Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

June 16, 2018


Friday, June 1, 2018

Our Senior Garden - June 1, 2018
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Abundant Bloomsdale spinach and Earlirouge tomatoes
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I began and ended my gardening day today spraying. This morning, I sprayed our broccoli and cauliflower with Thuricide (BT). I'd found a worm in a broccoli I cut recently and also had seen small white cabbage moths fluttering about the yard and garden.

This evening, I sprayed our butternut and pumpkin plants and the mulch around them with Eight. I'm trying to stay ahead of the squash bugs this year.

On the way back to the garage, I had enough chemical left in the sprayer to give our apple trees a good spraying. I was pleased to see lots of small green apples on our Granny Smith tree, with a lesser number on another tree.

The highlight of my morning gardening was picking spinach. The spinach transplants I put in have all gone to seed, but our direct seeded spinach was perfect for picking. We ate most of what I'd picked as spinach salad with our supper tonight.

Peas transpolantedRadishes pulled revealing carrotsI also transplanted a few pea plants. I'd started some Eclipse peas in deep sixpack inserts when I last seeded Eclipse into the garden. That seeding pretty well failed, while eleven of twelve seeds started indoors germinated. At any rate, they filled in some of the many open areas in part of our pea row. This was an area that had weeded over a bit, but the seedling weeds mostly pulled pretty easily after our recent rains.

I also pulled radishes today. I'd planted several varieties over our carrots to break the soil for the carrots. The radishes have thrived and were in danger of crowding out the carrots. So all the radishes, ripe or not, got pulled. Our Cherry Belle radishes were ripe, but some other longer season varieties were only good to go onto the compost pile.

Comment

We're way behind where we usually are at this time of year. I mentioned some of the problems we've experienced yesterday and last month. But each day there are pleasant gardening tasks to be done. I'm trying to take them one at a time without getting in a hurry about things. We may not grow everything we'd like in this year's garden, but I plan to enjoy growing and harvesting what we can.

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Broccoli and cauliflowerGreen brans emergingI cut small heads of cauliflower yesterday and today. I also cut our first full sized head of broccoli. With all the stress of dry soil conditions and fluctuating temperatures, I'm happy to get any brassicas.

Our green beans are beginning to come up, a testament to the process of freezing unused seed from year to year (within limits, of course). They're a bit spotty in the row right now, but should fill in during the next few days.

We're on a break from our previous daily waterings, as we got another 0.75" of rain last night.

The few elephant garlics that came up in our fall planting have put on scapes. I snapped off the scapes this afternoon, as that is said to possibly increase bulb size. The scapes can be used for cooking. One can also leave the scapes that may produce really pretty "blooms" like we had in 2014.

My big job for today was unmounting our pull-type rototiller and remounting the mower deck on the lawn tractor. The mower deck had to be cleaned and lubricated and the blades sharpened. After all of that, when started, the engine was obviously running on only one of its two cylinders. I guess I got the thing cleaned up for its trade-in trip to the John Deere dealership.

Monday, June 4, 2018 - Thinking Ahead

Oregano overgrowing...everythingVolunteer dillWhile we're still working to get our spring garden planted, it's also time to think ahead to succession crops and our fall garden. Our quart jar of dried parsley flakes is about empty, as is our small jar of dried basil. While I have a couple of dwarf basil plants ready to go into our herb garden, I'll probably want to start some standard size basil as well. I still need to start some parsley and then figure out some space in our garden where it can go. While one uses a pinch or two of basil in sauces, recipes often call for a fourth cup of dried parsley, so we'll need to grow a lot of it.

While talking herbs, our oregano has gone a bit nuts this year and needs to be cut back before it completely overgrows the nearby thyme, dianthus, and sage. Both the oregano and thyme have overwintered well for two years.

One herb I won't have to start indoors is dill. We have lots of volunteer dill up now that needs to be moved to more favorable locations.

And while we're currently cutting some disappointing spring broccoli and a bit better cauliflower, fall transplants for those two will need to be started sometime this month. With our so-so spring brassicas, we'll want to grow a big fall crop to fill our freezer for winter use.

Finally, it's time to seed our Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers. We usually grow them as a succession crop to follow our early, tall peas on their trellis. With the early pea crop having failed to germinate and the trellis pulled, I sorta forgot about starting cucumbers. Since we still have a lot of sweet and dill pickle chips in our pantry from last year, the pressure to grow lots of cukes isn't too great. We do, however, grow the JLP variety for seed saving and sharing.

Seed Sharing

It's all but certain that we'll be making a major change in how we share our saved seed by this fall. Currently, we have six varieties of garden seed available through the Seed Savers Online Member Exchange. That availability will cease at the end of July when my SSE membership runs out. Over the years, we've also shared seed with several seed libraries throughout the midwest, seed give-aways directly through this site, and with a couple of seed vendors who may at some time offer some of our saved varieties.

What all of this gets around to is that if you want to order some Earlirouge, Moira, and/or Quinte tomato seed, Earliest Red Sweet pepper seed, or Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed through our SSE offerings, you'll need to do so before August. While I also offer Abundant Bloomsdale Spinach seed, I'd suggest ordering it from either High Mowing Organic Seeds or the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange to support commercial seed houses offering the variety. Of course, if you live somewhere around Indiana, you might want some of our spinach seed, as it may have slightly adapted to our regional growing conditions.

Clusters of Earlirouge tomatoes Three Moiras Quinte tomatoes Earliest Red Sweet Pepper Plant Japanese Long Pickling cucumber Abundant Bloomsdale spinach
Earlirouge Moira Quinte Earliest Red Sweet Japanese Long Pickling Abundant Bloomsdale

Time to Let Go

In the late 1970s, I joined an organization of gardeners seeking to preserve the heritage and genetic diversity of open pollinated vegetable varieties. Seed Savers Exchange founders Kent and Diane Whealy published an annual yearbook listing seed varieties to be shared by members with other gardening members. At that time, you sent a self-addressed stamped envelope with your seed requests to fellow members, paying for the seeds with postage stamps.

Over the intervening years. the Seed Savers Exchange has flourished. A permanent home base at the Heritage Farm has been established. More importantly, a seed vault for long term storage and preservation of seeds has been built and refurbished, backed up somewhat by contributions of seed to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. At times, excellent educational programs have been offered via SSE at the Heritage Farm and online.

The Seed Savers Exchange also began to sell open pollinated and heirloom seed from their collection. In time, revenue from seed sales outweighed members' dues by about 4:1. Contributions by some well-heeled donors also benefitted the exchange, although those contributions apparently came with some very strong strings attached involving control of the organization's direction. I suspect that led directly to the termination of co-founder Kent Whealy and the radical change in the organization from a member oriented organization into a seed sales company that seems to me to be pushing the envelope of their not-for-profit status.

As seed sales and donations increased, the Seed Savers member exchange, once the heart and soul of the organization, was gradually de-emphasized. An online member exchange helped boost some seed sharing, but the online exchange has never been properly supported via links on SSE's home page or emails to members. The member exchange and long-time members now appear to have become an annoyance to the leadership of SSE.

After publishing some strongly worded constructive criticism about the Seed Savers Exchange last fall (1, 2), I decided to hold my peace for a time. I did write each of the members of SSE's Board of Directors in the interim. Their total lack of response to my initial letter pretty well told me that they were in the bag for the current ruling group at SSE. (Hey, I even sent each one of them a packet of saved, endangered garden seed.) Only after a follow-up email did two of them honor me with a response.

What I wrote the Board and SSE's director wasn't offensive. I thought I had some good ideas for improving the organization. As time has passed, I've updated and hopefully improved my suggestions:

  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 many members over the last few years. Again, as we old guys die off, a new generation of seed savers needs to be engaged 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 issue.
  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. Get the annual print yearbook into members' hands in early January. Coming out in late February severely diminishes the usefulness of the print yearbook.
  13. Please, please, cut back on the fundraising and seed sale emails.

I finished my letters and emails to SSE's leadership with the following somewhat tart, but true observation:

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 current leadership of the exchange has forgotten that.

With the SSE annual conference and campout coming up next month, I thought I'd once again offer my unsolicited advice to the leaders of the organization, as they'll probably meet then. But as the title of this section suggests, I'm guessing that I'll need to just let my SSE membership lapse when it comes up for renewal. The Seed Savers Exchange has moved in my mind from being a group of committed seed saving members to just another seed company.

Gloxinia

We only have one gloxinia plant in bloom right now, but it's a beauty. I've been hand pollinating the blooms in hopes of producing some viable seed from it. My efforts have been somewhat thwarted by cats that like to lay by the plant and even sample its leaves from time to time.

Pretty gloxinia bloom

Rukaten Camera

Thursday, June 7, 2018 - Filling in the Green Bean Rows

Green beans upThe green beans I seeded a week or so ago are mostly up. There were, however, some bare patches where the beans didn't germinate. There were also a couple of spots where a cat or dog had dug a bit in the row.

To fill in the bare spots, I soaked some bean seed for a couple of hours yesterday. Then I used a trowel to open up small furrows to bury the seed. Instead of using one or more of the six varieties I originally seeded, I used some Empress seed. We tried the Empress variety a couple of years ago, but didn't plant any of it last year. While the other beans will have a head start on the Empress beans, by the second picking of them, the Empress plants should be bearing mature bean pods.

Burpee Seed Company

Friday, June 8, 2018 - Old Mac Software

Our Senior Garden - June 8, 2018Elevated Raised BedsAn email came in this week about my Vintage Mac Software page on our mathdittos2.com site. A reader had an old Mac software site I'd missed. Since I hadn't updated the page in almost six years, I checked all the links on the page, fortunately only finding two bad links. I gladly added the site the reader had recommended and used it when updating one of my old Mac columns linked below.

For folks still playing around with Macintosh computers that run the old Classic systems, old Mac software sites are a godsend. Software for the machines has become hard to find.

I still have a Mac IIfx and an SE/30 that I occasionally play with that require older software.

Math Dittos 2

Addition & Subtraction Multiplication

MATH DITTOS 2The Math Dittos 2 name of the site comes from some math worksheets I wrote for my special education students who had difficulty learning their basic math facts. The worksheets proved highly successful with them and many regular ed students. If you have a child or grandchild who has difficulty with basic computation because of math facts, the free worksheets might be helpful.

Bum Knee

I got into the doctor this week about my knee. The good news was that the x-rays of the knee didn't reveal any problems that would require a joint replacement. The bad news was that I probably have torn the meniscus cartilage in the knee. Such tears can heal on their own, but mine has gone on long enough that I'm going to have to see a specialist to see if the knee requires surgery.

I'm mentioning this here because it impacts my ability to garden. I'm gimping around now the best that I can, but I'm really not able to do much gardening right now.

Botanical Interests

Saturday, June 16, 2018 - Garlic Scapes

A garlic scape
Lots of garlic scapes

Garlic bloomWhile our elephant garlic often produces scapes, our other garlic only occasionally does. This year, our hardneck garlics have almost all produced scapes. Maybe it's because of the strange spring weather we've had. Softneck garlic rarely produces a scape.

A scape is the stem that grows from the center of hardneck and elephant garlic plants. They grow to two or three feet long with a flower on top. The flower doesn't pollinate, but can produce bulbils that can be planted to produce more garlic...if you're vary patient. Bulbils take several years to produce a true garlic bulb.

The accepted gardening wisdom is to snap off the scapes to make the plant put its energy into growing a larger bulb. The scapes are edible, so they're not a waste. The scapes can actually be left on the plant without terribly diminishing bulb size. We let several elephant garlics open their flowers several years ago. One of them produced a beautiful allium-like bloom that turned out to be what I thought was our best garden photo of 2014.

Our regular garlic won't be ready to dig until next month. We did enjoy some scapes cut like chives over ravioli last night. I don't know when we'll dig our spring planted elephant garlic, since I've never grown spring planted garlic before.

Broccoli

BroccoliEven though we're having some hot, humid weather, our broccoli is still producing. We cut two main heads and a large sideshoot yesterday. The flavor of the head I tasted was strong, but not yet bitter.

I'll need to seed our fall brassicas in the next week or so.

Parsley

I'm a bit late in doing it, but I started a large, communal pot of parsley this week. When our broccoli and cauliflower come out, the parsley will fill their space.

After filling a ten inch bulb pan with sterile potting mix, I sprinkled Dark Green Italian, Giant of Italy, and Moss Curledicon parsley seed over the dampened soil. Since my seed was all old (2007-2010), I seeded pretty heavily. I lightly covered the seed with a bit more potting mix, as parsley germinates best in total darkness.

Whether I do the planting, harvesting, and drying or not, we'll need to pick and dry a good bit of parsley to fill our nearly empty parsley jar.

Cucumbers

Starting cucumbersPeas in bloomWith half of our pea row in full bloom, it was time today to start the Japanese Long Pickling cucumber plants that will follow the peas in the narrow bed. I put 22 seeds into 18 cells of some deep sixpack inserts, lightly covering the seed with sterile potting mix. By the time the peas come out, the cucumber transplants should be ready to go into the soil. Since Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers are a 60 days-to-maturity variety, we should have lots of time to produce a crop for table use, canning, and seed sharing.

General

After a very dry month of May, we've had lots of rain so far this month. Over five inches fell in a three day period. High temperatures here are running in the low 90s with a heat index well over 100. As I began writing this section, I had to wipe sweat that had dripped off my brow from my keyboard! I'd been out dumping compost and came in soaked from just ten minutes of work.

AmazonMy bum knee still won't let me garden at the level I would like. My sister and her husband weeded our raised beds last Sunday, keeping stuff there growing well. (Thanks, Jerry and Susan!) A houseguest today did a bit more weeding while trying out our CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator. (Thanks, Martha!) She loved the tool.

We're still investigating orthopedic surgeons in our area, as the knee isn't healing on its own. I can do some minimal gardening, but find most work too painful to complete right now. Unfortunately, the excellent surgeon who did my hip replacement several years ago has retired. He's my age, so I hope Bob Clayton is enjoying retirement as much as I have.

REI

Thursday, June 21, 2018 - Freezing Brassicas

Blanching broccoli and cauliflowerBrassicas coolingI got a sudden surge of energy this evening and decided to freeze broccoli and cauliflower. I'd picked the last of our main heads of broccoli earlier and two small cauliflowers. Several broccoli plants that had previously yielded rather small heads had put on rather large, baseball sized sideshoots! I'm guessing that all the rain we've had of late had something to do with the increased production. Along with what we'd picked in previous days, we had enough to blanch and freeze a batch.

We soak our broccoli and cauliflower immediately after picking (or cutting) in saltwater. That kills any worms that might be on the brassicas. Our liberal use of Thuricide (BT) makes finding a worm a rare occasion, but I did find one in this batch. We store the brassicas in Debbie Meyer Green Bags in the refrigerator until we freeze them or use them fresh. We had lots of broccoli and cauliflower florets in our salad with supper tonight.

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Brassicas on cookie sheet in freezerWhen I'm ready to freeze, I trim the broccoli to florets. I do the same with larger heads of cauliflower, although I process small heads whole so I won't lose so much cauliflower in trimming.

The Ball Blue Book recommends blanching brassicas for several minutes in boiling or near boiling water. While this process softens the florets, it also is supposed to kill bacteria that might be on them. After blanching, I cool the florets in cold water and dump them into a strainer. After they've dried a bit, they go onto a large cookie sheet to dry a bit more before getting squeezed into our kitchen freezer.

After several hours, or overnight, I bag the florets in a ziplock bag iconbefore moving them to our big freezer. In the process of making room for the cookie sheet of brassicas this evening, I ran across and discarded a small bag of cauliflower florets frozen last spring! We used the last of our frozen broccoli from last season a month or so ago. I just forgot about the cauliflower.

Decisions

I'd kept watering a bunch of melon transplants on our back porch and "under" our open cold frame until yesterday. Realizing that with my knee problems that I wasn't going to be able to plant and care for the plants that had also gotten way to big to transplant, I began pitching them yesterday. That cast the die for a greatly reduced sized East Garden this year. We won't have melons, sweet corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, or yellow squash from the garden. On the positive side, we won't have to fight deer and raccoons in that area this summer.

We do have some tomatoes and peppers along with hills of butternut squash and pumpkins that I planted in the East Garden before my knee got too bad. Actually, transplanting the tomatoes and peppers into the rock hard clay soil of the East Garden was the final straw that put me into gardening semi-retirement for this season.

The good news is that the knee is actually getting better, although very slowly. While our full, big East Garden is out for this year, I'm fairly confident that I can tend our raised beds this summer. While I was inactive for about three weeks and our mower broken, our lawn has become a mess. I started the cleanup today, but only got about an acre (of three or so) done. I'll have to rake (lawn sweeper) what I've mowed, as the grass is really tall, but that should also produce some good mulch for our raised beds and clippings for our compost pile.

Sierra Trading Post

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 - Peas

Elephant garlic and pea rowPeas in butterWith some welcome healing of my knees, I've begun to get some gardening done. Due to the knee problems (torn meniscus cartilage) and a mower breakdown, I'd had to let the garden go and then concentrate on getting our lawn mowed. It had gotten really high.

Equipped with heavy duty knee pads and a foam cushion, I was able to work on my knees yesterday for the first time in months. I weeded our narrow raised bed of elephant garlic and short peas. I also picked enough peas that we enjoyed them with our supper last evening. This late, the peas weren't as sweet as true spring peas, but they were still good. We may get one more picking of them, although it's supposed to get really hot again over the weekend.

While the bed of garlic and peas looks pretty good now, much of our main raised garden bed is overgrown with grass weeds despite my early mulching. I'll try to save what I can as I work to clean up the mess caused by my gardening inactivity for several weeks.

East Garden

Our East Garden plot looks pretty bare when compared to how it usually looks this time of year. Due to my knee problems, I've had to abandon any further planting in the plot. There'll be no melons, yellow squash, sweet corn, potatoes, or sweet potatoes there this season. I will till and seed the unused areas to buckwheat a bit later on.

East Garden - June 27, 2018

We do have several crops already started before my knees went down. Our row of tomatoes and peppers seem to be doing okay despite my neglect of them. Fortunately, I got some new-to-us varieties (Crimson Sprinter, Bellstar, and Dixie Red) I really wanted to try this year planted before the knee problems set in.

Something I dare not neglect are our hills of butternut squash and pumpkins. When catching up on mowing and raking, I used all the grass clippings raked to extend the mulch around the vining plants. Today, I sprayed not only the plants but the mulch surrounding them with liquid Eight. While I've not seen any signs of squash bugs yet in the plantings, I did find a squash bug or two when weeding our peas yesterday.

Pumpkin and squash vines

Butternut squash blossomSmall butternut squash set on vineWe lost all of our pumpkins and butternut squash last year because I foolishly left heavy mulch on the ground over the winter where the crops were to be planted. Squash bugs or their eggs overwintered in the mulch and overwhelmed my efforts to suppress them. This year, we're growing our pumpkins and squash inside our East Garden plot, something I haven't done in years. Because of the plants' aggressive vining, they've been consigned for years to the sites of old compost piles to keep them from overgrowing everything around them. This year, I planted them in a supposedly rotated out portion of our East Garden. Now, with little else planted around them, they should have all the room to expand that they need.

I love seeing the huge yellow blooms squash put on and the resultant squash that set on the vines. With a lot less garden to take care of this year, I hope to bring in good crops of both butternut squash and pumpkins. The bulk of our butternut crop has gone to a food bank in years past, while the pumpkins are for our grandkids.

Habitat for Humanity

Saturday, June 30, 2018 - It's All How You Look at It

June, 2018, animated GIF of our Senior GardenWith all the problems we've experienced over the last few months, we amazingly still have some productive gardening plots going. We've had lots of broccoli and cauliflower, some spinach and a little lettuce, and even a few peas so far this season.

Extreme weather swings, wet to dry to wet, and cold to very hot, set back a lot of our plantings. Mechanical (tiller and mower) and physical (torn meniscus cartilage) breakdowns brought my gardening efforts to a total halt late last month. Money took care of the mechanical problems, while total rest of the knees has finally got them healing and allowing me to resume some limited gardening.

Lost from our downtime are most of the space hog crops we usually grow in our large East Garden plot. We'll have to buy our melons, sweet corn, and potatoes at the market this year, but we do have some nice tomatoes and peppers and hills of butternut squash and pumpkins that were planted before my knees said "no more."

Not directly garden related, but still a problem, the lovely 23-inch Cinema Display my wife gave me over ten years ago failed this week. Fortunately, I quickly found a good, used replacement display from our main Mac part supplier, Other World Computing.

A now funny "breakdown" manifested itself this week. Our kitchen faucet often drips, as sand that gets through our water filter damages the washers. I'd replaced the washers a couple of months ago, but the faucet began dripping pretty hard again this week. Rather than buy new valve stems and washers, I bought a new, more expensive faucet at the hardware store. As soon as I brought it home and set it in the kitchen, the kitchen faucet quit dripping! I guess the new faucet scared the old one into behaving as it should.

Parts of our main raised garden bed weeded over pretty seriously while I was inactive. Catching up on mowing was a priority I made over gardening, as our property was beginning to look like a vacant house with an overgrown lawn. But I'm about caught up on mowing and hope to begin weeding with a vengeance soon. I also need to pull our brassicas and peas to make room for parsley and cucumbers.

Garden Tower Project

May, 2018

July, 2018

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