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May 6, 2021

One of the joys of getting a bit older is having the time to putter around in the garden. Below is my garden blog. This site also contains sections of recipes and features about specific, and often obscure, gardening lore.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Our Senior Garden - May 6, 2021Trays, pots, and inserts soaking in bleach waterIt's raining today. The good part of that is that I'm so gimpy from being on my hands and knees transplanting yesterday that I didn't loosen up until well after noon. The bad part is that this is just another very light rain, at least, so far today.

I filled our garden cart with bleach water yesterday and put our used trays, pots, and inserts in it to soak. After losing all of our gloxinia plants years ago to the INSV virus, I've become much more careful about cleaning up and reusing garden containers. Fortunately, I had lots of saved gloxinia seed at that time to re-start our plants. Unfortunately, the garden cart has a slow leak in it, so there will be a dead spot in the grass under it from the bleach water leaking out.

With it raining, today wasn't the day to try to wash and dry the stuff in the cart. It's supposed to be partly sunny tomorrow, so maybe I can finish the job then. Drying the stuff can be tough if it's a windy day.

Getting back to rainfall, we've received only 0.30 inches of precipitation so far this month. April was dryer than normal, yielding less than two inches of rain for the month. So...I'm wondering about our outlook for precipitation in the coming days, weeks, and months ahead.

A look at the U.S. Drought Monitor published each Thursday says our area is still in the "Abnormally Dry" status. Note that the images and links below will automatically update with each Thursday's new release of data.

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

Indiana pretty dry in MayWeather Underground Extended ForecastWe're pretty dry here now. The good news is that the drought outlook suggests we won't go into another summer of drought, here, at least. It doesn't look very promising for farmers and gardeners in the West. That's especially concerning because of the wildfires that part of our nation has experienced in recent months and years.

It appears from our Weather Underground Extended Forecast that we may get a good rain over the weekend. We definitely could use it.

Fruit Bouquets


Wednesday, May 5, 2021 - Deer Damage

Today was a lovely day for gardening...until I went out to pick asparagus. On my way to the asparagus patches I saw that our plantings of brassicas and lettuce had been ravaged. Looking at the unmulched soil around the lettuce, deer tracks were obvious.

Brassica plants with cutworm collars removed Deer ate all the brassicas

Fortunately, I hadn't yet given away our extra transplants. Of course, what was left were not our very best plants which had gone into the ground in our original transplanting. I spent an hour or so replacing the broccoli and cauliflower, but had no extra Brussels sprouts transplants. I did reset what was left of the Brussels sprouts plants in case they might regrow from the roots (not terribly likely, but possible).

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I also had enough lettuce transplants to replant that area. To prevent another deer disaster, I cut Irish Spring bar soap around the plantings and also sprinkled some Repels All around the area. I had some Thuricide left in our organics planter. To let the deer know I cared, I added some of our Not Tonight Deer homebrew to the Thuricide before spraying the brassicas. When I was putting away the gallon jug of Not Tonight Deer, the smell of it just about overpowered me.

At this point, I can only say that I should have known better. Deer rarely come into our yard, but they have at times. A few years ago, they came in just as our sweet corn tasselled and ate every ear of corn on the stalks. I just didn't think about taking precautions and have now paid the price.

Gloxinias moved to dining room table

New Wandering Jew adorns kitchen windowEmpress gloxinias with red budOn a more positive note, I replaced the aging Wandering Jew plant in our west kitchen window with a newer plant grown from cuttings from the older plant. I do this each spring, as Wandering Jew plants are lovely for only about 12-18 months. Taking cuttings each winter gives us a new plant for our kitchen window.

Having cleared some space on our dining room table, I brought a bunch of soon-to-bloom gloxinias upstairs for us to enjoy. The gloxinias coming into bloom are almost all plants started from commercial seed in December. The gloxinia with white blooms showing is an older plant as are the three on the right. One gloxinia is showing a bit of a red bud. It will be fun to see what this group of Empress gloxinias produces in colors.

Old Wandering Jew plantOur aging Wandering Jew plant went to the back steps for a thorough watering. It will hang under our porch for the summer, as it's still a lovely plant. But at this point in its lifespan, it was dropping too many dead leaves and such to still be an inside plant.

I Should Have Known

With all due respects to The Cyrkle's Red Rubber Ball, "I should have known" that deer damage was predictable in our main garden beds. It's happened before, but only rarely. Nevertheless, it happened, and I'm a bit devastated.

I was able to re-plant a whole row of the Goliath broccoli we're trying to save seed from. The rest of the planting was just what we had on hand to put into the ground. I had a good bit of Castle Dome broccoli for the re-planting. The rest is just what we had and pretty much won't be identifiable as to variety. I even plopped in several cabbage transplants that were intended for other areas.

On the Other Hand

I drug our Weber grill out of the garage today to grill some rib eyes I've had marinating for a day. I've just finished off my second double scotch on the rocks, so I'm beginning to feel a bit better about life and gardening. grin But losing all of our brassicas still really sucks.

David's Cookies

Monday, May 3, 2021 - Zinnias

If I were teaching a class on photography, the image below would be a good example of lens compression. Compression is the effect of things appearing to be larger or closer than they truly are caused by the use of a telephoto lens. In the image below, the white blooming buckwheat is actually about forty feet behind the row of zinnias!

Zinnias and buckwheat

My mother was always fond of zinnias. In her honor, I've often planted a long row of zinnias along one border of our large (80' x 80') East Garden plot. I also frequently grow several turndown crops of buckwheat on half of the plot each season.

The range of blooms in zinnias is amazing. Here's a rerun from a 2013 posting.

Zinnia 1 Zinnia 2 Zinnia 3 Zinnia 4 Zinnia 5
Zinnia 6 Zinnia 7 Zinnia 8 Zinnia 9 Zinnia 10

Shallow furrow opened for zinnia seedI used lots of zinnia seed.Even though it had rained in the early hours today, I got out in the mud and seeded a long row of zinnias. I used the corner of a hoe to open a shallow furrow for the seed. Other than a couple of small packets of zinnia seed I picked up at Walmart, most of the seed sown was seed saved over the last five years or so and stored in our manual defrost freezer.

Since most of our row of zinnias failed to come up last year, I seeded really heavily. Then I used a rake to draw soil over the furrow and firmed it with the rake head. And that was it. No fertilizers. No watering the furrow. It rained this morning and is sure to rain again tonight and tomorrow.

My biggest worry other than our saved seed possibly being bad is having a whole lot of maple seedlings coming up in the row of zinnias. There are more maple wings down this year than I've ever seen before. Of course, maple seedlings are easy to identify and pull. And once the zinnias emerge, I'll mulch them with grass clipping mulch. Other than occasionally refreshing the mulch, that's all the care they need for the season. That is, of course, if the zinnias ever come up.

Once you grow some zinnias, buying seed can become a thing of the past. While I often buy a packet or two of cheapie zinnia seed off a rack, most of our zinnia seed comes from seed saved in previous years. Once the zinnia blooms brown and black out in late summer and fall, you just need to pick the brownish/black seed heads and let them dry for awhile. After they've dried a week or two, rubbing the seed heads releases the seeds and a lot of organic trash. I don't bother with separating the seed from the trash, as it won't hurt anything in the ground. I bag our zinnia seed in a ziplock bag and keep it in our manual defrost freezer between seasons.

If you do a Google Advanced Image Search for "zinnias" from, this is what you'll see:

Google search for zinnias on Senior Gardening

With rain predicted for tonight and most of tomorrow, the zinnias and our other crops should get all the moisture they need. Mom should be smiling in heaven.


Sunday, May 2, 2021

Jericho lettuce replacedThinned spinach rowAfter mowing and raking yesterday, my old bones needed a rest. I pretty much took it easy today,

I did replace a Jericho lettuce plant that had failed and also thinned our spinach row again. I'm lucky that I got that stuff done early in the day as a light rain moved in. I was still able to pick asparagus later in the day in a fine mist.

I also started some more paprika peppers, as I started too few of them in an initial planting. I seeded more Hungarian Spice, Boldog Hungarian Spice, and Sweet Paprika Pepper. These plants will go into our East Garden plot, so there's plenty of time for them to germinate and mature before being transplanted.

Spinach leavesOur thinning of spinach produced enough good leaves for Annie and I to enjoy our first spinach salad of the season. Mimicking a local restaurant's offering, our salad includes baby spinach leaves, hard boiled eggs, mandarin oranges, croutons, feta cheese, and poppyseed dressing.

We grow our spinach both spring and fall. I usually let our spring spinach eventually go to seed for seed saving.

While we love spinach salad, we also enjoy boiled spinach, spinach in Shrimp Portofino, and spinach in omelettes and in egg tortillas. I only rarely can or freeze spinach, and at this writing, I'm at a loss as to why.

First spinach salads of the season

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.

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:

Burpee Seed Company

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Our Senior Garden - May 1, 2021
Click on images to open larger view in a new tab or window.

We've been blessed to have all the asparagus we can eat for a couple of weeks now. We should also have lots of spinach and lettuce ready to pick this month. If we get really lucky, we might pick a few peas towards the end of the month.

Raised beds nearly planted
Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.

We're beginning May in pretty good shape. Our raised beds are almost fully planted. I'm waiting a bit before putting our Earlirouge tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants in the ground. They need warm soil or they'll just sit and wait for it. I'm aiming for a May 10 transplanting.

I've tilled our large East Garden plot twice already. That's a bit unusual, but the weather worked for us at times this spring. I should be able to plant potatoes in it soon. We have to grow our potatoes early, as our usual July/August mini-drought pretty well cuts off their growth. Started early, we can get a decent crop.

The rest of our East Garden crops go in a bit later, as our sh2 sweet corn varieties don't germinate well in cool soil. I'll also hold off on putting tomatoes and paprika peppers into the ground until things warm up a bit more. And at some point, a row of red kidney beans will get planted for our Portuguese Kale Soup and Refried Kidney Beans.

At this point, I'm considering direct seeding most of our watermelons other than our seedless varieties that have to be started with bottom heat to germinate well. And I'm on hold on butternut squash until I clear our old compost pile where the butternuts will go.

Brassica plants with cutworm collars removed

Partially mulched peasbroccoli with cutworm collar removed...and a baby vincaMy first gardening job today was to remove the paper cup cutworm collars from our brassicas. Doing so involves cutting the cups down both sides, gently removing the half cups, and then firming the soil around the broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts plants. I'll need to add a little more grass clipping mulch around the plants in a few days. I used the last of our cured mulch around some of our newly transplanted supersweet peas. While I mowed and raked today, the grass clippings I collected will be too hot to go around the plants for a few days.

We still have lots of transplants under our cold frame. There are a whole bunch of lovely geraniums almost past the point where they need to be transplanted. Our Earlirouge tomato plants and Earliest Sweet peppers won't go into the ground until around May 10. And there are lots of flower transplants to adorn our garden plots and flowerbeds.

Transplants under cold frame

Vegetables We Plan (Hope) to Grow in 2021

The full list of vegetables we intend to grow this year looks long, but seasoned gardeners may notice some omissions. We grow only what we like to eat. I like Harvard beets, but my wife hates beets - so, only a few beets.

Asparagus: Viking and whatever was planted in Bonnie's Asparagus Patch over thirty years ago
Bush green beans: Burpee's Stringless Green Podicon, Bush Blue Lake, Contendericon, Maxibel, Provider, Strike
Beets: Detroit Dark Red, Cylindra icon
Broccoli: Premium Crop, Goliath from saved seed, Castle Dome
Brussels sprouts: Dagan, Hestia
Cabbage: Alcosa, Tendersweet, and Super Red 115
Cauliflower: Amazing, Fremont, Violet of Sicily
Carrots: Tendersweet, Mokumicon, Scarlet Nantes, Napoli, Naval
Cantaloupe: Athena, Sugar Cube
Celery: Ventura
Cucumber: Japanese Long Pickling
Herbs: basil, catnip, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
Honeydew melons: Tam Dew
Kale: Dwarf Blue Scotch (Vates), Red Ursa, Judy's Kale, Purple Moon
Kidney beans: Dark Red
Lettuce: Crispino and Sun Devil (icebergs), Nancy and Skyphos (butterheads), Jericho, and Coastal Star (romaines), Better Devil (butter-cos-romaine),and Nevada (summer crisp)
Lima beans: Fordhook 242icon (bush)
Onions: Clear Dawn, Milestone, Rossa di Milano, Red Bull, Red Creole, Southport White Globe, Walla Walla, Yellow of Parma
Shelling Peas: Champion of England and Maxigolt (early, tall), Eclipse and Encore (short supersweets)
Snap peas: Sugar Snap
Bell peppers: Earliest Red Sweet
Paprika peppers: Hungarian , Boldog Hungarian Spice, Sweet Paprika Pepper
Potatoes: Red Pontiac, Kennebec
Spinach: Abundant Bloomsdale
Summer Squash: Slick Pik
Sweet Corn: Summer Sweet 6800R and Summer Sweet Extra 7640R (yellow sh2s), American Dream and ACcentuate MRBC (bicolor sh2s)
Tomatoes: Earlirouge, Moira, and Quinte (open pollinated slicer/canners), Crimson Sprinter (OP), Bradley (OP), Bella Rosa, Dixie Red, Mountain Fresh Plus, Mountain Merit (hybrids), Honey Bunch (hybrid grape) and Red Pearl (OP grape)
Watermelon: Ali Baba, Blacktail Mountain, Crimson Sweet Virginia Select, Farmers Wonderful and Kingman (triploids)
Winter Squash: Waltham Butternut, South Anna Butternut

So there it is. Lots of hopes and dreams for our gardening season grounded in successes and failures of the past. But it's an exciting time for gardeners. Here's hoping for a wonderful gardening season for you and yours.

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

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