Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

May 31, 2021

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Our Senior Garden - May 1, 2021
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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

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

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.


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

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

Sunday, May 9, 2021 - Mother's Day

Spinach Salad
Chicken Marsala with asparagus and spinach

Spinach row before second thinningI thinned our row spinach again on Friday. The spinach plants pulled yielded much larger leaves than the last thinning, although all would still be considered baby spinach leaves. I'm guessing that I'll do one more thinning before letting the remaining spinach plants mature. I may freeze or can some spinach. I'll also let the plants eventually go to seed for seed saving. Supper Friday evening featured spinach salad along with a main course of chicken marsala over fettuccine. I slightly varied the chicken marsala recipe by adding asparagus tips and spinach to it.

I'm back to closing our cold frame some nights. We keep having morning lows predicted in the upper thirties. It's supposed to get down to around 35° F tomorrow morning! The current cool spell is predicted to last for a few more days. So I'm not looking to transplant our Earlirouge tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet peppers until Friday or Saturday.

Our lack of a soaking rain ended overnight and today. I just barely got done mowing, raking grass clippings, and mulching before the rain started yesterday afternoon. I mulched some of our onions and the rest of our short peas with some mulch that had sat and cured since my last mowing.

First gloxinia bloom from newly seeded plantsThe gloxinia bud I showed here on Wednesday has opened into a lovely bloom. It's the first plant to bloom from a December seeding of Empress gloxinia seed. While I usually start gloxinias from our saved landrace blend of Empress, Cranberry Tiger, Double Brocade, and whatever other varieties we've hand pollinated over the years, I wanted to get back to some smaller leaved gloxinias. And while this plant was the first to bloom, I have about eight more with buds all over them.

Gloriosa daisies eaten. Shastas left alone.Something I should have moved on last week could have saved our first transplanting of brassicas. The day before deer wiped out our first planting, I noticed that all of our gloriosa daisies were gone. They were in the center of a planting surrounded by Shasta daisies which weren't touched. If I'd been on my toes, I would have protected our garden plots with animal repellent. And I find it interesting that whatever ate the daisies liked the gloriosas but not the Shastas. Once we get past today's rain, I need to spray the daisies, lettuce, and brassicas with Not Tonight, Deer.

I'm a bit lazy today, so our Mother's Day lunch will come from China Wok, a fantastic restaurant in Sullivan. When they first opened at a previous location, one of our daughters worked there as an English speaking order taker. She's now a nurse practitioner and wonderful mother of two.

Hoss Tools

Monday, May 10, 2021

Scrubbing and rinsing trays and potsWeather Underground 10-day Forecast - May 10, 2021I worked a bit today at scrubbing and rinsing the trays and pots I'd had soaking in bleach water. I didn't get very far as the black flies found me and made working outside miserable. We didn't have black flies here until about ten years ago. But now each spring, we endure the flies until the summer heat diminishes them some way. I should note that I picked a nearly windless day to do the trays and pots so they wouldn't blow away when drying on the lawn. But a bit of wind would have kept the black flies away.

It's May 10. Our final frost date for this region is April 14. But we're looking at the possibility of another frost Wednesday morning. We escaped a possible chance of frost this morning by a few degrees. I had closed our cold frame overnight, but those plants aren't the big concern. We have geraniums and lettuce out in our garden plots that could be damaged by a frost/freeze.

Our favorite Weather Underground reporting station's 10-day forecast calls for a low of 34° F Wednesday morning. A local TV station a few miles north of here is predicting a low of 33° F.

WTWO 7-day Fprecast

Such low temperatures this far into spring are way out of the ordinary and normal. I'm wondering if I should cover stuff up for the cold morning. And if so, how?

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Tuesday, May 11, 2021 - Marigolds

Starting marigoldsMarigoldsI started some marigolds this morning. Until a couple of days ago, I'd just spaced on planting some of the pretty flowers. Fortunately for me, marigolds are pretty fast growers, so we should get some nice blooms this summer.

I used an assortment of old saved and commercial seed for the planting. The newest saved seed was from 2019. The newest commercial seed was from 2018. The seeds got shallowly buried in sterile potting mix in sixpack inserts.

I pulled some newly germinated paprika pepper plants from the tray over our soil heating mat this morning. I left the mat turned on and later put the sixpacks of marigolds in the tray covered with a clear humidity dome. I left the soil heating mat thermostat set at 75° F. If my seed is still good, that temperature should pop the plants up fairly quickly.

Still Cleaning Pots and Inserts

Drying sixpack inserts on cistern coverI got out this morning before the black flies had awakened and began cleaning the rest of the pots and inserts I'd had soaking. Actually, there was a brisk breeze that kept the annoying bugs away. And I found a spot on our back porch where the wind wouldn't blow away the three inch plastic pots our geraniums once grew in.

Donors ChooseWhen I switched to cleaning and drying inserts, the wind blew a few of them off the cistern cover. As I worked, I wondered if the effort and water were worth it, as sixpack inserts are pretty cheap.

Oven Cleaning

I've needed to clean our oven for some time. The breaking point on that chore came when I spilled some french fries and battered mushrooms in the crack of the oven door. So...I opened our back door and turned off the furnace and set the oven to auto clean. Having the back door open prevented our smoke alarms from going off.

When I came inside from cleaning pots, I expected the house to be a little cold. Silly me. With the oven at over 800° F, the kitchen was nice and toasty.

Renee's Garden

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Our Senior Garden - May 12, 2021St. Jude Children's Research HospitalDespite the scary predictions of frost for this morning, our morning low didn't go below 41° F. Local weather sources have backed off their dire predictions of frost, although I heard one local TV weather person this evening suggest there might be patchy frost in our region tomorrow morning. With a predicted low temperature of 39° F, I think our plants will be safe. I did, however, close our cold frame for the night a few minutes ago.

Today was a mowing day, so there wasn't much time for gardening. I'd let the field next to us get pretty high, so it took some time to knock it down. The grass clippings were thick on the ground, but I didn't even try to rake them. Our lawn sweeper can't handle such clumps of grass. I may go back tomorrow and mow over some of the heavy clippings so I can rake them and use them for mulch. Like hay, just letting the clipping sit in the sun for a day or so makes them easier to rake.

I did make time to pick asparagus today. Some of our new shoots are thinner than a pencil, a sure sign that it will soon be time to stop picking the delicious spring treat and let the roots build strength for next season.

Sweet corn germination testsI started germination tests last evening on the sweet corn varieties we hope to grow this season. Most of our seed is several years old. Testing now will allow me to switch to other varieties or buy fresh seed if some of our varieties don't test well. Since we usually grow all sh2 varieties that need warm soil to germinate well, I won't be planting until things warm up a good bit.

Germination test of Quinte tomato seedThere are several ways to do a germination test. I used a pretty standard method for us this time. I wet paper towel sections and laid ten seeds on them. I wrapped the wet towels around the seeds and put each variety in a separate freezer bag. (I find that sandwich bags allow too much moisture to escape.) The tests went onto a cookie sheet that has never been used for food, only stuff like this and seed drying. Since sweet corn doesn't need light to germinate, I wrapped the cookie sheet in a black trash bag.

I sometimes use coffee filters for germination tests. If it's seed I hope to transfer to soil and let grow, roots from the germinating seed don't penetrate coffee filters as much as they do paper towels. I've also done tests with lots of seed varieties on a super large cookie sheet (which gets scrubbed really well before it does any more cookies as some of the seed tested is treated seed).

Labeled sweet corn germination tests

Botannical Interests

Thursday, May 13, 2021 - First Tomatoes and Peppers

Our Earlirouge tomato and Earliest Red Sweet pepper transplants were at an ideal six to eight week old for going into our garden. The soil in our raised garden beds is moist from recent rains. I knocked down a bunch of newly germinated weeds, mostly maple seedlings, with my scuffle hoe. The only thing holding back transplanting was a soil temperature of around 50° F. That's a far cry from Oregon State's Kym Pokorny's recommendation of 65-70° F for transplanting tomatoes. But our Earlirouge tomatoes are from the Jack Metcalf series of releases of early tomato varieties developed at the Agriculture Canada Smithfield Experimental Farm, in Trenton, Ontario. So I went for it today.

I used our truck to haul all the supplies needed for the planting. I had to bring twelve cages in from where they were stored at the corner of a field. That pretty well filled the bed of the truck. I squeezed in a tray of tomatoes and peppers and another with geraniums, planting tools, T-posts, and starter solution.

Cages and supplies unloaded from truck

As you may tell from the photo above, I was blessed with a very pleasant day to be working in our garden.

I began the work by spacing out six tomato cages to go in a narrow raised bed. I pounded in three T-posts to anchor the tomato cages, as tomato cages top heavy with fruit tend to blow over and uproot the tomato plants. We live in a rather windy area.

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Preparing planting holesOnce the area was marked by the T-posts, I pulled the cages in pairs and dug planting holes about eight inches deep. I sprinkled 12-12-12 fertilizer in and around each hole. Instead of using calcitic limestone to provide the calcium needed to lessen blossom end rot, each hole got a liberal sprinkling of powdered egg shells.

Each planting hole got about a gallon of starter solution. The solution today included Quick Start 4-12-4 fertilizer, Serenade biofungicide, and a little Maxicrop Soluble Seaweed Powder. The Serenade soil drench can prevent problems such as blight later on in the tomatoes. The Maxicrop is mainly for the peppers that grow better with a little of it. And the Quick Start is obviously to get both crops off to a fast start.

Mulched and caged tomato plantThe tomato plants got squished into the mud before I pulled soil around them and firmed it a little with my hand. I made a small trough around each plant and added a little more starter solution before mulching each plant with cured grass clippings. I pushed the cages into the soil and anchored them to the T-posts with a scrap of plastic coated clothesline. I eventually got the whole narrow raised bed mulched.

Last year, I transplanted our Earlirouge tomatoes on May 1. We had a cold snap shortly thereafter and a dry spell. The plants stalled out and didn't produce well until mid-summer. I saved seed from them, but didn't really want to trust that seed.

So when I started our Earlirouges this year, I used a variety of saved seed. One plant today was from our seed that has been in frozen storage since 1988! Other plants were from seed saved in 2014, 2019, and 2020. I even used one plant from commercial seed from the Turtle Tree Seed Initiative. They got their start on Earlirouges from seed we shared with them.

Earliest Red Sweet pepper plant mulched inAction Against Hunger USAI followed the same routine in transplanting our Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants. Differences in the transplantings were that the peppers got shallower planting holes and some ground limestone along with egg shell. Peppers are subject to blossom end rot, too.

You might wonder at my caging our pepper plants. After years of having brittle branches heavy with peppers break off, I tried cutting down some old tomato cages to support our pepper plants. It worked like a charm. We still lose a pepper branch here and there, but not like we did when we didn't cage our peppers.

This year's pepper plants were all from seed saved last season.

It was an exhausting day, but one where I feel a real sense of accomplishment in getting these transplantings done. Our raised beds are now completely planted and mostly mulched in. I still have some weed cleanup to do around our carrots and beets before mulching them.

Earlirouge tomatoes in with early peas in background

Our Earlirouge tomatoes are in. I love the puffy clouds and blue sky in this photo.

Earliest Red Sweet peppers in with peas and garlic in the background

Putting in the pepper plants completed planting in our main raised garden bed. You may notice geraniums at the corners of the planting. I put in nine geraniums today around the tomatoes, peppers, and in a planter on our cistern. I'm looking forward to having time to add some more geraniums, petunias, vinca, and even some marigolds along the borders of our raised garden beds.

With our raised beds now planted, I'll be turning my attention to getting our melons, squash, sweet corn, potatoes, kidney beans, and others planted in our large East Garden plot. The beginning of a gardening season is always a busy and exciting time for me.

I've touched upon a lot of subjects where I give fuller information in our feature and how-to pages. Here are links to some of them:

  • Growing Tomatoes - How we grow our tomatoes and a few comments about other methods.
  • Earlirouge Tomatoes - I hunted high and low for this tomato variety that is related to our favorite tomato, Moira. It turned out that I already had seed for it in frozen storage...and the twenty-five year old seed still germinated!
  • Growing Peppers - Sweet bell, hot,, red, yellow, etc., they all grow about the same way.
  • Earliest Red Sweet Peppers - A little bit about our favorite and an endangered pepper variety
  • Mulching with Grass Clippings - We really wouldn't have much of a garden without using grass clippings to mulch our many vegetable plots.
  • Growing Geraniums from Seed - I finally refined our previous blogs on growing geraniums from seed into more of a how-to on the subject. Note that the older blogs remain, goofs and all. embarrassed

I do share seed for both the Earlirouge and Earliest Red Sweet varieties via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange. For gardeners living outside our climatic region, I suggest purchasing such seed from commercial vendors when available. Their support in preserving some endangered varieties has taken a load off of my chest.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Friday, May 14, 2021 - Pea Blossoms

Pea blossom
Pea blossoms

Tall peas coming into bloomOur tall, early peas have begun putting on blossoms. I'd been checking them most days and today seems to be the first day of their blooming. Athena Hessong gives a time frame for when the peas will be ready in How Long From Flower to Picking for Peas. "Garden peas should be ready for picking from 18 to 21 days after the plant produces flowers, notes Utah State University Cooperative Extension." Other sources state shorter and longer times from flowering to pod maturity. But it looks like we'll be picking and enjoying peas sometime in early June.

Our tall, early peas are a landrace mix of Champion of England and Maxigolt. While I like both varieties, I let them cross and saved seed from them last season.

Short peasThe row of short, supersweet peas I transplanted on April 30 are looking pretty good. I used transplants as the Eclipse and Encore varieties don't germinate well in cool soil. While short pea varieties really don't require support, I put up a short trellis to keep the peas up off the ground for seed saving.

I hope to spread a little compost along the row of short peas. Compost seems to give peas a real boost.

This planting of the Eclipse and Encore varieties is really important to me. I did a big planting of the varieties last year. Cool temperatures and a lack of rain doomed the planting. I also planted them in the poor soil of our East Garden plot. The planting was a total failure, so we need to have a good crop this year for table use, freezing, and of course, seed saving.

While we hope to save seed from both our tall and short pea varieties, there's little to no danger of them cross pollinating. Isolation for seed saving can be accomplished by distance between varieties or by time. Our tall peas will be done blooming well before our short peas bloom. While I purposely let our Champion of England and Maxigolt peas cross last year, I also let our Eclipse and Encore peas cross some. Encore is a parent in the Eclipse linage and both varieties are supersweets. Note that the Bayer/Monsanto/Seminis patents on the supersweet pea varieties expire this year.

Rain - Possibly, Lots of It

After a rather dry April, our extended weather forecast includes the chance of lots of rain. With our raised beds now completely planted (other than flowers), the rain will do us good. It won't help much in getting our East Garden plot planted.

Weather Underground 10-day Forecast

While I may grump and stew a bit about wet weather conditions preventing getting our East Garden planted, the rain should do us some good. There's no terrible rush to get our melons, squash, sweet corn, and kidney beans planted. Getting potatoes in early is another matter. But on the whole, I'll gladly take the rain to raise water tables. I'm guessing that we'll have another typically dry July and August this year.

The Home Depot

Saturday, May 15, 2021

I got out fairly early this morning and transplanted a bunch of herbs and flowers. I'm glad I did as our recent weather forecasts haven't proved very reliable. It was supposed to be pretty nice today, and it was while I was working outside before noon. But since then, strong cool winds seems to be preceding a big storm system headed this way.

I had big plans for this afternoon including a big T-bone steak from the grill for supper. Instead, I suspect I'll be watching it rain outside and dining on a fried bologna sandwich.

With the weather change rolling in, I grabbed my Canon T5-i and recorded some of what I'd done this morning.

I put parsley, basil, and dill into our herb garden around our shallow well.

Parsley Basil, Dill, and Basil

OreganoOur herb bed and shallow wellOur incredibly hardy and aggressive oregano was once again threatening to take over one side of our herb bed, if not the whole world. I cut some of the oregano away from a couple of dianthus on one end and a sage on the other. The oregano has lots of grass weeds coming up through it, a problem we have with all three sides of the raised herb garden bed.

The oregano is also starting to bloom. I think that is something you don't want if you're going to harvest and dry the oregano for cooking. I'll need to take our good kitchen shears out and cut down the oregano soon.

One side of our main raised garden bedOnions, carrots, beets, celery, and lettuceI moved on to trimming around the timbers of our raised beds and adding flowers along the edges of the beds. The flowers are a bit hard to pick out in the photo at left. I added petunias, vinca, and geraniums. On the other side of the bed, I added the same along with some dill.

Oftentimes jobs that should take just a little while extend to hours long projects. Today, it was doing a light weeding around our carrot plants. The seed had been slow to germinate. When it did, weeds also emerged in and around the rows. So I took some time to use my soil scratcher to disrupt the weeds as best as I could.

While trimming, weeding, and transplanting, I realized that the soil in our main raised garden bed was really dry. Our East Garden plot is still too wet to till, frustrating me greatly. But our main bed really needs a good rain.

Our tall, early peas continue to add more and more blooms. With a good rain, that should equal more and more filled pea pods in a few weeks.

More blooms on our tall, early pea vines

Spinach rowAbundant Bloomsdale spinachOur row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach that shares the tall pea bed is looking very good right now. We're beginning to see a little bug damage that may require a spray of the organic(s) Neem Oil and/or Pyrethrin. While we're not totally organic, I'm really adverse to spraying poisons on our leaf crops.

I moved a tray of lovely tomato plants to our back porch yesterday. These are the tomatoes that will go into our East Garden plot in a few weeks. While they're against the side of the house right now for protection from too much wind and sun, they'll go under our cold frame in a day or so to begin hardening off.

While our treasured Earlirouge tomato variety provides most of our tomatoes for fresh eating and canning, these varieties add a little to that abundance. Our excess goes to friends, family, and our local food bank. The warm smiles we get when delivering beautiful tomatoes to folks makes the effort worthwhile.

Our late tomatoes

This tray contains our Moira, Quinte, Crimson Sprinter, and Bradley open pollinated varieties, and our Bella Rosa, Dixie Red, Mountain Fresh Plus, and Mountain Merit hybrids. There's also some hybrid Honey Bunch and open pollinated Red Pearl grape varieties.

Burpee Seed Company

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Our Senior Garden - May 16, 2021We're still really dryThe rain that was approaching yesterday afternoon never got here. It all went north and south of us. When I looked at this week's U.S. Drought Monitor for Indiana, I saw that we are still, appropriately, listed in the abnormally dry classification. While there were bits of mist in the air at times, at least I got to grill a steak last night.

Even with rain predicted for tomorrow (promises, promises...), I drug the hose from our rain barrel out to our row of early peas that are beginning to bloom. They could use the moisture, and it will empty the barrel in case it really does rain tomorrow.

Starting Melons and Squash

Seeding melons and squashLast year we had 22 hills of melons in our East Garden. Having decided to go with just one melon row instead of a long one and a slightly shorter one from last year, I'll only have room for about a dozen hills. Having delayed starting our transplants while considering direct seeding the melons, I finally went ahead today and started some melons and squash over our soil heating mats. Triploid (seedless) watermelon varieties almost have to be started over bottom heat to get good germination. So the whole bunch of melons and squash went over our soil heating mats.

I started Athena and Sugar Cube cantaloupe, Tam Dew honeydew, Ali Baba, Blacktail Mountain, and Crimson Sweet Virginia Select open pollinated watermelon, and Farmers Wonderful, Red Ruby, and Kingman hybrid triploids.

For our squash, I started Slick Pik, Waltham Butternut, and South Anna Butternut.

Melon and squash starts over heat mats and under lights

All were started in sterile potting mix with the seed going in just an eighth to a quarter inch deep. While melons and squash don't require light to germinate, I like the sprouts to get some light as soon as they emerge. I set our soil heating mat thermostats to 80° F.

Our How-To, Growing Great Melons on Heavy Clay Soil, tells how we start and grow our melons.

Charity: Water

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 - Freezing Asparagus

Yesterday's asparagus haulTrimming asparagusOver the last week, we've had some wonderful harvests of asparagus. Rain held off yesterday until I'd picked asparagus and mowed the lawn. Combined with a light picking this morning and a lot of spears picked over the last several days, there was enough asparagus to justify getting out our big pots and blanching and freezing asparagus. Frozen asparagus isn't even close in flavor to fresh, but during the winter, it's lots better than canned and world's better than none at all.

Picking the asparagus proved to be interesting. Our raised bed has produced most of our asparagus spears so far this season. But it didn't have many yesterday or today. Bonnie's Asparagus Patch, a second patch just off our property that we care for, had been slow in producing so far this season, but had lots of spears from thin to what we jokingly call fenceposts.

Not being terribly experienced at freezing asparagus, I followed some excellent instructions from The Spruce Eats' How to Freeze Asparagus by Leda Meredith. All of our asparagus had been washed after picking. So my first job was to trim off the ends of the spears and pile them into the deep basket of our Tramontina 8-Quart Covered Multi-Cooker. It's pot leaves a couple of inches of space under the basket to boil water to steam stuff like asparagus spears.

Drying asparagus
Asparagus bagged in Ziplock freezer bags

Cooling asparagus after blanchingI blanched the spears for the recommended six minutes and cooled them in ice water. The spears then went onto some clean bar towels for an hour to dry. I tried to sort the spears by size into quart and pint Ziplock bags and popped them into the freezer. It made five pints frozen.

Last year we were able to pick asparagus until the end of May. I'm not sure when we'll quit picking this year. The universal recommendation is to stop picking when your asparagus spears are smaller than pencil thickness. Some of ours are that thin, and we leave those to grow. But we're also still getting lots of larger spears which we pick every other day.

Our narrow bed of asparagus is the Viking variety and has both male and female plants. Bonnie's patch is mostly male plants with a few female from seeds that migrated from our patch to hers.

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Currently, Walmart shows the Tramontina Gourmet 4-Piece 8-Quart Covered Multi-Cooker as out of stock. But there are similar options available.

I tell about how we started our asparagus patch many years ago in Growing Asparagus. Of course, I started our patch from seed, the hard way to do it. I'd recommend starting from crowns purchased from a reputable vendor.

Still being pretty much a rookie at freezing asparagus, I consulted some online experts for how-to's:

Other Stuff

Empress gloxinias coming into bloomSoftbed of lettuce, celery, beets, carrots, and onionsSeveral of the gloxinias I started from seed in December have come into bloom. The first two red blooming gloxinias went last weekend to my mother-in-law and her sister. They both moved into the same assisted living facility last Friday.

I spent a few minutes today recording the bloom colors of each new plant on their plant tags. It's a job I often forget to do. And while a plant is dormant or out of bloom, there's no telling what color they bloom.

Our softbed of lettuce, celery, beets, carrots, and onions is looking good. The first transplanting of lettuce got eaten on along with our brassicas by deer. A combination of possibly good luck, our dogs, Irish Spring soap chips, Repels All, and Not Tonight, Deer seem to have deterred the deer. Of course, the lettuce didn't get any Not Tonight, Deer, as a leaf crop might retain some of the taste and smell of the product.

A few of the melons and squash I started on Sunday have already germinated. I'm thrilled.

Sadly, the rain that was once predicted to yield almost two inches of precipitation has produced less than a half inch of rain for us. I'm not sure Thursday's Drought Monitor report (calculated today) will show us out of the Abnormally Dry classification.

And while I've probably overdone it, here's one more picture of our tall, early peas putting on lots of blooms.

Peas in bloom

Right now, it's a toss-up whether our next harvest will be of lettuce, peas, or spinach. I think that's a good thing.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Weeding asparagusRaised asparagus bed half weededOur asparagus season isn't quite over yet, but with some recent rain, today was a good time to start weeding our asparagus patches. Other than having to work on my bum knees, it was a pleasant task. Temperatures were in the 80s with a nice breeze.

I spent several hours working on our raised bed of asparagus and only got half of it weeded. While I took and used my Fiskars soil scratcher and Cobrahead Weeder a bit, most of the work was just pulling the weeds by hand. While I'm really not all that tidy, the pulled weeds went into a bucket and later onto our compost pile. I don't need any more chickweed growing in our yard.

All but one of the melon and squash plants I started on Sunday are up. The one germination failure was some old (2016) Farmers Wonderful watermelon seed I'd used. Fortunately, I had ordered a fresh packet of it from Johnny's Selected Seeds, so I brought four seeds in from the garage freezer and re-seeded the excellent seedless variety.

Damaged tomato plant 1Damaged tomato plant 2Something got to our Earlirouge tomatoes last night and damaged two of them. It's hard to tell what did the damage, as there were no animal tracks visible in the lawn and the damage was too high on the plants to be cutworms. Since the tomato plants are caged, rabbits might be the culprits, but who ever heard of rabbits eating tomato plants?

I sprayed the tomato plants with Not Tonight, Deer to discourage further damage. I didn't go all out on critter defense, as they only tasted two plants and apparently didn't like what they got. I have several replacement Earlirouge plants on hand, but I'm going to wait and see if the damaged plants recover. And I'll probably leave one or two of our dogs outside tonight to fend off invaders.

With temperatures predicted to be in the mid-80s today, I turned our air conditioning on this morning for the first time this year. As always, I heaved a sigh of relief when it turned on and functioned properly.

Getting back to our asparagus patches, I'll work in some balanced fertilizer to them when I'm done weeding and they're not putting up too many new shoots. They'll also get a good covering of compost. Most of our compost each year goes to the asparagus patches.

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

Friday, May 21, 2021

This has sort of become asparagus week. I finished weeding our raised bed of asparagus this morning. I also picked some nice asparagus shoots.

Raised asparagus bed weeded

We'll still have weeds emerging in the bed. But once I quit picking, I'll scratch in some balanced fertilizer killing weeds along the way and then cover the bed with an inch or so of compost. The asparagus will eventually canopy, denying weed seed the light it may need to germinate. And I still have Bonnie's Asparagus Patch to weed.

Dog damage in main raised garden bedStill Abnormally DryI guess that I was so involved with what I was doing that I didn't notice what our dogs were up to. Even though I was facing our garden, I didn't see that the dogs were digging for moles in our main raised garden bed! After cleaning things up as best as I could, it appears that we lost some onions, carrots, several flowers, and a broccoli.

I noticed that yesterday's release of the U.S. Drought Monitor still showed our area of Indiana in the "Abnormally Dry" classification. I'm guessing the report assembled on Tuesdays didn't include the rain we got then.

From the Drought Monitor page:

Drought Monitor Cutoff

It appears that we won't see any more rain until mid-week next week. We're probably okay on soil moisture for now, but will need another good rain by next week.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Sunday, May 23, 2021 - Pea Pods and Weeding Asparagus

Pea pods on tall, early peasBonnie's Asparagus Patch covered in weedsOn my way out to begin weeding Bonnie's Asparagus Patch, I got a pleasant surprise. Our wide row of tall early peas now has lots of pods visible. I'll be watching our peas each day to know when to pick. I'll also do some tasting of the raw peas.

Like our raised bed of asparagus, I'd let Bonnie's Asparagus Patch get overgrown with weeds. I didn't get too far in cleaning up the patch today, but got started. My biggest problem in the weeding was not snapping off emerging asparagus shoots as I leaned on one hand in the patch while uprooting weeds with the other hand. Our raised bed of asparagus produced heavily far earlier than Bonnie's patch this year. While it appears that our raised bed of asparagus is nearly ready to rest, Bonnie's patch is putting up lots of pickable shoots. It's just hard to see them through the weeds.

I wore myself out pretty quickly today and only got one other gardening job done. I replaced one of the Earlirouge tomato plants that had been damaged with another Earlirouge plant.

I've Seen This One Before

Red pea bloom amongst white blooms

Reminiscent of our 2015 Best Garden Photo, I found a red pea bloom amongst our otherwise white blooming landrace cross of Champion of England and Maxigolt peas. I wondered if I should rogue out the pea plant, but instead left it in place. Whether something came in on a bee last season, or this was just part of the parent plants' heritage, I don't know. But the bloom was pretty, so I let it be.

A2 Web Hosting

Monday, May 24, 2021

With other things to do and a jar half full of dried oregano, I'd let our oregano almost come into bloom. The vigorous herb plants had grown to nearly two feet tall. I'd already been cutting the oregano back where it threatened a sage plant on one end and a couple of dianthus on the other end of one side of our raised herb bed.

Cutting oregano Oregano cut down

After taking two sprigs of oregano for some spaghetti sauce I had cooking, it was time to cut the oregano. I attacked the unruly oregano with a quality pair of stainless steel shears. They made quick work of the oregano, which sadly went onto our compost pile. I'm planning on drying oregano from the regrowth in a month or so.

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Our little patch of oregano is from just two plants. One is Greek oregano and the other Italian. I'm not enough of a connoisseur to tell the difference in either taste or appearance of the two types. I planted them in 2016, and they've survived our winters since then. When done, I poured a little leftover starter solution over the oregano.

Our Raised Herb Bed

After years of just looking at a shallow well in our back yard, I plumbed the well in May of 2016. The well pump is currently inoperable until I replace the pump leathers and blow out the muck at the bottom of the well.

In October of that year, I put in One Last Raised Garden Bed. It was a narrow bed around the well to be used as an herb garden. While the oregano and sage plants have been fixtures in the bed, there's room each season for a few other herb plants. This year, I put in parsley, basil, and dill.

Walking around the other three sides of the bed, this is what you'd see.

Herb bed view from south View from east View from north

The Home Depot

Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - Not My Best Day

Critters once again struck our lettuce and brassicas. This time they wiped out our lettuce that was almost ready to pick. Five or six broccoli plants and a couple of cabbages survived the onslaught. Our dogs were outside all night, but must have hunkered down in their doghouse in our garage, as it rained off and on all night. The last time our brassicas and lettuce got wiped out was a rainy night.

Lettuce and brassicas damaged again

Lettuce wipeoutDamaged cauliflower and petunia weedsI still have a couple of Crispino head lettuce transplants in good shape on our back porch. Whether or not I can get them into the ground and keep the critters away from them remains to be seen.

You might also have noticed some strange weeds in our softbed. They're almost all petunias from the Perseverance petunias I grew at either side of our main raised bed last year. The vigorous petunias about took over that end of the bed, and I resolved to never grow them again in a limited area. I do have several Perseverance transplants that are doing well on our back porch, but they will only go into the open spaces of our large East Garden plot.

Something we have established from our recent bad experiences is that the critters don't seem to like celery, onions, beets, carrots, dill, or geraniums.


Adding to my morning misery, I saw that almost all of our spinach plants were bolting. I'd noticed a couple of the plants going to seed yesterday and intended to pull them and harvest from the rest today. The Abundant Bloomsdale spinach variety is supposed to be "bolt resistant," but I guess our current stretch of eighty degree days were just too much for it. I'll let the plants bolt for seed saving and hope for some good lettuce and spinach this fall.

Spinach bolting

Not All Is Lost - Our Zinnias Are Up!

Long row of weedy zinniasZinnias with weedsI'd just about given up hope on the zinnias I seeded in mud on May 3. I thought the planting had failed and was planning on tilling the row and replanting. But in the last few days, some zinnias have emerged. There also are a lot of weeds. So yesterday, I ran our walking tiller down the sides of the zinnia row to cut the competition with them.

Saving the row of zinnias will require a lot of hand weeding. But weeded, mulched, and bare patches re-seeded, they could make quite a display of blooms by July.

Weeding Flowerbeds

I got started weeding the flowerbeds around our house today. I cleared out two on the east (lee) side of our house. I'd transplanted painted daisies iconbetween our daffodils and in the other east side bed. The daisies weren't doing well with the daffodils overhanging them and significant weed pressure.

Daisies amid daffodils
Daisies, impatiens, and rosebush

The soil in the beds was dry and mostly hard. I used my Cobrahead Weeder and Fiskars soil scratcher to break up the hard soil and pull out a cartful of weeds. I was surprised to find lots of thistle weeds. But with our bird feeder getting filled regularly, I'm guessing the thistle came from it.

Carpet Snowfire dianthus Red dianthus

On my journeys around our yard, I stopped to marvel at a couple of second year dianthus in full bloom in our herb garden. Dianthus icon are a biennial, sometimes triennial that produce lovely small blooms. Our start of them came from some supposedly hybrid Carpet Snowfire dianthus. But I've found that saving seed from them produces a variety of bloom colors.

Seed Ordering

My recent germination tests of sweet corn seed didn't thrill me. So, I ordered some fresh sh2 sweet corn seed from Johnny's Selected Seeds on Friday. To my pleasant surprise, my seed came in the mail today. Apparently, the backlog of orders and post office problems with seed orders may be a thing of the past.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Feeding AmericaGardening got put off today in favor of mowing. I'd let the grass in the field next to us where our large East Garden plot resides get pretty high. With rain predicted by early evening, I chose to mow over doing some more weeding. I did weed about a two foot section of our row of zinnias, just to prove to myself that the row could be saved. With some rain, the weeds should be easier to pull.

While messing around online this evening, I found an interesting article on CNN, Give kale a chance - or fall in love all over again - with these 7 dishes. While the author clearly missed our outstanding recipe for Portuguese Kale Soup, she offers some nice recipes for using kale, an easy to grow and nutritious brassica.

Donors ChooseMy wife alerted me to a funding request on Donors Choose by a special education teacher at the school system from which I retired. I have admired the efforts of special education teachers through the impossible conditions of the Covid pandemic. I thought I had it bad, as I related years ago in a retirement letter. But the idea of teaching special needs students remotely blew my mind.

I, of course, made a small donation to the teacher's request. Sometimes the simplest things are put out of reach just by dollars. I'm hoping the teacher gets her level of funding. While I was teaching, my students and I were blessed with a grant that put multiple laptop computers in my classroom. Along with my wife and my efforts to put a computer in each of our students' homes, it made an incredible difference in their learning.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Friday, May 28, 2021 - Still Weeding

With a half inch of rain overnight softening up the soil, I began weeding the small flowerbeds on either side of our front porch. Usually these beds have some hostas and dianthus that have overwintered. This year there are just some hostas and a whole bunch of nasty weeds.

Fiskars soil scratcherCobrahead WeederEarlier this spring, I had scuffle hoed the beds to clear them of weeds. Today's weeding had to be a hand weeding where I could get the weeds removed roots and all. To facilitate the task, I employed my trusty Fiskars soil scratcher and Cobrahead Weeder.

While I got both beds weeded, I wasn't totally happy with the job I did. I'm going to have to go back and weed again in a few days, possibly with a scuffle hoe.

Once the weeds are tamed in the flowerbeds around the house, I have dianthus and impatiens transplants ready for the front beds which are shaded much of the day. Petunias and impatiens will go in the side beds that already have some daisies and impatiens in them.

Before Before
After After

Our first pea harvest of the seasonWeather Underground Extended ForecastThe big gardening victory of the day was that a little over two dozen pea pods were ready for picking today. The peas got picked, shelled, cooked, and devoured in less than an hour.

Our tall peas this year are a landrace blend of the Champion of England and Maxigolt varieties. While I've planted the separate varieties for years, I saved seed from them last season.

The peas weren't as sweet as usual, but were still delicious. I attribute the decline in flavor to possibly poor plant breeding on my part or the warm daily temperatures we've had for a week or so. With a forecast for cooler temperatures over the next five or six days, I'm hoping for better pea quality from our pickings.

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Sunday, May 30, 2021 - Petunia Weeds

Volunteer petunias amongst onionsI've read that George Washington Carver said that "a weed is a flower growing in the wrong place." What were beautiful, but overly vigorous petunias in our main raised bed last year have produced lots of petunia weeds this season. So I had to get serious today about pulling all the volunteer petunia weeds that had sprung up in and around our rows of onions, celery, beets, and carrots. Some of the petunias were already over six inches tall. Doing the weeding required a little cultivation around the carrots and onions. I also finished mulching the area with grass clippings.

Giving Up on Spring Brassicas - Planting Green Beans

The last damage to our brassicas and lettuce ended any hope I had of harvesting any lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts this spring. Buying transplants or direct seeding would only produce plants that would be bitter when they matured in hot weather. I'll try again this fall.

For some reason, the critters that last damaged our crops, didn't eat the Goliath broccoli plants I'd replaced after deer ate the first bunch. They did eat all the rest of the broccoli and cauliflower. I'm guessing the culprits were rabbits this time, as there were no deer tracks in the garden. Also, I also saw a couple of brave rabbits traversing our back yard yesterday, apparently unafraid of one of our dogs that was watching them. It may sound cruel, but I smiled this afternoon when I spotted rabbit fur just off our back porch.

With the rows of broccoli and cauliflower destroyed, that opened up the area to be used for the intended succession crop of green beans, just a good bit earlier than I had planned.

Previous brassica rows seeded to green beans

While it took a good bit of time to switch over from brassicas to green beans, it didn't require any tilling or soil amendments. The soil in the area was thoroughly tilled this spring and I had put down lots of fertilizer, possibly too much for green beans, when transplanting the broccoli and cauliflower.

Green bean row seededI only had to rake the grass clipping mulch back to expose the soil. Well, I had to move one fairly large cabbage plant and a dill out of the way. They went at the ends of rows and will hopefully survive the late transplanting/movement.

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I made a shallow furrow with a garden hoe down each row, sprinkled a bit of granular soil inoculant into them, and rather carefully spaced out seed in the narrow rows. While I've successfully grown green beans in wide rows in the past, our needs don't require that many beans to can. And I find narrow rows easier to care for and harvest than wide rows.

Note that while the seed shown in the image at left is white, several of our varieties used today were brown seeded varieties. The white seeds just show up better in photos.

The varieties seeded were Burpee's Stringless Green Podicon, Bush Blue Lake, Contendericon, Maxibel, Provider, and Strike. These are all tried and true varieties we've successfully grown in our area for years. And I do like the flavor one gets when canning beans if several varieties are included.

I did add some flowers at the ends of the rows and also sprinkled a bit of Repels All over the area to discourage hungry rabbits and digging dogs.

Every season I have to decide whether or not to mulch our beans. Mulching holds back weeds and holds in soil moisture, but also adds grass clippings that have to be separated out when processing the beans. With bare soil, one gets more bean rot from pods touching the soil, and of course, one has to keep the bean rows weeded. With this planting, the previous planting of heavily mulched brassicas made the mulching decision for me. Mulch it is.

I still have one more bean planting to do. I'll plant kidney beans in our East Garden plot sometime next month. After growing kidney beans for several years, I now wonder why I didn't do so earlier in my life. They're easy to grow, harvest, shell, and dry. I tell how we grow all of our beans in our how-to feature, Growing Beans.

Odds 'n' Ends

Purple blooms on white blooming pea varietiesI was surprised when passing our row of short, supersweet peas to see that they were beginning to bloom. It appears that I cut things a bit close, as our tall, early peas still have a few blooms on the vines. I plan to save seed from both the tall and supersweet varieties. Since peas are pretty much self-pollinating and we're not seeing that many bees this spring, we should be okay. Of course, I'm still finding purple pea blooms on our tall peas that should be blooming all white. That's a bit unnerving, but the purple blooms really are pretty.

I also pulled a few weeds that emerged through the mulch around our row of Earlirouge tomato plants. Other than a couple of maple seedlings, most of the weeds were squash or melon type sprouts. That's not surprising, as the bed got a coating of compost from our compost pile that often doesn't heat up enough to kill all the seed in it.

With our tall, early peas producing, I realized that I needed to get our succession crop ready for when the pea vines leave our double trellis. I was going to bring some Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed in from our garage freezer, but realized that I had a "retail" packet of the seed in our kitchen freezer. So I started sterilizing a kettle of potting mix for the cukes this afternoon. They'll get seeded tomorrow.

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Monday, May 31, 2021 - Memorial Day (U.S.)

May, 2021, animated GIF of our Senior GardenStarting Japanese Long Pickling cucumber transplantsI did another light picking of our early peas this morning. Some heavy pickings should be in the offing soon.

Picking peas brings up the issue of what comes next after the pea vines are spent.

Cucumbers, of course.

I started three deep sixpack inserts (18 cells) of Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers today. I used sterile potting mix for the planting, covering the seeds with an eighth to a quarter inch of moist potting mix.

The Japanese Long Pickling cucumber variety produces tall vines and long, slim cucumbers. The cukes are excellent for making bread and butter pickles and not bad for fresh slicing. We grow this variety each year as a succession crop after clearing our tall, early pea vines from the double trellis they grow on and between.


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