Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

November 15, 2017

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Our Senior Garden - November 1, 2017
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Our East Garden - November 1, 2017
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November is the first of several rather easy months in our gardening efforts. There are still some End of the Season Chores to complete, but not all that many. By the end of the month, we'll have all of our garden plots and beds prepared as much as possible for the new gardening season. Our garlic will be planted, and we may even get our asparagus patches cleared. (Just typing the word "asparagus" has me craving some of the spring garden treat!)

November is usually the month when we do our annual seed inventory. It's an essential task to know what we have enough of on hand and what we'll need to order. It's also a time when tough decisions are made in whether to try old seed for another year or pitch it and order new.

One big event of the month is when the first seed catalog for the 2018 gardening season arrives. The influx of seed catalogs will stretch well into the new year, but the early ones often get our largest orders. I like to peruse our favorite vendors' catalogs cover to cover, even if there is little chance I'll order something from them. I'll also be publishing our updated listing of Recommended Seed Suppliers here tomorrow. It's actually updated and available all year round, but I put it up here as well once a year.

Both our garden seed inventory and the arrival of new seed catalogs demand a review and possible update of our garden plans for next season before any seed orders are placed. Orders that include geranium, petunia, vinca, daisy, and/or onion seed have to be placed early, as we begin starting those items in January!

Since we have rain forecast for the next seven to ten days, I'll have to abandon any hopes of tilling and just get our garlic planted and our beds prepared as best as possible for next season. That happens some years and makes for a very busy spring planting season.

A pleasant surprise this morning was finding a good bit of hairy winter vetch growing under our now frost damaged buckwheat. That will hopefully ensure a good winter cover over the part of our East Garden that was rotated out this season.

Hairy winter vetch under frosted buckwheat

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Once a year, I post a list of our recommended seed suppliers here. I also maintain a regularly updated, similar listing on our Trusted Suppliers feature story page.

I've seriously pared down our list of trusted suppliers this year. Our listings are based on our totally subjective experiences with the vendors listed. Seed varieties available, quality, price, shipping & handling charges, customer service, and other experiences with the vendors all figure into our evaluation, winnowed a bit using The Garden Watchdog ratings from Dave's Garden. Some of the relationships run back well over forty years, while others are more recent additions.

Trusted Suppliers

  • Burpee Seedicon - the W. Atlee Burpee Company, the granddaddy of all seed catalog vendors, still around with lots of great seed - just so-so ratings on plant orders - excellent customer service, but a tad expensive - a longtime seed supplier (DGW rating)
  • Fedco - a cooperatively owned seed house in Maine featuring cold-hardy selections adapted to the Northeast - "Consumers own 60% of the cooperative and worker members 40%." Possibly the best value for your dollar in purchasing garden seed! (DGW rating)
  • George's Plant Farm - a highly rated supplier of sweet potato slips (DGW rating)
  • High Mowing Organic Seeds - well organized and illustrated catalog of heirloom, open pollinated, and hybrid seeds (DGW rating)
  • Johnny's Selected Seeds - offers hardy varieties for northern (and other) latitudes - a bit expensive, but great, seed - a longtime seed supplier (DGW rating)
  • Seed Savers Member Exchange - In 2017, 404 listed members offered 15,272 unique varieties of heirloom and other open pollinated seeds
  • Southern Exposure Seed Exchange - grow 40% of their own seed - (DGW rating)
  • Stokes Seeds - offers an incredible variety of vegetable and flower seeds - carries the excellent Empress variety of gloxinia seed (DGW rating)
  • Twilley Seed - our main supplier of sweet corn seed during our farming years and now - no online sales as yet - offers both a print and downloadable catalog - excellent customer service - a longtime seed supplier (DGW rating)

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

Others to Consider

I can't afford to order from all my favorite or reader suggested seed houses each year. The list below includes some vendors we've not recently used, had minor issues with, and a few new places we'd like to try (when my penny jar fills up again).

  • Amishland Heirloom Seeds - a one-woman operation specializing in the rare varieties proprietor Lisa Von Saunder has obtained from "Old Order Amish, Old Order Mennonite, and Pennsylvania German farm families on their multigenerational farms" in her area of Pennsylvania. (DGW rating)
  • Annie's Heirloom Seeds - An interesting selection of seed from a family owned business - If you give them a try, be sure to use the "TryAnnies" coupon code for a discount on your first order! (DGW rating)
  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - offer an incredible array of heirloom seeds (DGW rating)
  • Botannical Interests - offer a nice variety of heirloom and open pollinated seeds in small packets at pretty reasonable prices. (DGW rating)
  • Heirloom Seeds - I ran across this one years ago when hunting reasonably priced granular soil inoculant for our beans and peas. There again is no print catalog, but their item and shipping prices are fair. I also like that they're a small, family owned and operated supplier. (DGW rating)
  • John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds - lots of interesting varieties you may not find elsewhere (DGW rating)
  • Osborne Seed Company - More for commercial growers, but does sell retail at good prices if you need large quantities. (DGW rating)
  • Reimer Seeds - This company has an absolutely horrific DGW rating. But if you're hunting seed for a hybrid vegetable variety discontinued by your usual seed supplier(s), Reimer just may have it! I suspect they pick up old, discontinued varieties of seed from seed wholesalers and/or growers, but then, beggars can't be choosers. We found some fairly true-to-variety Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed from them when our strain began to show inbreeding depression. Breeding their strain back into ours saved our strain of JLPs. They also carry Premium Crop broccoli seed, a favorite hybrid that has disappeared from our trusted seed sources. This definitely is a buyer beware recommendation, but we've had good results with their seed so far.
  • R.H. Shumway - lots of heirloom (and other) seed presented in a catalog with lots of woodcut illustrations (DGW rating)
  • Seed Savers Exchange - offers good variety of open pollinated seeds through their print and online catalog (DGW rating)
  • Territorial Seed Company - good variety of seeds - high minimum shipping rates (DGW rating)
  • True Leaf Market - renamed Mountain Valley Seed Company (DGW rating)
  • Turtle Tree Seed Initiative - offer a nice variety of heirloom and open pollinated seeds - (DGW Rating)
  • Victory Seed Company - another seed house specializing in open pollinated and heirloom varieties...with great ratings on Dave's Garden Watchdog (DGW rating)
  • West Coast Seeds - ships to both the U.S. and Canada with seed regionalized for the northwest - flat rate shipping for seeds (okay for a bunch of packets but prohibitively expensive for just one or two packets) (DGW rating)
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

How to Move from our Trusted Suppliers to Others to Consider to our When Hell Freezes Over List (in just four years)

A few years ago, I ran across a relatively new seed house that sounded interesting. They supplied open pollinated seed at a good price with fair shipping rates. I made a nice comment about them on this Senior Gardening blog and also let them know about it.

I received a prompt, polite email of thanks from someone at the company who also offered to let me select any packet of seed from them for free. While I occasionally accept freebies, I don't think it's very good journalism to accept gifts from entities I review. (Unsolicited freebies sometimes get a nice review on their merit, though.) Instead, I let them know that I'd be placing a seed order.

I ordered four packets of seed from them. Their seed germinated and grew well, so I ordered some garlic from them mid-season for fall planting. Their garlic was pretty, although extremely small. But their good seed was enough to earn them a spot on our Others to Consider list.

The next season, I didn't need any seed from the company, but was impressed with the results from one of the three garlics I'd ordered from them the previous year. Along with the previous year's good seed, that got them bumped up onto our recommended seed suppliers list.

Towards the end of the growing season, I got a message from a dear, old high school friend now living in Florida. She was helping with her grandson's school garden and looking for sources for seed donations. I immediately sent her a box of seed and a list of companies that donate old seed packets to charitable efforts such as hers.

I also wrote the company that had offered me free seed in return for my positive comments about them. I suggested that instead of the free seed they offered me, they might send some seed to my friend. I received not one, but two negative responses from the company, basically telling me my friend would have to apply and stand in line for their free seed program. They had a policy and time frame for seed donations and wouldn't deviate from it.

Needless to say, I was a bit miffed. Since my request was outside their seed donation program requirements, I thought the least they might do is to send a packet of free seed to my friend with information about applying for the seed donation program.

I should add here that I told them that the grandson of my friend and his class growing the garden are all disabled students. I admittedly have a soft spot there, as I finished my teaching career working with children with various disabilities.

I was tempted to just drop the company off my seed suppliers list. Realizing that I was being a bit peevish, I instead dumped them back to the Others to Consider category without comment to my readers or the company. Then, I put it out of my mind.

As I updated the listings above, I once again checked each company's record on Dave's Garden Watchdog. I also thought to check out this company's donation program. As I scrolled through a pop-up page of their requirements to apply for free seed, I was amazed to find that they charged a hefty fee for shipping their old, unsold, "free seed." They're not alone amongst seed companies that require postage and handling fees for their "free seed." I do wonder if they understand the definition of the word "donate."

That pushed me over the edge! I removed the company from my Suppliers page and resolved to give them no mention here in the future. I also, possibly influenced by a little bottom shelf scotch, sent an email to the employee who originally offered me free seed, telling him of the change and why.

Had the person who responded to my original email had any PR skills, he'd have pulled together ten or twelve packets of seeds and sent them (without a shipping charge) to my friend. He had the address, as it was still there in the string of our email correspondence. He rather chose to patronize me about miscommunication, again telling me about the incredible service his company performs by giving away old, unsalable seed packets. I hadn't raised the issue of the shipping charge with him on their "donations." I wonder if he charges a shipping charge on his "charitable" donations to places like Puerto Rico?

That's how a company moves to my unpublished When Hell Freezes Over list in just a few short years.

New Gesneriad Site (Gloxinias, African Violets, and such)

Gesneriad Reference WebThe Gesneriad Society has launched the Gesneriad Reference Web. Their press release states:

The new Gesneriad Reference Web...has been crafted to provide the very best source of online information about the Gesneriaceae. It’s easy to use, beautiful to see,​ and indispensable for anyone interested in learning more about our wonderful plant family and seeing beautiful pictures of beautiful plants.

The site isn't complete as yet, and really should be an ongoing development as more information should be added continually. For growers of gloxinias and African violets, this site may become a very helpful resource.

Seed Savers Member Exchange Notice

An email came in last evening notifying Seed Saver members that "The deadline to list seeds for inclusion in the 2018 [print] Yearbook is December 8." Members may list seeds for sharing anytime on the online Exchange. The email states that the print yearbook will become available "at the beginning of the year."

The email also included the following (which I noted in a September posting):

We also announced in the fall Heritage Farm Companion that the Exchange has been opened to welcome non Seed Savers Exchange members. The reasoning behind this decision was to help promote and invigorate the growing of heirloom varieties and the saving of seed, with the idea that it would bring in a new audience and a new generation of seed savers. As a lister, you may choose to only offer your seeds to others who will in turn save and share the seeds. If you choose to do this, simply include the requirement in your profile and listings.

I've already heard from one longtime Seed Saver's member who is vehemently opposed to allowing non-members to purchase seed through the Exchange. I'm not really sure about the change in policy, but lean a bit towards expanding the Exchange's outreach to as many gardeners as possible.

Of our saved garden seed this year, we're offering six varieties to share via the member Exchange. Five of them are endangered vegetable varieties. Three Jack Metcalf tomato releases are our stars: Earlirouge; Moira; and Quinte. All three varieties are medium sized tomatoes with great flavor and deep red interior color.

Clusters of Earlirouge tomatoes Three Moiras Quinte tomatoes
Earlirouge Moira Quinte

Our Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants had their usual bounty of medium sized red bell peppers this season. And our strain of Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers produced enough cucumbers for us to can several batches of pickles (bread and butter and dill chips) and one of sweet relish, along with a lot of seed production.

Earliest Red Sweet Pepper Plant Japanese Long Pickling cucumber Abundant Bloomsdale spinach
Earliest Red Sweet Japanese Long Pickling Abundant Bloomsdale

Abundant Bloomsdale spinach is a rather new, Open Source Seed Initiative variety. While I usually don't list seed for varieties available commercially, ours may be beginning to adapt to our growing region. This year is just the second year we've saved seed from the delicious spinach variety.

Friday, November 3, 2017 - A Little Here, a Little There

After our first frost on Tuesday, it's gotten a little easier to decide what to pull out of our garden and what to leave for a few more days. The frost took all of our pretty vincas (now pulled) and our long row of zinnias (not pulled - taking out the zinnias can be a full day job). We still have a few marigolds in glorious full bloom and some geraniums that appear to be just barely alive. And as often happens each fall, our remaining snapdragons are still blooming a bit.

Our carrots weren't adversely affected by the frost, so they'll get some more time to plump their roots. Our broccoli and cauliflower also survived the frost. And our bed of kale continues to grow.

I picked a little kale yesterday and made Sweet Potato Kale Frittata for supper. The dish included sweet potatoes, kale, bell peppers, and garlic from our garden, although the peppers were ones I'd frozen a week or so ago. I deviated from the online recipe by adding the peppers and some smoked sausage and ham to the dish. It was good enough that I'll try it again sometime. That may be influenced by the quantity of sweet potatoes we have available for use. Once our kale is done, I'll probably substitute spinach from the grocery for the kale.

If you're unfamiliar with frittatas as I was, my wife, Annie, referred to them as "kishe without the crust." I think that's pretty accurate.

While I used about four times the kale called for in the recipe, I found that I still had picked way too many kale leaves. The extra kale got boiled with bacon and onions tonight for supper. Our kale bed has vigorously regrown since our last heavy picking and is ready for a final picking. I may need to can or freeze the kale, or just pick it and take it to our local food bank.

I'm not sure when I'll take out the last of our garden, as it appears we have four or five days until our next chance of a frost or hard freeze. While it was nice outside today, we have more rain forecast for the weekend. Area farmers were again racing today in somewhat muddy fields to bring in their remaining crops. I really do need to get the last of our melons and vines and our row of tomato plants out of our East Garden before they become a rotting mess.

Publishing our annual listing of recommended seed suppliers yestereday cost me a few bucks. Without checking my inventory, I ordered two packets of Premium Crop broccoli seed from Reimer Seeds when I saw that they still had seed in stock of the apparently discontinued variety. Of course, when I checked my seed inventory sheet, I found that I'd ordered two packets of the seed last year. Since broccoli seed does well in frozen storage, I may be fixed for Premium Crops seed for years after it's just a pleasant memory for many gardeners.

I'm finding the slower pace of November gardening to be a pleasant change from summertime. I get up late, do a little gardening, take a nap, cook supper, and take yet another nap as the PBS Newshour plays on our TV, and finally get around to updating this site. Life in retirement is good.

Burpee Seed Company

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cauliflower on November 6
Broccoli sideshoot on November 6
Morton Canning Salt icon
Morton Kosher Salt icon

I'm pleasantly surprised that we're getting good broccoli and cauliflower this late in the season. The broccoli heads are now all sideshoots, but some of them are fairly big. The cauliflower I cut today was baseball sized. Together, the steamed brassicas topped with some cheese made for a delicious sidedish with our supper. Last night, we had kale with our dinner. I'd filled a twelve quart bucket with packed down kale leaves yesterday to send home with one of our daughters. Her plans changed, and we were left with a sinkful of what Annie described as some of the loveliest kale she'd ever seen. After dinner, I ended up freezing two pints of leftover boiled kale.

Note that when I'm cooking brassicas that may be frozen later, I season them with canningicon or koshericon salt. Iodized table salt can discolor kale and other brassicas and may negatively impact flavor. I also store our canning salt in glass jars with tight sealing lids. It takes a year or two to use four pounds of canning salt.

All of this harvesting fun will come to an end at some point, possibly as soon as later this week when we have a 25° F morning predicted. While brassicas can withstand a light frost, I'm not sure our broccoli, cauliflower, and kale can take the hard freeze that is predicted.

Our first seed order for the new gardening season came in today. I'd ordered two packets of Premium Crop broccoli seed from Reimer Seeds on Thursday. That's a pretty good turnaround time. The packets I received were labeled "Packaged for 2018." That doesn't really tell me when the seed was produced, but the seed packet also listed a good, recent germination test.

Reimers also included a packet of "free" seed, something many seed houses do (and I wish they'd stop to reduce the cost of seed ordered). The seed packet was labelled World's Smallest Tomato. That got me searching for the actual name of the variety. It appears that it is the Red Currant tomato that produces lots of blueberry sized tomatoes. Since I have trouble keeping our grape tomatoes picked, I may pass on growing this one. Small tomatoes drop lots of fruit which produces lots of tomato weeds in succeeding crops.

Tonight may be the last of a whole bunch of rainy days and nights. We have three possibly sunny days in the near weather forecast which may allow me to get some areas of our garden cleaned up without loosing a shoe or boot in the mud! I'm hopeful.

Free Shipping on Orders over $35

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - Shipping and Handling Charges

High shipping and handling charges have always rankled me. They often have prevented me from purchasing a packet or two of needed seed from various seed houses. A couple of years ago, High Mowing Organic Seeds tried including shipping and handling charges in the cost of their seed packets. Sadly, the experiment didn't work, and they stepped back to a rather reasonable minimum shipping charge with free shipping still offered for orders over $10.

I followed a link this morning from a Burpee affiliate advertiser email to their new products pageicon. Before I got to looking at their new offerings, I was pleasantly surprised by the banner atop their web page offering some aggressive new shipping rates for seed orders.

Burpee Seed Company

A $1.99 shipping charge for one or two packets of seeds is a refreshing change in today's market. Free shipping on three or more packets of seed could be a game changer for seed houses. Kudos to Burpee for some fair shipping rates.

Dianthus - Jolt Pick MagicSugar Cube melonDo note that seed from Burpee often is priced a bit above other seed vendors. But having shipping basically included in the price of seed packets is a very good move.

New Offerings

iconWhen I got around to looking through Burpee's new additions to their seed offerings, I was glad to find a dianthusicon to try to go along with our current favorites from the Carpet series.

While not new on the market, the new-to-Burpee's-catalog Sugar Cubeicon melon was a pleasant surprise. We've grown Sugar Cubes from seed from Shumway and Stokes for several years. While the melons are small, they have incredible flavor and vigor. Sugar Cube vines are ones that often continue producing throughout a growing season.

Beyond Burpee's improved shipping rates, they also have several savings opportunities that run through the end of the year:

  • Burpee $5 Off Your Purchase of $25 with code BURPEE5 (Ends 12/31/17)
  • Burpee $10 Off Your Purchase of $50 with code 10BURPEE (Ends 12/31/17)
  • Burpee $15 Off Your Purchase of $75 with code BURPEE15 (Ends 12/31/17)
  • This weekend, Save 20% OFF A Single Item Friday, November 10th - Saturday, November 11th at! Use code 20SINGLE
  • Save 20% Off Sitewide One Day Only - Sunday, November 12th. Use code SITEWIDE20

Saturday, November 11, 2017 - Veterans Day (U.S.) - Cleaning Up

Pots soakingI'm been taking it easy the last few days, mostly staying inside while I got over a nasty head cold. That ended today when I got outside this morning, broke the ice over our garden cart filled with pots soaking in rain water, and began cleaning the pots. It's a necessary job that I hate doing and usually put off as long as possible.

After brushing away any organic matter remaining on the plastic pots, I put them into a five gallon bucket of warm bleach water to kill off any harmful organisms that might be present. The pots soaked in the bleach solution for several hours. I have to cover the bucket with a tight fitting lid, as our dogs and cats seem to avoid the clean water we put out for them in favor of water in mud puddles or open buckets!

Pots drying in the kitchenAfter a good soaking, the pots get rinsed in our kitchen sink and go on a counter to dry before being stored in our plant room.

I got a little crazy about cleaning and disinfecting used pots and trays a few years ago. Whether from dirty materials brought back into our plant room or from some purchased corms and plants, our gloxinia collection got completely wiped out by the INSV virus.

Our gloxinia collection has been restored from saved seed, but we no longer bring any plants back inside that have been outside for any length of time. Plants that I want to carry over have to survive in our mostly unheated sunroom. So far this year, that's only been one hosta I didn't use and a wax begonia I split and repotted.

Cleaning the pots and trays takes several days, but it also saves us some money. We use a lot of four and four and a half inch pots for large transplants and young gloxinias. With Perma-Nest trays running around ten bucks each, a quick scrubbing is well worth the effort.

Mostly dead hanging basket plants

Once I finish with the pots and trays, I'll move on to cleaning our hanging basket pots. The last two mornings of freezing temperatures pretty well did them in. Interestingly, a single, rather sad looking petunia plant survived the freezing weather.

Greenhouse Megastore

Sunday, November 12, 2017

It's raining again today. Between showers, I'm darting out and bringing in pots to rinse, dry, and store that had been soaking in a bleach solution (see yesterday's posting).

It wouldn't be worth making a posting today, except that Burpee is running a 20% off sitewide sale for today only. Use code SITEWIDE20.

Combined with their new, lower shipping rates for seed packets, you might want to order some seed a bit early.

Burpee Gardening Supplies & Gifts

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 - Our Best Photos

Our Best Garden Photos of 2017High Mowing Organic Seeds 2018 Catalog CoverWhile it might be more accurately titled Garden Photos, I put up Our Best Garden Photos of 2017 early this morning. I didn't take nearly as many garden shots this year. In addition, my hands are a bit shakier than in my younger years. Even with some rather suspect photography, viewing the page just might start a craving for watermelon or asparagus.

First Seed Catalog of the New Season

I still have carrots to dig, kale to pick, and garden beds to clean, but our first 2018 seed catalog arrived in yesterday's mail. The 2018 High Mowing Organic Seeds catalog is attractive and well organized. I spent an hour or so giving it my usual cover-to-cover survey. I found a couple of items that are on my shopping list.

Seed packet pricing from HMOS seems reasonable, with most small packets running $2.95. They have good shipping rates, only charging a fee on orders less than $10.

I also noticed that Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has their free catalog available for download as a PDF document. I glanced at a few pages of it, but will wait to look through all of it when my paper copy arrives in the mail.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - Shopping Guides for Gardeners

Gifts for GardenersGardening Shopping GuideIt seems a little hard to believe, but it's already Christmas shopping time. I'm still waiting for the last of my wife's birthday gifts to arrive before her Thanksgiving-ish birthday. When shopping online or by mail order, it pays to order early. And of course, now I'm going to have to come up with some new ideas for her Christmas gifts.

For those shopping for gardeners, I've updated both of our shopping guides. The Old Guy's Shopping Guide for Gifts for Gardeners is our holiday shopping guide geared mostly for non-gardeners buying for gardeners. Our Shopping Guide for Gardeners is more of a year round guide of gardening tools and supplies with a bit of advice for beginning gardeners.


Articles such as our garden guides and our list of recommended suppliers get updated several times each year. I added two or three new items to each of our buying guides this year. The suppliers list changes with our continuing experiences with suppliers, although the basic list remains pretty stable from year to year.

Our Best Photos article gets started in April or May each season. I add photos as the season progresses. When doing the final edit of the page, I usually end up adding several more photos I missed or originally thought wouldn't fit the format. While I enjoy doing almost all of the writing on Senior Gardening, our best photos page is especially fun to put together.

Hairy winter vetch growing under dead buckwheatVetch under buckwheatI should have noted in yesterday's posting about the best photos page that one of the images isn't mine. My lovely wife, Annie, took the rainbow shot towards the bottom of the page with her iPhone 6.

I took several shots this afternoon that obviously came too late to make the best photos page, and also, they really aren't all that pretty. I took closeups showing hairy winter vetch coming up through the now dead buckwheat stalks in the rotated out portion of our East Garden plot. Then I took a distance shot of the area with the vetch just barely showing.

We purposely grew two crops of buckwheat this year. I was a bit late in getting the second crop cut and turned down and part of it went to seed. After tilling down the second crop, I broadcast hairy winter vetch over the plot. Of course, the buckwheat seed that had matured germinated well, giving us a third crop of buckwheat on the same ground in the same season. My original garden plan called for three plantings of buckwheat, but I changed my mind and decided to go with the winter vetch instead.

There just isn't anything like dumb luck. I got three crops of buckwheat, two direct seeded and one volunteer. Now it appears that we have a decent stand of winter vetch.

Hairy winter vetch coming up through dead buckwheat


Friday, November 17, 2017 - Fall Carrots

Some large carrots drying
Carrots ready for storage in green bags

I dug our fall carrots yesterday. I'd been putting off the job, ostensibly to give the carrots more time to grow. Lifting the carrots out of the ground from two ten foot double rows wasn't all that hard. It didn't take long in the moist, loose soil. Cleaning the carrots took until the wee hours this morning, the real reason for my procrastination. I love growing carrots, but I really dislike cleaning them!

Most of the carrots were fairly straight with almost no splits. I attribute that to good luck and having deeply worked the ground before planting. We ended up putting fourteen pounds of good carrots in green bags into our refrigerator. In the green bags, carrots usually keep fairly well until late spring. Another two pounds of cull carrots with slight skin blemishes that could cause early rot will go to our local food bank.

Black snake squeezing rabbit in our main gardenBefore I started digging yesterday, I noticed that about a fourth of the leaves of the carrot tops had been nibbled off the plants. Not seeing any deer tracks in the moist soil, I'd guess that rabbits have been visiting our main raised bed of late. The black snake that helped keep our garden free of rabbits (and his/her belly filled) must be hibernating already.

We direct seeded our fall carrots this year on July 30. Dry weather slowed the carrots' growth, but didn't kill them. The late fall and carrots ability to survive a light to moderate frost allowed us to delay digging them and get a nice harvest. Varieties planted included Dolciva and Bolero (both winter storage varieties), Mokumicon, Scarlet Nantes, Nelson, and Laguna. The star in big carrot production turned out to be the Nelsons.

Now, I have to figure out what to do with the five or six pounds of rather hairy spring carrots I pulled from the fridge to make room for our fall carrots.

Leonid Meteor Shower

I noticed several recent news reports of bright meteors over the United States. The meteors were possibly from the annual Taurids meteor shower or the Leonid meteor shower. The Taurids are a minor meteor shower, although they can produce some very bright shooting stars, as they are "made up of weightier material, pebbles instead of dust grains" which burn longer and more brightly than dust when they hit our atmosphere.

The Leonid meteor showers occur each November as planet Earth passes through the debris path of the comet Tempel-Tuttle. While some Leonids are visible much of the month of November, they usually peak around November 17 or 18. This year, they are predicted to peak early tomorrow (Saturday) morning (midnight to 5am) during the new moon, which makes viewing better (darker night sky).

While not considered a major meteor shower, the Leonids occasionally have produced a meteor storm with thousands of shooting stars visible in a single night. That's not predicted for this year. But if you're up late tonight or very early tomorrow morning, you might just see a meteor or two.

Constellation Leo

The Leonids appear to radiate out from the constellation Leo. Firing up my too little used, free Stellarium application, I grabbed a screenshot of where to look if you're standing in my back yard at 3:37 A.M. Saturday morning. (Of course, if you're out there, you may get hassled by one of our dogs.) Stellarium allows one to enter their geographic coordinates to localize its views of the night sky. And obviously, one can move the date and time to a point of ones choosing.

As often happens with such occurrences, our weather forecast for tonight calls for cloudy skies with rain.

While some news outlets debased themselves with headlines about the recent meteors containing the words "aliens" and "UFO" (Shame on you, Newsweek!), Vincent Perlerin's Four Major Fireballs within Ten Hours on the American Meteor Society site gives a factual report on the recent, bright meteors.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Our Senior Garden - November 20, 2017Carrot weevil damageI cleared our main raised bed and a narrow one of mulch yesterday. I was careful to rake up all the remains of carrot plants left from last Thursday's digging. While cleaning the carrots, I culled out several otherwise nice looking carrots that showed signs of carrot weevil damage.

While I don't like leaving our garden plots uncovered over the winter, I wanted to remove any organic matter that might provide the carrot weevils and other bugs any cover to overwinter. Clearing the beds will also help them dry out more quickly. We have about a week of dry weather predicted, and that may prove to be just enough time for the raised beds to dry out enough to permit tilling.

Not cleared of mulch was our bed of kale. The still actively growing kale has one more picking yet.

Thanksgiving Menu Items

I got my Thanksgiving menu items assignments last evening. With children with far larger and nicer houses than ours, we thankfully don't have to host our annual family Thanksgiving celebration. While not assigned, I decided to add boiled kale to what we'll supply. Rather than our usual recipe of boiling the kale in water with garlic, onions, and bacon pieces for flavoring, I'm going to boil the kale in chicken broth. Small pieces of skinless smoked sausage will be added to the other usual ingredients to add a bit more flavor.

Grandma's Yeast RollsCinnamon RollsPer a granddaughter's request, we'll be making a double recipe of Grandma's Yeast Rolls for the dinner. I'll have to show some real self control not to use some of the dough for a pan of Cinnamon Rolls that start with the yeast roll recipe.

I also got assigned the traditional green bean casserole. While greatly disparaged on some web sites, the green bean casserole dish is always empty by the end of the meal. I noticed last week that local groceries bumped up the price of the french fried onions that go in and on top the casserole.

As we have several gluten sensitive family members, I usually get assigned making a dish of gluten free "yams." In past years, the yams have actually been butternut squash cooked with brown sugar, butter, marshmallows, cinnamon, salt, and a bit of nutmeg. Since squash bugs took our butternuts (and pumpkins) this year, I'll actually be making the dish with real sweet potatoes instead of butternuts. I did a test run a week or so ago using sweet potatoes that turned out well. (Our basement storage area has a whole wire shelf filled with sweet potatoes!)

My wife, Annie, will be handling any pie making we were assigned.

High on our list of things to be thankful for on Thursday is that all four of our daughters should be present. One of our sons has a new job in Minnesota and has to work on Friday. He will be celebrating with his wife's family there for the holiday. Another son is still undecided. But having four of our six kids together should be quite a treat.

Sierra Trading Post

Thursday, November 23, 2017 - Thanksgiving Day (U.S.)

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

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Happy Thanksgiving

Friday, November 24, 2017 - Fun Stuff in the Mail

Stokes Seeds 2018 Catalog CoverOn Monday, a seed order from the Turtle Tree Seed Initiative arrived. They had a pepper in their catalog that appears to be the same as the Earliest Red Sweet variety we grow that I want to try. I've not seen their seed catalog, but after placing a couple of orders this year, look forward to receiving it.

Tuesday's mail produced our copy of the 2018 Gardening Guide from Stokes Seeds. That's their fancy name for their annual seed catalog. They always have great cover photography that lures one into a colorful catalog chock full of items to drain ones wallet. We've relied on them for quality seed for thirty or forty years!

2018 Burpee Advent CalendarWednesday's mail included a large flat box containing the 2018 Burpee Advent Calendar. It's not something you can order, but is sent out as Burpee's press release to journalists about their new offeringsicon for the coming gardening season. The fun part of the calendar is that opening the cuts in it for the days of the month up to Christmas reveals a sample of one of their new seed varieties. I propped up our Advent Calender on our piano beside a nativity scene that never got put away last year!

A booklet included in the mailing tells a little about each of the twenty-five new varieties offered. Paging through the booklet, I checked off ten varieties I'd like to try. I'll write about some of them at a later date. There's also a listing inside the back cover of another fifty or so other new varieties Burpee is carrying this year.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange 2018 Catalog CoverToday's mail included the 2018 Southern Exposure Seed Exchange seed catalog. I love their whimsical catalog covers. We get our blank, self-seal seed envelopes from them. We also got our start of the relatively new Abundant Bloomsdale spinach from them a couple of years ago.


I'm not doing a lot of outdoor gardening these days, but did do a little today. I had a bucket and cart of stuff to dump onto our compost pile. After adding the kitchen scraps and old mulch to the pile, I spread a bit of commercial fertilizer and lime over it.

On my way back to the house, I was again reminded that I hadn't cleaned up our melon patch. So, I filled our garden cart with about a dozen semi-frozen watermelon. They got dumped onto a side of the compost pile. When I have more ambition, I'll rake up the mulch and remaining vines from the melon patch and add them to the compost pile.

Monday, November 27, 2017

We're into what appears to be a period of unusually mild, late fall weather. We've had several days with highs around 50 and mild nights. Those weather conditions are predicted to continue for the next week or so. Also, a lack of rain is allowing the ground to dry a bit. Such conditions make our final gardening chores of the season much easier to do, and also easier to spread out over the days.

Botanical Interests is once again offering free coloring books for download. The newest is their Winter 2018 Edition, but several older ones are also available.

Free Coloring Book from Botannical Interests

Thursday, November 30, 2017 - November Wrap-up

November, 2017, animate4d GIF of Our Senior GardenThis month was notable more for what didn't get done in our garden than what did! Some physical problems, laziness, and simply being a bit worn out with gardening left several major fall jobs not yet completed.

Our main raised garden bed and one narrow bed have been pretty well cleared of plants and plant debris. I noticed yesterday afternoon that our dogs have been digging in the beds, indicating that we still have mole problems there. Our East Garden plot is only partially cleared. I still need to get our tomato plants, fall brassicas, and our long row of zinnias cleaned up. As long as the ground doesn't freeze soon, I should be able to complete those tasks. Fall tilling the East Garden is out, as it's heavy clay soil simply won't dry out enough to permit tilling.

We harvested great broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots this month. Our bed of kale is in good shape and should produce one more big picking before I pull the plants.

Writing wise, I published Our Best Garden Photos of 2017 and updated The Old Guy's Shopping Guide for Gifts for Gardeners, Shopping Guide for Gardeners, and our how-tos on Growing Garlic and How We Grow Our Carrots. I also published our annual listing of recommended seed suppliers and continued updating the permanent Trusted Suppliers page.

One biggie that's not done yet is getting our garlic planted. I'd hoped and still hope at this writing to be able to till the area where the garlic will go. But we have rain predicted for this morning, so I may just have to put the garlic sets, which I sorted out last night, into the ground without our usual soil preparation and hope for the best.

Another job not done is our annual seed inventory. Even though I haven't gone through all of our commercial and self-saved seed yet, I still placed several orders this month. A no brainer was for our sweet potato plants from George's Plant Farm. After experiencing blight a number of years ago in saved potato and sweet potato starts, I swore off using saved potatoes for planting and only use certified clean sweet potato plants and seed potatoes.

My original plan for our East Garden next year didn't include sweet potatoes. But even with some fairly serious weevil damage, we still got a great crop of sweet potatoes this year. So I modified our plan to include room for a row of sweet potatoes next year. (I may be writing this part while under the influence of some candied yams we had with our supper tonight!)

David's Cookies

October, 2017

December, 2017

Contact Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening



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