there were four or five sweet corn plants that had tasselled.

Corn tassel 1 Corn tassel Corn tassel

It appears that our sweet corn will come in a few days early this season. But while inspecting it, I also found some deer damage on the far side of the patch. Even with rain predicted for later in the day and the wind gusting to 20 MPH, I got out the sprayer and Bobbex to add a protective layer of bad smelling and presumably bad tasting stuff to the sweet corn plants.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Despite the extended weather forecast I referenced on Thursday, we're having another sunny, hot, and very humid day today. I've resolved to stay inside in the air conditioning all day!

ThuricideThuricideAmazonI got out yesterday after a good session with the physical therapist and made three trips to the garden and one to our compost pile. The first trip was to photograph our sweet corn tassels. The second was to cut some broccoli and pick a few peas. And the third trip was to first spray our brassicas with Thuricide before refilling the sprayer with Bobbex and spraying our sweet corn to discourage the deer from dining on it. After pushing our garden cart filled with garden scraps to the compost pile, I came in totally soaked in sweat. When I checked online, I saw that the heat index was 99° F! Was it just a month or so ago I was worried about late frosts?

The broccoli sideshoots I cut and some of the peas I picked got steamed in milk, water, and butter with part of a head of cauliflower I'd cut a few days ago. When tender, I topped the veggie mix with grated Asiago cheese. It was delicious.

Asiago Cheese at Sam's Club iconWe buy our Asiago cheese in large, fairly economical chunks at our local Sam's Club. I keep a small chunk of the cheese in the refrigerator and freeze the rest for later use, most often for Asiago Cheese & Tortellini Soup. Since I'm working to eat really healthy these days to help my body heal, the delicious soup hasn't been on the menu lately.

Another reason for staying inside today is that I really overdid things yesterday. I pushed myself a bit to get some things done, but was also working on cutting back on the painkillers I've been on. By this morning, I was back to a five or six out of ten on pain for the first time in over a week and had to hit the drugs again. I still pushed through my physical therapy exercises this morning, but that's going to be my total exertion for today.

Having said that, my overall progress since the May 15 total hip replacement has been very good. I'm steadily regaining strength and mobility with the added bonus of losing a little weight in the process. I've moved to using a cane instead of a walker most of the time which allows me to get around far more easily.

I'm also better understanding what the doctor's predictions for recovery meant. Initial recovery was said to take about six weeks. That probably will mean I'll be able to walk independently by then, be off the pain medications, and be able to drive again. I was also told that full recovery might take six to nine months or more. I suspect the latter figure will be pretty accurate for doing any really heavy work.

While there are still horror stories online about joint replacement surgery, I was fortunate to know an outstanding orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Robert Clayton, from when our kids played together when I lived in Indianapolis. I also received excellent post-op care at the OrthoIndy Hospital. And while surgeons may suggest that one can recover from the surgery without any extra physical therapy beyond the exercises taught in the hospital, I'd recommend it. My physical therapy was totally covered by insurance and Medicare and has proved to be a valuable source of information and encouragement through the process of rehabilitating my hip muscles.

Monday, June 15, 2015 - New Varieties

Our Senior Garden - June 15, 20152015 Seed CatalogsEach year, we try one or more new vegetable varieties. Sometimes we try them because seed for an older, favorite vegetable is no longer available. But more often, we simply see something in a seed catalog that may add variety to our gardening experience or potentially could be an improvement over varieties we've previously grown.

Often, such trials turn out to be a disappointment, as someone's latest and greatest vegetable variety turns out to be no better for us than the tried and true varieties that grow well under our growing conditions. But there are those times when we seem to strike it rich with something new that becomes a permanent addition to our yearly plantings.

Last season, we hit upon two "new" finds. Looking for a good, open pollinated yellow squash to supplement our favorite hybrid, Slick Pik, we hit upon the Saffronicon open pollinated, bush yellow squash from Burpee Seeds. One hill of Saffrons outlasted three succession planted Slick Piks! And now Fedco Seeds has picked up the excellent variety at a much better price.

Slick Pik and Saffron hills

Above are our Slick Pik (left) and Saffron (right) yellow squash growing in our East Garden last year. While we really liked the Saffron variety, we'll probably continue to grow both the Slick Piks and the Saffrons, as the Slick Pik's fruit is a bit more refined. If and when Slick Pik seed disappears from seed catalogs, as hybrid varieties tend to do over the years, we'll be covered with an excellent open pollinated variety. And of course, with no East Garden this year, we're not growing any yellow squash right now.

Violet of Sicily cauliflowerA second score last summer was the Violet of Sicily cauliflower from Annie's Heirloom Seeds. It's not a new variety by any means and is sold under several similar names. It produces medium to large heads of reddish cauliflower that cooks to a nice, green color with excellent flavor.

Of course, one season of success with a vegetable variety doesn't always mean it will be a keeper. Growing conditions change from year to year, and not all varieties grow well every year. So I was really pleased over the weekend to see a very large head of Violet of Sicily maturing in one of our narrow raised beds.

Sweet Corn - Who Gets Kissed?As I've mentioned in other postings here, this year's new variety trial is the open pollinated, sugary enhanced sweet corn, Who Gets Kissed? Our small planting is now tasselling and beginning to silk, so it won't be long before we're hopefully savoring fresh sweet corn. Since I started our corn patch early with transplants started inside, we should have sweet corn weeks earlier than in previous years. I'm hoping for corn on the cob for the Fourth of July.

When to Dig Garlic?

Our 2014/2015 Garlic PatchI've been watching our garlic put up seed scapes and have some of its leaves yellow and brown. Those are usually pretty good signs that it's about time to dig garlic. So today, I took a hand trowel and dug several garlic across one end of our garlic rows.

Freshly dug garlic
Garlic bulbs trimmed

What I got from the digging surprised me. Our garlic is still several weeks away from being ready to harvest. I ended up digging one elephant garlic and four standard garlics, but all were a little to a lot smaller than I'd expected.

I really shouldn't have been surprised at the garlic not quite being ready to dig yet, as I'd gone back to my records and compiled a list of recent planting and harvest dates for garlic from our garden. But the combination of a predicted week of rain that can cause garlic in the ground to begin to rot, and our early planting date last fall gave me reason to believe the garlic might be ready. It wasn't, and I can certainly live with that.

For the uninitiated, the garlic dug today won't go to waste. In fact, freshly dug garlic, and by that, I mean garlic that just came out of the ground and hasn't been dried or cured, has the best garlic flavor and aroma of any garlic I've ever used. I popped the cleaned garlic bulbs into a green bag and put them in the refrigerator for future use. They'll keep there for several weeks.

I do have what I think is a pretty good how-to article on Growing Garlic.

Garlic Planting and Harvest Dates

2014/2015 - October 28!!! - ???
2013/2014 - November 10 - July 16
2012/2013 - November 26 -- June 26/June 28/July 4
2011/2012 - November 9 - June 9
2010/2011 - November 11 - June 21/June 23
2009/2010 - November 28 - June 25
2008/2009 - November 30 - July 9
2007/2008 - November 18 - July 10

Grump, Something Pretty, and a Reality Check

I wrote earlier this month about being contacted by a major seed house with a request to buy some of our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed. Since I'd been giving the seed away to expand the group of folks preserving the open pollinated variety, I didn't charge the company anything for the equivalent of 5-7 packets of the seed. In addition, I popped for Priority Mail, as the person requesting the seed said that they were running a bit behind on their seed trials and needed to get this one going as soon as possible.

When I mentioned their seed request here, I was careful not to give any indication of what company had made the request. I did so based on previous experience in trying to contact them to resolve various issues. Sadly, my caution was rewarded once again in dealing with this company. Nary a word of confirmation of receipt of the free seed nor any thanks were offered. They sell good seed, but they also have a lot of attitude and a total lack of class.

My momma raised me better. What happened with them?

Maverick Red geraniums in bloomYellowed cauliflowerNow getting over my rant, I'll include a nice shot of some Maverick Red geraniums blooming at the end of our tall pea (and tomato) raised bed. Each year I try to plant the variety at the corners of our raised beds, as they put on dazzling displays of color. If you keep the old bloom spikes picked off, they'll keep blooming right up to the first frost.

And to balance things out, or as Larry Wilmore might say, keeping it 100% (real), I'll include an image of the cauliflower growing right beside the lovely Violet of Sicily shown and mentioned above. It's an Amazing cauliflower whose leaves uncharacteristically didn't wrap to prevent the head from yellowing and turning bitter. While we grow some nice stuff in our Senior Garden, we have our share of failures, too, just like everybody else.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pulling old pea vinesEncore peas almost ready to pickWe've had light rain off and on all day today. I got outside early to see if I could pull some more tall pea vines and to check our short peas. I found one pod of Encore peas filled out which I promptly ate raw. The rest of the Encores and Eclipse peas should fill out later this week for a grand first picking. As to the old, tall pea vines, it began to rain enough that I got in a hurry to get back inside.

Cauliflower - Amazing
Violet of Sicily and Amazing Cauliflower

I cut mature heads of Violet of Sicily and Amazing cauliflower while outside along with a few broccoli sideshoots. The broccoli went into the refrigerator for later use. The cauliflower got soaked, blanched, and frozen, as we hadn't put up any of it yet for winter use. Sadly, I soaked a lot of worms off the heads of cauliflower, although they'd done little damage.

The Violet of Sicily cauliflower turned a light green when blanched, just as it does when fully cooked. That may look a bit strange when one expects white frozen cauliflower, but it won't affect the taste adversely.

We have four or five cauliflower plants that haven't yet matured heads. Depending on the weather, bugs, and a little luck, we may get some more before the summer heat turns the heads bitter.

Sweet corn silkingSome of our Who Gets Kissed sweet corn is now silking. I'll need to keep an eye on the ears to make sure bugs don't start clipping the silks, which impairs pollination (and filling out of the ears with kernels). Mineral oil sprayed on the silks is a good, organic deterrent for the bugs. We used to spray with it when we grew a couple of acres of sweet corn for roadside sales when we were farming.

Garden Blogs

Julie Hill, landscape designer at Southern Wild Design, has started "a Garden Blog Directory for personal blogs around the globe." Upon seeing Julie's announcement of the directory on a Garden Writers Association discussion board, I wondered at why no one had thought to do something like it until now.

Almost all of the blogs listed so far in Julie's new directory are focused more on urban flower gardens than on vegetable gardening. As with the GWA, landscape design seems to be the big thing among the bloggers and writers. I'm hoping, though, that there will be some listings in the future for more vegetable gardening blogs, as I love to see what other gardeners are doing.

Friday, June 19, 2015 - Succession Planting

OUr Senior Garden - April 19, 2015Rain gaugeThe remnants of tropical depression Bill are now moving through our area. When I emptied our rain gauge this morning, it had recorded 2.15 inches of overnight precipitation. With that, we're getting close to average June rainfall.

With rain predicted for almost the entire day, I decided today might be a good time to write about succession planting. Succession Planting is the practice of growing two or more crops on the same piece of ground during a growing season.

I was up early several mornings this week before it got too hot (or rainy) each day, taking out the vines from our early tall peas. Seeded on March 16, the Champion of England and Maxigolt pea vines had produced a nice harvest, but were also pretty well done for the season by last weekend.

Cleared double trellisSince I'm still rehabbing from total hip replacement surgery, I took two days, three counting a rain day, to pull the vines off of our double trellis, load them into the bed of my pickup truck, and move them to our compost pile. Under normal circumstances, I would have cleared and disposed of the vines, renovated the soil a bit with a tiller or hoe, and tightened the wires holding the nylon trellis netting all in one day.

Cucumber transplantsWith frequent rains complicating things, it may be next week before the succession planting is completed. I have some very healthy Japanese Long Pickling cucumber transplants that I started on June 3 growing in seed flats on the back porch. They're ready for transplanting, although they're getting pretty tall and need to go into the ground just as soon as possible.

On my to do list for today is to seed our fall broccoli and cauliflower. It doesn't seem possible that it's time to start them already, but it is. Counting back from our first frost date, adding two weeks to the plants' days-to-maturity date (plus a few days margin for error) for the shorter days in fall, and adding four to six weeks for the transplants to grow under lights or on the back porch, and it's definitely time. The Interactive Tools page at Johnny's Selected Seeds includes an excellent downloadable spreadsheet that can save one the trouble of doing such calculations for starting fall crops. They also have a Succession Planting Guide that may give you some ideas of fall crops you might want to try.

I'll probably start our fall brassicas downstairs under our plant lights, as it's a bit cooler there than outside. I may even try starting some kale seed, although kale doesn't transplant nearly as well as do most of the other brassicas.

I fiddled a bit with our succession plan this morning, moving a few things around. In addition to the fall brassicas, our fall garden plan includes planting lettuce and spinach, green and kidney beans, kale, and Sugar Snap peas.

Plots A1 & A2 Successions

Plot B Successions

I often find we grow as productive a fall garden as our spring planted is. For our region, there's a much longer window of cool weather to grow great lettuce and spinach in the fall.

Using floating row covers or a cold frame over fall crops can extend ones growing season well into fall. Of course, such things can get in the way of fall soil preparation, so there are some tradeoffs there to be made.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Deer damageDeer print in garden bedDeer visited our sweet corn last night, apparently in hope of a snack. I wouldn't have been sure it was deer (instead of raccoons), but one conveniently left a track just inside our raised bed. Once again, the deer damage was limited, as my last application of Bobbex seems to have not washed off in the heavy rains we've had. Even so, I sprayed the sweet corn again today with the smelly and presumably nasty tasting stuff.

Petra and rabbitCorn dogOur dogs, who often chase off the deer, were all off duty last night due to the heavy storms passing through. That made it a four dog night inside our house until the wee hours of the morning when I shooed all but one outside. Petra, a rescue from a shelter just hours before she was to be euthanized, hides in the bathroom or on the landing of our stairway during heavy storms. We accommodate her fears, as she's an incredibly loyal dog and an excellent critter dog. She's great at digging up moles, but will also hassle raccoons with help from the rest of the pack. She will take the odd, careless rabbit that strays into our yard. But she's also been known to snack on corn, field or sweet, at times.

Most of the remains of tropical depression Bill passed just south of us. We had tornado warning sirens going off yesterday from the powerplant that is near our home. Fortunately, there were few touchdowns of funnel clouds, and those were out in the boonies south of us. We received a little over three inches of rain, though, raising our annual total to just above the average annual precipitation for this area.

ScapesWhile working the sweet corn, I also worked to snap scapes off our garlic plants. Unlike most years when we get just a few garlics putting up "seed stalks," nearly every plant put one up this year. Removing the scapes allows the garlic to put all its energy into developing its bulb.

A newsletter email from Annie's Heirloom Seeds today announced that they are now taking orders for garlic to be shipped in the fall. We've gotten some good garlic from Annie's, although the very best garlic we've ever received came last year from the Territorial Seed Company, with some from Sow True Seed coming in a distant second, but still quite good. At any rate, if you're planning on ordering garlic for fall planting, it's time to get to it. I'm always amazed at how quickly some varieties sell out at quality vendors.

Hummingbirds at feeder"Our" hummingbirds have apparently hatched out their first clutch of eggs of the year. Traffic at the two feeders we currently have hung has at least tripled in the last few days. I'll hang one more feeder from our back porch in the next few days to accommodate the increased traffic. When the hummingbirds hatch out their second clutch of eggs, things will get really crazy around the feeders.

Under our front porch, the barn swallows long ago hatched out their first brood. Other than their droppings, they aren't a nuisance, as we haven't had any aggressive ones in several years. It's fun to watch them swoop over the lawn in search of bugs.

My wife, Annie, made our first picking of Encore peas today. They shelled out to only a pint, but what a pint of very sweet peas!

Sunday, June 21, 2015 - Father's Day

Transplanting cucumbersJapanese Long Pickling cucumber plantAnnie and I got out early this morning to do a little gardening. After tightening the wires that support our nylon trellis netting, I started transplanting Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers into one of our narrow raised garden beds.

Since our transplants were a little on the tall side, each one got a fairly deep hole (6-10"). I filled the holes with dilute starter fertilizer and Serenade biofungicide. Not a lot of fertilizer is required in this bed, as it got filled with compost when I built it last year. The Serenade should help prevent powdery mildew on the cucumber vines.

Even with Annie's help, I didn't get very far before my hip began to hurt, so I only put in five transplants. I'll get more in over the next few days. Note that I had one side of our double trellis pulled up to facilitate the transplanting. I also hope to get some flowers, mainly snapdragons, planted along the trellis.

Today's harvest

We moved on to cutting a couple of heads of cauliflower and some broccoli sideshoots, picking Encore peas, and even stealing an early, baby carrot.

Monday, June 22, 2015

I had another checkup today with my orthopaedic surgeon. Things look good so far as I continue to rehabilitate the muscles around my new hip.

Hummingbirds at feeder

Annie and I were up early this morning for the trip to Indy. She was first to notice that we had a swarm of hummingbirds around the feeder for the second day in a row. This happens each year when the baby hummingbirds leave the nest. Things will calm down somewhat in the next week or so as the birds find other sources of nectar. When the hummingbirds' second clutches of babies are ready to leave the nest, we'll see this phenomena again, and things will stay pretty busy at the feeders until the birds migrate south.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Our Senior Garden - June 24, 2015We're experiencing our longest days of the year right now with around sixteen hours of daylight. I waited until around 7:30 P.M. (EST) to grab our "daily" splash shot. There was plenty of light for it, but also some long, long shadows. At any rate, it's certainly nice to have more hours of daylight to get things done.

Getting ready to blanch peasAnnie, our eldest daughter Erica, and to a lesser extent, I, picked peas last evening. I got out before noon today and picked a few more, freezing three pints of our Encore and Eclipse peas. This may be our last picking of the peas. I want to save seed from both varieties and may begin to let the pods dry down on the vines, rather than continue picking.

We shelled the peas picked last night and stored them overnight in the refrigerator. So before blanching the peas this morning, I had to let them sit a bit and run them under lukewarm water before blanching them for two minutes in boiling water per the Ball Blue Book to kill off surface bacteria. I feared thermal shocking the peas if I tried to blanch them when chilled.

Cucumbers and snapdragons transplantedAmazonLater in the day, I mowed around our garden plots, something my hip is now reminding me I really shouldn't be doing quite yet. I keep pushing the envelope on my rehab, trying to heal and get functional as quickly as possible.

In the afternoon, I finished up transplanting Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers into a narrow raised bed. I'd transplanted a few on Sunday, but wore out before the job was done. Today, I finished filling the bed with cucumber transplants with snapdragons interspersed with the cukes. While the cucumber vines will quickly overgrow the snapdragons, the snaps will survive and burst into bloom when the cucumber vines are spent and pulled.

We grow our Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers for table use, bread and butter pickles, and for sharing seed via the Seed Savers Exchange. They're a unique variety that produces cucumbers up to two feet long! We pick them a bit shorter for table use and canning, although the ones for consumption are often sixteen inches long and just a couple of inches in diameter.

Bed of cucumbers

My brother, Chet, drove down from Indy to have brunch with me yesterday. Chet is a true biblical scholar, a veteran of many years on the mission field in the Philippines and Kenya, and my hero. He brought me gifts of delicious cookies from his lovely wife, Dee, and a copy of The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation, by N. T. Wright.

AmazonI don't make much of it, but much of the reason why I was such a successful teacher of students with learning disabilities, especially reading disabilities, was because I have a mild reading (and math) learning disability myself. My brother, my father, and my youngest son also have some degree of the disability.

Having just started using the new translation for my daily devotions, I'm finding that it is an easy read for folks afflicted (or possibly blessed and challenged) with reading disabilities. I recommend it.

I try to keep politics and religion out of this blog. My previous web sites were often quite political, but early on, I decided to keep politics and religion off of this site. So the short message above may be an aberration or exception to my rule. I do hope you might take a look at the new translation if you're a seeker and/or a person of faith.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Our Senior Garden - June 27, 2015

Precipitation (Inches)1
  2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 Ave.2
Jan.
1.29
2.51
6.33
3.20
0.84
2.48
Feb.
1.03
2.05
2.24
1.10
2.28
2.41
March
4.22
1.66
2.28
1.52
3.79
3.44
April
4.03
8.88
8.75
3.80
11.51
3.61
May
3.56
3.67
10.35
1.19
3.38
4.35
June
9.65
6.51
12.18
0.15
5.53
4.13
Totals3
24.78
25.28
29.95
10.96
27.33
20.42

1Data averaged from Kinmerom2 and Kinmerom3 weather stations, and our own rain gauge during non-freezing weather
2 Average precipitation for Indianapolis, IN
3 to date for 2015

We have lovely blue skies with fluffy white clouds this morning for the first time in...well, probably weeks. I emptied another half inch of water from our rain gauge this morning, bringing our running monthly total to 9.65 inches of precipitation! And I was worried about how dry things were a couple of weeks ago!

Our forecast calls for a relatively cool (highs of 77 and 80 degrees) and sunny weekend with more rain coming in early next week. The soil seems completely saturated. Only the highest ground around the house isn't squishy to walk on, and we have standing water in a good many places.

I finally got around to starting our fall brassicas yesterday. I seeded three deep sixpacks to Premium Crop broccoli and one to Amazing cauliflower. The lesser amount of cauliflower is a concession to the fact that our fall cauliflower often doesn't mature before a hard freeze takes it. And while we grew multiple varieties of broccoli and cauliflower this spring, I just stayed with my favorites for our fall planting. Started now, the broccoli should have plenty of time to mature and beat the first frosts of fall.

I found a serious error in my succession planting plan this week. I'd planned to follow our short peas with a planting of kidney beans. I must have been thinking about green beans when I did the plan, as there simply aren't enough days left in the growing season for a crop of 102 days-to-maturity rated kidney beans to mature. And our short peas will remain on their trellis for several weeks as we allow them to mature a seed crop for use in future growing seasons.

Sweet Corn Failure

Nice stalks, no ears!Ear stripped off stalkOur experiment with growing the new Who Gets Kissed sweet corn has turned out to be a bust, but not because of the variety. Evidently my sprays of Bobbex weren't enough to keep the critters away from the sweet corn. Every stalk appears to have been stripped of its ears. So much for my hopes for corn on the cob for the Fourth of July!

It appears the critters, presumably deer, came up through the field corn adjacent to our main raised garden bed. When we grow sweet corn in our large East Garden, the critters have to cross a lot of open ground to get to the corn there. Without the East Garden this year, the sweet corn thieves only had to cross about fifteen feet of open space to defeat our four dog alarm system.

Better News

Trailing Impatiens (Envoy mixed)Flower transplants on back porchOur one pot of trailing impatiens has finally come into bloom. The Envoy variety is always slow to mature, but then puts on quite a show right up until the first frost. Well, that's providing I keep them well watered, something somewhat difficult to do in the hanging cocoa basket I like to use for them. Seed for the variety has seemed to disappear from seed catalogs, an all too frequent occurrence with hybrid varieties.

I still have a porch full of flower transplants. The Gloriosa Daisies are getting almost too tall to transplant. But our Shasta Daisies are just about right for moving into the sheltered flowerbed on the east side of our house. Hopefully, I can get them into the ground in the next week or so.

We also have petunias, vinca, marigolds, impatiens, and dianthus ready to move into the garden and/or flowerbeds. Many of them are destined for the edges of our narrow raised bed recently planted to cucumbers (and snapdragons).

Cucumber bed

Onions and carrotsOnions beginning to bulbOf the eleven Japanese Long Pickling cucumber plants I transplanted recently, all but two are doing well. I have a few extra plants on the back porch, just in case.

We're getting very close to harvest time for our spring carrots. I've been stealing slender carrots for cooking and eating raw for a week or so. Last year, we dug our carrots on July 15, but it appears this crop will come in a bit earlier this year. That seems to be a trend in this year's garden, as our sweet corn tasselled early and our short peas came in a full week earlier than their days-to-maturity dates would indicate.

With the longest days of summer now at hand, our onions are bulbing. Actually, our short day Red Creole onions began bulbing several weeks ago. But the rest of the onions are long day varieties whose bulbing is triggered by the long days of summer. Started in January and transplanted mid-April, the onions should be ready to harvest next month. With all the rain we've had of late, I'm considering spraying them with Serenade biofungicide to help suppress black mold.

Helpful Pages

I've noticed over the last six weeks that my postings have been more reflective than instructive on growing various crops. Since I have a built-in excuse, I'll attribute the change to the painkillers I'm now working to get off. But there are pages on this site that cover how to grow several of the crops mentioned recently in our How-To and Features sections. One can also find information on specific crops by using the Google Search at the top of each page, as it first searches Senior Gardening.

  • How We Grow Our Onions (August 6, 2014) - We grow our onions in tight, intensive gardening areas with excellent results.
  • Growing Great Melons on Heavy Clay Soil (August 25, 2014) - We grow our melons on an old cornfield with heavy clay soil. We get some melons every year, and great melons many years.
  • How We Grow Our Carrots (January 21, 2015) - An intensive planting tutorial for carrots.
  • Growing Great Broccoli and Cauliflower (February 15, 2015) - Growing great brassicas isn't really difficult. You just have to work around the weather a bit.
  • Growing Garlic (March 29, 2015) - Garlic is one of the easiest, most trouble free, and productive crops one can grow in a home garden. Why I waited so long to begin growing it or to write about it is a mystery.

Later

Gloriosa DaisiesShasta Daisy PlantsI got out in the early afternoon, after the sun was off the east side of our house, and transplanted some daisies. Kneeling on a knee pad on the sidewalk gave me possibly the only dry area on our property where one could do some gardening.

I only put in a few Shasta Daisies and even less of the Gloriosa Daisies. I worked until my hip began to hurt, stood and pruned our one rose bush a bit, and then transplanted a bit more...until the hip began to hurt again. I may plant a few more tomorrow, as I still have plenty of transplants left. And defying good garden practice, I didn't have the heart to trim the blooms off of the Gloriosa Daisies. I did, however, trim the blooms off the extras so the plants would put their strength into growing more stems and leaves instead of maturing blooms and seeds.

Shasta Daisy iconLast year's Gloriosa DaisiesThe Shasta Daisiesicon may not bloom this year, but being a perennial, they should bloom for years to come (if I can keep the dogs from laying on them). Both last year and this year, our Gloriosa Daisies have bloomed a bit even before we transplanted them and then profusely when I got them into the ground. But the ones I put in an isolation bed last year didn't overwinter.

There's actually still time to start perennials from seed and have them establish themselves before winter. (That's a piece of wisdom stolen from the late Jim Crockett's June entry in Crockett's Victory Garden.)

Sunday, June 28, 2015 - One More Daisy

Another DaisyJacksonI realized this morning that when I'd taken the shots of the daisies I'd transplanted yesterday, I'd snapped one more shot of a Daisy on my way back into the house. Only this Daisy is one of our dogs, possibly our greatest snuggler, but also the most naughty and stubborn of our four dogs. She's another stray that adopted us a few years ago. I think her presence before we got her fixed is what attracted Jackson to "adopt us" as well.

I really didn't start out to write about our dogs this morning. I intended to lead this posting with a pleasant weather report for today, at least. Things cooled down last night, so we turned off the air conditioning and opened some windows. It actually got rather chilly overnight (61° F).

Weather Underground 10-day Forecast

Our current extended weather forecast from the Weather Underground looks as if the cool nights may continue. We're also looking at the possibility of several rainy days in the next week or so. That's probably a good thing, as we usually experience a very dry spell here in the weeks just after the Fourth of July through much of August.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - June Wrap-up

June, 2015, animated GIFJune has turned out to be an incredible month in our garden. We began the month with high hopes, but very dry soil. Recent heavy rains have turned a four inch deficit in annual precipitation into a five inch surplus.

We had good harvests of peas, broccoli, and cauliflower, freezing a good bit with still plenty for delicious, fresh table use. While we stole a few early garlic, onions, and carrots for fresh use, those crops are now almost ready to harvest.

Our tomato and pepper plants are thriving in the warm weather. Our first succession planting of the season seems to be thriving in our current wet conditions. If all continues to go well, we should have lots of Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers for table use, canning as bread and butter pickles, and seed saving.

About our only disappointment in the Senior Garden for June was our sweet corn. The new variety we're trying showed good health and vigorous growth. Unfortunately, plant breeders haven't yet been able to breed critter repellent into the variety. Every ear of corn got stripped off the plants during a couple of stormy nights when our dogs were off duty.

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