Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

August 31, 2020


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Our Senior Garden - August 1, 2020
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Our East Garden - August 1, 2020
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We've been blessed this year to have avoided the coronavirus and have had some pretty nice harvests despite a short drought early this season. Our raised beds are growing succession crops while our large East Garden plot is filled with full season and/or space hog crops such as sweet corn, melons, pumpkins and squash.

The late James Underwood Crockett described August as "the cornucopia month of the year" in his book, Crockett's Victory Garden. Our July yielded bountiful harvests of yellow squash, carrots, garlic, and onions. But in August, we're looking forward to lots of delicious tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and melons. If we can keep the deer and raccoons out, we may have some nice sweet corn this month.

At this writing at three in the afternoon, we already have half an inch of rainfall in our rain gauge with more apparently on the way!

Burpee Seed Company

 
 

Sunday, August 2, 2020 - Order Garlic

Burpee Seed CompnayIf you're planning on ordering garlic to plant this fall, it's time, really past time, to get the garlic ordered. Vendors frequently run out of favored varieties by this time of year!

Our last big order of garlic was way back in 2014. I did refresh our elephant garlic starts last year. But if one has good production, not hard to do with garlic, buying garlic is a rare or possibly a one time thing.

Our best garlic has come from Burpee Seed and the Territorial Seed Company.

More Rain

Burn pile with East Garden in backgroundWe received another inch of rain yesterday. After suffering drought conditions in the middle of July, we are now having lots and lots of rain.

An upside to the rain is that I was finally able to burn off our burn pile. It had lots of branches and some old bedroom furniture on it. I also used a machete this morning to hack down the tall weeds that had surrounded the pile and didn't burn.

Living out in the country, folks here are still able to burn off piles of tree limbs and such. Even so, I try to always wait until after a heavy rain before torching our pile.

Sweet Corn

While the heavy rains we've had make it difficult to get into our East Garden plot, I was able to spray our sweet corn with Not Tonight, Deer from outside the plot. I misstepped once and almost buried a shoe in the mud.

Our sweet corn patch - August 2, 2020

Yesterday, I spotted an outbreak of corn smut on a couple of tassels in the middle of the corn patch. When I went in to break off the infected tassels, I sunk ankle deep in the mud! Of equal concern, I also found that something had been in the patch and knocked down a bunch of the corn stalks. But so far, this is the best looking sweet corn at this stage that we've grown in years.

Hummingbirds

I hung a fourth hummingbird feeder yesterday to lessen the mayhem occurring at our feeders. We're seeing more hummingbirds now than we've ever had before. We're going through lots of sugar to make the 4:1 water-to-sugar ratio hummingbird nectar. This level of birds will probably remain until late this months when some of the birds begin their annual migration south.

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Muddy gardening shoesSlick Pik yellow squashI went out to our East Garden plot this morning in hopes of finding a ripe cantaloupe. I found none, but sunk in the mud to my ankles while looking. Already really muddy, I squished to pick yellow squash from our three hills of Slick Piks. I got lots of great squash and didn't lose a shoe. I've gotta figure out what I did with my mud boots. The image at left is of the shoes I wore...after I knocked a lot of mud off of them.

Besides the yellow squash, the best news of the day was that our lawn mower returned from the shop. The blade drive belt on the mower deck had broken. The deck had a couple of massive springs that I guessed I couldn't handle, so the mower went in for service. Since it's rained steadily since the mower went in, I really haven't missed any mowing time, although our grass is now pretty tall.

I've spent most of my day watching download and installer progress bars today. I've just about got my "new" 2018 Mac Mini set up. I bought an old new machine instead of Apple's latest and greatest because of Apple's switch to not supporting 32 bit apps, which most of my purchased software is. The 2018 Mac Mini came with Mac OS X Mojave which still supports the old applications. It also has 32 GB of RAM which should make working images a lot easier.

Setting up new computer

Looking at the photo above reminded me to roll my Habitat for Humanity calendar from July to August.

Habitat for Humanity

Thursday, August 6, 2020 - Egg Shells

Egg shellsMy wife was surprised when she went into the kitchen this evening to find a bunch of egg shells. She quickly realized that I'd made another batch of Not Tonight, Deer repellent. I'd noticed that we were getting low on it when I filled the sprayer on Monday. The stuff needs to sit outside and rot for a couple of weeks before use.

I'll need to grind egg shells tomorrow, as our bag of crushed egg shells in the freezer is almost full. We use the ground egg shells to provide calcium to our tomatoes and peppers to lessen blossom end rot.

The yellow squash pictured here on Monday went with a whole bunch more I picked today to our local food bank. The folks there are always receptive and appreciative of donations from our garden plots.

I'm still working on setting up a new computer and restoring an older model. Hopefully, we'll be back up and running full strength sometime next week. I'm still waiting on one critical adaptor to make things work. Beyond that, it's just a matter of copying files and punching in passwords.

The Home Depot

Friday, August 7, 2020 - Grinding Egg Shells

Our Senior Garden - August 7, 2020Grinding egg shellsThe egg shells from making a batch of Not Tonight, Deer yesterday plus a nearly full quart freezer bag of saved crushed egg shells got ground today. I use an extra coffee grinder reserved for grinding egg shells and herbs for the job.

Combined with some ground egg shell left over from last year, we now have a little over a quart of ground egg shell for next season. As previously noted here, we use the egg shells to supply calcium to our tomato and pepper plants to help ward off blossom end rot.

Tilling

Our mid-July seedings of carrots, beets, and spinach all failed. What did come up well was a lot of grass weeds along the planted rows I'd watered. Whether I'm able to replant or not, the weeds had to go.

Even though I still sink into the mud in our East Garden plot due to recent heavy rains, the soil in our main raised bed was just barely dry enough this afternoon for tilling. Raised beds have the advantage of drying out quicker than surrounding, non-raised areas. During dry spells, the drying out turns from an advantage to a liability.

Raised bed tilled

The ground tilled up well, although there was a lot of grass left on top of the soil when I was done. I may have to till the area again before trying to re-plant.

Striped Cucumber Beetles

Striped cucumber beetles on a cucumber bloomHoss Tools and SeedsIn the photo above, our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines look pretty good. The leaves are dark green, having fought off a bit of downy mildew, and there are lots of blooms and a few small cucumbers. But a closer look today revealed lots of striped cucumber beetles infesting the planting.

Striped cucumber beetles like to eat anything in the cucurbit family, but also can spread bacterial plant diseases. My response to the invasion today was to spray our cucumber vines with a combo spray of Pyrethrin and Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew. That was an organic response to the infestation. If that fails to stop the beetles, I'll come back with a spray of liquid Sevin.

Eartheasy

Sunday, August 9, 2020

In hopes of replanting our fall carrots, beets, and spinach, I had beet and spinach seed soaking overnight. But when I went out today to rake the bed smooth, it was still full of grass weeds, too many to rake out. So I tilled the bed again in hopes of cleaning things up. Alas, the bed just needs to sit a bit and let the weeds die before it's ready for a fine seeded crop like carrots.

Unruly raised bed

Unfortunately, I'm running out of gardening season, especially for the carrots. As of today, we have 69 days left until our first frost date. Sadly, our carrot varieties to be planted run from 54 to 75 days-to-maturity. Adding a couple of weeks to those figures for shorter fall daylength, and we probably won't get any fall carrots of much size.

Perseverance petunias

On a lighter note, we have some beautiful Perseverance petunias along the sides of our main raised bed. They're a new-to-us variety from the Turtle Tree Seed Initiative. While lovely, I'll plant them in the future where they have lots of space to spread out.

Cucumber blossoms with a striped cucumber beetle

Our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines are filled with blossoms. I sprayed the vines on Friday with Pyrethrin and Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew to fight off an infestation of striped cucumber beetles. While the population of the bugs is down, there are still a few here and there. Since there are lots of bumblebees visiting the blossoms today, I'll have to wait until evening to spray the vines again.

A2 Web Hosting

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Our Senior Garden - August 11, 2020First cucumbers of the seasonIt's slow going here. We continue to have lots of rain which prevents a lot of field work. I'm also still struggling to get a couple of "new" computers online.

I was pleased today to see that we have several Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers almost ripe. These first cukes are low on the vine, touching the ground. That makes them curl, where later ones higher on the vines will be straighter. One of the first cucumbers will serve in salads. Most of the early ones will go to the food bank. Later ones will be allowed to ripen seed for seed saving, as we didn't save any JLP seed last year. We may make some pickles and sweet relish a bit later on.

I ventured out into our East Garden today. I picked our first ripe grape tomatoes and more yellow squash. We have some cantaloupe and watermelon very close to being ripe. I'm guessing my first notice of their ripeness may be seeing where raccoons have split open and consumed some melons. I was impressed with how large some of our Athena and Avatar cantaloupe were. While Sugar Cubes are our favorite for flavor, the tasty Athena and Avatars produce a lot of cantaloupe volume.

Garden Tower Project

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Today was a mowing day, so there wasn't much time for gardening. I did re-stake rows in our main bed in case I decide to replant carrots, beets, and spinach. While I didn't pick any yellow squash today, I noticed that our two pots of replacement Slick Pik yellow squash plants on the back porch are about ready to go into the ground. While our producing yellow squash plants are in our East Garden plot, the new plants will probably go into our main raised bed.

On a break from mowing, I picked eight Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers this afternoon. Our first cucumber harvest is always a bit late by most gardening standards, as we grow our cucumbers as a succession crop following our tall peas between our double trellis.

Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers

For fresh eating, I pick the cucumbers when they're about twelve to fourteen inches long. For canning pickles and relish, I let them get a bit longer. And for seed saving, one lets them grow to full size and turn yellow before picking. Sometimes full size is almost two feet long!

As the sun went down, I again sprayed the cucumber vines for bugs.

Hardware World

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Spear muskmelonRenee's GardenWe got our first ripe melon of the season today! Our melons went in late, so we're just now seeing cantaloupes and watermelons approach maturity. Actually, what I picked was an overripe cantaloupe that had split open at one end and would normally have gone onto our compost pile. But the other end of the melon looked good, and being the first of the season, I cleaned up the good end of it and cut chunks to go into the fridge.

The melon was a Spear, a variety from the Sand Hill Preservation Center we've not had before. Warm, the flavor of the melon was excellent. I was a bit surprised that a Spear would ripen first, as its days-to-maturity is longer than some of our other melon varieties.

As I walked our melon rows, I not only had to be careful to avoid stepping on vines as much as possible, but also not stepping on melons. The leaf cover is so thick in places that it hides the smaller melons. But there are lots of watermelons now big enough they're visible above the foliage.

Cantaloupes showing through leaf cover Watermelons

With all the melons we now have maturing, I'm surprised that we've not had any damage from raccoons. I went a bit overboard planting melons this year, probably because we haven't had a good crop of them for several years. Generally, when our cantaloupes are just about ripe, the raccoons strike.

Sweet corn patch - August 15, 2020Sweet corn ears silkingWe did have a bit of critter damage to our sweet corn recently. Something, deer or raccoons, visited our sweet corn patch and broke off three or four immature ears. Either the visitor didn't like the maturity of the corn, or possibly the traces of Not Tonight, Deer still remaining on the corn. Each ear had a few bites taken out of the top before it was discarded. At any rate, I sprayed the corn again with the deer repellent and also cut and spread half a bar of Irish Spring soap around the corn patch.

Some of the corn silks are turning brown, but the ears are still awfully thin.

Besides picking more yellow squash this afternoon, I picked our first full sized tomato today from our East Garden plot. Our tomatoes there didn't get transplanted until the first week of June. That may turn out to be a good thing, as our Earlirouge tomatoes transplanted in April stunted from the drought and still haven't produced much of anything.

We've had some spectacular failures in this year's garden, but we've also had plenty to eat and a few real successes.

Local Covid Figures

Here in Sullivan County, Indiana, we're experiencing a spike in Covid-19 infections. For weeks, our infection total hung around thirty to forty. Then things got crazy. In the last few days, the number of infections has shot up dramatically.

Monday Covid numbers Tuesday Covid numbers Wednesday Covid numbers
Thursday Covid numbers Friday Covid numbers Sunday Covid numbers

I got a bit aggravated today in our local Walmart when I passed several customers who weren't wearing face masks. They had to have them on to be admitted to the store, but thinking only of themselves, took the masks off once inside. Such stupid shit is what continues to drive this pandemic.

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Weather Underground Extended ForecastWe've had a drought followed by a really rainy spell and now appear to be going dry for a week or so. The weather has truly been challenging so far this gardening season.

Cut Sugar Cube cantaloupe
Cutting melon into chumks

Our melons, transplanted during the second and third week of June, are now ripening. The Spear muskmelon I picked yesterday had the distinction of best melon of the season for less than twenty-four hours. I picked a Sugar Cube cantaloupe today. While the Sugar Cube was flavorful, I had cheated and picked it at half-slip. Half-slip is when a cantaloupe forms a ring around where the stem connects to the melon. When pulled, the stem will separate at this stage and usually yield a good melon. Waiting a day or two more to pick the melon at full slip, when the stem and melon separate on their own, produces a far more flavorful melon.

One Ali Baba and two Moon & Stars watermelonsThe Sugar Cube along with the rest of the melons in our melon rows was a bit bigger than usual. Sugar Cube melons are usually icebox melons, ideal in size for breakfast for two.

Looking at our watermelons today, it was obvious that we're going to have a good many thirty to forty pound melons this year. The image at right shows an Ali Baba and two Moon & Stars watermelons of good size. In our other melon row, I found a cluster of three huge Ali Baba melons. The light green to white skinned Ali Baba variety has been our most dependable producer of good melons over the years.

Like one of those memes you see on Facebook and elsewhere, the photo below asks, "How many watermelons can you find in the photo?"

Crimson Sweet watermelons (I think)

There are actually five melons visible in the image above, although you might have to look at the larger version of it to find the fifth. The melons are probably all Crimson Sweet Virginia Select, although the next hill is of the seedless Farmers Wonderful variety which look a lot like Crimson Sweets. The Virginia Select strain is the breeding effort of Pam Dowling. The Farmers Wonderful are usually a bit smaller than Crimson Sweets.

I'm currently at the holding my breath stage with our East Garden. We have wonderful stands of sweet corn, kidney beans, pumpkins, butternut squash, and melons ripening. Whether bugs, deer, and/or raccoons spoil our harvest is impossible to predict. While we employ as many preventatives as we can, often, it's a matter of just growing enough for the critters and ourselves.

Habitat for Humanity

Monday, August 17, 2020

Despite running out of growing season, I went ahead and re-seeded our fall carrots, beets, and spinach. With just 61 days left until our first frost date (October 17), we'll probably get some small carrots, if they germinate at all. A previous seeding totally failed.

Main bed replanted

For the plantings, I watered the shallow planting furrows before seeding. The carrot seed was all dry seed. Some of the beet and spinach seed had been soaked. To give the carrot seed time to germinate before weeds sprout, I covered the carrot rows with our walking boards. They'll deny the weed seed, mostly grass, the light and oxygen needed for germination...maybe.

I'm due to mow in a day or so. The areas between the rows will get mulched with grass clippings from the mowing even before the rows germinate.

Huge Passport honeydewAfter the planting, I went to our East Garden plot to check on things there. I picked a couple of ears of corn that might be considered ripe...if you like almost pointy corn. I also picked a few more yellow squash. What surprised me was that our Passport honeydews had ripened. One melon had split open and had to go to the compost pile. I cut a piece out of the still good part of the melon and tasted it. Delicious. There were two more honeydews ready to be picked. I also found two ripe Sugar Cube cantaloupes and one huge Avatar melon. A small load of yellow squash, cucumbers, and melons went to our local food bank this afternoon.

While we have lots of large watermelons ripening, an accident today reminded me to be patient. While turning a nearly ripe watermelon, I broke off its stem. I plugged the melon after carrying it to the compost pile. I wasn't surprised to find the melon's interior slightly pink and totally underripe. Soon...

Computer Update

I'm now writing and uploading updates for this site from my new 2018 Mac Mini. I'm still learning the updated operating system (Mojave) and learning to live with its transparency feature/bug. I wrote Apple's Tim Cook a caustic email about the bug, but of course, got no response.

I also picked up a refurbished 2010 Mac Mini in my computer buying spree. I outfitted it with the Snow Leopard operating system that still allows me to use Appleworks 6 for my garden charts.

Coronavirus in Sullivan County, Indiana

Covid numbers for Monday, August 17, 2020Number One in IndianaReaders may have wondered at my posting on Saturday about the growth of Coronavirus infections in our area. I'd watched in horror as the number of infections in our county skyrocketed while regularly seeing people at local businesses not wearing face masks or practicing social distancing. I published a record of the rising infections on Saturday.

Today, our smalltown local newspaper, the Sullivan Daily Times, headlined the terrible news about the rising rate of infections in the county. We're now the most infectious county in the state of Indiana!

This morning as I sat reading the morning news, my eyes filled with tears as I thought about our grandchildren, the children returning to classrooms, and my past teaching colleagues in our local area. They're all terribly at risk because of the political inaction of our local, state, and national leaders.

I'm guessing that our idiot President, Mitch McConnell, and supposed leaders such as our local representatives, Larry Buschon and Bruce "Elvis" Borders, don't have any loved ones on the chopping block of Covid infections. I'm talking about children and teachers in overcrowded classrooms, frontline workers in hospitals, and the folks who check us out at local businesses.

I still remember Elvis, er...Bruce, arrogantly striding the halls of our elementary school visiting his insurance clients and followers. Bruce never stopped at my room, as I wasn't his kind of Christian. Such folks' actions or better inaction show their total disregard for the health and safety of their constituents. If I believed in hell, and I don't, they all would probably burn there. I believe our God loves us all an tries to help us be our best selves.

Obviously, I'm a bit blitzed while writing this posting. But maybe that honesty is what should be said about our local, state, and national leaders intentionally espousing measures that will result in thousands of lives damaged or lost to this pandemic.

It's time to stand up and decry the incredible abuse of power and lack of leadership of President Trump. It's time to remove syncopatic political hacks such as McConnell, Buschon, and Borders from office. They only serve their own interests, not ours. And their current actions, or inactions, will cost our loved ones lives.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

As I made my way around our large East Garden plot this morning, it was obvious that we're on the cusp of some nice harvests. There were the now usual bunch of yellow squash. I had to hunt, but found three ears of sweet corn just barely ripe enough to pick. While our row of tomato plants are filled with fruit, a late planted Crimson Sprinter plant supplied several nice, ripe tomatoes.

Honeydew, watermelon, tomatoes, and sweet corn

More yellow squashSullivan County (IN) Coronavirus numbers for August 19, 2020I cut the honeydew melon I picked on Monday along with our first ripe watermelon. When I got to our melon patch, I found I'd missed picking a ripe honeydew yesterday that had split open in the field. The watermelon, somewhat surprisingly, was a seedless one, probably the Farmers Wonderful variety. It actually had lots of seeds, but they were all white and went down easily.

Supper tonight will be bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches. I had to run to town for the lettuce. That reminded me to seed some more lettuce inside this afternoon. Our first seeding of fall lettuce didn't do too well with only the now discontinued Barbados variety germinating well and surviving being hardened off. I'm not yet sure if I can work yellow squash into the dinner menu.

I'm truly excited about how our garden plots are doing. It's nice to see a good return for the time and effort invested.

On a more somber note, our county is still seeing Coronavirus infections spike. With schools just re-opening, I fear those numbers will begin increasing at an ever greater rate. The old chant, "We're #1," certainly isn't what you want when talking about your county's ranking in the increase in Coronavirus infections in the state.

Once again, practice social distancing and wear a mask in public!

GNRL Click & Grow

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Yellow squash, melons, and grape tomatoes for the food bankMulched main raised bedOne watermelon (a Blacktail Mountain), several cantaloupes ( Athena, Avatar, and Sugar Cube), a honeydew ( Passport), a few grape tomatoes (Red Pearl and Honey Bunch), and a whole bunch of nice yellow squash (Slick Pik) all went to our local food bank this afternoon for tomorrow morning's food distribution. I did most of the picking this morning and came back inside thoroughly drenched up to my knees from the morning dew on the tall weeds in our East Garden plot.

I mowed most of our lawn this afternoon. While our grass wasn't out of control, I wanted the grass clippings to mulch the ground between our newly seeded rows of carrots, beets, and spinach.

David's Cookies

Friday, August 21, 2020 - Poof! It's Gone!

Collapsed yellow squash plantCorn dog?I spent a good bit of my afternoon today around our East Garden plot. I say around, as I was mowing the field and our side yard that abut the plot. While mowing close to the East Garden, I saw that one of our hills of yellow squash had collapsed overnight!

The hills of yellow squash have lasted far longer than I had expected. In most seasons, squash bugs get to them or the plants seem to simply wear themselves out. But so far this year, the plants have continued to bloom and produce lots of squash.

Our two remaining hills of Slick Pik yellow squash both seemed healthy this evening when I sprayed them with insecticide. I found no evidence of squash bugs or vine borers on the deceased plant. Possibly a plant disease got it, a mole dug through its root ball, or it just died of old age.

I have two pots of young Slick Pik yellow squash hardened off on our back porch. I just have to decide where to put them.

While out spraying, picking cantaloupe and yellow squash this evening, I also sprayed our sweet corn again with Not Tonight, Deer! As I walked the rows, one of our dogs, Petra, kept getting in the way. That is when I remembered her affinity for corn. While our dogs help keep deer and raccoons out of our garden, Petra can do a lot of damage in a corn patch. Since we have soybeans instead of field corn in the fields around us this year, she may be sampling our sweet corn as she's been known to do in the past.

Sam’s Club

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Cut melon piecesKale rowsBreakfast this morning was cut melon pieces. While I was thrilled to get our first watermelon this week, its flavor paled in comparison to the cantaloupe and honeydew on my plate.

My daily gardening routine this week has begun each day with watering the carrots, beets, and spinach I seeded on Monday. Today, I think I actually saw a couple of beets and one spinach that had germinated. Getting fall crops started during hot, dry weather is always challenging.

One of our fall crops that is doing well is our kale. I had to re-seed some parts of the two rows, and the peas I seeded between the rows are a total flop. But the kale is up and healthy. I made a note last night to spray the kale today with Thuricide. When I sprayed, I noticed very little bug damage to the leaves. Then I remembered that when I'd sprayed our cucumbers for bugs with some pretty nasty stuff, I used the leftover spray on the kale rows.

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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Today's gardening activities had to be worked in around the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. I grew up in Indy, attended qualifications with my Dad many times, but have never attended the race. Each Memorial Day we used to set up a radio on our back porch where we listened to the race while washing down and sometimes painting the porch. With the radio turned down, we could actually hear all the cars start up even though we lived miles from the track.

Having moved out of the old TV blackout area years ago, I now enjoy watching the race on TV. And the peak UV hours it runs, I don't need to be out in the sun.

Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines
Celery

Clumps of beets emergingSo today, I got busy early, watering the rows I planted on Monday. I observed bunches of beets coming up here and there in the row. I'd soaked much of the beet seed, and it stuck to my fingers and dropped in clumps when I planted. I also had to haul water to our row of cucumber plants. They've begun day wilting a bit, never a good sign. But they're also maturing lots of pretty, long cucumbers. I've resisted picking the best looking cucumbers, letting them mature and yellow for seed saving.

While they didn't get watered this morning, our two celery plants that have been in the ground forever are looking pretty good. How sweet the celery will be in this hot weather is another matter.

Our row of Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants also got a thorough watering. They are growing at what has turned out to be the dry end of our main raised garden bed. And in a break somewhere in those waterings, I watered and trimmed our gloxinia plants on our dining room table. Old blooms and leaves needed to be removed.

Raccoon damaged cantaloupeWhen I went to our East Garden plot, I took our pickup truck, as our garden cart was already fairly full of melons, yellow squash, and a couple of sprayers. The first thing I noticed was that at least one raccoon had finally found our melon patch. Fortunately, just one big Athena melon had been damaged. I suspect the limited foraging was due to our dogs who seemed to bark more than usual last night.

Produce for the food bankI was quickly glad I took the truck to the field, as there were lots of ripe cantaloupe and yellow squash. The majority of the ripe cantaloupes were Sugar Cubes, although there were some Athena and Kazakh melons and one ripe watermelon. When combined with the stuff from the cart, it pretty well filled an area from behind the wheel wells to the back of the truck. I keep and old board cut to size to keep the melons and such from rolling around and breaking in the truck bed.

A real surprise for me was that the yellow squash plant that had collapsed put up a couple of new leaves and appears to be ripening two more yellow squash.

Pretty vinca on back porch Pink geranium in planter over unused cistern Earlirouge tomato plants finally producing good fruit

I snapped a few extra shots today. The first is of some pretty vinca in a cocoa hanging basket. They always do well in this basket, although it's hard to keep it watered enough. The pink geraniums in a planter just off our back porch add some beauty to an otherwise cluttered area. And our Earlirouge tomatoes are finally producing some nice tomatoes. I hope to can whole tomatoes in the next few weeks, although most of the tomatoes canned will probably come from the plants in our East Garden.

1800Flowers

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Onions before trimming
Onions with tops trimmed off

Fruit BouquetsWe're back to some typical August weather. High temperatures have been in the nineties (heat index a hundred or more), and rain is scarce. After doing my morning waterings, I moved on to trimming our onions.

I'd hoped to trim, bag, and store onions today. But as I worked through all the onions on our drying/curing table in the garage, I found too many onions that seemed to be a bit moist and/or soft at their stems. So I unbagged the onions I planned to store today. I'm going to give the onions another week or so on the drying table.

During the trimming, I found only two or three onions that were rotting. I culled out a dozen or so onions that had possible soft spots or were flat on one side.

Working in the garage, I had a fan on me and also an occasional breeze that mitigated the 90° temperature. When I came inside, all three of our dogs also came in, panting heavily for some time. Daisy Duke, our fat, lovable, red beagle cross, took up position in front of an air conditioning vent.

I did pick several yellow squash, but our Slick Pik yellow squash plants are fading. I need to get their replacements transplanted, but not in ninety degree daytime temperatures.

My big treat of the day was finding several fully pollinated, mature ears of sweet corn. Both my wife, Annie, and I each enjoyed an ear and a half of sweet corn with our supper. There was more corn available, as I boiled six ears, but that was all we could eat along with our BLT sandwiches. The corn varieties were American Dream, an sh2 bicolor hybrid (77 days) and Elle, a yellow sh2 hybrid (78 days). Direct seeded on June 18, both varieties beat their days-to-maturity figures by a good bit. Of course, there are still lots of immature ears on the stalks, but those early ripenings remind folks that degree days have more to do with maturing some crops than days-to-maturity.

Canned and some underripe tomatoes

I canned a few tomatoes yesterday. The uncanned tomatoes in the image are a reminder that one shouldn't judge the ripeness of tomatoes with sunglasses on! We're still waiting for the bulk of our tomatoes to ripen. Our early planted Earlirouge tomatoes stunted during the drought and have just recovered enough to start putting on full sized tomatoes. Our tomatoes in the East Garden have already yielded some really nice, flavorful tomatoes, but are loaded with green to reddening tomatoes. We canned fifteen quarts of whole tomatoes last year, and that turned out to be not enough to last the winter. I'm aiming to can around twenty-five quarts this season.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Blanching celerySquash transplanted and mulchedAs usual, I began my gardening day with waterings. In addition to watering our emerging carrots, beets, and spinach, I added some liquid fertilizer to the water I gave our Earlirouge tomatoes.

After having read up on the subject online, I started blanching celery with brown paper grocery bags. I cut the bags to the right height to cover the stems up to the leaves and secured them with cotton string. I heaped soil around the bags and eventually mulched around the plants. Blanching celery stems helps make them less bitter tasting.

Despite midday temperatures in the 80s, I went ahead and transplanted two hills of Slick Pik yellow squash into our main raised garden bed. Each planting hole got some lime and balanced fertilizer worked into it. I watered the holes with about four gallons of water each with a bit of starter fertilizer added. The leaves of my transplants had bleached out a bit, so I'm hoping getting them into the ground will get them going.

While out in our main raised garden bed, it was impossible not to notice some cucumbers low on the vines yellowing. I purposely allowed this to happen, as we need a good seed crop this year. Picking the yellowed cucumbers should give the vines a boost, as when they're maturing seed, they don't bloom as profusely as usual.

Cucumbers for seed on our drying/curing table

The overripe (but about right for seed saving) cucumbers went onto our drying/curing table in the garage. For cucumbers (and later, butternut squash), I spread newspaper over the plywood to catch any droppings from cucumbers that might begin to rot. The cucumbers will need to cure for a week or two before I harvest seed from them.

The cucumbers are the Japanese Long Pickling variety which we've worked for years to preserve. I gave away seed for years hoping to ensure the variety's survival. Now, with a couple of seed houses offering slightly different strains of the variety, I sell JLP seed via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange.

Walmart

Thursday, August 27, 2020

With rain predicted for around midday, I got out early to work in our East Garden plot. There was a heavy cloud cover and no dew, so the work was pretty easy. I had grape and regular tomatoes to pick, a few yellow squash, and melons. Getting the melons picked was especially important, as my wife is taking cut melon pieces to a retirement dinner at her work tomorrow.

Judging the ripeness of cantaloupe and honeydew is pretty easy. They let you know when they are ripe by going to half or full slip. With watermelons, checking for browning of the stem, whitening or yellowing of the belly, and thunking are the best indicators of ripeness. I've been fine tuning my thunking skills as our watermelon harvest progresses. I missed on the first watermelon a week or so ago and had to pitch a melon with a slightly pink interior. But since then, I've gotten a bit better.

I came upon a huge Ali Baba watermelon today. While its stem hadn't browned, the skin of the melon was whitening and the melon thunked right. I picked it, but unsure of its ripeness, also plugged it right in the field. Fortunately, it was perfectly ripe. I picked several other watermelons of various varieties, none quite the size of the Ali Baba. I also picked several cantaloupe and one honeydew.

Forty pound Ali Baba melon

Moving the melons to the truck and then unloading those that I would cut, I wondered at the size of the Ali Baba. To solve my wonder, I set it on my postage scale. It weighed forty pounds, eight ounces. Since I'd plugged it, I cut that melon for pieces. It made way too much, of course.

Cut melon

The watermelon in the photo above all came from just the one, forty pound watermelon. I cut two Sugar Cube cantaloupes and one Passport honeydew. The rest of the melons picked today, three more watermelon and a half dozen or so cantaloupes, along with some yellow squash all went to our local food bank for tomorrow morning's food distribution.

Ali Babas have been our most dependable watermelon variety over the last ten years. Today's melon had incredible flavor and was a bit less seedy than I remember Ali Babas being in the past. The melons have thick, firm rinds which makes them a good choice for shipping. Sadly, I think their mature skin color puts people off the variety.

Our Ali Baba seed has come from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They're currently out of stock of the variety, but both the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and the Turtle Tree Seed Initiative still have Ali Baba seed available.

BTW: Not every Ali Baba melon reaches forty pounds. Another one I picked today was about half the size and weight of the big one I picked. But we have several other Ali Babas ripening that rival the size of the monster I picked today.

Garden Tower Project Contest

Friday, August 28, 2020 - Sweet Corn

Six dozen plus ears of sweet cornShucking and silking corn on the back porchI picked a little over six dozen ears of sweet corn this morning. The ears ranged from full sized, fully filled ears to short ones and ones with just partial pollination. Since we don't spray our corn with insecticides, many of the ears had earworms at their tip. The earworms are easily disposed of and the damaged tips trimmed off. When I was farming, I sprayed the corn silks with mineral oil, which was effective in keeping earworms out of the 2+ acres of sweet corn we grew and roadsided each year.

I spent most of the rest of the day shucking, silking, blanching, and freezing the corn. The cut corn made eight pints frozen with enough left over for Annie and I to have some with our supper. We should get one more good picking this season from our sweet corn patch.

We've been fortunate this year to have very little corn smut in our sweet corn. It can ruin a crop pretty quickly. When I've observed smut on our corn stalks, I've cut it out and removed it from the patch. Just a couple of ears today showed smut inside the leaf wrapper.

I tell all about how we grow and put up our sweet corn in our how-to, Growing a Garden Delicacy: Sweet Corn.

Saving Tomato Seed

I got started saving tomato seed this evening. I first cut open and squeezed the seed and surrounding gel out of a small bunch of Red Pearl grape tomatoes. Red Pearls have the best flavor of any grape tomato I've ever eaten. Since the variety is plant patented (PVP), I can only legally save seed from it for our future use. And at this point, I'm just trying to adapt the variety to our growing conditions. Johnny's Selected Seeds has had seed for the variety on sale for a long time.

I also started a batch of Quinte tomato seed. Quinte, also known as Easy Peel, is one of the Jack Metcalf developed varieties from which we save seed. I haven't saved any good Quinte seed since 2017, so it was high time I did so this year. I did save a batch of Earlirouge tomato seed earlier this summer. But the seed's initial germination test came in at 40%, so I won't be sharing any of that seed with others. Both the Quinte and Earlirouge tomato varieties are available commercially now from the Turtle Tree Seed Initiative. I shared some seed with them several years ago. They grew it out, liked them, and added the varieties to their tomato seed offerings.

See Saving Tomato Seed for the ins and outs of the process.

Fruit Bouquets

Saturday, August 29, 2020 - Kale

Kale rows (after picking)Kale with onions, garlic, and bacon boiling downWhile I was busy getting some late crops started and harvesting tomatoes, squash, melons, and sweet corn this month, our red kale plants had grown enough to demand a picking. I usually wait to pick any kale until we make our annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup.

I half filled a five gallon bucket (reserved for picking only) with red and lacinato kale leaves. As usual, our Vates (Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch) plants are running well behind the larger leaved varieties. They didn't get picked today.

After letting the kale soak for a half hour, it took an hour to strip the stems from the leaves and add salt, chopped onion, garlic, and some bacon to a large pot of boiling water. As I write, the kale is boiling down. With such large leaves, even stemmed, it will take several hours of boiling before the kale is tender.

Cucumber Vines

I may have waited too long to pick for seed the cucumbers that were yellowing on our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines. I picked about two dozen yellowed cukes this morning, but by this afternoon, the cucumber vines appeared to be in full wilt. Since we still have a pantry full of pickles and relish, this year's JLP crop was mainly for seed, but I'd hate to lose the vines anyway.

Wilted Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines

Soil conditions are really dry here again. Many of the kale leaves I picked today were limp. We desperately need a good rain, but the forecast isn't promising.

Earlirouge Tomatoes

Our Earlirouge tomato plants had been a major disappointment so far this season. I transplanted the tomatoes into a narrow raised bed on May 1. But things went downhill from there, and the plants clearly appeared to stunt from some cool weather and later dry spells.

Earlirouge tomato plants - August 29, 2020

With a wet period in July, lots of watering and even some midseason fertilization, the plants now appear to be recovering. They're ripening normal sized fruit. I'm not sure if that improvement will continue in our current dry spell, but I'll take what we can get from the plants. Fortunately, our tomato plants in the East Garden are now filled with maturing tomatoes.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Monday, August 31, 2020 - August Wrap-up

Crockett's Victory GardenAugust 2020 animated GIF of our Senior GardenI referenced the late James Underwood Crockett's book, Crockett's Victory Garden in my introduction to this month. His words, "August is the cornucopia month of the year..." really rang true for us the last few weeks. After a somewhat frustrating gardening season up to now, I found myself picking and sharing, canning, or freezing a different garden crop every day or so. While it kept me very busy, it's been a nice problem to have.

We've been overwhelmed with yellow squash and cucumbers this month with most of the excess going to our local food bank. Then came melons and more melons. We've had lots of cantaloupe and honeydew with most of our watermelons still to come. Our tomato plants finally began producing enough for us to begin canning them instead of feasting on BLTs about twice a week. I did our main picking and freezing of sweet corn last week and did an initial picking of kale.

It appears that I finally have gotten some fall carrots, beets, and spinach to germinate. Our rows of them aren't full, but are enough to work with. Two new yellow squash plants are taking hold in our main garden plot to replace the failing hills of Slick Piks in our East Garden.

David's Cookies

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