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One of the Joys of Maturity


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January 23, 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.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

It's a lazy Saturday here. My one gardening job today was starting some daisies. We've not had a lot of success getting daisies, a perennial, to take in our plantings. I've chosen poor spots for them in the past. I have a new spot picked out for them this year.

Starting daisies

Doctors without Borders

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I started some Painted Daisies, Alaska Shasta Daisies, and Gloriosa Daisies iconin four and a half inch communal pots. I used sterile potting mix topped with a bit of vermiculite, just pressing the seed into the vermiculite. The gloriosa daisies may be a no go, as I used some seed I saved way back in 2014.

Garden Tower Project

 
 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Untrimmed laurel bushesHoss Tools and SeedsWith temperatures in the lower fifties by midday today, I scrapped my indoor plans and headed outside to trim some bushes. I'd procrastinated trimming the bushes all summer and then switched to putting off the job until a warm winter day. Well, we got a gorgeous, sunny, warm day today, so our laurel bushes and evergreens finally got their much needed trimming.

Possibly driving my resolve to trim the bushes is that they obscure the view from our west facing kitchen window. That's the window that has our Wandering Jew plant and our egg carton petunias in it.

These bushes for years had lots of praying mantis in them. Then birds began to nest in the bushes, either scaring away or eating the mantises. I still hatch out a praying mantis egg case each year in the bushes. I've also cut the bushes off to just about ground level a couple of times. Each time, the bushes grew back even lovelier than before.

Tomorrow's high temperature is predicted to be about twenty degrees less than today's. I'm glad I got some outdoor work done today.

Our onions are up, sort of. One tray germinated well other than one variety. The other tray was a disaster. While both trays were treated the same, the failed tray may have gotten too much bottom heat from its soil heating mat. That tray also received some older seed. But even the fresh Walla Walla seed from Twilley Seeds germinated poorly, worse than all the rest.

Fair geermination of onion seed Poor geremination

I've re-seeded bare spots in the flats, but probably will have to just start over with the flat with red onions and sweet onions. Both flats are off the soil heating mats, as onion seed can germinate at fairly cool temperatures.

Rooted Wandering Jew cuttings transplanted to large potI transplanted three Wandering Jew cuttings into a large hanging basket pot last night. I still have nine rooted or rooting Wandering Jew plants in deep sixpack inserts for other pots and replacements in case a transplanted cutting fails.

Germinating geranium seed on coffee filterI also started some old 2019 and 2020 geranium seed on Tuesday on coffee filters over a soil heating mat and under our plant lights. Some geranium seed seems to germinate better if it gets a little light.

I have lots of supposedly fresh geranium seed on hand (well, three packets of ten seeds each), but wanted to see how the older seed would do. At one time, I started all of our geranium seed on paper towels or coffee filters, only moving seeds that sprouted into pots.

To my total surprise, the seed had begun to germinate in just two days. So, I began moving the geranium seeds to three inch pots filled with sterile potting mix with a bit of vermiculite in the center of each pot. Of the seventeen seeds started, sixteen showed signs of germination!

Sprouted geranium seed moved to individual pots

Now I'm trying to decide if I really need any more geraniums.

Donors ChooseLegg's Sausage SeasoningOne off-the-wall job I did today was making some homemade pork sausage. On a trip to town to pick up prescriptions and a few groceries, I'd bought a two pound, boneless pork roast, knowing full well what I wanted to do with it. I thawed out some lovely leaf lard a reader had gifted me, cut the roast into pieces, and ground the pork and lard together. Then I added a couple of teaspoons of pork sausage seasoning to the pork and a bit of ground sage from our garden.

Note that the product pictured makes twenty-five pounds of sausage and doesn't give directions for lesser amounts. From my experience, about one teaspoon per pound of pork works pretty well for a slightly spicy sausage mix.

I thoroughly mixed the additions to the pork and then cooked a sausage patty to make sure I'd gotten the mix right. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.) I ended up freezing two one pound packages of really good pork sausage for about two bucks for the meat! With our favorite Jimmy Dean's Sausage running four to five dollars a pound, our homemade sausage is tasting better and better.

Renee's Garden

Monday, January 18, 2021 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Little Shop of HorrorsWandering Jew plant being trimmedLike Audrey II in the film Little Shop of Horrors, our Wandering Jew plant was threatening to take over a kitchen window, if not the whole room. So today, I hardened my heart and cut back the gorgeous plant. Besides making it difficult to pour water into our coffee maker each morning and constantly shedding dead leaves and bloom parts, the plant obscured the window ledge where our egg carton petunias go each January.

After a rather severe trimming, the plant went into the kitchen sink for a good spray and watering. It left handfuls of dead leaves in the sink. But even with the watering, I could tell that the plant was nearing its end of beauty.

Wandering Jew plants generally do well indoors for twelve to eighteen months before stems and leaves begin to dry. To have a plant in the window at all times, I begin taking cuttings from the existing plant each year in December and/or January. By springtime, the cuttings moved into a hanging basket are ready to take over in the kitchen, while the old plant goes outside under our back porch for the summer. I currently have two deep sixpack inserts with Wandering Jew cuttings rooting in potting mix. The first set of cuttings I took are just about ready to be transplanted into a hanging basket.

Egg carton petunias on kitchen windowsill

I soaked some milkweed seed today and mixed it with damp vermiculite to begin stratifying it. Per some excellent online instructions, the mix went into sandwich bags and into the fridge for couple of weeks or so. I've not had much luck growing milkweed, but am willing to try again to help preserve the monarch butterfly.

Some flower seeds need stratification. Most vegetable seeds really don't, but sometimes germinate better if soaked before planting. More than stratifying seed, we usually scarify geranium and asparagus seed before planting. Scarification involves somehow cracking, scraping, or otherwise weakening the outer shell of some hard seeds. My preferred method of scarification is gently drawing a seed a quarter inch or so down an emery board!

Ordering Garden Seed

If you haven't yet ordered vegetable seed for your garden, you may find it rather difficult and frustrating to do. While I've fussed here about our tardy order from Fedco Seeds, the current advisory on their web site screams "GO AWAY" to prospective customers.

Fedco message

That's my red line in the graphic above. The green line is Fedco's. And based on their phantom shipping of my seed order on December 31, I'm not buying their "shipping company overload" excuse.

But Fedco isn't alone in not adequately staffing up to meet customer needs. As I looked over our page of Recommended Seed Suppliers, I found that Annie's Heirloom Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Reimer Seeds, the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, the Seed Savers Exchange, the Territorial Seed Company, and the Turtle Tree Seed Initiative are all having trouble filling orders and getting them to customers. Some are closed to new orders for a time, others are only taking orders a day or two a week. One even begins taking orders each morning, only to stop taking them when they have enough to keep them busy the rest of the day.

Having been through all of this last year when people returned to gardening in a big way, and with the pandemic continuing, these seed houses should have known they'd face a similar onslaught of orders.

Charity: Water

Friday, January 15, 2021 - Uppotting

Dianthus, impatiens, and vinca in communal potsSt. Jude Children's Research HospitalMy spellchecker and dictionary tell me that "uppot" and "uppotting" aren't words. I did find some hyphenated references when I Googled the words. But that describes a lot of what we do in our indoor gardening. Plants started from seed in communal pots eventually need to be moved to larger, individual quarters. Plants whose rootball or corm in the case of gloxinias that nearly fill the pot have to be moved to a larger container. I call that uppotting.

Having started hosta, gloxinias, petunias, vinca, impatiens, and dianthus in communal pots over the last month or so, I have a lot of uppotting to do in the next few weeks. I've already moved our hosta plants grown from saved seed to individual pots.

Our small, communal pots of dianthus (from saved seed), impatiens, and vinca had put on their first true leaves, so they got uppotted to shallow fourpack inserts today. While the plants are up and on their way, I still used sterile potting mix for the transplanting as a precaution against damping off fungus.

Dianthus, impatiens, and vinca moved to fourpack inserts

While the dianthus are for our flowerbeds, the impatiens and vinca will go into hanging baskets.

Free Shipping on Orders over $35

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Fedco Seed siteFedco closed for ordersA notice on the Fedco Seed site says they're not accepting orders until this weekend. Frustrated by not receiving my order in a timely fashion and not getting a prompt response to my email inquiry, I called Fedco this afternoon. A customer service agent related that Fedco is currently "overloaded" with orders. He also related that there is no tracking information on the orders shipped out the same day as mine.

While I'm relieved that the folks at Fedco haven't been decimated by the Covid virus or some other calamity, I'm not very happy with them for the delay with my order and their lack of responsiveness when they knew they had a problem.

I had two items in my order that I really needed on time. To protect myself, I'd placed other orders for the critical items elsewhere. But when a company doesn't communicate its failures to customers and you have to double order to make sure you get the items you require, it may be time to hunt for a more reliable vendor.

I'm guessing if my experience with Fedco is shared by many others, they won't have the problem of being overwhelmed with orders next year!

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Sunday, January 10, 2021 - Starting Some Onions

Our Senior Garden - January 10, 2021Post Office tracking for Fedco orderI've been planning to start our onions for the last several days. I sterilized a kettle of potting soil for the onions on Wednesday. Unfortunately, one packet of Walla Walla onion seed I wanted to use still hadn't arrived. Fedco Seeds sent an email that said my order had been shipped on December 31. Post Office tracking suggests otherwise. Of course, Post Office tracking has been a disaster since the Christmas rush started. But whether it's Fedco or the Post Office, I got impatient today.

I had another packet of Walla Walla seed, but it was from the same vendor that sold us inferior (old?) seed that germinated poorly last year. The upside is that the vendor boosted the price of the seed from $1.55 per packet to $2.50 this year, a possible sign of fresh seed arriving.

I started out planning to seed one tray of onions. I start the onion seed in sterile potting mix in a slotted 1020 tray in a solid Perma-nest tray. The slotted tray allows the soil to drain somewhat into the solid tray, and the pair give some strength to the trays that are very heavy when filled with moist potting mix.

Making row labelsI had everything I needed assembled when I decided to go ahead and start a second tray of onion seed so I wouldn't have to do the job again when the tardy Walla Walla seed arrived. That involved sterilizing more potting mix. I used the quick sterilization method with it, pouring boiling water on the soil.

While that potting mix was cooling, I seeded the first tray of onions. I planted full rows of Clear Dawn, Milestone, and Yellow of Parma yellow storage onions and a row of Southport White Globe white onions. Note that seed for the excellent Milestone hybrid variety has disappeared from the market this year. The open pollinated Clear Dawn, Yellow of Parma, and Southport White Globe varieties remain widely available.

Double tray of sterile potting mix ready for seeding

When I was ready to seed the second tray of onions, the soil had remained very wet. When I checked, I found that I'd accidentally pulled a solid 1020 tray instead of a slotted one that would drain excess moisture. I headed for our basement plant room and dumped the sterile soil from the solid tray to a slotted one which corrected the soil moisture problem.

The second tray was seeded to half rows of Red Bull, Red Sunset, Rossa di Milano and Red Creoleicon red onions. All of the varieties seeded today were long day onions other than the Red Creoles. They are a short day variety better suited for growing in the south. I grow some of them as they mature into small, mature onions almost a month before our other varieties come in.

The last two rows in the second tray were seeded to Walla Walla sweet onions. That may prove to be a bit of overkill, but we've had trouble germinating the variety the last two years. Most of our Walla Wallas go into canned green beans and our annual batch(es) of Portuguese Kale Soup.

Covered trays over soil heating matsSoil thermometersSince onion seed can germinate at a temperature range of 45° F to 95° F, one can often start the seed without any bottom heat. Since I'll need our soil heating mats for our next seeding of geraniums, I put the trays of onions over our soil heating mats with the thermostats set to 77° F.

I seeded the onion rows pretty heavily. I don't mind thinning a row, but I really hate having to go back and re-seed bare spots in the rows. And seeding untreated black seed into black potting mix makes telling how much seed you dropped rather difficult.

Having mentioned "untreated," I did add some Captan fungicide to the water I dumped on the trays. We often get some mold on the soil surface of trays started over heat mats covered by a clear humidome. Do note that the onion seed was all covered with potting mix, as it doesn't require light for germination.

A couple of our other pages may shed a bit more light on our onion growing practices.

The Home Depot

Thursday, January 7, 2021 - Sage to Sunroom

Sage plants in sunroom

Max-Min ThermometerTurboTax Deluxe 2020I moved a tray of sage plants from our basement plant room to our sunroom today. The sunroom draws its only heat from a somewhat covered doorway that leads to it...and of course, sunshine through the windows.

I'd waited to make the move until I installed a new toy in the room. While I doubted the room had ever reached freezing temperatures, I wanted to be sure. So I mounted a max-min thermometer on the wall close to the level where plants would be.

The cool temperatures of the sunroom slows down the growth of plants. That's often a good thing for plants like sage and geraniums.

TurboTax

In these days of the pandemic, it seems like we have a delivery or two every day. One recent one was a disc for TurboTax Deluxe. I'd been watching the price of the software, as it usually drops ten bucks around the first of the year. When it did, I ordered and installed a copy of it. TurboTax Deluxe 2020 (Fed, State, and E-file) now runs at about forty bucks from either Amazon or Sam's Club.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2021

My heart is heavy as I write today. An unruly mob inspired by the President stormed and broke into the Capitol building during a joint session to certify the results of the Electoral College. Responsibility for this lawlessness falls squarely on Donald Trump. After four years of his horrible presidency, he now is attacking our democracy on his way out.

Sunday, January 3, 2021 - Ordering Garden Seed

Minimum Shipping Rates (2020-2021)

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - free shipping
High Mowing Organic Seeds
- $2.95 ↓ (free on orders of $25 or more)
BurpeeBurpee Seed Company - ($2.99 flat rate on seed orders) $3.95 ↑
Seed Savers Exchange - $3.00 ↑
Turtle Tree Seed Initiative - $3.00 ↑
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange - $3.50 ↑ (orders up to $10 )
Botanical Interests - $3.95 ↑
Annie's Heirloom Seeds - $3.99 (flat rate)
Johnny's Selected Seeds - $4 ↑ (orders up to $10)
True Leaf Market $4.50 ↑
Fedco - $6 ↓ (free shipping for orders over $30)
Victory Seeds - $6.45 ↑
Territorial Seed Company - $7.95 ↑
George's Plant Farm
- varies by state

2021 Catalog CoversOur seed orders for the coming gardening season have been placed and mostly filled. But I'm guessing that many gardeners are just getting around to ordering seed for next summer. I have several suggestions to offer.

First, order early. Seed vendors quickly ran out of seed last year. A difficult growing season for some seed producers will probably negatively impact the availability of some vegetable seed varieties this year.

Second, use only known and reliable seed vendors. Bargain garden seed often turns out to be a disappointment. I maintain a list of trusted seed suppliers that we've used for years.

Third, watch out for gotchas on shipping rates. If you only want a packet or two of seed from a company, their shipping rates may make such a purchase cost prohibitive.

Fourth, if you have a manual defrost freezer, don't be afraid to order larger seed packets. Freezing leftover seed preserves it quite well (other than onion seed). Here are a couple of good articles on seed viability and storage. Note that we get far longer storage by freezing our old seed.

Lastly, keep track of what seed germinates well and what doesn't. Be mindful of the seed supplier of seeds that don't germinate well. Seed houses often sell seed they've had in storage for years.

Burpee Seed Company

Saturday, January 2, 2021 - Getting Started

Our Senior Garden - January 2, 2021
Click on images to open larger view in a new tab or window.
Our East Garden - January 2, 2021
Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.

Beginning a new gardening season is always exciting. We have sage, hosta, gloxinias, petunias, vinca, impatiens, dianthus, and some asparagus started or seeded. I'm looking forward to starting our onions and geraniums this month.

I received an email on Thursday from Fedco Seeds saying that they had shipped my order. Their web site had stated that orders wouldn't begin shipping until January 4. Since the order includes a packet of onion seed I'll need later this month, I was glad to see that order wouldn't hold me up.

I'll also be starting geraniums from seed this month. With geranium seed, it has become a crapshoot as to whether supposedly fresh seed ordered will germinate well. I still have a bit of geranium seed leftover from last year that germinated well. So, here's hoping.

Timing Seed Starting

Dave's Garden Frost Page for 47882AmazonWhen we start our flower, herb, and vegetable transplants from seed is based mostly on past experience. I also rely on a very helpful interactive tool from Johnny's Selected Seeds, their Seed-Starting Date Calculator. Entering an average frost free date obtained from Dave's Garden, the seed-starting calculator yields a long list of vegetables and flowers with date ranges of when to start them. Sadly, the Johnny's calculator isn't all inclusive, as it only lists stuff they sell seed for. Online searches supplemented by research in the late Nancy Bubel's excellent The New Seed Starter's Handbook usually tells us when to seed and how (light, total darkness, optimal temperature for good germination).

Johnny's Seed Starting Calculator

You'll notice that I've entered our local frost free date in the image of the calculator above. I also deleted a few items to get the vegetables we might plant included. Also note that the page continues to a good listing of flower varieties not shown here.

Even using guides such as the one above and past experience, weather conditions can still work against a gardener. I transplanted our Earlirouge tomatoes into a raised bed on May 1 last season. A freakish late frost followed by dry conditions stunted those tomatoes much of the season. The rest of our tomato varieties transplanted into our East Garden plot on June 5 and 6 gave us all the tomatoes we could eat, can, and give away.

On the other hand, the Johnny's guide suggests direct seeding peas as early as March 3. We try to seed our tall, early peas at some point in the first two weeks of March. Of course, we do treat our seed with Captan to prevent rot in the wet, dry, and sometimes frozen soil.

Grousing, complaining?

Droll Yankees Bird FeederRed bellied woodpecker and cardinal at our wellDuring the summer months, I've been known to grouse a bit about the cost of sugar to make nectar for the many hummingbirds visiting our feeders. In the winter, I switch to complaining about the cost of bird seed for our Droll Yankees Bird Feeder. I have to refill it about every other day. Of course, I also sprinkle a bit of seed around our cistern cover and our well pump and cover.

Actually, seeing the birds is well worth the cost. The red bellied woodpecker shown at right is from a long line of red bellies that have stolen dog food from our bowls on the back porch for years. When we walk back to the barn, the woodpeckers always scold us. There's been a nest or two of them there for ten or fifteen years!

And "red bellied" is a somewhat inaccurate description of the birds' appearance. Wikipedia notes, "Its common name is somewhat misleading, as the most prominent red part of its plumage is on the head." The cardinal in the image at right is just a pretty bonus.

We are also seeing a lot of blue jays. While pretty, they tend to bully the other birds visiting our feeder. And from the past, they're not one of my favorite species. When I was farming, we kept two beehives. One did well, but the second was failing. One day, I noticed a blue jay sitting on an old fence post near the hives. It was picking off honeybees as they flew by. I dispatched the blue jay, but the second hive eventually failed. The bright spot in this story is that the one filled and the other empty hive sold well at the farm auction that sadly closed out my farming years.

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Required FTC Disclosure Statement: Botanical Interests, Burpee, Renee's Gardem, 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

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year

1800Flowers

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