Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

October 16, 2018


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Our Senior Garden - October 2, 2018
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Screening compost
Hardware cloth stretched over garden cart
Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.

I'm obviously getting a slow start on October postings. While the farm guys were combining the field of soybeans next to us, our garden plots are still producing. We'll keep gardening until a hard frost ends the season for us.

I've spent a couple of days screening compost from our oldest compost pile. My first effort was abbreviated, as I forgot that small black ants often like to nest in mature compost piles. Ouch!

Armed with a sprayer full of pyrethrin, I was able to fill our four cubic foot garden cart with screened compost today. I use half inch hardware cloth to sift out the biggest pieces of undigested material from the compost. The screened out and partially digested material went onto our newest compost pile which is made up mostly of kitchen garbage and butternut and pumpkin vines I cut while harvesting butternuts. The screened compost will go first to our asparagus patches and then to fill in low soil in our raised garden beds.

As crops mature and are harvested, we'll begin to renovate our garden plots. Besides compost when available, I often add a good bit of peat moss (and lime) to loosen the soil in the beds when fall tilling them, as peat takes some time to absorb moisture. Areas that will grow root crops such as garlic, potatoes, and carrots get a good shot of Muriate of Potash, as that product is a pretty hot one that benefits from being in the ground a while to "cool down" a bit. We also add some Soil Acidifier to the area of our East Garden where we hope to plant potatoes next spring. Lowering the soil pH helps prevent potato scab disease.

Cool weather, shorter days, and shade will slow the growth of our crops this month. While our garden plots were well placed twenty-four years ago, our trees have grown a lot in that time. Our main garden bed is now in the shade each day until around noon! (And no, cutting the trees is not a viable option...if I want to remain married. grin)

I did cut four softball sized heads of broccoli yesterday. One of our cauliflower plants looks like it's beginning to produce a head. Knowing the plot would be shaded part of each day, I gave the broccoli and cauliflower plants a good bit more space in the row than I do in the spring. While cauliflower is a one and done cutting for heads, the broccoli varieties we grow should continue to produce sideshoots for some time.

I mentioned cutting butternut and pumpkin vines above. I began clearing some vines on the outside of our butternut squash and pumpkin patch to facilitate harvesting butternut squash. The pumpkin vines have pretty well crowded out and killed the butternut vines! (Note for next season: Leave more space between the pumpkins and butternuts.) So far, I've cut over forty butternuts of various quality and sizes. I also discovered three more greenish orange pumpkins when pruning the vines.

So, I'll continue to garden when I can this month. I'll also try to prepare areas that open up for the next growing season. And of course, I'll try to plant garlic as soon as possible after our first frost.

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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Fresh tomatoes on October 6, 2018Seed SavingIt's October, and we're still getting lots of red, ripe tomatoes. Some of them aren't very pretty with cracked tops and such, but they slice and taste just fine. In another month or so, we'll be desperately missing them.

I got busy with seed saving this morning. We're getting a steady supply of gloxinia seed which I store in old seed vials and freeze. I also saved a bunch of Earliest Red Sweet pepper seed. I messed up on that one though, as I'd planned to dry and grind the pepper flesh to make a mild paprika powder. I'd donated the freshest of the picked peppers to our local food bank, but let the others sit a bit too long. By the time I got around to saving seed, the pepper flesh was a bit wrinkly. But we have lots of red and nearly red peppers on our plants.

I began drying a batch of Earlirouge tomato seed that had fermented in a jar for four days. The fermentation process can be a bit tricky. Don't go long enough, and it may not kill bacteria on the seed. Go too long, and the seed may begin to germinate in the fermentation solution.

I also processed the last of our cucumbers saved for seed. After an overflow disaster with the last batch, I made sure to leave plenty of headspace in the jars to allow for increased volume as the seed and goo ferments. I also rinsed some of the seed to remove the gel that surrounds it in the cucumber without the fermentation process.

Current Growing Garden SeedsIf you're new to seed saving, I find Rob Johnston, Jr.'s old booklet, Growing Garden Seeds, to be a great starting point. It doesn't go into much depth, but covers all the basics. When I checked the link today, I found that Johnny's Selected Seeds had raised the price on the book 7ยข, to a whopping $3.02, plus shipping and handling.

We've has some problems with our saved seed so far this fall. Our germination tests have been disappointing. So I'm hoping for better results with the currently saved seed. I was much more careful with these batches not to do anything silly that would damage the seed.

I cut another nice head of broccoli today. That's six main heads so far with one sideshoot. While I froze our earlier picked broccoli, this head will go for fresh use.

I keep thinking it's time to bring in our hummingbird feeders for the year, but then I see another hummingbird. We had several hummingbirds visiting our feeder yesterday and today. I didn't see the birds today, but Annie saw them as they whizzed through our porch while she was sitting on our glider. I have brought in, cleaned and stored two other feeders that were in less visible positions.

We got a tenth of an inch of rain yesterday which interrupted, but didn't stop. my mowing. I waiting an hour and finished up our main yard after the sun had come back out. The tenth of an inch raised our yearly total of precipitation to 40 inches.

I also brought in another three to four cubic feet of screened compost this week. This batch filled in some low spots in our raised herb bed around our shallow well pump with the rest going to our asparagus patch.

I did a bit of research on seniors gardening late last month, but never got it posted. So I'll share the links here.

Benefits of Gardening for Seniors

While I don't write about it all here, October is a busy month in our garden plots. I'm still pinching blooms off of our basil plants, pulling weeds in all our garden patches, and harvesting what I can each day. I really treasure these last days of the season.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Kale rows almost ready for pickingPeeling tomatoesOur rows of kale aren't quite ready for the heavy picking a batch of Portuguese Kale Soup requires. We have lots of ripe tomatoes now, but may not when the kale is ready. So I began processing tomatoes today for a batch of soup that should get made in a couple of weeks.

I peeled and cooked down around 18 tomatoes. That's more than we usually use in a batch of kale soup, but I was cutting out lots of cracks and bad spots.

We peel our tomatoes the traditional way. I cut out the top core, cracks and bad spots, and the blossom end of each tomato. They go into a pot of hot water until the tomato skins begin to peel a bit. Then I plop the tomatoes one at a time into a sink full of cold water and rub off the tomato skins. After peeling, each tomato gets an inspection and trimming, if necessary. Despite my liberal sprays of neem oil and pyrethrin, we still have some white flesh under the tomato skins from insect feeding.

Since it was going to take some time for the tomatoes to boil down, I added some frozen chicken and broth I'd put up a month or so ago. I also chopped and added a lot of onion and garlic.

When done, I'll freeze the mix until our kale is ready.

Tomato plants still producing good fruit

Oh yeah, did I mention that while our plants look pretty sad, they're still producing lots of tomatoes!

REI Outlet

Monday, October 8, 2018 - Not a hard freeze, but...

Weather Underground 10-day ForecastSierra Trading Post - Dynamic Homepage BannerI pulled up the Weather Underground 10-Day Forecast first thing this morning. As I scanned it, I said to myself, "Looky there! There it is!"

The focus of my interest was in the 34° F predicted for next Monday (circled in red at left). While that temperature certainly isn't freezing, it portends some scattered frost that could nip our most tender plants.

Those tender plants still in our garden include basil, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, parsley, pumpkins, and butternut squash. Other remaining somewhat hardier crops include kale, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and spinach. If the current forecast holds or worsens, I'll probably cover the lettuce with a floating row cover. The rest will just have to make the best of it.

Long range weather forecasts often change one way or the other. But this forecast is the first prediction of the coming end of our gardening season. And it looks fairly accurate, as our average first frost date for this area is October 17. Note that the first frost date link also has a place where you can enter your zip code to find the average last and first frost dates for your area.

Fruit Bouquets

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Our Senior Garden - October 10, 2018Pumpkins curing on the back porchI managed to get a decent splashshot of our garden between some heavy showers this morning. The rain comes with a cold front moving into west central Indiana. Daily high temperatures are expected to drop over twenty degrees from the hot days we'd been experiencing.

Our extended weather forecast has bounced around a bit. Yesterday, I was relieved to see the low temperature for next Monday out of the frost/freeze range. The extended forecast today now calls for an overnight low of 31° F for Tuesday morning!

When taking kitchen scraps out to dump on the compost pile yesterday, I thought to take along my loping shears to cut some more pumpkins. I was delighted to find that four pumpkins had put on a lot more orange coloring in the last few days. The pumpkins are curing out of the rain on our back porch.

Partially hidden under the pumpkin leaves are at least two more green pumpkins. I'm glad we are still getting more pumpkins, as some of our original picking began to rot at the base of the stem. I had put those pumpkins along the garage to cure, but moisture obviously got to them.

Apples and Trees

I've had several apples sitting on our kitchen counter for about a week now. I occasionally peel and slice one for a snack. While their flavor is good, the apples definitely aren't the Stayman Winesap variety they were supposed to be. Having realized last fall that we'd been shipped the wrong variety of apple tree, I planted a Stayman Winesap this spring...from a different vendor.

Not winesaps, but still apples

Once again, our apples are a bit marred by sooty mold. But peeled, they are quite usable.

Definitely not a Stayman Winesap treeA nice, young maple tree, but not a red mapleSadly, it took eight years for the apple tree to produce its first good crop. That's a long time for a semi-dwarf tree. But it's a pretty tree and should serve as a pollinator along with any apples it produces.

The same order that included the "not Stayman Winesap" tree included a free red maple. It, of course, has turned out to probably not be a red maple. (I'm still hoping for brilliant red, fall foliage from it.) Again, it's a pretty tree, but apparently not quite what I wanted or ordered.

At my age, I'm not sure I'll be planting a lot more fruit trees. I do have two dwarfing understocks I hope to graft apple scions onto next spring. But beyond that, the prospects of living long enough to enjoy fruit from the trees is iffy.

And in case you were wondering what vendor had an order picker go oh for two on my order eight years ago, it was the Arbor Day Foundation. I did write them last winter about their errors. I received no refund or apology, but they did, at least, remove me from their mailing list. If I do order any more trees, apple or otherwise, they'll definitely come from other sources.

Target

Thursday, October 11, 2018

BroccoliTomatoes and peppersI'm writing this posting mid-afternoon, and it's 57° F outside. It appears that weather pattern may continue for several more days.

I took advantage of a very pleasant, sunny day to cut a head of broccoli and several sideshoots. While all of our main broccoli heads are now cut, we should continue to get lots of sideshoots until the weather ends the season.

I also picked tomatoes and peppers today. Production is dropping off from our Earlirouge tomato plants, but our Earliest Red Sweet peppers continue to supply and abundance of sweet bell peppers.

MTD

Friday, October 12, 2018 - Hurricane Michael Relief

Hurricane Michael ReliefHabitat for Humanity Hurricane Michael ReliefSometimes one wonders what charities actually get contributions to those who most need them. I had that thought last night as I considered where to make a donation for Hurricane Michael relief. Googling the subject, I found an excellent page on nola.com, Here's how you can help the victims of Hurricane Michael, that gives a number of suggestions of good charities. One can also check out charitable organizations on Charity Navigator.

Since I'm a retired teacher, I chose to donate to DonorsChoose.org, as teachers in the area are going to have a terrible time rebuilding their classrooms. I also donated to Habitat for Humanity, one of Annie and my favorite charities.

Annie and I are blessed at this point to be able to make minor contributions to worthy organizations. There were many years when we were raising a somewhat large family when we couldn't do much of that.

Gardening

We're probably going to have our first frost in the next few days. Having picked some really nice tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli yesterday, I won't be too disappointed if our gardening season is now over. The one crop I hope to protect from frost is our fall lettuce. But we'll truly miss fresh tomatoes, peppers, and such from our garden once the season is done. But the Good Lord willing, there's always next year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Our Senior Garden - October 17, 2018Annie and I are back from a trip to Minnesota. My brother-in-law, Jerry Albert, was killed in a tragic auto accident, and Annie and I went up to celebrate Jerry's life with my sister, Susan, family, and friends. Jerry epitomized what it means to be a Christian.

We chose to drive rather than fly. On the way, I was struck by all the unharvested fields of soybeans and corn we saw in Iowa. It appears the weather has been too wet to combine stuff, so they're way behind in their harvest. Fields in our immediate area appear to be about 80% harvested.

I was also struck by Minnesota drivers around the Twin Cities. They tend to regard speed limits more as an advisory rather than the law! I tried to stay at the legal limit on the Interstate in Minneapolis, but had to speed up to 70 to 80 to stay in the flow of traffic. We still had cars and trucks whizzing past us! I was also seriously impressed with the quality of the roads in Minnesota compared to ours in Indiana. Three tightwad governors and legislatures in a row have left our Indiana roads (not to mention our schools) a mess.

The above doesn't have much to do with gardening, but are some observations I found interesting.

I really expected to find a dead garden on our return from the trip. Frost had been predicted, but Annie went out yesterday and picked lots of nice tomatoes and peppers from our plants. Our Earlirouge tomato plants are just about worn out, but our pepper plants are still a deep green.

The last of our pumpkinsI picked the last of our pumpkins today from fairly healthy looking vines. Most of the pumpkins I cut today were pretty green, but have some chance of oranging up in the next few days on our back porch.

Floating row cover over basil and lettuceOur overnight low for tonight/ tomorrow moring is predicted to be 31° F with a similarly cold night Sunday/Monday. I put a floating row cover over our lovely, but still immature lettuce this evening. I was pleased to find I still had a good used piece of material to cover the 3' x 15' bed. It had three tiny holes in it, but they went over some geraniums. I still have a huge 83" x 250' roll of unused row cover material that I got on sale from Johnny's several falls ago. It was supposed to go over our melons in the spring, but that hasn't worked out very well the last few years.

The rest of the crops will just have to make it if they can. I'm most concerned with our row of parsley that I haven't yet gotten picked and dried. Our tomatoes and peppers will likely get zapped by any kind of frost, but it's time. I need to get the tomatoes out so I can renovate that bed for our spring early peas.

Kale usually survives light frosts. According to the late Jim Crockett, the flavor of kale is improved by a frost. Our broccoli is done bearing main heads, but should move through a frost without issue and continue providing delicious sideshoots for several weeks. My experience with cauliflower has been that the varieties we grow don't do well through a frost. And since carrots are in the ground, they should do just fine with a frost.

Hanging basket of impatienssAnother hanging basket of impatiens...this one down for bottom wateringSomething a little more chancy are our remaining flowers. Our geraniums have done their thing and are about done. But our hanging baskets of inpatients are in full bloom once again. Since our porch remains warmer than regular outside air, the impatiens should survive the frost for us to enjoy them for a few more days.

We had to switch impatiens varieties a couple of years ago, as our longtime favorite hybrid variety was discontinued. The Cascade Beauties shown left and right did really well this season, after some disappointing performance last year.

Our outside plants including the impatiens don't come inside at the end of the season. After losing all of our gloxinias to the INSV virus a few years ago, I don't try to winter over any of our outside plants anymore, other than a few that get isolated in our sunroom.

Several vincas around our main raised bed were quite lovely today. Vincas take a long time to mature, but begin putting on gorgeous flowers from August through the end of the growing season.

White vinca at end of parsley row Red vinca at end of kale row Bicolor vinca at corner of bed by carrots

Our Vincas this year were all the Pacifica variety.

Oops!

I had the wrong date on this posting and corrected it this morning (10/18/2018). I also added a photo of our bed of basil and lettuce with a floating row cover over it.

Thursday, October 18, 2018 - Parsley Day(s)

Parsley in dehydrator
Parsley on parchment paper covered cookie sheet

Parsley rowThe frost predicted for this morning didn't do much damage. The morning low was around 35-36° F. My wife did have frost on her windshield this morning.

While parsley can sometimes survive a light frost, I didn't want to tempt fate and prepared to begin harvesting the row this morning. Washing and drying parsley isn't my favorite thing to do, so I hosed down the row in the morning, letting it dry in the midday sun.

There are several ways to dry parsley. Sun drying, oven drying, and dehydration are all said to work well. Wanting to process as much parsley as possible today, I chose to first fill our dehydrator trays with parsley leaves and then finish up the rest in our oven.

Even though I picked only a small bucket of parsley, I ended up with way too much. I filled all four trays of our dehydrator and three cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. By the time I had all the trays and cookie sheets filled, my cut parsley had begun to wilt a bit.

It's been a few years since I've dried parsley, so I didn't remember how much it takes to fill our parsley jar. After crushing the dried parsley from the oven which was set at 175° F, I could tell that drying parsley was going to be a multi-day project. The crushed parsley only covered the bottom of our parsley jar. The food dehydrator, running at 95° F, won't be done until late tonight. It should add a good bit more volume to the jar than the oven dried parsley, but certainly won't fill the jar.

I fully describe how we dry parsley in an October, 2014, posting.

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Gloxinias

TargetREI OutletI brought the last of our gloxinias that had been growing in our sunroom down to our dining room table today. Doing so will allow me to bring in and store some outdoor plants in the sunroom for the winter without transferring disease or bugs to our plant room in the basement. Some of our gloxinias still have a few blooms and buds on them, but most are heading for their annual required period of dormancy.

We saved a lot of open pollinated gloxinia seed this summer. Our seed is a mix of the Empress, Cranberry Tiger, and Double Brocade varieties. While Double Brocade is a hybrid, it has successfully crossed with our other plants to produce new plants that have double blooms with leaf growth of the Empress variety. Most of our new plants have single blooms, though.

Charity: Water

Friday, October 19, 2018 - Drying Parsley, Day 2

First four cookie sheets of parsley drying in the ovenOur parsley jar...awaiting the dehydrators last load of dried parsleyI'm wondering tonight if I should have my head examined. I've spent the better part of the last two days picking and drying what will amount to about $10 worth of parsley flakes. The crazy part is that I wouldn't have it any other way! I like producing our own food.

I did my first picking this morning before the dew had dried. With rain possible and a hard frost predicted for this weekend, I wanted to finish getting our parsley picked and dried.

The first parsley I trimmed went into our Nesco Food Dehydrator, as it takes longer to dry parsley than in the oven. Then I filled five cookie sheets with parsley over parchment paper to dry in the oven. While oven drying is much quicker, one needs to babysit the drying. Sometimes a sheet of parsley will take over an hour to dry completely and other batches may only take forty-five minutes or so. Don't get the parsley dry enough, and it will spoil. Leave it in the oven too long and the parsley browns, making it unusable. That's the advantage of the food dehydrator, which rarely burns anything at its lowest setting.

Mid-afternoon, I had to go out and pick a bit more parsley, pretty much finishing off our fifteen foot row of it. Getting a bit lazy at that point, I specifically tried to cut stalks with lots of big leaves to make the trimming a bit easier and go a little quicker.

As I'm writing, the dehydrator is finishing the last batch of parsley. It should pretty well fill our parsley jar. Looking back, I haven't dried parsley since 2014, although we've grown some each summer for fresh use. But with that interval, I'm guessing this batch of parsley should last us a few years.

We still have basil, oregano, and sage that could be picked and dried, although we have a good amount of each still on hand from previous crops dried and saved. I wanted to grow, save, and dry paprika peppers this year, but my knee problems prevented getting the plants into the ground. We didn't plant any dill this year either, but we had plenty of volunteer plants to add some pleasant aroma to our regular garden and herb garden. We still have lots of dill weed and seed on hand from last summer.

Gloxinia Seed

Our traditional gloxinia starting potHundreds of baby gloxiniasI mentioned yesterday that we had saved a lot of gloxinia seed this year. Since we've had some germination problems with some of our other saved seed, I started what I thought was a small test of some of the saved gloxinia seed. I'd feared that our well water had been contaminated with preemergents, but fortunately, that appears not to be the case. Sadly, at least one of our raised beds has been so contaminated.

I put what I thought was a small pinch of the tiny gloxinia seed in our usual starter pot. I use old, old liter bottle reinforcers that haven't been around for over twenty years as shallow pots for this purpose. I used sterile potting mix with some vermiculite on top and sprinkled the "pinch" of seed over it. I bottom watered the "pot" with warm tap water from our deep well. Then I covered the pot with clear plastic wrap held in place with a rubber band. The pot went onto a lighted shelf in our plant room with no bottom heat.

As is supposed to happen, the seed germinated in less than ten days. And boy, did it germinate. My "pinch" of seed produced hundreds of baby gloxinias. Since I currently have all the gloxinia plants I can care for, I'll probably save only a fourpack or two of the new plants which should bloom in about five to six months.

There's really no way to ship baby gloxinias that I know of. If you live close to Sullivan, Indiana, and want to drop by, I'll gladly share some of the babies with you. They are, however, a devil to separate and transplant.

Garden Tower Project

Saturday, October 20, 2018 - Ordering Elephant Garlic

Elephant garlic from Territorial SeedsElephant Garlic from the Burpee Seed Company iconAs I finished yesterday's posting late last night, I realized that I hadn't ordered any elephant garlic. Our elephant garlic planted last fall pretty much failed, as did an emergency spring planting. So I placed an order for a pound of elephant garlic bulbs last night from Territorial Seeds. They'd supplied the best garlic bulbs we'd ever gotten the last time we ordered garlic.

Realizing this morning that a pound of elephant garlic isn't that many cloves, I ordered another half pound from Burpeeicon. Burpee's shipping rates are more reasonable than Territorial's. But at any rate, I was pleased to find both companies still had bulbs in stock. I always recommend folks order garlic during the summer to get the varieties they want. Vendors often run out of the more popular varieties pretty quickly.

Our regular garlic produced a good crop this year, so we have plenty of those bulbs/cloves to plant. One really shouldn't have to order garlic all that often, as it's pretty easy to save the bulbs from a mid-summer harvest to a late fall planting. If our elephant garlic orders arrive in a timely fashion, I'm hoping to plant garlic at the end of this month or in very early November.

Purchased garlic bulbsI began our how-to feature, Growing Garlic, with the words, "Garlic is one of the easiest, most trouble free and productive crops one can grow in a home garden." Having now revealed that we lost two crops of elephant garlic in a row, you may or may not wish to read the piece. It does, however, cover the basics and has the dandy photo at right of all the garlic we ordered in 2014.

Moving On

After two days of drying parsley and ordering elephant garlic really, really late, I'm going to start clearing out our row of tomatoes today...sigh! I need to clear and ready the narrow bed for our early planting (probably in March) of peas.

We had six lovely, ripe tomatoes in the fridge last night until I disposed of one to make a wonderfully delicious submarine sandwich. We also have a bucket of less ripe tomatoes in the kitchen. And my wife, Annie, took green tomatoes to co-workers yesterday who were craving them. But it's always sad to see the end of tomato season come.

I'm still waiting on a frost before making our annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup. We ate the last jar of the delicious soup from last year on Tuesday after we brought home head colds from Minnesota! Before making the soup, I'll need to dig, wash, and store our fall carrots. I'm trying to give them as much growing season as we have left before digging them.

I continue to monitor our cauliflower plants, although I don't think they'll survive the frost/freeze that is predicted for tonight (27° F). We're still getting a few broccoli sideshoots, but not as many as in years past.

Burpee Gardening Supplies & Gifts

Sunday, October 21, 2018 - Frost/Freeze

Our Senior Garden - October 21, 2018Tomato bed clearedA killing frost arrived this morning. Our remaining pumpkin vines, a very dead dwarf basil plant, and our vincas seemed to bear the brunt of the freezing temperatures. Our cauliflower may have survived the cold weather.

I was very glad that I continued to work through 35 MPH winds yesterday to clear our bed of tomatoes. They're a mess to clean up after a freeze. I didn't, however, attempt the impossible feat of spreading ground limestone over the bed in those winds.

Before tilling the bed to prepare it for our spring peas, it will get a coating of lime and some balanced fertilizer. I'll also be able to add some compost to the bed. We still have several cubic feet of finished compost to be screened and applied around our garden plots.

As I walked around our garden plots this morning, I noticed that our carrots and broccoli were unaffected by the frost. The flattened pumpkin vines revealed two small, green pumpkins that I'd missed previously. They joined a green and orange pumpkin on the back porch that looks as if it has a smiley face. And while I don't know if our floating row cover saved our basil and lettuce under it, some marigold blooms shone through the fabric.

Flattened pumpkin vines Dead basil by living broccoli Just add smiley face Yellow marigold blooms peeking through floating row cover

Buying Guides

Each year the push for holiday shopping comes ever earlier. I noticed some Christmas items pushing Halloween items for space in a local store this week. So...I got busy and updated our buying guides for gardeners.

Besides checking links, I added a few new items to each page.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - Carrots

Fall carrot rowsSoaking carrots in garden cartI harvested our fall carrots today. Soil conditions for digging, really lifting the carrots out of the ground, were ideal. The soil was somewhat moist, but not muddy, making for easy digging with a heavy duty garden fork.

"Digging" the fifteen foot double row of carrots took about forty-five minutes. Soaking, cleaning, drying, and bagging them took the rest of the day.

Direct seeded on July 22, the carrots produced a little over ten pounds of good carrots despite some incredibly dry weather. Ten pounds is more than enough to last us through the winter. There also were another pound and a half of usable culls that had splits, insect damage, etc. that made them poor candidates for long term storage.

Since we had rabbits nibbling at the tops of the carrots at times, a comparison of the varieties planted wouldn't be fair. I was impressed, however, with the new to us Yaya carrot variety. It produced many nice, short, fat Nantes type carrots.

We've successfully stored our carrots in Debbie Meyer Green Bags in the refrigerator. While possibly not as effective for keeping other produce fresh, the green bags allow us to store carrots for months after harvest.

Bagged fall carrots - 2018

We grow carrots both spring and fall. I've taken to growing shorter rows of them in the spring, as we usually have some spring carrots left over when the fall crop comes in. But both crops are essential. We've had dogs dig up our carrot rows, and carrots rotting in the ground from unusually wet periods just before harvest. Last year, we had weevil damage to some of our fall carrots, reducing the usable crop. Good crop rotation, proper garden cleanup, or possibly just good luck eliminated the weevil problem this year.

How We Grow Our Carrots tells how we use intensive planting methods to grow our carrots each spring and fall.

Kale Soup

On a trip to our garage, I brought in a couple of tubs of seasoned chicken broth and tomatoes from the freezer that I put up two weeks ago. The tubs are now thawing in our refrigerator in preparation for making Portuguese Kale Soup. Making kale soup is always an all day or multi-day activity for us. We fill our twelve quart kettle with chicken broth, smoked sausage, lots of garden vegetables, with lots of kale as the star. When we finally do it, the house is filled for days with the delicious aromas of the various ingredients of the healthy soup. Making the soup is often an end-of-the-season celebratory event.

Build Your Own Slow Cooker or Skillet Meal Package for Only $49.99

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Pepper, parsley, and broccoli plants bound for the compost pileWind & WeatherI took our pepper and broccoli plants for a short ride today. The woody base of each plant got cut off and dumped on our burn pile. The upper part of the plants that will break down fairly rapidly went onto our compost pile.

Our pepper cages went to the corner of the field next to us. I store all of our tomato and pepper cages there over the winter, as I don't have indoor space to put them.

Our garden is now down to a couple of rows of partially picked kale and a row of cauliflower. I took one small head of cauliflower this week, but think we're out of luck and growing season to get any more. There's also some lettuce under a floating row cover. I pulled a couple of fabric pins today for a look. The lettuce isn't doing much.

Garden getting bare

David's Cookies

Friday, October 26, 2018 - Rain

Our Senior Garden - October 26, 2018
Our garden and yard after an overnight rain
Our Senior Garden - October 25m 2018
Our garden and yard yesterday

I noticed how browned out the grass was yesterday around our garden plots. An overnight rain has considerably changed the appearance of the grass.

While good for the lawn, the rain will slow our garden cleanup efforts. I still have cauliflower and kale and lots of grass clipping mulch and garden debris to remove from our main raised garden bed.

On the other hand, we have basil, lettuce, kale, cauliflower, and some very sad looking spinach still growing. With the rain smf some warmer days in the forecast, we may yet get a bit more out of our garden.

Habitat for Humanity

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Our Senior Garden - October 28, 2018Pumpkins and butternuts destined for the food bankToday was one of those feel good days for me. I loaded up the truck with pumpkins and butternut squash and delivered them to our local food bank.

We'd already supplied several of our grandchildren with pumpkins, saving two small ones to decorate our front porch.

In all, about thirteen pumpkins and thirty-five butternuts went to the food bank. The butternut contribution wasn't anything like what we delivered there two years ago, but was far better than last year when both our pumpkin and butternut crops failed.

Rukaten Camera

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

I Voted EarlyskylightI was a good boy today. First, I got my flu shot at Walmart while picking up some prescriptions. (Thanks, Eric!) For those of us on Medicare, such shots are free.

Next, I drove to our county courthouse, admired once again the stained glass skylight, climbed the lovely marble stairs to the third floor clerk's office, and voted early. (Hey! At my age, every day is a gift. I might not make it to election day next Tuesday. grin)

I didn't garden today, but took out the last of our cauliflower yesterday. We got two more small heads. I also pulled the kale plants I'd heavily picked. I left a bit of kale that hasn't yet been picked, but will probably pull it soon to facilitate fall tilling.

AmazonWhen our mail arrived today, it contained a package of sausage seasoning I'd ordered last week. Having thawed five pounds of ground beef we needed to use, I made beef sausage, sort of. Since most of the ground beef was too lean to make good sausage, I worked in about a pound of leaf lard a friend had given me. (Thanks, Marcus.)

Both the kitchen and I were a greasy mess by the time I finished mixing and freezing five pounds of sausage. I had enough leftover to make some possibly not-so-healthy, but delicious sausage gravy and biscuits. But then, I have my annual checkup with my heart surgeon coming up later this week.

The package of sausage seasoning contains enough spices to season twenty-five pounds of meat. Having used our excess of ground beef, I'll probably use pork for the next batch of sausage.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - October Wrap-up

October, 2018, animated GIF of our Senior GardenOctober is the month when our garden goes from its final full production to no plants or just a few plants left. There's a little kale left in our main raised bed along with some very sad looking spinach that I should have pulled long ago. Under a floating row cover in one of our narrow raised beds may be some basil and lettuce, but I haven't looked under the cover for a couple of days.

After our first frost mid-month, my priorities shifted to cleaning up our garden patches and preparing them for next season. The narrow raised bed where we'll plant our early peas has been cleared. I added some ground limestone, fertilizer, peat moss, and compost to the bed. It could use a thorough tilling, but will be okay for a March planting if I don't get to till due to wet soil conditions, or worse yet, frozen ground.

I really have no complaints about this month in our garden. We got a lot of good tomatoes and great peppers late into the season. Our fall carrots did very well and are snug in green bags in the vegetable drawers of our refrigerator. Our fall broccoli did well enough that we froze some. Our fall cauliflower didn't have time to produce full sized heads, but we got four little heads from the row.

As usual, our kale may have been the star of the month. We made one large batch of Portuguese Kale Soup and another big batch of kale boiled with bacon, onions, and garlic. There are still those unpicked kale plants that I haven't yet had the heart to pull.

We picked and dried enough parsley to fill our our large parsley jar. We had enough pumpkins for our grandkids and more to share with our local food bank. The food bank also got our surplus butternut squash, as I put eight huge butternuts on our basement shelves for winter use.

The only real disappointment of the month was in seed saving. We saved lots of tomato, pepper, and cucumber seed, but experienced horrible results in our germination tests. Since we have lots of good saved seed in frozen storage from previous years, we're not in trouble. But I would like to figure out why we produced apparently sterile seed this season. I'm still wondering if pre-emergent contamination from the nearby field or from contaminated grass clippings may have caused the problem. And I wonder how long the germination problems will persist.

Fortunately, our saved gloxinia seed had great germination.

So...I flip the page on my calendar, thanking the Lord each day for such a good life.

The Home Depot

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