Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

August 31, 2021

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Our Senior Garden - August 1, 2021
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Zinnias and tomato and pepper row in our East Garden - August 1, 2021
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After an unusual five inches of precipitation in July, it appears that things will begin drying out for the next week or so. I'm hoping it won't turn out to be our near annual, mid-summer mini-drought. But for now, we have all the soil moisture our garden needs.

Once the soil dries out enough, I'm hoping my neck will be healed enough to allow me to till part of our main raised garden bed for some succession crops. I have basil, parsley, broccoli, and cauliflower transplants started. I also hope to direct seed some fall carrots and kale.

I put on my hated neck brace and mowed around our row of tomatoes and paprika peppers in our East Garden plot this afternoon. After just a couple of passes, I was convinced that I still needed to continue paying some friends to mow our yard and the field.

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly
Spicebush Swallowtail

Something that caught my eye while mowing was all the butterflies and bumblebees visiting blooms on our long row of zinnias. I grabbed shots of a Tiger Swallowtail and a Spicebush Swallowtail. Several Viceroys were visiting blooms, but they were all pretty camera shy.

Paprika peppersI was happy to see that some of our paprika pepper plants had survived the weed pressure around them and set peppers. Since I used compost that hadn't heated well when transplanting them, I had to pull a bunch of volunteer tomato plants from around the pepper plants.

We're coming up on a second picking of our two rows of green beans. I've been waiting for our Bush Blue Lake and Maxibel varieties to mature beans for this picking. While I usually take three pickings from our green beans, I'm planning on just pulling the plants for our second picking, as we still have eight pints of green beans left from last year along with the twelve pints I canned last week.

As this month moves on, I'm hoping to can tomatoes and make bread and butter pickles and sweet relish. Our Earlirouge tomato plants are filled with ripening tomatoes,while our row of tomatoes in our East Garden are just putting on tomatoes. Our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines don't look very healthy right now, so I'm not confident about the pickles and relish.

Dead or dying apple treeWhen I looked out our bay windows this morning, I was shocked and saddened to see that one of our apple trees is probably dead. It's a young Stayman Winesap I transplanted a year or two ago. While I'm guessing that the tree is already well and truly dead, I sprayed it with a combo spray of Serenade biofungicide and streptomycin. I also gave it a soil drench of Serenade.

Our first apple tree here was a standard Stayman Winesap. It produced lots of tasty apples before succumbing to fire blight. We then just about lost a Granny Smith tree that survived the fire blight with lots of heavy pruning and fire blight spray. But it died from root rot a few years later. A replacement Stayman Winesap from Arbor Day only produced yellow apples. The deal was buy one tree and get another free. I ordered a red maple as our freebie. It turned out to be a silver maple. Obviously, I'll never order another tree from the Arbor Day Society after them going 0-2 on filling an order correctly.

CelerySo now we're left with a yellow apple producing tree that didn't set fruit this year, a very young dwarf Stayman Winesap, and a volunteer tree just off our property that sometimes produces small, but incredibly tasty apples.

With apple trees taking several years to produce fruit and me at 73 years old, I'm about ready to quit trying to grow apples. In addition to losing apple trees, we lost a bunch of pine trees to root rot and agricultural drift in the last two years.. It's frustrating.

On a more positive note, I cut our two celery plants yesterday. I didn't get them wrapped to blanch the stalks, so I fear the celery may be a bit bitter. But I'm happy at least to be able to have grown celery for two years in a row. I have a pot of celery transplants in the basement. But I fear that I may have drowned them yesterday when watering them!

So there's our kickoff for August. It's an iffy kickoff, considering my humbled physical condition. But I'm really looking forward to canning tomatoes and saving seed from several of our favorite varieties.

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

Monday, August 2, 2021

I cleaned up our gloxinias this morning. I trimmed off dead leaves and unpollinated bloom spikes and lightly fertilized the plants. There are only a few plants still in bloom, as most of the plants are putting their energy into maturing seed. I also moved several plants downstairs under our plant lights. I've already had three early blooming plants go into dormancy.

Gloxinias trimmed

Tomato seed fermentingSomewhat blue skies at lastLater on, I picked Earlirouge tomatoes. There weren't enough yet to can, but I did start a small batch of Earlirouge seed for seed saving. I'll let the seed and gel ferment for three to four days before rinsing and drying it.

Our main tomato canning probably won't happen until the tomato plants in our East Garden begin producing later this month. Like with multiple varieties of canned green beans, I think our canned tomatoes taste better with more then one variety canned. We have seven more tomato varieties there.

While taking the splashshot for today, I realized that I could see some blue sky between the clouds. Over the last few weeks, we've had lots of cloud cover, or on some days, smoke cover from the wildfires out west. We're also experiencing some cooler temperatures which is nice. I am, however, waiting for a really warm, sunny day on which to defrost our manual defrost freezer in the garage.

A Personal Note

I have a sister and a sister-in-law whom I dearly love who have resisted getting Covid-19 vaccinations. I pray for their health daily. But I think prayer isn't always an effective measure against the virus. If you're not yet vaccinated, let me urge you to get the vaccination. I had one mild down day after my first Moderna shot. Annie had a couple of tough days after her vaccination. But both her and my response to the vaccination were really no worse than a flu shot.

Let me urge my readers to get vaccinated. If not for yourself, do it for those around you whom you might infect.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Wednesday, August 4, 2021 - More Green Beans

Don't you know that I danced, I danced till a quarter to three
With the help, last night, of Daddy G.

I actually wasn't dancing last night until a quarter of three, but the 1961 Gary U.S. Bonds hit was running through my head as I finished up canning our second picking of green about a quarter till three!

I got a bit of a late start picking the beans, not beginning until a little after noon. With a number of breaks built in to rest my protesting neck, I didn't complete the picking until suppertime. And that was doing the picking the easy way. Since we already had eight pints of canned beans left from last summer and eleven more pints from our first picking this year, I pulled the plants and picked the beans off of them. That made for a lot less bending and working on my knees, two things my body doesn't respond well to. Washing and snapping the beans delayed beginning canning until almost eleven o'clock.

Having mentioned the length of canning in a previous posting about canning beans, I wrote down the times from when the jars of beans went into the canner and then came out at the end. Each canning cycle for pints took about 80 minutes!

Donors ChooseWe got sixteen pints canned from the picking, but...six of the pint jars didn't seal. I'd gotten up early and moved the unsealed jars to the refrigerator. Then later this morning, I re-canned those six pints in different jars. Only occasionally do we have a canning jar not seal. I attribute the failure to using some old jars given to me that must of had imperfections at the rim that I missed. Even so, we now have thirty-five pints of canned green beans stored in our basement pantry. Of course, the beans in the last six canned may be a bit mushy from being twice canned. But with just Annie and I enjoying the beans, they should last us until around this time next summer.

Something I noticed when picking was that several bean plants had runners extending five or six feet out from the roots. That's not supposed to happen with bush beans. Since we don't save seed from our bush beans, the runners did no real harm.

Earlirouge Tomatoes

I picked more Earlirouge tomatoes today. Together with a previous picking, I had enough to can about seven quarts of whole tomatoes today. Unfortunately, I didn't have the energy to do more than wash and photograph the tomatoes.

Earlirouge tomatoes

I'll probably can the tomatoes tomorrow. And this canning won't be our last or even our best. When our other tomato varieties in the East Garden plot mature later this month, we'll be able to mix multiple varieties of tomatoes in a canning or two. That seems to improve the flavor of the canned tomatoes.


Thursday, August 5, 2021 - Canning Tomatoes

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Canned and fresh tomatoesI canned quarts of whole tomatoes this morning. The batch I'd picked didn't make as much as I thought it would. I was pretty careful about cutting out bad spots which may have resulted in our getting just five quarts canned. During the peeling process (hot water followed by cold water), I noticed the telltale white spots left by stink bugs and/or leaf-footed bugs. I need to begin spraying the tomatoes with Neem Oil. It is a pretty effective organic bug control.

As usual, I followed the canning time from our old Ball Blue Book (©1977). Since I didn't actually do a hot pack, I boiled the canning jars the full 45 recommended minutes in our water bath canner. While the tomatoes got pretty hot in the peeling process, I didn't want to take a chance on the shorter time suggested for a true hot pack (15 minutes).

1977 Ball Blue BookNew Ball Book of CanningAs I mentioned last month, one of our daughters and her husband are now co-owners of Morgenstern Books in Bloomington, Indiana. While Annie and I toured the store before its opening, we haven't as yet made a shopping trip to Bloomington. I've already started a shopping list for when we go. I'll be updating our old copy of the New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving and would also like to pick up Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker's I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year.


This afternoon, I worked in our garage on trimming and bagging our onion harvest. The onions had been laid out for a little over two weeks on a sheet of plywood over sawhorses that we use as a drying/curing table. As I trimmed, I sorted out any onions I thought might not store well, but were still good to use.

I bagged thirty-five pounds of onions. And that was after using a bunch of large Walla Walla onions when canning our green beans. Fifteen pounds of the onions plus three pounds of garlic went to our local food bank. Considering that at one point I thought we'd lost our onions (wind blew trays of transplants all over the place), I'm pretty happy with our harvest.

Drought Over the Western United States

I haven't run this group of links for several months, so I thought it time to do so again. The various drought reporting sites are published each Thursday.

Drought Information
U.S. Drought Monitor
United States Weekly Drought Monitor
U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook
United States Monthly Drought Outlook
U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook
United States Seasonal Drought Outlook
Click on the title or the graphic (above) to access the
U.S. Weekly Drought Monitor
Click on the title or the graphic (above) to access the
U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook
Click on the title or the graphic (above) to access the
U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook

Folks out west are into another horribly droughty summer (other than Colorado's floods).


Friday, August 6, 2021 - Slow Day

Our Senior Garden - August 6, 2021Earlirouge tomato seed dryingI only did a few low effort garden chores today. I apparently overdid things yesterday and my neck, knee...well, my whole body was letting me know to back off.

I rinsed the Earlirouge tomato seed that had been fermenting in its gel and juices for four days. The fermentation process releases the seed from the gel and tomato flesh pieces. It took about five or six rinses to get the seed clean, which is about the usual amount.

I dry the tomato seed on a coffee filter in a paper plate. If I remember to try and spread the seed a little each day for several days, it doesn't stick together too badly.

Since I want to grill some chicken breast fillets for supper, I fired up our mower and cleared some dry grass near our porch. Then I though, "Why not go around our raised garden beds?'

So I did, even running the mower over a low spot in the landscape timbers and knocking down some of the grass weeds in our main raised bed. And then, I hit a bump, which reminded me of why I'm still on limited duty. I came inside, took some ibuprofen, rubbed Ben Gay on my neck, and poured myself a drink!

I was on the mower because one of the guys who have been mowing our yard was injured while whitewater rafting. For his sake, I'm hoping he gets better quickly. And for our yard, I hope the mowing crew is soon healthy enough to return. Today's adventure reminded me that I have no business riding a mower over a bumpy yard.

The Home Depot

Monday, August 9, 2021

Pink double gloxiniaWorld Food Program USIt's been another slow day today. It rained overnight and until a little after noon producing over an inch of precipitation. Since I didn't have any serious outdoor work that I could do today, the rain was welcome.

My wife, Annie, mowed our lawn yesterday, as our mowing crew has now tested positive for Covid-19. She didn't mow the field, but it can wait until I'm ready to mow again or the mowing crew is again healthy. I did mow some of the steep slopes on our property, but twenty minutes of mowing made for a very uncomfortable evening and night.

One of our older gloxinia plants is now into its second blooming cycle this year. The pink double gloxinia is about six or seven years old. Its corm outgrew a six inch pot last year and is now growing in an eight inch hanging basket pot.

Earlirouge tomatoes in trayI thought there were tomatoes to be picked today. I got that done after the rain quit and things dried out a bit. But even with trying to be careful to pick only fully ripe tomatoes, I ended up setting most of them aside to ripen for a day or two more before saving seed or canning them.

I'm guessing there are some overripe cucumbers that should have been picked days ago. But when I miss picking them when ready, the cukes fill out, turn yellow, and are used for seed saving.

St. Jude Children's Research HospitalI wrote towards the end of July that many of our hummingbirds had gone somewhere else. That occurred when Annie was driving me to various neurosurgeon and we weren't too careful about keeping our feeders filled. Since that time, the hummingbirds have returned or another clutch of babies have hatched out and left the nest. We're filling our three feeders two or three times a day again.

Since we're close to the time when hummingbirds begin their migration south, I've slightly enriched our hummingbird nectar. I usually mix granulated sugar with water in a 1:4 ratio. I'm adding just a bit more sugar to our mix to help the birds put on weight for their long flight south.

Whether or not we'll have a fall garden or not is still up in the air. I moved some broccoli, cauliflower, basil, and parsley transplants to the porch last week to begin hardening off. I have kale, carrot, and beet seed in our kitchen freezer in hopes of planting them. But as of today, I'm not physically able to do the tasks necessary to do those plantings. I'm getting better by the day, but the doctors I saw after my fall all said it would take months to recover fully from the damage done.

On the positive side, we've already had a fabulous gardening season with lots of asparagus, garlic, onions, peas, green beans, beets, celery, tomatoes, and even a little spinach.

Morgenstern Books

Full disclosure: One of our daughters and her husband are co-owners of Morgenstern Books.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021 - More Tomatoes for Seed

Another batch of tomato seed and gel fermentingA2 Web HostingI had a choice this morning of either canning more whole tomatoes or starting a big batch of Earlirouge seed. There weren't enough tomatoes for both tasks. And since there were some really nice tomatoes representative of the Earlirouge variety, I went for seed saving.

With lots of tomatoes to choose from, I lopped off both the top and bottom of each tomato, teasing the seed out of the tops and bottoms with a small knife. I squeezed each tomato which got most of the seed out, although I also cut open each seed cavity to harvest any seeds that didn't squeeze out.

While our first batch of saved Earlirouge seed only filled the bottom fourth of a quart jar, I used enough tomatoes to nearly fill a quart jar today. I did leave an inch or so of head space, as the mix of seed, tomato flesh and juice, and gel can expand a bit as it ferments. The fermentation usually separates the tomato seed from the tomato flesh and gel.

I have a longer version of how to do this job in Saving Tomato Seed.

Hoss Tools

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

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Freezer after defrostingIt has been hot and steamy all day today. And that's just the kind of weather I'd been waiting for to defrost the freezer in our garage. Well, I could have done without all the humidity.

I didn't defrost the freezer last summer, so I expected a few ancient surprises as I moved stuff out of the freezer and into coolers. While not as bad as some defrostings, I found a bunch of meat that was well over a year old. It all went into a kettle to boil before being shared with our dogs. I use such treats to induce our dogs into eating a dose of Ivermectin to prevent heartworms. And yes, a vet has approved of our use of this drug for our dogs. Do beware that sheepdogs and related breeds don't do well with this treatment.

There also were bags of year to two year old vegetables that went onto our compost pile. One veggie from last season that didn't get thrown out was five pints of sweet corn. Since I wasn't able to get in and fertilize and till our sweet corn in our East Garden, that crop failed.

When I got done emptying the freezer, I felt lucky that I'd had enough coolers in which to keep our frozen meats and vegetables. There wasn't enough room, though, for our large bag of garden seed. It went into one of those large, insulated bags sold at Sam's Club and the like.

With temperatures into the 90s today, it only took about two hours for the frost to melt off the interior sides of the freezer and for me to wipe it dry.

Perseid Meteor Shower

From about midnight to dawn this evening, the Perseid meteor shower will be visible for areas in the United States without a cloud cover. This is one of the best meteor showers to observe for a couple of reasons. There will be lots of meteors to view, and the weather conditions for viewing might be pleasant.

As the Washington Post's Matthew Cappucci notes: "The display ties that of the December Geminids, but August weather is ordinarily more conducive to getting folks outdoors than the prospect of snow, ice and biting cold."

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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Our Senior Garden - August 12, 2021
Ready to begin canning tomatoes
Seven more quarts of tomatoes canned
Tomatoes for the food bank

Today started out as a typical warm, muggy, August day. I avoided the heat in the morning by canning tomatoes again. I canned seven quarts, but still had lots of tomatoes left.

Why just seven quarts? That's the capacity of our water bath canner.

After picking a few more tomatoes, I took three small trays of them to our local food bank for their food distribution tomorrow morning.

Our mowing crew were on their last day of their Covid-19 quarantine, but still came to mow our grass and the field. They did a nice job, although I later went out and mowed a bit of our East Garden plot which they don't mow.

I crashed early last night and missed the Perseids. I was up this morning while it was still dark out, but didn't get to see any meteors. I thought I might get another shot at seeing some meteors tonight, but heavy thunderstorms rolled in during the early evening.

Five of our six Earlirouge tomato plants are filled with ripening tomatoes. A sixth plant that replaced a failed plant (eaten off by a deer!) has small green tomatoes on it. I'll probably save one more big batch of Earlirouge seed. Then I'll possibly turn to making purée, sharing more with the food bank, or dumping the excess in unlocked cars in parking lots. grin

Hardware World

Saturday, August 14, 2021 - Garlic

Burpee Seed CompnayIf you are considering planting garlic this fall, now is the time to order your garlic sets. Suppliers quickly run out of favorite varieties this time of year.

Garlic hanging in basementWe don't order garlic very often, as we usually plant from the previous year's crop. And what I dug this summer was definitely a bumper crop. The few times we've needed to order garlic, our best has come from Burpee, Johnny's Selected Seeds, and the Territorial Seed Company. While Burpee appears to still have a good number of garlic varieties not sold out, Johnny's and Territorial have already sold out of over half of the varieties they offer!

As I tell in our how-to feature, Growing Garlic, I usually aim for planting our garlic sometime after our first frost in October. That goal often turns out to be a November planting. Last year, we planted on November 19...and still got a wonderful harvest this year.


I really haven't cared for our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines lately. The vines look terrible. And while they've produced some overripe cucumbers that I can use for seed saving, I haven't picked very many nice cukes for slicing or other uses.

Sickly looking cucumber vines

So this morning, I picked a few overripe cucumbers and three nice ones before heavily spraying the vines with a mix of Serenade biofungicide and Neem Oil. I also soaked the bed with Miracle-Gro Liquid Plant Food (12-4-8).


ERS pepopersPepper strips in food dehydratorI picked a bunch of lovely red peppers this morning from our Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants. I didn't purposely pick any green peppers, although I knocked one or two off the plants. I later checked our paprika pepper plants in our East Garden plot, but only found four reddish peppers, all with bad spots on them.

The ripest twelve peppers got cut up and spread across the trays of our food dehydrator. Even though I didn't have any named paprika peppers, the ERS peppers make a nice, mild ground paprika.

Some of the twelve were a bit irregular. Their seeds were dumped. But from the best looking peppers, I saved seed.

As more peppers mature, I'll save some frozen pepper strips. And while I got a lot of seed today, I'll probably save at least one more batch of ERS pepper seed.

The leftover peppers today will probably go to work with my wife on Monday along with some Earlirouge tomatoes.

Zinnias and East Garden

When I went to the garage to grab a shot of our peppers dehydrating, I also ventured out to our East Garden plot. Our eighty foot row of zinnias are putting on their usual, spectacular display of blooms.

Zinnia row 1 Zinnia row 2 Zinnia row down the line

Other than our row of zinnias and a row of tomatoes and paprika peppers, our East Garden is a bust this year. I did cut a semi-ripe watermelon in half when mowing down weeds the other day. But our sweet corn, kidney beans, melons, and yellow squash are a total loss. But with gardening, there's always next year (hopefully).

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Monday, August 16, 2021 - Making Paprika

Grinding dried red peppers into ground paprikaSeparating tomato seedsThe red peppers I started dehydrating on Saturday were ready this morning for grinding. I use an old coffee grinder for powdering things like paprika peppers and garlic. Cleaning up the dehydrator trays and grinder actually took longer than the grinding. I only dried twelve peppers, so we didn't get a lot of paprika today. But we're into the part of the season when our pepper plants really begin to produce, so we'll get more paprika later on.

Another garden related job today was separating saved tomato seeds that were stuck together in the drying process. That involved rubbing the clumps of seeds in the palm of my hand. I've found the seeds easier to separate before they are totally dry. But I'll also need to work on the seed a bit again tomorrow.

GNRL Click & Grow

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Our Senior Garden - August 22, 2021Some of the Earlirouge tomatoes pickedI hadn't made any tomato sauce/purée yet this year. The last batch was a disaster. The purée was too salty, and I wiped out a laptop computer by splashing tomato juice on its keyboard and trackpad. After replacing the laptop, I later cleaned out the guts of the old laptop which returned to health. But it now stays boxed in our sunroom.

I'd picked several buckets of our Earlirouge tomatoes over three days. A Facebook friend was looking for tomatoes, and I offered ours for free. When the friend didn't get back to me promptly and the tomatoes getting older by the minute, I reluctantly washed, cored, and removed the blossom ends and bad spots. From there, the tomatoes went into a brief near boiling water bath. Transferred to very cold water, the tomatoes peeled easily.

Tomatoes ready for hot water bath Squeezo extracting juice and pulp Eight pints of canned tomato sauce

While I usually cold pack whole tomatoes into canning jars, I put the tomatoes into a large kettle to warm a bit. Then I ran them through our very old and somewhat leaky Squeezo Strainer. The resulting tomato juice then got boiled and reduced by half before I water bath canned eight pints of it.

Sad looking Earlirouge plantsTomato plants in East GardenOur Earlirouge tomatoes are pretty much played out. While they usually yield lots of tomatoes over the whole season, our plants have been damaged by bugs and blight. Earlirouges were originally listed as a determinate variety, but ours have been more of a semi-determinate. But this year the plants produced huge harvests over the last thirty days and may not do much more. Since we have twelve healthy tomato plants in our East Garden that are just about to mature tomatoes, we should be fixed for tomatoes the rest of the season even if the Earlirouges continue to fade.

Feeding AmericaI've already saved enough Earlirouge tomato seed for our future use and sharing with others. Fortunately, blight isn't a seed borne disease, so I won't have to hot water treat the Earlirouge seed. I should note here that I'm seriously raising the price on all of our shared seed. A change in the Grassroots Seed Network and Paypal fees had me getting less than $2 net from $4 packets of seed. So I won't be operating at a loss, all of our seed packets are going from $4 to $6.50 as the new seed crops mature!

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Because I haven't been able to till or even weed effectively due to my neck injury, we're down to just cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers in our raised garden beds. In the East Garden, it's just tomatoes and paprika peppers, although our row of zinnias are thriving.

I'm still hoping to direct seed some kale and possibly fall carrots and spinach, but their maturation dates will be awfully close to our first frost date. I also have transplants going for fall brassicas, parsley and basil. It's just a matter of when I can manage our walking tiller again.

Looking at the glass half full, I'm alive from a fall that the neurosurgeons said could have killed me. I'm getting better each day, but very, very slowly. So I'm being thankful and happy with the slow improvement and lessened pain and lots of produce presereved and seed saved.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

I wanted to pick peppers today, but knew I had a job to do first. The weeds in our main raised bed had grown right up to our previously well mulched cages of Earliest Red Sweet peppers. So I got out our new weedeater and went at it. It cleared the grass fairly well close to the pepper cages, but the main raised bed was still filled with weeds.

Main bed mowed

Bucket of Earliest Red Sweet PeppersPeppers ready to be washedI pulled our short trellis where our short peas had grown. Then I brought in our riding mower and mowed down most of the weeds. I still need to make another pass or two with the weedeater, but the plot looks a lot better now.

As to the peppers, I filled a five gallon bucket with ripe red peppers. When I dumped the peppers into the sink to wash them, the picking filled both sides of our kitchen sink. I may be processing peppers into the wee hours of the morning.

Sad looking cucumber vinesOur bed of Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines is beyond saving. I'll take out the vines, trellis, and sadly, the snapdragons in the next few days. Doing so will make room for some fall brassicas in an area that is furthest from the den of rabbits that decimated our spring planting.

We have enough canned bread and butter pickles and sweet relish from last year to last us a good while.

Transplants on porchBeyond the broccoli and cauliflower transplants on our back porch are some basil and parsley plants I hope to put in the main raised bed once I get it tilled. I also hope to direct seed spinach and kale there. Whether we can keep the rabbits out of those plantings remains to be seen.

I recently gave up on some of our two cycle tools and ordered a cordless string trimmer and chainsaw. The Greenworks 40V 14 In String Trimmer surprised me with its power when cleaning up weeds in our main raised bed. I've only made a couple of cuts with our Greenworks 40V 16-inch Chainsaw. But it cut right through a sixteen inch diameter log with no problems. Both items are the 40 volt versions, so their batteries and chargers should be interchangeable. I'm not yet making a recommendation on these products, but their first impressions are favorable.

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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.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Narrow bed cleared of cucumber vines and trellisWunderground 10-day  ForecastI took out our sad row of Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines this morning. As I cut and pulled the vines off the nylon trellis, I was shocked at the number of squash and stink bugs on the vines and ground. I mixed some Pyrethrin into our organic sprayer and doused the bugs.

A second surprise when pulling the T-posts that had supported our double trellis was how dry the ground was. Up until a week or so ago, we'd had lots and lots of rain. But we're into a dry period now, and raised beds can dry out very quickly.

In the course of getting the trellis netting down, I uprooted several mature snapdragon plants. That reminded me that I really should save seed from the plants, so I did. I was able, however to leave some of the snapdragon plants in place and the geranium plants at the corners of the bed.

Under normal circumstances, I'd have tilled the narrow bed this afternoon to get it planting ready. But with my neck injury, this season has been anything but normal. I did get some supplies out of the garage for tilling and planting, but left the rototilling until tomorrow. Fortunately, our extended weather forecast suggests we'll have several dry days the rest of this week that will permit tilling our raised beds and possibly getting our fall crops planted.

Now, I'm going to take a nap. grin

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Friday, August 27, 2021 - Tilling

Narrow bed tilledOur Senior TillerI rototilled a narrow raised bed and most of our main raised bed yesterday. The narrow bed is now planting ready. I'd hoped to transplant brassicas into the bed last evening, but the wear and tear from wrestling our old walking tiller left me sore and drained. I'm also taking the day off today, unless I have a burst of energy later on. Not only my neck is in protest, but also my shoulders and legs. Getting old isn't much fun sometimes, but it sure beats the alternative. And the doctors all told me I'd face a long recovery time from my fall.

The main bed still has lots of grass clumps the tiller couldn't handle. I raked the piles of grass to the sides of the bed, but still need to move them to the compost pile. I expect I'll need to till the plot once or twice more before it is planting ready. While the days left in our gardening season are growing short, I hope to direct seed kale and carrots into the bed. I also have basil and parsley transplants ready to go into the ground.


Earlirouge tomatoes recovering nicely from blightSerenade 2.5 gallonSince we're now down to just tomatoes and peppers in our garden plots, that's about all I have to write about. Fortunately, our Earlirouge tomatoes have survived a bout with blight, possibly because I gave them several good sprays of Serenade biofungicide and have been pruning off the infected areas on the plants. Sadly, quart bottles of the excellent fungicide have disappeared from store shelves and online sellers. I lucked out by buying a 2.5 gallon jug of Serenade concentrate. It was wildly expensive, but dividing by 10 (the number of quarts in 2.5 gallons), my price per quart was well under last year's price. Of course, I'll have to use the product over several years, and I don't know how long biologicals like Serenade stay good.

The tomato plants in our East Garden plot are doing well and just beginning to ripen tomatoes. While I've already saved lots of Earlirouge tomato seed, I will be saving seed from three more varieties growing in the East Garden: Moira; Quinte; and Crimson Sprinter. While our Earlirouge, Moira, and Quinte varieties were all developed by the late Jack Metcalf, the Crimson Sprinter variety was developed by Dr. T. Graham in Guelph, Ontario at the Ontario Agricultural College. It shares the other varieties deep red interiors while also having high "lycopene content! Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that (unlike most phytonutrients) isn’t degraded by cooking."

Crimson Sprinters got us into trouble several years ago. I first grew them from seed from an SSE member I once respected. The seed turned out to carry anthracnose. That cost us a lot of tomato and even watermelon plants in 2019. Still wanting to grow the variety, I used seed from High Mowing Organic Seeds which was probably clear of the disease. But the bad experience made me redouble my previous efforts at hot water treating any tomato seed I start.

Moira tomato plants Quinte tomato plants Crimson Sprinter tomato plants

Last year, our Moira and Quinte plants were our heaviest producers.

All the rest

Things got a little crazy when I had to replant some failed plants. My record keeping is fuzzy because some plant labels had faded. I'm sure that we have and open pollinated Bradley plant, a Dixie Red hybrid, and several Mountain Fresh Plus hybrids. Since I'm not saving seed from any of those plants, knowing what is where isn't all that critical. Once they mature fruit, the Bradley tomatoes will stand out, as it's the only pink tomato variety we grow.

Other, But Possibly Interesting

Petra with deer carcassFruit BouquetsOur coon hound, Petra, drug the head and front legs of a dead baby deer into the yard today. I'm guessing the deer got hit by a car or truck. All three of our dogs have dined on it a bit. Once they are clear of it, the carcass will go into a trash bag. The bag will immediately go into our roadside trash bin, as the smell of the decaying animal will be nasty.

The peppers I started dehydrating Tuesday evening still aren't dry enough to grind for powdered paprika. I put more pepper strips into the dehydrator than I ever have before. Fortunately, the peppers aren't burning, but are still leathery to the touch and don't snap easily. As their drying drags on, I keep cutting the dehydrator's temperature setting to prevent burning.

On a better note, our long row of zinnia plants continue to put on quite a show. Some of the plants are now five feet tall! That's something we've not experienced previously.

Some of the early blooms are beginning to drop their petals and display brown to black seed heads. I'll collect the seed heads and let them dry on a cookie sheet for several weeks before rubbing the seeds off the stem. The seed we collect this year will give us the volume of seed needed to plant another long row of zinnias next season. If I run into any marked down zinnia seed on seed racks, I'll probably buy some to add a bit of diversity to our zinnias.

Our row of zinnias - August 27, 2021

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Saturday, August 28, 2021 - Fall Brassicas

Starting transplantingBrassica transplanting doneI transplanted fall brassicas this morning into the narrow raised bed I'd prepared this week. I put in seven Goliath and two Castle Dome broccoli and four Amazing cauliflower.

Each transplanting hole got a bit of 12-12-12 solid fertilizer and a bit of lime to prevent clubroot. I watered the holes with a mix of dilute Quick Start and Maxicrop Soluble Seaweed Powder. Once the plants were in the ground, I watered the area around them where I'd made a trough around each plant.

With temperatures in the upper 80s to low 90s each day and some rather frail transplants, I'm not sure if this planting will take. I have three or four replacement plants leftover on the back porch. And the heat is supposed to diminish next week with some welcome rain predicted.

With deer and rabbits having decimated our spring brassicas, I spread a good amount of Repels All around the broccoli and cauliflower plants. I also sprayed the plants with Thuricide to deter cabbage loopers and small white cabbage moths.

I tell about how we grow our brassicas, when successful, in Growing Great Broccoli and Cauliflower.

More Paprika

Getting started grinding dried peppers into paprikaOur saved paprikaThe peppers I began dehydrating Tuesday evening were finally dry enough to grind today. Unlike the first batch of ground paprika I did a couple of weeks ago, this batch had a lot more peppers, which would explain the rather long drying time.

We now have nine ounces of saved paprika from our garden. Considering that we still have half of an 18 ounce jar of Tone's Spanish Style Paprika that we bought before expiration dates were required on such things, I think we have enough homegrown paprika to last us for the winter. Of course, since this paprika was prepared from Earliest Red Sweet peppers, as our paprika pepper plants aren't yet producing. It's probably a bit less zippy than some paprikas. But I'm sure it will nicely help season and brown chicken breasts and adorn deviled eggs.

One More Thing

While I have several things I'd like to get planted yet this season, kale tops the list. If we're going to make our annual batch of cold and flu healing Portuguese Kale Soup, I need to get the kale seeded next week. Fortunately, kale is pretty frost resistant. The late James Underwood Crockett wrote in Crockett's Victory Garden that a light frost actually improved the taste of kale. The hard part is getting the kale seed to germinate in hot, dry weather.

The Home Depot

Sunday, August 29, 2021 - Well, that was quick.

Failed brassica plantingNibbled brassica plantWhen I sprayed our newly transplanted broccoli and cauliflower with Thuricide yesterday, I considered mixing in some Not Tonight, Deer! Instead, I spread Repels All around the plants.

I got up this morning with plans to water the brassicas I'd transplanted. But when I looked at the bed, it appeared that most of the plants had no leaves. Closer inspection confirmed that rabbits had probably dined on the leaves overnight. While Repels All deters dogs and cats, it obviously doesn't deter hungry rabbits all that well.

I may have to consider using a hot wire around some plantings in the future. That, or maybe I'll just go totally Elmer Fudd on "them wabbits."

While brassicas can recover from being nipped, that sets the plants back a bit. There simply aren't enough growing days left in the season now for the plants to mature heads. So much for growing brassicas this year. Critters got both our spring and fall plantings.

Seeding carrotsAfter clearing the bed of damaged brassica plants and raking it out a bit, I direct seeded a double row of carrots down the middle of the bed and single rows of kale on the sides of the bed. Such an intensive planting may doom one or the other of the crops, but at least I got the seed in the ground.

Debbie Meyer Green BagsFor our fall carrots, I went with the shortest season varieties that I had seed for: Mokum (54)icon; Napoli (58)icon; Nelson (56)icon; and Yaya (56). (Numbers in parentheses are days-to-maturity figures.) I think all four are Nantes varieties. Even using short season carrots, we'll need to have a late first frost for them to produce. Fortunately, we still have a lot of spring carrots. But even stored in Debbie Meyer Green Bags, those carrots won't keep in the fridge all winter. So if we have a normal first frost (October 17), we may get some baby carrots. And if we get lucky, we may harvest full sized fall carrots that will store through spring and into next summer.

I planted an approximately 14 foot long double row of carrots with the rows spaced just four inches apart. Since the soil I was planting into was powdery dry, I watered the shallow furrows I made for the seed. That trick only works well if you can keep the rows watered until the seed germinates. We have rain predicted for this evening and the next two days, so we may be okay.

I use an old scrap piece of 1x4 lumber to make my furrows for the seed. Of course, a 1x4 actually measures as 3/4 inch thick by 3 1/2 inches wide.

Doctors without BordersAction Against Hunger USAI soaked the kale seed to be planted for several hours before seeding it. Since I didn't want to have four or five separate dishes of seed soaking, I just mixed several kale varieties in a bowl of warm water. The varieties were Dwarf Blue Scotch (Vates), Judy's Kale, Lacinato, and Red Ursa. The mix in the rows may prove interesting.

Evenly seeding the wet kale seed was a challenge. The wet seed stuck to my fingers and fell in clumps into the row. I had to go back repeatedly and spread out the seed.

I might not have gotten the planting done this afternoon, but my incredible wife, Annie, warned me she'd heard a weather forecast suggesting we might have rain by mid-afternoon. So I ventured out to do the seeding with a heat index of 102° F. My shirt was soaked with sweat when I got done, but I was happy that I'd possibly made some progress in what has been a challenging gardening season.

Garden Tower Project

Tuesday, August 31, 2021 - August Wrap-up

August, 2021, animated GIF of our Senior GardenWe got a lot of rain yesterday with more predicted for today. Having found the soil light and powdery in the narrow raised bed where I direct seeded carrots and kale yesterday, the rain is welcome. After our first downpour this morning, I checked the bed to see if any seed had washed up. None had, although I then wondered if I got the seed in too deep.

It's been both an interesting and a challenging month. My recovery from a neck injury still prevents me from doing many normal tasks. At the same time, we had some fantastic harvests this month.

We saved seed from Earlirouge tomatoes, Earliest Red Sweet peppers, Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers, gloxinias, and snapdragons.

Our harvests included green beans, tomatoes, and red peppers. We canned green beans and tomatoes while drying the peppers into paprika.

A Personal Comment

If I needed any reminding, the severity of the Delta variant of Covid-19 was brought home to me again this week. The school system I retired from was ordered by the county department of health to close for two weeks because of a serious Coronavirus outbreak. Then a neighbor who lives "around the corner" (in country terms) from us died from the virus last week. He was a relatively young man still in the prime of his life.

Our family has been impacted by the virus as well. Our youngest son and much of his family had the virus early on before there were any vaccinations available. They all recovered, but his father-in-law was hospitalized with the virus for a week. After said son's family all were vaccinated, he recently had a mild breakthrough infection, although his wife and daughters did not contract the disease.

When I go out shopping, I find that I'm among the few old geezers still wearing a mask. That's despite our State Health Commissioner, Dr. Kris Box, "calling this late summer surge the 'darkest time in the pandemic'" this week.

I stirred up a hornet's nest a week or so ago on Facebook by sharing a link to Paul Krugman's excellent opinion piece on the New York Times, The Quiet Rage of the Responsible. He wrote:

That the return to more or less normal life and its pleasures many expected Covid vaccines to deliver could have happened in the United States. The reason it hasn’t — the reason we are instead still living in fear, with hospitals in much of the South nearing breaking point — is that not enough people have been vaccinated and not enough people are wearing masks. [my emphasis]

I'm going to stick with the comment I attached to the posting even if it irritates my friends, family, and readers.

Mask up, and get vaccinated if you haven't already.

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