Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

Affiliated Advertisers


The Old Guy's Garden Record

October 15, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Late melons in our East Garden
Click on images to open larger view in new tab or window.
Cream of Broccoli Soup
Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.

October in our garden presents some real joys and challenges. Long after many gardens have quit producing, we'll still be harvesting tomatoes, peppers, kale, lettuce, cabbage, a few Sugar Snap peas where I watered the row most heavily, possibly some carrots if we get some rain and they mature in time, and a few late watermelons. I cut four baseball to softball sized main heads of broccoli yesterday in our East Garden, and there are nine more broccoli plants there forming heads. For some reason, I bought heavy cream at the grocery last week. Maybe I subconsciously knew some Cream of Broccoli soup was in the offing. Our fall cauliflower isn't heading yet.

Four heads of fall broccoli

While the late harvests are a wonderful bonus, we also need to get those crops out of the way. We hope to fall till our garden plots this year. Most important are areas where we'll plant garlic later this month and where our early peas and brassicas will go next spring. Beyond getting those areas prepped, plant trash and mulch will need to be cleared and composted to deny insect pests places to overwinter. Clearing the remains of previous crops also helps prevent disease carryover.

End of Season Gardening Chores tells of all the things I try to do at the end of each gardening season.

Enjoy What You've Read?

If so, why not come back to our Senior Gardening List of Affiliated Advertisers the next time you plan to purchase something online. Clicking through one of our ads will produce a small commission for Senior Gardening for any purchase you make, and you won't pay any more than you would have by directly going to the vendor's site.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Today wasn't a good day for gardening. I woke up with a very sore back and decided to watch TV with a heating pad on my back. Of course, the news was heartbreaking. Something must be done about gun control in our nation. Like most folks, I'd guess, I said several prayers for the families impacted by the shootings in Las Vegas last night.

Not being physically able to do any serious work outside, I decided to go ahead and upgrade a remote, and I mean very remote, partition of an external drive on my Mac Mini to Apple's new operating system, macOS High Sierra (10.13). With its new file system, I didn't trust the update with any of my main drives. As it turned out, after a very long download, the installation went without a hitch. Of course, there were then all the third party updates to be installed, often with their own long download times.

I also put together another external hard drive to back up my laptop. Since the laptop now carries a 2TB drive, I opted to replace my old 750GB backup drive with a brand new 6TB hard drive. I've had a small stack of computer parts in my office since a computer scare last winter. As it turned out, I was able to recover from those problems and pleasantly had some brand new components on hand to work with. The initial backup of the laptop took forever. With the Mini getting a new OS and the laptop chugging through a backup (and unable to connect to the Mini, which I also use as a file server), there wasn't much to do other than to keep my heating pad adjusted and watch TV.

I think my sore back came from raking and moving all the mulch that had been under our failed planting of butternut squash to our compost pile. It involved raking, lots of bending, and transporting the mulch to the compost pile. This job was essential, though, as bugs, especially squash bugs, like to overwinter in heavy mulch.

I have more of the same to do when our melon patch is finally done. But even on October 2, I'm not yet ready to pull our melon vines. I picked a dandy Picnic watermelon on Saturday that had great flavor. I credit the 90° F plus days we had last week with the good melon flavor. Granddaughter Katherine ate almost half of the watermelon all by herself. I'm rooting for a couple of Kleckley Sweets to ripen, as we've not had any of them for years. The raccoons usually get to the thin rind melons before they're fully ripe.

Processing zinnia seedOur row of zinnias - September 30, 2017I finished the day shredding some heads of zinnia seed. I had been collecting a handful of the seed heads whenever I had been out in our East Garden and thought about it. Having let the heads dry (some for just a week, others up to four weeks), I rubbed them to separate the seeds from the stem. If we have the right wind conditions, I'll winnow the seed to remove wings and trash from the seed. If not, trashy zinnia seed seems to grow just as well for us at the refined and cleaned seed sold by seed houses.

We still have lots of zinnias in bloom with many seed heads drying down on the plants that can be used for seed. Even so, I'll still buy a packet or two of zinnia seed for next spring. I try to add a little variety to the row each year.

Burpee Seed Company

Thursday, October 5, 2017 - Rain!

Volunteer buckwheat in East GardenSo that's what hairy winter vetch looks likeAfter almost two months with no significant rainfall, we received over an inch of rain in the last twenty-four hours. It's remained cloudy outside, and it feels as if we might get a bit more overnight.

The rotated out portion of our East Garden began filling in with volunteer buckwheat in September despite the droughty conditions. With our recent rain, I noticed today that the hairy winter vetch I seeded on September 3 has finally begun to germinate. I found myself saying, "So that's what hairy winter vetch looks like."

Whether the vetch can survive the canopy the buckwheat may create is iffy. But whether we have buckwheat or vetch, we'll have something putting down roots to help prevent soil erosion over the winter.

I filled seven or eight plastic grocery bags today with tomatoes. I also filled a five gallon bucket with culls, as there were lots of tomatoes with split tops and sides and a lot of bug damage. Our local food bank got the good tomatoes, although I didn't pick from our Earlirouge plants in our main garden. I'm sorta saving them for our next batch of Portuguese Kale Soup.

Beyond a doubt, this is the best tomato harvest we've had in years. Of course, I have more plants out than usual, but their production, especially during a drought, has been amazing. It's been fun to share the bounty the Lord has provided with family, friends, and others.

Free Shipping on Orders over $35

Saturday, October 7, 2017 - Apples!

Granddaughter Katherine and Steve picking applesAnne and Katherine working the apple treeWe picked apples today. Our Granny Smith tree yielded enough fairly good apples to fill a five gallon bucket. We also half filled our four cubic foot garden cart with culls. Our supposedly dwarf Stayman Winesap tree yielded three, yellow, rotten apples. Hmm... And the volunteer apple tree growing just off our property didn't bear any fruit this year, but it did bloom enough to pollinate the Granny Smith tree.

I obviously wasn't regular enough with spraying our main apple tree, as we had lots of insect damage to the apples. A few of the good apples are eating quality, but the rest will need some bad spots cut out before we make them into applesauce. And all of the "good apples" had some sooty mold on them, guaranteeing that the tree will get a late spraying with fruit tree spray.

So-so apples
Granny Smith apples

We picked up groundfalls first and later picked from the ground. We then employed a long-handled picking tool, also working from the bed of our pickup truck.

Katherine enjoys an Earlirouge tomatoAs you can see at left, we've had a lot prettier apples in years past. I just missed with my sprays. And we're also in a summer following a warm winter that allowed a lot more bugs than usual to survive the winter.

While the apples soaked, granddaughter Katherine feasted on tomatoes from our Earlirouge plants. She seems to love whatever is in season.

After devouring tomatoes, Kat decided she wanted to pump and water stuff in the garden. Since the novelty of pumping water long ago wore off for me, I was happy to let her do so. Like washing your car, I guess her pumping had an effect on the weather, as we got another half inch of rain around sundown.

We also picked three more watermelon today! I'm a bit amazed that we're getting good melons so late in the season. We picked two Picnic and one Ali Baba watermelon.

Our frost date for this area is October 15. I see nothing in our extended forecast that suggests a frost any earlier than that. So we'll just keep gardening and enjoying the harvest until that killing frost arrives.

Garden Tower Project Contest

Monday, October 9, 2017 - Whither Seed Savers

I've been concerned about the direction of the Seed Savers Exchange for several years. Begun in 1975 as an organization dedicated to growing, saving, and sharing open pollinated seed varieties, SSE has expanded to many other commendable efforts...and apparently has forgotten its roots.

In 2017, 404 listed members offered 15,272 unique varieties of open pollinated vegetables, fruits, grains, and such for sale through the member exchange and annual yearbook. While the offerings are impressive, those numbers and the Exchange's membership are both significantly down from previous years.

The recent loss of over a thousand members could be attributed somewhat to an increase in membership fees and old guys like me dying off, but I think there's something else going on. One previous member recently told me that he shared my concerns about the direction of SSE and the way it has been run over the last decade. He quit a year or so after co-founder Kent Whealy was fired in 2007. He joked in a recent email, "Heck, I may join again just so I can send a scathing letter of resignation."

As to why some seed saving and sharing members are frustrated, one only has to look at the content of the current Seed Savers Exchange home page. It's filled with offers for seed sales from SSE's catalog, requests for donations, entreaties to become a paid member of the organization, and self-congratulatory information about the goings on at SSE's home, the Heritage Farm. For an organization whose core was once member seed sharing, only two text links on the home page reference the member driven Seed Exchange.

Having a few contacts through the Exchange, I was able to get in contact with their new Executive Director. While he took the time to talk to me for an hour about SSE and my concerns for it, I pretty quickly realized that he was just trying to pacify a grumpy old member. In the weeks after our phone conversation, none of my concerns, even the easy ones, had been addressed. He obviously didn't share my views.

I fear that the de-emphasis of the member exchange is going to continue. I've called for the leadership of SSE to enthusiastically appreciate, support, and acknowledge those who have supported the organization for so many years. But right now, SSE continues to be all about seed sales, donations, and the Heritage Farm.

Totally frustrated in my efforts to get a more balanced approach by SSE's leadership, I decided to try and contact all of the members of its Board of Directors. That's a bit difficult, as SSE doesn't share contact information, only accepting snail mail or email through one online form. And such contact may prove fruitless, as none of the current eleven board members are listed, seed saving and sharing members!

Here's the letter I sent:

Dear [SSE board member’s name]:

I’m a retired teacher, avid gardener, longtime member of the Seed Savers Exchange, and a garden blogger. Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly concerned with the apparent direction of the SSE.

Over the last ten years as it has done many good deeds, SSE has increasingly de-emphasized its member seed exchange. Several years ago, only a small text link at the bottom of the SSE home page led to the member exchange. Fortunately, when I brought this to [then Executive Director] John Torgrimson’s attention, a link was added to the top of the page.

Beyond the link correction, the Seed Saver’s home page remains totally committed to selling seed and asking for donations. Neither are unworthy pursuits, but SSE seems to have forgotten its roots of a member based effort to preserve and share endangered vegetable varieties.

The member exchange is what the current Seed Savers Exchange sprung from. It’s also a reservoir for many good vegetable varieties not currently protected in the SSE or other seed banks.

SSE’s membership numbers are declining. Older members such as myself won’t be around forever, and the varieties we’ve worked so hard to preserve could be lost with us.

Below is an edited and augmented list of suggestions that I published on my Senior Gardening blog last month and shared with Executive Director Lee Buttala in some form or another. While Lee heard me out, it seemed to me that none of these items fit his plans or priorities.

  1. Include highly visible links (not just toolbar links) to the member exchange on the SSE home page.
  2. Aggressively seek new members. SSE appears to have lost thousands of members over the last few years. Again, as we old guys die off, a new generation of seed savers needs to be found and trained.
  3. Offer reduced price hardship memberships; possibly as a one time only deal ($5-$10?) and maybe the same for new members. At one time, hardship members were allowed to write in an amount they could afford! Compared to previous membership prices and plans, SSE is beginning to look a bit greedy.
  4. Add a rotating feature story prominently linked from the home page on seed saving members, the varieties they save, and how they save seed. Telling what listed members do and their excitement about doing it should be good for the organization.
  5. Likewise, the Heritage Farm publication needs to feature member seed saving each and every month. I don’t remember it doing that very well for a long time.
  6. Email contact addresses for the executive director and board members should be posted on the site or a routing pull-down menu added to the email contact page. This suggestion relates to the next one.
  7. Improve input by members in the governance of SSE.
  8. Either stop the sale of old seed that still tests good at the time of sale, or list the year the seed was produced. For those of us who buy in quantity and freeze our leftover seed from year to year, it matters how old the seed is when we receive it.
  9. Re-examine the Seed Savers Accessions Policy and Hierarchy for Preservation. All but one of the varieties I preserve fail to meet SSE's policies for inclusion in the seed bank. When I die, I'd hate for these excellent varieties to die with me. (The varieties we save are too new or weren’t on the market long enough to qualify for the seed bank.)
  10. Return some kind of online seed saving seminars to the web site. Grant Olson’s online seminars were a good idea, although the moderators sometimes appeared to need more experience in seed saving and preparation of their presentations.
  11. Insist upon some listed members being added to the Seed Savers’ Board of Directors. Currently, not a single board member is a listed, seed sharing member. That says a lot about the direction of the Seed Savers Exchange.
  12. Please, please, cut back on the fundraising letters and emails.

Not all of the Seed Savers Exchange’s work occurs at the Heritage Farm. It’s happening every day on the farms and in the gardens of SSE’s members. To me, it seems that the leadership of the exchange has forgotten that.

I hope that you, as a Seed Savers Exchange board member, will find some of my suggestions to have merit.

Steve Wood

The next Board of Directors meeting for the Seed Savers Exchange won't occur until January, 2018. Whether my concerns will come up and be addressed then, I don't know.

I'm hoping this posting resonates enough that SSE members will contact the organization and express their dismay with SSE's downgrading and de-emphasis of the member contributions that made the organization what it is today. Currently, responsibility for this issue lies directly at new Executive Director, Lee Buttala's feet and of the current Board of Directors, although it took a good many years for the de-emphasis to slowly evolve.

If SSE members want their organization to continue to serve as a trusted repository for endangered varieties protected by members' seed saving, they need to contact the Exchange and express their views.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - Applesauce

Cutting apples and removing bad spots
Warming, softening apples
Using Squeezo Strainer to separate applesauce from seeds and peels
Canned applesauce

Our Granny Smith apples almost all had a good bit of bug damage, so I chose to make them into applesauce yesterday. Granddaughter Katherine and I had scrubbed the apples with a vegetable brush on Sunday, so they were clean and dry for the sauce making.

Since we use our old Squeezo Strainer to separate out peels and seeds, preparation of the fruit only involved cutting up the apples and cutting out bad spots. I then heated the cut apples until soft and ran them through the Squeezo.

By the time I had cleaned up the kitchen, it was getting late, so the applesauce went into the refrigerator overnight. I also had to soak the Squeezo's mesh screen in vinegar overnight to get it clean.

Canning applesauce is pretty easy. It's an acid product, so one only has to water bath can pints for 15-20 minutes instead of a longer pressure canning procedure required by non-acid products.

When done, we had seven and a half pints of applesauce canned for the pantry. I had also used up every last regular mouth pint jar we had, something that's not happened in the past.


We received around two inches of rain overnight and this morning. The rain spoils my excuse for not mowing, as our grass is already greening up. But we really need the rain. Our deep well pump had begun to make a sound at times that indicates that it's pumping air instead of water. The well has run dry once so far this summer, and we've come close a couple more times.

Charity: Water

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The sun is getting steadily lower in the sky each day, but our remaining garden crops haven't seemed to get the message that their time is almost over. After two days of very slow mowing (due to not mowing for a full month during our annual mini-drought), I got back into our garden today.

Kale ready for picking

Caulifloweer head formingI had been putting off making another batch of Portuguese Kale Soup for several days to allow more kale leaf to grow. I may have overdone the waiting bit, as our kale has exploded into new growth with some recent heavy rains. Even though the kale is ready for a heavy picking, I went ahead and sprayed it one last time with Thuricide (BT) today, mainly because I really needed to spray our row of cauliflower in our East Garden. The white cabbage moths appear to have had a feast on the cauliflower leaves while leaving alone the broccoli leaves in the next row! As I sprayed, I did find one head of cauliflower forming, so our very late planted fall cauliflower may just beat our first frost.

Both broccoli and cauliflower have a strange growth habit. Once they begin to put on heads, they do it very quickly. A small head observed one day may be large and ready for cutting in just a day or two. While I've been pretty casual of late in checking our brassica rows in our East Garden, mainly for broccoli sideshoots, I'll now need to check the cauliflower every day to not miss any heads ready for harvest.

Fall carrot rows Test dug if carrits

Another fall crop I'm going to have to watch closely are our fall carrots. I really thought I'd gotten them planted too late to make a crop. With our dry weather in July through September, the carrots didn't seem to put on much growth.

Our carrot rows also suffered a bit from a cat mistaking the rows for a litter box, digging up a good part of one double row. But when I dug just a few carrots this afternoon, I found that they were about ready to come out. Wondering if the dry weather had affected the quality of the carrots, I sampled one and found it just as sweet as you'd expect a young carrot to be.

Crispino head lettuceAbout half of our fall lettuce succumbed to the 90 degree days we had recently and bolted. But we still have several nice lettuce plants in the garden. An especially nice Crispino head lettuce seems to have survived the heat nicely, although bugs have gotten to its outer leaves.

We now grow our Crispinos from saved seed, but our start for them came from Johnny's Selected Seeds.

One of the superstars of our garden plots this year have been six Earlirouge tomato plants that stunted somewhat during an early season dry spell. Despite that setback, the plants have continued to produce an amazing amount of good tomatoes.

I've sort of reserved the Earlirouges for special stuff, not giving a lot of them away. It's nice to be able to go out and pick deep red, delicious tomatoes for spaghetti sauce or a sandwich. I've also been saving the variety for our next batch of kale soup, but I'd better get it made before the tomatoes go over the hill.

Earlirouge tomatoes still producing in mid-October

Even though we're currently loaded with good (90%+ germination tests) Earlirouge seed, I may save one more batch of Earlirouge seed this year. After having our plants decimated by blight last year, it's good to have a nice harvest of the variety this year.

If you're interested in trying a delicious, medium sized, deep red, early and late tomato variety, we sell seed for them via the Seed Savers Exchange member exchange. Or, you can contact me directly to get some seed.

Earliest Red Sweet pepper palnts loaded with fruitAnother perennial star of our garden is the Earliest Red Sweet bell pepper variety. While an early pepper, Earliest Red Sweet's really show their strength late in the season with bountiful harvests of lovely red bell peppers.

We tortured this poor variety for years, growing it in the lousy soil of our East Garden. When planted in the good soil of our main raised bed, the variety has overwhelmed us with lovely, ripe, red bell peppers. (Note, we have to add a bit of Maxicrop Soluble Seaweed Powder to the soil to grow good peppers in our garden. Evidently, there's something missing in our soil that peppers need and Maxicrop has.)

Tomato and pepper row with buckwheat in the foregroundWhile our pepper plants in our East Garden have languished, our tomato plants there continue to produce an amazing amount of good tomatoes. The tomatoes and peppers obviously have different nutritional needs, but we're thrilled with the harvest from our long line of caged tomatoes there. Also thrilled have been our friends, family, neighbors, and a local food bank with the surplus produced from these plants. It's fun to share ones garden harvest bounty.

The light green plants in the the photo at right and below are volunteer buckwheat. I let some of our last planting go to seed before tilling it under. While I seeded the area to hairy winter vetch, the buckwheat seems to be overwhelming it. Only where I cut the buckwheat early is there a good stand of the vetch cover crop. But the buckwheat is really pretty to look at.

Volunteer buckwheat overgrowing hairy winter vetch

Watermelon still growing in the East Garden in October!Current compost pileThis time of year is sort of sad for gardeners, as the growing season is rapidly going to a frost induced end. We still have a few watermelon bravely trying to ripen in our melon patch. This is the latest we've ever had ripe melons in our garden.

At the other end of the spectrum, our compost pile continues to grow with the vines and leaves of pulled plants. It got a covering today of grass clippings from today's mowing.

When I let a couple of our dogs inside this week, they had an unusual, but familiar odor. After a few minutes, I recognized that they'd been laying on the compost pile for warmth and picked up the odor of the rotting garden vegetation.

Free Shipping on Orders over $35

Sunday, October 15, 2017

It's cool and rainy here today. While things were bone dry through most of the summer, we already have four inches of rain this month. I'm glad I finished up mowing yesterday.

There probably won't be any outdoor gardening today, but I did have one photo yesterday that I didn't find a place to work into the posting.

Main raised beb partially cleared

I took out our row of basil and parsley last week, opening up the south end of our main raised bed a good bit. The basil had been blooming furiously for weeks and the parsley had fared poorly during the dry weather, browning out a good bit. I had to really hunt to find some fresh sprigs of parsley last week when making spaghetti sauce.

Since the basil had woody stems that won't break down well, those plants went onto our burn pile. The parsley went to the compost heap.

Once I harden my heart and pull some flowers and lettuce, the south half of the bed will be ready to be renovated. I plan to plant garlic at the very end of the bed later this month or early in November. I like to work up the garlic area each year a week or two before planting. That will involve using a heavy garden fork to deeply turn in some peat moss, lime, and a bit of Muriate of Potash. Time and weather permitting, I'll go back and rototill the area before planting garlic.

Having had a fabulous harvest of garlic this year, I have lots to choose from to plant.


Another shot I didn't get worked into yesterday's posting was a beautiful evening sky from Friday evening. USA, LLC

Tuesday, October 17, 2017 - More Portuguese Kale Soup

Kale row before today's pickingAlmost finished kale soup, without potatoesWe grow our kale as a succession crop so that it will mature in the fall when our other crops have matured and mostly been canned or stored. While we like boiled kale and kale chips, most of our kale goes into a batch or two of Portuguese Kale Soup each year. I made and canned our first batch of the delicious soup in September, following our usual recipe.

I started another batch of Portuguese Kale Soup last night. Since I've become somewhat intolerant to onions, I omitted them from this second batch of the soup, but compensated by using lots more garlic. I sauteed the garlic with chopped celery and carrots before adding them to three-fourths gallon of chicken and broth I'd saved a month ago.

Then I added a bunch of fresh, whole, peeled tomatoes. It was a joy going out and picking fresh, blood red tomatoes for the soup in mid-October. Adding the tomatoes by count was out, as our Earlirouge plants have finally realized the season is about over and started ripening much smaller fruit than they did earlier in the season. I tried to add the equivalent of about two quarts of canned, whole tomatoes (but suspect I got in a good bit more). I also chopped one package of smoked sausage into our twelve quart kettle before letting the mixture warm overnight on low on our stove. Chopping the sausage into quarter to half inch pieces allows it to flavor the broth a bit more than larger chunks do.

Five gallon bucket gently packet with kale leavesLess than half of kale row usedI ended up picking ten gallons of kale, making this batch of soup one of the largest we've ever made. I picked all that by just going down most of one side of our kale bed, easily leaving the same amount or more of good kale behind.

The kettle was full before I got to adding potatoes. I cut potatoes, soaking them in salt water to prevent oxidation, and added them directly to the canning jars as I began putting up the first load. After putting eight pint jars of the soup in our pressure canner, there was enough room in the kettle to add potatoes to it...and eight quarts of soup still to can!

This round of kale soup follows our published recipe in most of the ingredients, but certainly not in amounts. Since I didn't use commercial chicken broth this time around, ingredients from the grocery only included the chicken (that made the broth), celery, and the smoked sausage. Ingredients from our garden included the kale, of course, garlic, tomatoes, kidney beans, potatoes, green beans, peas, carrots, sweet corn, basil, and parsley.

Late Update: We ended up canning 23 pints of the soup, although one jar didn't seal (and went into the fridge). Annie and I also had generous portions of kale soup for supper this evening.

At Our First Frost Date

We're now at our average first frost date, so anything more we harvest has to be considered a blessed bonus on top of an already pretty good gardening season. I'm slowly getting areas cleared for fall tilling. I pulled pea vines from our last trellis yesterday, but didn't get the T-posts pulled or the netting down.

Slowing my cleanup efforts, besides a case of late season laziness, are crops we have that are still producing. They include tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, broccoli (sideshoots only now), cauliflower, kale, and lettuce. I'll have to get serious soon about clearing our East Garden, as I don't want to miss an opportunity to fall till it. It's clay soil dries out slowly. With all the rain we've had of late, it's possible the plot may stay too wet to till until the ground freezes. (But I'm definitely not complaining about the rain! grin)

Getaway Weekend

Alice's Restaurant Alice's Restaurant DVD

Also slowing my gardening efforts was a delightful trip to Indianapolis to take in the Arlo Guthrie Re-Generation Tour concert. The strange naming comes from Guthrie including a daughter and son in his performance. The show was great, although Guthrie didn't do his signature Alice's Restaurant. He did do many other old and new songs.

Per our usual practice, we had dinner at the Bru Burger Bar, just a couple of hundred feet from the concert venue. And we made an overnight of it at a favorite bed and breakfast, the Nestle Inn.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Little by little, I'm getting our garden plots cleared for winter. Today's job was harvesting, pulling, and composting all of our pepper plants. The peppers in the East Garden only contributed three or four small yellow peppers to the effort. But our six remaining Earliest Red Sweet plants in our main raised bed added enough red and green peppers to make eight gallons!

Main raised bed partially cleared

Frozen bell pepper stripsCarrot rowsMost of the peppers went to our local food bank for distribution. I cut and froze enough to fill a quart freezer bag. While we use fresh peppers a good bit in cooking, we really don't use all that many frozen peppers through the winter months.

I had to be careful when dumping the pepper trash on the compost pile. Yellow jackets were all over the pile, probably drawn by the cull apples I dumped there. Apparently, I didn't get the apples buried well enough, but I'm glad we didn't have yellow jackets on the groundfalls around our apple trees this year.

Other than some ratty lettuce and the flowers, only our fall carrots remain to be harvested from the main raised bed. I dug up one of the Dolvica storage carrots today and found its root to be just a little longer than my little finger nail. I knew when I seeded the variety that they probably didn't have enough growing days to make a crop. They're a 105 day variety, while the rest of our carrots are 50-75 day varieties.

I probably won't dig the carrots tomorrow, as the guy who farms the ground next to us rolled in with his equipment around suppertime. They'll be creating clouds of dust for a day or two as they bring in the field corn.

Monday, October 23, 2017 - Looks Like That First Frost Is Coming Soon

Our Senior Garden - October 23, 2017Weather Underground Extended ForecastExtended weather forecasts are almost always subject to revision. Despite all the technological advances in our world, predicting the weather more than just a few days out remains difficult. The extended forecast for us last week looked pretty good through the rest of this month. In the last few days, our current extended weather forecast (from two sources) has been updated to include lots of potentially frosty mornings over the next ten days. Without some protection for tender plants, such temperatures should spell the end of our 2017 growing season.

In years past, we've employed blankets, floating row covers, and Hot Kaps to extend our growing season past our first frost. After picking a wonderful, fully ripe seedless watermelon yesterday and a whole bunch of grape tomatoes, I'm now about willing to let the season go.

Yes, I'll pick the last ripe tomatoes from our vines, but I'm not going to be picking bunches of green tomatoes to let them slowly ripen on a table (or rot) into something far less flavorful than mid-summer tomatoes. One of the glories of summer gardening is our liberal use of ripe, full flavored tomatoes. Once they're done, I'm pretty much off tomatoes until we have our first ripe tomatoes the next season.

And yes, we're having BLTs for supper tonight with homegrown lettuce and tomatoes...possibly to celebrate another wonderful season of gardening.

We're actually pretty lucky, as most of our fall crops have matured before a frost took them. We've enjoyed fresh lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower long after many gardens have given out. Our continued harvest of tomatoes and peppers has been incredible. I keep pulling a few fresh carrots from our main garden bed for cooking, although we'll need to dig the carrot rows soon. And our bed of kale may come through the frosts a bit improved in flavor.

As my wife, Annie, drove home from work, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared just as she got home. She stopped and grabbed several photos of it with her iPhone.

Rainbow over our Senior Garden

Sam's Club

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Today's tomatoes - possibly the last of the season
Cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli

We have a wet, cold, blustery fall day today. But with frost possible tomorrow morning and/or Thursday, it was necessary to get our ripe and nearly ripe tomatoes picked today. Even though I was bundled up pretty well, I picked in spurts, coming inside frequently to warm up. I'm not sure how I'm going to manage when it really gets cold. grin

One of my toughest jobs today was replacing the light bulbs that heat the cat and dog pens in our garage. I've gotten too fat to easily fit through the dog door!

When I went back outside to pick tomatoes from our long row of caged plants in our East Garden, I thought to bring along a knife and bowl in case there might be any brassicas ready. I ended up cutting several heads of cauliflower, a bunch of broccoli sideshoots, and two heads of cabbage! The tomato plants there yielded only a dozen or so good tomatoes.

We'll continue to harvest and enjoy fresh vegetables as long as the weather lets us. Then we'll be happy to step back and enjoy the change of seasons.

Thursday, October 26, 2017 - One Tomato Row Out

East Garden tomato row still producing
Compost pile

Tomato bed cleared (except for flowers)We had just a touch of frost on windshields this morning, but still haven't had a killing frost. We did have a beautiful day today. It was sunny and in the mid-60s.

I took advantage of the wonderful weather to take out our six Earlirouge tomato plants. They were in a narrow raised bed that needs to be prepared yet this fall for early peas next spring. I only found about a dozen ripe or almost ripe tomatoes to save while pulling the plants. Of course, we have eleven tomato plants still producing in our East Garden that will need to come out soon. I left the flowers at the ends of the Earlirouge row, as they're pretty and will come out quickly and easily when I'm ready to work the bed.

The spent Earlirouge plants went onto our compost pile. It now has a Christmassy look with the green tomato plants and lots of very red peppers that I dumped there last week.

The tomato and pepper cages from our main garden went into a corner of the field east of us. I don't have a better place to store the somewhat unwieldy cages. That's part of the reason I go the extra step when constructing them to apply a good coat or two of Rustoleum.


Buckwheat and a little hairy winter vetchHoneybees on buckwheat bloomsWe now have a lovely stand of buckwheat in full bloom in the rotated out portion of our East Garden. I didn't get the previous crop of buckwheat cut promptly, and some of it went to seed, hence, a big volunteer crop of buckwheat. Where I did cut the buckwheat early enough, there's hairy winter vetch I seeded as a winter cover crop. I'm hoping when the frost takes the buckwheat, I'll find vetch growing underneath it.

I noticed that we had a lot of honeybees visiting the buckwheat this afternoon. I'm guessing that there aren't all that many blooms still available to the bees this late in the season.


With a long dry spell in much of August and September, our fall carrot crop is a bit small. I'm leaving the carrots in the ground as long as possible before digging them, hoping they'll fill out a bit with our current cool, but rather wet weather. A frost may take the tops of the carrot plants, but it also might make the roots a bit sweeter.

About That First Frost

We're not expecting a frost overnight tonight, but the current weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday mornings calls for lows of 31° F. Once that happens, I'll somewhat sadly begin pulling the last of our gorgeous flowers from our main garden and our East Garden. The cool weather of late has pretty well browned out our long row of zinnias in our East Garden. I'll need to get them cut or pulled soon, one of the downsides of growing a 40-80' row of zinnias each year.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Saturday, October 28, 2017 - Corned Beef and Cabbage and Soda Bread

Corned beef and cabbageI wimped out in record time this morning, quickly deciding that it was too cold and wet to get any work done outside. Beyond blowing the dust bunnies out of a fan, taking some stuff to the compost pile, and checking our row of cauliflower (one nice head evident), I chose to stay inside today.

Not all was lost, though, as I'd brought home a corned beef roast yesterday to go with the cabbage I'd picked a few days ago. None of the groceries in Sullivan had any corned beef out this week, but a Terre Haute Kroger had plenty. I was in Terre Haute for my annual checkup with my heart surgeon (no problems found).

I'm not Irish. I'm mostly a mutt of Scotch, English, and German descent. But my beautiful wife, Annie, is a Kennedy, an Irish Kennedy with a bit of Cherokee mixed in. And she truly loves corned beef and cabbage.

Soda breadAs I often do, I ended up combining several online recipes to make the dish. I liked ones that included potatoes and carrots, things we still have from our garden. After my last failure with this dish when I slavishly followed one recipe, I branched out into what I thought would taste good.

I also tried my hand at making soda bread for the first time to go with the corned beef and cabbage.

Annie and a houseguest said the corned beef and cabbage was good. I'm not so sure, but everyone loved the soda bread. I think part of its goodness is that the recipe calls for it to be basted several times while baking with a butter and buttermilk baste.

No Frost Yet

We again missed getting frost this morning. But it appears that won't be the case tomorrow morning. Our morning low is predicted to be 30° F.

One More Year

Despite the problems we've experienced with our web host, things have improved enough that I renewed our service with Hostmonster for one more year. The single year package comes with premium pricing, but I wanted to be able to switch hosts if the problems we've had in the past reoccur.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - October Wrap-up

October, 2017, animated GIF of our Senior GardenSierra Trading Post - Dynamic Homepage BannerThis October is probably most notable as the month rain finally returned to the Senior Garden. After three very dry months, we had over five inches of rain! Our lawn greened up and needed several mowings. Crops that had survived the mini-drought began actively growing and producing again. And our fall garden crops produced an abundance of fresh vegetables for table use, canning, freezing, and sharing with others.

Wet soil conditions prevented fall tilling to get areas of our garden ready for next season, but they also made pulling spent plants with well developed root systems a lot easier. Other than our bed of kale and some carrots, our main garden is now cleared of crops (but some flowers remain).

Something we didn't get until this morning was our first frost/freeze of the fall. That allowed us to begin and end the month picking tomatoes and cutting broccoli.

Other than that, we picked apples, lettuce, kale, peppers, and tomatoes through a good bit of the month.


September, 2017

November, 2017

Contact Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening



Affiliated Advertisers