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The Old Guy's Garden Record

August 16, 2018

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Our Senior Garden - August 1, 2018
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Crockett's Victory Garden
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The late James Underwood Crockett wrote in his August introduction in Crockett's Victory Garden, "August is the cornucopia month of the year..." He also added the good advice that "There's no reason to grow a vegetable garden unless the vegetables are harvested when they're young and tender, long before they reach the age at which they're usually sold in supermarkets."

While our reduced garden this year won't be a true cornucopia, we'll be doing a lot of harvesting. We'll continue to pick tomatoes and peppers all month. In fact, those plants should produce right up until our first frost.

Although covered with weeds, we'll have green beans to pick and spring carrots to dig. And from all the blooms on our July transplanted cucumber plants, we should be getting some nice, long, sweet Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers soon.

We have butternut squash and pumpkins growing in our limited East Garden plot, but we won't harvest any of them until September. The tomatoes and pepper plants in the East Garden may give us a bonus to our plantings in our main garden.

A lot of our effort this month will be in getting our fall garden crops going. Our fall carrots were seeded last month and are now up. We have parsley, basil, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, and spinach to transplant into our main garden beds. As of today, we may have about 78 days of growing season left before our first frost date of October 17. Of course, that first frost could come earlier or later, and some crops can survive a light frost.

Johnny's Fall Harvest CalculatorThe Fall-Harvest Planting Calculator spreadsheet from Johnny's Selected Seeds' Planning Tools and Calculators page can be quite helpful in knowing when to plant fall garden crops, or even if you have enough growing days left to even try. I plugged in our first frost date to the spreadsheet to make the image at left. If you currently don't have a spreadsheet program such as Excel on your computer, Open Office is a free, open source one that can do the job. (I just tried the file in Open Office to make sure.grin)

If you're figuring how many days to harvest the old fashioned way, looking at seed packets and catalogs for days-to-maturity, be sure to add 10-14 days to those numbers. The shorter days of late summer add a week or so to plants' maturity dates.

Dave's Garden Frost Page for 47882The Dave's Garden Freeze/Frost Dates page will give you your first and last frost dates based on your zip code.

A few nearly unreadable lines from the image at right are helpful:

"Almost certainly, however, you will receive frost from November 7 through April 1.

"You are almost guaranteed that you will not get frost from April 28 through September 24."

The first frost in the fall is hard to predict. We had one year when we picked fresh lettuce (with the help of a floating row cover) for our Thanksgiving Day feast! Other years, we've had a light frost around October 5. With all the strange weather climate change has brought, I wonder if our frost dates may change as radically as have rainfall (irregular) and wind speeds (much higher now).

On my morning check of our main garden, I found a stink bug on one of our tomatoes. Both stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs feeding on tomatoes are supposed to be what causes dead, white flesh under the tomatoes' skins. So I sprayed the tomatoes again with neem oil, which had previously seemed to control the problem. Just to let the bugs know I cared, I also mixed in a little pyrethrin. As I sprayed, I didn't see any more stink bugs, but did see a lot of winged insects quickly leaving the tomato plants.

Overgrown carrots Carrots after first rinse Carrots trimmed, cleaned, and ready to be bagged for storage

Following Jim Crockett's sage advice about harvesting young vegetables, I dug our spring carrots today. There weren't a lot of carrots to dig, as I only planted a ten foot long double row of them. Getting overgrown by weeds limited both the size and number of carrots produced. But I did get enough (2# 14 oz) to hold us over until our recently planted fall carrots mature.

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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Cracked tomato - cull
Cracked tomato with rot - obvious cull

First cucumber to set on vines in 2018On my morning garden walk yesterday, I began to spread a little grass clipping mulch around our cucumber plants. Before I got very far, I realized that the mulch was still hot from decomposition. I will have to wait another day or so for the mulch to cool down to prevent it from burning the tender cucumber plants. But I did find our first cucumber that has set on the vines. It's on the ground, so it won't be straight like ones that hopefully will hang from the trellis. And being on the ground, the cuke may rot, but then again, we may get an "early" cucumber from our late planting of them.

I also noted lots of cracked tomatoes. Rain after an extended dry spell causes rapid growth of the tomatoes and cracks the skins that can't stretch fast enough to contain the rapid new interior growth. This is the same problem we've had in the past with sweet potatoes. I discarded seriously cracked tomatoes and those where rot had begun, but was able to pick a good many more with minor cracks. If we continue to get timely rainfall, the cracking problem should go away on its own.

I spent most of the rest of the day yesterday finishing mowing our lawn and the unplanted areas of our East Garden.

Green beans in freezer bagsIn the early evening, Annie and I ventured out to pick green beans. Our two rows of beans got overgrown with weeds when I was out of action with knee problems. But after cleaning up the area as best I could a couple of weeks ago, the green beans produced a small picking today. We're long past the days when our kids were home and we tried to can 40 quarts of green beans each year. Yesterday's picking wasn't enough to merit getting out the pressure canner, but did produce about three pints of finished beans. An advantage with freezing beans is that one avoids the long canning times required if bacon or ham are added to the beans. This batch got chopped onion and garlic along with some bacon drippings for seasoning.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Thursday, August 9, 2018 - Gloxinias in Bloom

Gloxinia blooms
Cat between gloxinia trays

Gloxinias in bloom on dining room tableOur collection of gloxinia plants are now blooming in some volume. We grow them under our plant lights in the basement and on a sunny bookshelf in our sunroom most of the year. But when they burst into bloom, we move them to our dining room table where we can enjoy their blooms every day.

Gloxinias can bloom at any time during the year. Our plants are all two or more years old. They seem to sense the seasons and bloom during the summer. To get winter blooms, we have to start new plants from seed in June. And with way too many gloxinias already, I haven't started any new ones in a few years.

I have been hand pollinating some of the blooms and collecting seed when it's ready.

One problem with our gloxinias on the dining room table this year is that our cats, mostly one year olds, like to lay in and between the plant trays. They also bite and tear the plant leaves. Since gloxinias are pretty hardy plants, they survive and bloom.

If you're interesting in growing gloxinias, here are several pages I maintain on the subject:

  • Gloxinias - This is a continuing column on how to grow this gorgeous plant. I start ours from seed.
  • Saving Gloxinia Seed - the pollination and seed saving process for gloxinias
  • Gloxinia Photos - some nice shots of gloxinias


We finally got a good, overnight rain this week. We received 1.25" of precipitation Tuesday night. Things have greened up considerably. The rain necessitated weeding our newly planted rows of carrots of a lot of seedling weeds. When the carrot plants get a little more size on them, I'll mulch right up to the plants to hold in soil moisture and prevent weed growth.

Before the rain, I heavily watered our bed of cucumbers. I knew rain was predicted, but I wanted to mulch the bed. I don't like to mulch dry ground, as the mulch can soak up a lot of rainfall and leave the soil underneath fairly dry. So I dumped about fifteen gallons of water in the 3' x 15' (interior dimensions) bed before spreading grass clipping mulch over it.

Mulched cucumber bed

There are now lots of small cucumbers low on the vines. Since these cukes are touching the ground, most of them are curled. As the vines set fruit higher on the trellis, we'll begin getting the long, thin Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers that are ideal for making pickles. The curled cucumbers will go to friends and family, as well as on a salad or two here at home.


Friday, August 10, 2018 - Freezing Green Beans

Overgrown green bean rowsPicked green beans soaking in bucketOur two rows of green beans in our main raised bed have been an embarrassment for me this summer. When I was completely down with a bum knee, the patch got overgrown with weeds. I did do a little weeding and tilling around the beans, but the weeds had gotten too far ahead of me to really clean them up. Rather than turn the beans under, I decided to stick it out and see what we could get from them.

My wife, Annie, and I made a small picking a week ago. Today, I pulled the bean plants and stripped off the good beans. I ended up filling a twelve quart bucket with raw beans, although some of them were pretty rough.

Looking over the small harvest, I realized that getting out the pressure canner to put up the beans would be a bit of overkill. So I decided to freeze the beans as cut beans. I actually like canned green beans better than frozen ones, but there just weren't enough beans to make more than a few pints of canned green beans. And, we still have several jars of canned green beans in the pantry from last season.

Cleaning the beans was a bit of a nightmare. They had lots and lots of blooms, grass clippings, and other material clinging to them. I rinsed the beans several times, but eventually ended up rinsing them one bean at a time!

Trimming beansThen I trimmed the bad spots and the ends of the beans, cutting them into approximate two inch pieces. There was a lot of bug damage to the beans, not surprising since we have a very healthy field of soybeans growing next to our garden. The bugs seem to prefer tender green beans over soybeans, and I hadn't sprayed this planting for bugs.

Steaming carrots and green beansWhile I was trimming, I sorted out any beans that were close to what folks call gourmet beans and began steaming them with some baby carrots in chicken broth with a lot of garlic and herbs. The steamed carrots and green beans turned out to be the stars of our supper tonight.

There's a lot written online about freezing beans without blanching (or scalding) them first. I actually don't blanch our pepper strips before freezing them. But the blanching step is said to help kill enzymes that cause the beans to lose flavor and color. The step probably kills off some bacteria as well. So with due respect to the folks not blanching their beans, I chose to blanch/scald ours today for the Ball Blue Book's recommended three minutes before plunging them into ice water to cool them.

WalmartI blanched the beans in one of my few kitchen extravagances, a Tramontina 8-Quart Multi-Cookericon. I got mine years ago. Since that time, they've doubled in price! There are cheaper models available now, but I'm not sure if they're as tough as the one I got for forty-some bucks.

beans drying on cheap kitchen towelsOnce the beans had cooled in ice water, I spread them to dry on some kitchen towels. Actually, we use some really cheap bar mopsicon we get at Sam's Club for kitchen towels. When they get too stained or worn, they go to the garage to become shop wipes. They end their life wiping oil off a dipstick.

When the beans have dried a bit, they go onto a cooking sheet and into our kitchen freezer. After a few hours, or in tonight's case, overnight, they'll go into a ziplock bag for future use. Frozen green beans are one of the many ingredients in a dish my lovely wife named "seduction fish." It has a cousin named "seduction chicken," but the fish actually worked a whole lot better! One of these days, I may get the recipe added to our list of online recipes.

Beans on cookie sheet, ready to go into the freezer

With our bean plants out of the way, I can now begin to recover the center section of our main raised garden bed from the weeds that overwhelmed it. I anticipate some serious weedeating, followed by rototilling. We have parsley, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale transplants waiting to go into the ground.

Saturday, August 11, 2018 - Cucumbers!

First harvest of cucumbers in 2018Tomatoes, Cucumbers, and peppersI seeded our Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers inside on June 16. I transplanted them into a narrow raised garden bed on July 14. And the 60 days-to-maturity variety produced fifteen mature cucumbers today on August 11. That's 55 days from seeding!

Since these are early cukes borne low on the vines, there is some insect damage on them, as most of them were laying on the ground. But they'll probably be a hit at our local food bank. I know the one small cucumber I sliced into my salad for lunch was delicious.

Besides the cucumbers, I picked a few tomatoes and a lot of peppers today. The tomatoes were almost all cracked on top, a result of our return to rains after a dry spell. The peppers are beautiful, although I threw away nearly as many as I picked. Many of the pitched peppers had blossom end rot.

Our next picking of cucumbers will probably go to making sweet pickle relish. We still have bread and butter pickles left in the pantry that we put up last summer, although I might yet do another batch of them or of dill chips. Eventually, I'll let some of the cucumbers fatten and yellow almost to the point of rotting for seed saving.

Main Garden Bed

Area that had been overgrown by weedsMain bed tilledWith our green bean plants out of the way, I used our weedeater today to knock down the grasses that had almost choked out the green beans. Then I came back with our senior tiller and worked the remaining weeds and roots into the soil.

I snapped a couple of shots of the tilled soil. The one on the left is from the same vantage point as the shot I used yesterday. The photo on the right was taken from the other side of the bed to avoid shooting into the evening sun.

The bed will need to sit for a day or two before I rototill it again to get it planting ready. When I do that, I'll work in some peat moss, lime, and fertilizer. And then, it should be ready for planting and transplanting.

Fruit Bouquets

Monday, August 13, 2018 - Sweet Relish

We like pickle relish on hot dogs, in tartar sauce, and in making potato, chicken, and ham salad. Some folks like it in their deviled eggs. For the amounts we use of it, it's not terribly expensive, although we seem to run out of it often.

With lots of cucumbers and red peppers on hand, I decided to try making a good relish. My previous attempt last summer following a Dummies recipe yielded a rather runny relish. So I did a better web search for recipes and came up with three that I liked, each with its own slight variation on ingredients and methods.

Sweet Relish Recipes

Since I needed to save some seed from our Earliest Red Sweet bell peppers, I began making the relish by chopping up two red peppers. When saving pepper seed, one can harvest the seed and still use the pepper flesh for cooking or freezing. I took seed from five peppers, with the flesh of three going into the freezer as pepper strips.

Moving on to the cucumbers, I found deseeding the cukes to be rather time consuming. After removing the ends and peeling off areas of flesh with brown spots from six Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers, I split them lengthwise and scraped the seeds out with a tablespoon. This was not a new task, as I do it each year when saving cucumber seed. It was a whole lot less smelly and messy this time around, as when harvesting seed for saving, one uses very ripe to overripe yellowed cucumbers.

AmazonI started out chopping the cucumber flesh into small pieces with a kitchen knife, but quickly tired of the task. Ignoring the suggestion in many recipes to chop with a food processor, I used our Pampered Chef Food Chopper to reduce the cucumbers to small pieces.

With the food chopper out, I chopped onion for the relish. I also pretty well pulverized some garlic. It's not listed in the recipes below, but is listed in the Better Homes and Gardens' Bread and Butter Pickle recipe that is similar to the relish recipes above. At times when we've run out of relish, I have chopped up some bread and butter pickles as a substitute.

I once again employed the old Chef Tell trick of smashing canning salt into the finely chopped garlic to absorb garlic juice. Doing so prevents anyone from getting a big chunk of garlic in whatever you're preparing. The salt is part of the recipe anyway as part of the brining.

Relish briningThe cucumbers, peppers, onion, and garlic all got mixed in a large glass mixing bowl. I covered it with ice and spread canning salt over the ice. The bowl was covered with clear plastic wrap and went into the fridge overnight. Every so often, I'd stir the mix a bit to make sure the salt and ice got evenly distributed.

One pint and three half pint jars of canned pickle relishThis morning, I dumped the brining mix into a fine mesh strainer and let it drain for an hour. In addition, I followed Leda Meredith's direction in her The Spruce Eats recipe to "Get out even more of the liquid by squeezing with your clean hands (squeeze hard), or by pressing the vegetables against the sieve with the back of a wooden spoon." I used the sieve and wooden spoon approach. I think this step may cure some of the runniness of my previous attempt at making relish.

Then it was just a matter of heating up the cider vinegar, sugar, and spices, adding the cucumber mix, and boiling it for ten minutes or so. Water bath canning time for pints was ten minutes in boiling water.

It turned out to be a lot of work for just one pint and three half pint jars of our own canned pickle relish. And, one really should wait a week or two before sampling the stuff, as that gives the ingredients time to flavor the mix. But I'll know next time around to use more cucumbers when making relish. I only used six, when I had sixteen on hand! The extras along with a whole bunch of lovely red peppers and some cracked, but not rotting tomatoes went to my wife's co-workers.

For readers looking for a more traditional recipe listing:

6 Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers
2 red peppers
1 onion
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup canning salt

1 Tbsp celery seed
1 Tbsp mustard seed
1 tsp turmeric
3 1/2 cups white sugar

  1. Wash the cucumbers. Use a potato peeler to trim off any bad spots on the cukes. Trim off ends. Split cucumbers lengthwise and remove seeds.
  2. Chop cucumbers, peppers, and onion to size of chunks desired.
  3. With garlic, one can finely chop it and crush a teaspoon of salt into it to add to the mix. Alternatively, one could halve the garlic cloves and add them to the mix, only to remove and discard them after brining.
  4. Cover the mix with ice or cold water and the remaining salt. Allow to sit and brine for at least two hours, longer being better.
  5. Thoroughly drain brined mix. Squish out as much water as possible.
  6. Heat cider, spices, and sugar. Allow to boil gently for just a few minutes.
  7. Add cucumber mix to the cider and bring to a boil for ten minutes.
  8. Use a finely slotted spoon to move the cucumber mix to sterilized or scalded canning jars. Note that you'll have a lot of the apple cider liquid left over.
  9. Water bath can the jars of relish for ten minutes.

Note that six JLP cucumbers are probably equivalent to about eight of the shorter, fatter cucumbers one finds in groceries.

Since I haven't tasted the resulting relish as yet, I'll not be adding sweet relish to our recipes as yet. If this batch turns out to be as disappointing as last year's did, it will never get posted and we'll just go back to buying Vlasic Sweet Relish.


It seems as if I'm having to do more spraying this season than in the past. Since we lost our butternuts and pumpkins to squash bugs last year, I've been spraying them every 5-7 days. I sprayed them last evening with Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew and Copper Fungicide, but will need to hit them again soon with Serenade, as I saw a bit of powdery mildew getting started on the leaves. I also sprayed our tomato plants and cucumber vines with Neem Oil and Serenade last night. While a few bugs flew off the tomatoes as I sprayed, I think I saw a couple of cucumber beetles on the cucumber vines. They can turn a healthy looking planting into a dying mess in just a couple of days of feeding.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018 - Fall Garden

Row of parsleyBroccoli and cauliflowerI just about got the last of our fall garden planted today. I transplanted eleven parsley plants into one row, seeded two rows of kale, and transplanted a row of broccoli and cauliflower each. I even found an area to direct seed a few spinach seeds.

It rained overnight, so I thought I might be working in some serious mud today. But our ground has been so dry for so long, that while the soil was moist, it really wasn't muddy.

The parsley transplants were all large leaved varieties, as they produce more volume dried than the curled or moss green variety that often serves as a garnish. I sorta lost track of what was what, but the plants were a mix of Dark Green Italianicon and Giant of Italy. My marker faded out on the plant labels!

After a bit of a rest, I direct seeded Dwarf Blue Scotch, Lacinato, and Red Ursa kale. I have young transplants of all three varieties hardening off on our back steps, but hope I won't have to use them to fill in bare spots in the rows. The Dwarf Blue Scotch, also known as Vates, was the main one seeded.

After another break, I transplanted Amazing and Fremont cauliflower and Premium Crop and Goliath broccoli.

I replaced my row marker stakes with vinca transplants, as I thought we had a good many of them left. I did run one shy, though. As I pulled the last plant from a fourpack, I realized that it was a basil of some variety or another instead of a vinca. I put it in as a row marker anyway.

I finished off the planting by shaking Repels-All around the transplants to keep rabbits away. I also sprayed the brassicas with Thuricide, as I still see cabbage moths fluttering around the yard.

Main raised bed, cleaned up and mostly planted

One last step remains to be done. I couldn't mulch the plantings, as I've run out of grass clippings. As soon as things dry enough to allow me to mow, I'll mulch the plantings. But at this point, I'm thrilled to have our main raised bed cleaned up and planted once again.

Burpee Seed Company

Friday, August 17, 2018 - Refried (Kidney) Beans

Caged tomatoes and long row of kidney beansDrying kidney beansOn a whim last summer, I planted a fifty-five foot row of kidney beans. Each year, we need just a few kidney beans for our Portuguese Kale Soup. But I had the space, time, and the seed, so I planted the row.

We ended up getting seven pounds of dry kidney beans in 2017. I saved about two pounds of them for future plantings and canned the rest. And then the canned beans just sat in our downstairs pantry, other than for our occasional Texas Nachos feast and our annual batches of Portuguese Kale Soup.

Coming from depression era waste not, want not parents, I felt compelled to find a good use for the beans. And since my wife once lived in the southwest and really loves Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking, I decided to try my hand at making refried beans with some of the kidney beans. Since pinto beans are the preferred bean for making refried beans, I had my doubts, but found several refried kidney bean recipes online (see below for links) to get me started.

Chopping onions
Mashing salt into chopped garlic
Browning onion and garlic
Rinsing and draining beans
Taco seasoning, lemon juice, and broth added
Beans mashed

I begin making the refried beans by browning chopped onion and garlic in olive oil or bacon drippings for about five minutes. I use an old Chef Tell trick with the garlic, finely chopping it and then pressing in salt with my meat cleaver so that there aren't any big chunks of garlic left.

While that stuff is browning, I rinse and drain my canned kidney beans. Then they go into the pan with the taco seasoning, some chicken broth, and a bit of lemon juice.

As the mixture heats, I use a large wooden spoon to begin smashing the beans. One could also use a food processor to reduce the beans to a paste, but our food processor is nasty to clean, so I just went with the spoon and a lot of smashing.

I let our refried beans simmer a good bit longer than most recipes recommend. That gives the spices more time to work. I add chicken broth to prevent drying and burning. Off and on through the heating, I smash the bean mix a bit more as I see a bean or two I've missed.

The Tough Part: Ingredients and Amounts

I cook by taste, so that when I write one of these recipes, I have to go back and do it again taking note of what and how much of what I use. But here is the basic list:

2 pints canned kidney beans
1 medium sized onion
5 garlic cloves
1 tsp  lemon juice
4 Tbsp Taco Seasoning
1 tsp+ Canning salt
1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth (preferably Swanson's)
Olive oil or bacon drippings (cut salt amount if using bacon drippings)

Some recipes replace the taco seasoning with cumin, chili powder, coriander, and/or diced green chillies. That's part of the fun of making your own refried beans. You can add or subtract ingredients to suit your personal tastes.

Since I wrote this page in August, I was able to use garlic and onion that were in the ground just a month previously. I absolutely love to cook with fresh garlic!

Burritos made with fresh refried beans

Some online recipes for refried kidney beans:

While sharing links, I found a couple of good pages on rendering bacon drippings. Both emphasize slow-cooking the bacon to get as much grease from it as possible and to prevent a burnt taste and then straining the black chunks out of the drippings. When I was growing up, there was always a coffee can of saved bacon drippings on the stove for cooking.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Our pumpkin and butternut squash vines had about outgrown their mulch. So after mowing yesterday and today, I swept up grass clippings to extend the mulch several feet all around the plantings

Pumpkin and butternut squash vines

I noticed several things while spreading the grass clipping mulch. We have a lot more pumpkins set on the vines than I thought. I also spotted and squished a baby squash bug on a squash. That discovery required a thorough spraying of the vines with Neem Oil and Serenade. The neem oil should kill any bugs it hits, and the Serenade is to hold back the powdery mildew I noticed (and treated) last week.

Before spraying the pumpkin and squash vines, I thought I'd do a light spray on our cucumber vines and our tomato plants. It turned out that I emptied the gallon sprayer with a light spray on the tomatoes and all the rest on our cucumber vines. As happens every year, we now have cucumber beetles attacking our vines. I'd been checking the cucumbers every other day, but somehow let the infestation get going pretty good.

A pleasant side effect from closely observing the vines was the discovery of a lot of mature cucumbers. I picked twenty good cucumbers today. Since I made sweet relish last week, have lots of bread and butter pickles left from last year, and Annie shared cucumbers at her work last week, these cucumbers will probably go to our local food bank.


Monday, August 20, 2018

Blooms on Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vinesEarliest Red Sweet pepper plantsOur Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines are continuing to bloom profusely. Recent rains seem to have stimulated the vines which are setting lots of cukes.

I dropped off the twenty long cucumbers I picked yesterday at our local food bank today. While I was at it, I also picked a bunch of red and green peppers for the food bank.

I'm probably going to let the next round of cucumbers fully mature for seed saving. That means letting them ripen to a yellow color, almost to the rotting stage. Sadly, doing so can make the vines stop putting out blooms as they ripen cucumbers and seed. But I'd like to get some cucumber seed saved soon.

Heirloom seed from Botanical Interests Organic seed from Botanical Interests

Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - Scuffle Hoe

Our Senior Garden - August 21, 2018
Kale rows scuffled

The sun conveniently peeked out for one of its few cameo appearances this morning for our near daily splashshot that tops this page. I'd been outside in the cloudy conditions earlier testing how wet the soil was in our main raised garden bed. Since the bed had been overgrown with weeds going to seed when I was down with a bum knee, I knew we'd have lots of seedling weeds popping up in and between our rows of direct seeded and transplanted fall crops.

Amazon - scuffle hoeFortunately, there are a couple of ideal cures for such weedy ground. Running a scuffle hoe, also known as a hula, action, or loop hoe, over the ground cuts off seedling weeds at or just under the soil surface. Spreading fresh, wet grass clippings over the ground not close to ones plants can kill weeds under the mulch as the grass clippings heat and begin to break down.

I first scuffled along our two rows of emerging kale plants, getting as close as possible to the kale without damaging the plants. Then I moved on to the rows of transplanted parsley, broccoli, and cauliflower. I would have liked to have spread grass clipping mulch over the scuffled areas, but my back is still sore from spreading mulch over the weekend! I'll get the ground mulched soon before the weeds begin to take hold again, although I may have to scuffle again before mulching.


In contrast to our dry July, we've received over four inches of rainfall so far this month. I did brief outdoor jobs today in between light showers.

Relish Update

Homemade relish on hot dogThe sweet pickle relish I canned a week ago had cured for its required minimum yesterday. So today, I chilled a jar of the relish, boiled a hot dog, loaded it with ketchup, mustard, and lots of relish.

The relish was delicious! It had a bit more kick than store bought sweet relish and wasn't quite as sweet.

Having made a good batch of relish, I can now begin to tweak the recipe a bit here and there to suit our taste preferences.

Looking Around

As I came in from my scuffling, I grabbed several other photos. One of a cauliflower plant shows (at least in the larger version) the bits of seedling weeds disturbed by my work with the hoe. I had pretty carefully hand weeded our double row of carrots before mulching up to the rows a week ago. There obviously are some bare spots in the rows, but what has come up should provide more than enough carrots to last us through the winter. And...once again, our cucumber vines are looking glorious. I saw another mature cuke on them today, but forgot to go back and pick it.

Fremont cauliflower Carrot plants Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

In between frequent rains, I've been able to get our fall garden in our main raised bed in pretty good shape. Several rounds with the scuffle hoe suppressed seedling weeds, other than in the new rows of kale. Most of the bed is now mulched with grass clippings which should negate having to weed those areas. The kale will get weeded and mulched when the plants get a little bigger.

Main raised bed mostly mulched

Quite simply, I ran out of grass clippings before completing the mulching. Our lawn is definitely ready to be mowed (and raked for clippings) again, but daily rains have made that impossible.

Still seeing white cabbage moths fluttering around our yard and garden, I continue to spray our brassicas, including the newly emerged kale plants, with the biological, Thuricide (BT). White cabbage moths and cabbage loopers are what lay eggs on brassicas that eventually become the cabbage worms that can severely damage cole crops.

Lots of Japanese Long Pickling cucumbersAfter spreading mulch on Thursday, I stopped on my way back to the house to pick a ripe cucumber I'd seen the previous day. Then I saw another and another. By the time I was done picking, I had 22 Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers in my bucket!

Having a good supply of pickles from last season in the pantry, I decided to use the cucumbers for a big batch of sweet relish. My previous effort a week or so ago produced good relish, but a disappointing quantity of it.

I ended up spending most of Thursday afternoon and evening deseeding and chopping up cucumbers, along with the required peppers, onion, and garlic. I nearly filled a twelve quart pot with the ingredients!

Deseeding and chopping cucumbers Brining mix Enough canned relish to last all winter

After letting the mix brine in the refrigerator overnight, I canned eight pints and six half pints of the sweet relish. Having seriously expanded the recipe I used a week ago, I won't know how the relish will taste until it's cured a week or so in the jars and I can sample it.

I should add here that making relish is an awful lot of work for not much product. For me, it's a labor of love. I enjoy both gardening and canning...and using the delicious results of our gardening and canning.

Garden Tower Project

Sunday, August 26, 2018 - Overwhelmed with Cucumbers

Fruit BouquetsWe've been overwhelmed with the volume of cucumbers we've gotten from our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines this month. Having given away lots of cucumbers and canned two batches of relish, I'm now letting our vines ripen cucumbers for seed saving. While I'll probably still pinch a cucumber now and then for table use, I'll leave most of them to ripen to a yellow color before picking them for seed saving.

Letting the vines ripen seed is, of course, the beginning of the end for the vines. As they ripen fruit, the vines tend to stop producing new blooms. But that's okay, as we have lots of dill and bread and butter pickles left from last season and have canned all the sweet relish we'll need for the next year.

Change in Saved Seed Distribution

I unlisted most of our previous offerings from the Seed Savers Member Exchange last night. I left one listing just to see what happens to it when my membership in SSE runs out.

Having decided to leave SSE, I'd been up in the air over how to continue sharing seed of our endangered varieties for some time. I'll still be sharing seed with my favorite seed library and giving away a lot of seed to individuals who inquire. But I really wanted a larger outlet for our saved seed.

A timely email this week from Irena Hollowell, president of the Grassroots Seed Network, indicated that the organization is still alive and kicking. I'd pretty well left my membership and listings there alone after some really nasty infighting erupted shortly after the organization's launch. With that stuff seemingly over, I updated all of my seed saving listings on the network.

For those folks who might be interested, here are links to our current listings of seed on the Grassroots Seed Network:

I didn't list our saved Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed on GSN, as I'd prefer folks support seed houses selling the rather new, open source variety (1, 2). I will, however, share Abundant Bloomsdale seed with folks in our growing region. One reason to save seed year after year is that it somewhat adapts to ones specific growing conditions.

Note that all of the seed offered above is from seed saved last year (2017). We're a little late in our seed saving this season and also didn't get some of the tomato varieties planted due to my knee problems.

I did a quick search of our seed inventory to see what other kinds of saved seed we have in frozen storage from years past. The list surprised me in length: asparagus, basil, daises, dianthus, dill, kidney beans, lettuce, oregano, peas, pole beans, watermelon, and zinnia.

Rukaten Camera

Wednesday, August 29, 2018 - Tree Trimming

Our Senior Garden - August 29, 2018Burpee GardeningI rather severely pruned our relatively new silver maple tree yesterday. It had a crotch that had begun to split. Rather than let nature take its course, I cut out the weaker part of the fork. While I was at it, I also trimmed back some branches that obscured part of our garden in our daily splashshot. Now, most of our narrow raised bed of cucumber vines is visible in our daily splashshot.

We're having off and on showers today. Before the rain started, I got out and scuffle hoed our rows of kale. Then I mulched right up to the rows with grass clippings.

Our main raised bed is now completely mulched. I will still have some serious weeding to do, however. The kale rows have lots of grass seedlings in them that will have to be pulled.

Kale rows mulched

Sierra Trading Post

Friday, August 31, 2018 - August Wrap-up

August, 2018, animated GIF of our Senior GardenREI OutletI began this month's postings quoting the late Jim Crockett as writing, "August is the cornucopia month of the year..." Even with our greatly reduced garden this season, August truly turned out to be an incredibly productive month in our garden plots.

We began the month by digging our spring carrots. Through the month, we've enjoyed lots of tomatoes and peppers, a few green beans, and been overwhelmed with cucumbers. We've also joyfully watched our butternut and pumpkin vines put on more and more squash and pumpkins.

In the kitchen, I experimented with making sweet relish and refried kidney beans. The relish was to use up our overabundance of cucumbers. The refried beans came from kidney beans we canned last fall.

August was also the month we reclaimed our main raised garden bed. Much of it had become overgrown with weeds as I sat out a month of gardening due to knee problems. The knees are still a mess, but I've learned how to live with them (until I can get them repaired), and we got the area cleaned up and replanted to a nice fall garden.


Jackson, a strayPetra, Jackson, and DaisyAs I was finishing up writing this posting Thursday night, Annie called upstairs and said, "Steve, Jackson's dead!"

I hustled downstairs and learned that someone had stopped to say they saw our lab/great dane cross lying dead in the road. He loved to run beside cars at speeds sometimes over 25 MPH, but apparently got too close this time.

Like most of our dogs, we didn't pick out Jackson. He picked us. He was actually a neighbor's dog. They live a half mile away down the road and around the corner. We shared him for about five years.

When Jackson showed up, he looked a little rough with his ribs showing and his coat a bit dull. Over time, the ribs didn't show so much and his coat glistened. He was a loveable gentle giant.

On days when I buy a gallon of milk, but know I still have a little left in the fridge, I call out, "Jackson, milk day!" He quickly emerges from the bushes where he likes to spend his days for his weekly milk treat. Today, he was already outside the bushes when I got home from the store. When he saw the milk jug, he leaped into the air in joy.

Part of the joy of living in the country is having wonderful dogs, and a sad part of it is missing them when they go.

Hungrier Insects

A New York Times article by Kendra Pierre-Louis caught my eye this morning. In The Bugs Are Coming, and They’ll Want More of Our Food, Pierre-Louis tells of a recent study that suggests:

For every degree Celsius (two degrees Fahrenheit) that temperatures rise above the global historical average, the amount of wheat, corn, and rice lost to insects will increase by 10 to 25 percent, the study says.


David's Cookies

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