Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

August 16, 2019

Thursday, August 1, 2019 - "August is the Cornucopia Month of the Year"

Crockett's Victory GardenRenee's GardenNear the beginning of each month, I read the introduction for the month from the late James Underwood Crockett's book, Crockett's Victory Garden. Then I skim through the entries for the month, usually finding a few gems of gardening advice.

Crockett's August introduction begins, "It's a beautiful, lush month in the garden." He goes on to write about all the flowers coming into full bloom in the Victory Garden during the month. As much as I enjoy the fresh produce from our garden plots, I almost equally enjoy the beautiful display of blooms the few flower varieties we grow supply.

A second gem in the intro is well worth remembering. "As I see it, there's no reason to grow a vegetable garden unless the vegetables are harvested when they're young and tender, long before they reach the age at which they're usually sold in supermarkets. August is the cornucopia month of the year, so picking those young vegetables means a daily trip through the garden, basket in hand."

Carrots, green beans, and cucumbers come to mind when I think of vegetables that are better picked young. Of course, it's a matter of taste. My wife perfers green beans with fairly mature beans in the pods. At the other extreme, a friend during my farming years liked his corn on the cob what I'd call immature. He preferred the corn kernels to still have points on them where the silks had once connected!

Flowers at corners of a raised bed
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Sun Devil lettuce going to seed
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While Crockett knew and wrote about lots of flower varieties with which I have no experience, we have a few favorites we like to use. Geraniums at the corners of our raised beds always make a lovely show of blooms (as long as I pick off dead blooms and leaves). We also make extensive use of vinca, snapdragons, petunias, and marigolds along the edges of our raised beds.

Success at Last

I've tried for several years without any success to let Sun Devil lettuce plants go to seed. I've forgone eating lovely heads of lettuce, only to see the plants die and rot.

With my supply of some very old (2005) seed running really low, I left a damaged Sun Devil plant in place at the end of a narrow bed. I'd planted the variety in that spot specifically for seed saving. The lettuce head appeared to have been eaten out by rabbits, but I left it in place anyway.

A week or so ago, I noticed it had put up three shoots of leaves. When taking the shot at left of flowers in the bed yesterday, I realized that the Sun Devil was actually going to seed.

My affinity for this variety is that it produces good, sweet heads of lettuce. It is also slow to bolt, great for harvests but lousy for seed saving.

I had originally thought the variety was plant patented (PVP), but later found that the developer had never finalized the plant patent. So...I could save and share seed from the variety...if I could only get the plants to go to seed.

Getting Lucky

Late transplanted Japanese Long Pickling cucumber plants beginning to bloomAfter my disastrous mistake last month with a sprayer filled with Roundup herbicide, I may come out okay. I had topped off a sprayer with what I thought was a biological in it, only to find that it was our Roundup sprayer. I killed the six Earlirouge tomato plants in our main garden and all of our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber plants.

Since the tomatoes had begun to show some red coloring, I picked two dozen of the best looking ones and let them ripen on our drying/curing table in the garage. The tomatoes might not have been safe for eating, but I saved a ton of seed from them. I started a germination test with a sample of the saved seed yesterday.

As to the cucumbers, the plants were well and truly dead. I didn't save any cucumbers or seed from them. But I did have six extra Japanese Long Pickling plants that had managed to survive my abuse since their siblings went into the ground. Those six plants now appear to be thriving, putting on blooms.

Not so fortunate was our hill of butternut squash in our East Garden that also got sprayed. Not all the plants there have died, but they've quit blooming.

Today's Haul

I picked grape and regular tomatoes and a few ears of corn this morning. Our Red Pearl plant is filled with ripening grape tomatoes while our Honey Bunch plant has less but slightly bigger fruit. All those grape tomatoes came from just two plants!

Silver Queen corn and tomatoes

I plan to freeze the Silver Queen sweet corn. The regular tomatoes will get canned. And since there's no way I can eat a gallon of grape tomatoes, they will go to our local food bank.

Another Gem

Getting back to gems, an online gardening friend from Kentucky wound up an email to me this week with the following testimony: "I like to plan ahead, although most of the time my plans don't pan out. The one plan that I have though, WILL, and that plan is to see my redeemer Jesus, face to face at the end of my life!" His statement brought to mind the old hymn, When We All Get To Heaven.

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Saturday, August 3, 2019

First canning of tomatoes for the seasonSilver Queen sweet corn ready to blanchThe bucket of tomatoes I picked on Thursday canned out to five quarts. The lack of quantity made me again mourn my mistake that killed our Earlirouge tomatoes which typically overwhelm us with their volume of production. But the tomatoes in our East Garden went in about two weeks later than the Earlirouges and may yet produce big harvests of tomatoes.

I scrounged through our weedy rows of Silver Queen sweet corn today and found a few ripe ears. The corn wasn't pretty and had lots of bare spots on the cobs. While not what you'd want for roasting ears, it was certainly usable for cut corn.

I tasted a little of the cut corn after blanching. It tasted like, well, Silver Queen, one of the old hybrids still around today due to its excellent flavor.

I froze about a pint of sweet corn, dividing it between two pint bags. With just Annie and I home now, each bag will make about a serving each for us.

Carrots re-plantedCarrot (and Slick Pik) planting viewed from other end of the bedMy planting of fall carrots hadn't germinated all that well, but was good enough to go with...until today. I found that one of our cats was using the area as a litter box, clearly leaving evidence behind that it was a cat that did the digging. To make matters worse, the cat dug in two spots in the double row of carrots where we'd had our best germination.

Rather than start over again, I cleaned up the damage the best I could, saving the existing carrots that had germinated. Since we're getting towards the end of fall planting time, I selected the shortest season carrot I had seed for, Mokum, and seeded the bare spots in the rows. I'll need to water this planting regularly, possibly more than once a day, to get good germination through a predicted dry period.

On the brighter side, the Slick Pik yellow squash and Sugar Cube cantaloupe seeds I planted on Monday have germinated. I'd wondered about putting only three seeds in each hill, but three plants from each. There's plenty of time for the squash to produce a nice crop, but I'll have to be lucky to get any cantaloupe with the amount of growing season we have left.

Slick Pik yellow squash emergingI used sterile potting mix to fill the top inch or so of the squash and melon plantings. That has resulted in no weeds emerging in the newly planted hills. I also mulched right up to the trough I made around each hill to hold back weeds and hold in soil moisture.

Fall Lettuce

I seeded three deep sixpack inserts yesterday to fall lettuce. I started some Sun Devil and Crispino head lettuce, Coastal Star, Jericho, Better Devil, and Majestic Red romaines, and some Nancy butterhead.

I may start more fall lettuce in a few weeks. It sort of depends on if I have the time and remember to do it, and also if I think we might have a late first frost. One can extend ones growing season with lettuce using a cold frame, floating row covers, or whatever you have to cover the plants on frosty nights.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Sunday, August 4, 2019 - Butternut Squash

Twenty-five good butternutsButternuts at the food bankI harvested butternut squash today, getting twenty-five good squash. I usually don't harvest butternuts until the fall because the vines and leaf canopy make it nearly impossible to get into the squash planting without crushing vines or stepping on the squash. With my spraying mistake that knocked down over two-thirds of the squash's leaf cover, cutting the squash was relatively easy. I say cutting, because I use lopping shears to cut the tough squash stems an inch or so above the squash. Snapping off the stem can lead to early rot of the squash.

Since we use around five to ten butternuts each year, mainly for mock butternut yams at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we'll be able to share squash with others. We may yet get another harvest of squash, as I left several still ripening on vines that survived the herbicide spray. I'm guessing, though, our final harvest won't be anything like the year we delivered a large grocery cart full of butternuts to our local food bank.

While cutting butternuts and training the vines back inward towards their hill, I noticed a couple of things. I was pleased to see a lot of new growth on some of the vines. Not so pleasing was the presence of lots of small squash bugs and squash bug eggs on plant leaves. Needless to say, the butternuts and our pumpkins got a serious spraying. While I use organic products such as Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew and Pyrethrin early in the season, once I see squash bugs or their eggs, I resort to using liquid Sevin. Since the squash bug infestation was pretty severe, I may spray again in a couple of days with Captain Jack's. It seems to mess with the squash bug eggs, something Sevin doesn't do.

Butternut hill before harvest Butternut hill after picking and vine training Very healthy hill of pumpkins

I enjoy growing a large hill of butternuts each year, but folks with space limitations can still grow butternut varieties that take up far less space. Carolyn Csanyi's Bush Types of Butternut Squash from the San Francisco Chronicle gives some good advice on growing bush butternuts. Not surprisingly, she gives special attention to Burpee's Butterbush, a highly rated variety.

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While I got a nice picking of both regular and grape tomatoes today, there's something going on with some of our plants. We have lots of browned leaves that could be due to a tomato disease or just dry weather. After picking, I sprayed the tomatoes with a mix of Neem Oil, Pyrethrin, and Serenade. I'm not sure if the pyrethrin will mess with the Serenade, though. To be sure, I plan to come back with a spray of Fungonil in a couple of days.

Today's tomato harvest

To give an idea of quantities of tomatoes picked, the galvanized buckets shown above are twelve and eight quart.


Coming back to the house early this evening after grabbing a shot of our pumpkin vines, I spotted a lovely zinnia bloom in our row of zinnias edging our East Garden plot.

Zinnia bloom

I thought it might be a lovely way to wind up this posting.

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Monday, August 5, 2019

More canned tomatoesRow of zinniasI canned six more quarts of whole tomatoes today. The tomato plants in our East Garden just don't produce as well as our Earlirouge plants usually do in the better soil of our main garden. But I killed our Earlirouges when they were filled with ripening tomatoes by using the wrong sprayer. Of course, since some of the plants in the East Garden are beefsteak tomato plants, we are getting some huge tomatoes, just not that many of them at once.

Our current dry weather has slowed tomato production. When I picked, watered, and sprayed the plants today, I saw very few blooms.

When I posted the photo of a lavender zinnia bloom yesterday, I wished I had taken a shot of the whole row of zinnias. When I got done with our tomatoes this morning, I remembered to take a shot of the nearly forty foot row of zinnias.

Our zinnias this year were grown entirely from saved seed. Some years, I buy a cheapie packet or two of zinnia seed off a seed rack to add a little genetic diversity to our saved seed.

Saving zinnia seed is easy. I'll leave it to a good article by Colleen Vanderlinden on The Spruce, How to Save Zinnia Seeds, to give you the nitty-gritty on saving zinnia seed.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Earliest Red Sweet pepper seed drying on paper plateTargetOther than a lot of watering, my one garden chore today was picking red bell peppers and saving seed from them. I'd let our Earliest Red Sweet peppers get fully ripe to a little soft and wrinkly.

To save the seed, I cut the peppers open and rubbed the seed off the core onto a paper plate where the seed will dry. I wasn't very aggressive about getting all the seeds out of every pepper. I'd guess that seeds that easily detach from the pepper are the ripest and most likely to be viable.

Fruit Bouquets

Thursday, August 8, 2019 - Watering

Trying to keep crops watered has become my primary gardening activity each day of late. We did receive a quarter inch of rain on Tuesday, but that's been it for the month of August so far. That's not unusual, as we generally experience a mini-drought each year from mid-July through August.

With little chance of rain in the near future, I gathered up a half dozen buckets, filled them with water, and put them in the bed of our truck. I ended up making two trips, hauling about fifty gallons of water to the tomato and pepper plants in our East Garden. I also strung the hose from our rain barrel to our bed of Sugar Snap peas and carried water to our new seeding of carrots and our recently transplanted broccoli.

Paprika Peppers

Mostly Hungarian Spice Paprika Peppers
Washed, cut, and blanched pepper pieces on dehydrator tray

After watering our tomatoes and bell peppers, I saw that our cages of Hungarian Spice Paprika Peppers were pretty much overgrown with grass. So I began cutting and pulling the weeds around the plants before thoroughly watering them.

My weeding efforts were immediately rewarded. With the grass gone, I could see lots of ripe red paprika peppers on the plants. While I lost three plants to weeds and whatever, the other five plants produced enough for me to try processing the peppers for ground paprika.

I saved seed from a few wrinkly peppers that were unfit for drying and some other large, good peppers that were without any imperfections. You have to remove the seed from the peppers anyway before drying them.

I carefully spaced the cut peppers on a couple of dehydrator trays. Then I thought to look up the proper temperature for drying peppers. Several sites suggested a range from 125° F to 145° F. I stayed in the middle and set our food dehydrator at 135° F, although I'll probably cut the temperature 10-15° towards the end of the drying to prevent burning the peppers.

Paprika peppersIt was a good thing I looked for the temperature. I also saw that most sites recommend blanching the peppers to kill off enzymes that can cause spoilage before dehydrating them. So even though I had my trays filled, I dumped the pepper pieces into boiling water for four or five minutes before returning them to their trays.

I haven't dried paprika since 2014, so I'm a little rusty on how to do it. Looking back, I used Hungarian (long, deep red peppers), Alma (round, red peppers), and Feher Ozon (fat, tapered, orangish peppers) at that time. While I got a lot of ground paprika from that drying, I was disappointed with the orangish color of it. I like my ground paprika to be red.

One can use a variety of mild to spicy peppers to make paprika that suits ones taste. I've used Earliest Red Sweet peppers in the past to add color to our paprika.

Charity: Water

Saturday, August 10, 2019 - More on Paprika

Following up a little bit on my posting on Thursday about paprika, the paprika ground then only filled a half pint jar about an inch deep. But the paprika had a rich aroma and a pleasingly red color.

Ground paprika Paprika peppers growing pointy side up Our best Hunarian paprika pepper plant

I also failed to show a good photo of the paprika peppers growing on a plant. The peppers grow point up! From the looks of things on the plants, I'll be drying and grinding paprika again very soon.

Other Stuff

The seed I saved from our Earlirouge tomato plants germination tested at 90%! I'd killed the plants by mistakenly spraying them with a sprayer that still had some Roundup herbicide in it. I saved seed from the best tomatoes on the plants, hoping the herbicide hadn't effected the tomato seed. Apparently, I got lucky.

Row of zinnias

Honey Bunch grape tomatoesFlowers in our raised bedsAs I walked out to our East Garden plot that sits in a small, old farm field next to our property, I realized I'd not gotten shot yet this year of our row of zinnias from the side.

Walking into our East Garden plot from either the east or west, one walks past a grape tomato plant. I rarely get by the plants without sampling one or two of the small, delicious fruits.

Our Red Pearl open pollinated plant is currently looking a bit worn out. But the variety has once again produced our tastiest grape tomatoes. At the other end of our tomato/pepper row, a Honey Bunch grape tomato plant is thriving. It's tomatoes are good, but just not in the class of the Red Pearls. But the plant continues to produce large, grape tomatoes with very good flavor.

Returning to the house from the East Garden, I was struck by the narrow view of flowers in our herb bed by the shallow well, a geranium atop our non-functional cistern, and geraniums in a narrow raised bed. Such views make me thankful I took the time to add flowers to our vegetable garden plots.


Sunday, August 11, 2019 - Lettuce for Seed

Blooms on Sun Devil lettuce plantFull view of Sun Devil plant bloomingTo most gardeners most of the time a lettuce plant bolting and going to seed isn't a good thing. To me this time around, our Sun Devil lettuce blooming is a thing of beauty. As my very old supply of Sun Devil seed has dwindled over the years, I've tried letting many heads of the lettuce go to seed without any success.

I purposely transplanted a Sun Devil plant at the very end of a narrow raised bed in early April. After the rest of the lettuce matured and was harvested, I left the Sun Devil in place. In time, it appeared the center of the head either rotted or was eaten out by a rabbit. But I still left the plant remains alone while onions and carrots replaced the rest of the previous lettuce area.

A week or so ago, I noticed that what was left of the Sun Devil plant had put up three new growth spikes. Today, I saw lovely yellow blooms on some of the spikes. With any luck, I'll be harvesting good Sun Devil seed in another month or so.

Cucumbers Again!

A couple more JLPs on the vines
JLP cucumber vines

A Japanese Long Pickling cucumberAfter killing off our original planting of Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers, I put in six transplants in mid-July that had remained on our back porch. I was thrilled today to see three or four good cucumbers on the vines. I resisted the urge to pick one of the cukes for a salad, leaving them to mature a seed crop. We fortunately have lots of pickles and sweet relish leftover from last season's cannings. But I'm secretly dreaming about a bowl of cucumber slices with ranch dressing as I write this posting.

The Japanese Long Pickling cucumber variety is one that we've worked for years to preserve. It requires trellising, something many gardeners don't want to mess with. But the variety is incredibly productive of long, straight cucumbers ideal for canning bread and butter pickles and making sweet pickle relish. The variety is also good for slicing cucumbers, although not quite as good as some other varieties.


Grape tomatoes washed and bagged for distribution
Regular tomatoes

I spent part of my morning picking stuff and the afternoon processing the harvest. It was a day that reminded me of Crockett's "cornucopia month of the year" thing.

I mostly worked in our East Garden after watering our new planting of carrots. Once again, a cat had dug in the carrot rows. Grr.

I picked grape and regular tomatoes in the East Garden, along with some peppers. Our Red Pearl grape tomatoes are playing out with just a few unripe tomatoes left and no blooms visible on the plant. Our Honey Bunch grape tomatoes are still producing lots of fruit and also continuing to bloom.

Our regular tomato plants are still ripening lots of good fruit but lack any new blooms during our current hot, dry stretch of weather. Not wanting to can tomatoes tomorrow, both the regular and grape tomatoes will go either to my wife's co-workers or to our local food bank. We continue to enjoy the delicious grape tomatoes in our salads and large tomato slices on BLT sandwiches.

Pepper strips for freezingI froze the peppers from our East Garden along with some ERS peppers from our main garden. Missing from this freezing were any green or yellow peppers. There just weren't any green peppers on the plants, a sign the plants have quit blooming in the hot weather. I missed picking a couple of large yellow peppers, letting them get overripe and unfit for freezing. I like to have a mix of red, green, and yellow peppers when I freeze them just for their pretty appearance.

Silver Queen sweet corn cooling after blanchingI really thought that our sweet corn for this season was going to be a total loss. Wet soil conditions, mechanical breakdowns, and some physical problems prevented us from planting our usual sh2 supersweet corn varieties. But I did get some other varieties transplanted into our East Garden before things went bad. Fighting some physical problems, I didn't do a very good job of keeping the weeds out of our corn patch, hindering pollination of the ears.

Our open pollinated Who Gets Kissed variety was a total flop. But our Silver Queen hybrid has surprised me as it has gradually ripened some ears every few days. Most of the ears have bare spots where pollination failed, but the flavor of the excellent old corn variety is wonderful. Today's picking cut off the cob yielded around a pint of cut corn. That corn didn't get frozen, however. It went into the fridge for supper tomorrow night.

The Home Depot

Monday, August 12, 2019 - Swallowtails and Chicken Salad

Yellow swallowtail butterfly on zinniaI didn't intend to do a posting today until I read Mike Lunsford's enjoyable column in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, Wet Spring Brings Swallowtail Summer. Like me, Mike is a retired teacher who apparently gets to write about what strikes his fancy. His informative piece tells a lot of details about swallowtails one doesn't often read. Our row of zinnias have lots of swallowtails visiting them each day.

It was rainy today, although we only got a tenth or so of an inch of precipitation. But being relieved of my daily watering duties, I turned instead to making some chicken salad. I followed our recipe, with one exception.

Chicken salad sandwich from when I wrote up the recipePossibly as a tribute to the great HBO series, The Newsroom, I added some chopped walnuts to the mix. In the premier episode of the series's last season, Maggie feeds Elliot some walnut-laced chicken salad. Sadly, Elliot is allergic to walnuts and Maggie has to do Elliot's television interview. Anyway, it was a fun episode.

I'm not allergic to walnuts, so I enjoyed a chicken salad sandwich for supper.

Garden Tower Project

Tuesday, August 13, 2019 - Hummingbirds

Hummiongbirds at feeder in AugustA2 Web HostingIt's just about mid-August, and according to, "adult males start migrating south as early as mid-July, but the peak of southward migration for this species [Ruby-throated Hummingbirds] is late August and early September." The site also notes that hummingbirds put on a bit of weight in preparation for their fall migration. By mid-September, most of the hummingbirds we see are probably migrants from further north making their way south.

We've mixed our own hummingbird "nectar" for years, using a 4:1 water to sugar ratio. I have started gradually adjusting that ratio a little to help the birds bulk up for their trip, eventually going to a 3.5:1 ratio. We've been going through granulated sugar like crazy, but that will abruptly change in just a few weeks when the first of the local birds begin their fall migration.

A Good Rain

Lettuce bloom spikes blown overLettuce bloom spikes tied upIt had been a dry start here for the month of August, but that changed with a strong thunderstorm last night. Despite weather forecasts that consistently suggested little chance of rain, we received 1.2" of precipitation overnight. Obviously, I was able to skip my usual morning watering routine today.

Our Sun Devil lettuce bloom spikes blew over a bit in a storm last night. I'm not sure it will help, but I tied the spikes back up using an old broomstick and some soft cotton string.


Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Thursday, August 15, 2019 - Feeling Lucky

Our Senior Garden - August 15, 2019I'm feeling a bit lucky this evening. I forgot to run the weedeater out of gas last fall. Fuel left over the winter in two cycle engines can gel, making the machine unstartable. Ours didn't. So I got to cut the grass weeds that had pretty well overgrown our row of lima beans.

After taking the weedeater back to the garage, I decided to look at our rows of kidney beans. Although a bit overgrown with weeds, there were lots of bean plants with bean pods just at the right point to be pulled.

Lucky again, or maybe just blessed.

Kidney beans in pods
Kidney beans on drying tray

I pulled the kidney bean plants and hauled them to the back porch where I stripped the seed pods off the plants. It was a pleasant afternoon with moderate temperatures and a nice breeze that made the work go quickly. The beans filled one and a half five gallon buckets. (Note: The blue bucket shown at right was completely filled before I started shelling.)

I began shelling the beans out of the pods this evening. After filling one of our drying trays with shelled beans, I realized that the shelling would have to be a multi-day task.

I'll can some of the beans, save some as dry beans, and freeze some for future plantings. After canning, some of the canned beans will get repurposed as refried beans. I've found that kidney beans make just as good refried beans as pinto beans do.

Other Stuff

I dried and ground another tray of paprika peppers yesterday. It added a little more to our paprika jar.

I also took out the last of our onions this morning. Dry weather and strong storms had browned their tops and toppled over many of them. If the onions store well, we should have more than enough to last over the winter.


Saturday, August 17, 2019

Kidney beans on drying traysStorm coming inIt took three days, but I finished shelling our kidney beans today. I did most of the shelling sitting on the glider on our back porch. It was a fairly pleasant task, as the temperature each morning was mild, and there was usually a nice breeze. But as I neared finishing the job today, a thunderstorm ran me inside.

While the storm came in really hard and fast, we only got seven tenths of an inch of rain from it. Most of the storm went north of us.

The cookie sheets of kidney beans will sit atop a high bookshelf for a week or so to allow the beans to thoroughly dry. As I wrote on Thursday, I'll save some of the beans as dry beans, freeze some of them, and can the rest. There's actually a small pan of kidney beans cooking on the stove right now to go into the Texas Nachos Annie and I will eat while we watch the Colts-Browns game this afternoon (if it's not blacked out).

Storage onions on drying tableThe onions I brought in on Thursday are now on our drying/curing table. I neglected to get a shot of them then. These are all storage varieties (Clear Dawn, Milestone, Red Sunset, and Southport White Globe ) which should last us all winter...if they store well.

Anthracnose on tomatoesSadly, at least two of our remaining tomato plants are infected with anthracnose. I got lazy at seeding time and used some seed that hadn't been hot water treated. I think the disease came in on the seed, as we haven't experienced anthracnose on our tomatoes in years.

Fortunately, five of the hybrid tomato plants we have in our East Garden are resistant to anthracnose (Bella Rosa, Better Boyicon, Chef's Choice, Dixie Red, and Mountain Fresh Plus). I've also found that either Fungonil or Serenade can sometimes suppress the disease. Since anthracnose can live in the soil, I'll have to be careful with my plant rotations in our East Garden for several years.

Reimer Seeds actually has a page showing all the antracnose resistant tomatoes they offer. And yes, Reimer takes a terrible beating on Dave's Garden Watchdog for germination rates of their seeds. Fortunately, I haven't experienced such germination problems with their seed. I did notice that they have added germination test results to each product listing. I think that's a good move.


Yep, the Colts-Browns game was blacked out for us on the NFL Network via DirecTV. It's really hard to decide which organization is more greedy, the NFL or DirecTV!

At least the Texas Nachos were delicious.

Omaha Steaks

Filet Mignon Month Sale!

Sunday, August 18, 2019 - Freezing More Pepper Strips

Pepper strips drying before freezingSave on iPad & Apple Watch + find the latest from Apple. Valid 8/18-8/24I froze more bell pepper strips today. Most of the peppers came from plants in our East Garden, as our Earliest Red Sweet peppers in our main garden quit blooming during the hot and dry weather. The peppers tightly filled a quart ziplock freezer bag. With the previous quart of peppers I froze, we should be fixed for the winter, although I'd have liked to include some green pepper strips in the freezing. Sadly, we currently have no green peppers on our plants, again probably due to hot, dry weather.

I don't blanch our peppers before freezing. I'm careful to cut out any bad spots, but just wash, cut into strips, and dry the peppers before spreading them out on a cookie sheet that goes into the freezer.


Sun Devil lettuce plant going to seedOur Sun Devil lettuce plant continues to bloom each day. I recently read in a couple of places that the lettuce blooms may remain open for just a half hour or so. I'm not sure about that one, but our plant tends to bloom before midday. Today's lettuce photo was taken just after noon and only a few blooms were open at that time.

A gem from both Rob Johnston, Jr.'s Growing Garden Seeds and the late Nancy Bubel's The New Seed Starter's Handbook suggests removing outer leaves from head lettuce plants or cutting inch deep slits in the head to promote seed stalks emerging. Apparently, tight heads can trap the seed stalks inside the head, preventing seed production. I feel a little silly after unsuccessfully trying to save Sun Devil seed for several years. The answer to my problem was in my garden library all along.


Cucumber almost ready for seed saving More overripe cucumbers for seed saving

Several of our Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers are almost ready to be picked for seed saving. I'll pick them when the cucumbers are almost totally yellow. Then I'll let them sit for a week or two before harvesting seed from them.

While fully maturing cucumbers for seed saving seems to slow down blooming and new cukes setting on sometimes, our vines are filled with blooms these days.

After writing the paragraphs above, I hustled outside while it was still light and sprayed our cucumber, yellow squash, pumpkin, and butternut squash with a mix of Sevin and Fungonil Fungicide. I'd noticed the possibility of powdery mildew getting started on some cucumber and pumpkin leaves and went to the strongest fungicide we use. Mixing in an organic bug killer didn't seem to make sense, so I went with liquid Seven. The one squash bug I saw walked right through the spray...before I squished it. There were lots of ants on the pumpkin leaves, presumably harvesting the aphids they culture.

Green Beans (at last!)

Mature green beansPossibly saving the best for the last, we have green beans maturing. I'd been watching daily as the young beans grow and found a few beans that could have been picked for steamed gourmet green beans today. But it would have been a very small feast, as most of our early beans are still a few days away from being ready for harvest. We may have steamed green beans and carrots with our supper tomorrow.

I'm guessing that we'll need to pick and can our first row of green beans later this week. I planted our earliest varieties all in one row with some later varieties in a second row. The first row contains (days-to-maturity figures in parentheses): Contendericon (40-50); Burpee's Stringless Green Podicon (50); and Providericon (50). All the beans were seeded on July 5, some 44 days ago, so we're doing pretty good on maturing a crop. The second row is planted to Strike (53), Bush Blue Lakeicon (57), and Maxibel (61). I'm pleasantly anticipating a picking of both rows at once in a week or two. I think a mix of canned bean varieties makes for better tasting green beans.

This close to harvest, I chose not to spray our beans this evening. (I'd waited until blooms had closed before spraying the other crops at around eight o'clock.) I haven't found any Japanese Beetles on our beans as yet. Those bugs can devastate a crop pretty quickly.

Something else I didn't find today were any pumpkins on our pumpkin vines. There were lots and lots of tiny pumpkins set on still attached to their blooms, though. And with the heavy leaf cover of the pumpkin vines, there may be pumpkins I just couldn't see under the leaf canopy.

Rukaten Camera

Monday, August 19, 2019

I dumped our cookie sheet drying trays of kidney beans into a large Perma-nest tray this morning to weight them. It turned out we got just over five pounds (5#, 1.2 oz) of good beans this year. (scale value shown in photo includes weight of tray) That's not quite as good as we did with our last crop of kidney beans in 2017 when we got over seven pounds of beans. But five pounds is more than enough to serve our needs.

Kidney beans on scale

Dumping the beans into the large tray and back onto the cookie sheets also stirs the beans, promoting better drying. In the process, a few bad beans became visible to be picked out and discarded.

I harvested this crop of kidney beans eighty days after planting. I picked them a bit early, making for some leathery pods that ruled out trying to thresh the beans from the pods. But threshing the beans in a bucket or trash can also leaves a lot of trash in the beans that has to be winnowed out. Hand shelling the beans produced a much cleaner harvest.

Where do we use all these kidney beans?

REI Outlet

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

JLP cucumbers for seed on drying tableSpinach to go on either side of fall carrotsIt's been a busy day. I picked Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers for seed saving this morning. The cucumbers I picked had yellowed some, although they were still showing some green. I wanted to get these cukes picked to encourage the cucumber vines to set more fruit for table use. The cucumbers picked will need to cure for at least a couple of weeks before I harvest seed from them.

I moved on to planting our fall spinach. I soaked the seed to be planted for a hour or so before planting. Having plenty of space available on either side of our fall carrots in one of our narrow raised beds, I direct seeded Abundant Bloomsdale (47), America (43-55), and Melody (40). The Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed I used was saved this spring. As we save and replant saved seed of this variety, it may somewhat adapt to our growing conditions. America is an old, open pollinated All America winning variety. The Melody hybrid is a good one, although seed for it has disappeared from seed vendors. We got our current Melody seed from Reimer Seeds several years ago, but it appears that Reimer has sold out of it.

Starting fall spinach is always an iffy planting for us. Summer temperatures aren't conducive to germinating the seed. Even so, I cleared the grass clipping mulch from the edges of a narrow bed on either side of our fall carrots and ran the scuffle hoe over the planting area to smooth it out.

Spinach seed in furrowI used a piece of one inch lumber to make a furrow a half inch deep down the row. Spacing the seed was a little difficult, as the wet seed stuck to my fingers. I tried to leave two inches between each seed, but ended up with clumps of seed here and there in the rows. After seeding, I pinched soil over the row and patted it firm with my hand. Although the soil was damp and I'd briefly soaked the seed, I still watered the planting.

I was ready to do our first picking of green beans by 11 am, but had to wait an hour or so for dew to dry off the plants. Picking from wet plants can spread disease that might be present on a plant or two.

Gloxinia seed pod openingWhile I waited, I checked our gloxinia plants for seed pods opening. I found one, but it wasn't quite ready to harvest seed from. In a day or so, the pod will fully open (and begin releasing seed if I don't harvest it in time).

We have another five to ten seed pods still developing on our gloxinia plants, ensuring a good harvest of fresh seed this year.

If you look at the larger image of the seed pod, you'll see some strange hairlike stuff on the plant. That's from our cats who consider the gloxinias interlopers on the table they like to sun themselves on each morning. The cats actually do a good bit of damage to the gloxinia leaves, sometimes eating them. But my wife loves our cats, and I love my wife.

I really thought we'd get a good picking of green beans today. Even though it was just 47 days after I seeded the beans, one row of early varieties appeared to be ready to pick. As it turned out, it was a meager first picking. Our row of earliest varieties (Contendericon (40-50), Burpee's Stringless Green Podicon (50), and Providericon (50)) produced pretty well. But other than some Strikes (53) at the end of our second row, there wasn't much. Our Bush Blue Lakeicon (57), and Maxibel (61) will catch up, and I anticipate a good picking in the near future.

Green bean rows before first picking

Of course, when you pick beans, you've gotta do something with them. I snapped the beans in short order, cursing myself all the while for mulching the beans. There were lots of mulch clippings and blooms that had to be washed and stripped off the bean pods.

Green beans looking ready to pick Loading canning jars Just six pints, but it's a start

With my canning supplies upstairs and rain predicted for tomorrow, I decided to process our red kidney beans. I froze a fourth pound of seed for future plantings and set the rest of the harvest to soak before canning tomorrow.

Habitat for Humanity

Friday, August 23, 2019 - Kidney Beans Canned

Canned kidney and refried beansI spent most of the day yesterday canning our kidney beans. When canning dry beans, the Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving recommends first soaking the beans for 12-18 hours. By 9 am, our beans had soaked for the minimum twelve hours. I then double rinsed the beans, covered them with fresh water, and let them boil for a half hour or so.

By 10 am, I began the long process of pressure canning the beans. Packed into regular mouth pint jars, I could fit nine jars into our canner. That used up about half of our beans.

I'm not sure why, other than maybe kidney beans are poisonous to humans before being cooked, the Blue Book and other sources call for 75 minutes of canning time. That number is a fooler, though. It takes ten to fifteen minutes for the canner to heat up and vent live steam for the required ten minutes. Then there's another five minutes or so for the canner to reach ten pounds per square inch of pressure. At that point, one can start their timer for the 75 minutes of pressure canning. Once that's done, the canner must cool for 15-20 minutes for the pressure to come down so one can open the canner.

So each canner load takes about two hours exclusive of preparation time! And I did two loads of beans yesterday.

While canning, I can't get away from the canner very long at a time, as I have to keep adjusting the stove to hold the pressure to ten pounds. That's a lot of time to sit watching a pressure gauge.

To make good use of the time, I took four pints of the boiled beans remaining and started making refried beans with them. I doubled our recipe for Refried Kidney Beans, but made the mistake of using boiled rather than canned beans for it. When I got all the ingredients mixed and boiling, I found that the beans wouldn't mash. So I ran them through our food processor and ended up with a pasty, but still crunchy mess.

Part of downstairs pantryNot wanting to lose the batch of refried beans, I packed them into canning jars and included them in our second batch of kidney beans in the pressure canner. Sure enough, canning softened the beans into what one wants for refried beans. But...three of the four pints of refried beans didn't seal!

At that point, I ran to the store for some flour tortillas. Annie and I had burritos for supper. And the rest of the unsealed beans got frozen.

In all, we added thirteen pints of kidney beans and one pint of refried beans to our downstairs pantry. There are some leftover refried beans in the fridge with about two pints more in the freezer.

The image at right of part of our downstairs pantry is a bit misleading. About half of what is shown, such as pickles and relish, were canned last year but are still good to use. The pantry will really get crowded when we can our second and third pickings of green beans.

I'd like to can one more batch of whole tomatoes, but the tomato plants in our East Garden aren't looking too good. I pulled and composted two plants this morning that were infected with anthracnose. Both plants were new varieties of which I hadn't hot water treated the seed!


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Our Senior Garden - August 24, 2019Weather Underground Extended ForecastWe're starting out with an absolutely gorgeous late summer day today. Our extended weather forecast into early September has daily high temperatures in the 70s. There's even a bit of rain predicted. While atypical for this time of year, I'll gladly take this weather instead of the very hot, humid days we usually experience in late August.

While there's lots of gardening I could do today, I'll probably spend most of my time today and tomorrow on our lawn mower. I've let the grass go without mowing a bit too long, as during our last mow, I hit a rut and messed up my neck and back a bit. So I'll go slow on the mower, watching for those neck, back, and kidney jarring ruts in the ground.

Gloxinia Seed Production

Gloxina bloom and three seed heads Hundreds of dustlike gloxinia seeds

I didn't work too hard at hand pollinating our gloxinias this year, but the blooms I did get pollinated are producing lots of seed. Besides the three developing seed heads shown above, there are several more on other plants that should produce seed. Each seed head can release over a hundred seeds!

It's not at all difficult to save seed from these lovely plants. I tell how in our feature story, Saving Gloxinia Seed.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Peppers and tomatoesPeppers on dehydrator trayIt's been an enjoyable day in our garden. I started out by picking a few tomatoes and peppers and then spraying the tomato plants with a Serenade/Neem Oil mix for disease and insect control. With our organics sprayer out, I rinsed it and sprayed our broccoli with Thuricide. For good measure, some cauliflower transplants hardening off on the back porch got a spray of Thuricide as well.

Jumping way ahead here, the peppers got cut, de-seeded, washed, and sliced for drying this evening. Since I had the tray space, the two bell peppers shown at left got thrown in with the paprika peppers for drying. While the bell peppers aren't as spicy as paprika peppers (which are really pretty mild), they do add color and volume to the eventual ground paprika.

I saved seed from some of the better Hungarian Spice Paprika Peppers, as the seed I previously saved hasn't done too well in germination tests. But pepper seed often germinates better after sitting or being frozen for a while. Once I get our ground paprika jar pretty full, I'll probably let some of the Hungarian peppers get overripe to almost rotting before saving seed from them.

Somewhere along the line this morning, I mixed a half gallon of vinegar with a forth cup of Epsom Salts and sprinkled it around the vent to our deep well. Weeds grow up all around the cinder block that protects the vent from lawn mowers and such. I successfully used a similar mix this spring to knock down weeds around the vent, but they've regrown and are a bit ugly. I refrain from using products like Roundup around water sources such as the well vent and our shallow well.

Zinna seed headsZinnia seed heads on drying tray (glorified cookie sheet)I picked zinnia seed heads this morning from our forty foot row of zinnias. It's getting along in the season, and it was high time to begin saving seed for next season.

I'll probably continue to pick zinnia seed heads until fall, adding them to the cookie sheet where I dry them.

Once dry, I rub the seed off the seed heads. I try to winnow the seed from the leaf and other trash, but often end up with a messy seed saving of plant trash and seed. But the stuff still plants and grows well.

When I think the seed is dry enough, I dump it into a ziplock freezer bag and store it in our chest type, manual defrost freezer.

Green beans ready to pickCanned green beansMy big accomplishment of the day was picking and canning green beans. I'd done a light first picking of our bean plants a week ago. Today, they were ready for another picking. Sadly, two longer season varieties still haven't produced any bean pods as yet. But the plants look healthy and should give us some late beans at some point.

Today's picking produced just six pints of canned green beans. But little by little, we're filling our pantry for winter use.

The beans canned today were cleaner and a bit more mature than those canned a week ago. I was really careful to clean grass clippings and spent blooms off the bean pods when picking.

And being outside picking beans on a sunny, but temperate day was a real joy.

David's Cookies

Thursday, August 29, 2019 - Fluffy, Downy?

I've been trying to figure out when to begin harvesting seed from our Sun Devil lettuce plant. Colleen Vanderlinden in How to Save Lettuce Seeds From Your Garden suggests, "Once the flower heads are fluffy and dry, it's time to harvest the seeds." Mary Thomsen in What Are Some of the Self Pollinating Vegetable Plants says to "harvest the plant’s stalk when it begins to look downy."

Definitely some fluffy and downy

I hadn't seen any fluffy or downy on the seed stalks of our lettuce plant until yesterday. I did notice one white bit of fluff then. Today, the fluffy or downy was more pronounced. I picked one fluffy seed pod. Opened, it released eight or ten lettuce seeds!

It may be a day or two before I cut the seed spike and hang it to dry in a paper grocery bag. Fortunately, the Sun Devil plant has put up four seed stalks, so if I mess up on when to harvest with the first one, I can try again.

Lima Bean Plants Out

I pulled and composted our lima bean plants today. In pulling the plants, I observed only one small, flat seed pod in the fifteen foot row. The plants had faced considerable weed pressure, but they also had lots and lots of blooms. They just never set pods.

Wondering what went wrong, I found an excellent online article covering the subject. Bean Blossom Problems: Reason For Bean Blossoms Falling Off Without Making Pods by Heather Rhoades gives a number of reasons for bean plants not setting bean pods. Among them, too much nitrogen in the soil, various weather stresses, lack of pollinators, and others may have been our problem.

I'll try limas again next year. In the meantime, the lima plants and all the grass weeds growing around them have to come out to make way for fall cauliflower and kale.

Paprika Jar Nearly Full

Dried paprika peppers on dehydrator trayPaprika saved in 2019Our paprika jar is almost full. I ground the peppers this morning that I'd set to dehydrate yesterday. While not a big load in the dehydrator, the ground results have nearly filled our half pint paprika jar.

Most of the peppers were dry and brittle by this morning. But some of the Red Knight peppers I'd added to the trays weren't dry enough to grind. They got some private time in the dehydrator while I worked outside on other things. Red Knights are a very fat walled pepper while the Hungarian Spice Paprika Peppers have fairly thin walls that dry more easily.

A.M. Surprise

While doing part of my daily morning routine of filling our hummingbird feeders this morning, I was really surprised at how cool it was outside, 63° F. Summer is winding down, and fall really is on its way.

Hopefully a Pleasant Surprise for Someone Else

I dropped off some stuff today at our local food bank. I'd picked eight or so very, very long cucumbers this morning. The cukes were long enough that I'm questioning if I got some plant labels mixed up and put in a variety other than our usual Japanese Long Pickling. I'd started some Suyo Longicon cucumbers, planning to plant them well away from our JLPs. That never happened, so I'm wondering about the purity of the JLP seed I plan to save.

The food bank also got some grape tomatoes and a dozen butternut squash.

Burpee Gardening

Friday, August 30, 2019 - Weeding

Weedy main garden bedAmazonMy morning gardening job was to begin pulling the grass weeds in the middle of our main garden bed. I'd let a planting of lima beans get pretty well overgrown there. Pulling the lima bean plants, a pass with a rather weak weedeater, and a careful spray of herbicide has calmed things down, but the weeds still needed to be hand pulled. They were just too established for our walking tiller to handle.

I used our CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator to begin cutting and pulling the weeds, pretty much roots and all. Even with that dandy tool, it was slow going. It will take several days to clear the area of weeds. I quit weeding this morning because my knees and shoulders were killing me.

Since the pulled weeds had been treated with a herbicide, they didn't go onto our compost pile. Instead, I used them to help fill a rut in the field next to our property.

Lettuce Seed (again)

Defying the sage advice I linked to yesterday about harvesting lettuce seed, I went ahead and picked about ten browned seed heads from our Sun Devil lettuce plant. When I went back outside to take pictures of the garden, I noticed that some seed heads and seed had fallen on the landscape timbers of the bed. So I grabbed a paper grocery sack and banged the seed stalks around in it a bit, producing a bit more seed.

Sun Devil lettuce seed Blooms and seed heads on Sun Devil plant Dropped seed heads and seeds

It appears that the plant patent (PVP) on the Sun Devil variety has been reinstated. It expires sometime in 2021, so I won't be able to share any seed with others until after that date (if I last that long:-).


Melody spinach upOur row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seeded with seed saved this spring only produced two plants. Fortunately, another row seeded to America and Melody spinach is up. Interestingly, the oldest seed used, Melody, had the best germination.

I started soaking some older Abundant Bloomsdale seed yesterday and re-seeded the row this morning. I won't throw out the spinach seed that didn't germinate, as it may just be hard seed that needs some time to germinate better.

We're Gonna Have Snap Peas!

Blooms on Sugar Snap pea vines
Blooms on Sugar Snap pea vines

Barring some kind of disaster, we should get a picking or two from our Sugar Snap pea vines. I noticed clusters of blooms in two places on the vines today. We haven't had much luck growing Sugar Snaps in recent years. Our last attempt ended with the peas developing powdery mildew with black mold on the pea pods just before harvest! This year's Sugar Snaps are planted in a much sunnier area than the last try which should lesson the chances of powdery mildew.

Yellow Squash

Slick Pik yellow squashWe're within days of harvesting our first yellow squash. I direct seeded some Slick Pik seed into a narrow raised bed on July 29. With the warm weather we had, the 48 day variety looks to come in a bit early.

Slick Piks are great producers of long, thin squash, but the plants quickly wear themselves out. In a normal gardening year, we grow a succession of the plants to ensure having yellow squash all summer. This year, I'll be happy to just get some.

Zinnias and Melons

I finished my camera tour of our garden plots this afternoon in our East Garden. Most of that plot didn't get planted this season for various reasons. But we've had good tomatoes, peppers, butternut squash, a little sweet corn, and kidney beans from what we did get planted.

Of course, our row of zinnias are gorgeous again this year. I rubbed zinnia seed today off the seed heads I'd collected on Wednesday. I already have enough seed for next year's zinnia row.

Our 2019 row of zinnias

When I finally gave in to the reality that I wasn't going to be able to plant our full East Garden this year, I decided to at least put in a couple of hills of melons. A hill of Sugar Cube cantaloupe vines promptly died after transplanting. I re-seeded them, and they may yet produce something.

A hill of Blacktail Mountain watermelon did survive. It now has two nice, small melons on its vines with many blooms also visible.

Blacktail Mountain watermelon

While I was crushed not to be able to fully plant our East Garden this season, I'll be giddy if I get any melons from the two hills we have planted.

Vinegar - Epsom Salts Weed Killer

I ran across an article this week trashing the practice of using vinegar and Epsom salts as a weed killer. I just used a mix of vinegar, Epsom salts, and Dawn dish detergent to kill the weeds growing out of and around the vent to our deep well. While Steve Bender is correct in Can We Just Quit with the Vinegar-Epsom Salts Weed-Killer Nonsense, saying that the organic mix may not kill weeds down to the roots, it definitely is effective in knocking down weeds for a time.

I'd suggest that Steve Bender's generalized condemnation of the organic weed killer is wrong. He's free to spray Roundup herbicide around water sources and take his chances with non-hodgkins lymphoma. I'll stick with my organic alternative, even if I have to spray multiple times each season.

Fruit Bouquets

Saturday, August 31, 2019 - August Wrap-up

August, 2019, animated GIF of our Senior GardenBotannical InterestsI think I may have done our monthly wrap-up with yesterday's posting. Lots of pictures of stuff ripening.

I quoted Jim Crockett in my monthly intro, "August is the cornucopia month of the year...". It truly has been for us this August. We've harvested tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, butternut squash, and green beans from our garden plots. We've canned, stored, dried, and frozen stuff for the winter. And we've saved a lot of flower and garden seed for future plantings.

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