Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

September 30, 2023

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Friday, September 1, 2023

Weather Underground Extended Forecast - September 1-10Melon patchOur weather outlook from the Weather Underground looks like more dry weather. I ususally begin my gardening these days with watering our fall crops...kale, carrots, spinach, Sugar Snap peas, broccoli, and cauliflower. So far, I've been able to keep everying alive in our raised beds.

Sadly, our melon row doesn't look so good. Early on, I decided to not haul water to the melon as I had enough watering to do in our main garden. I did bring in a nice Sugar Cube melon today.

And even with the drought, all is not lost in our East Garden plot. Our near eighty foot row of zinnias is thriving. It will soon be time to collect spent blooms for seed saving.

Eighty foot row of zinnias Boldog Hungarian paprika Hungarian Spice paprika

Some of our paprika pepper plants continue to do well. They have been watered a little. The Boldog Hungarian variety grows its peppers point down. The Hungarian Spice variety grows its peppers mostly point up.

Elsewhere in the East Garden, I have corn stalks to come out and be composted, kidney beans to harvest, potatoes to dig, and lots of tomatoes to pick.

Our raised beds that get most of my attention are doing well despite the drought. Our main raised bed is lovely to look at these days.

Main raised garden bed - September 1, 2023

From left to right, there are a couple of overmature celery plants, two rows of kale, two narrow rows of carrots, a re-seeded row of spinach, two rows of green beans and another of lima beans, pepper plants, and tall Sugar Snap peas to grow between the double trellises.

Emerging Sugar Snap peas Bug damaged cauliflower leaf Bed of broccoli and cauliflower

Our Sugar Snap peas are emerging. But our fall brassicas have been hit hard with some kind of bug damage. After watering and mulching the plants, I broke out a strong insecticide and sprayed them. Apparently, the Thuricide I'd previously sprayed them with wasn't doing the job.

Narrow row of Earlifouge tomatoes

Our other narrow raised bed of Earlirouge tomatoes appear to be making a comeback from the drought and being stunted early on. Sprays of foliar fertilizer and biofungicide along with trimming dead branches have the plants blooming again. While we have lots of tomatoes coming on in our East Garden, Earlirouges are our favorites for great tomato flavor.

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

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Our Senior Gardem - September 2, 2023Paprika pepper strips in dehycratorI checked our green beans this morning while doing my now daily morning watering of other stuff. The beans were mostly ready for another picking, although the Strike variety had long, straight, narrow pods that hadn't filled out much yet. That stage is ideal for steamed gourmet beans, but not so good for canning. Before making a decision on what to work on, I checked the paprika peppers that I pictured here yesterday.

It turned out that our paprika peppers were definitely ready to be picked. I half filled two small buckets with paprika peppers, keeping them separated by variety for potential seed saving. When I got done washing, seeding, and slicing the Boldog Hungarian variety, I'd filled all four shelves of our food dehydrator. The Hungarian Spice peppers will have to wait until tomorrow to be processed.

I'm guessing that we'll get one more picking of paprika peppers this season. That's a good thing, as a full dehydrator load of pepper strips when dried and ground yields less than a half cup of ground paprika. It's a labor of love.

From our Growing Peppers how-to, Making Paprika.

Gardening...cheaper than therapy...and you get tomatoes Retirement plan mug In the office gardening mug Gardening is cheaper than therapy T-shirt

Monday, September 4, 2023 - Labor Day (U.S.) Paprika

2023 Paprika JarDownstairs pantryOur paprika jar for this year is full. The batch of Boldog Hungarian paprika pepper strips I started on Saturday were dry Sunday morning. After grinding them into powder, I washed, seeded, and cut our Hungarian Spice peppers into strips and loaded them into our food dehydrator. After twelve hours in the dehydrator, some of the larger strips still felt leathery, so I let them go overnight at the dehydrator's lowest setting before grinding them this morning.

I saved seed from both paprika pepper varieties. I'll probably offer them via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange if their germination tests are good. With pepper seed, I've found that thoroughly rinsing it and then freezing it for a time improves germination rates.

Green Beans

Picking green beans is always difficult for me. Nine years ago I ended up with a frozen shoulder after picking beans. Yesterday's picking went a bit better, although my shoulder is killing me. But all six bean varieties we're growing had some beans on them. While not an overwhelming harvest, it produced eight more pints of canned green beans for our pantry. The bean plants should produce one more good picking of beans. And our lima beans are finally blooming.


Rosemary on dehydrator traysQuinte (top) and Moira (bottom) tomatoesI got cute this year and had parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme growing around one corner of our herb bed. The parsley bolted early on, and we already have lots of dried sage in the pantry. Even though I had our dehydrator cleaned and ready to be put away, I looked up how to dry rosemary and cut some. Since we have only two clumps of rosemary growing, I didn't take too much, as I hope the perennial will survive the winter. Plus, I've never harvested and dried rosemary before. Online directions suggested a two to four hour drying time in a food dehydrator set to 95 or 105°F. I went with the higher setting, but will probably cut it down towards the end of the drying.

If all goes well, I'll move on tomorrow to drying some thyme. We use both rosemary and thyme in the excellent Best Grilled Chicken Breast recipe.

I picked Moira and Quinte tomatoes today for seed saving. One Moira disappeared into a submarine sandwich though. I even kept a few split tomatoes, as they'll be okay for seed saving.

Our how-to: Saving Tomato Seed.

Burpee Seed Company

Tuesday, September 5, 2023 - It's Thyme

Our Senior Garden - September 5, 2023Thyme on dehydrator traysWhile out watering this morning, I drug the hose back to the house so I could rinse off our two thyme plants. After completing several other chores, the thyme dried enough to be spread out across three dehydrator trays.

We never dehydrate garlic in the house after a nasty experience with odors that should drive any vampire away. But other plants do well drying inside. Having done a bunch of paprika peppers and a little rosemary recently, there was no odor.

Thyme, however, has spread a somewhat pungent, but pleasant odor in our dining room where it's drying. Since I'm a rookie at drying thyme, I'll just share a Google search on the subject.

Our thyme (left)  and rosemary (right)

Quinte and Moira seed savingTrue Leaf MarketWith fresh rosemary and thyme just a few steps away, I decided to make the Best Grilled Chicken Breast recipe for supper tonight. I also picked some long, straight green beans to steam with the last of our spring carrots for the meal.

One last gardening job last night was to squeeze the seed and pulp from the Moira and Quinte tomatoes I picked yesterday for seed saving. The mix will need to ferment for four days before being drained, dried, and eventually frozen.


We have about a 50% chance of getting some rain tonight or tomorrow. Our garden plots desperately need a good shower.

A Personal Note

My wife Annie had gone to visit her mother a little over a week ago. My wonderful mother-in-law, Phyllis Wyatt, fell and broke her hip. After reparative surgery, complications set in and Phyllis went to be with the Lord.

I was pretty much devastated by the loss of Phyllis and not being there to comfort my wife. Annie is back home now, as a memorial service for Phyllis will be held some weeks away.

After the loss of Phyllis, I treasure the days I have with Annie. It's good to hold her in my arms once again. So while it's still early in the day, I'm taking the rest of today off to be with my lovely wife.

Charity: Water

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Basil leaves in food dehydratorFruit BouquetsWe didn't get to have our Best Grilled Chicken Breast last night. Instead, we got a needed three tenths of an inch of rain when I'd planned to be grilling. Pot pies had to do. We'll have the grilled chicken tonight. And I especially enjoyed not having to get out early this morning to water stuff.

This month must be herb and spices month. So far we've dried paprika peppers, rosemary, and thyme. This morning, I loaded our food dehydrator with basil leaves. Since we have a good bit of saved basil, I'd sort of ignored the plants, cutting them back when they began to bloom. Basil is said to be a bit bitter when harvested in bloom.

I picked enough basil leaves to fill all four trays of our dehydrator. While that sounds like a lot, when dried and ground, it won't make all that much. But we'll at least have some fresh basil for cooking. Drying at 95°F for 12-48 hours is often recommended for basil. I actually started ours at 105°F, but gradually cut it down to around 95.

I finished my morning gardening chores by weeding a flowerbed on the east side of our house that had gotten away from me. I started the weeding yesterday, worked about an hour on it today, and will have to give it one more go before it's done. I did get our lone rose bush uncovered, but also got poked by a thorn. Since I have plenty of Clonex Rooting Gel and powdered rooting hormone on hand, I may try rooting cuttings from the bush this month.

A2 Web Hosting

Thursday, September 7, 2023

My main gardening job for today was mulching our double row of carrots. I started off by scuffle hoeing the aisles between the kale, carrots, and spinach. I started just mulching the carrots, but expanded my efforts to the newly emerged spinach row and right up to one of our kale rows.

Crops mulched in main raised bed

I'd had down on my to do list to water the area before mulching. But a recent shower left the soil somewhat wet. Mulching over dry soil can cause problems, as the mulch absorbs rain before it reaches the mulched soil.

See our how-to: Mulching with Grass Clippings

The basil leaves I began drying yesterday were ready this morning. The four trays of basil leaves produced about a half cup of crushed basil.

Garden Tower Project

Friday, September 8, 2023

Today was a light gardening day. The weather was perfect, but I just didn't feel like doing much. That's one of the joys of retirement, but our nice days are growing short.

After determining no watering was necessary for our main raised garden bed, I turned to finishing processing the tomato seed I'd harvested on Monday. The seed was from a couple of Jack Metcalf developed varieties, Moira (1972), and Quinte (1975). Over the last few years, both varieties have begun producing larger than canning tomatoes. That could be them adapting to our growing conditions here, but they may have crossed with other varieties. They're never grown side by side with other tomato varieties, but have been grown within fifty feet of some hybrids. Our third Metcalf variety, Earlirouge (1977), continue to languish in a narrow raised bed. They're grown over a hundred yards from our other tomato varieties.

Processed tomato seed drying

The tomato seed that had been soaking and fermenting in its own juices and pulp for four days took a good bit of rinsing to get all the tomato pieces out of it. Then the batches went into a strainer and onto coffee filters over paper plates to dry. I'll let the seed dry for almost a week before freezing it. And before that comes the task of separating the clumps of seed.

Our how-to: Saving Tomato Seed

Paprika peppers picked todaySt. Jude Children's Research HospitalAfter a quick shopping trip to town and the post office, I decided to ignore all the jobs awaiting me and take the rest of the day off to spend some time with my sweetie. We both ended up napping in front of the TV!

I'd picked a nice bunch of tomatoes this morning for a friend in town and noticed that our paprika peppers were ripening another round of peppers. In the late afternoon, I picked a half bucket of ripe peppers. Some of the peppers were overripe.

I was surprised by the volume of peppers, but shouldn't have been. In a good year, our Earliest Red Sweet bell peppers always produce strong crops in September.

These peppers will get dried and ground. I already have requests for paprika from a niece and a Facebook friend. While I share (sell) some garden seed, our excess produce is always donated. That has to do with a deal I made with the Lord.

Damn, aren't those pretty peppers!

Botannical Interests

Saturday, September 9, 2023

I washed, seeded, and sliced the paprika peppers I picked yesterday into strips this morning. The picking filled all the trays of our Nesco American Harvest Four Tray Dehydrator.

My big gardening job of the day was removing the spent corn stalks from our East Garden. I used a corn knife (machete) to chop each stalk as close to the ground as possible. Then I straddled the rows with our mower to clean up the weeds that had grown in the planting. It was important not to run over a corn stalk bases with a mower tire, as doing so can produce a blowout. Once the roots rot a bit, it will be safe to go over the area with the mower pulling our rototiller.

Moving conr stalks on truck Corn area cleared and mowed Compost pile with corn stalks added

I broke the corn stalks into two or three pieces each before adding them to our compost pile. A better option for composting the corn stalks would be running them through a chipper/shredder. Unfortunately, I don't have and can't really afford one.

Buckwheat planting

While out working in our East Garden plot, I grabbed a shot of our mid-season planting of buckwheat that didn't emerge well. I chose to overseed the area without turning the seed under. A lack of rainfall doomed the planting, although some plants emerged. I'll mow down what is there and eventually till it under before re-seeding a crop of buckwheat and hairy winter vetch.

David's Cookies

Monday, September 11, 2023

Today's batch of paprika peppers in dehydratorPaprika jar after first bunch of pepper strips groundMy fingertips are tingling a bit. That's because I washed, seeded, and sliced the rest of the paprika peppers I picked on Friday. The tingle tells me that these peppers have a little zing to them. The peppers sat in our refrigerator, as I was waiting for the batch I started dehydrating on Saturday to finish drying. I'd foolishly cut down the dehydrator's temperature Saturday evening which prolonged the drying time. I later read online that it's pretty hard to burn pepper strips at 135°F.

I had stored last season's paprika in an old plastic Parmesan container. When I filled our first jar of ground paprika, I threw away the still half filled Parmesan jar as the ground paprika in it had picked up moisture and discolored.

Using glass jars with tight fitting lids is a good idea for preserving dry herbs and spices. My problem has been that we've just about run out of old salsa, garlic, and chocolate jars.

Our 2023 Winesap harvestI harvested our one Stayman Winesap apple over the weekend. The young tree only matured the one apple this year. Our Yellow Delicious tree that produced bushels of apples for us last year has maybe eight apples on it. I think it takes about six to make a good apple pie.

Our Senior Garden - September 11, 2023Our row of kidney beans in our East Garden had gotten overgrown with grass weeds but still showed some plants with dry bean pods on them last week. When I went out yesterday to harvest them, I found that I'd gotten a little overzealous in mowing the sweet corn area and mowed down the bean row. I couldn't even find a bean on the ground! Fortunately, I still have several ounces of saved kidney bean seed in frozen storage for planting next season.

And probably like many of you, I'm remembering the horror of this day twenty-two years ago. I learned of the twin towers attack when dropping off lesson plans at school, as I was sick with bronchitis (an annual affliction in my teaching years).

When I got to the clinic, it was deserted. So Dr. Howard Ray asked me to sit and talk with him about the state of education for almost an hour.

My thoughts and prayers still go out to those families impacted by the attack.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Snapping green beansFood dehydrator on high shelfI picked tomatoes this morning, both regular and grape, for my wife's former co-workers at the bank. They often have a luncheon get together during the week. I think I threw away about twice as many cull tomatoes as ones I kept to share. The drought has been hard on all of our crops.

I did another picking of green beans this morning. There weren't enough good beans to can, but I'm boiling them a bit with sweet onions for supper tomorrow evening when we'll have company over. Unlike our previous pickings, our Bush Blue Lake and Burpee's Stringless Green Pod varieties produced some thick beany beans which should improve the flavor of the batch.

This was our third, and usually last, picking of green beans, but I didn't pull the plants as yet. I broke one of my rules and picked while the bean plants were still wet with dew. Doing so can spread plant diseases. But at this point, it doesn't matter much. The dry weather has left almost all of our crops in sad shape. But snapping around bug damage, rot, and squishy bean spots produced enough beans for a nice meal.

I put away our food dehydrator yesterday that had been in use for most of this month. I think I'm done drying stuff for the season unless we get another good picking of paprika peppers. I have a Facebook friend waiting in line if we produce more ground Paprika.

I mailed a jar of ground paprika yesterday to a niece who'd requested some. It's a surprise for her as her mother gave me the mailing address.

Boldog packet Hungarian Spice packet

It seems paprika is good for relationships. I'd been talking to a checker at Walmart who I know when her supervisor got into the conversation. We were talking paprika and drought. The supervisor implied that I might be doing something wrong in our garden, as hers was doing great in the dry weather. But she also expressed an interest in paprika pepper varieties.

At the time, I ignored the possible insult. Later, I decided to drive into town for some wonderful Chinese food from China Wok. One of our daughters worked at China Wok for a few years. Since I was going into town anyway, I put up a couple of packets of saved paprika pepper seed for the supervisor at Walmart.

Doing the seed packets let me correct a couple of errors I'd made in them when sending them to my niece. And I'll still need to add results of our germination tests for the seeds to the packets. If the seed germinates well, I'll share seed via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange.

Cora Cascade VincasAs I drove into town, having a conversation with the Lord as I frequently do, I realized my intent to "heap coals of fire" (Proverbs 25:21-22, Romans 12:19-20) onto the somewhat rude supervisor was wrong. As it turned out, the supervisor was thrilled to receive the seed, and I'd done my good deed for the day...and possibly made a new friend.

Usually, hanging basket petunias are the stars of our back porch. This year, weather conditions and birds nesting in the petunias limited their growth. Instead, two baskets of Cora Cascade vincas have added beauty to the porch hanging amongst a couple of our hummingbird feeders. While listed as a ground cover in an Amazon ad, they are truly a trailing variety. Their one big drawback is that they dry out very quickly. I keep a large rubber feed pan on the back porch and have to drop the vinca hanging baskets into it about every three days now to keep them going.

I'm at the point of beginning our End-of-Season Gardening Chores. While we have some fall crops just getting going, it's also time to clear some areas of our garden and prepare it for next season.

Botannical Interests

Friday, September 15, 2023

Hamburger browning for spaghetti sauce with homegrown basil and oreganoHerb bed close to houseI was making some spaghetti/lasagna sauce yesterday and went the few steps off our back porch to get basil and oregano from our herb bed. I had to really hunt for some good basil leaves. And our lovely yellow marigold plant had completely covered the oregano. Normally, I'd clip some fresh parsley for the sauce, but our parsley bolted and died in the early summer heat. So I went with some parsley saved last season.

Some black and red pepper and chopped garlic also got thrown in to what started out with quart of our canned whole tomatoes and a pint of tomato purée. I cheat a bit at the end of our recipe, adding a can of Hunt's Traditional pasta sauce to the mix to add thickness and any spices I might have left out.

I do love having an herb bed just a few steps from our kitchen. And while we've enjoyed the many blooms of the yellow marigold, it got severely cut back this morning to allow our perennial oregano to flourish.

We now have several perennials growing in the herb bed: sage; rosemary; thyme; and oregano.

U.S. Drought Monitor

The U.S. Drought Monitor still shows our area in the Abnormally Dry classification. Unfortunately, what showers have occurred in our area have pretty much gone north and south of us.

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

Note that the images and information above automatically update with each Thursday's new release of data.

Signs of Fall

I switched out a box fan for a heater in my office this morning. I also shut off the dehumidifier in the basement. It's noisy when running, and I needed its extension cord for a soil heating mat with seed germination tests going on over it.


I cut a Sugar Cube cantaloupe and a Crimson Sweet Virginia Select watermelon today. Both had incredible flavor. I didn't put it on the scales, but I'd guess the watermelon was thirty-five to forty pounds!

Crimson Sweet Virginia Select watermelon

With all the melon and other cuttings, I had to make two trips today to our compost pile. While we haven't had any critter damage in our melon patch, I suspect the raccoons will be having a party tonight with the melon cuttings and rinds.

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Saturday, September 16, 2023 - Grape Tomatoes

Red Pearl grape tomatoesPepper seed germination testI picked grape tomatoes this morning. I only picked from our Red Pearl plant as I wanted to save some of the seed. I like the Red Pearl variety for its flavor, but still grow some Honey Bunch hybrid that are almost as good and much more productive. I only squeezed seed from around twenty Red Pearls as we don't need all that much seed. Red Pearl is a plant patented (PVP) variety that I can save seed from, but by law can't share the saved seed with others.

Seed Germination Tests

As important as saving seed is, equally important is doing germination tests to see if the seed is any good! I don't do big tests, but space ten seeds of a variety out on a wet paper towel and then enclose them in a pint Ziploc bag.

I started a bunch of such tests today. Since some seeds need to be conditioned before testing, the seed tests I started today were with seed that I'd dried and frozen for at least a week or so.

Best Buy

Sunday, September 17, 2023

After watering our brassicas with some Thuricide mixed in, I moved on to sweeping up grass clippings for mulch. The first two loads of clippings went by our carrots, kale, and Sugar Snap peas. The next two loads went onto our compost pile where some tomatoes, peppers, melon rinds, and corn stalks needed to be covered. While there were still lots more clippings down, I parked the lawn sweeper and began to mow the field our East Garden sits in.

Light stand of buckwheat in bloom

I'd planned to mow down the buckwheat in the rotated out part of our East Garden, but it was just too pretty to cut just yet.

Eighty foot row of zinniasCloseup of zinniasAnother eye catcher in our East Garden is our eighty foot row of zinnias. I grow them on the west end of the plot where they are visible from the road.

As the blossoms mature, I begin snapping off the brown seed heads for seed saving. When dried, the seed easily peels off the bloom. While I occasionally buy a packet of zinnia seed off a seed rack to add a little diversity to our saved seed, most of what I plant each year is saved seed.

Burpee Gardening

Monday, September 18, 2023

Our Senior Garden - September 18, 2023Gloxinia breaking dormancyWhen moving a couple of gloxinias that were heading for dormancy to our tray of dormant plants, I discovered two of our superstar gloxinias had broken dormancy. One of the two still had a plant tag in its pot documenting its seeding in 2014. Gloxinias can last a long time, although we seem to lose a lot of plants in each year's dormancy.

Each plant got fresh potting mix with a bit of systemic insecticide granules, as we do get bugs in our basement plant room.

During my usual morning watering routine, I watered and then weeded our row of Sugar Snap peas before watering them again. I plan to mulch them with grass clippings tomorrow. Note that green grass clippings can burn and kill plants as they decay. Letting them sit for a few days allays that danger.


Tuesday, September 19, 2023

I mowed down our sparse crop of buckwheat this morning. I drove through dust clouds of soil as I mowed. With the soil this dry, I'm not sure my pull-type tiller will be able to turn much under. But I want to get a late planting of buckwheat and hairy winter vetch started. Of course, we'll need some rain to get the planting up, and there's none in our extended forecast. Watering the 45'x80' area isn't a viable option.

Starting Over on Germination Tests

I got an ugly surprise a day or so ago. I had around ten germination tests going in a covered tray over a soil heating mat. While my old Hydrofarm Digital Thermostat was set to 81°F, it registered 116°! I'm pretty sure I cooked the seeds being tested. A couple of tomato seed tests had reached around 60% germination in just a few days before the heat cooked the young roots off the seeds!

I'll re-start the germination tests soon re-using the same pint Ziploc freezer bags that run around 20¢ each from the failed tests. Interestingly, the old thermostat is now behaving itself, but I'll put the new tests over a tray and soil heating mat controlled by my second thermostat, a newer and much cheaper BN-LINK Heat Mat Thermostat.

Sam's Club

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Snapdragons and liima beans in bloomBlooming lima bean plants setting tiny bean podsOur row of lima bean plants have been in bloom for a couple of weeks now, but hadn't set any pods. I read online that "Hot, dry conditions during blossoming may cause many of the flowers to drop off without setting pods." We're enjoying a break from the extreme summer heat we experienced, but our ground is really dry.

Despite the dry conditions, our Fordhook 242icon bush bean plants have begun to set tiny bean pods in the last few days. I don't know if the plants can fill out the pods with beans in this dry weather. We do have a slight chance of rain overnight. Otherwise, I might risk running the well dry again by a short watering with our soil soaker hose.

I picked more regular and grape tomatoes this morning for my wife's Wednesday luncheon gathering. This time, the folks there will be getting Honey Bunch grape tomatoes.

Writing of grape tomatoes, I finished saving some Red Pearl seeds this morning. A four day fermentation cleaned the seed of tomato flesh and none of the seeds appeared to have begun germinating during the process. The main difference in saving grape tomato seed from regular tomatoes is that the tomatoes are smaller as is their seed.

I tell all about the process in our how-to, Saving Tomato Seed.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Thursday, September 21, 2023

We received a little but very welcome rain overnight. Another storm system appeared to be coming in, but apparently is raining itself out over Illinois.

A quarter inch of rain Double row of carrots Sugar Snap pea vines

A couple of our fall crops that should benefit most from the rainfall are our double row of carrots and our Sugar Snap pea vines (growing between a double trellis). One nice thing about the carrots is that I won't have to try to thin them. I used pelletized carrot seed which allowed me to somewhat precisely space the seeds around an inch apart in the rows.

Renee's Garden

Friday, September 22, 2023

Our Senior Garden - September 22, 2023Our stunted Earlirouge tomaotesWe're having what would be some lovely fall weather if we just got some rain. Local reporting weather stations show about what our rain gauge has shown...a quarter inch of precipitation this month! Daily temperatures in the 80s with a breeze make working outside pleasant.

I sprayed Roundup on the area where we store our pepper and tomato cages in the corner of a field today. The weeds growing there sort of ensnare the cages if not knocked back once or twice a season. And I'm just about ready to pull our poor Earlirouge tomato plants (and cages) so I can renovate the bed and get it ready for a fall planting of Walla Walla sweet onions along its edge to hopefully overwinter. I tried overwintering onions last fall for the first time and was pleasantly surprised at the results. The idea came from a High Mowing Organic Seeds' article, Time to Plant Fall Onions for Overwintering.

Bug damaged kale leafKale rowsOnce I was done spraying hazardous chemicals, I moved on to watering our fall crops. As I do this most mornings, I've been surprised at the bug damage some of our kale plants have experienced. I've regularly sprayed them with Thuricide, but still see bug damage on some of the leaves. Since I won't use harsh chemicals on leaf crops, I thoroughly sprayed the kale again today with Thuricide, hoping the Einstein saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results," might not be accurate in this case.

The leaf damage isn't so severe that I won't be able to use the leaves for fresh use, canning, freezing, and making our annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup. I'll just have to be very careful washing and rinsing the leaves and inspecting for worms on the leaves. I grew up enjoying suppers that featured salted kale boiled with onions and bacon drippings.

Having some material left of the gallon of Thuricide I'd mixed, I also sprayed our narrow bed of cauliflower and broccoli. The planting is doing really well and should beat anything other than an early fall frost. Interestingly, these brassicas aren't showing much damage from cabbage looper or small white cabbage worms. I think the last time I treated the plants, I mixed about two gallons of Thuricide in a sprinkler can and dumped it all on the cauliflower and broccoli.

Fall cauliflower and broccoli doing well

Sugar Snap peas mulchedDianthus in bloom againWith some rain the other day and thorough waterings yesterday and today, I went ahead and completely mulched our Sugar Snap peas. I'd been waiting for the ground to be really wet and our grass clippings completely cured before mulching.

Then I walked around our backyard garden plots snapping a few pictures. In our herb garden, the two small dianthus plants there continue to bloom over and over. Keeping them blooming requires some watering, but also picking off the spent blooms from which I save seed. The shot at right certainly isn't my best dianthus shot. It's here.

Around the corner of the same bed, I found both our rosemary and thyme ready for another possible cutting, drying, and saving. I haven't done well with growing and saving either herb in the past, so I'm happy with this year's production. As a big plus, both rosemary and thyme are perennials, so we'll have them again in future years if they overwinter well.

Rosemary Thyme

Packet of saved Red Pearl grape tomato seedWater CharityOur saved Red Pearl grape tomato seed was ready to be packaged and frozen today. The seed packets for seed saving go into Ziploc freezer bags. And while the seed is in our kitchen freezer which is self-defrosting, all of our saved seed eventually goes into the manual defrost freezer in our garage. The daily warming of defrost cycles doesn't do saved seed any good.

Having finished my morning chores by one this afternoon, I still had lots of things I wanted to do outside. But I was exhausted. So I began this posting and then laid down for a nap. I slept for two hours before getting up to start making supper.

After supper, I let my wife and a houseguest clean up the kitchen while I watched the PBS Newshour. I fell asleep again and awoke a little over two hours later!

At seventy-five years of age, I find that I'm no longer able to garden all day. That's a bitter pill for me. But then being 75 and still alive and kicking isn't such a bad thing.

Hoss Tools

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Today's gardening chores were pretty straightforward. I needed to switch out our mower deck for our pull-type tiller and till parts of our East Garden plot. I managed to do the mechanical changeover without hurting myself. The tilling took only an hour or so, even though I was going slow and tilling as deeply as possible.

Most of East Garden tilled

Another viiew of the tilled East Garden plot

I hope to seed buckwheat and hairy winter vetch in the next few days and lightly till in the seed. Of course, we'll need some rain to bring up that seed.

Fruit Bouquets

Monday, September 25, 2023 - Cover Crop Planted

Pelletized vetch seedPart of East Garden seeded to buckwheat and hairy winter vetchYesterday turned out to be a very busy day of gardening. I started off by seeding and lightly tilling under our buckwheat and hairy winter vetch fall cover/smother crops in part of our East Garden plot. The 45’x80’ area seeded will most likely be the area I garden next season, letting this year's area rotate out. I used five pounds each of hairy winter vetch and buckwheat seed. When I opened the package of vetch seed, I got a surprise. The seed was pelletized, making broadcasting it a bit easier.

Seed, of course, needs moisture to germinate. The buckwheat might come up just from morning dews. But the pelletized seed will need a good rain to emerge. We have a couple of days coming up with about a 50% chance of rain. If not, the seed should just sit in the dry ground until it does rain. Buckwheat takes four or five weeks to mature, but it's there mainly as a nurse crop for the vetch. If everything comes up, I plan to let a frost take the buckwheat, leaving it in place over the vetch.

Green Beans

Pressure cannerSix more pints of beans for the pantryI took out our two rows of green beans yesterday. While the plants still had a few blooms and immature beans on them, it was time. When snapped and canned...with some Walla Walla sweet onions mixed in for seasoning, the picking made six pints of green beans.

I started writing this posting while watching the pressure gauge on our canner yesterday afternoon. While pints of green beans only require 20 minutes under pressure, there’s the required ten minutes of venting live steam before the pressure canning, another five or ten for the canner to reach ten pounds of pressure, and yet another 15-20 minutes waiting for the canner to cool and release pressure. It's a long process.

We enjoyed one of the jars of beans with some ham fat and chunks with our supper last night. I think this batch of beans tasted the best of the several batches we've put up this season.


New compost pile startNew compost pile coveered with mulchI moved the bean plants pulled yesterday to a new compost pile site today. The new pile is about in the middle of where our sweet corn grew this year. For us, a compost pile is basically a garbage heap with some plant trash thrown in. It will get the remains of our tomato plants, pea vines, carrot tops, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, and whatever is left when I clear out our raised bed garden plots. Today's additions included some cull tomatoes, watermelons that had split open in the field, and some grass clipping mulch from our melon patch. Eventually, all of the remains of our melon patch will end up on the pile, but right now, we're still getting some melons.


Tuesday, September 26, 2023 - More Paprika

Paprika pepper harvest September 26, 2023Slicing peppers and filling dehydrator trayI had seven or eight jobs on my to-do list this morning. But after collecting and hauling trash out to the road for pickup, my plan got busted. While out, I decided to check our paprika peppers, as I'd noticed some ripe ones yesterday. We've had some disappointments in our garden crops this season, but paprika peppers certainly haven't been one of them. I picked enough paprika peppers that when cleaned, seeded, and sliced filled all the trays of our Nesco American Harvest Four Tray Dehydrator. I set the dehydrator to just above 135°F. At that temperature, the pepper strips should be dried for grinding by tomorrow evening.

Even though I'd sharpened my knives before slicing the peppers, these peppers were harder to slice. I'm guessing the time of season has produced peppers with thicker walls. That's not a bad thing, as we'll get more paprika from them than from previous thinner walled peppers picked.

A Shower?

The first of some predicted showers have slipped south of us once again. I can hear thunder, but that won't water our crops. But there's more to come according to weather radar. We just might get enough to pop up the buckwheat and hairy winter vetch I planted on Sunday.


ApplesApple pie from our own applesLate this afternoon Annie and I went out to pick apples. I'd previously counted just six apples on the Yellow or Golden delicious tree that produced over three bushels of apples for us last season. I ended up picking ten apples. When we were done, Annie spotted another apple very, very high on the tree. It got to stay there. With the one Stayman Winesap I picked a week or so ago, our apple crop this year is just twelve apples. But then, it only takes six to eight good apples to make a great apple pie.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Jar of ground paprikaBall 4 oz Mini-JarThe paprika pepper strips I started drying yesterday ground into enough to fill a Ball 4 oz Mini-Jar with a little left over to top off our paprika jar. I'd picked up a set of four of the mini-jars at Walmart last week thinking they'd be a good size for herbs and spices.

With our dehydrator trays cleared and washed, I cut a bunch of rosemary to fill the four trays. Since rosemary dries pretty quickly, I should be able to strip the rosemary leaves off the stems this evening and put them into another mini-jar. I'm thinking the jars of spices might be nice gifts for some of our daughters.

Apple pie befor top crust and baking Apple pie cooling

The apples picked yesterday all went into an apple pie today. While the Pillsbury recipe for apple pie calls for six to eight apples, I had to use all eleven of our saved apples, as they had lots of bad spots that had to be cut out.

Overnight, we received about a quarter inch of rainfall. While not enough to really impact our plants much, it might be enough to pop up our recent planting of buckwheat and hairy winter vetch. USA, LLC

Friday, September 29, 2023 - A Little Trip Down Memory Lane

Scott skinning young pig Another skinning pig photo

I'm feeling a little old. Our oldest child, Scott, turned 50 yesterday. When I called him and mentioned the skinning pig pictures, he laughed and said, "Oh, the hair." We've both suffered some serious losses there. grin

We were fortunate to raise lots of animals on our 40 acre farm in those days in the 1980s. While we put up lots of chickens every year, we only butchered one piglet for a family pig roast. And in skinning the pig, Scott cut his thumb.

While we kept twelve sows, replacements, and a boar, we had other animals. I once bought three goats. We ended up selling them for triple what we paid for them, recovering some of a serious loss they caused. The goats got out one day and got into a storage box where I kept extension cords and heat lamps. They chewed up the cords and stomped the heat bulbs like grapes. Our family had orders to commit me if I ever bought any goats again.

Hey! We're not pigs! We bought bucket calves (3-5 days old) and fed them until they got to around 400-600 pounds. Then we sold them at auction to folks who had the space to raise bigger animals. We did, however, feed out an occasional steer or two.

Possibly our greatest success in those farming years was growing and roadsiding two to four acres of sh2 supersweet sweet corn each season. Coming in a close second was discovering the wonderful Jack Metcalf tomato varieties, Earlirouge, Moira, and Quinte.

Getting Back to Gardening

After picking some tomatoes yesterday and starting a batch of Quinte seed fermenting for seed saving, I took on the onerous job of switching out our pull-type rototiller from our John Deere X570 lawn tractor and cleaning up and installing our mower deck. The tiller is fairly easy to deal with, but the heavy mower deck is a bear to move, clean, and sharpen blades on. But I'm ready to mow again once my aging body heals a bit.

Less stressful was saving some zinnia seed. You just wait until the bloom petals fall off and pick the seed heads. After drying for a week or two, the seed easily strips off.

ThymeThyme and rosemary in jarsI also spread some Jerry Baker Compost Tonic over both of our compost piles. The recipe for the compost starter varies from Baker's listing of ½ can of beer, and ½ cup of ammonia in 2 gallons of warm water to our mix of a can of Coke for sugar, ammonia for nitrogen, and spreader sticker or Dawn dish detergent as a surfactant and emulsifier.

And after stripping rosemary leaves off stems, I started a batch of thyme drying. When stripping the thyme leaves off stems this morning, I noticed that the leaves were a bit sticky!

David's Cookies

Saturday, September 30, 2023 - September Wrap-up

September, 2023, animated GIFDonors ChooseIt's been a very dry month here, but we've been blessed with some surprisingly good harvests. The U.S. Drought Monitor now shows most of Indiana in the "Moderate Drought" classification. I know that I've watched storms move north and south of us all month, leaving us pretty dry.

Our herbs and spices were stars from our garden plots this month. We've had incredible paprika peppers, good rosemary and thyme, and some so-so basil which I waited a bit late to pick and dry.

Our tomatoes planted late in our East Garden plot have taken off, supplying us with all the tomatoes we want and can give away. Our melons in the same plot have been a disappointment due to the drought, but we still have some sweet watermelon chunks in our refrigerator.

We've probably canned enough green beans to last over the winter. And we got just enough apples to make one great apple pie.

Kale rowsSteaming, boiling kale with bacon and onionAt this point, some of our fall succession crops are iffy. I did a first picking of our kale today. Since I'd mixed four kale seed varieties when soaking the seed, picking and later washing and stemming the kale leaves was interesting. Today's picking may allow some of the shorter kale varieties to grow a bit more, as the Red Ursa's large leaves were crowding them out.

Our carrots are looking good, but our row of spinach is just so-so. My questionable gamble on a rather late planting of sugar snap peas doesn't look like it will produce anything. So far, there are no blooms on the vines. It's also up in the air if our fall brassicas (broccoli and cauliflower) will produce anything before a frost. Our row of lima beans has begun to put on pods, but hasn't filled out any of them yet.

Earliest Red Sweet peppersOur all season Earliest Red Sweet peppers are now filled with red peppers. This early variety also lasts well into the fall with bountiful harvests of smallish red peppers. Since I've already frozen lots of pepper strips, this harvest will go for seed saving and giveaways.

Vincas and hummingbird feederI did lots of seed saving this month, but germination tests so far have been disappointing. Of course, a heat mat thermostat malfunctioning and heating the seed tests to 116°F didn't help.

Annie and I saw two hummingbirds fighting for dominance at our feeder that hangs between two lovely vinca baskets yesterday. I haven't seen any of the tiny birds today. I'll leave our feeder up for a week or so after I see our last hummingbird, as some stragglers migrating south may stop by.

We still have two brave gloxinias on our dining room table desperately trying for a second round of blooms. The rest of the gloxinias have already gone dormant or are under our plant lights approaching their annual required period of dormancy.

Gloxinias trying to bloom again

Under our plant lights, we have two or three older gloxinia plants that have just broken dormancy. We also have sixteen new plants seeded in mid-June. Some of them already have bloom buds on them!

New gloxinia plants


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