Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

September 16, 2018

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Our Senior Garden - September 1, 2018
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Our East Garden - September 1, 2018
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September foretells the end of another gardening season, but it's also another month of wonderful harvests. As the days shorten, we look forward to harvesting cool weather crops such as lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. Of course, we'll continue picking our warm weather crops of tomatoes and peppers as long as possible.

Our first frost date here is October 17. But that's just an average. Two years ago, we picked our last ripe tomato on November 5. In another late fall, we had fresh lettuce from our garden on Thanksgiving (with the help of some floating row covers). And other years, we've had a light frost towards the end of September or early October.

As our crops come out, we'll start preparing our garden plots for next year. Our East Garden plot will need to be tilled several times, as most of it was unused this season due to my knee problems. It only contains some sad looking tomato and pepper plants that need to come out and some incredibly healthy pumpkin and butternut squash vines.

Our fall carrots should be ready to dig by the end of this month. For those of you who like me are bemoaning the reliable Laguna and Nelson carrot hybrids having been discontinued, there is hope. I found and was able to order seed for both varieties, one from eBay and the other on Amazon. Both sellers were overseas. For the Lagunas, the first Laguna envelope contained only a customs document saying they'd intercepted and confiscated the carrot seed. The second shipment contained the required documentation and the seed (which germinated well).

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Thursday, September 6, 2018 - Main Garden - North to South

I'm not currently picking our Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers. I'm letting the cucumbers ripen on the vine to a yellow color for seed saving. If that doesn't kill the vines, I'll resume picking, eating, sharing, and canning the cukes.

Cucumber vines Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers on vine Cucumbers for seed saving

Our vines looked a bit stressed earlier this week. Bugs, disease, dry soil conditions, plus letting them ripen fruit had left many leaves tattered and dying. So I sprayed the vines on Tuesday evening with Neem Oil and Serenade for bug and disease control. Then, I let them have the full sixty gallons of water from our rain barrel. That seemed to perk them up.

The elephant garlic I planted this spring along the edge of the bed looks pretty ragged. Since our overwintered elephant garlic crop was pretty much a bust, I'll be happy with any elephant garlic we get from this planting.

Earlirouge tomatoes producing againOur Earlirouge tomatoes took about a three week break in producing ripe tomatoes after our last heavy picking. Such an occurrence is not all that unusual for a determinate or semi-determinate variety. The variety generally produces about three really heavy, concentrated pickings each season. In between big pickings, they produce the odd, ripe tomato that we use for BLTs and submarine sandwiches. As usual after a rest, they're now ripening lots of deep red tomatoes. I'm still spraying them with neem oil and Serenade, as the bugs haven't given up trying to feed on the tomatoes.

Earliest Red Sweet peppersOur Earliest Red Sweet peppers continue to produce lots of lovely red peppers. I picked a bucket full of red and green peppers. The greens picked came mostly from brittle branches growing outside the pepper cages that had snapped. I can't imagine growing peppers without cages to prevent such breakage. After sorting out the best ten peppers for seed saving, the rest, a large plastic grocery bag of them, went to our local food bank.

Like the cucumbers and tomatoes, the peppers also got a shot of neem oil and Serenade on Tuesday.

Note that while named Earliest Red Sweet, the variety continues to produce good peppers for us right up until our first frost.

ParsleyNot sprayed was our row of parsley plants. They're doing well, but will need some time before I pick and dry the leaves.

When I was spraying after sunset Tuesday evening, I started out with a neem oil and Serenade mix. After spraying the peppers, I refilled the half empty sprayer with more water and added some Thuricide (BT). Even though our two rows of kale are under four inches tall, they got a good shot of Thuricide as there are signs of bug damage on their leaves already. I finished weeding the rows this morning.

I also sprayed our other brassicas. Our row of cauliflower plants looks a bit weak at this point. I'm not sure the plants will have enough frost free days remaining this season to produce heads. But when we can grow fall cauliflower, it's great. There are less bugs in the fall and obviously less heat to turn the heads yellow and bitter before they ripen.

In contrast to the cauliflower, our broccoli plants look pretty good. Broccoli has a bit more frost resistance and the plants have fewer days-to-maturity than our cauliflower, so we should get a nice fall harvest this year.

Kale rows - now weeded Broccoli on left, cauliflower on right

Fall carrotsSpinachOur double row of carrots, although a little spotty in places, is doing well. Mulched, carrots are pretty much a no worries crop unless bugs show up.

I'd put in a few onion plants and direct seeded some spinach along the south edge of our main raised garden bed. Most of the onions died, but a few have survived. The Abundant Bloomsdale spinach from saved seed has come up well. I love fall spinach, as there seems to be a longer picking season for it than spring spinach.

I've left space for a row of lettuce between our broccoli and carrots. I was a bit late in starting the lettuce transplants. They're still under our plant lights in the basement.

Our raised garden beds are all mulched now. Some areas where I've scuffed up the mulch when working the bed already need a refresh of mulch. The grass clipping mulch pretty much eliminates weeding in the bed and holds in soil moisture...when we get rain.

On my Tuesday evening spraying adventure, I finished spraying with our butternut and pumpkin vines. I used Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew on them which had previously proved pretty effective in suppressing squash bugs.

Squash bugsBugs in pumpkin bloomWhen I was out taking pictures of the garden today, the vines looked pretty good. But as I processed images this afternoon, I was horrified to find a couple of very healthy looking squash bugs on a leaf. I also noticed a striped cucumber beetle in a pumpkin bloom. So just before supper tonight, I mixed up some neem oil and Eight (same active ingredient as Sevin) and sprayed it on the vines to spoil the squash bugs and cucumber beetles fun.

Up until today, my biggest problem with the planting has been staying ahead of the vines' rampant growth with grass clipping mulch to suppress weeds.

The good news is that we have lots of pumpkins maturing on our vines. It's a bit harder to tell about the butternuts, as the pumpkin vines have overgrown most of the butternuts.

I'm actually pretty proud of this year's crop of butternuts and pumpkins. We lost all of our vines last year due to a dumb move I made. So I've babied this planting this season. It appears that we'll be rewarded with a good crop.


I haven't written much here recently, as there haven't been any big doings in our garden. I weed, water, and such, but beyond that I don't have much to write about.

I decided yesterday to just review what we have planted. Unfortunately, I didn't get the photography done for the posting until today. And at that, it was mostly cloudy today, great for working in the garden in the cooler morning hours, but not so good for pictures.

Our pumpkin and butternut vines

Burpee Seed Company

Friday, September 7, 2018 - Gloxinia Seed Production

One of the joys of retirement is being able to blow off a day and do what you want...or nothing. With most of my weeding and spraying in the garden caught up and rain on the way, I spent an hour this morning working on our gloxinias...and another hour processing photos and writing this piece.

Gloxinias...and cats

Winnie, our mama catGloxinia seed from just one bloomI trimmed off dead blooms and leaves, replaced a tray that had sprung a leak, and watered and fertilized the plants this morning. I almost always bottom water our gloxinias to prevent damaging their leaves with water spots. Today, I poured water into the trays, but also used a small watering can to pour a bit of plant fertilizer on each plant. I can't put the fertilizer in the bottom water, as our cats often drink from the plant trays.

Our plants don't have as many blooms now as they did last month. That's due to the plants resting a bit between blooming cycles and also that several of them are maturing seed. I had been hand pollinating them all last month.

My efforts at hand pollination have already paid handsome results from the first bloom harvested. And we have lots more blooms just about to mature.

Note cracking bloom Another seed head amongst blooms More seed heads

I tell all about how to save seed from gloxinias in our feature story, Saving Gloxinia Seed.

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Saturday, September 8, 2018 - Rainy Day

Our Senior Garden - September 8, 2018TargetAs the remains of tropical depression Gordon pass over us, we're experiencing some pretty good rain. I emptied over an inch of rain from our rain gauge around nine this morning. Lots more rain is predicted for the rest of the day and tomorrow as well.

We can use the rain, but an added bonus of the storm is that our daily high temperatures for a couple of days will be in the upper 60s! Of course, folks in Indianapolis planning to attend the Brickyard 400 on Sunday may be out of luck as will others in the Midwest with outdoor activities planned.


The hummingbirds that frequent our feeders and entertain us all summer usually begin their fall migration south in late August. Pressure at our feeders has gone down considerably in the last few weeks, but we apparently still have lots of transients visiting the feeders.

I'd long planned to grab a video of the frequent scrums we see at the feeder in front of our kitchen window. For some reason, the hummingbirds prefer whatever feeder I hang there. Sadly, I waiting for a rather dark, dreary day to get out my tripod and record the birds with my Canon T5i. But after having to look up how to start and stop recording on the camera Blush, I got an acceptable video.

Our daily splashshot that tops this page required a lot of lightening in Photoshop today to be usable. It's been that dark outside at times.

Update (9/10/2018)

When I posted the video above, I somehow missed an interesting related article that appeared in Friday's New York Times. JoAnna Klein's Hand-Feeding Hummingbirds: You Can Do It, but Should You is an interesting read for those of us who feed and enjoy watching the tiny birds.

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

When I emptied our rain gauge last night just before midnight, it registered another 3.40" of rainfall. Added to the 1.20" I dumped out of the gauge yesterday morning, that gave us 4.6" of rain in just one day!


Wednesday, September 12, 2018 - Pumpkins

I picked most of our pumpkins today. We got eight good pumpkins. Two other pumpkins had rotted on one side, and I broke the stem off on another. But eight should pretty well satisfy our younger grandchildren. We still have some immature pumpkins on the vines.

The term "picked" is a bit of a misnomer. To harvest our pumpkins, I cut them off the vine with a pair of lopping shears, leaving as much stem as possible on the pumpkin. Pumpkins whose stem breaks off often rot rather quickly.


Before working on the pumpkins, I finished cleaning up our row of tomato plants in our main garden. We had lots of dropped tomatoes and ones that had cracked and begun to rot on the vine. Clearing out the bad tomatoes will cut down on insects, especially since I sprayed the plants after the cleanup. I ended up dumping three four gallon buckets of bad tomatoes on our compost pile.

Garden Tower Project Contest

Friday, September 14, 2018

Our Senior Garden - September 14, 2018Bicolor gloxinia bloomsWhen I went to our sunroom to take today's splashshot, I was struck with how pretty a couple of bicolor gloxinia blooms were. Having the camera in hand, I snapped a shot of them.

I grabbed a Q-tip from the bathroom and attempted to hand pollinate the blooms. Sadly, I'd waited too long, as the flowers are past the point of shedding pollen.

Our gloxinias on our dining room table continue to mature seed heads. I check the plants daily for signs of the seed heads cracking open. When they open, I watch them closely to make sure they're not shedding seed. When they get to that point, I pick the stem and seed head and place it in a paper bowl where I'm collecting gloxinia seeds. After a day, I can gently crush the seed head, usually releasing hundreds of seeds from each bloom!

Our gloxinia pages tell how to grow these lovely plants and also how to hand pollinate their flowers and save seed from them.

  • Gloxinias - This is a continuing column on how to grow this gorgeous plant. I occasionally update the page.
  • Saving Gloxinia Seed - This feature is really a sort of "part 2" of the gloxinia feature. I document the pollination and seed saving process for gloxinias.
  • Gloxinia Photos - I pulled together some nice gloxinia shots taken over the last few years.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Saturday, September 15, 2018 - Cucumbers for Seed

Cucumber vines heavy with overripe cukesCucumbers picked for seed productionOur Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines are so heavy with overripe cucumbers, they're about to pull down the double trellis they grow on. Letting the cucumbers ripen to a yellow color on the vine is the first step in our seed saving of them. Letting the vines fully ripen their cucumbers has caused them to stop blooming and setting new fruit. And of course, the vines now look pretty sad.

I picked a couple dozen yellowed cucumbers today. I'll let them sit and cure for a week or two. Then I'll scrape out the seed from the fat ends of the cukes, ferment the seed mix, and rinse, dry, and save the seed.

I give a complete look at how to save cucumber seed in an August, 2014 posting.

Cleaning Up from a Storm

Limbs downBurpee GardeningThe remains of tropical storm Gordon seriously pruned an old maple tree I should have had cut down years ago. I'm now feeling the effects of cutting up the section of the tree that fell and stacking it on our burn pile. I'm obviously getting too old for this stuff.


The pond pictured below isn't on our property. It's at the far end of the field where our East Garden lies. The landowner decided last fall to have the pond rebuilt after muskrats ruined the old dam and pond. It's been interesting watching the pond being built. The new pond is filling up nicely with our recent rains.

New pond

Sierra Trading Post

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A bucket of Earliest Red Sweet peppers1-800-Flowers Deal of the WeekI hadn't planned on making a posting here today. I did, however, pick another bucket of really nice Earliest Red Sweet peppers this morning.

If you're into really big bell peppers, the Earliest Red Sweet variety probably isn't for you. Its peppers run about half to two-thirds the size of the jumbo hybrid peppers available in supermarkets and garden stands. But if you're looking for a pepper that produces lots and lots of good peppers all season long, you might want to try the variety.

I'm not offering seed at this point, as the peppers in the bucket will go to my wife's co-workers tomorrow. But we should have at least one more big picking from which I plan to save seed. Do note that when one saves seed from peppers, the flesh is still usable.

I should also note here that we grow these peppers on our best soil and also give them a little extra help. For years, we had problems with our pepper plants dying after setting peppers. On a whim, I began adding some Maxicrop Soluble Seaweed solution to our plantings, and our pepper problems went away. Apparently, the product has a necessary trace element that our soil was lacking. We also give our pepper transplants a good bit of calcitic lime and ground egg shell to provide calcium to fend off blossom end rot. We still get some, but not as much as we did in the past.

What moved me to make this posting was a gorgeous evening sky tonight. I happened to look out the window and was blown away by the beauty of the post-sunset sky.

Evening sky - September 16, 2018

If you look closely, you can just make out our rain gauge at the bottom center of the photo.

Both Annie and I feel blessed daily to live in such a beautiful environment.

Sam’s Club

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Our Senior Garden - September 20, 2018Sierra Trading Post - Dynamic Homepage BannerI took out our bed of Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers today. Doing so was sorta sad, as it marks the beginning of the end of the growing season for us. While I may stick a few basil plants in the bed until frost, the growing season of lush, green vines is definitely a thing of the past. Having let the vines fully mature the cucumbers on them, the vines were dying.

I started out by processing a cartful of JLP cucumbers for seed. What I'd picked several days ago made two quarts of cucumber seed and goo that I'll let ferment for several days before rinsing it for seed. One change I've made in my processing of cucumbers since writing the posting, Saving Cucumber Seed, is that I only slice the outer skin on either side of the cucumber sections. I then pull them apart. Not cutting all the way through the cucumbers reduces the number of seeds damaged by the cutting.

In the process of clearing the vines, I once again filled our garden cart with mostly yellowed cucumbers, so I'll have the same processing job to do again in a week to ten days.. The vines and immature cucumbers, along with a bucket of kitchen scraps, went to start a new compost pile.

Cutting cucumbers for seed Cucumber cut for seeding Jars of cucumber seed

I also picked a few red peppers today. Several somewhat soft and wrinkly ones got cut for seed. The rest will go...somewhere. We still have lots of peppers maturing on our seven Earliest Red Sweet plants. That's a very good thing, as I haven't yet gotten a good bunch of saved ERS seed that meets our standards in a germination test.

David's Cookies

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Plot A-1, now planted to basil and lettuceLettuce transplantsWe had a wonderfully cool day today. Our daily high temperature never reached 70° F.

I started out the morning by spraying our tomato plants for bugs. When I picked tomatoes yesterday, the plants were rife with stink bugs feeding on the tomatoes. As I found out earlier this season from an excellent article by Tony Glover, the stink bugs feeding is what causes white flesh under the tomato skin.

I moved on to transplanting basil and lettuce into our recently cleared narrow raised bed that had been planted to cucumbers. I didn't work up the bed before planting, but simply pushed the old mulch around, dug holes, and popped in transplants with a good dose of starter solution. The basil plants were a possible cross of the Genovese and Large Italian varieties I had planted side by side last year and saved seed from.

The lettuce transplanted were Crispino head lettuce and Jericho and Coastal Star romaine. Putting the lettuce into the bed wasn't part of my fall plan. I'd left room near the south end of our large, main raised bed for a row of lettuce. But rabbits have been topping the carrot plants in an adjacent row, so I thought it best to mess up my rotational plan for next season instead of feeding the bunnies.

The planting to what we call plot A-1 is the third planting in that bed this year. Of course, it's really late in the season here to be planting or transplanting much of anything. But with lots of hummingbirds still visiting our feeders, I wonder if they know that it's going to be a late fall. And basil is a leaf crop, so we can harvest some anytime from now up until our first frost. The lettuce is just a long shot I'm willing to take since I had the transplants started. If nothing else, we should get some baby romaine lettuce before our first frost.

With my trowel out and some transplanting solution left in my bucket, I plugged in three kale transplants into open areas of our kale rows today. I generally don't have much luck transplanting kale, but it may prove worth the effort.

I finished up a rather short day of gardening by spreading fresh mulch on bare spots in the newly planted bed. I also refreshed the mulching in areas of our main raised bed where grass seedlings had broken through where the mulch had worn thin,

BTW: I learned another lesson today about seed saving. The photo from Thursday of two jars of fermenting cucumber seed became three today. I didn't leave enough head space in one of the jars to allow for expansion from fermentation of the organic matter that surrounded the seeds. When I released the pressure on the jar, nasty, fermented cucumber goo and seed oozed out of the jar. I ended up dumping some of the contents of both jars into a third jar. I plan to rinse the seed tomorrow and begin drying it for storage.

Rukaten Camera

Sunday, September 30, 2018 - September Wrap-up

A ripe Earliest Red Sweet pepper
An ERS plant loaded with red peppers

September, 2018, animated GIF of our Senior GardenFall has definitely arrived here west central Indiana. We have some days with high temperatures in the 60s and others in the 80s. Nights are cool, sometimes cool enough to necessitate closing windows and turning on the furnace. And we're finally receiving adequate, regular rainfall.

Our warm weather crops, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, and squash, continue to produce. While named as an early variety, this is the time of year when our Earliest Red Sweet peppers really shine in production. The peppers are larger than earlier in the season, have less rot, and overwhelm us with their volume.

Our Earlirouge tomato plants are beginning to show their age, but still bless us with all the tomatoes we can eat, and then some. Most of our pumpkins have been cut, with several already going to grandkids. I think there is still one late, green pumpkin on the vines. It's hard to tell because of the heavy leaf cover of the vines.

Still productive Earlirouge plant A few butternut squash

I've just begun to harvest butternut squash, as the butternut and pumpkin vines are still active and hide the squash. But from what I've found at the edges of the patch so far, I think we're going to have a good harvest of butternuts this season. That's in contrast to last season when we got zero butternuts and pumpkins due to a cultural error I made (and won't repeat, I hope).

A head of Premium Crop broccoli
Two nice heads of Goliath broccoli

CarrotMost of our main garden is now planted to more cool weather crops. Our fall carrots, direct seeded on July 22, are just about ready to dig. Some of the crop has been slowed by damage of rabbits nibbling at the carrot tops. But in a week or two, they should be ready to come out.

A very pleasant surprise is that I'll need to cut broccoli today. We have several nice sized heads with some smaller ones showing. I haven't seen any head development on our cauliflower plants, but that's pretty normal. The longer seasoned cauliflower usually comes in a couple of weeks after the broccoli. It will be a race against the first frost to see if we get to harvest any fall cauliflower.

I took out our failed planting of tomatoes and peppers in our East Garden several days ago. After I damaged my knees early in the season, the plantings just got away from me. Beyond that, having grown those crops caused me to seriously revise our rotation schedule for our East Garden plot for next season. I don't want to grow tomatoes or peppers on the same ground where a previous crop dropped rotting and possibly diseased fruit on the ground.

We have some basil, lettuce, and spinach in the ground, although none of them are close to harvest as yet.

Our row of parsley and rows of kale are doing well. In the next two weeks, I'll probably pick and dry parsley leaves. Our kale could be picked now. I'm still hoping to make a batch of our Portuguese Kale Soup this year, so I'll let the kale go for a bit.

Parsley and kale rows

The parsley is a mix of the Giant of Italy and Dark Green Italian varieties. The kale is mostly Vates (Dwarf Blue Scotch) with some Red Ursa (the larger leaved variety in the photo). I like the Red Ursa variety for making kale chips for one of our granddaughters. But the Vates is hard to beat for hardiness and flavor.

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