Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

December 13, 2017

Friday, December 1, 2017

Our Senior Garden - December 1, 2017
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Wandering jew cuttings in water
Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.

We're beginning this December with some pleasant days with high temperatures in the 50s. But by the middle of next week, high temperatures will hover just over freezing. The ground will gradually freeze, ending most outdoor gardening activity.

After cleaning up the last of our regular garden beds, I'll need to cut and clear our asparagus beds of stalks to reduce the chances of insect or disease carryover. I still have a bag of saved compost to spread over Bonnie's Asparagus Patch, a second patch just off our property that we care for (and gladly harvest).

All of our pots and hanging baskets have been soaked in bleach water, washed and dried, and stored in our basement plant room. I still have a bunch of trays to clean on one of our few remaining warm, sunny days. I also need to haul the tub of various garden chemicals from our back porch to the basement for the winter. Letting that stuff repeatedly freeze and thaw over the winter just doesn't seem to be a very good idea, although I have no facts to back up that opinion. I'll also spread the last of our remaining Serenade biofungicide over areas where we'll be growing tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers next season. I'm not sure that will do any real good, but I like to start each gardening season with fresh biologicals (Serenade, Thuricide, and Milky Spore).

I didn't get our inventory of seed on hand completed in November, so I'll need to take a day early this month to complete that task. Once that is done, I can begin to seriously scan seed catalogs for seed we'll need to order for next season. Since we start things like petunias, daisies, geraniums, impatiens, vinca, and onions in January, I'll need to place our main seed orders this month.

Garlic Bed Ready

Garlic bed tilled and ready for plantingMain raised bed ready for winterI'd planned to plant garlic this morning. When I got out to our main raised garden bed, I realized that the soil there was just barely dry enough to be rototilled. So instead of planting garlic, I spread peat moss, lime, and fertilizer over the bed and thoroughly tilled it. Doing so will make planting the garlic easier and save me a lot of weed problems next spring. There was also more mulch and garden trash on the soil surface than I'd like. That organic trash is now tilled under. I also took time to stake my rows for the garlic and spread Milky Spore over the bed.

With the tiller out, I also turned a narrow raised bed and mulched it for our early peas. In March, I'll pull back the mulch from the center of the bed to seed the peas.

I also found time to snip a few cuttings from our wandering jew plant. It's beginning to show signs of age, so I need to get a replacement pot of plants started. I usually root the cuttings first in water and then dip them in Clonex Rooting Compound Gel before putting them into sterile potting soil.

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Saturday, December 2, 2017 - Garlic Planted (finally!)

Garlic cloves ready for planting
Garlic dibble with depth measurements added

Composite Raised BedsI got our garlic planted this morning. After delaying planting for several weeks to allow our soil to dry out, I was finally able to rototill our main raised garden bed yesterday. According to my records, December 2 is the latest I've ever planted garlic, although we planted it several years in late November with good results.

When I tilled, I turned under a (3.8 cu ft) bale and a half of peat moss into the garlic area and where we'll grow our spring carrots. The remaining half bale went into our narrow bed where we'll grow our early peas. That bed's soil level had dropped a bit and needed to be restored.

I also turned in a very light sprinkling of 12-12-12 commercial fertilizer, some lime, and a fairly heavy amount of Muriate of Potash (0-0-60). When the tilling was completed, I topdressed the entire raised bed with Milky Spore, as we're still having lots of mole activity under the bed. Obvious mole tunnels outside the bed got some poison peanuts dropped into them.

With my garlic cloves already separated and chosen, planting was just a matter of making a hole with our garlic dibble, sprinkling a little bone meal into each hole, and then making sure the garlic clove went in root side down and pointy side up. Most of the garlic got about two inches of soil over it, although I put in the elephant garlic a little deeper. I planted one row of elephant garlic and three rows of mixed softneck and hardneck garlic.

Our garlic dibble has homemade markings on it for depth. While I don't drive the dibble in quite to the eight inch mark when making a hole, that measurement is important, as I lay the dibble down to make sure I'm spacing the garlic about eight inches apart in the row.

Preparing the soil and selecting and separating the garlic cloves took several hours previously this week. Planting this morning took a half hour!

Growing Garlic is our tutorial on growing, harvesting, and storing garlic.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

2018 Twilley Seed Catalog CoverTwilley pages 86-87Our Twilley Seed catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. Their catalog cover art this year belies Twilley's usual outstanding product illustrations in the catalog.

We've used Twilley for most of our sweet corn seed since our farming years in the 1980s. They were a pioneer in carrying sh2 supersweet sweet corn seed and continue to carry an extensive array of sweet corn varieties.

While the price of some of Twilley's sweet corn offerings may jolt you a bit, they have some real bargains in flower seed. If you're looking for small quantities of flower seed that isn't a new offering, there are lots of varieties to choose from at just a buck and a half per packet.

Seeds 'n Such 2018 Catalog CoverToday's mail brought a package from Seeds 'n Such, a new vendor I decided to try. Their catalog arrived with half of the front cover torn off. That turned out to be a good thing, as it revealed their offering of the new AAS winner, American Dream sh2 bicolor sweet corn on page 3. They seemed to have the best price around for their untreated seed. Several companies that should know better are selling the seed treated with products containing neonicotinoids which have been linked to honey-bee colony collapse disorder (CCD).

I also ordered a very small packet of Bella Rosa tomato seed. Thirteen seeds cost $2.79, but Seeds 'n Such has an attractive flat rate shipping price of $2.95. Note that some of their newest offerings can be pretty expensive. They also included two very small packets (5 seeds in each) of "free" seed that I didn't order, a practice I wish seed companies would abandon.

We're not quite ready to begin ordering seed as yet. The orders we've already placed have been for new items or things I was sure we'd need. But before I place our main orders, I need to complete our inventory of seed we have in frozen storage. We're also waiting on print catalogs from Burpee, Fedco, and Johnny's Selected Seeds to arrive.

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Full disclosure: Botanical Interests, Burpee, and True Leaf Market are Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. We're also a consumer member of the Fedco Seeds Cooperative. True Leaf Market Fedco Seeds

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - Seed Inventory

Jumbo Ziplock bag holding lots more Ziplocks filled with garden seedSeed Inventory SpreadsheetOnce a year, I pull the large bag of carried over seed from our freezer to do a seed inventory. Some of the seed inventoried is commercial seed, while the rest is seed we've saved ourselves. It's a job that can take the better part of a day, although I got through it today in just an afternoon of steady work.

I keep our seed fairly well sorted by family, such as brassicas, beans, sweet corn, and such. While I weigh or count the seeds in some seed packets, I'm often able to estimate if I have enough seed left just by feeling the seed through the packet.

I record the results of the inventory on a spreadsheet that is formatted the same as our seed order spreadsheet to facilitate cutting and pasting between the two files. Quantity amounts recorded can range from pretty exact references such as "out," 2.8 ounces," and "137 seeds," to rather subjective references such as "lots," "some," "a few," and even "a baggie." While the latter references are pretty inexact, they tell me what I need to know for the upcoming gardening season.

In the process of doing the inventory, I get things pretty spread out. This year I worked at the kitchen table counting, weighing, estimating, and recording the results. The big bag of seeds got spread out over our dining room table and a kitchen counter. It's not a tidy operation.

Working from kitchen table Part of seed spread out on dining room table Seed on kitchen counter

While completing this task, I realized that I needed to start some sage plants as possible replacement plants for some of our corner marker plants in the East Garden that are looking pretty puny. I also had to winnow some zinnia seed I'd forgotten before bagging it for storage.

Once done, the bulk of the seed went back into our manual defrost freezer in the garage. Packets of seed varieties we offer other gardeners went into our refrigerator freezer, while some jars and big bags of seed went to a cool, dark shelf in the basement for storage.

I'll still need to add the seed samples currently hiding behind the doors of our Burpee Advent Calendar to the inventory. But for that task, I'll need to decide what I want to keep and grow and what I'll share with one of our daughters who helps with school and community gardens in Bloomington, Indiana.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Ali Baba watermelon
Melon eaten by raccoons

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 2018 Catalog CoverOur Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. Since I was tied up with doing our seed inventory, I didn't get a chance to get a good look at the catalog until late last night. As usual, the Baker Creek catalog is a thing of beauty. It's heavy because it has a lot of pages and is printed on heavy, glossy paper. The illustrations for each open pollinated and heirloom vegetable offered are bright, colorful, and accurate. Their photo of cut Chioggia beets on page 20 blew me away. (You can request or download their catalog here.)

The first line of our Baker Creek order this year will be for Ali Baba watermelon seed. Year in and year out, Ali Babas have been our most dependable watermelon variety...when we can keep the raccoons out of them!

Baker Creek has added the Red Ursa variety of kale to their offerings this year. That's the kale that produced our Best Garden Photo of 2013. When we ran out of seed for the variety, we got some similar named kale seed that just didn't cut it. Then we tried Red Russian. Even with half a packet of the Red Russian left, we'll order more Red Ursa for next fall's kale crop. It's that good, although it may overgrow anything planted near it!

We don't order seed from Baker Creek every year. Part of that is that Baker Creek doesn't carry any hybrid varieties and about 40% of what we grow are hybrids, But beyond that, Baker Creek gives a fair quantity of seed in their packets at a good price which allows us to use some and carry over the rest for the future.

With our seed inventory done, I was up really late last night going through it. I couldn't resist beginning to figure out what we needed to order for next year. I must say that I had a lot of trouble sorting out "want" from "need" in the process, as every description in a seed catalog sounds like a world beater. Our seed ordering process will take several weeks. Orders that contain stuff we need to start in January will be placed next week. Then we'll move on to the last of our main orders. I almost always find sometime in February that there's something I need but didn't order earlier. That's often when slowpokes like Burpee and Johnny's Selected Seeds who can't seem to get their catalogs out early in December get a small order.

I finally gave up and went to bed when I realized that I wanted to take several hours going through all of Twilley Seed's inexpensive flower offerings (around $1.55/packet).

Fedco Seeds 2018 Catalog CoverThis morning, an email from Fedco Seeds arrived, explaining the tardiness of their 2018 catalog going out. It seems they had a bit of a power outage.

The turkey has been digested. The weather is getting colder. The woodstove crackles. The couch beckons. Seed catalogs cover the coffee table. But wait - where's the Fedco catalog? Alas, Maine's week-long power outage in early November struck right in the middle of our catalog production cycle. Our paper catalog will hit your mailbox soon, in all its quirky black-and-white glory, but the internet waits for no one: if you can't wait to see our new varieties and want to get a head start on ordering, come on over to our website!

Fedco actually seems to be a bit ahead of schedule, as we didn't receive their catalog last year until December 14. Besides shopping Fedco's web site, one can also download their latest catalog from which I poached the cover photo at right.

Since our weather has turned cold and windy. I'm just letting stuff in our garden plots sit until I get a nice, sunny day to work outside. Instead, I'm sitting in my office with the heater turned way up looking through gorgeous garden catalogs.

I couldn't find a way to work it in above, but can't resist again posting the 2013 photo of our Red Ursa kale.

Red Ursa Kale

I hope you're having as much fun as I am going through seed catalogs and planning for our next garden. It's one gardening activity that doesn't cause sore muscles!


Friday, December 8, 2017 - Snow in the South

Four inches of snow that turned into six inches Heavy snow on December 8, 2017 in Carthage, Mississippi

If you live most anywhere across the south and into the east coast, you may have lots of snow. (Snow from San Antonio to Atlanta: Winter just got real) Gardening buddy Marcus Blanton sent me photos of the snow they got in central Mississippi today. He wrote that they ended up with six inches of snow. His hens decided to just stay in their house and lay more eggs than usual!

Oliva and NoraIn Baton Rouge, Louisiana, two of our granddaughters saw their very first snow. Mom, Dad, Olivia and Nora played in the snow and built multiple snowmen.

When I called daughter Julia to ask permission to use the image at left, she related that their power had just come back on after being out all day. Brrr...

More on our Burpee Advent Calendar

2018 Burpee Advent CalendarSorting and packaging Burpee samplesI had been dutifully opening the doors of our 2018 Burpee Advent Calendar each day to reveal a sample of a new flower or vegetable variety offering by Burpee for 2018. On Sunday, I was disappointed to find the space behind the "three door" empty. It was supposed to have a sample of the Mini Piccalo Hybrid Watermelonicon seed, the variety I most wanted to try of Burpee's freebies. (I cheated and looked all the way through an accompanying booklet describing the varieties.)

After opening a door to another empty space today for a variety I really wanted to try (Tattoo Papaya Vincaicon), I opened up the back of the Advent Calendar. I knew Burpee had better quality control than that. I was rewarded with several packets that had slipped from their rubber cement and dropped into the bottom of the calendar.

Mini PiccaooBurpee Tattoo Papaya VinceI decided to place the seed packets in seed envelopes, as the labeling on them was hard for my old eyes to read. I sorted out eight varieties I'll grow next season, gave several to Marcus, saved two hot peppers for a son-in-law who loves them, and sent the rest to another daughter who helps with school and community gardens.

iconI'm excited to grow Burpee's new Piccalo mini-watermelons next year. If they do well, they should go well with our favorite icebox cantaloupe, Sugar Cubeicon, which Burpee also added to their catalog this year. I'll also be trying a new variety of Vinca, Tattoo Papayaicon, that Burpee is offering.

Also included in the Burpee seed samples were three new zinnia varieties. They'll be included in our usual long row of zinnias in our East Garden that heavily relies on the old, tried and true State Fairicon variety. We grow our annual 50-80 foot row of zinnias in our East Garden each year mostly from saved seed. I'm not sure how one new hybrid from Burpee will work in, but I expect to have a nice, long row of zinnias again next season.

As I tweak our garden plan for next year, I shortened our row of zinnias to make room for a row of sweet potatoes. I'd originally planned to skip sweet potatoes for next year, but this year's crop convinced me to try them again in our East Garden. I still have one or two more crops I need to work into the plan somewhere. But that's just part of the fun of planning a garden.

Burpee Seed Company

Sunday, December 10, 2017

In our west facing kitchen window, we now have a gloxinia in bloom, wandering jew cuttings rooting in water, and of course, our large wandering jew hanging plant. Most of our gloxinias are now dormant with a few still heading for dormancy and one or two just emerging from their required annual period of dormancy.

Plants in the kitchen window

Wandering jew cuttings in waterCuttings in potting mixSix of the nine wandering jew cuttings had put on water roots. I dusted the bottom half of each cutting with rooting hormone and put them in potting soil to form true roots. Some will take, and undoubtedly, some will wither and die. But I also refilled the glass jar in the window with a few more fresh cuttings.

Wandering jew cuttings may root well for you without any rooting hormone. I take the extra step of adding it because I have plenty of it on hand. The big thing for us is to get the rootings started early enough to be ready to take over the spot in our kitchen window come spring. By that point, the year old plant hanging there will be pretty well worn out with lots of dead stems and dry leaves. Our current wandering jew plant in the kitchen is a sixth or seventh generation plant produced from cuttings from the previous wandering jew. We also give away some extra wandering jew plants each year. It was a real treat a few years ago to give a daughter who gave us our original wandering jew plant some plants of her own.

The cuttings in a deep sixpack went under our plant lights. They're sharing space with a recently rooted cactus and some freshly seeded pots of sage and hosta.

Concert Getaway

Annie and I took another one of our weekend getaways last night. We drove to Effingham, Illinois, to see The Guess Who perform at the Effingham Performance Center. I'm not sure, but I don't think there is an original member of the band still with the group. The current lead singer of the band teased the audience in a friendly way about all the wrinkles and gray hair in the crowd. At 52, I think he is about twenty years younger than most of the attendees. But they put on a good show, pleasing the filled venue, and apparently totally enjoyed putting on the show.

After doing these getaways for about ten years, we've become fond of food and lodging close to the venues. In Effingham, we always have a great meal at the Firefly Grill. They've greatly expanded their gardens, producing a lot of what appears on their frequently changing menu. They also locally source as much of their menu as possible.

We've also gotten to like the Hampton Inn & Suites, just down the road from the grill and performance center. They have very nice rooms, and are very close to the case we happen to imbibe too much during a show. While our room was excellent, as usual, I have to say that their breakfast was way below what we expect and what they usually provide. Watered down orange juice, powdered eggs, cold sausage, very little bread, no donuts or danish, and an anemic offering of old cut fruit just don't cut it. Shame on Hilton/Hampton. We'll probably move on to another hotel on our next Effingham getaway.

Update (12/11/2017):

I sent Hilton Honors a complaint last night about the horrible breakfast provided by the Hampton Inn & Suites in Effingham, Illinois. This morning, I was greeted with an email from Hilton giving me enough honor points to pay for our next stay at a hotel. Whether they will follow through with the specific hotel and improve their food is uncertain.

There's No Place Like Home

We got home in time today to see our Colts show they could lose in the snow as well as in good playing conditions. But our day ended with an incredibly beautiful evening sky.

Evening sky - December 10, 2017

Firefly Grill

Note: The Firefly Grill is not a Senior Gardening Affiliated Advertiser. We just enjoy eating there.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Best Garden Photo Animated GIFI'm taking it easy today, recovering a bit from a trip to my friendly neighborhood laser surgeon. While I scheduled the appointment because a potential cancer was growing rapidly on my left shoulder, the surgeon instead burnt off eight or nine other bad spots from my head, arm, and back. The big one has to be cut off at a later appointment.

Instead of sharing any nasty photos of the skilled surgeon's handiwork, I decided to throw together an animated GIF of some garden photos I like from this year. Many of them appear on Our Best Garden Photos of 2017 feature story that links to larger versions of each photo. Sadly, the animated GIF may take forever to load, as it's a pretty big file.

Please note that all photos on this site are copyrighted, but may be used for desktop photos without permission or payment. All other use requires prior consent, massive royalty payments, your left pinkie finger...grin (Actually, I'm a pretty soft touch on non-commercial use of my photos, especially for educators. Just , please.)

Getting back to my resting up, all the laser work made me sick yesterday, the first time that's happened from one of these all too frequent appointments over the last decade or so. At any rate, I was sick at my stomach and the burns hurt. It's a bit better today, but I'm still not willing to try doing anything of consequence (other than making the GIF).

The moral of this story, of course, is to protect oneself from the harmful rays of the sun when working outside. I won't repeat here my annual nag on the subject, but will suggest sun protective clothing as possible gifts for gardeners. Lightweight shirts and sun hats with serious UPF ratings (50 or so) can help gardeners with skin cancers keep on gardening. Don't forget good gardening gloves. My first cancer in 2002 was on my right hand.

One thing from yesterday's experience that made me feel good was that the doctor didn't order a blood draw, a sure sign he might have thought any of the cancers had metastasized. I have lots to be thankful for this season, but a good session with my cancer doctor had me again thanking the Lord.

David's Cookies

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Fedco Seeds 2018 Catalog CoverFedco - Yaya carrotDespite their warnings of a possible late delivery due to Maine's week long power outage in November, our Fedco Seeds catalog arrived in yesterday's mail. That's a full day earlier than last year. The "flipping Fedco catalog" on the front cover refers to the back half of the catalog being the Organic Growers Supply & Moose Tubers catalog (when you flip it over vertically).

Fedco's catalog differs from a lot of other seed houses' catalogs in that is a black and white catalog with lots of interesting woodcuts instead of photos. Vegetables aren't arranged in alphabetical order, which I find a bit disconcerting. I also find it difficult to read because of its extremely small print. After a quick scan of the print catalog, I relied on their downloadable PDF version which I can magnify to my heart's content.

With those criticisms, I must say that I like buying from Fedco. They have a good variety of both hybrid and open pollinated vegetable varieties. Big seeded items such as beans and peas seem to be priced a bit better than the competition when ordered in half or pound quantities. Packet prices are also reasonable. And I like doing business with a customer and employee owned cooperative, enough so that I coughed up the bucks a few years ago to become a consumer member of the co-op.

So far, I only have three items to order from Fedco, Mokum and Yaya carrots and Jericho lettuce. The Yaya carrot listing is on the same page as the Mokums and I liked the description. Jericho lettuce is a romaine that may extend our spring lettuce harvest due to its heat resistance.

Since Fedco won't begin shipping seeds until January 3, 2018, I can hold this order for a while to see if there is anything else I want or need to add to my small order.

Along with everything else carried by Fedco, they now offer a fairly reasonably priced soil test done by the Maine State Soil Lab.

Finally, page 3 of the catalog announced that Fedco founder C.R. Lawn has retired. He has been a pioneer in the seed industry and seed saving.

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Full disclosure: Botanical Interests, Burpee, and True Leaf Market are Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. We're also a consumer member of the Fedco Seeds Cooperative. True Leaf Market Fedco Seeds

November, 2017


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