Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity


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The Old Guy's Garden Record

October 31, 2022


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Saturday, October 1, 2022 - Not What I'd Hoped For

I'd had a hint yesterday of some cold mornings coming, but that was in an extended forecast from a Weather Underground site. When I checked the weather this morning, my fears of an early frost were enhanced. I'd been counting on an average October 17 first frost or possibly later to harvest our fall crops direct seeded on August 23.

Weather Underground Extended Forecast - October 1, 2022

While the Weather Underground short term predictions are fairly accurate, I went to another weather site, WTWO-TV, to see what they'd predicted. They not only confirmed a possible frost on Friday morning, but came in a degree lower than Weather Underground.

WTWO forecast

Weather persons will tell you that forecasts beyond just a few days aren't terribly reliable. They do, however, give one an idea of what is coming. Having an idea that a killing frost might occur towards the end of next week, I'll dig out my floating row cover material and anchor pins and get our Encore peas covered. A 33°F morning will almost certainly zap our tomato and pepper plants, so I'll be picking them back before the anticipated frost.

Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants - October 1. 2022

Saved pepper seedKidney beans ready for freezingAs you can see, we still have a lot of red peppers to pick, even after I picked wrinkly ones yesterday for seed saving. Having saved all the seed we should need and frozen some peppers, I'll probably do a final picking of the peppers on Monday for our local food bank's Monday evening food distribution.

I bagged and froze our kidney beans that had been drying on a high shelf in our dining room. I didn't separate them for cooking, canning, or seed saving, just putting them all in a quart Ziploc bag. The harvest weighed in at 1 pound, 2.7 ounces. Considering I planted just a fifteen foot row of them and the stress the plants endured, I'm happy with that harvest.

Since bean seed can stay viable for four years or so, I may use all of this year's beans for Portuguese Kale Soup and Refried Kidney Beans. I still have saved kidney bean seed from 2017, 2019, and 2020 for planting next year.

I got sidetracked a few lines ago, as I forgot to render the kidney bean image for web use. I'd meant to show our Earlirouge tomato plants below the pepper picture. It shows that our tomato harvest is just about over.

Our Earlirouge tomato plants - October 1, 2022

Cucumber seed fermenting in jarsCucumber seed dryingI finished processing two jars of cucumber seed I'd had fermenting for three days. I may have taken the seed a bit too early, as I had a devil of a time rinsing off all the non-seed matter from one jar. Once rinsed, the seed went onto a coffee filter over a batch number labeled paper plate. After a day, I scrape the seed off the filter onto the plate to continue drying for about a week.

Basil plant in bloomI sort of went crazy with images for this posting. I kept seeing things I wanted a shot of. One of those things was getting a shot of what was supposed to be a dwarf basil plant in bloom. I picked off a bloom spike from the plant to check it for seed. Sure enough, below the blooming part, the plant was producing seed. Still in seed saving mode, I considered collecting seed from the plant. But to do so, I'd have to take the blooms. Since we have lots of honeybees visiting the blooms, I decided to leave the plant alone for now.

I harvested the last of our Crispino head lettuce seed spikes today. If you've never saved lettuce seed and want an easy variety to begin with, it's Crispino. The nearly dead plants were still trying to grow and bloom.

There's no photo of the lettuce for seed row. I got the angle of the photo all wrong. It made me dizzy just looking at it. And once you pull the plants, it's too late to try again on the photo.

Here's one last shot you may appreciate. It's of our fall planting in our main raised garden bed. You may notice a tuxedo cat in the image. Either he or one of our dogs has been digging in our onion rows. Even a liberal application of Repels All hasn't stopped the digging.

Main bed...with a cat

Sometimes gardening is really therapeutic. This has been a tough week for a lot of folks in our country and around the world. My heart has been heavy, as one of my former students died this week. Getting into some gardening, photography, and writing, all things I enjoy doing, have lifted my spirits a bit.

Here's wishing you a great weekend!

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Monday, October 3, 2022 - Picking Apples

Much maligned apple tree partially pickedCart of applesWe have an apple tree I think I've never written anything nice about here. When purchased, it was supposed to be our favorite apple variety, Stayman Winesap. But it produces yellow apples! But this year, it was loaded with those apples.

With morning temperatures of 32 and 31°F predicted Saturday and Sunday mornings, I needed to get our apples picked. I picked apples yesterday morning and afternoon and again today. When done picking all but a few apples that were too high to reach, even using a pole picker while standing in the bed of my pickup truck, I'd nearly filled our four cubic foot garden cart with yellow apples.

Since I didn't spray our apple trees all that much this year, the apples have some bug damage. They're also all covered with sooty mold, fungi that aren't harmful or poisonous to humans, but a pain to wash off the apples.

Sooty mold scrubbed off applesApple pie from our own applesOnce soaked and scrubbed with a brush a bit, the apples look pretty nice. While we have a lot of apples, my first use of them was for a delicious apple pie. That took all of six apples. Applesauce is next on my to do list. But with so many apples, some will surely end up at our local food bank by the end of the week.

Sooty mold can persist on tree bark. It was a precursor to the fire blight that killed our standard Stayman Winesap tree years ago and set back our semi-dwarf Granny Smith tree for several years before root rot took that tree. I'll need to spray our apple trees with a strong fungicide before winter sets in.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2022 - Applesauce

Making applesauceKatherine picking applesIt's been years since I've made and canned applesauce. The time gap in making it is due to us losing our mature apple trees to disease. I have some fond memories of those applesauce making days, often assisted by granddaughter Katherine.

But we do have apples this year. They're some variety of yellow apple, possibly yellow delicious, from a tree ordered that was supposed to be a Winesap.

After picking nearly all the apples off the tree on Sunday and Monday and making apple pie yesterday, I turned to making applesauce today. I worked all morning scrubbing sooty mold off a sinkful of apples. Then I sliced the apples and heated them in a pot filled with apple juice. Since I hadn't sprayed our apple trees that much, there were lots of bad spots to cut out of the apples. Actually, more than bug damage, there were lots of bruises on the fruit to cut out.

Washing apples Screening apple pulp through Squeezo Strainer

When each batch of apple slices had softened, I drained them into our venerable Squeezo Strainer. For this job, I used the pumpkin screen which has larger holes than the standard tomato screen. I'm lucky to have parts of two Squeezos. An old one I bought years ago leaks terribly, but has some parts like the pumpkin screen that a newer one a friend gave me lacks.

Cooking down applesauce Six pints canned plus a half pint for the fridge

The applesauce seemed a little thin, so I put it on the stove to thicken. It did so in no time. A little sugar and cinnamon, and the applesauce was ready to can. One can actually skip the sugar and cinnamon. We've done so in the past.

To refresh my memory on making applesauce, I googled "applesauce recipe squeezo" to get a recipe using the Squeezo Strainer. Sarah Toney's How to Make and Can Homemade Applesauce supplied that information. I was a little perplexed that she only gave one time, 20 minutes, for water bath canning the applesauce. Times for quarts and pints are always different, unless they aren't. Checking in our old Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving, I found it gave twenty minutes for either pints or quarts.

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Hoss ToolsVeterans of canning will know that you really don't relax in the canning process until the jars are out, cooling, and sealing. All six of our pints sealed properly. Yippee!

I still have half a four cubic foot cart of apples to figure out what to do with. An old friend suggested apple butter, but I don't have a slow cooker and detest standing at the stove and stirring all day. But I still have the Squeezo upstairs, so who knows?

An email from Hoss Tools with a strange subject line popped up in my mail app today. The subject read, "3 Reasons Why You SHOULDN'T Garden In Raised Beds." Of course, they got me. When I opened the email, it proclaimed, "We're kidding...We LOVE raised beds!"

As I read down the email, they had some good suggestions for growing in raised beds. They also had a list of possible fall crops folks not facing an early frost might grow. Of their seven suggestions (lettuce, peas, onions, cabbage, carrots, beets, and kale), we're growing six of the seven! Of course, we're facing a possibly killing frost this weekend.

Hoss Tools

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Tomatoes picked October 5, 2022Cluster of ripening tomatoes - October 5, 2022I sprayed our apple trees with Fungonil today. It's the strongest fungicide I have on hand. I'm hoping to prevent any carryover on the trees' bark of the sooty mold that ran rampant on our apples this year.

I also selected and brought in and washed a dozen or so of the apples for us to use. The rest will go to the food bank tomorrow.

While outside picking some lettuce, I also picked tomatoes. I got a nice bunch of small tomatoes that will probably go to the food bank with the apples. I noticed that one of our Earlirouge plants still had a cluster of almost ripe tomatoes on it. Fully ripe or not, I should pick those tomatoes tomorrow or Friday before some predicted frosts occur. I'm guessing that will be the end of our tomato harvests this season.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Our Senior Garden - October 6, 2022Encore pea plants mulchedI'm done with apples for this year other than the dozen or so in our refrigerator. I sorted out culls and took the rest along with the tomatoes pictured here yesterday to our local food bank. The culls and some other stuff went to our compost pile. I'm glad to get the apples away from our back porch because of all the bees and wasps they drew.

I hooked up our lawn sweeper to the mower this afternoon and mowed and raked just enough of our East Garden to mulch our row of early peas. With frosts/freezes coming up, I'd wondered if I should just let the planting go. But I spied what I think was a pea bloom developing on one of the plants and went ahead with my plan for protecting them. The pea plants got a good bit of cured grass clippings around them. Tomorrow, I hope to cover them with a floating row cover.

Annie and I had bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches and peas for supper tonight. The lettuce and tomato were from our garden, as were the peas. With just a few nice tomatoes ripening on our plants and frosts predicted for Saturday and Sunday mornings, we may be done with our BLT feasts for this year.

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Friday, October 7, 2022

Today's tomatoesPea row covered with floating row coverMy main gardening jobs for today were picking stuff I thought the frost would damage and deciding what to try to protect from frost. While I ran water for my morning watering, I picked a nice bunch of tomatoes.

After watering, I used some leftover grass clippings to mulch on either side of our double row of Walla Walla onions. The online article that got me started on this experiment suggested mulching the onions through the winter.

After really soaking the ground around our row of Encore peas, I covered them with some Agribon AG-19 Floating Row Cover material. I found a piece used last season that didn't have any serious holes in it. I used anchor pins on the ends and one side of the row. I used my walking boards on the other side to allow easy access to the row.

Forecasts for the next two mornings have bounced around from 28-34°F. Currently, the lowest predicted temperature is 30°F. With the floating row cover's four degrees of protection and the rest of our crops being somewhat frost hardy, I hope we'll be okay after this cold snap passes.

Our Main Bed - October 7, 2022

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Saturday, October 8, 2022

We didn't have a frost this morning. That's good, but we face one tomorrow morning. Still thinking about what I might do next to extend our harvest, I decided to bring in butternut squash from the volunteer South Anna Butternut and Waltham Butternut plants that erupted out of our old compost pile.

Vaolunteer butternut patch growing on compost pile

Ten more butternut squashI was able to find ten more mostly ripe butternuts. While some still showed a little green on their surface, I hope they'll fully ripen on our drying/curing table in the garage. There are still a dozen or so butternuts in the patch that were too green to pick. Some of them are huge, so I hope the frost tomorrow doesn't get them. But we now have fourteen good butternuts on the drying/curing table.

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I saw a white cabbage moth in our main raised bed yesterday, so I gave our two rows of kale another round of Thuricide. Thuricide is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), an effective biological that gives cabbage looper and white cabbage moth worms fatal stomach cramps. The product is not harmful to pets or humans.

Our kale is just about ready for a picking. According to the late Jim Crockett, a frost improves the flavor of kale. Crockett also shared the essentials for a great soup in Crockett's Victory Garden (1977):

Kale is an all but unknown vegetable these days, so let me do my part to publicize its cause by passing along the bare outlines of a delicious recipe for Portuguese kale soup. There are dozens of variations of this recipe, but my favorite includes kale (or collards), garlic-seasoned smoked pork sausage, chopped onions and garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, and freshly cooked kidney beans in a chicken stock. Short of making the soup for you myself, I can do no more.

Portuguese Kale SoupOur list of ingredients for Portuguese Kale Soup doesn't stray far from Crockett's recommendations:

  • chicken broth with bits of chicken
  • onions
  • garlic (both regular and elephant garlic, a type from the leek family, I think)
  • skinless smoked sausage
  • kale greens
  • tomatoes (canned, whole skinned or about a dozen fresh)
  • kidney beans
  • potatoes
  • mixed vegetables - if using fresh, green (and a few lima) beans, peas, carrots, and sometimes a bit of sweet corn
  • salt and pepper

I realized this morning that I need to pick up some potatoes for when we make the soup. I've already laid in all the rest of the necessary ingredients.

Still getting ready for a frost/freeze, I took some more sage cuttings and also transplanted some tiny Painted Daisies. Since these plants have been outdoors where they may have picked up bugs, bug eggs, or diseases, they'll go to our sunroom for the winter.

And while doing this and that, I saw that most of the gloxinias I started from saved seed in June were blooming or getting ready to bloom. So I cleared our dining room table of some fading older gloxinias and brought the new ones upstairs for us to enjoy.

Young gloxinia plants in bloom

Renee's Garden

Sunday, October 9, 2022 - First Frost

A pea blossom - October 9, 2022Pea row uncoveredWe had our first frost this morning, but it was a light frost. Low temperatures in this area were reported at around 33-34°F. I saw that a couple of basil plants that are closest to the open field next to our garden got zapped. But everything else, even the basil plant in our herb bed, look good so far. Of course, sometimes frost damage takes a day or so to become evident.

With no frost or freeze predicted for a few days, I uncovered our row of Encore peas. That made it easier to water them. It also will allow bees to reach any pea blooms that emerge. Peas both self-pollinate and are pollinated by bees and insects. Making my morning, I found one open pea blossom. I'll probably need to re-cover the pea row on Thursday. And our extended weather forecast calls for a hard freeze (25°F) a week from tomorrow.

I did some extra watering this morning. Our Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants are yellowing due mostly to lack of soil moisture. So each plant got two or three gallons of water.

While I hadn't planned to water our Earlirouge tomato plants, I noticed that some of the plants had some good sized green tomatoes on them. So the tomato plants also got several gallons of water each. Whether we get any more peppers or tomatoes, the watering is worth the gamble.

Tomato plants filled with green tomatoes - October 9, 2022

Our gardening season is winding down. But it's sort of fun trying to milk every last harvest possible out of what has otherwise been a difficult year of gardening.

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Monday, October 10, 2022 - National Indigenous Peoples Day

I hadn't checked our butternut squash vines for frost damage yesterday. But today, the damage was easy to see with many blackened leaves on the vines. So today's big gardening job became harvesting what squash remained and clearing and composting the dead vines.

Butternut vines after frost

I'd previously estimated about a dozen squash might be lurking under the squash vines heavy foliage. It turned out to be eighteen full sized butternuts, although several of them were very green.

Eighteen more butternuts

The eighteen new squash joined fourteen previously picked mature squash on our drying/curing table. That gives us thirty-two butternuts if they all yellow out. That's about three times the number of butternuts we'll use in a year, so if the squash mature properly, our local food bank will get the excess.

Butternut YamsBaked butternut squashOur main use of butternut squash is making butternut mock yams for family dinners such as Thanksgiving.

We also enjoy splitting and seeding the squash and baking them with brown sugar and a few spices.

From our recent splashshots, one can tell that the field of soybeans next to us has been harvested. It appeared that the field got limed today, with the lime getting turned under.

My poor truck has been filthy for weeks, but I've waited to have it washed until the harvest was over. Picking beans produces clouds of dust, dirt, and organic matter that drifts over our property. I'm hoping it is now safe to drive my old truck through the car wash. But...there's still the field of beans across the road from us.

Country living, sigh.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2022 - Spaghetti - Lasagna

Making spaghetti/lasaagna sauceNot quite a quarter inch of rainOn a rainy day, my gardening consisted of picking one tomato and cutting some fresh basil and oregano for a batch of spaghetti/lasagna sauce. Instead of using canned tomatoes and purée for the sauce, I started with a tray of tomatoes that had been sitting for several days in our dining room. The tomatoes were very ripe, but not spoiled, other than one I pitched yesterday.

Really ripe tomatoes are easy to skin. After coring and removing the odd bad spot and blossom ends, the tomatoes went into near boiling water. After a few minutes, dropping them into cold water thermal shocked the skins that slid off fairly easily.

Besides seasoning the tomato sauce with onion, garlic, basil, parsley, oregano, black and red pepper, I often cheat and add a can of Hunt's Traditional Pasta Sauce to improve the flavor and thickness of the sauce. Today, I omitted the cheat although I added a pint of canned purée, and added some corn starch to thicken the sauce a bit.

I've fallen into a pattern of cooking a large batch of spaghetti sauce for dinner one night and using the rest to make lasagna. The lasagna gets made the same day as the spaghetti sauce and then is refrigerated overnight. Reheated lasagna seems to have better flavor than when it's first baked.

Lasagna

Over the years of our marriage, it has just worked out that I end up preparing our evening meal. When I was teaching, I got off work a full hour before Annie did. In first semi- and then full retirement, I'm home and able to prepare a nice evening meal for us most nights when Annie returns from her high stress computer tech job.

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Thursday, October 13, 2022

Our Senior Garden - October 13, 2022Weather Underground Extended ForecastOur extended weather outlook sort of shouts "End of Season!" We're facing a frost/freeze tomorrow morning, so I re-covered our Encore pea row with its floating row cover. I didn't pick or cover our lettuce, something I may regret tomorrow morning.

Morning low temperatures on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday next week are all in the range of killing frosts...even for some of our more frost hardy crops.

Along with the colder weather, we're into another dry spell. Our area has fallen into the "Abnormally Dry" classification by the U.S Drought Monitor.

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
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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

Other than picking some crops early, watering, and covering some tender crops, there's not much more we can do to extend our gardening season.

1800Flowers

Friday, October 14, 2022 - Peppers

Earliest Red Sweet peppers
ERS and Ace size comparison

Dead pepper plantHaving given their all, our Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants succumbed to another light frost this morning. While I was out picking four mostly ripe tomatoes, I saw that the pepper plants had dropped most of their leaves. There were still a few immature green peppers on the plants, but nothing worth saving. We have lots of pepper strips in the freezer. While the variety produces peppers smaller than most hybrid varieties, it makes up for that in volume of peppers and lack of surface rot on the peppers. And I finally got a batch of pepper seed that germination tested at or above our standard of 80% germination.

Seed Sharing

I once again will be sharing seed for some of our favorite vegetable varieties this year via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange. Due to a shoulder injury early in the season, our large East Garden plot didn't get planted, so our seed sharing listings are somewhat limited. Some of the seed shared will be from 2021, although it's been in frozen storage to keep it fresh.

For tomatoes, we'll be sharing our favorite Earlirouge variety, along with the Moira, Quinte, and Crimson Sprinter varieties. I have a limited amount of the Earliest Red Sweet bell pepper variety seed. And I have lots and lots of the Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed, now discounted to $4.00 a packet. Our cucumbers were superstars of this year's garden. And of course, I'll be sharing our landrace mix of Empress, Double Brocade, and Cranberry Tiger gloxinia seed.

Missing from our seed sharing this year is the excellent Abundant Bloomsdale variety of spinach. Our plants this year were mostly male, limiting our volume of seed collected. While several of our favorite commercial seed vendors currently list the variety as out of stock, I suspect they'll be offering the seed by spring.

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Monday, October 17, 2022

Our Senior Garden - October 17, 2022Weather Underground Extended Forecast _ October 17-I'd taken our near daily splashshot of our raised garden beds a little after noon today. It had been cold (lower 40s), cloudy, and very windy (25 MPH) all morning. As I started to go to my upstairs office, the sun briefly emerged from behind the clouds. I grabbed my camera and redid our splashshot for today.

In contrast to today's weather, yesterday was a lovely day with bright sunshine, temperatures in the 60s, and little wind. I took advantage of the nice day to harvest a good bit of our fall lettuce. Our current extended weather forecast calls for morning low temperatures of 29, 28, 25, and 31°F the next few days. The lettuce might not survive those temperatures. And as often happens in the fall, conditions will then moderate with lows in the 40s and daily high temperatures around 70°F.

The romaine, summer crisp, and immature head lettuce I picked yesterday were lovely and sweet.

Lettuce drying

A fall saladTomatoes and peppers in ripening trayWith the weather we've had late summer into fall, I'm thrilled with what we got. I had a salad with my supper to celebrate.

Besides cutting lettuce, I picked a few more tomatoes that may ripen in a tray on our dining room table. I also saved a few mostly small green peppers when I took out our pepper row.

Some of those peppers will get used this evening when I make a copycat Suddenly Salad Caesar pasta salad. I quit using the boxed Betty Crocker version of Suddenly Salad after they took out or combined the Parmesan and croutons. It just wasn't the same or nearly as good.

I make ours with some highly seasoned (paprika, garlic powder, seasoned salt) chicken breast chunks and Newman's Own Creamy Caesar Dressing with a bit of olive oil added. I crush some seasoned croutons for the mix and also cover it with lots of ground Parmesan cheese.

Sam's Club

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Frost damaged tomato plantsTaking out the tomato rowWe had another cold morning today. While most of the crops in our main raised bed look okay, two mornings around freezing took out our row of Earlirouge tomato plants. So today's big gardening job was removing the plants. That also involves removing, cleaning and storing the tomato cages, pulling and storing the T-posts that kept the tomato cages from blowing over, and "harvesting" our somewhat expensive and lately ineffective Nite Guard and Predator Eye predator lights.

In the course of cleaning up the tomato row, I saved a dozen tomatoes showing signs of ripeness. Earlier in the day, I used five or six tomatoes from our ripening tray to make a batch of Olive Garden copycat Braised Beef and Tortellini for supper. With fresh tomatoes on hand, some leftover mushrooms in the fridge, and a half round roast and some tortellinis in the freezer, the dinner choice was a no-brainer.

I've now seen two Facebook postings advertising seed catalogs for the 2023 coming soon. With some fall crops still in our main raised garden bed, it's hard to believe that the 2022 growing season is coming to a close.

I've also noticed that area farmers have taken good advantage of our long dry spell to bring in crops. Most of the big fields of soybeans in our area have now been harvested. A small field of succession beans across the road from us still needs to be taken in. The field was harvested for hay early in this season with the beans planted late. There's still a lot of corn around here to be brought in.

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Thursday, October 20, 2022

Our Senior Garden - October 20, 2022Encore peas uncoveredWeather sites had pretty consistently predicted an overnight low temperature of 25 or 26°F for this morning. It appears we got away with a low of only 28°F. While this last cold morning blackened the blooms and caused the leaves to drop off the basil plant by our shallow well, most of our other plants survived. Well, the lovely Maverick Red geranium at the corner of our main raised bed looks well and truly dead. But the snapdragons I left in the bed are still doing well. And our extended weather forecast doesn't call for another frost/freeze for the next ten days. Sadly, it also shows little chance for rain over the period. I'll need to begin my morning watering routine again tomorrow morning.

We had a family gathering with our youngest son and his family for a long lunch at the Crossroads Cafe outside Bloomfield, Indiana. They're visiting from Mankato, Minnesota, and said our weather felt quite warm. My son, Zach, of whom I'm so proud, publishes weekly Encounter Devotionals online. The food and staff at Crossroads were exceptional. If you're wandering in that area, stop by for a real dining treat. But only for breakfast and lunch.

When we got home mid-afternoon, I pulled the floating row cover off our row of Encore peas. The cover had done its job, as the pea plants showed no frost damage. The Agribon AG-19 Floating Row Cover material is rated as protecting down to 28°F, so I think we got lucky this morning. The pea plants are showing a few blossoms, but no pea pods as of yet.

Main raised garden bed - October 20, 2022

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Donors ChooseWith a possible ten day reprieve from freezing weather, the crops in our main raised garden bed stand a chance of maturing. From left to right are a row of Encore peas, a narrow double row of carrots and beets, a wide double row of spinach and lettuce, two rows of critter damaged kale, and a narrow double row of fall Walla Walla onions.

Today's U.S Drought Monitor report still shows our area in the "Abnormally Dry" classification. I'd like to disagree, as our soil is bone dry! I'm not sure that's one of their classifications.

Tomatoes, peppers, and gloxinias in bloom

Our dining room table overflows with beauty. We have lots of ripening tomatoes, green peppers, and first year gloxinias in bloom.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Our Senior Garden on a beautiful October 22, 2022Garlic sliced and going on dehydrator traysWe're enjoying an absolutely gorgeous fall day today. Temperatures are in the high 70s with lots of sunshine. (A little rain might be nice, Lord.) The dry weather has worked to the advantage of area farmers. Fields that were filled with soybeans and field corn around here two weeks ago are now mostly harvested.

After finishing my morning watering chores, I saved basil and oregano seed. The basil plant is dead, but the perennial oregano is still thriving.

After sitting on our glider on the back porch for a time, I moved on to working garlic. I first selected twenty-some each of elephant, softneck, and hardneck garlic for planting. Then I began cleaning garlic cloves for garlic powder. Getting the skins off the garlic cloves is a sticky job that takes a while. Then I sliced the cloves by running them through our food processor. They're now in our food dehydrator in the garage. By tomorrow morning, the garlic should be dry enough to grind to a powder.

I give basic directions on making garlic powder in our how-to, Growing Garlic.

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Sunday, October 23, 2022

Our Senior Garden on a beautiful October 23, 20222022 garlic beside 2020 leftover garlic powderleftWe had another sunny, warm day today. It was slightly spoiled at times with wind gusts up to 30 MPH.

Two years ago, I filled all four trays of our food processor with slivered garlic when making garlic powder. Yesterday, I filled only two of the trays, as we still have garlic powder left from the batch in 2020. The dried garlic bonds to the trays, so getting it loose was the hardest part of making the garlic powder. I again used an old coffee grinder that I use only for grinding herbs, garlic, and such. As you can see in the photo at right, this year's batch didn't make all that much garlic powder. But it, along with the 2020 leftovers, should last us until next fall. I generally only use garlic powder for stuff such as garlic cheese bread, preferring to chop regular garlic for most of our cooking. And we have lots of regular garlic on hand. I need to sort some out for our local food bank so that I don't end up dumping old garlic on our compost pile after next summer's harvest.

Later in the day, I pulled about a dozen beets. When pulling them, even after the rows had been watered, dust kept blowing into my eyes. The beets pulled were all the Detroit Dark Red variety. Our Cylindra beets are still rather short and small, probably from the dry weather we've had and are having.

It was an ideal day to have beets, as my wife, who dislikes beets, was away visiting her mother. I enjoyed boiled beets with butter on them and had enough to freeze a pint of them for future use.

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Monday, October 24, 2022

Bagging garlic for the food bankFruit BouquetsI still have one last garlic job to do. Having made garlic powder and shared excess garlics with our local food bank, the only remaining job is to plant garlic. But right now, there's a nice double row of lettuce and spinach occupying the area where the garlic will go. So that job will have to wait until we use up the lettuce and spinach or a killing frost takes them. The food bank got about ten bags of garlic with two or three garlics in each sack.

Watering our main raised bed took a little longer than usual today. Some days I skip watering some of the rows. I watered them all today, but also did something extra. I watered our rows of kale with some Thuricide mixed into the water. While I haven't seen a white cabbage moth or cabbage looper in weeks, I'm hoping the taste of the Thuricide might put off whatever critter(s) had previously eaten much of our kale.

Main raised bed _ October 24, 2022

Our dogs were due today for their monthly treatment of Ivermectin to prevent heart worms. I measure the product with an old syringe onto leftovers. But curiously today, there just weren't any leftovers in the fridge. So I scoured our pantry for outdated cans and also found some slimy smoked sausage and even a bit of old heavy cream. One of the outdated jars found was some hot salsa sauce. I'm guessing the dogs will empty their water bowl today.

Sam's Club

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Compost pileWater CharityWe received a very welcome inch plus of precipitation yesterday and last night. But with a cold morning coming (34°F), I pulled and anchored our floating row cover over our peas. They'll stay covered for the next three nights, as temperatures will hover just above freezing in the mornings. Then, it appears we may be frost free into the early days of November.

After covering the pea plants, I hauled a load of woody stemmed dead plants to our burn pile and some kitchen compost to our compost pile. The basil and dill went onto the burn pile. A mix of kitchen scraps and bad onions went onto the compost pile.

After doing the composting, I raked some stuff off our old compost pile that didn't decay. I'd foolishly tried to compost some zinnia stems and other woody stemmed plants. Those stems went onto our burn pile where they should have gone in the first place.

David's Cookies

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Recovering kale rowsBeet, lettuce, and covered pea rowWe escaped another frost this morning. While there were predicted lows of 33-34°F, our low came in around 36°F. I'm going to leave our row of peas covered, as the morning lows for the next couple of days are predicted to be in the upper 30s.

I'd just about given up hope of making our annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup after critters decimated the rows. But with favorable weather and lots of watering, the kale is rebounding nicely. Hoping to prevent another assault on the kale leaves, I spread more Repels All and some Irish Spring bar soap chips around the kale and also the rest of our main raised bed. The deer or rabbits might get an appetite for lettuce, spinach, or even beet leaves. Feeling somewhat optimistic about harvesting some spinach, I just added feta cheese to my shopping list to makespinach salad.

Correction

I guess I wasn't all that observant this morning. My wife, Annie, tells me there was light frost on her windshield this morning. And my cousin, Rose, said they had heavy frost in Indianapolis. If the cold temperatures affected some of our plants, the damage may not be visible until tomorrow. Sometimes frost damage takes that long to show up.

Main raised garden bed - October 27, 2022

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Friday, October 28, 2022 - Spinach Salad

Spinach/lettuce rowsRinsed spinach leaves dryingI decided to pick spinach today for spinach salad this evening. While I'd planned to pick all the mature spinach, halfway down the row I'd half filled a five gallon bucket with the spinach. That's way more than one would need for just two spinach salads.

I started the harvest using kitchen shears to cut the spinach. That turned out to be a bit messy, so I reverted to my usual method of pinching off the spinach leaves one at a time. The leaves went into our picking bucket. I reserve a new or clean bucket each season to be used only for picking with no chemicals ever going into the bucket.

Spinach SaladThe spinach leaves got rinsed twice outside. Then I dumped them into the kitchen sink and rinsed the leaves one at a time, stemming them where necessary. Since we don't have a salad spinner, I let the spinach air dry in a couple of colanders. Then it went into a large Debbie Meyer Green Bag in the fridge until dinner time. We've had great luck preserving carrots over the winter in the green bags, but not so much with other crops.

Our spinach salad typically consists of spinach leaves, mandarin oranges, croutons, sliced hard boiled eggs, feta cheese, and poppyseed dressing. The spinach salad photo at right is from this last spring.

Fall Garden

I planted most of our main raised bed for fall on August 23, a little late for everything to have time to mature. Now, some sixty-six days since that planting, things are actually looking pretty good. The crops planted may have just enough time to mature if the weather cooperates.

From the August 23 posting:

  • Encore peas, a 67 day variety that we'll be lucky to harvest
  • Mokum and Napoli carrots - Mokums are a 36 day variety for baby carrots and 54 days for full sized. Napoli's are a 58 day variety. But according to Garden Betty, "Carrot tops are cold-hardy down to at least 18°F." So I'm confident hopeful we should get a crop.
  • Detroit Dark Red (55) and Cylindra (56) beets. Hey, smaller beets are great for making Harvard Beets.
  • Abundant Bloomsdale spinach (47)
  • Crispino and Sun Devil head lettuce (57-60), Barbados summer crisp (37), and Jericho and Coastal Star (47-60) romaines
  • Judy's Kale (55), Red Ursa (65), and Vates, also known as Dwarf Blue Curled or Dwarf Blue Scotch (55)

One has to add ten to fourteen days to the days-to-maturity figures in parentheses above to account for the shorter day length of fall days. Our lack of rainfall has also set everything back.

The peas and carrots are still question marks. While the pea plants have some blooms, I've not seen any pea pods set on the plants. The carrots growth has been disappointing.

Our head, summer crisp, and romaine lettuce have done really well. And I've picked mature beets and of course, got some nice spinach today. The kale would have been ready for a heavy picking now if not for critters seriously damaging the crop. But the kale has rebounded and may yet make a good crop.

Weather Underground Extended Forecast for October 28-November 6, 2022

After another cold morning tomorrow, our extended weather forecast looks pretty favorable for our crops to mature. Well, the peas were a gamble from the start, so we'll see about them.

Best Buy

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Our Senior Garden - October 29, 2022Pea pods at last on an Encore pea plantAs you can see from today's splashshot, we're having another beautiful fall day. Temperatures are in the low 70s with little to no wind. And we have a chance of more rain tonight and tomorrow.

After both Annie and I enjoyed spinach salad from our garden for lunch, I went out and rolled back the floating row cover from our Encore peas. Looking over the plants, I saw that one plant now has pea pods on it.

The Encore pea variety is one we've been working to save for years. The variety was plant patented until recently, but seed for it disappeared from the market years ago.

Encores are a very sweet pea and are part of the parentage of the supersweet Eclipse pea variety. Sadly, like the Eclipse variety, Encores don't germinate all that well (for us, at least). This planting of Encores was sort of a desperate attempt to increase our supply of seed for the variety, as we're running very low on it.

Eartheasy

Monday, October 31, 2022 - October Wrap-up

October, 2022, animated GIF of our Senior Garden1-800-Flowers Deal of the WeekIt's been an interesting month. We faced some frosts through the month, but are surprisingly still gardening here at the end of October. Frosts took our pepper and tomato plants along with some flowers and herbs mid-month. But we continue to enjoy lettuce and spinach from our main raised garden bed.

Our fall carrots appear to have stunted, but we've had beets and will have more soon. Our Encore peas are just beginning to set pods. And our kale that was devastated by critter damage has rebounded nicely after getting lots of water and some fertilizer.

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Earlier in the month, we were overwhelmed with apples. Our Yellow Delicious tree produced just under four bushels of apples. We enjoyed apple pie most of the month along with making apple sauce for the first time in years.

Because of a shoulder injury this spring, I didn't get to plant our East Garden this year. But our old compost pile had butternut squash germinate in it. The volunteer butternut vines ended up producing thirty-two full sized butternut squash. The volunteer butternuts were a mix and possibly a cross of the South Anna and Waltham butternut varieties.

Butternuts on curing table

One of the things that makes me feel good about gardening is being able to share our surplus with others. Our local food bank received apples, tomatoes, peppers, and garlic from us this month. They may yet get some of those butternuts, as we're certainly not going to eat thirty-two of them over the winter.

Main raised bed - October 31, 2022

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