Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

September 30, 2022

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Thursday, September 1, 2022 - More Canned Tomatoes

Our Senior Garden - September 1, 2022
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One of our gardening goals each season is to put up enough canned whole tomatoes and tomato purée for us to have lots of homemade tomato and lasagna sauce and tomatoes for our annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup. With just six tomato plants in this year instead of our usual fifteen to twenty, that's become a challenge. Due possibly to weather conditions, our six Earlirouge tomato plants have been producing mostly small tomatoes. I've nudged the tomato plants with extra waterings and fertilizer, but have only gotten lots more small, plum like tomatoes. The odd full sized tomato gets saved for sandwiches.

Tomato products in downstairs pantryWith eleven and a half quarts of canned whole tomatoes and just two pints of tomato purée in our downstairs pantry, I decided to make purée today. I also thought coring and halving the small tomatoes before running them through our Squeezo Strainer would be easier than coring and peeling them. Of course, making purée is a much longer process than canning whole tomatoes.

Getting the thing put together properlyStraining the tomatoesWhile washing, coring, halving, and heating the tomatoes, my first challenge of the day occurred. I'd totally forgotten how to assemble our Squeezo Strainer! There was a rod, spring, bushing thing I didn't quite get until I looked it up online.

The straining process went well until almost the end of the job. Then the scroll clogged with tomato skins, something that frequently happens with the Squeezo when processing tomatoes.

Once the scroll was cleared and the screen cleaned a little bit, the straining went well. Conveniently, the straining produced about eight quarts of tomato juice and pulp, which filled our Tramontina 8-Quart kettle.

Lots of small tomatoes8-quart kettle filled with tomato juice and pulpI could have canned the strained juice and pulp at that point, but I wanted a thicker tomato purée. That involves boiling down the mixture by about half. The trick, of course, is to boil down the mixture, but not let it burn. That means watching the heat under the kettle and stirring frequently.

I'm looking to get about seven or eight pints of canned purée. And our tomato vines are still filled with ripening tomatoes, so I should be able to do at least one more batch of canned whole tomatoes this season.


The eight quarts of tomato juice and pulp boiled down to six pints of thick tomato purée.

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Friday, September 2, 2022

Six pints of tomato purée

Yep! Six pints of tomato purée. And it only took almost a whole day! I guess that's one of the benefits of retirement.

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Saturday, September 3, 2022

With rain predicted for today, I got to skip my usual morning half to full hour of watering our garden. The thunderstorms are scattered, but by noon we'd received a welcome quarter of an inch of precipitation with more possibly on the way this evening and tomorrow. Watching it rain is sure easier than hauling heavy buckets of water to the garden.

Most crops planted are up

From left to right in the photo above is the row of peas, two rows of carrots and beets, two rows of spinach and lettuce, and two rows of kale.

After this morning's rain darkened the soil a bit, it was easy to see that most of what I planted a week ago Tuesday is up. Other than the kale, everything took longer to come up than normal. Of course, these were cool weather crops germinating in warm conditions. The lettuce seeded has just begun to emerge. And the Encore peas seeded haven't germinated well enough so far to make a crop.

There are lots of seedling grass weeds up in the rows planted but not in the aisles. That's, of course, because I only watered the planted rows. When the rain is done, I'll need to hand weed the rows and scuffle hoe the aisles.

With time available before the showers began, I spent a pleasant hour this morning cleaning up all the weeds in our front flowerbeds.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Our Senior Garden - September 4, 2022Grass seedlings erupt in aisles after rainAs expected, the overnight rain we received has popped up lots of grass weeds in the aisles between our fall planted crops. We have several days coming with thunderstorms predicted. Once the weather clears and the soil surface dries a bit, I'll have to get after the seedling weeds big time with our scuffle hoe.

Note: Sadly, scuffle hoes don't do much good in wet or muddy soil. Sad They tend to make a mess of things.

Sad looking cucumber vines
Cucumber bloom with striped cucumber beetle

Tomatoes ripening nicelyI could have picked tomatoes this morning, but chose to hold off doing so for now. We're building up a nice supply of ripe tomatoes for another round of canning whole tomatoes. I like the tomatoes to be as ripe as possible when we can, even if I have to cut out a few bad spots along the way. That beats trimming out green cores every time.

Our incredibly productive bed of Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines are looking sadder by the day. I keep considering taking out the vines, T-posts, and trellis to prepare for renovating the bed. It's soil level has dropped enough that it will get at least a couple of bales of peat moss this fall.

But whenever I get to thinking I'll pull the vines, they put on a bloom or two that makes me hope for one more batch of the long cucumbers for making more bread and butter pickles. And note that I did squish the striped cucumber beetle on the bloom in the photo. It's the first of them I've seen on the vines this year, something a bit unusual.

Drying/curing table filled with cucumbersI'm still picking an occasional yellowed cucumber for seed saving. Our drying/curing table in the garage is already filled with lots of cucumbers curing for eventual seed saving. We'll be offering fresh Japanese Long Pickling seed by late fall via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange.

And writing about things that just won't quit, our volunteer dill plants keep putting on flowers and producing more dill seed. There's no dill weed to speak of, but lots and lots of seed.

New dill bloom Never say die dill plant Recent dill seed harvest

I'd recently picked more dill heads, leaving them in a picking bucket to dry a bit. When shaking the bucket to release the dill seed didn't work, I released the seed by rubbing it between my thumb and forefinger. I'd previously used up all of our fresh (and some old) dill seed making dill pickle slices for my lovely wife.

I fell in love with growing dill years ago when I put some at the ends of our broccoli and cauliflower rows. When working the brassicas, the pleasant aroma of dill made the job go easier. Although I'd started dill transplants this year, the volunteer plants made the transplants unnecessary.

Row of Crispino and Sun Devil lettuce plants for seed savingA couple of Sun Devil head lettuce plants bearing seedOnce things dry out a bit, I have more lettuce seed to harvest. A couple of our Sun Devil plants have browned blooms on them filled with ripe seed that will drop to the ground soon if I don't get them harvested. We also have some Crispino head lettuce plants ready to yield more seed.

Making the lettuce seed saving a bit easier, I ran across a gem from both Rob Johnston, Jr.'s Growing Garden Seeds and the late Nancy Bubel's The New Seed Starter's Handbook in my garden library. They suggested removing outer leaves from head lettuce plants and/or cutting inch deep slits in the head (an "X") to promote seed stalks emerging. Apparently, tight heads can trap the seed stalks inside the head, preventing seed production. It definitely has worked for us this season.

Dwart basil plant beginning to bloomStill on the subject of seed saving, I'm letting our dwarf basil plant go to seed. I've already dried and ground basil for cooking, so I'm letting the plant go to seed as they can be pretty when in bloom. Do note that saving basil leaves from plants in bloom isn't recommended. Apparently, the leaves get bitter at that point. And, we have lots more basil hiding under our cucumber vines.

Hummingbirds at feederAnd finally in this long, rambling posting, it appears that some of "our" hummingbirds have begun their long migration south. I was filling our three hummingbird feeders three times a day at one point...and going through a couple of four pound bags of sugar a week.

Of our feeders, our old Birdscapes Deluxe Rose Petal 12-Ounce Glass Hummingbird Feeder appears to be the birds' favorite, as they empty it first. Unfortunately, that model of feeder hasn't been available for years. I've cannibalized several old feeders to come up with one, but even had to resort this year to gluing a perch back on my one feeder base after I snapped off a perch.

I changed our nectar solution from 4:1 water to granulated sugar to 3:1 several weeks ago to allow the birds to add weight before their migration. We'll probably get to enjoy hummingbirds at our feeder through mid-October as migrants from further north replace "our" birds that have begun their southern migration.

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Monday, September 5, 2022 - Labor Day (U.S.)

After another good look at our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines this morning, I decided that it was time to take them out. Removing the vines was a time consuming, but fairly easy task of pulling and trimming the vines to release them from the nylon trellises they'd climbed.

Cucumber vines, T-posts, and trellis netting removed from narrow raised bed

Removing the clothesline wires and the nylon trellises without terribly damaging that plants around them was a bit more difficult. But I got the job done, leaving the geraniums, snapdragons, vinca, basil, and one rosemary plant in fairly good shape. We'll enjoy the flowers and possibly some of the herbs for a few weeks before I begin renovating the bed for next season.

From the vines, I got five more cucumbers for seed saving and six more nice ones for fresh use or a trip to the food bank. The vines and cull cucumbers went to our compost pile.

I also trimmed the first of our Sun Devil lettuce seed from the plants, storing them in a paper grocery bag in the basement. I brought up our bag of saved Barbados lettuce seed and tried to process some of it. I started a pot of the Barbados seed, just to see if we were doing any good. If the 37 day variety germinates, it just might get moved out into the garden.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Six more quarts of canned whole tomatoes
Still lots of red tomatoes on vines

Our Senior Garden - September 7, 2022I canned another six quarts of whole tomatoes today. I thought that might be it for our tomato canning this season. But when I went out to grab some photos later in the day, I saw that there were still a good many red tomatoes on the vines. I may have been a bit too judicious in picking only the ripest tomatoes this morning.

This batch of tomatoes was pretty nasty to process. The tops of some of the tomatoes had black mold that had to be cut out. Bird damage was also evident. I ended up cutting off the top half of many tomatoes instead of coring them to remove mold and damage reducing the canned harvest.

Kidney beans maturingAs I walked around our main raised bed this afternoon, I saw that many of our kidney bean plants had dropped their leaves. There were many green pods still on the plants with a lot of browned kidney bean pods as well.

Our recently planted main raised bed is looking good. You can easily see the rows planted, although a lot of the green is from seedling grass weeds. I was able to scuffle hoe the aisles between the rows several days ago when the soil surface dried a bit.

Main raised bed


Thursday, September 8, 2022 - Processing Cucumbers for Seed

Cutting cucumbers for seed saving
Closeup of saving cucumber seed

Cucumber seed in jar to fermentI processed about half of the cucumbers we had retained for seed saving today. One Japanese Long Pickling cucumber rotting on our drying/curing table yesterday suggested it was time to harvest some cucumber seed.

I picked yellowed and softened cucumbers for the seed saving. Cutting off the butt end (blossom end) of the cukes, I cut them in about five inch lengths before splitting them. Then I used a teaspoon to scrape out the seed and pulp around the seed.

The seed and pulp went into a quart canning jar where I'll let the mess ferment for about three or four days. After that, it's a matter of pouring off mold and floater seeds, rinsing the good seed, and drying it.

While I work to wash off any remaining pulp that may inhibit seed germination, I often find that our cucumber and other seed germinates a bit better after being frozen for a while. I suspect the freezing kills off the last of the pulp's effect.

When I do this stuff, I usually look online to see what others are doing with this job. I found a couple of dandy how-tos on saving cucumber seed this time. The first is from the Seed Savers Exchange, Grow and Save Cucumber Seeds.

Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise to extract the seeds. Scoop out seeds and any surrounding pulp from the seed cavity. Place this mixture of seeds and pulp into a small bucket or jar with some water. The mixture needs to undergo fermentation for 1-3 days to remove the pulp from the seeds. The fermenting mixture should be held in an open container at temperatures between 70-80 degrees F. When fermentation is complete, decant the seeds by adding more water to the container and stirring the mixture - the pulp and lightweight seeds will float to the top and can be poured off, leaving only viable seeds which will have settled at the bottom of the container. Once the seeds have been rinsed clean, set the seeds out to dry on coffee filters or old window screens until they can be cleanly snapped in half.

Another by Jordan Charbonneau, 7 Steps to Saving Cucumber Seed, comes from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:

Ferment and clean your seeds

In order to remove all the pulp from the seeds, you need to let them ferment a bit. Add a little water to your jars of seeds and pulp. The containers need airflow into them, so don’t put a lid on. However, you can cover them with a bit of cloth or coffee filter and a rubber band to keep out fruit flies.

Let this mixture ferment for three days, stirring it once a day. It’s okay if you notice some mold growing on top. After three days, add a more water and stir the mixture again. The viable seeds will sink while the pulp and bad seeds will float, and you can pour them off the top. Drain your viable seeds.

I depart from both how-tos in capping the fermenting mix. I open the cap a bit each day to release pressure that has built up from the fermentation process, but I don't want to be smelling the fermentation in my kitchen as it happens.

I'm just halfway done with this job. There's still the other half of the ripe and curing cucumbers on our drying/curing table in the garage. They're a few days to a week from being ready to process, when I'll get to do the whole thing over again.

As long as the seed germination tests good, we'll be offering it again via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange.


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Friday, September 9, 2022

Saved Barbados lettuce seed germinatedWater CharityI was pleased today to see that some of the Barbados saved lettuce seed I'd processed on Monday had germinated. Our saved commercial Barbados seed is from 2009, so getting some fresh seed should ensure that we can grow the commercially discontinued variety for years to come.

I now have Crispino, Sun Devil, Barbados, Jericho, and a red romaine lettuce seed saved, but still on the stalks. As the seed heads dry, I'll rub them between my fingers to release their seed and eventually freeze the seed for future use. And I'm still harvesting a row of Crispino and Sun Devil for seed.

For us, lettuce seed preserves well when kept in the freezer. We use loose lettuce seed rather than the pelletized kind, as it's a lot cheaper and stores better. Having said that, I'm considering ordering pelletized carrot seed for next season. That might save a lot of time and effort thinning carrot rows.

My big gardening job for today was weeding our fall plantings in our main raised bed. I only watered the planted rows after seeding which cut down on weeds in the aisles between rows. Some scuffle hoeing a few days ago knocked down most of the weeds in the aisles that had germinated after some much needed rain.

But today's job was working on my hands and knees pulling mostly grass seedlings that had emerged in our planted rows of peas, carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce, and kale. After doing all the rows, I used our scuffle hoe to again clear the aisles of weeds.

Cleaned up fall plantings

Getting cool weather crops started for fall in the heat of the summer can be challenging. I was disappointed with what we have in our rows of peas, spinach, and lettuce. But I'll go with what we've got, possibly breaking up and transplanting some clusters of plants where I dropped too much seed.

An article in the Washington Post, The Summer Drought’s Hefty Toll on American Crops by Laura Reiley, reminded me that I hadn't posted the U.S. Drought Monitor since July.

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

And when I was dropping off an old toaster and some cucumbers at our local food bank yesterday, the guy that runs the place commented on how blessed we'd been this summer with our weather. I've complained a lot about our weather, but taking his view, we don't have horrible flooding like many places in the world are now suffering, nor do we have horrible wildfires like the western United States has been experiencing.

I appreciate the food bank guy's view in reminding me to be thankful for what we've got.

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Saturday, September 10, 2022

Earliest Red Sweet peppersCucumber seed fermentingI finally got a nice picking of Earliest Red Sweet peppers today. The variety usually begins producing in July before really accelerating production in the fall. Planted in good ground, we should have gotten more peppers earlier in the season. Even with regular watering and some extra fertilizer, the plants just sort of sat still for a time. I attribute the poor production so far to our weird weather this summer.

As long as our germination tests work out well, we'll be offering this variety again this year via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange.

Some experienced seed savers may have raised their eyebrows a bit at my photo on Thursday of cucumber seed fermenting in a jar. They'd be right, as I goofed and didn't leave enough head space in the jar. I had a small mess to clean up when fermentation got underway and pressure forced smelly fermenting cucumber goo out of the jar.

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I dumped off some of the liquid and the fermentation process is going well. Fermentation helps release the seed from surrounding non-seed material and also gets the germination inhibiting goo somewhat off the seed.

I ran across another interesting article today in The New York Times, The Olive Oil Capital of the World, Parched by David Segal and José Bautista. It tells of how this summer's drought has reduced the projected harvest of olives and a possible steep increase in the price of olive oil. Since Annie and I cook with a lot of olive oil, I went straight to the Sam's Club site and ordered enough Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil to last us for a year! Olive oil is said to have a pretty good shelf life.


pepper seed drying, pepper strips frozen

The peppers yielded a nice batch of seed for saving and lots of frozen pepper strips.

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Monday, September 12, 2022

Kidney beans drying on back stepsI brought in our row of kidney beans this morning. The bean plants haven't looked good through some dry weather, and I didn't help them out any by splashing some vinegar/Epsom salt weedkiller on some of them.

Our original red kidney bean seed was rated at 102 days-to-maturity, but has frequently matured at around 85 days for us. Today was the 78th day since planting, so I'm really pushing things with this picking. Many of the bean pods were browning out, and a few had begun to split and drop seeds. I'm guessing that our incredibly hot early summer weather accelerated their maturation.

Shelling kidney bean podsIn picking, I first pulled the plants one at a time and stripped them of their pods. The stalks and leaves went into our garden cart to go on our compost pile. Since the bean pods were a bit damp from dew, I let them sit in the sun and strong breeze for a couple of hours before beginning the job of shelling the beans out of their pods. I didn't get too far with that job. With the beans inside on a high shelf, I'll work a little each day at shelling the rest of them.

We use our kidney beans for planting and in our Portuguese Kale Soup, Texas Nachos, and Refried Kidney Beans recipes.

Portuguese Kale Soup Texas Nachos Refried Kidney Beans

I also re-seeded bare spots in our spinach rows with some seed I started soaking last evening. While there aren't enough growing days for the spinach to produce mature spinach, we may get some nice baby spinach leaves out of it.

Botannical Interests

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Our Senior Garden - September 13, 2022Weather Underground Extended ForecastIt appears that we're into another dry spell. When working our raised beds which looked somewhat damp on top this morning, I found that when I pulled a weed, I'd find dust less than an inch below the soil surface! So...I'm back to daily watering our crops.

Today, that meant going down the rows of our newly started crops with a sprinkling can. Our tomato and pepper plants got a far less gentle application of a couple of gallons of water each poured at their base.

The new plantings in our main raised garden bed look pretty good. Where I filled in some spinach seed yesterday got more water than the other rows.

New crops in main raised bed Heavily watered spinach re-planting Fall carrots up - always a challenge

Kidney beans shelledDropped kidney bean seed germinatingI finished shelling our kidney beans this afternoon. While I'm not sure what we got will supply all my wishes for the beans, it was a pretty good harvest considering the weather we've had and mistakes I've made. And while out, I saw confirmation of why I took the beans out yesterday...dropped beans from split pods germinating. It was time.


An email today introduced me to the idea of planting fall onions. Looking around online I found a pretty good piece on the High Mowing Organic Seeds site, Time to Plant Fall Onions for Overwintering, that gave me the skinny on something I previously didn't know was possible. The article begins, "It’s a little-known fact that many seasoned gardeners aren't aware of: you can grow onions (and shallots) in the winter."

Having just opened up a row in our main raised bed with the kidney bean plants out, I'm tempted.

Morgenstern Books

Thursday, September 15, 2022 - Planting Onions in the Fall

Fall onions direct seededThe idea of planting onions in the fall for early summer harvest intrigued me. And I had just cleared an area of kidney bean plants that seemed ideal for such an overwintered crop. The space was at the far end of our main raised bed, which would still allow me to fall till the rest of the bed.

I decided to go with Walla Walla sweet onions since they were mentioned in High Mowing Organic Seeds' article, Time to Plant Fall Onions for Overwintering. And the last few years, we haven't done well growing Walla Wallas as spring planted onions. I had parts of three packets of seed for the variety from 2020 and 2021. Since onion seed doesn't store well beyond a year, I started soaking all of the seed last night. I let them sit and dry a bit this morning, as seeding wet, clumpy seed is a nightmare.

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I usually grow our onions in the spring in two double rows around our spring carrots. I decided to try a double row spaced six inches apart rather than our usual four inch intensive row spacing for onions. I worked Muriate of Potash (0-0-60) and 12-12-12 fertilizer into to rows with our garden hoe last evening.

This morning, I strung my rows, made shallow furrows with some one inch scrap board, and watered the furrows. I used almost all of the onion seed, trying to space the seeds and inch or so apart in the row. A little soil got scooped over the seed and patted down to ensure good seed to soil contact.

Since I had soaked the seed and watered the furrows, I didn't top water the rows today. I'll begin doing that tomorrow when I do my regular morning watering.

If this experiment works out well, I'll need to add a section about fall onions to our how-to, How We Grow Our Onions. And here are a couple of other pages on the subject:

ERS peppers drying in sinkPeppers

I picked a nice bunch of Earliest Red Sweet bell peppers today. ERS peppers are smaller than the hybrids one typically sees in groceries. But what they lack in size, the variety makes up for in volume of peppers late in the season. The peppers and a similar amount of tomatoes went to our local food bank for their food distribution tomorrow morning.

Computer Stuff 

Moving to a brand new laptop has proved expensive. I caught a $300 price cut on an M1 MacBook Pro, although the discount is now $400! (New M2 MacBooks will probably be announced next month.)

My reluctance to go to a new Mac was partially driven by software I own that would no longer work on a new Mac. Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 and Microsoft Office would both have to be replaced. And I simply wasn't willing to pay Adobe $21 a month each for their Cloud Photoshop and Dreamweaver.

While I installed Open Office to replace Microsoft Word on the new laptop, I found that Apple's Numbers application took care of my needs for a spreadsheet. For photo editing, I coughed up the money for Photoshop Elements. And after a long search, I found that Disruptive Innovations' BlueGriffon could handle some light web page editing. I simply couldn't find a free open source web page editor that fit my needs. The last two cost some bucks, but were also a single price for a license.

While I will miss the big name applications, I still have Office and Creative Suite installed and working well on my 2018 Mac Mini where most of these pages are built and updated.

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Saturday, September 17, 2022 - Gloxinias

The gloxinias I seeded on June 17 have begun putting on buds and blooms. That's pretty quick, as gloxinias from seed usually take five or six months to come into full bloom. Of course, it probably will be weeks before we begin to see blooms opening.

Young gloxinia plants budding

I added a tray under our plant lights yesterday to give the gloxinias a bit more room. Grown close together, the plants often produce stems that fall over once support of surrounding plants is removed. Some of our second year plants are beginning a second blooming cycle this season. I moved the last of our older plants from our dining room window to the plant rack as they move towards dormancy. I even moved one plant to a shelf in a dark spot of the basement, as the plant had either gone dormant or died.

Daily Routine

My daily gardening routine has become one of watering and weeding our new crops and our tomatoes and peppers each morning. We've received less than an inch of precipitation so far this month and our soil is dry. Beyond watering, weeding, and picking tomatoes and peppers, there's not been much gardening to do. At least our Earlirouge tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet peppers are now producing good, normal sized fruit.

On my way to town today, I saw a farmer combining soybeans. We're obviously at the beginning of another harvest season. The field of beans next to our raised beds got sprayed with something two or three times this summer. I'm guessing that it was an insecticide, as we haven't seen any Japanese Beetles this season, even on our kidney bean plants.

I cleaned some Earlirouge tomato seed today that I'd had fermenting in a jar for four days. I pulled ten seeds from the batch for a germination test while the rest of the seeds dry. And today's picking of Earlirouge tomatoes produced a good many normal sized tomatoes the will probably go for seed saving.

Renee's Garden

Monday, September 19, 2022

Our Senior Garden - September 19, 2022Beet plants beaten down by wind and rainI didn't have to do my usual watering of our garden this morning. Overnight, we had thunderstorms with a lot of wind. We only got four tenths of an inch of rain. But that was enough for me to opt out of my usual half to full hour of watering and weeding.

While the rain was truly welcome, it did have some adverse effects. The heavy rain and wind beat down our beet plants. They should stand back up and be okay, I hope.

As is typical after a rain, the aisles between our fall plantings that go unwatered when I water the planted rows each morning erupted in seedling grass weeds. Once the soil surface dries, a quick pass with our scuffle hoe should take care of those weeds. And as I water the rows each morning, I've taken time to pull weeds emerging in the rows.

Seedling weeds erupt after a good rainWith outdoor gardening chores winding down, I've worked inside on seed saving and germination testing seed. Unfortunately, I'm not getting the results I'd like from our saved tomato, pepper, and cucumber seeds. From past experience, I've found that such seeds often don't germinate well just after the seed has been cleaned and dried. So our saved seed goes into seed packets in Ziploc freezer bags and spends a couple of weeks in the freezer before retesting. I attribute getting better germination results after freezing to the process killing off the germination preventing gel that may have remained on the seeds. But whatever, that trick seems to work.

Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants filled with red peppersI finished off a pint of saved Earlirouge tomato seed saved last week and started another pint of that seed from our first round of the year of full sized Earlirouge tomatoes. The weird weather we've had this gardening season really impacted our tomato plants.

One of the seed varieties that has disappointed me in germination testing is our Earliest Red Sweet pepper seed. My good luck is that our ERS plants are going nuts producing lovely red bell peppers right now. After already freezing a half gallon of red pepper strips, I'm going to let these peppers get a little overripe before picking them and harvesting their seed. At the same time, I need to harvest and freeze some green pepper strips. (Done!)

A Surprise in our Kale Rows

Judy's kale in foreground, vates in backI limited my kale varieties in our fall planting mostly to the shortest season varieties I had seed on hand for. I started lots of the always reliable Vates (Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch), Judy's Kale, and the longer season but huge leaved Red Ursa. All of the kale seed germinated well, with the Red Ursa taking a bit longer to emerge. But the Judy's Kale from the Turtle Tree Seed Initiative has grown far faster than the other varieties despite having a similar days-to-maturity figure as the Vates.

Kale varieties planted

cabbage looper wormI saw a small white cabbage butterfly around our garden last week. That let me know that it's time to begin spraying our kale with Thuricide, a biological that gives the bugs fatal stomach cramps but isn't harmful to people or pets. And even with regular sprays of the product, I still have to wash and inspect each kale leaf when freezing kale or making our Portuguese Kale Soup. The larvae worms cook up white. I know from experience.

Dave's Garden Frost Page for 47882As we head toward our average first frost date of October 17, I'm feeling pretty confident about getting some nice late harvests. Our Encore peas will almost certainly require floating row covers to survive a frost. But most of what we're growing (kale, lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots) can handle a light frost. And sometimes, we don't have a killing frost until sometime in early November. In 2011, we had fresh lettuce from the garden for our Thanksgiving Day feast. Of course, that warm fall and winter preceded the summer Drought of 2012.

Our fall garden - September 19, 2022

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Hot!Weather Underground Extended ForecastI got a late start on watering this morning and ended up watering our main raised bed and picking tomatoes in some pretty warm conditions. We've been into the mid-90s for high temperatures both yesterday and today. Temperatures are supposed to precipitously cool off for the rest of the month!

Someone must have given the hummingbirds a hint about the cooling weather, as lots of them have begun their migration south. I suspect that most of the birds we're now enjoying seeing at our feeders are transients on their way south. "Our" hummingbirds would land on a feeder right in front of us when Annie and I sat on the back porch. The current birds are too shy to land on a feeder close to us.

Direct seeded onions emerging Abundant Bloomsdale spinach germinating

While you have to look closely, the Walla Walla onions I direct seeded last Thursday have just barely begun to emerge. Likewise, the Abundant Bloomsdale saved spinach seed I re-seeded in bare spots in the rows have also started to come up. My daily waterings have apparently produced results. Also, the watering time has me pulling a few weeds in the rows each morning.

I'm especially happy to see the onions coming up. I used one and two year old onion seed for the planting. The seed hadn't germinated all that well when I started our spring onions. Onion seed is infamous for staying good for only a year or so whether you freeze the seed or not.

Donors ChooseThe tomatoes I picked this morning, other than a couple that went into the fridge for future BLTs, plus some I'd picked over the last few days got skinned and boiled a bit. There weren't enough of them to justify dragging canning supplies up from the basement. I saved the whole tomato and juice mix in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag. I'll probably use it either for spaghetti sauce or for our annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup. The older tomatoes had to be processed, as they were just about to go bad.

Schools across the nation are pretty much back in session. You can help out your local teachers by going to Donors Choose and selecting a project to support. You just type in your zip code and the site shows any teachers requesting support for their classroom. I did so recently, supporting a project for the wife of our mowing crew leader.

The Home Depot

Friday, September 23, 2022

Barbados lettuceCrispino head lettuceI picked some Barbados and Crispino lettuce yesterday for bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches. My wife brought home a tasty quiche from the Grand Traverse Pie Company, so that was supper last night. The BLTs with homegrown lettuce and tomato got bumped to supper tonight.

Barbados is a 37 days-to-maturity summer crisp lettuce. Seed for the variety disappeared from seed houses years ago. Our seed is from 2009, having been stored in a manual defrost freezer all those years. Crispino is our favorite head lettuce. It produces sweet heads that are just a bit softer than what one finds in groceries' produce sections.

At thirty days since direct seeding the lettuces, neither the early Barbados or the 57 days-to-maturity Crispino are fully ready to pick, but thinnings are sweet and quite edible.

We've saved quite a bit of the open pollinated Crispino seed, but probably won't be offering it via the Grassroots Seed Network or the Seed Savers Exchange for sale, as Johnny's Selected Seeds still offers seed for the variety. I may offer Barbados seed if we get enough of it. I'll probably have to post an advisory that folks may get as much trash as seed, as we're having difficulty cleaning that variety of seed.

Our weather of late has been changeable, to say the least. We've had high temperatures over the last four days of 94, 96, 74, and 65°F. And while not predicted until today, weather radar shows a good bit of rain headed our way. That's good, as I skipped my morning watering routine this morning. Our emerging rows of onion seed still looked wet from recent waterings.

I took advantage of the cooler conditions yesterday afternoon. I transplanted five hostas into our front flowerbeds. I'd grown the hostas from saved seed, torturing caring for them in our sunroom last winter and on our back porch this summer. After doing the transplanting, I thought to search the phrase "when to transplant hostas." HGTV supplied a reassuring answer, "Early fall is probably the absolute best time to tackle transplanting hostas..."

I'd saved a couple of five gallon buckets of compost last fall in our garage. The last time I opened the lid of one of the buckets, bugs were running around on the surface of the compost. I brought the buckets to our back porch yesterday. Fearing that the compost probably had viable weed seed in it, not to mention the bugs, I poured boiling water over the compost. I may shore up our Encore peas with the compost, and/or use it on our asparagus patch. Both peas and asparagus love compost. Years ago, I saved a sad looking planting of the endangered Eclipse pea variety by pressing compost around the plants' stems.

Snapdragon 1 Snapdragon 2
Snapdragon 3 Snapdragon 4

One of the visual treats of this time of the season is enjoying the blooms of our snapdragon plants. For most of the summer, they've had to compete with surrounding plantings of peas and cucumbers. With their competitors out of the way, the plants dazzle us with their lovely blooms.

Hoss Tools

Monday, September 26, 2022

Sage leaves on dehydrator trayOur sage plantsWhile digging around in our spice cabinet hunting for our jar of rosemary for Best Grilled Chicken Breast marinade, I knocked over the jar of sage I'd dried and ground a month ago. The jar shattered on our stove top, making quite a mess to clean up. So one of my morning gardening jobs today was to cut and begin drying more sage leaves. With winds gusting to 25 MPH, I had to cut the sage on the porch instead of by our shallow well by the sage plants. And when I tried to move the first dehydrator tray of cut sage, half of the sage blew away. But the dehydrator filled with sage is now running at 105°F in the garage.

The grilled chicken was once again out of this world delicious.

Onions upPea plants with compost around their baseOur double row of Walla Walla onions are finally up enough that you can row them. This planting is an experiment, the first time I've fall planted onions for a possible spring harvest. But we've already had what appears to be some damage from a cat digging in the onions and a mole has made a tunnel under them as well.

I resumed my morning waterings of our new crops today after taking a couple of days off when we'd had a light, overnight shower. The onions looked a bit sad before I watered them. After a thorough watering, they perked right up.

Before watering the pea row, I pushed a mix of used potting soil and compost around the base of the pea plants. I'd saved two five gallon buckets of compost last fall. A couple of days ago, I brought the compost buckets to our back steps. Since our compost pile often doesn't heat up enough to kill seeds, I poured boiling water over both buckets of compost to hopefully kill off seeds and bugs.

Years ago, the compost around peas trick helped me save a failing planting of Eclipse peas when I first started saving seed from that variety. These pea plants aren't the Eclipse variety, but the related Encore variety. And these plants were actually in pretty good shape. I'm just trying to rush them to produce a crop before our first frost.

And after a long hiatus, we once again are enjoying gloxinias in bloom on our dining room table.

Gloxinias in bloom

David's Cookies

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Japanese Long Pickling cucumber germination testI started five or six germination tests on Sunday. All but one test were re-tests of seed that didn't test well just after the seed was cleaned. Since that time, the seed dried a good bit and was bagged or put in seed envelopes and frozen. I also put the Ziploc bags of seed over a soil heating mat set to 75°F.

Eighty percent germination of JLP cucumber seedIt had only been two days since starting the tests, but I checked the germination tests this afternoon. All of the tomato and pepper tests showed no germination. But of the ten Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seeds tested, eight had germinated. Even though eighty percent germination is enough to meet my standards for seed sharing, I stripped the germinated seed off the coffee filter, re-wet the filter, and continued the test with the two ungerminated seeds.

I still have twenty-some cucumbers curing and softening on our drying/curing table in the garage. I'll harvest seed from them in the next few days. Our tomato seed saving days are over. We're getting two or three ripe tomatoes from our Earlirouge plants every two or three days. But our Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants are filled with red peppers. I'm waiting until the peppers get a bit wrinkly before harvesting them for seed saving. We already have enough frozen red and green pepper strips to last us until next season.

We're down to just one hummingbird feeder on our back porch. There's still some traffic at the feeders, but nothing like what we had a month ago.

Our gardening season is winding down.

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Thursday, September 29, 2022 - Cucumbers for Seed

Harvesting seed from cucumbersCucumber seed and goo in jars to fermentI processed our last batch of Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers for seed today. Most of these cucumbers were yellowing when picked three or four weeks ago. Since that time, they've sat on our drying/curing table in the garage. We had a few cukes rot along the way, but letting the cucumbers fully mature helps ensure viable seed.

After splitting sections from the blossom end of the cukes, I scraped out seed and gel into a couple of quart canning jars. I was being careful to leave enough head space in the jars to allow for expansion from fermentation. Most of the stem ends of the cucumbers got pitched, as seed towards that end of the fruit was immature.

With our first batch of Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed germination testing well and this batch on the way, I'll be able to continue offering to share seed for the variety via the Seed Savers Exchange and the Grassroots Seed Network.

Cucumber scraps for compostingOur working compost pileProcessing over twenty long cucumbers left me with two very heavy buckets of cucumber scraps to compost. While wheeling the heavy buckets out to our working compost pile, I thought to bring some fertilizer, lime, and our lopping shears.

The compost pile got a couple of shots of balanced fertilizer and lime, before and after dumping the buckets onto the pile. I'd thought about putting some Jerry Baker compost tonic on the pile, but without any rain to mix it into the pile, it wouldn't have been all that effective. The dry lime and fertilizer will just sit until some rain activates it.

Volunteer Butternut Squash

Volunteer butternut squash vinesFirst four butternuts on drying/curing tableDue to some shoulder problems, I didn't get last year's compost pile screened. Instead, some volunteer butternut squash germinated and took over the compost pile. Talk about dumb luck, we're going to get some nice butternuts from the volunteer plants. Some of them appear to be from the South Anna Butternut variety we tried for the first time last year, and some from the traditional Waltham Butternut variety.

I used our lopping shears to cut four butternuts from the vines, although I may have been a little premature in doing so. One of the butternuts still had a lot of green showing on its skin. But they now reside on our drying/curing table I just cleared this morning of cucumbers. There are a good many more butternuts still on the vines that might mature before our first frost.

Fruit Bouquets

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Friday, September 30, 2022 - September Wrap-up

September, 2022, animated GIF of our Senior GardenIt's been a dry and hot September. What rain we got came in tenths of an inch which was enough to germinate weeds, but certainly not enough to support our fall crops planted in August. I spent a lot of time this month watering our crops, hand weeding in the rows, and scuffle hoeing weeds in the aisles between the plantings. While daily high temperatures have recently cooled dramatically, our extended weather forecast suggests that I'll be watering daily well into October.

I canned both whole tomatoes and tomato purée this month. I think I now have enough canned to last us until next season. I froze green and red pepper strips. And while I've harvested and shelled our kidney beans, they're still sitting in a drying tray in our dining room.

Trying something new, I planted two rows of Walla Walla onions for a spring harvest...if we get lucky. I've watered the young onion plants almost daily, but they didn't look too healthy yesterday. Maybe some Quick Start fertilizer?

A lot of time this month was devoted to seed saving and germination testing saved seed. We saved seed from dill, Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers, five varieties of lettuce, Earliest Red Sweet peppers, and Earlirouge tomatoes.

Odds 'n' Ends

I recently ran across a CNN article by Zoe Sottile about A new, genetically modified purple tomato may hit the grocery market stands. Photos of the new variety were attractive, although I'll probably skip growing it as it's a genetically modified variety.

Another piece, an Associated Press article on ABC News, Pumpkin farms adapt to improve soil, lower emissions by Dee-Ann Durbin and Teresa Crawford tells a bit about Regenerative farming. The part as a Hoosier I found interesting is that about 85% of the world’s total canned pumpkin is grown in central Illinois.

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