Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

June 30, 2020


Monday, June 1, 2020

Our Senior Garden - June 1, 2020
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Our East Garden - June 1, 2020
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I had big plans for today. It turned out that I had somewhat limited skill and endurance.

I got started this morning tilling our East Garden plot again. For the first tilling yesterday, I had the tiller set fairly shallow. Today, I set it to go full depth (around six inches down).

Along the way, it became necessary to remove a couple of trees that had fallen into one corner of the garden plot. Rather than hassle with a hard to start chainsaw, I threw a log chain around the trees one at a time and drug them with my truck. One tree broke off, and I drug it to our burn pile. The other didn't, but I was able to get it out of the way.

The tilling went well. Some areas of the East Garden are pretty much planting ready. Others could use another pass with either the pull-type tiller or our old walking tiller.

Finishing in the early afternoon, I unmounted the tiller, changed the oil and lubed the lawn tractor, and began to remount the mower deck. All went well until I had to thread the drive belt through a series of pulleys. My old hands weren't nimble enough today for the task. Maybe tomorrow.

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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Our Senior Garden - June 4, 2020Grass clippings piled by East Garden plotIt rained off and on today, so not much gardening got done. I did mow and rake our lawn yesterday. All of the grass clippings swept up plus those that had been curing by our raised beds are now along the east edge of our East Garden plot. I'll use the clippings for mulch under the tomato and pepper plants I plan to plant down the edge of the plot.

I went out to cut some lettuce for a houseguest today. I cut one romaine and one iceberg for her. I also found two cauliflower to cut. One had yellowed a bit, while the other was pure white but a bit smaller. The houseguest, my wife's best friend, took home the lettuce, a huge head of broccoli, and some cauliflower florets.

I also found about twenty pea pods filled out to pick.

Evening sky - June 4, 2020

We get some nice sunsets and evening skies here. Tonight's evening sky was pretty, but not spectacular. But it was sure nice to look at.

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Friday, June 5, 2020

Replacement sage plantSage plants on west end of East GardenImagine having an eighty foot square garden plot all tilled and ready for planting. Also imagine having an adjacent one acre field to mow and collect grass clippings from to mulch that garden plot. That's what I'm blessed to have right now. It's a month later than I'd hoped to start planting this area, but it's still exciting.

I got a late start gardening today. Heavy morning fog followed by some just plain laziness kept me inside until after noon. The first thing to go into the plot was a replacement sage plant. We use perennial sage plants to mark the corners and halfway marks of our East Garden. Every few years, a plant or two needs replacing. When the sage bloom, they can put on quite a show. But their main purpose is to mark key points of the garden plot and to annoy deer that are said to dislike the smell of sage.

I then moved to the east side of the garden plot. I'm hoping to have a long row of caged tomato and pepper plants there. I didn't get very far today before the heat got to me. I transplanted two Moira tomato plants, two New Ace pepper plants, and one each of Red Knight and Abay peppers.

Each planting hole got some peat moss mixed into its soil along with some lime, egg shell, and 12-12-12 solid fertilizer. I liberally watered the planting holes with starter solution. Our usual starter solution is made up of dilute Quick Start and Maxicrop fertilizers. For the tomatoes, I added some Serenade biofungicide. We had some anthracnose in the garden plot last season, although not in the area where the tomatoes are going. The Serenade soil drench is just a precaution.

First tomatoes and peppers going into our East Garden plot

First peas of the seasonWe already have six Earlirouge tomato plants and seven Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants in our raised garden beds. The plants going into the East Garden are other varieties we want isolated from the other plantings. In years past, we've had late plantings like this one mature fruit well into the fall.

After taking a break to cool down and hydrate, I went out to pick peas. Fortunately, our Champion of England and Maxigolt varieties appear to be maturing at the same time. There weren't all that many peas ready to pick today. It looks like we'll do a major picking in a day or two or three. Shelled, the peas partially filled a salad/soup bowl.

Commentary

I'm a little frustrated that I can't get more done in a day. Maybe it's the years catching up to me, but I'm not adapting well to the rather intense heat and humidity we're experiencing. But as I came in from the East Garden today feeling a little defeated, I told myself that I get to go out and transplant more tomatoes and peppers tomorrow. Even with the heat, I'll enjoy that.

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Saturday, June 6, 2020 - More Tomatoes and Peppers

I got started today by transplanting two Quinte and one each of Mountain Fresh Plus and Bella Rosa tomatoes. I'd let some of our tomato seed get a bit old and need to save fresh seed from both the Quinte and Moira varieties. I filled in the space between the Moiras, Quintes, and the hybrid Mountain Fresh Plus and Bella Rosa varieties with pepper plants. While for true purity in saved tomato seed one needs to leave a lot more space between varieties, the ten to fifteen feet between the open pollinated varieties I'll save seed from is sufficient for our purposes. We do grow our superstar variety, Earlirouge, over a hundred yards away to ensure they won't cross with our other tomato varieties.

Deluxe holes for tomato and pepper transplantsAs I did yesterday, I gave each tomato transplant a deluxe planting hole. I dug down almost a foot deep and backfilled each hole with peat moss which I mixed with the native soil. A little lime and lots of ground egg shell were added to help ward off blossom end rot. Each planting hole also got a sprinkle of 12-12-12 commercial fertilizer to sustain the plants. Each planting hole got a couple of gallons of our starter solution applied.

I squished the tomato transplants into the mud I'd made and formed a trough around each plant to hold in rainwater or any extra watering I do.

While strong winds aren't as big a problem in our East Garden as they are in our raised beds, I still used a T-post between pairs of tomato cages to anchor them. Before adding the cages, each tomato transplant was mulched with grass clippings to hold in soil moisture and impede weeds germinating around the plants. The grass clipping mulch will decay over the season and will need to be refreshed from time to time.

Having transplanted our hybrid peppers yesterday, our peppers transplanted today were all open pollinated Hungarian Spice paprika peppers. I've not had much success saving seed from this variety, but hope to try again this year. They're great for drying and grinding to ground paprika. I put in five of the paprika peppers between our hybrid tomatoes and the Quintes.

After transplanting the peppers, I put in a couple of Dixie Red hybrids and one each of the open pollinated Bradley and Crimson Sprinter varieties. At that point, I'd run out of energy and enthusiasm for the task.

I had to leave a space in the row of tomato and pepper cages to get a tiller through. That space may also serve our local deer and raccoon population.

Tomato and pepper row in East Garden

I still have some space left in the row and some transplants and unused cages. Before I do much more in the row, though, I want to get our grape tomato varieties planted. We grow Red Pearl and Honey Bunch. They'll grow in another area of our East Garden at the ends of rows of other crops. I like to have our grape tomatoes where they're easy to access.

Towards seven o'clock, I ventured back outside to pick a few peas. I got some, but not many more than last night. What I did find were four ripe heads of cauliflower, two white and two purple.

Caulifower

This picking of cauliflower pretty well cleared that row. There's one replacement plant still in the row, but it won't produce anything before the weather turns cauliflower bitter. I'm pleased with our cauliflower harvest. Our spring crop often gets caught by hot weather before it matures. I'll actually be seeding our fall crop of broccoli and cauliflower towards the end of this month.

Relevant How-tos

Renee's Garden

Sunday, June 7, 2020 - Freezing Peas and Cauliflower

We had a family get together today, so no outdoor gardening got done. I was a little surprised when we got to the gathering to see about seven or eight people sitting closely together on the lawn without masks on. There were another eight to ten people inside, all unmasked! I fear such behaviors may trigger a second wave of the Coronavirus. I kept my mask on for the visit, as I'm obviously in that senior citizen high risk group for contracting the virus. I did, however, break protocol when leaving and hugged a granddaughter who lived with us until she was two.

Ball Blue Book to PreservingAfter a recovery nap when we got home, I decided to pick peas. Each day our pea harvest gets a little bigger with possibly the best harvest yet to come. I resolved while picking at around eight o'clock that I'd pick earlier in the day from now on. Not only was I pestered by black flies, the mosquitoes were out.

After shelling the peas, I consulted both the Ball Blue Book and The Spruce Eats for blanching times. After blanching the peas in boiling water for two minutes, I quick cooled them in ice water and drained them. The peas we've picked so far filled just two pint Ziploc Freezer Bags. You've gotta love homegrown peas to put up with all the time and expense in growing and saving them. Note that The Spruce Eats suggests spreading the peas on a cookie sheet to freeze before bagging them.

I'd cut the cauliflower I'd picked yesterday into florets and popped them into the refrigerator in a Green Bag overnight. After doing the peas, I blanched the cauliflower for five minutes before quick cooling it. I drained the cauliflower and spread the florets over a clean kitchen towel to dry a bit before spreading them on a non-stick cookie sheet to freeze.

Blanching cauliflower Quick cooling blanched cauliflower Drying cauliflower

Interestingly, the Violet of Sicily cauliflower turns from purple to green when blanched (or cooked). I'd forgotten that one. It still tastes like cauliflower.

Garden Tower Project

Monday, June 8, 2020

I spent most of my gardening time today working in our East Garden. I wanted to get a couple of grape tomato plants transplanted that will also mark the ends of a future vegetable row. I planted an open pollinated Red Pearl about midway on one side of the garden and a hybrid Honey Bunch on the other side. Red Pearls are the best tasting grape tomato I've experienced. While not quite as flavorful, the Honey Bunch variety produces lots of grape tomatoes, even under somewhat adverse growing conditions.

Our East Garden - June 8, 2020

Sadly, the bulk of my time was spent replacing dead tomato and pepper plants. I know one should avoid transplanting stuff in the heat of the day, but I went ahead and did it anyway last week. I paid the price today, having to replace two tomato plants and three peppers. I also may have gotten the grass clipping mulch too close to the plant stems.

Later in the day, I picked peas, but not late enough for the mosquitoes to be out. Our harvest volume has seemed to level off. I got about a pint of shelled peas from today's picking.

Botannical Interests

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Our Senior Garden on a windy day - June 9, 20201-800-Flowers Deal of the WeekWe had a blustery day today as the remnants of tropical storm Cristobal and another front moved through the area. Sustained wind speeds above 30 MPH were the norm for the day. As you can see at left, our new maple tree was really impacted by the wind. It rained a bit now and then, but without substantial accumulation.

I got out this morning before the rain started and replaced another tomato plant in our East Garden plot. While there, I cleaned up some weeds around one of our sage plant corner markers, fertilized, watered, and mulched it. I also drug a bunch of undigested material off the top of our old compost pile, moving the stuff to our new compost pile.

I'm going to have to be careful using compost from the old pile, as I put tomato vines infected with anthracnose in it. Whether the disease remains active in the compost or not, I'll use the compost on plants not susceptible to the disease.

During a lull in the rain, actually during a mist, I butchered our oregano in our herb garden. It was getting ready to go to seed and was trying to overgrow everything around it. The cuttings half filled our four cubic foot garden cart!

A gift of canning jarsAn old friend had dropped off a bunch of canning jars last week. I'd let them sit on the back porch until today. With the jars in cardboard cartons and rain on the way, I brought the jars inside and washed and scalded them all. The majority of the jars were regular mouth pints, the size we use the most. After years of giving away canned garden products, I finally had to buy more jars last summer. So our friend's generosity and thoughtfulness should help a lot this summer. With our kids grown and out of the house, we now use far more pint canning jars than quarts.

We froze three pints of peas this evening. It appears that we may have several more good pickings before the peas play out. Getting ready for the peas' demise, I started some Japanese Long Pickling cucumber plants inside. Once the early pea vines are out, the cucumber plants will make good use of our double trellis. I also started some peas to fill in bare spots in an upcoming planting of our supersweet pea varieties.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

We had another very windy day again today. It felt like rain all day, but it never rained. And we have no rain predicted in our extended weather forecast! While not steady as they were yesterday, wind speeds today were again above 30 MPH.

I ran into a surprise over the weekend. I'd planned to pick up several big bales of peat moss at the Terre Haute Rural King. All they had were a few small bales at about twice the regular price. So today I drove down to the Vincennes Rural King. Their web site said they still had some peat moss at the regular price. When I got there, I saw no peat moss and headed across the road to Lowes. I picked up four, three cubic foot bales of the stuff. The staff there said they were running short of peat moss.

We mix peat moss about half and half with native soil when we transplant melons and squash. I used up about half of my last bale of peat transplanting the tomatoes and peppers into our East Garden. The peat moss, once wet, retains moisture and also loosens the soil. Getting the peat moss to absorb water can be a problem. Peat repels cold water. When transplanting, I try to run my water into buckets well ahead of time to let the water warm in the sun.

My wife, Annie, helped me pick and shell peas this afternoon. Our pea production has definitely leveled off, and there aren't all that many pea pods still visible on the vines. We ate about half of what we picked with our supper!

While Annie was picking peas, I cut two heads of lettuce. I also pulled two or three plants that had bolted. After cleaning the lettuce, I found that the red romaine I'd cut was bitter. Fortunately, the head of iceberg lettuce was still sweet.

It appears we're about at the end of our pea and lettuce harvests.

I'd been undecided about whether to begin direct seeding kidney beans, sweet corn, peas, pumpkins, and zinnias into our East Garden or to begin transplanting melons. With no rain in the immediate forecast, I'll concentrate on transplanting melons since I have to haul water anyway to transplant them. I'll probably go ahead and direct seed our pumpkins, as I give them a well watered deluxe planting hole when starting them.

The sweet corn should have time to make a crop with our longest season variety at 78 days-to-maturity. The kidney beans get a little iffy at 100 days, although ours always seem to mature at around 85-90 days. The peas will have plenty of time, but may not be all that sweet maturing in hot weather.

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Thursday, June 11, 2020 - Transplanting

Slick Pik yellow squash plantsTwoo squash and two cantaloupes transplantedI got a start on transplanting into our East Garden this morning. I put in two hills of Slick Pik yellow squash and two of Sugar Cube cantaloupe. The transplants were pretty big due to delays in being able to work the soil in our East Garden plot. But they went in pretty easily.

Each hill was actually a deluxe hole. I dug down about a foot deep and wide, refilling the hole with peat moss. I added lime and fertilizer to the hole and worked it all into the native soil. Then each hole got a couple of gallons of starter solution. This time the solution was dilute Quick Start fertilizer and Serenade biofungicide.

Note: I've removed the link that was above to Serenade biofungicide. While we've purchased this product for $16-20 as recently as last December, several of our affiliated advertisers are now demanding $79 for a 32 ounce bottle of the concentrate. That's obviously price gouging.

The transplants, two or three plants in a four and a half inch pot, went into the mud and were mulched around with grass clippings. Then they got a bit more water.

The hybrid Slick Pik yellow squash is a prolific producer of long, thin yellow squash. The plants wear themselves out pretty quickly, though. I'll need to seed replacement plants inside soon so we won't have an interruption in our supply of the delicious yellow squash.

Sugar Cubes are a small, hybrid cantaloupe with incredible flavor. If you can keep the plants watered and bugs off of them, they can produce all season.

I'd hoped to transplant more today, but had other pressing jobs to do inside. I didn't get out to take pictures until evening. But I did take a few minutes in the afternoon to pick and shell peas. Our production was understandably down a bit, as the pea vines are about at the end of their life cycle. I'm guessing one more picking, and that will be it.

Drought Possible?

I heard a local weather person use the "D" word, "drought," on tonight's forecast. Our extended weather forecast from the Weather Underground shows no chance of rain for the next ten days.

A dry ten day forecast from the Weather Underground

The weather person noted that a mini-drought was just a possibility at this point. But if the forecast above holds true, I'll be hauling a lot of water to our garden plots. A check of the U.S. Drought Monitor map didn't show us as being in a drought or one likely, but it sure is getting dry here.

Drought Information
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United States Seasonal Drought Outlook
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U.S. Weekly Drought Monitor
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1800Flowers

Saturday, June 13, 2020 - Eyes

Yesterday turned out to be a washout on gardening, as my wife checked the calendar and saw that I had an eye checkup at the Eye Specialists of Indiana. I had cataract surgery on both eyes a year ago and this appointment was for another YAG Capsulotomy, a cleanup of stuff that can cloud ones eye after cataract surgery.

We spent over four hours driving to and from Indianapolis and another three and a half hours at the Eye Specialists. Like most medical facilities, they let you wait a good bit in between seeing various technicians, specialists, and doctors. By the time we got home, we both grabbed a bite to eat and took much needed naps.

All the hassle involved with such procedures was worth it. I'm seeing much better today. After the procedures, my distance vision is back to 20-20! Of course, I scramble for my glasses when I have to read any fine print. grin

More Cantaloupe

We now have two yellow squash and eight cantaloupe hills in our East Garden. I transplanted six more cantaloupe this morning. I'd put in two hills of Sugar Cubes on Thursday. Today, I put in hills of Athena, Avatar, Minnesota Midget, Roadside Hybrid, Sarah's Choice, and Spear. The Minnesota Midget and Spear varieties are new ones for us. All the rest are old favorites. Sadly, seed for the excellent Roadside Hybrid variety no longer is commercially available.

Melon patch - June 13, 2020

Each hill had between two and four plants in it. I ended up using twenty plus gallons of water (starter solution) for the transplanting!

I won't bore you with my deluxe hole planting method for melons in poor soil again, but will share a link for how we do it: Growing Great Melons on Heavy Clay Soil.

I'll be moving on to transplanting honeydew and then watermelon in the coming days. We're obviously way behind in getting our melons planted, but should still see some nice harvests in late August and early September. Having experienced physical and mechanical breakdowns the last two years that prevented fully planting our East Garden, I'm really pumped about getting it in this year.

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Sunday, June 14, 2020 - Long Shadows, Long Day

Our Senior Garden - June 14, 2020We got an unexpected tenth of an inch of rain early this morning. It's not much, but we'll take what we can get.

The first hatch of our local baby hummingbirds must have left the nest. My first clue was when they emptied a feeder twice by noon today that I usually have to refill every other day. In response, I added a huge (32 oz) feedericon to supplement the already hanging ten and sixteen ounce feeders.

I continued my morning transplantings today with three honeydew and two watermelon hills. I might have transplanted more, but I ran out of grass clipping mulch. The honeydews were Kazakh, Passport, and Tam Dew.

Kazakh is a new to us, highly recommended variety from Glen Drowns Sand Hill Preservation Center. (They're currently sold out of Kazakh seed.) Passport is a long favorite hybrid honeydew. Tam Dews produce a slightly spicy, but delightfully flavored white skinned when ripe honeydew.

The watermelon were Crimson Sweet and Crimson Sweet Virginia Select. Crimson Sweet is the long standard open pollinated, seeded favorite of many growers for their plant vigor and good flavor. (Note to English majors: While "open pollinated, seeded" may appear to be redundant to you, not everyone knows that all seedless watermelons are hybrids.)

After a rather frustrating trip to town for supplies, I got busy mowing and sweeping up lawn clippings to use as mulch. While I got our yard done by about eight o'clock, I still have the one acre plus field next to us to mow and sweep tomorrow. Its grass has gotten a bit high, so it will take time to mow, but will also produce a lot of much needed mulch for the East Garden.

My shopping frustration was being one of the very few wearing a face mask and observing social distancing at our local Walmart and Baesler's Market grocery. It appeared that couple of local churches had let out about the same time, and old friends were hugging and kissing in clusters. If folks around our country continue to behave like the folks I saw today, we're going to face a massive second wave of the Coronavirus.

Hummingbird Feeders

Monday, June 15, 2020

Our melons, pumpkins, and squash are finally all planted. I began today finishing out our rows of watermelon. I transplanted Ali Baba, Blacktail Mountain, Congo, Farmers Wonderful (triploid), Kleckley Sweet, Moon & Stars, Picnic, and Trillion (triploid). I ended up with a couple of open spots at the end of a row, so I direct seeded another hill of Blacktail Mountain and one of Slick Pik yellow squash.

Melons planted and mulched with grass clippings

Ali Babas are probably our most dependable watermelon variety. The melons are seedy, but flavorful. The vines seem resistant to a lot of diseases and produce throughout a growing season.

Blacktail Mountains are a Glen Drowns variety that have a short days-to-maturity number (70) and don't seem to need hot summer heat to produce flavorful melons.

Kleckley Sweets are an old favorite of ours that I had to quit growing because our local raccoon population liked them as much or more than we do. The raccoons took to rolling the melons to the edge of the nearby woods to eat them to avoid our dogs. I sorta tried to hide the Kleckleys amongst our other varieties this year.

Planting hole prepared for direct seedingFruit BouquetsSurprised that I wasn't worn out by doing the melons, I realized that today's cooler temperatures (70s) were helping me out. I went on to direct seed two hills of pumpkins and transplant two hills of butternut squash. The pumpkins seeded were Howden and Jack O'Lantern. The squash were Waltham Butternut and South Anna Butternut Squash. Howden and Waltham Butternut are old favorites of ours that have grown well on our ground for years. The South Anna butternuts are an experiment. And the Jack O'Lanterns were just some other seed I had on hand.

The pumpkins are both about 115 days-to-maturity varieties. With any luck, that should bring us ripe pumpkins early in October.

To avoid weed germination problems, the direct seeded crops got a deluxe hole topped with a couple of inches of potting soil mixed with ProMix, neither of which should contain any weed seeds.

Butternuts transplanted

The grass clipping mulch used today was pretty green. I had to be careful not to let it touch any of the tender stems of the transplants, as the green mulch may heat up a bit as it begins to decay.

We're going to end up with 28 hills to water (yellow squash, cantaloupe, honeydews, watermelon, butternut squash, and pumpkins)! While the transplanting has been a bit gruelling, hauling water during this and other dry spells will also be difficult. I went through about fifty gallons of water doing today's direct seedings and transplantings.

I usually only use half of our 80'x80' East Garden plot, with the rest seeded to turndown crops such as buckwheat. But after two years of not using much of the plot, I decided this year to use the full area. I may pay for that one with problems with future crop rotations.

I still have to direct seed a long row of zinnias, some peas, kidney beans and sweet corn before the East Garden is entirely planted. Even though we're running about a month late getting these plantings done, we should still get some good harvests from what we're putting in.

Charity: Water

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 - Zinnias

Long row of zinniasZinnia row marked with stringThere probably were other more pressing chores to do this morning, but I chose to spend an hour along the edge of our East Garden sowing zinnia seed. I often line one 80' side of the East Garden with Zinnias, as they grow well in our climate and also remind me of my mother, who loved zinnias.

I save zinnia seed each fall, so making a big planting of the flowers is a no expense garden item. The seed I used today was primarily saved last fall. I did add three small samples of zinnia seed from the Burpee 2018 Advent Calendar. (More about them later.)

I began the planting by staking and stringing a forty foot section along the west edge of our East Garden plot between the corner and halfway sage plant markers. I raked the soil somewhat smooth, removing clumps of dead grass along the way.

Then I used a garden hoe to make a shallow furrow down the line. I added water to the base of the furrow and then sprinkled a generous amount of seed down the row. I used a rake to cover and tamp the soil over the seed.

Then I repeated the whole process with another forty foot section between sage plant markers.

Lots of zinnia seed spread in watered furrow

I obviously spread way too much seed in the watered furrow, but ended up using less than a quarter of the zinnia seed I'd saved last fall. I may have to thin the zinnias a bit, but that's far better than having to re-seed sections of the row.

2018 Burpee Advent CalendarSorting and packaging Burpee samplesAs to the Burpee seed, I had three small samples of zinnia seed from a Burpee Advent Calendar I received in late 2017. The advent calendar, apparently discontinued last year, was a real trip. Opening up a small door for each day from December 1 through 25 revealed a small sample of a new variety of seed Burpee was offering. Like a little kid waiting for Christmas, I looked forward to opening a door each day and reading about the new offering in an included booklet. It was a great promotion.

Over the years I received the calendars, I've tried a few of the new offerings. More often, I have shared seed I knew I wouldn't use with friends, family, and other gardeners. But the three zinnia offerings I kept, as each one looked pretty in its own way. While some new seed offerings don't last more than a year or two, the zinnia varieties are still available from Burpee.

Forcast zinnia icon Garnet Treasure Hybrid icon Queen Lime with Blush icon
Forecast Garnet Treasure Hybrid Queen Lime with Blush

I'm hoping the new varieties will add something to what may be another spectacular display of zinnias this year.

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Raking Grass Clippings and Mulching

Melon row mostly mulchedBlacktail Mountain plant with melon on the vineMy main job for today was supposed to be sweeping up grass clippings and using them to mulch the new plantings in our East Garden plot. I immediately encountered a problem when using our lawn sweeper, as the rows of clippings were too thick for the lawn sweeper to handle. Over most of the area, I had to mow again over the clippings to spread them out a bit. Then I was able to rake most of them with the lawn sweeper.

I paused sweeping to spread the clippings between our hills of melons. Getting the clippings in place may help prevent weed germination. With the arthritis in my lower back, spreading grass clippings is one of the toughest jobs I do.

I got most of our melon rows mulched before the lawn sweeper lost one of its rubber tires. It took a while and some soapy water to remount the rubber tire on its rim. By that point, I had most of our two rows of melons mulched down the row and decided to call it quits for the day.

While working the melons, I remembered that one of our Blacktail Mountain watermelon plants had put on a melon. It apparently has survived transplanting. Blacktail Mountains are the earliest producers of good watermelons I know of.

Peas

We quit picking peas a couple of days ago. Our daily yield wasn't all that much, although we're still enjoying fresh peas with supper each evening from previous pickings. Some of the pea vines have begun to brown out, but I'm not pulling them yet. I'm letting the few remaining pea pods mature and dry for seed saving.

I've not saved Champion of England or Maxigolt pea seed in the past, as both varieties remain commercially available from respected seed houses at a reasonable cost. But I decided to try saving seed this year to see what some possible crossing the two varieties might produce. Both yield early, tasty peas. Champion of England vines grow to a full five feet tall for us while the Maxigolts are a good bit shorter. The Maxigolts seem to have a longer productive period. I'm not sure how much saved seed we'll get, as we were pretty efficient pickers. I'll also have to eventually pull the vines to make way for a succession crop of Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Lettuce plants boltedSeed pods on Goliath broccoli plantToday's gardening began with watering the 28 hills of melons and squash we have out along with some pepper and tomato plants. It took about 30 gallons of water to give each of them a good drink. While out in the East Garden, I finished and tidied up the grass clipping mulch around our melons.

I've sort of ignored our raised garden beds while trying to get our East Garden plot planted. So today, I got busy cleaning things up in our main raised bed. Our broccoli, other than the row of Goliath we're growing for seed, all came out. Likewise, four bolted lettuce plants went to our compost pile. One Goliath broccoli plant clearly has seed pods formed on it. And bumblebees are visiting the yellow blooms on the other plants.

The lettuce area will get a couple more celery transplants and a direct seeding of a few beets. The area where our cauliflower and other broccoli grew will be seeded to lima beans.

Timing

I'm starting a lot of long season crops right now that should just barely mature before the frosts of fall end our gardening season. Today's direct seedings were of a row of kidney beans and four rows of sweet corn.

The kidney bean seed was some I saved in 2017 when we had a bumper crop of the beans from a 45' row. The seed had been in our manual defrost freezer. This year's kidney bean row is about 23-24' long which should provide us with plenty of beans for Portuguese Kale Soup and Refried Kidney Beans. While our original seed from Fedco Seeds was described as a 102 days-to-maturity variety, ours usually mature in 85-90 days.

Our sweet corn for 2020 should have plenty of time to make a crop. While the varieties' days-to-maturity figures suggest a mid- to late September harvest, corn matures more by degree days. Growing in the hottest part of the summer, I'd guess we'll have corn on the cob by early September.

We'll be growing American Dream, an sh2 bicolor hybrid (77 days), Elle, a yellow sh2 hybrid (78 days), and a few Summer Sweet 7640R, yet another sh2 hybrid (84 days) from some very old seed I've had in the freezer.

Seeding sweet corn

Today's direct seedings went into some very rough ground that could have used another pass or two with a rototiller. Trying to beat some much needed rain predicted for the weekend, I went ahead with the planting today. I did water the furrows the seed went into to give the seed a bit of a head start. I'd also briefly soaked the kidney bean seed.

Breaking with my usual practice, I did not broadcast fertilizer over the sweet corn area before tilling. I plan to sidedress the rows with 12-12-12 fertilizer when I rototill for weed control. I also spaced our seed a lot closer in the row than normal due to the dry soil conditions. I'd rather thin the row than have to re-seed or transplant replacements into it.

Other Stuff

Tomatoes on Earlirouge plantsProvider green bean plant blossomingDespite some serious leaf curl due to dry soil conditions, our six Earlirouge tomato plants are now filled with small tomatoes. I've been hauling ten to fifteen gallons of water to the tomatoes' narrow raised bed about once a week, but we really need a good soaking rain.

Another pleasant view from today's garden were a couple of pretty purple blooms peeking out between the leaves of a Provider green bean plant. That's a welcome sign, as we try to get our green beans harvested and canned before the adjacent field of soybeans begins to host a horde of Japanese beetles that seem to love green beans even more than they do soybeans.

The Home Depot

Friday, June 19, 2020

Screening compostCompost/peat moss mix applied to pea rowI'm feeling a little defeated this afternoon after being driven back inside after just an hour or so of work in our East Garden. A combination of heat, insects, an arthritic back, and allergies simply took away my energy and joy of gardening.

I broke open our "finished" compost pile this morning. The upper levels of it were mostly sticks, grass clumps and such that hadn't broken down much. But as I dug into the pile, I began to reach some rich, dark compost. I screened the compost and mixed it half and half with peat moss, spreading it down a line where I hope to direct seed supersweet peas in the next day or so.

I also started some Summer Sweet 6800R in deep sixpack inserts today. While I seeded our sweet corn pretty heavily, having some transplants on hand to fill in bare spots in the row might come in handy. The 6800R variety was our most dependable short season (73 days-to-maturity) yellow corn for years. Seed for the variety is no longer available, but I still had some seed in the freezer.

Habitat for Humanity

Saturday, June 20, 2020

I was pleased this morning to see that our direct seeded pumpkins, watermelon, and squash had germinated. Trying to beat the day's heat, I'd gotten out a little earlier this morning than yesterday to water the direct seeded hills. While they were up, they still got a drink, and if we don't get any rain tonight, they will need watering again tomorrow morning. Not up as yet are any of our long row of zinnias. I don't water them beyond the watering their furrow got when they were seeded.

Howden pumpkins germinated Jack O'Lantern pumpkins up Blacktail Watermelon just barely up Slick Pik yellow squash up

I moved on to finishing screening and hauling compost mixed with peat moss to our prospective pea row. I got done just before noon with the temperature headed for 90° F.

Our Senior TillerCompost and peat tilled into pea rowAfter two beers, a ham sandwich, and an hour to cool down, my next job was replacing the drive cable on our senior rototiller. I'd dreaded the job, as the cable passes through some tight spots and is anchored behind a couple of drive housings. But whoever designed the thing had left just enough room to slip a narrow wrench between the housings to loosen and tighten the cable anchor. Once the cable was fixed, the twenty-six year old tiller fired up on the first pull of the starter cord!

I chose to till the area where our peas will go with our walking tiller, as it goes a couple of inches deeper than our pull-type tiller. I tilled in the compost and peat moss mix along with some fertilizer and lime.

The area is now ready for planting. I'll need to dig a wide furrow, sprinkle some granular soil inoculant down it, and thoroughly water the furrow before direct seeding. That seeding can't happen until I've soaked the pea seed, so I hope to direct seed peas tomorrow morning. Once the peas are up, I'll add a short trellis down the row to keep the peas up off the ground.

Starting peas this late in the season is a bit risky. Our saved, supersweet pea seed doesn't germinate well in cool soil. I'm hoping that this late planting in hot weather will pop the peas right up out of the ground...if we get a good rain soon. How many pea pods will set on in the summer heat and how sweet the peas will be remains to be seen. But if we're fortunate, nearly eighty feet of pea row should satisfy our cravings for peas.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A very dry East Garden on June 20, 2020

June 18 Drought Monitor for IndianaWeather Underground Extended ForecastOur county (shown in green at left) slipped into the "Abnormally Dry" classification in last Thursday's U.S. Drought Monitor release. The dry spell had me hauling a lot of water to our newly transplanted melons, but it also allowed me to do a lot of mowing, planting, mulching, and tilling. As of yesterday, I only had to get our supersweet peas direct seeded and our East Garden would finally be fully planted.

My plan was to get up early this morning to begin soaking our pea seed for an afternoon planting. When I got up, there was thunder, lightening, and some much needed rain. But the rain also put my planting plans on hold. While disappointed to not get the peas in, the rain should help pop up our recently direct seeded zinnias, sweet corn, and kidney beans. It will also trigger a lot of weed germination, so I'll stay busy mowing and mulching for weed control and tilling when necessary.

Brightening an otherwise somewhat dreary Father's Day, some of our gloxinias have burst into bloom over the last week or so.

Gloxinias in bloom on our dining room table

I've messed around hand pollinating and crossing three different varieties of gloxinias: Empress; Double Brocade; and Cranberry Tiger. The Cranberry Tiger influence produces huge, almost unmanageable leaves but they also have picked up the double (frilly) blooms of the hybrid Double Cascade.

1800Flowers

Monday, June 22, 2020 - At Last: Planting Peas

After several days of getting the ground ready, I got to plant our short, supersweet pea varieties this morning. I'd previously tilled in compost, peat moss, lime, and fertilizer along the row. After stringing the row, I used an old flat shovel to make a 8" wide furrow an inch or two deep.

I spread granular soil inoculant down the row to help the pea plants' roots fix nitrogen. Then I thoroughly watered the furrow using a sprinkler can until water began to stand in the furrow. I used about twenty-five gallons of water mixed with a bit of Serenade biofungicide.

Furrow dug and watered Part of furrow seeded to Eclipse peas Heavy seeding rate Furrow partly covered and tamped down - weeds visible

I'd soaked our pea seed for a couple of hours in warm, but not hot water. I strained the water off the pea seed and spread the seed down the row. My rate of seeding was really heavy. Some of our older pea seed had poor germination rates and the varieties planted are prone to poor germination. Pulling soil back over the seed and tamping the ground with a garden rake completed the planting.

A little over half of the furrow was seeded to Eclipse peas. The rest was seeded to Encore, a variety that is part of the heritage of the supersweet Eclipse variety.

Some pretty serious weed breakthroughs are visible in one of the photos above. With rain predicted overnight, I switched out our lawn tractor from its mower deck to our pull-type rototiller. That onerous job took an hour. Tilling the unplanted portions of the East Garden took about forty-five minutes and was a much more pleasant job.

East Garden planted and cultivated - June 22, 2020

One area of the East Garden didn't get cultivated today. Our rows of kidney beans and sweet corn are a bit too narrow for our pull-type tiller to navigate. I'll have to scuffle hoe weeds until the kidney bean and sweet corn seeds germinate. Once they're up, I can use our walking tiller for cultivation and weed control.

Today's planting pretty well completes our East Garden plantings. There is a bit of room left in the tomato and pepper row, although my enthusiasm for such plantings is not strong. But I'm a happy gardener, as this is the first time in the last three years I've been able to get our East Garden plot fully planted.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

According to our rain gauge, it appears we received three-fourths of an inch of rain last night. That means we got lucky, as some nearby weather reporting stations only got a quarter inch of rain.

Sweet corn up Kidney beans up Irish Spring soap chips spread in rows

Whether they were going to emerge today anyway or the rain helped, our sweet corn and kidney beans direct seeded last Thursday are now emerging. That makes a note I put in my "Compose" document a few days ago pertinent for today:

Reminder:

Spread Irish Springicon bar soap chips around kidney beans and sweet corn as soon as they emerge. Deer dislike the odor of the soap.

Irish Spring bar soap
Nite Guard Solar Predator Control Light

Not Tonight Deer! packageAfter I scuffle hoed some weeds around the corn and beans, I cut up half a bar of Irish Spring soap and spread the soap chips around the plantings. I will add our Nite Guard Solar Predator Control Lights along our row of tomato cages to further discourage deer.

As the corn grows, I'll begin spraying it with our home brew of Not Tonight, Deer! While the product is no longer commercially available, our version of it smells and presumably tastes horrible to deer. While it does diminish deer predation, it doesn't have much effect on raccoons.

Even though it was wet out, I did a little more tilling with our pull-type tiller today. When done, I cleaned the tiller and unmounted it. Unfortunately, I've apparently spent too much time on my knees on our concrete garage floor mounting and unmounting the tiller and aggravated the torn meniscus cartilage in my knees.

Getting old can be a bummer, but it beats the alternative. Keep those masks on when out! We all hopefully have many more years of gardening to do.

Eartheasy

Thursday, June 25, 2020

I transplanted some daisies into our back yard this morning. I'd run our pull-type tiller over the area to be planted, way back by Bonnie's Asparagus Patch, a couple of times a few days ago. All I had to do to get started was rake the area smooth, removing lots of clumps of dead and dying grass.

Daisy, our red beagle mix, watches over my work

Daisies transplantedDaisy patch a long way from the houseI transplanted six Gloriosa Daisies, some of which had already begun to bloom in their deep sixpack inserts. I surrounded the gloriosa daisies with nine or ten Alaska Shasta Daisiesicon.

I've previously tried getting daisies started on this spot without much success. So today, I added some left over compost/peat moss mix I had in our garden cart to each planting hole. I watered each hole with some water with Quick Start fertilizer mixed in.

I'll mulch the planting with grass clippings, letting grass regrow up to the mulched area. Since the planting is at the very back of our yard, I'll have to remember to check it, weed, and water the daises to get them going.

Later in the day, I pulled our Champion of England pea vines, saving mature seed pods as I worked. Since our Maxigolt vines are still pretty green and are still maturing peas, I left those vines in place. As the Maxigolt pea pods dry down, I'll pull their vines in a few days, saving seed from them. I'm in no hurry to pull the vines, as our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber transplants that will replace the peas are still pretty small.

I usually don't save seed from these early, open pollinated pea varieties, as both are still available from commercial outlets at reasonable prices. But I'd like to see what a cross of Champion of England and Maxigolt produces. I plan to include the saved seed in our planting of early peas next March.

Commentary

I'd foolishly forgotten to pick up some hamburger buns on my last shopping trip. So I ventured out today to our local Walmart for just buns and some Wheat Thins. During previous visits to the store, I'd sort of counted how many folks were masked and not. The counting on today's visit was shocking. About 80% of the customers in the store were unmasked!

While our idiot President refuses to wear a mask, the rest of us need to protect ourselves and each other from the Coronavirus when out and around.

Keep a mask on when out!

Garden Tower Project

Friday, June 26, 2020 - Still Very Dry

Chance of rainDrought Monitor for Indiana - June 25, 2020We have a chance of some serious rain over the weekend. Here's hoping, as our ground is really dry. I'd wondered if the rain we got Tuesday morning might move us out of the U.S. Drought Monitor's "Abnormally Dry" classification. Actually, more of the state of Indiana has moved into the nearly drought classification. And obviously, the Monitor's data doesn't add or subtract any moisture from our garden soil.

Compost

I finished screening our "finished" compost pile this morning. It conveniently filled our four cubic foot Ames Garden Cart. The undigested, screened out material went on the top of our current, working compost pile.

Asparagus

The compost along with a little 12-12-12 fertilizer all went on Bonnie's Asparagus Patch. The probably 30+ year-old planting of asparagus hadn't gotten much compost in the last couple of years. It's longevity is a testament to the hardiness of asparagus. And asparagus seems to truly love compost.

Our raised bed of asparagus Bonnie's Asparagus Patch

Our raised bed of asparagus had some fertilizer worked in as I weeded and cultivated the bed. It didn't get any compost, as the bed's soil level was nearly at the top of the raised bed timbers containing it. Asparagus needs a bit of fertilizer after one quits picking it to help it strengthen its roots for the next season's harvest. Both patches will get another weeding and fertilization late next month.

Other

I spent several not-so-pleasant hours this afternoon mowing the field around our East Garden plot. Mowing usually isn't all that bad, but strong winds kept blowing grass into my eyes. I got the field mowed and raked, but haven't yet spread the accumulated grass clippings as mulch.

While out in the field, I saw that we'd lost a tomato plant, one paprika pepper plant, and a hill of honeydew. If I drag myself out of bed early enough tomorrow, I'll replace the lost plants. I'm also going to have to re-seed our row of zinnias. Only a few of them came up from our previous planting. I'm guessing that I got the seed in too deep and soil conditions were just too dry for the seed to germinate well.

Saturday, June 27, 2020 - Rain at Last!

Our Senior Garden in the rain - June 27, 2020It's raining cats and dogs this afternoon. While the rain cut short my gardening today, I'm thrilled with the much needed rain.

My first job this morning was to replace some failed plantings in our East Garden. I transplanted a Mountain Fresh Plus tomato and a Hungarian Spice paprika pepper. Since I'd added fertilizer, ground egg shell, lime, and peat moss to the planting holes early this month, the transplanting was just a matter of digging and watering a hole and plopping in a transplant. At times like this, I'm glad I've kept our extra transplants going on our back porch.

I dug our Kazakh honeydew seed out of the freezer and plopped four seeds into the soil where the previous plants had been. Interestingly, the ground around the failed melon, tomato, and pepper plants still showed good soil moisture. I credit the heavy watering at planting and mulch for that.

Scuffle hoeWith my transplanting done, I moved on to using some of the grass clipping mulch I'd collected yesterday. I mulched along our line of tomato and pepper plants, first scuffle hoeing any weeds that had popped up. I also spread some mulch along one of our melon rows.

When my back got sore from all the bending, I switched to scuffling our corn rows. There were a few big grass weeds and lots of just emerged weeds that I disturbed with my efforts. Scuffle hoeing works best when the weeds cut at their base sit in the sun and die. Today's rain my rehab some of the damaged weeds, but I'm glad I got some weeding done around the corn. I resisted spreading fertilizer down the sides of the corn rows, as the plants are just a bit small for that step. When things dry out and the corn plants put on a little more size, I'll lightly sidedress the rows with 12-12-12 fertilizer before either scuffling or tilling the fertilizer in.

Let me add a few words of praise for the scuffle hoe. Also known by the names hula or action hoe, the tool can make weeding a lot easier for gardeners. Not much good when weeds get big, but as weeds germinate, a pass with a scuffle hoe cleans a planting fairly easily. I first learned of the scuffle hoe via the WGBH/PBS series Crockett's Victory Garden. I encouraged WGBH several times over the years to make the old television series available on DVD/Blue-ray without success. The late Jim Crockett shared a wealth of gardening knowledge in easy, layman's terms that made gardening lots of fun. Shame on public television for letting all that knowledge die with Mr. Crockett.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants

Sunday, June 28, 2020

We received a bit over an inch and a half of rain in the last day or so. The rain combined with the thorough tilling I gave our East Garden plot makes it a prime place to lose a shoe if you step into it. Shown below is the 30' x 80' section I've devoted to pumpkins (foreground) and butternut squash (background).

Pumpkins and butternut squash in our East Garden

Normally, half of our East Garden plot gets rotated out and planted to turndown crops for soil improvement. Not having used most of the plot the last two years, I decided to grow the pumpkins and squash in the area that would have been rotated out.

Narrow raised bed of Earlirouge tomatoesAbundant Bloomsdale spinach plants maturing seedWith the wet conditions making gardening difficult to impossible, I made two trips around the property taking pictures of our garden plots. It was still misting out on my first photo walk, while the sun was popping in and out during my second trip.

Our Earlirouge tomato plants appear headed for a good crop. We use the variety for both canning and fresh eating as well as seed saving. In a tragic error last year, I grabbed the wrong sprayer and killed our Earlirouge plants with Roundup herbicide! I've since invested in some thick black markers to make the labeling on our various sprayers more visible. I keep three sprayers now very clearly labeled for organics, insecticides, and Roundup.

Sharing the narrow raised bed with the tomato plants is a row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach. Our days of spring spinach salads are long since past. But we also save seed from the tasty, savoyed spinach variety, allowing it to adapt some each season to our particular growing conditions.

We're not really into selling garden seed, but do sell some to fellow gardeners via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange. For whatever reason this unusual year, we sold more Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed than any other variety offered.

Next to our tomato and spinach bed is a whole bed of garlic that is just about mature. The recent storms roughed up the plants a bit, but did no real damage.

Garlic almost ready for harvest

Whether grown in a narrow raised bed or in our large main raised bed, I've fixed on planting four fifteen foot rows of garlic each fall. That provides way more garlic than we can use. But it also serves as insurance against a bad crop or bad season. We pick the best of the garlic for replanting, save enough for our use, and give away the rest to family, friends, and a local food bank. Every few years, I run peeled garlic through our food processor, dry it in our food dehydrator, and grind it for garlic powder.

Green bean pod set on Provider plantPerseverance petuniasSkipping over our fading row of peas and our row of broccoli for seed, our two rows of green beans look fabulous. I shared a photo here ten days ago of a couple of lovely, purple green been blossoms on a Provider green bean plant. Not every bloom gets pollinated and produces a bean pod. Of the two blooms previously shown, one has produced the first bean pod I've seen in our green bean rows. The Provider variety is one of our two earliest maturing green bean varieties.

Not quite at the end of the bean rows, but growing toward them are some Perseverance petunias. A new variety from the Turtle Tree Seed Initiative, they produce mainly shades of purple flowers. While I miss the reds and whites of other varieties, Perseverance is a variety we'll definitely grow in the future.

Intensive planting of onions, carrots, and celery...lettuce previously harvestedVolunteer dillThose petunias are supposed to be at the ends of our planting of onions, carrots, celery, and previously lettuce. I noticed today that a few onion plants had gotten knocked over prematurely by the strong rain last night. But most of the onions are in good shape and are just beginning to bulb.

The area where our lettuce grew will get a direct seeding of beets soon. And this area when fully harvested will be flipped 180° and replanted to fall carrots and lettuce without the protective rows of onions. The onions do seem to keep bugs away from the plantings.

My favorite picture of the day came during my second round of photos. I stopped at the end of the carrot rows and dug around a Laguna carrot at the end of the row. As it should be at this point in its growing cycle, the carrot was just past baby carrot size. Seed for the Laguna hybrid is hard to come by these days. I got our last seed from a foreign seller on Amazon, but that ad has expired.

On my way to our East Garden plot, I snapped a shot of some volunteer dill I'd let grow in our herb garden around our shallow well. We still have lots of dill seed and dill weed from years past, so I'll just enjoy the sight and fragrance of the dill this season.

Carrot putting on some size

I really feared that we wouldn't have a spring crop of carrots this year. The carrots emerged irregularly and a bit late. But eventually, the double row filled in. Since I didn't thin the rows, we'll have lots of bifurcated (split) carrots, but at least we'll make a crop.

Our East Garden plot on June 28, 2020

Our 80' x 80' East Garden plot is always a challenge. Growing on what was once a burnt out cornfield, we've been able to improve the soil somewhat to grow some nice crops over the years. The ground it's on isn't ours. We use it at the graciousness of the landowner and farm renter. And it gives us the room to grow space hog crops such as melons, butternut squash, pumpkins, and sweet corn.

Our sweet corn this year defied logic with nearly every seed planted emerging. I'll need to thin the rows a bit soon. I'll also need to pitch the replacement transplants I starred inside to fill in potential bare areas in the rows. I won't be needing them.

Sweet corn up along with kidney beans at the side and melons in th rear

Our eighty foot row of melons with a couple of yellow squash plantsBoth rows of melons from the other end of the plotOur melons are coming along nicely. Some have put on blooms, and of course, one watermelon plant had set a melon even before I transplanted it. Keeping up with weeds by mulching and tilling is always a challenge. We'll face squash bugs in our squash and pumpkins and cucumber beetles in the melons. As the melons mature, keeping the raccoons out of them is also difficult. So we plant a lot and hope for the best. The majority of our melons will end up at our local food bank.

At left, our eighty foot row of melons is pictured. As I diddled with our garden plan, I came up with one long row of melons and one shorter, fifty foot row of them. I had to go to the other side of the plot to get a good shot of both rows of melons. The plan is to fully mulch the center between the rows, training the melon vines to run that way.

We're obviously blessed to have land to work with and good health to do it.

David's Cookies

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 - June Wrap-up

June, 2020, animated GIF of our Senior GardenA2 Web HostingIt's been interesting. Running about a month behind in our planting, I finally got our East Garden planted this month. After lots of rain in May, June proved to be droughty much of the month. Fortunately, we're now getting some regular rains...and lots of weeds germinating due to the rain.

We harvested lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas this month. A lot of the broccoli, cauliflower, and peas went into our freezer.

Today was an off day from gardening, as I made my second visit this month to the Eye Specialists of Indiana. While my last visit was for a clean up procedure on one eye after cataract surgery a year ago, this was just a final checkup. Other than driving home from Indy with one eye dilated, it was a good visit.

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