Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

May 31, 2022

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Sunday, May 1, 2022 - Getting Started

Our Senior Garden - May 1, 2022
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Our East Garden - May 1, 2022
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Onions transplanted, carrots and beets seeded

I got a head start on our May gardening yesterday. I transplanted a fifteen foot double row of yellow onions. Some rather weak Walla Walla sweet onion transplants went in with some very healthy Milestone [for Canadian gardeners only], Clear Dawn, and Yellow of Parma yellow storage onions.

Not being able to resist a couple of beautifully blooming petunias under our cold frame, the onion row got a petunia at each end.

After a healthy break to rest my poor old bones, I direct seeded a short (8') double row of carrots. I used Laguna, Mokumicon, Naval, and Scarlet Nantes, totally forgetting about our toilet paper roll carrots. At the end of the carrot rows, I direct seeded a foot of Cylindra beets.

I still have another double row of onions to transplant to enclose the 3' x15' intensive bed. Unfortunately, the wind is howling outside, enough so that I took down our hanging basket plants that were taking a beating. And other than picking a lot of asparagus, I may just pass on doing any more gardening today in the wind.

Eclipse peas upThe Eclipse supersweet peas I seeded last Monday have germinated. Interestingly, one tray germinated at 88%, while the other tray only made 70%. I used the same batch of seed for both trays and can possibly attribute the difference in germination to the two different soil heating mats and thermostats. At any rate, I re-seeded the open cells this morning. Oh, and the communal pot of nine 2019 seed I started produced eight sprouts.

The better germinated tray of peas remained on a soil heating mat set down to 70° F, but with its humidome removed to allow more light to reach the pea sprouts. The other tray's temperature remains at 75° F with its clear humidome cover still in place.

Looking ahead a bit at our raised bed garden plans, I want to get that other double row of onions transplanted soon. Likewise, a row of cauliflower and some lettuce can go in anytime now. I'll let the soil warm a week or more before thinking about direct seeding green beans and transplanting Earlirouge tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet peppers. And our Eclipse peas will need to grow a bit before going into the ground.

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, May 2, 2022

I had a glorious morning of gardening today. I planted our second 15' double row of onions. Most of the onions today were red storage varieties. I put in a few Southport White Globes, and Red Creoles, with the rest being Red Bull, Red Carpet, Rossa di Milano, and a few leftover Yellow of Parma to fill out the rows. The Red Creoles are a short day variety that matures small onions for us two to three weeks earlier than the other long day varieties. In the south, I think Red Creoles produce full sized onions. The second row of onions got a vinca at each end to replace the row marker stakes.

Onions, cauliflower, celery, and lettuce transplanted

Two very healthy Violet of Sicily cauliflower transplantsTwo rather puny Bishop cauliflower transplantsI moved on to transplanting a row of cauliflower. Our cauliflower transplants were a bit uneven. Two Violet of Sicily that were grown in 3" pots were the hardiest of the transplants and didn't even require cutworm collars. Four Amazing and three Bishop cauliflower started in sixpack inserts completed the row. The Amazings and Bishops each got a coffee cup cutworm collar, as the plants were rather small and fragile.

I gave each cauliflower planting hole some balanced fertilizer dug deeply into the hole and a good sprinkle of lime to prevent clubroot. The planting holes were watered with a starter solution of dilute Quick Start and Maxicrop Soluble Seaweed Powder.

Finishing my transplanting extravaganza was putting in some celery and lettuce in the intensive bed our onions and carrots are in. I put in Nancy and Skyphos (butterheads), Jericho, Paris Island, and Coastal Star (romaines), Better Devil (butter-cos-romaine), and Nevada (summer crisp). While I have a bunch of very healthy Crispino and Sun Devil icebergs, I have another spot in mind for them.

Last year we lost all of our brassicas and lettuce to deer and rabbit damage. So as I finished up my morning of gardening, I spread Repels All granules around the plantings. Then I sprayed the lettuce and cauliflower with a mix of Thuricide, Sticker Spreader, and our homemade Not Tonight Deer. Then I cut up a bar of Irish Spring bar soap and spread it around the raised bed. Deer apparently don't like the soap's odor. Going all out, I put a tomato cage in the raised bed and hung our two new Predator Eyes from it.

Here are some articles and how-tos about some of the things mentioned today.

Burpee Seed Company

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Small broccoli transplantsMiracle-Gro Plant FoodOur broccoli transplants aren't sick, but have been very slow growing. I realized this morning that I'd started them in some off brand organic potting soil that probably didn't have enough nutrition in it for them. So as I moved the broccoli outside today, I fertilized the plants with some Miracle-Gro Liquid All Purpose Plant Food (12-4-8).

We got a good rain overnight, so I won't have to water our carrot area. Until the carrot seed germinates, daily watering is often necessary in our raised beds that dry out fairly quickly. While the sun has popped in and out so far today, we also have 30+ MPH winds. When Annie and I returned home from voting today, the wind almost blew me off our back steps!

Your Annual Nag about UV Exposure

The Senior GardenerI'm acutely aware of the dangers of sun exposure, as I've had more than a few skin cancers removed over the years and regularly have to use a rather expensive fluorouracil cream product on potential cancers. Being fair skinned, having gotten several severe sunburns during my childhood, and then riding a tractor for eight years with a thin T-shirt on when I was farming, I'm probably experiencing just what I deserve.

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Beyond getting appropriate medical care, protecting oneself from UV radiation while still being able to do the outdoor things we gardeners love is a major concern. The CDC notes that the hours between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. (Daylight Saving Time) are the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors, with UV rays being greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America. Heavy clouds do filter out some UV, but not as much as you'd think.

The trick for we senior gardeners prone to actinic keratoses and/or skin cancers is to find ways to garden without exposing ourselves to too much UV radiation. Keeping in mind the CDC recommendations and checking UV scales often posted on weather sites can guide one on when it is safest to work outside. But not all jobs can be done in the early or late hours of the day. For me, mowing is one of those jobs where I have to be out in the sun at peak UV hours.

Steve's sun gearI've come to rely on sun protective clothing, and to a lesser extent, sunscreen,icon for protection from the sun when working outside, even in low UV hours. In the early spring, I start wearing one of several sun protective shirts and bucket hats when I'm outside, even when going shopping! Since we live in a windy area, I appreciate the chin strap on some of the hats to keep me from having to chase them across the yard. My "sun gear" hangs just inside the back door to remind me to put it on.

When I get into serious gardening in warm weather, I generally wear a T-shirt with a sun protective shirt over it along with a hat. And since I've had cancers in and on my hands, I wear gloves almost all the time when working outside.

At one time, Coolibar was the only show in town for sun protective garments. With more emphasis on skin cancer in recent years, other entities such as Columbia have entered the market. Hopefully, such competition will eventually reduce the prices on sun protective gear, which until recently has been quite expensive.

Here are some related links about UV radiation and protective clothing:

Morgenstern Books

Wednesday, May 4, 2022 - Spinach

First picking of spinach - 2022
A nice picking of asparagus

Spinach rowWhile I've been busy with other gardening chores, our row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seeded in early March surprised me by being ready for a picking this morning. Our first picking of spinach each spring is usually of baby spinach leaves. But as I picked outer leaves of the plants, I realized that while this spinach might be tender, the leaves definitely weren't baby spinach sized.

Our spinach season is always way too short, as our plants begin to bolt when things warm up. But we enjoy our spinach when we can and then move on to saving spinach seed from the plants that go to seed.

I moved on to getting a nice picking of asparagus.

It took a lot of time to clean and stem the spinach leaves. Recent rains had splashed soil onto the savoyed leaves. But...we also had spinach salad and asparagus with our supper tonight.

Planting Green Beans

I've been waiting for the soil temperature in our main raised bed to warm enough for good seed germination. Various sites recommend a soil temperature of 55-70°F for good germination. I decided to wait until our soil hit 65°F before seeding. But waiting also has its costs. The field next to our raised beds will be rotated to soybeans this year. If I waited too long to seed our green beans, they'll be damaged by hordes of Japanese Beetles migrating to our garden from the soybeans.

Lime, fertilizer, and soil inoculant spread over planting furrow Seed spread liberally over furrow

In most years, I plant two narrow rows of green beans with some tried and true varieties: Burpee's Stringless Green Podicon, Bush Blue Lake, Contendericon, Maxibel, Provider, and Strike. When canning beans, I like the mix of flavors of multiple varieties of beans. I also find narrow rows easier to pick than wide rows of beans.

With space limited in our main raised bed this year and a dozen pints of canned green beans still in our pantry, I chose to go with a single wide row (16") of just three green bean varieties, Contender, iconProvider, and Strike. While I may miss the full variety of flavors, all three varieties have similar days-to-maturity making each of our two or three pickings worthwhile.

The planting bed had been rototilled recently. I added string to the row marker stakes I'd put in several days ago and used a rake to open a wide furrow about two inches deep. I spread lime, 12-12-12 fertilizer, and granular soil inoculant down the furrow and hoed it in. Then I liberally spread the green bean seed, raked soil back over it, and tamped it down with the head of my rake.

With warm temperatures and rain predicted for the next two days, that should pop up the green bean plants.

A2 Web Hosting

Friday, May 6, 2022

Our Senior Garden - May 6, 2022Weather Underground Extended Forecast - May 6-15, 2022We're into the second of two very rainy days. But our extended weather forecast offers hope that outdoor gardening may soon resume. Of course, long term forecasts often change, but I'm hoping to be able to till our large East Garden plot sometime next week.

Before I switch the mower over to the tiller, I have to mow our lawn and the field next to us. I've let them get away from me a bit. And before that, I have to heal a bit. I lugged several heavy flats of plants upstairs and onto our back porch yesterday. By evening, I couldn't stand up straight. I'm better this morning, but still a bit of an old, fat, bent over old man!

Eclipse pea transplants on back porch
Broccoli transplants at edge of porch

I moved our Eclipse pea transplants up to a protected area of our back porch. While they're just barely up, I want to transplant them in the next week to ten days. So getting them hardened off is a priority. To make room for the pea transplants, I moved our broccoli transplants from the protected area to the edge of the porch where they'll receive more sun and wind (and right now, rain). Also, getting the Eclipse peas off our soil heating mats makes room there for me to start some Encore supersweet peas, another variety that doesn't germinate well in cool soil.

Deer track between two lettuce plantsKnock on wood, but I'm pleasantly surprised that our lettuce and cauliflower transplants haven't had any deer or rabbit damage so far. I did see deer tracks across our main raised bed the other day. Apparently, the Repels All granules, Irish Spring bar soap chips, a spray of Thuricide, Sticker Spreader, and Not Tonight Deer, and our two new Predator Eyes, and possibly our dogs have scared off the deer and rabbits. I've applied the spray multiple times, but also wonder if the presumably nasty tasting stuff will spoil the lettuce.

After doing today's posting this morning, I ran across Barbara Pleasant's take on Preventing Animal Damage in the Garden. She shares some good ideas.

Besides the peas and broccoli on our back porch, we have lots of stuff under our cold frame and on the back porch that are ready or about ready to go into the ground.

Transplants under cold frame

While the cold frame is no longer necessary to protect our plants from frost, I do close it most of the way sometimes at night and other times to protect the plants from very strong winds.

Some hanging basket plants and transplants line half of the back porch

Now, if the weather will just shape up and my old body cooperates, we're ready to do some serious gardening.

Hoss Tools

Monday, May 9, 2022 - Lettuce

Growing Lettuce how-toFresh Lettuce for ThanksgivingMy back is still a bit gimpy, so my outdoor gardening has been limited of late. I did pick asparagus today and took about five pounds of it to our local food bank.

I devoted a good bit of time over the weekend finishing a how-to on Growing Lettuce. It was a file I'd started in 2016, but never had the confidence to finish. I'm still iffy about the piece, as my success rate with lettuce isn't all that great. Rabbits (and deer) feasted on both our spring and fall crops of lettuce (and brassicas) last year. On the other hand, we had that one year when we had fresh lettuce from our garden for our Thanksgiving feast.

Botannical Interests

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A recent news article had me checking the U.S. Drought Monitor map last night. Moisture wise, we're in pretty good shape right now in west central Indiana. I suspect that area farmers are a bit impatient about getting their crops planted this spring with all the rain we've had. But we're into a dryer spell that may change those planting conditions.

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

When I was farming in the 1980s, we experienced drought conditions that totally devastated our crops...and eventually led in part to our loss of the farm. So I feel for folks in the western United States who are experiencing years long drought(s).

I had five things on my to-do list for today:

  1. Collect trash and take to the street √
  2. Wash pots and trays √
  3. Pick and weed spinach √
  4. Transplant Earliest Red Sweet peppers and Crispino and Sun Devil head lettuce
  5. Spray apple trees

Abundant Bloomsdale spinach picked today1-800-Flowers Deal of the WeekI only made it through job three, as washing the trays and pots took forever. Other little sub jobs also slowed progress, such as mowing a little and collecting grass clippings to use as mulch around the peppers. I'm not ready to mow yet and was happy to see our mowing crew from last summer arrive in the late afternoon.

With daily high temperatures predicted to stay in the 80s this week, today's picking of spinach leaves may be our last. Warm weather can turn spinach bitter and/or cause it to bolt. I won't pull the spinach plants, as we'll let them bolt and try to save seed from them later on. We sort of sold out of 2021 Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed this year. Ten packets each contributed to two seed libraries and some sales ran us out. I have just enough 2021 seed left to plant a fall crop. (I still have lots of good Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed saved in 2020 in the freezer, just in case.)

I overheard my wife Annie talking to one of our daughters on the phone today. She mentioned that we haven't had any blackflies as yet. I'd totally forgotten about our annual spring insect curse. Maybe going from wet spring weather to hot dry weather will let us get off without the usual spring tormentors.

Here's hoping your gardening season is off to a good start. And, a silent prayer for the people in Ukraine.

Hummingbird Feeders

Thursday, May 12, 2022 - Peppers In

A lowly used paper coffee cup...until it becomes a cutworm collar
Transplanted Earliest Red Sweet pepper with cutworm collar

Peppers transplanted, caged, and mulchedI transplanted seven Earliest Red Sweet bell pepper plants into one of our narrow raised beds yesterday. I didn't get done until one o'clock and the temperature had reached 87°F. (It eventually was 92°F!) Not wanting to transplant our head lettuce plants in the heat of the day along the edge of the peppers, I put that job off until this morning. Instead, I turned to sweeping up the plentiful grass clippings the mowing crew had produced yesterday.

The peppers I transplanted yesterday were still on the young and tender side of things. So that required using cutworm collars. Instead of digging a hole, working in soil amendments, watering, and then plopping in a pepper plant, I did things a bit differently. I dug a hole eight to twelve inches deep for each plant and sprinkled a little lime, some 12-12-12 fertilizer, and some powdered egg shell into the hole and thoroughly worked the amendments into the hole and its sides.

I watered each hole with a starting solution of Quick Start and Maxicrop Soluble Seaweed Powder and filled in the hole with the previously dug soil. Then I put a cut down paper cup into the center of the planting hole and watered it with starter solution. I also made a trough around each cup and watered the trough. Finally, I squished a pepper transplant down into the cutworm collar, adding a bit of soil around the plant and...of course...added more starter solution.

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Since there were cutworm collars around each plant, I was able to mulch around the cups with some relatively fresh grass clippings for moisture retention and weed control. I was careful to push the clippings into the mud around each cup. There's no sense in using cutworm collars if ones mulch forms a ramp up to each plant!

A final step was to push a pepper cage into the ground around each plant. Our pepper cages are a shorter and narrower variation of our tomato cages made with welded wire concrete reinforcing mesh (remesh). In seven to ten days, I'll need to remove the cutworm collars which may require pulling the pepper cages and then reinstalling them. But I like to have the cages in place, as they may deter some bigger critters from sampling our pepper plants.

A couple of notes here. My use of ground egg shells is to supply calcium to the pepper plants to prevent blossom end rot. I've only been doing this for a few years with our peppers and tomatoes and don't really know how effective it is. I do know that whole or half egg shells dumped in our compost piles in previous years took more than a year to break down. So I hope grinding the egg shells speeds their release of calcium.

The Maxicrop thing was something I just stumbled across. For years our pepper plants would thrive and put on blooms and small peppers...and then die! On a lark, I began adding the seaweed powder to our planting and our pepper problems were solved. Apparently, the seaweed powder has a necessary trace element our soil was missing.

Growing Peppers - Sweet bell, hot,, red, yellow, etc., they all grow about the same way. (January 3, 2020)

The Lettuce

Lettuce transplantedLettuce mulched and getting watered from rain barrelYou might wonder why in the world I'd transplant head lettuce with daily high temperatures in the upper 80s to low 90s. It's sure to turn bitter and bolt. While I'd love to grow some good head lettuce for our table, the sixteen gorgeous head lettuce transplants I've been babying along are more for seed saving than for salads and sandwiches.

I last saved Crispino lettuce seed in 2014. For the once patented (PVP) Sun Devil variety, I finally got a seed crop in 2019. While both varieties of saved seed still germinate well, I suspect that I'm pushing things with the Crispino variety. And, I'd love to be able to finally share seed from the excellent, but discontinued Sun Devil variety.

I ended up putting in six Sun Devil and seven Crispino head lettuce plants. The planting method and materials used mirror yesterday's planting of peppers. Well, the lettuce didn't require cutworm collars.

While I was transplanting lettuce, a FedEx truck rolled in with a well insulated box of bluegill and bass I'd ordered for the pond. I stocked the pond early last month with some flathead minnows. Like planting fruit trees I'll probably never harvest, stocking the pond is something that hopefully will please later generations. At any rate, the baby fish seemed pleased to leave the plastic bag of water they were shipped in.

Rain Wizard 50 gallon rain barrelGetting back to the lettuce, the soil in the narrow raised bed was surprisingly dry. It wasn't bone dry, but dryer than I thought it would be after all the rain we had last week. Even after watering the lettuce before mulching, I drug the hose from our fifty gallon rain barrel to the bed and emptied the barrel's contents onto it.

Growing Lettuce - Growing lettuce is easy. Writing about it is a bit more difficult. (May 8, 2022)

Other Chores

With the lettuce in, I moved on to pulling the cutworm collars from our row of cauliflower plants. I used a pair of good shears to cut down each side of each paper cup. I spread fingers around the plant and gently pulled the half cups. Then I firmed and watered the soil around each cauliflower plant.

After that, I got into what turned out to be the biggest and most tiring job of the morning. I mulched the cauliflower, up to the edges of our onion rows, and our previous lettuce planting. Then it was back to critter deterrence, spraying the cauliflower and lettuce with Thuricide, Sticker Spreader, and Not Tonight Deer, spreading Repels All granules, and cutting and spreading chips of Irish Spring bar soap.

A little over half of our main raised bed planted and mulched

We have some carrots and beets up and just a few green bean plants poking through the soil surface. The two celery plants I put in with the lettuce are doing famously.

Some carrots up Top to bottom: Celery doing well, beets up, and a few carrots A few beans up

I have Earlirouge tomatoes and Eclipse peas yet to transplant into our main raised bed. When done, our raised beds will be fully planted (and mulched). Then, it's on to planting our large East Garden plot.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Saturday, May 14, 2022 - Earlirouge Tomatoes Transplanted

Materials for planting tomatoesRenee's GardenIt took nearly an hour to get all my "toys" together for transplanting six Earlirouge tomato plants. Over the years, I've become pretty set in my ways about when and how to put in tomato transplants. While other area gardeners will certainly get the first red ripe tomatoes in this area, I prefer to wait until the ground has warmed a good bit before planting. When I've cheated in the past and transplanted in late April or even early May, I've had plants set back a good bit by cold weather.

I first smoothed out the ground to be planted, ignoring all the grass clippings that had blown over it from mowing. It'll have lots more clippings on it when I mulch in the tomato plants. After marking where my tomato cages would go, I drove in T-posts that will help anchor the cages in windy weather. When top heavy with fruit, I've had the cages blow over, partially uprooting the tomato plants. The T-posts have stopped that nonsense. Sadly, the winds here keep getting stronger each year.

Planting hole backfilled with compost, lime, fertilizer, and egg shellTomatoes in...and green beans up as wellI do most of my transplanting with a trowel, but today's planting required a shovel to dig a wide, foot deep planting hole. I backfilled each hole with a shovelful of compost saved from last season. I worked in a little lime, some 12-12-12 fertilizer, and ground egg shell to each planting hole.

I then filled the planting hole with our standard transplanting solution, Quick Start and Maxicrop Soluble Seaweed Powder. When the liquid had soaked in, I squished an Earlirouge tomato transplant into the mud. A bit more soil got firmed around the plant with the rest of the dug soil forming a trough around the new plant. Another watering and grass clipping mulch completed each transplanting.

Even though the tomato plants are small, I still put in our tomato cages. We've had deer eat tomato transplants in the past. The cages offer some protection. A couple of geraniums, a petunia, and a vinca marked the corners of the tomato section of our main raised garden bed.

Growing Tomatoes - How we grow our tomatoes and a few comments about other methods.

Garden Tower Project

Sunday, May 15, 2022 - Supersweet Peas Transplanted

Working soil amendments into soilSeminis Eclipse PVP CertificateI finished planting our raised garden beds today by transplanting Eclipse peas along a short trellis in our main raised bed. While we'll enjoy eating some of the supersweet pea variety, this planting is mainly for seed production. Sharing Eclipse pea seed was forbidden by a PVP plant patent that expired recently.

Once I marked the pea row with a couple of short T-posts and string, I spread and hoed in lime, some 12-12-12 fertilizer, and granular soil inoculant down the row. Then the real "fun" began.

Being somewhat thrifty in full retirement, I had chosen not to order new trellis netting for the planting. I ended up spending an hour trying to untangle multiple lengths of used netting, eventually piecing together two short lengths for the fifteen foot row. The netting was hung from coated clothesline wire.

Nylon Trellis NettingTransplanting Eclipse pea plantsWhile taking a break from the job, I ordered a new package of Gardeneer By Dalen Trellis Netting Heavy-Duty Nylon Tangle-Free Net 5' x 60'. I still hope to plant more climbing peas.

When I began the transplanting, I first put in four Madame Butterfly snapdragon plants around each of the three T-posts supporting the netting. They'll coexist with the short pea plants for now, eventually outliving them and blooming well into fall.

Then I went down the row transplanting seventy-some Eclipse pea plants. The soil in the middle of the raised bed was far more moist than I expected. Even so, each planting hole got a shot of our standard transplanting solution, Quick Start and Maxicrop Soluble Seaweed Powder.

When I have more grass clipping mulch available, I'll mulch right up to the pea plants. In fact, the entire main raised bed will be mulched. For now though, doing our usual critter deterrence of Not Tonight Deer, Repels All granules, and Irish Spring bar soap chips will hopefully keep the rabbits and deer away.

I go to the trouble of growing and transplanting this pea variety, as its seed doesn't germinate well in cool soil. To get a jump on warming weather, I grow transplants of the Eclipse (and Encore) pea variety. Having managed to outlive Monsanto's plant patent on the excellent, open pollinated pea variety, I'm exciting about growing a seed crop of it this year.

Working to Save a Pea Variety

Eclipse peas transplanted

And with all the craziness Annie and I have experienced over the last year, I'm thrilled the good Lord has granted me another spring of gardening.

Raised beds completely planted!!!

So when they're fully mulched, our raised beds are finally in. Time to move on to our large East Garden plot and sweet corn, melons, and lots more.

Eclipse of the Moon

With my focus today on transplanting Eclipse peas, I sorta left out what may be a spectacular lunar eclipse tonight. has details on the eclipse that will occur late this evening into early tomorrow morning. Sadly, we have cloudy skies and thunderstorms predicted for that time frame. That's good for our garden, but not so good for eclipse viewing.

Hummingbird Feeders

Tuesday, May 17, 2022 - A Surprise

Territorial Seed Company Fall & Winter Gardening Catalog 2022Yesterday's mail had a surprise in it, a Fall & Wintering Gardening catalog from the Territorial Seed Company. Talk about "the early bird!" But Territorial has supplied the best garlic for planting for us over the years. Even though it's a bit out of season, I enjoyed paging through the attractive catalog. And no, Territorial isn't one of our Affiliated Advertisers, they just provide good garlic sets.

Encore Peas

With our Eclipse supersweet pea transplants now in the ground, it was time today to start the related Encore pea variety. Encore peas are part of the parentage of the Eclipse variety and share some of their sweetness. These peas will eventually go into our East Garden plot. Going there and also being well behind the Eclipse peas in days-to-maturity should help ensure isolation from cross pollination.

I didn't save all that many Encore peas for planting last season, so today, I started one 36 cell flat of Encores from 2021 saved seed and another with seed from 2019. The seed got soaked in room temperature water for about an hour before being seeded, mostly one seed per cell, into sterile potting mix.

The two flats of Encores were each covered with a clear humidome and went over a soil heating mat with its thermostat set at 75°F. As soon as the Encores emerge, I'll move them off the soil heating mats to make room for several sweet corn varieties I want germinated well ahead of our direct seeded sh2 sweet corn varieties.

Note that seed for the Encore pea variety is available from the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System.

East Garden Tilled

With rain predicted for tonight or tomorrow, I switched out our lawn tractor from its mower deck to its pull-type rototiller. The soil in our 80' x 80' East Garden plot was just dry enough for tilling. I got in one early tilling, finishing around one o'clock. The plot will require at least one more pass with the tiller before it's planting ready.

East Garden tilled

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Friday, May 20, 2022 - Pea Blossoms and Spinach Bolting

First pea blossoms of 2022Burpee Seed CompanyI hadn't emptied our rain gauge for a couple of days. I'd left about a third of an inch of rain in it. When I got around to emptying it this morning after strong thunderstorms last night, it had over two inches of rain in it. I wish I could bank some of that precipitation for use during our annual July and August mini-drought. Or possibly send it out west where folks are experiencing drought and wildfires.

When emptying the rain gauge, I saw that a few of our tall, early peas had begun to bloom. I wondered how long from bloom to mature peas takes. I found an answer in Teo Spengler's How Long Does It Take for Pea Plants to Go From Flower to Mature Pod? on SFGate:

Garden peas: Pods mature 18 to 21 days after flowering. Snap peas: Pods mature five to eight days after flowering. Sugar peas: Pods mature about seven days after flowering.

Spinach plant going to seed More bolting spinach

Current Growing Garden SeedsAs expected, some of our spinach plants have bolted from the lengthening daylight and unusually early hot weather we've had recently. I may try one more picking of the spinach plants not going to seed if the leaves aren't bitter tasting. Beyond that, I'll let the plants set seed to be saved.

Most sources I've read suggest that spinach plants are male or female with the female plants bearing seed. I knew that I'd read somewhere that spinach plants can have both male and female characteristics and have seen it in our garden.

I finally found where I'd read that in Robert Johnston, Jr.'s Growing Garden Seeds: A Manual for Gardeners and Small Farmers. In his section about spinach flowers. Rob wrote:

Three types of plants occur. 1) Those only producing male flowers; 2) those only producing female flowers; and 3) those bearing both types.

So don't be shocked if you try saving spinach seed and see a plant with both male and female flowers. It happens. And by the way, Johnny's Selected Seeds sells the booklet for just $2.05 while Amazon wants $29.99 for it!!!

Jill Henderson has a good page about saving spinach seed on her Show Me Oz site.


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Our Senior Garden - May 22, 2022Rain gauge...and rouge pea blossomWith repeated heavy rains, outdoor gardening is off my to-do list for now. I did transplant a corner marker sage plant into our East Garden on Friday. Doing so left me with a nasty job of cleaning mud off a tennis shoe.

The rain has been spotty in our area. When we received over two inches of rain two days ago, nearby Weather Underground reporting sites often show far less precipitation. The Lake Doogaroo site, a close and reliable one, only showed four tenths of an inch of rainfall last night while we recorded almost three-fourths of an inch.

While I'm writing about the weather, our predicted high temperature for today is 65°F after several days in the eighties.

LettuceSo far, our lettuce plants haven't seemed to be negatively affected by the recent high temperatures. They and our cauliflower also haven't experienced any rabbit or deer damage. After all the rain we've had, I'll need to spray the cauliflower and lettuce again with Thuricide, Spreader Sticker, and our homebrew of Not Tonight Deer, along with spreading more Repels All granules.

The healthy lettuce is a good thing, as our spinach plants are really going to seed now. And I used up almost all of our good spinach stored in the fridge last night for spinach salads with our supper.

An email today from a seed vendor advertised Father’s Day Gifts for Gardeners. I followed their link, but was totally unimpressed with their offerings. So, I took a few minutes (actually an hour or so) to gussy up our Senior Gardening Gift Guides.

The Old Guy's Shopping Guide for Gifts for Gardeners
Shopping Guide for Gardeners

White pea blossoms Rouge

You might have noticed a purplish blossom in the rain gauge photo above. The blossoms of our tall early pea varieties, a landrace mix of the Champion of England and Maxigolt varieties, are supposed to be white.

Seedling weeds emergingSince I'll be saving seed from the early peas, I'll need to pull the blossom (and possibly the whole plant), as it could introduce plant characteristics not consistent with the desired varieties crossing, although I like the blossom color.


I ran across a page on Gardeners' World that states that "Maxigolt bears white and purple flowers." Yippee! I really didn't want to pull the plant with the lovely purple bloom!

When taking photos for this rambling posting, I noticed some weed seedlings that will soon require the attention of my scuffle hoe. The soil surface needs to dry a bit before hoeing. Eventually, such areas will be mulched with grass clippings to hold back weeds and retain soil moisture.

I call the tool a scuffle hoe as that is the name the late Jim Crockett called it many years ago. It also goes by the names hula hoe, stirrup hoe, and action hoe. But whatever you call it, it's a great tool for eliminating weed seedlings.

Best Buy

Monday, May 23, 2022 - A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Denuded cauliflower plantCauliflower rowAfter uploading yesterday's posting, I went out to spray more Thuricide, Spreader Sticker, and Not Tonight Deer on our cauliflower and some of our lettuce. It looks like I was a day late and a dollar short with my spray protection. Rabbits had eaten all the leaves off of two cauliflower plants at the end of the row. Fortunately, I have some very healthy broccoli plants I can use as replacements.

Apparently, there had been some of the bad tasting stuff I'd sprayed on the plants remaining after the rain. A few other plants in the row had been sampled, but not totally defoliated. And of course, two more new Predator Eyes arrived today that might have helped deter the rabbit(s?). I'm guessing a rabbit, as no deer tracks were visible around the cauliflower. Interestingly, our lettuce hadn't been touched!

I'm guessing that whatever ate the cauliflower didn't get all the way down the row, as a couple of really large Violet of Sicily cauliflowers on the end were also untouched.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Our East Garden plot was really too wet for tilling today. But with rain predicted for the next three days, I went ahead and made several north to south passes with our pull-type tiller in the center of the plot. It actually tilled up pretty well.

East Garden plot tilled down the middle

The area tilled is for a long row of caged tomatoes and paprika peppers. Hopefully, between showers I can get out and start transplanting that row.

East Garden Plan - 2022

Beyond the row of tomatoes and paprika peppers, I hope to grow melons, summer squash, sweet corn, potatoes, kidney beans, and peas. Just outside the East Garden plot, I want to grow butternut squash on the site of our old compost pile. The back half of the plot will be seeded to a cover crop of buckwheat.


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Garlic rows - May 26, 2022A garlic scapeWe're still in a rainy period here in west central Indiana. We may see some sunshine by the weekend. Dumping water out of the trays of plants under our cold frame has become a near daily chore. I did so again this morning, but it's now raining again. I'll need to dump the trays again to keep the plants from being waterlogged.

In a break between showers, I took a look at our raised beds. Two lettuce plants died in the last day or two with no apparent cause. Some of the lettuce is about ready to be picked. The lettuce plants got replaced with similar varieties. I also transplanted two Premium Crop broccoli to replace the cauliflowers rabbits ate. As the next storm blew in, I transplanted a geranium and a dianthus into our herb bed.

Our four rows of garlic continue to look good. Some of the elephant garlic have put up scapes. Scapes are edible!

I usually snap off the scapes, as doing so is said to promote larger bulbs. One year when I let a scape bloom, it made our Best Photo of the Year!

Garlic bloom


Friday, May 27, 2022 - Another Way to Build a Raised Garden Bed

Our Senior Garden - May 27, 2022Oldcastle Planter Wall BlocksWhen doing my usual morning survey of online news sites, I ran across an intriguing article in the New York Times Wirecutter section. Writer Ben Keough tells of building a raised bed using Oldcastle Planter Wall Blocks and two by lumber. The title, These Lego-Like Bricks Make Building a Raised Garden Bed a Snap, pretty much tells the story.

The article contains lots of good photos of raised beds under construction, showing a variety of rectangular shaped raised garden beds.

I personally prefer our raised bed construction using pressure treated and cedar timbers, but see how the block and board method would be easier and possibly cheaper. I suspect the block method could really appeal to urban gardeners.

Our Raised Bed Stories:

Pea pods set on - May 27, 2022Spinach boltingWhen I walked by our raised beds this morning, I was disappointed to see that a rabbit (probably) had nipped the two broccoli plants I put in yesterday. I have lots more broccoli transplants under the cold frame, but wonder if I can keep the rabbits from eating any I might transplant into the raised bed.

Some better news is that our tall, early peas are now putting on pods. The peas are a landrace mix from the Champion of England and Maxigolt varieties. Those varieties have 65-75 days-to-maturity figures, so we're about on schedule from a seeding on March 14.

Beside the peas is our row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach. Almost all of the plants have bolted from warm weather and lengthening day length. To most gardeners, this development would be a disappointment so early in the season. Since we've enjoyed lots of spinach salads, spinach in omelettes, and boiled spinach, we're not too disappointed. And the going to seed is a good thing for us, as we'll save spinach seed from the plants.

Celery amongst onions, carrots,  beets, and lettuce

I only made room for two celery plants in our intensive bed section, but they look really healthy. I'll need to wrap the base of the plants soon to begin blanching their stalks.

I moved our Encore pea transplants outside yesterday to a protected area of our back porch. Both our 2019 and 2021 seed germinated at 90% or better! Like the supersweet Eclipse variety, Encores don't germinate well in cool soil so I start them as transplants over soil heating mats. The plants will need all the help they can get, as they'll be transplanted into the rather poor soil of our East Garden plot.

Encore pea transplants

When I was in town for a doctor's appointment on Wednesday, I picked up five pounds of buckwheat seed from Graham Grain. It cost nine dollars, a bit more than last year, but far cheaper than mail ordering it.

Shop Lehman's Now!

Tuesday, May 31, 2022 - May Wrap-up

May, 2022, animated GIF of our Senior GardenHardware WorldMay has proved to be an iffy month for us in our garden plots. On the bright side, we got our raised garden beds completely planted and mostly mulched this month. We also got some nice harvests of asparagus and spinach. And I did a first tilling of our large East Garden plot.

On the downside, my wife spent the month in twice a week rehab sessions for her hip replacement. I managed to hurt my back and one arm lifting things way too heavy for an old man to lift. We've had to hire out lawn mowing for the time being.

We're hoping for a better month in June.

The Home Depot

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