Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

April 17, 2021

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Our Senior Garden - April 1, 2021
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Our East Garden - April 1, 2021
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April is one of our busier months of gardening. We try to get our raised garden beds completely planted and mulched by the end of the month. At the same time, we're starting transplants for our large East Garden plot.

While I'll hold off transplanting our Earlirouge tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet peppers into our raised beds until early May, we hope to transplant, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, celery, and supersweet peas into the beds. We'll direct seed carrots, beets, and also some more supersweet peas (in case the transplants don't make it).

While the East Garden will remain mostly idle during April, I'll be replacing some of our corner and halfway marker sage plants that have failed. I started the transplants in early November, so they're already pretty good sized and hardened off from being outside for over a week.

Inside, we'll be starting lots more tomato varieties, paprika peppers, melons, and squash for the East Garden. Towards the end of the month, I'll start our pumpkins. I start them what would seem a bit late, but I don't want pumpkins ripening in August or September.

Japanese Beetles on Green BeansDonors ChooseMissing from our raised bed plans are any beans. In years when corn is grown in the field next to our raised beds, I can plant our beans as a succession crop and harvest them in August or September. When the field is rotated to soybeans, I have to start our green beans really early. Otherwise, hordes of Japanese Beetles migrate from adjacent field to our green beans.

The late Jim Crockett noted in Crockett's Victory Garden that "Bush beans seem to be at their most tender late in the season, so I always plant a crop in July that will be ready for harvest in September."

Besides all of the seed starting, planting, and transplanting this month, we should begin to harvest asparagus from both of our asparagus patches. It's a delicious time of year we always look forward to. We also should be picking some spinach by the end of the month.

Preparing for a Hard Freeze

Plants under cold framePlants on dining room tableTemperatures got down to 28-30° F this morning, depending on what weather source one consults. The plants under our cold frame came through the low temperatures just fine. All of our hanging basket plants and a tray of hardy sage all came inside onto our dining room table. They were joined by the white blooming gloxinia that had outgrown its space in a kitchen window.

While I have the cold frame open at this writing, I'll close it mid-afternoon to allow heat to build up inside it. Later, I'll cover it with tarpaulins, as tonight's forecast calls for a low of 21° F, well below the cold frames ability to protect the plants under it.

If the trays of onions in the photo above left seem a bit scrambled, it's because they are. After our cold frame took flight several days ago, the wind flipped all three trays of our onions. I combined the onions into two trays. Tuesday night, strong winds once again blew the cold frame away and flipped one of the onion trays. We'll be fortunate to get any onions at all this year. And the cold frame broke in two more places, requiring a new roll of Duck Tape to repair it.

Besides the cold frame and dining room table, we still have transplants in our sunroom, egg carton petunias in a kitchen window, and a partially filled plant rack in the basement.

Plants in sunroom Egg carton petunias in kitchen window Plant rack - April 1, 2021

Once the weather evens out, I think we're ready to begin gardening!

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Required FTC Disclosure Statement: Botanical Interests, Burpee, Renee's Garden, 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. Renee's Garden True Leaf Market

Friday, April 2, 2021

Our Senior Garden - April 2, 2021Snow on April 2, 2018We sort of lucked out on the weather this morning. Our morning low temperature was 27° F, mercifully well above the damaging 21-22° F that had been predicted. While cold, that's not enough to harm the plants we have under our cold frame or floating row covers. I did put tarpaulins over the cold frame yesterday and added a layer of floating row cover scraps over the previous floating row cover.

Three years ago on April 2, we had snow and 29° F.

By ten o'clock this morning, it was warm enough to pull the tarps and open the cold frame for the day. With a predicted overnight low of 31° F, the tarps won't be necessary tonight.

Cold frame covered with tarps Cold frame plants after freezing night

I'm hoping that our peas and spinach under floating row covers did as well as the plants under the cold frame. I won't pull the row covers until after tomorrow morning's frost/freeze.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Raised bed of spinach and peasWeather Underground Extended Forecast - April 3, 2021The frost/freeze predicted for this morning never materialized. It only got down to 37° F. So once it began to warm up this morning, I got out and pulled the floating row covers from our bed of spinach and peas. While the peas looked a little mashed down from the wind blowing over the cover, both the spinach and peas came through our recent freezes just fine.

The peas have just begun putting on tendrils, the stringy growths that attach to things for support. I'll need to pound in our T-posts and string nylon trellis netting soon for the peas to climb on. I put a trellis on each side of the peas, spacing the trellises sixteen inches apart. That pretty much keeps the pea vines from blowing off the trellises in the strong winds we experience here.

To see how we grow our peas, consult: A Garden Delicacy: Homegrown Peas.

Our extended weather outlook looks pretty good with some truly warm days without terribly strong winds. I have tons of jobs waiting, especially a new apple tree that arrived in today's mail.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Sunday, April 4, 2021 - Easter

New Stayman Winesap apple treeI transplanted a new Stayman Winesap apple tree today. The process started yesterday when I began by using a garden spade to remove the sod where the tree was to grow. The sod went into some ruts left in our yard by the tree service last year. That turned out to be the hardest part of the job.

Today, I began digging a hole for the new tree. The soil dug got mixed with some old potting mix I'd been saving from repottings and such. I usually mix peat moss into the soil mix for new trees, but didn't have any on hand today. Besides digging a deep and wide hole, I followed my usual practice in tree planting of going down a bit deeper with a post hole digger to encourage taproot growth.

Our apple treesBeing careful to keep the tree's graft above the soil line, I backfilled the planting hole with the mix of native soil and the old potting mix. I watered it in with dilute Quick Start fertilizer and Serenade biofungicide. I placed our usual mice/rabbit deterrent pepper cage covered with hardware cloth around the tree.

With this planting, we're up to four apple trees. Two are producing fruit, while the other two are way too young to bear fruit. I may not live long enough to pick apples from all of these trees, but getting them started is just what I enjoy doing.

The fourth apple tree in the image at right is a volunteer apple tree hidden somewhat by weeds and bushes around it. It came from dumps of cull apples from our original Stayman Winesap apple tree, and produces small apples with a delicious/winesap flavor.

We're on the cusp of a new gardening season. I've been bold in getting our early peas and spinach started, but rather conservative about other stuff. We could experience some more cold mornings destructive to new plantings, so I'm willing to be a bit patient. But spring is definitely on the way.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Our Senior Garden - April 7, 2021First asparagus of 2021We've had several days of wonderful weather with temperatures getting into the lower 70s some days. I've hustled to get as much done as possible during this time...maybe too much. I just woke up at my computer where I'd dozed off thirty minutes ago.

While there's been lots going on here without pushing ahead to plant and transplant too soon, my big event of an otherwise very busy day was picking our first asparagus of the season. There wasn't enough to cook up for supper tonight, but with a good rain predicted (and already started) for tonight, we should have enough for supper tomorrow night.

I'll try to catch up on what all has been going on here tomorrow.

Hummingbird Feeders

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Our Senior Garden - April 8, 2021MTD TillerWe received a little very welcome rain overnight and may have more coming in yet today. With our raised beds tilled and moistened, they and our lawn look much brighter.

While I've gotten a lot of little jobs out of the way during our stretch of incredibly warm weather, I finally got our raised garden beds tilled yesterday. I felt like I was fighting all the way. I'd tried starting our 27 year old tiller on Tuesday, but it refused to turn over. Knowing its games, I pushed it out of the garage and into the sun for a few hours while I mowed and raked the field next to us. After several hours in the sun, the tiller started on the second pull of the starter cord. But, one tire on the tiller was flat and I couldn't get it to seal. Yesterday, I finally got the tubeless tire to seal after cleaning the rim. When I got to the garden and began to till, the clutch cord for reverse broke! While reverse is important for maneuvering, I was still able to till our raised beds, manhandling the heavy tiller around corners. I also turned over a spot for our Gloriosa and Shasta daisies. Fortunately, Jack's Small Engines still carries parts for ancient rototillers, and a new cable is on its way.

Looking out our west facing kitchen windowPraying mantis egg case hung in laural bushLooking out our kitchen window, I can see where I carefully placed a praying mantis egg case. I actually took a short stepladder out to attach the egg case high on one of our laurel bushes so that I could see it out the window. I hung another egg case in an adjacent bush. While I purchased our egg cases this year, we've had mantises lay their eggs in our laurel bushes in the past (and harvested the cases for the next season).

I've recently read on Facebook that praying mantises may attack humming birds. I actually got a picture of a mantis on one of our hummingbird feeders several years ago, but it wasn't bothering the birds.

I also took a time lapse of mantises hatching, again, many years ago. While cute, the baby mantises don't seem above eating each other shortly after hatching.

I still have three more egg cases stored in the refrigerator. I'll hang them in our garden plot a bit later this spring.

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Some of our text links go to the sites of our Senior Gardening Advertisers. Clicking through one of our banner ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale.

I've moved more of our transplants outdoors. A tray plus of brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts) went out against the edge of our house on the back porch several days ago. The Brussels sprouts and cabbage were in a different tray than the rest of the brassicas. Their traymates of hosta, sage, and asparagus also went to the porch. Our tray of lettuce went first onto our back porch. After the wind began to beat up the plants a bit, I moved the lettuce under our partially closed cold frame. To make room for the lettuce, I pulled some daisy, impatiens, and dianthus transplants.

Painted daisies between daffodils

The painted daisies and impatiens went into a recently cleaned up flowerbed on the west side of our house. The first of the daisies got spaced between the few daffodils in the bed that have survived my neglect. Some others went further down the row with the impatiens. And yes, we only got two daffodil blooms this year.

Impatiens with a painted daisy

I had held off on moving any geraniums outside to harden off, as we still have a few cold but not freezing nights in our extended weather forecast. But with a bit of space opening up in a tray under our cold frame, I moved four Maverick Reds outside yesterday. Even though I hate hauling non-softened water from our kitchen bypass to the sunroom, I left a tray and a half of geraniums there for the time being. I transplanted our geraniums a bit too early last year. I think the plants suffered all summer from some cold and dry days.

Under our plant lights, our Earlirouge tomato and Earliest Red Sweet pepper transplants are looking good. When I had to re-seed some of the Earlirouges, I seeded one cell with seed saved in 1988. One of those seeds actually came up!

Earliest Red Sweet pepper and Earlirouge tomato starts

And when I was downstairs a few minutes ago checking some laundry, I saw that some Encore supersweet peas had begun to germinate. I started a tray each of Encore and Eclipse peas several days ago. Both varieties, but especially the Eclipses, don't germinate well in cool soil, so they're over soil heating mats.

Encore and Eclipes peas on soil heating mats

We're down to the last of our saved Eclipse and Encore saved seed. I gambled on a large planting of the patented varieties last year and lost big time. The patents on the varieties expire this year, so I'm hoping to re-start our strains of the excellent supersweet varieties.

Botannical Interests

Friday, April 9, 2021

Garlic before mulchingGarlic fertilized, cultivated, and mulchedI noticed earlier this week some of our garlic leaves were firing. Such yellowing common in field corn is often a sign of a nitrogen deficiency. I'd dumped some leftover starter fertilizer (4-12-4) on the garlic which helped a little, but knew it would need more nitrogen. So today, I sprinkled 12-12-12 fertilizer around the garlic and cultivated it in. Then I mulched the area with grass clippings to hold in soil moisture and prevent weed growth. With rain predicted for tonight and tomorrow, that should activate the fertilizer and cure the firing problem.

I wanted to put up a double trellis around our peas today. But with steady 25 MPH winds gusting well into the thirties, trying to string a trellis would be a nightmare.

Instead, on the advice from a high school friend, I hung a hummingbird feeder. The friend posted on Facebook that folks here in Indiana are seeing hummingbirds already. Our first hummingbird sighting last year came on April 20.

While in the basement getting the feeder, I saw a gloxinia in our dormant area that had put on three or four inches of growth. Checking the rest of the pots, I found two more gloxinias breaking dormancy. So all three got repotted, watered, and moved under our plant lights.

Renee's Garden

Saturday, April 10, 2021 - Trellis Day

Double trellis erectedEnd view of double trellisWe're having rain and some fairly strong winds today, but I was determined to get started on erecting the double trellis our peas, and later, our cucumbers will vine on. I thought that in between showers, I could at least get the six T-posts to support the trellis pounded in. As it turned out, I got the whole job done.

Pounding in the T-posts with a fence-post driver just takes some time, making sure to get the posts on the ends set sixteen inches apart. I've found that to be an ideal spacing for a trellis around our wide row of tall peas. The double trellis is necessary for us due to the high winds we frequently experience here. We try to keep the pea vines growing between the trellises instead of blowing off a single trellis.

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Some of our text links go to the sites of our Senior Gardening Advertisers. Clicking through one of our banner ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale.

Then I stretched six lengths of plastic coated clothesline wire between the posts to stretch a bit. Next was untangling the nylon trellis netting I'd used last year. I had a brand new package of the excellent Dalen Trellis Netting in my box of clothesline wire and old netting, but being a bit cheap, I opted to use the old netting. It's a bit of a chore untangling the netting, but once done, it strung on the clothesline wire well. I used three support wires on each side. While peas aren't all that heavy, the succession crop of rather heavy Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers will put a good bit of stress on the wires and netting.

Spinach mulchedOnce the trellises were in place, I got to have a little fun. I transplanted six Madame Butterfly snapdragons at the ends and center of the pea planting. The snaps will probably get to bloom before the pea vines cover them up. If they survive that, they'll bloom again when the cucumber vines are small and possibly once more in the fall when the cucumber vines come out.

Eclipse pea plants getting started
Encore peas getting started

I mulched up to the edge of the peas with grass clipping mulch to hold back weeds and hold in soil moisture. Mulching around the adjacent row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach was a bit more difficult, as the spinach plants are still fairly small.

Speaking of Peas

The trays of Eclipse and Encore supersweet peas I started on Monday are now coming up. I start transplants of these pea varieties inside over soil heating mats as they don't germinate well in cool soil. Of course, pea transplants are pretty fragile, so eventually moving them into our garden is a delicate process. I have found that surrounding the young transplants with compost gives them a real growth boost.

Egg Carton Petunias No More

I moved the last of our egg carton petunias from their egg cartons to fourpack inserts last evening. The Celebrity plants had just about outgrown their egg cells. Our first bunch of egg carton petunias each year are for our hanging basket planters. This later planting is for odd spots in our garden plots that could use a bit of color.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Our Senior Garden - April 11, 2021After a bunch of nice days, we're getting the other side of the spring weather coin now. I put up our double trellis yesterday, sometimes in light rain. Today, it's cold (relatively, 49° F), rainy, and very windy, not a day one would want to work outside.

Holding seed at 122 degrees for 25 minutes
Seed drying on coffee filter in a paper plate

So instead of gardening outdoors, I hot water treated a packet of tomato seed that had escaped my attention when I last hot water treated seed. I began so treating all the tomato seed we use after getting some seed from a private source that brought anthracnose into our East Garden. Like Great White, "I'm once bitten twice, shy" on seed borne tomato diseases. But normally, hot water treatment of seed isn't really necessary for seed from reliable vendors.

Required FTC Disclosure Statement

Some of our text links go to the sites of our Senior Gardening Advertisers. Clicking through one of our banner ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale.

I describe the process of hot water treating seed in some detail in our Saving Tomato Seed how-to. Basically, you put your seed in 122° F water for 25 minutes to treat it. One new wrinkle in the process today was that the seed hot water treated had been coated with Thiram fungicide. That's good for preventing seed rot, but also made cleanup after the seed treatment a bit more thorough as Thiram is a toxic substance.

Pushing me to get this seed treated is that it's almost time to start our tomato plants for our East Garden. As soon as our supersweet peas are ready to come off our soil heating mats, I'll start tomatoes on the mats.

Doctors without BordersOnce the weather shapes up, I'm looking forward to transplanting onions, lettuce, celery, and brassicas and direct seeding carrots and beets into our main garden bed. I also have a bunch of flower transplants hardening off and almost ready to go into the ground when I'm sure we're past the last of our cold mornings.

Hoss Tools

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Volunteer apple tree in bloom - April 14, 2021Closeup of apple blossomsI slept in this morning and was delighted that we finally had a morning without strong winds. Sadly, I took my time drinking a couple cups of coffee and perusing the news before getting started. As I filled our insecticide sprayer with Fruit Tree Spray plus a bit of Fung-onil fungicide, the wind began to gust. I hustled out and sprayed the three apple trees in our yard.

Besides getting a late start this morning, I also waited a day or so too long for the perfect day to spray (no wind, no rain, and no frost). Our volunteer apple tree in a field we take care of had burst into beautiful bloom. With its blooms fully open and being visited by bees, that tree got a dilute spray of dormant oil, a substance not toxic to bees.

Having direct seeded carrots and beets on Monday, today was the first day of watering that planting. I'll need to water it every day we don't have rain until the plants emerge.

The area planted had received some Muriate of Potash (0-0-60) before being tilled last fall. A recent tilling and some hand weeding knocked down the few weeds that had germinated.

After some disappointing germination last season, I started with all newly purchased carrot and beet seed. I started Tendersweet, Mokumicon, Scarlet Nantes, Napoli, and Naval carrots and Cylindra and Detroit Dark Red beets. I once again planted a pretty short (7') double row of carrots. I've found planting a full 15' row of them in the spring just has me pitching spring carrots when our fall carrots come in.

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Required FTC Disclosure Statement: Botanical Interests, Burpee, Renee's Garden, 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. Renee's Garden True Leaf Market

Transplanting onionsLettuce transplantedI went down one side of the carrot and beet rows transplanting a double row of onions. Since the wind had scrambled our trays of onions, the varieties are mixed in the rows. That may make storage of the onions difficult, as there are sweet onions mixed in that don't store very well.

How We Grow Our Carrots
How We Grow Our Onions

After getting the onions transplanted, I put in two celery and eleven lettuce transplants. I planted them a lot closer than usual, as they went in the unplanted portion of the carrot/beet row. Also, the wind was really howling as I transplanted, beating up the young lettuce transplants a good bit. Fortunately, I have lots more lettuce transplants in case some fail. I'll probably put any leftover lettuce plants not needed as replacements along the edge of what will be our narrow bed of Earlirouge tomato plants.

The celery transplanted was the Ventura variety. The lettuce included Crispino and Sun Devil (icebergs), Nancy and Skyphos (butterheads), Jericho and Coastal Star (romaines), Better Devil (butter-cos-romaine), and Nevada (summer crisp).

I still need to put another double row of onions down the open side of the lettuce/beet/carrot planting.

Only after dinner this evening did I realize that I'd put lettuce very close to where a den of rabbits usually live. I quickly spread some Repels All animal repellent around the lettuce. And for dinner, along with our spaghetti, we enjoyed some steamed asparagus. Both of our patches of asparagus are now producing.

April 14, 2021 asparagus picking

I put the rest of our geranium plants in a protected area of our back porch today to begin hardening off. Even though it's a little early to transplant geraniums into the garden, I stuck Maverick Red plants at either end of our double row of onions.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Onions, carrots, beets, celery, and lettuce startedIntensive planting of garlicWhat we call a softbed is now planted. Softbeds are areas of our garden that we don't step into during the gardening season to prevent soil compaction. We treat the areas at either end of our 16' x 24' raised bed as softbeds. Both can be worked from three sides without ever stepping into the main raised bed. And of course, we have two 4' x 16' (interior dimensions, 3' x 15') raised beds that can be worked from all sides without stepping into them.

I planted the last double row of onions in a softbed today. As I got to the end of the rows, I was using some pretty sad onion transplants. Besides blowing our cold frame away on three occasions this spring, the wind had flipped our trays of onions, making a real mess of them. This softbed includes transplanted onions, celery, and lettuce and direct seeded carrots and beets.

And yes, there are geraniums at the corners of the raised softbed. When I pull the last two row marker stakes, I'll replace them with petunias or vinca.

Our softbeds are an example of an intensive planting. We grow lots in very little space with intensive gardening methods. Our fall planted garlic is another example of intensive gardening. To give you an idea of the spacings we use, here's a rough diagram of what the softbed planted this week measures.

Softbed diagram

Our planting of early peas in one of our narrow raised beds also qualifies as an intensive planting. I squeezed in a row of spinach along one side of our double trellised wide row of peas.

Early peas and spinach in narrow raised bed

We still use traditional rows for many of our plantings. Beans, brassicas, melons, pumpkins, squash, and sweet corn all get lots of space to grow. But then, we're blessed to live in the country where we have the space to grow such crops.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Friday, April 16, 2021

Weather Underground Extended ForecastI read online that something really bad had happened in Indy before I went to bed last night. This morning my wife told me at least eight people had died in a mass shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis. While we now live in rural southwestern Indiana, I grew up in Indianapolis.

As I read the news this morning, I came across a New York Times article that emphasized just how bad gun violence has become in our country, A List of Recent Mass Shootings in the United States. While my postings on my personal Facebook account are usually about family and gardening, I posted a link to the article with the statement, "When does this end?"

When I finally mentally put aside the mass shooting, I checked the extended weather forecast on the Weather Underground only to find a couple of morning low temperatures that may change my gardening plans for the next few days. Looking to confirm the forecast, I checked a local TV station's site and found an even lower temperature prediction with the possibility of snow!

WTWO seven day forecast

Most of what we have out in our garden is frost tolerant. The lettuce I transplanted on Wednesday could suffer some damage. And now my decision to put a couple of our precious geranium plants at the corners of our softbed may turn out to be a sacrificial offering to the frost gods. I'm guessing I'll need to break out the floating row covers I previously used to protect our peas to try and save the lettuce and geraniums.

World Food Program USWhile I have lots of jobs waiting to be done, I chose to replace the clutch cable on our walking tiller today. The job took a lot longer than I expected, as the many bolts to be loosened and tightened are in remote locations and had never been loosened before. The only thing that made the job easier was that I've already had to replace the other two control cables on the tiller that attach similarly.

Daisy patch towards back of yard

Area for daisies tilled againWith the clutch fixed, I took the tiller to the back of our yard and tilled up an area where I hope to grow daisies. It was the second tilling for this area this spring, but when done, the ground was still pretty rough. Gloriosa and Shasta daisies are pretty hardy plants, so I may go ahead and transplant them even with a potential frost or two in the offing.

I'm also debating going ahead and transplanting our brassicas this weekend. The cold mornings predicted won't do the plants much good, but there's also the danger of stunting the plants and having them button. Buttoning is the failure of broccoli plants to produce heads or producing small heads prematurely. Stress is listed as the cause of buttoning on most sites, with cold temperatures, poor soil fertility, root bound transplants, dry soil conditions, and excessive salt in the soil all being mentioned.

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