Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

Affiliated Advertisers


The Old Guy's Garden Record

November 15, 2018

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Our Senior Garden - November 1, 2018
Click on images to open larger view in new tab or window.
Weather Underground Extended Forecast
Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.

Our current extended forecast calls for fairly mild temperatures for the next ten days, but with lots of rain. I'm back to my annual conundrum of whether to wait for the soil to be dry enough to till or just go ahead and plant our garlic.

Cleaning up our garden plots and preparing them for next season will be our main focus for November. All the grass clipping mulch that held back weeds and held in soil moisture needs to be removed or turned under. Leaving garden trash on the ground over the winter invites insect and disease carryover.

A big job will be cutting and removing the stalks from our asparagus patches. The stalks are still pretty green, so that job won't happen for a while.

Another big job this month will be washing and sanitizing all the trays and pots on our back porch. Once they are clean and dry, they get stored in our basement plant room.

We'll see our first seed catalogs for 2019 sometime soon. We won't be ordering anything until we complete our annual inventory of seed on hand. That one involves bringing in the bag of seed from our garage freezer and going through everything.

Our initial garden plan for next season is already done. I start doing it mid-summer as I plant succession crops, trying not to mess up crop rotations for the next year.

And sometime this month, I'll publish here our list of Recommended Seed Suppliers. I updated our page of trusted suppliers last month, but will need to see some seed catalogs before I can update the shipping charge section of the page.

Even without a lot of actual gardening, November will still be a busy month.

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.


Friday, November 2, 2018

With the onset of some cool, rainy days, I finished up one of my most difficult to write how-to articles yesterday. I probably know more about growing sweet corn and tomatoes than anything else in gardening, but quickly realized how much I don't know on the subjects when writing the pieces. It was a sort of humbling learning experience. But anyway, here are the how-to's I've written this year (in reverse chronological order):

Most of my time today was taken up with a trip to Terre Haute for my annual checkup with my heart surgeon. I got a good report, but learned something interesting. It turns out that he was a kindergartner at Grandview Elementary when I was teaching sixth grade there! Small world!

Sam's Club

Saturday, November 3, 2018Best Garden Photos of 2018

Our Senior Garden - November 3, 2018
Bracketed photos

Still mostly writing instead of gardening, I finished up our annual Best Garden Photos feature for this year. Having taken a bit over 3,000 garden shots this year, I was pretty disappointed with what I had to work with.

The three thousand figure is a bit misleading. I usually set my Canon T5i to bracket each shot. A Dummies page, How to Bracket Your Photo Subject, describes bracketing as:

"Bracketing is the process of taking three photos; one using the camera’s recommended settings, one intentionally underexposed, and one intentionally overexposed. The reason is simply to be sure you can get a good exposure from a subject that’s hard to meter."

That means I actually took only a thousand or so unique images. But what I shot is far less than the number of images I usually take in a gardening year.


I did get outside to pull the floating row cover off of our lettuce today. While the basil plants and a marigold under the row cover didn't survive our morning frosts, all of the lettuce did! Yippee!

Since we're not supposed to get a frost tonight, I left the row cover pulled aside. The plants can use the extra sunlight, as the row cover cuts the amount of sunlight that gets through it 10-20%.

I cut three lettuce plants for immediate use. One plant was a Crispino iceberg, while the others were romaines, a Coastal Star and a Jericho.

Row cover pulled back Closeup of lettuce ion row...and some snapdragons Rinsed lettuce in drainer

Required Disclosure Statement

Some of our text links go to the sites of our Senior Gardening Advertisers. Clicking through one of our ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale.

Saturday, November 10, 2018 - A Little Snow

Our Senior Garden - November 10, 2018As Annie and I were driving home from a family event in Bloomington, Indiana, last night, it began to snow furiously! The heavy snowfall didn't last all that long, but was enough to give the ground a light cover of snow. For our part of Indiana, it was a bit early for anything more than flurries.

Fortunately, knowing a hard freeze was coming (20° F), I'd pulled the floating row cover from our raised bed of lettuce and harvested all that was ready. The lettuce went to a couple of our daughters at the family event.

With the lettuce out, our one remaining crop is kale, which is somewhat frost hardy.

While morning low temperature will remain below freezing for the next week or so, daytime temperatures are supposed to stay mostly above freezing. I hope I can get our garlic planted in the next few days without chiseling into frozen ground!

Other Stuff

Drying plant labelsYesterday, I transplanted a few of the gloxinias I started as a germination test. But when I opened my jar of plant labels, I dropped it on the floor. The labels scattered across a rather dirty plant room floor.

We reuse our plastic plant labels several times. I keep an old peanut butter jar filled with bleach water on our kitchen windowsill during the growing season. Used labels go into the bleach water for several weeks. That pretty well clears off the "permanent" marker used on them and also may destroy disease organisms that might have been present.

After dumping labels all over a dirty floor, the windowsill jar and the dirty labels got rinsed and dried. It takes time, but saves a few bucks along the way. Eventually, though, the labels get brittle and break.

Setting up germination testJumbo Ziplock bag holding lots more Ziplocks filled with garden seedAnother job today was to start final germination tests on several batches of tomato, pepper, and cucumber seed. Getting the seed tested is a prerequisite for our annual seed inventory. In November or December, I bring in our bag of seed from the manual defrost freezer in the garage and record what we have, pitch what is too old, and start to figure out what needs to be ordered for the next season.

Several of the batches of seed I saved this season failed an initial germination test. This time around, I was careful to get the coffee filters I do the tests on wet enough. Placed in ziplock freezer bags, the seed went into a covered plant tray on a dark shelf of our plant rack with a soil heating mat under it. I set the thermostat to 80° F, but suspect the mat may have trouble maintaining that temperature in our now, rather cool basement.

I've racked my brain since spring trying to figure out first why our early peas wouldn't germinate, and later, why our saved seed was testing bad. Later transplants into the pea bed did fairly well, but getting seed to germinate there remained difficult. The bed had been planted the previous year to tomato plants that stunted.

While there could be many causes, I think several of our raised garden beds may have been contaminated with pre-emergent herbicides. I think that either the herbicide drifted from the field next to us, or worse yet, I introduced it myself by sweeping up and using contaminated grass clippings as mulch. And the farmer may not be the culprit, as I use a pre-emergent on our gravel driveway to hold down weeds. I also compost some of our grass clippings. If I swept up contaminated clippings, I may have created killer compost!

Garden Tower Project

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

I started several germination tests on Saturday. I was going to check the ziplock bags of tested seed this morning to make sure they were moist enough. Even though I thoroughly wet the coffee filters the seed went on and put them in ziplock freezer bags, the bags tend to lose moisture when over a soil heating mat with the seeds adsorbing moisture.

Successful cucumber seed germination test

To my surprise, the two tests of cucumber seed had completely germinated. One test germinated nine out of ten seeds, with other being a mess of roots where all ten seeds germinated. Previous tests with these batches of seeds had come in at zero and thirty percent germination! I'm guessing that I didn't rinse the seed well enough to get all the germination preventing goo off the seed before freezing it. And of course, I'm now glad I didn't pitch the seed in frustration after the initial tests.

Cold - Brr!

It's turned quite cold here of late. We're having overnight temperatures in the teens with some daily highs not above freezing. With our garden not completely cleared, I'm getting a bit worried, especially about getting our garlic planted.

I did get out today and cleared our bed that had lettuce in it. The remaining snapdragons I pulled were still alive, a testimony to their toughness.

Changeover in Web Hosts

After nine years at the same web host, we've been compelled to make a change. We're trying A2 Web Hosting as a new web host for our and sites. During the changeover, DNS distribution for the sites on our new host may cause some interruptions in service. For that, I apologize in advance. But...we're signed up and paid for another three years of Senior Gardening...if I last that long yikes.

A2 Web Hosting

Wednesday, November 14, 2018 - Changeover in Web Hosts

A2 Web HostingThe changeover for my web sites is done. I changed the nameservers on Hover this afternoon. It will take up to 48 hours for the changes to propagate through the internet. I'll be updating both the old and new web hosts until the propagation seems complete. If all goes well, you'll never notice the difference.

I had a few issues with the nameserver changes. Each time I got an excellent, quick response from A2 support.

I'm in the process of changing over my email addresses. That task is a bit more involved. I also have made such things more difficult because I use two computers, each with two separate operating systems installed on separate partitions or drives.

Thursday, November 15, 2018 - Garden Seed Catalogs

Our Senior Garden - November 15, 2018High Mowing Organic Seeds 2019 Catalog CoverIt's that time of year. We've received two 2019 garden seed catalogs this week. The first one was from a place that sold us some dead alfalfa seed several years ago. They'll get no further mention here.

The catalog that came in today was from High Mowing Organic Seeds (DGW rating).They sell a variety of open pollinated and hybrid organically grown seeds. That fits our needs pretty well, as we grow both open pollinated and hybrid vegetable varieties.

I like the HMOS catalog for its illustrations and organization. Forgive me, but I like pictures, even of vegetables. I think they offer a photo of each and every variety they offer. They also have an index inside the back cover and organize their offerings throughout the catalog alphabetically.

We've found their seed to be reliable. They've received a small order or two from us every year for the last four years. Their no shipping charge on orders of $10 or more is also a positive for them. And when I checked prices for three items we ordered last year, I found them to be the same this year!

I really like that they carry a couple of relatively new, open source, open pollinated varieties, Abundant Bloomsdale spinach and Who Gets Kissed sweet corn. We've had excellent success with the Abundant Bloomsdale spinach variety. Unfortunately, we've failed to grow a crop of Who Gets Kissed. It has to be isolated from our sh2 varieties, so it's a bit difficult for us to grow. The one year we had a promising crop, deer sneaked into our sweet corn patch just after the corn had tasseled and began putting on ears and ate every ear and tassel in one night!

As I snooze through Thursday night football tonight, I'll have the HMOS seed catalog and a magic marker on my lap, circling items I think we may want to order this year. Of course, I won't be placing any orders until our seed inventory is done. Two more seed germination tests wound up today with good results. I still have about five more tests ongoing before I can be done with seed testing and begin inventorying seed and then deciding what we'll need to order for next year.

I'll mention it several times this month, but we do maintain a page of Recommended Seed Suppliers you might want to look at. Our recommendations are based mostly on our experiences with seed vendors, although we do give some weight to the reviews on Dave's Garden Watchdog.


We had horror story weather predictions of 3-5" of snow accumulation for today. That's a lot of snow for this time of year. While a couple of nearby weather stations were reporting about that much snow on the ground, we only got a dusting...maybe half an inch or so.

Changeover in Web Hosts

I was surprised to see that the DNS changes I made yesterday had already taken effect in our area last night. It may take a few more days for them to percolate down through the internet throughout the world. As of now, for us, our site is being delivered by our new web host, A2 Hosting, from a server in Michigan.

While I've gotten the site up and running on the new host, I still haven't solved some email problems with their service. Fortunately, our old host still mirrors our email for most of the rest of this month. I currently can receive email through A2's servers, but haven't gotten my Apple Mail client to successfully send email yet.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Friday, November 16, 2018 - Kale Hardiness

Vates and Red Ursa kale
Another kale image

Wind & WeatherI learned something today about the hardiness of two of the kale varieties we grow. Having had at least one overnight low temperature of 20° F, our Red Ursa kale looks pretty droopy. Our Vates (also known as Dwarf Blue Scotch) still looks usable. The Lacinato I seeded didn't germinate, so I don't know about its hardiness. But now I know I need to order fresh seed for it.

I need to harvest and do something with the Vates kale. Maybe I'll save it for Thanksgiving...which is coming up next week! Yikes!

I actually have already laid in the supplies we'll need for our part of the Thanksgiving day feast. Fresh yeast and and extra bag of flour for Grandma's yeast rolls; butternut squash, brown sugar, and marshmallows for our butternut yams; and of course, french style green beans, mushroom soup, and French's crispy fried onions for green bean casserole.

As far as outdoor gardening goes, the sole task I completed today was to take a cart of garden refuse and a bucket of kitchen scraps to our compost pile. But on my way back to the house, I pulled back some of the mulch covering the pile I'd started last spring. I was pleased to find that it's pretty well decayed.

Inside, I continue to check our remaining germination tests each day. I noted some pepper and tomato seed beginning to sprout, so I should be able to do a final read of the tests early next week.

Fruit Bouquets

Saturday, November 17, 2018 - Current Garden Plan for 2019

Our Senior Garden - November 17, 2018Sierra Trading Post - Dynamic Homepage BannerOur snow has melted, but it's still a little too wet outside to do any more garden cleanup. I did get outside long enough to snap some shots of our garden plots to help illustrate our garden plan for next season. I begin making such plans around mid-summer. It's not that I have a lot of extra time during those busy months, but I have to be mindful of crop rotations for the coming season as I plant our succession crops. As the season progresses, the future garden plan gets revised many times. And there are always a few crops I'd like to grow again or try growing for the first time that may or may not get squeezed in somewhere. Our garden plan isn't final until every bit of our spring garden is planted.

I continue to use the long discontinued Appleworks 6 software for my garden plans. While I did such plans with pencil and paper for years, using some kind of mapping software allows one to go back and look at plans from seasons past. It also allows me to record dates planted and various varieties within each row. There are lots of free and commercial garden planners available online, although any good draw program could do the job.

East Garden PlanOur East Garden Plot - November 17, 2018Our plan for 2019 is now pretty well done, I think. While starting a how-to on garden planning and mapping, I found myself totally redoing my plan for our East Garden for next summer. I'd originally made the plan to use our 2018 plan, but adjusted the plan to follow our usual practice of rotating the half of the 80' x 80' plot 90° each year.

After our pumpkin vines overgrew and almost ruined our crop of butternuts this year, I once again exiled our pumpkin planting for next season to the site of an old compost pile outside the boundaries of our East Garden. Our butternuts may benefit from being grown where this summer's compost pile is.

The current plan now includes melons, yellow squash, sweet corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. I'm also planning to plant a long row of caged tomatoes and peppers. Besides giving us more produce to use and share, the cages may provide a little bit of a barrier for the critters that love to feast on our sweet corn and melons.

Note: Clicking on the garden maps shown here will open a new page or tab of a larger view that also includes our planned succession plantings for each plot.

Plots A1 & A2Plots A1 & A2Our two narrow raised beds will initially be planted to early peas and carrots, lettuce, and onions. The double trellis for the early peas will later support a succession planting of tall cucumbers. The bed for carrots and lettuce will simply get flipped horizontally for a fall crop of carrots and lettuce, along with some spinach.

Each of these raised beds have an interior dimension of 3' x 15'. I've found that to be near an ideal width for being able to work the center of the beds without having to step into them. Our asparagus patch in a raised bed has an interior width of 42". Just that little bit more makes it hard to reach the center of that bed when the asparagus is fully filled out.

Plot B, our main raised bedOur main raised garden bed measures 16' x 24', not a size I'd recommend. It happened that way when I first terraced two sides of the plot and a year later decided to totally enclose it as a raised bed. Using walking boards in the bed helps prevent soil compaction, but narrower raised beds are in my mind a far better bet.

Plot B, our main raised garden bedTo prevent shading of other crops, our taller caged tomatoes and peppers have to go at the north end of the bed next season. The tomatoes will rotate in 2020 to one of the narrow raised beds where they won't cause shading problems.

Short peas, lima beans, garlic, broccoli, and cauliflower will fill out the bed for our early plantings. Since the farm field next to our main garden should rotate to corn next season, we can grow our green beans as a succession crop in our main garden bed. In years when the field is planted to soybeans, we have to grow our green beans early to avoid a giant influx of Japanese Beetles from the soybean field.

2018 final Plot BFor perspective, the image at right shows what our Plot B plan looked like at the conclusion of the 2018 season.

Possibly for a touch of humor, I had to discard the first round of photos I took of the garden plots today. Not liking what I'd gotten, I went back out with a short stepladder to photograph plots A1, A2, and B. The stepladder, of course, immediately sunk about six inches into the ground. Setting it on some walking boards corrected that problem and allowed me to get a better angle on the plots.

For the East Garden, I took the photo from the bed of our pickup truck, something I've frequently done in the past. Lacking a drone or a good aerial photo of the plots, it was the best I could do.

I'm looking forward to the 2019 gardening season with anticipation. Not being able to plant our full East Garden this year, along with letting our main raised bed get away from me for a time due to knee injuries was a real disappointment. I'm hopeful that we may enjoy lots of melons and sweet corn next season, along with all the other stuff we grow in our main garden plots.

Sam's Club

Sunday, November 18, 2018 - Recommended Seed Suppliers

I'm guessing that most readers of this blog already have their favorite seed houses from which to order garden seed. But for those looking for a new or different source for good seed, I publish a listing of garden seed vendors each November that we've successfully used. While the list usually remains fairly stable, there have been some comings and goings to and from the list this year. Beyond my impressions of the companies, I've also included a link to ratings from Dave's Garden Watchdog (DGW rating) for each.

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Full disclosure: Botanical Interests, Burpee, and True Leaf Market are Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. Clicking through one of our ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale. We're also a consumer member of the Fedco Seeds Cooperative. True Leaf Market Fedco Seeds

Our Recommended Seed Suppliers page from which the above is taken also includes a list of Other Vendors to Consider. The suppliers page gets updated periodically, based on our most current experiences with seed houses.

Monday, November 19, 2018 - Gifts for Gardeners

Gifts for GardenersGardening Shopping GuideThe Christmas shopping season is now in full blast. Salvation Army bell ringers help me clear the change that has accumulated all year on my night stand. Even before Halloween this year, Christmas stuff began to compete for space in stores.

With Black Friday sales coming up this week, I thought I'd once again share links to our shopping guides for gardeners. The Old Guy's Shopping Guide for Gifts for Gardeners is our holiday shopping guide geared mostly for non-gardeners buying for gardeners. Our Shopping Guide for Gardeners is more of a year round guide of gardening tools and supplies with a bit of advice for beginning gardeners.

I updated both guides last month and added a few more items to them today. After tearing the meniscus cartilage in both knees this spring, a cheap set of kneepadsicon from Walmart quickly got added to the gifts page. I also added a good rain barrel to the page, although it would be tough to wrap one up to go under the tree for Christmas. But prices on rain barrels are far cheaper through the winter months than in spring and summer.

On our more standard gardening shopping guide, I redid a good bit of our organic chemical section. We've begun using a lot more Neem Oil to protect our tomatoes and Copper Fungicide on lots of plants.

I'm still struggling to get gifts ordered and delivered for my wife's Thanksgiving-ish birthday!

Dead Apple Tree

Dead Granny Smith apple treeGranny Smith applesI did add one item to our organic chemicals listing that simply didn't work. I used Pentra-Bark plus Fire Blight Spray and a host of other stuff trying to save our Granny Smith apple tree from fire blight. It turns out that I misdiagnosed the problem. From looking at the tree now, it is apparent that fire blight wasn't the problem. The dead tree is slowly uprooting, possibly indicating Phytophthora root rot. So Pentra-Bark still gets a qualified recommendation. My diagnostic skills get an F, although there's really no cure once root rot sets in. But we'll definitely miss the lovely green Granny Smith apples and the delicious applesauce we made from them.

I plan to use the last of our Serenade biofungicide as a soil drench around our remaining apple trees. It may help prevent root rot...or not. Since I try not to keep biologicals over the winter, putting it around the trees is a better use than pitching it. If there's enough left, I'll also drench the soil where our tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes will go next season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Our house is filled this afternoon with the pleasant aroma of kale boiling. After being really lazy for a week or so, I got back to garden cleanup today and harvested the last of our good kale.

Clearing main raised garden bed

Since this was a garden plot clearing, I pulled the kale plants and stripped off the very best of their leaves. The rest went onto the truck and eventually onto our compost pile with the last of the grass clipping mulch from our main raised garden bed.

A last step in the cleanup was to spread the biological, Milky Spore, over our raised beds. It kills Japanese Beetle larvae, a favorite food of moles.

I need to rake and smooth an area near the center of our main bed. I hope to plant our garlic there over the weekend.

I still have asparagus patches to clear before we're done with garden cleanup. Just like removing old mulch and garden trash, removing the old asparagus stalks helps prevent disease and insect carryover.

I wound up the last of our germination tests today. While our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed germinated well in this series of tests, both our Earliest Red Sweet pepper and Earlirouge tomato seed did not. We fortunately have lots of older pepper and tomato seed to use next season. USA, LLC

Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - Open Pollinated vs. Hybrid

As the new garden catalogs begin to arrive, one can almost get overwhelmed with all of the new vegetable variety introductionsicon. For a number of years, seed houses seemed to favor hybrid varieties over older open pollinated ones. The hybrids were said to have better growth habits, increased production, and better disease resistance. And in some, maybe many cases, that was true. I think the decline in tomato flavor in new hybrid varieties fostered a change.

With the growth of new seed houses specializing in heirloom and open pollinated varieties, long time seed houses have begun to offer more open pollinated varieties along with all their hybrids to compete with the onslaught of new vendors. I think that's a good thing. And along with the heirloom and open pollinated only new seed houses, several relatively new vendors offering a balanced assortment of both open pollinated and hybrid varieties have emerged.

As I thought about writing on this subject, I took a look back at the varieties we grew the last two years. I first went through our 2018 plantings and found that we'd grown thirty-six open pollinated vegetable varieties and eleven hybrids. I wondered if those numbers might be a bit misleading, as we grow lots of open pollinated lettuce varieties and also didn't get to plant most of our East Garden this year.

So I took a look at our 2017 plantings and found the percentage of open pollinated vs. hybrid varieties to be pretty stable. In 2017 (with a full East Garden), we grew 64 open pollinated varieties and 35 hybrids.

Our choices of what to grow are based on what we like to eat and what grows well for us. Both Annie and I love celery. Unfortunately, irregardless of variety, open pollinated or hybrid, I'm lousy at growing celery. So...I only try growing it about once every five years, only to be reminded at how bad I am at growing celery.

Some of our other choices are easy. We love the flavor and deep red interiors of Earlirouge open pollinated tomatoes, so we grow lots of them. But we also like hybrids such as Bella Rosa and Mountain Fresh Plus, so we grow them when we have the space. Our main red bell pepper is the old Earliest Red Sweet variety, a favorite because of its incredible production over a full gardening season. But we also grow some hybrid reds and yellows each year. The hybrid bell peppers are almost always much larger than our open pollinateds, but they also don't produce as many good peppers over a season.

For cantaloupes, everything we've grown over the last few years has been hybrids, although we got seed for a promising open pollinated variety this year from Glenn Drown's Sand Hill Preservation Center. Of course, my knee injuries prevented us planting any melons this year. For watermelon, our main variety has been the open pollinated Crimson Sweet. Several years ago, we began growing the heirloom Ali Baba variety and were amazed at its reliability. But we also grow a couple of seedless varieties (hybrids) each season.

Our sweet corn each year is all hybrids, mostly sh2s. We got lucky during our farming years in the 1980's to happen upon the supersweets for roadside sales and have been in love with them every since. If I could figure out how to isolate it, I'd still like to grow some hybrid Silver Queen again. And we continue to try to grow a good crop of the new open source, open pollinated Who Gets Kissed? We've just had bad luck with it with deer eating it all one year and transplants not taking another year.

We grow a lot of carrots each season. We grow them both in the fall in spring and never seem to have to buy carrots through the year. While many of the varieties we grow are hybrids, they're mostly based on the old open pollinated variety, Scarlet Nantes, which we also grow.

For green beans and kale, I'm an open pollinated purist. As I see introductions of hybrid beans and kale, I tend to scoff at them, as the old open pollinated varieties have fulfilled our needs for nearly fifty years.

For stuff like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, we grow a mix of hybrid and open pollinated varieties. The now discontinued hybrid Premium Crop broccoli is the best variety we've ever grown, with the open pollinated Goliath from Stokes Seeds a very close second. The open pollinated Amazing cauliflower and Fremont hybrid both produce excellent crops for us each season, usually in the spring.

Our cucumbers are all the old open pollinated Japanese Long Pickling variety. Likewise, our pumpkins are all open pollinated (mostly Howden) as are our butternut squash (Waltham). But for great yellow squash, I've found the hybrid Slick Pik to be unparalleled, although we also grow some of the fatter, open pollinated Saffrons. The Slick Piks produce heavily for a short time and then die out, while the Saffrons last all season (if you can keep the squash bugs off of them).

As several of our favorite, hybrid onion varieties got discontinued, I did some fairly extensive (for us) onion trials in 2014, searching for open pollinated alternatives that wouldn't one day be discontinued. Also, open pollinated onion seed seems to remain far cheaper than hybrid varieties. We still grow one hybrid yellow each year, but have switched to open pollinateds for most of our yellow and red onions. Of course, our best sweet onions have always been the open pollinated Walla Walla variety.

Some hybrid pea varieties are now reaching the market, to which I say "Seesh." Until someone comes up with a no fail, supersweet, hybrid pea, I'll stay with our old tried and true varieties. We grow Champion of England and Maxigolt tall peas in the early spring and Encore and Eclipse supersweet short peas a bit later each season. Note that I'm hoping to outlive Monsanto/Seminis/Bayer's plant patents on Encore and Eclipse and share those varieties with others in about 2022!

I used to grow mostly hybrids of spinach. Then I first discovered the old All-America winner, America. A more recent open source, open pollinated introduction, Abundant Bloomsdale, has also supplanted most of the old hybrids we used to grow. I do still have some hybrid Melody spinach seed which I plant a little of each year. But Melody has been discontinued, so we'll probably go with the open pollinateds from here on out. Also, we're learning how to save seed from the Abundant Bloomsdale variety.

As a generalization, hybrid seed is often more expensive than seed for open pollinated varieties. And of course, if you can meet the isolation and growing requirements, one can save their own seed from open pollinated varieties. We save a lot of seed each season, but particularly concentrate on some somewhat endangered varieties: Earlirouge, Moira, and Quinte tomatoes; Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers; and Earliest Red Sweet peppers.

I'm not sure the conversation above will give much guidance to gardeners. We obviously grow more open pollinateds than hybrids, but couldn't do without some of the hybrids. I'd offer caution about adopting new glittery hybrids until one is sure they can surpass established open pollinated varieties. We do try some new hybrid varieties each season, as we get some freebies due to publishing this blog. Most seem to fall flat on their faces when compared to what we've previously grown. But we're always looking for improved vegetable varieties to increase our enjoyment of gardening.

Burpee Seed Company

Thursday, November 22, 2018 - Thanksgiving Day (U.S.)

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

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Happy Thanksgiving

Friday, November 23, 2019 - Free Shipping from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 2019 Catalog CoverI haven't yet received Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds' 2019 print catalog, but was able to download a PDF version of it today. The catalog cover boldly proclaims, "FREE SHIPPING ON ALL NORTH AMERICAN ORDERS!" I quickly looked for the catch, but didn't find one. There appears to be no minimum order and shipping may truly be free.

High Mowing Organic Seeds tried the free shipping concept several years ago, but had to retreat from it. They now offer free shipping on orders over $10, still a pretty good rate.

Of course, there's really no such thing as free shipping. Whether added as a shipping and handling charge or included in the price of seeds and other products, one has to pay for shipping. But I think including shipping in the price of seeds is a better way to go, especially for those of us who may only want a few packets of seed.

I compared some of Baker Creek's prices from last year's catalog with their new 2019 catalog. Packets that sold in 2018 for $2.50 often cost $2.75 or even $3.00 this year. That's a pretty substantial bump in price. The first item I looked at was Blue Lake Bush green beans. A packet sold for $2.50 last year with a half pound costing $5.50. This year the packet costs $3.00 and the half pound $6.50. I was a little shocked at the dollar increase in the half pound cost, but then wondered, "What does it cost to mail a half pound or so package?" (about $4.00 first class)

What finally convinced me that Baker Creek is making a pretty appealing change in shipping is when I compared an order I placed with them last season to this season's prices and charges. I bought a packet of Ali Baba watermelon ($3.00) and a packet of Red Ursa kale ($2.50) in 2018. With shipping, I paid $9.00 for the two packets of seed. This season, the watermelon still runs $3.00, while the kale has gone up to $2.75. But with no shipping charge, my total would be just $5.75.

I really wish more seed houses would adopt an approach similar to Baker Creek's.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds' 2019 Catalog

Beans from Baker CreekWatermelon from Baker CreekSo I won't have to make another posting reviewing the Baker Creek catalog when the print version of it arrives, I'll do it here. Beyond the cover, I look first to see if any seed catalog has a Table of Contents at its front and an Index somewhere in it, preferably inside the back cover. Baker Creek's still has neither. Fortunately, it's listings are mostly arranged in alphabetical order.

The folks at Baker Creek obviously take a lot of pride in their seed catalogs. Each entry has an excellent photo of the product. Interesting side stories about vegetables' heritage and growers add some interest, more of which are available in Baker Creek's paid The Whole Seed Catalog ($9.95). Whether you buy something from Baker Creek or not, going through their catalog, cover-to-cover, is an enjoyable experience.

While Ali Baba watermelon seed is now available from several seed houses, I think only Baker Creek carries the Tam Dew Honeydew we really like. It has a slightly spicy flavor we enjoy. We may get our Lacinato kale seed from Baker Creek this year. The Lacinato seed we purchased in 2017 from a seed house that sold seed with false germination rates last year totally failed to germinate for us this year. In that regard, I noticed that Baker Creek is now guaranteeing their seed for two years.


I divided our garlic bulbs into individual cloves or sets this morning. I found that I still had some huge elephant garlic left from our previous crop, but mostly went with the new cloves I purchased this year. Dividing our regular garlic was just an exercise in trying to identify different types and include some of each. I ended up with 22 cloves of elephant garlic and 66 or so of regular garlic to plant in four, fifteen foot rows. That amount allows a spacing of around seven or eight inches between garlic plants.

While I staked out the rows for our garlic, I didn't plant it today. It's supposed to be sunny and a bit warmer tomorrow, so I'll try to plant it then.

A Nice Note

I received a really nice thank you note from Rebecca Newburn of the Richmond (CA) Grows Seed Lending Library today. I'd sent her ten packets of our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed to share at their seed library. I'd been impressed with their Create Your Own Seed Lending Library page and offered Rebecca some seed.

Seed Libraries have begun to spring up all across the country in the last few years. Many are affiliated with local public libraries and can be a good source of free, open pollinated garden seed. If you're looking for a local seed library, this page has a good spreadsheet of them, although it really needs updating.

If you're unfamiliar with seed libraries, they give out packets of free open pollinated vegetable seed. The only obligation in receiving the seed is to grow the vegetable variety and attempt to save seed from it, returning some seed to the seed library for others' use. The Normal (IL) Seed Library page notes, "As a bonus, seeds are never overdue. So there are no fines or replacement costs."

For more information on seed saving, the Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook has a nice page, Why Save Seeds, and offers basic seed saving information for a lot of vegetables. For a few bucks (plus shipping), Growing Garden Seeds: A Manual for Gardeners and Small Farmers by Johnny's Selected Seeds founder, Rob Johnston, Jr., is an excellent reference to have on ones bookshelf. My ancient, but precious copy of it sits in a box behind my desk in my office.


Saturday, November 24, 2019 - Garlic

Planting garlicElephant garlic in one row, regular garlic in the other three rowsOnce again, I'm late getting our garlic planted. Last year, I didn't get our garlic planted until December 2. Our harvest this year was far less than usual, possibly due to the late planting, but moles also worked the garlic area pretty heavily.

Wet ground prevented fall tilling of our raised garden bed, so the garlic this year went into cleared, but untilled ground. Using my handy garlic dibble, I was still able to easily make holes for the garlic cloves.

Beyond not thoroughly tilling the garlic bed, I also omitted the bone meal I usually sprinkle a bit of under each garlic clove planted. I recently read that moles may be drawn to bone meal. Moles had obviously gone down our row of elephant garlic last year, pretty well ruining that crop. Instead, I sprinkled a little Muriate of Potash over the planting. I hope to top the area with a mix of compost and peat moss before everything freezes up.

Our how-to feature, Growing Garlic, covers the basics of growing, harvesting, and storing garlic.

Evening sky - November 24, 2018

I thought I was done writing for today, but saw this lovely evening sky and grabbed a shot of it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2019 - Seed Inventory

Bags of seed to be inventoriedSeed inventory in progressI carry over a lot of unused garden seed from year to year. We keep most of our stored seed in a manual defrost freezer in our garage. Some bulk seed gets stored in cool, dark areas of our basement and garage.

Having lots of seed on hand isn't much good unless you know what you have, and possibly equally important, what you don't have. So before I place any garden seed orders, I complete the tedious and boring job of doing an inventory of all of our garden seed.

There's actually a lot involved in doing such an inventory. Because we save some types of seed for many years, there's always the evaluation of whether seed is too old to keep. Then I wade through all our bags of seed alphabetically (asparagus, beans, beets, brassicas, etc.), making sure each item on the past inventory still exists. I also try to count, weigh, or sometimes just roughly estimate how much seed is left.

Inventory spreadsheet

I began recording our seed inventory on a spreadsheet about ten years ago. The spreadsheet is formatted the same as another such document I use to record our annual seed orders. When seed orders arrive, I cut and paste the information from the order sheet to the inventory. If you currently don't have a spreadsheet program such as Excel on your computer, Open Office is a free, open source alternative that can do the job.

Final read of sweet corn germination testsWhen doing the inventory, I spread the freezer bags of seed across our dining room table. Selecting a few at a time, I go down our list checking and updating the information there. I often find seed that has come in at an odd time that hasn't been recorded. And of course, some seed gets used up and its entry needs to be deleted or the quantity listed as "out" if I'm sure I'll reorder the variety.

This year's inventory took a little more time than usual, as I had a lot of germination testing data to record. We'd had some problems with our saved seed this season not germinating up to our standards. And early in the year, I discovered that one of our favorite seed vendors had some serious lapses in testing, recording, or reporting the germination values of some of their seeds (tomatoes, sweet corn, kale, etc.). Interestingly, some really old sweet corn seed from the same vendor tested at 90 to 100% in our ten seed samples.


Our Senior Garden - November 27, 2018I'm still working down our oldest compost pile. Over the weekend, I mixed screened, finished compost with peat moss and a bit of lime. One four cubic foot cartload went over our recent planting of garlic. Another, along with half a bale of peat moss, went to restore the soil level in our newest narrow raised bed. I would liked to till the mix into the soil of the narrow raised bed, but tilling is out for now. The soil is too wet and isn't likely to dry out with the weather we're having.

When I'm done screening compost from the old pile, I'll bury some of it in a hole, marking it with a wooden stake for our pumpkin patch next season. I'll also rake any remaining compost out a few feet. We still have the compost pile started last spring that I haven't begun to use as yet. And there's the current, working compost heap that we continue to feed kitchen scraps.

With our raised beds done for the season, I only need to clear our two patches of asparagus of stalks, weeds, and trash to be done with outdoor gardening for the year.


Friday, November 30, 2018 - November Wrap-up

November, 2018, animated GIF of our Senior GardenNovember is our first month when things begin to slow down for us in gardening. We did harvest some lovely lettuce and kale this month. With those crops out of the way, we got our raised beds cleared of plants, plant trash, and mulch. I also got our garlic planted.

Besides cleaning up our garden plots, I did a bit of writing and updating this month. A new how-to, Growing a Garden Delicacy: Sweet Corn, and an annual feature story, Our Best Garden Photos of 2018, were fun to publish. I also updated our page of Recommended Seed Suppliers and our two shopping guides, The Old Guy's Shopping Guide for Gifts for Gardeners and Shopping Guide for Gardeners.

I published our current garden plan for next year. It will undoubtedly change a bit here and there before spring planting. I've already seen an item or two in new garden catalogs that I'd like to try.

With our seed inventory finally done, I can concentrate on ordering what little new seed we'll need for next season. As usual, I'll try to order any onion, geranium, and petunia seed needed early, as we start all of them in January each year.

Finally, our changeover to a new web host has been mostly successful. I'm still battling how to send email from my Mac Mini running Snow Leopard, but can communicate via email from my laptop that mainly runs Apple's High Sierra. We initially had some issues with our web stats properly updating, but A2 Hosting's techs got things worked out fairly quickly.

While stats probably aren't all that interesting to most gardeners, I was surprised last night when I checked them for my old site. Our math freewares remain fairly popular. I'd considered dropping the site when I transferred to the new web host. Now, I'm glad I kept the old site online.

If you have a child or grandchild struggling to learn to compute due to math fact problems, our old Math Dittos 2 series might be helpful. They were written during my teaching years for my special education students, but also have proved helpful for many math challenged regular ed students.

Fact Controlled Math

Previous month
October, 2018

Next month
December, 2018

Contact Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening


Affiliated Advertisers