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September 18, 2020

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

Friday, September 18, 2020 - More Canned Tomatoes

Weather Underground Extended ForecastCanned whole tomatoesFall has finally arrived big time. Today's high temperature didn't even make seventy degrees. Things are supposed to warm up a bit in the next week, but the lower temperatures will make working outside a good deal more pleasant.

Having said that, I didn't work outside at all today. I canned tomatoes instead. The seven quarts canned this afternoon gives us twenty-three quarts and a pint in our pantry, pretty close to my goal of twenty-five quarts canned. If we get another big picking of tomatoes, I'll probably break out our old Squeezo Strainer and make tomato purée. (Note that the Amazon page linked says the strainer isn't currently available. The manufacturer's web site shows a seventeen week wait for orders!)

Our new backup power supply got its first extended test around suppertime. Our power was out for about a half hour. The UPS's display showed about seventy minutes of backup power left when the power came back on.

The Home Depot


Thursday, September 17, 2020 - Kale Soup

Fileting chicken breasts and boiling down carcassesEleven quarts of Portuguese Kale SoupWe've had our furnace turned on the last two nights as it's definitely fall now. The cool mornings are nice for working outside, but we still desperately need a good rain.

I'm cleaning up this morning after a multi-day effort at making our annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup. I started preparations for the soup on Tuesday by boiling down some bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, freezing the fileted breast meat and boning the carcasses for meat. I usually have saved chicken and broth for this recipe stored in our big freezer. But when I looked there, I only found containers dated 2018 and 2019! I ended up having to add a good bit of commercial chicken broth.

I also added some fresh skinned tomatoes to the broth on Tuesday.

Ripe tomatoes for kale soup

Yesterday, I was out picking kale leaves by ten o'clock. It took two five gallon buckets of pressed down kale leaves to make eleven quarts of the canned soup. I finished the canning around midnight. Part of the time in making the soup involves inspecting each kale leaf for bugs or bug eggs. I found a few as I rinsed and stemmed the kale leaves. I'd also soaked the leaves for a half hour before stemming them.

This morning's chores included washing and putting away our pressure canner and storing the canned soup in our basement pantry. While I'd like to take a day off to rest, I think there is a bumper crop of ripe tomatoes in our East Garden that will need to be picked today and canned either today or tomorrow. What a nice problem to have!


Melons for the food bankWatermelon plugged to assess ripenessI didn't can tomatoes this afternoon. Instead, I picked fifteen or sixteen melons and delivered them to our local food bank. Somewhat unsure of the ripeness of the melons, I plugged two of them and found them to be fully ripe. Our watermelons sometimes don't thunk ripe or don't have a browned stem, but are still ripe. Such was the case today. A huge Moon & Stars watermelon thunked with a very low tone that should have indicated it wasn't yet ready. But the plug looked good and the melon flesh smelled okay as well. So the plugged melons had their plugs covered with clear shipping tape to keep bugs out and went on the truck with all the rest. The food bank also got six sandwich bags filled with grape tomatoes.

Trips to the food bank have become a twice a week ritual last month and this month. It appears that we have enough melons still ripening for at least one or maybe two more loads of melons for the food bank. After that, there won't be much to donate until our pumpkins come in and later, our butternuts.

Hardware World

Monday, September 14, 2020 - More Melons

Our Senior Garden - September 14, 2020More melons for the food bankI got off to a slow start today, but finally went out to pick melons and tomatoes around noon. I'd thought of skipping today's picking and delivery, as I really had the blahs (blame the Indy Colts). But I'm glad I did do a picking, as we ended up with a nice load of watermelon along with a few cantaloupe to take to the food bank this afternoon.

The food bank also got a few red peppers, a yellow squash, and several sacks of grape tomatoes. Our Honey Bunch grape tomato plant is now maturing lots of lovely red, grape tomatoes.

Besides the grape tomatoes, I picked enough Quinte tomatoes to do another batch of them for seed saving. I wasn't too thrilled with the germination test of the first batch I saved, although I'm repeating the test in case I somehow goofed with it. The rest of our tomato plants also yielded a good picking. I'm building up enough fresh tomatoes to use fresh instead of canned in our soon-to-be-made annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup.

Habitat for Humanity

Saturday, September 12, 2020 - Kidney Beans

First batch of kidney beans shelled
Second bucket of beans picked

Partially picked kideny bean rowWe grow kidney beans to use in our Portuguese Kale Soup, Texas Nachos, Refried Kidney Beans, and a few other recipes. We also save kidney bean seed for future plantings. Our last purchase of kidney bean seed for planting was in 2015 from Fedco Seeds.

While Fedco lists a days-to-maturity figure for their red kidney beans of 102 days, ours were ready today at just 84 days from planting! That's what we've consistently experienced with these beans. I look for the bean pods to be just about ready to split open on their own to time our harvest. Today, I found several pods that had burst, making it high time to start picking.

I first picked a small bucket of beans and came inside and shelled them. Knowing that we have a rare rain predicted for this evening, I went back out with a much bigger bucket and picked the rest of the twenty-two foot row of beans. I didn't want the beans in the row picking up moisture from a rain.

While one can thresh kidney beans by banging the plants around in a trash can or a similar container, I prefer to hand shell the beans. That way, I catch small, immature beans and ones that have mold on them while shelling. After shelling, the beans sit and dry for a week or two on a cookie sheet on a high shelf in our dining room.

Some of the dried beans will be frozen for future planting. I may can some of them as well, as it's far easier to make refried beans from canned beans than from dried beans that have been soaked and cooked. I'll probably store some of the harvest as dry beans in our pantry. And with our kidney beans picked, I now have all the ingredients laid in for our annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup.

Over the years, I've found kidney beans to be really easy to grow. You plant them as your would any other bean variety. I hold weeds down with grass clipping mulch around the row. After planting and mulching, the beans really don't require any care until harvest. I find that insect pests, raccoons, and deer don't much like kidney bean plants. That may be due to kidney beans being poisonous until they are cooked!

Our how-to, Growing Beans, covers growing most types of beans. And those recipes, again:

I'm guessing that I'll be shelling beans until late tonight.

Hoss Tools

Friday, September 11, 2020

Spent cucumber vines
Vines, posts, trellis netting, and mulch removed

Our Senior Garden - September 11, 2020Our garden looks a bit different this evening. The double trellis that first held our early peas and then our cucumbers came down today. Our cucumber vines were languishing after I let them ripen a bunch of cucumbers for seed saving.

I composted the vines, a few rotting cukes, and the grass clipping mulch. The T-posts, of course, got put away for next season. I also saved the trellis netting, although I may just buy new netting, as it's easier to deal with than used netting.

I'd planned to till the cucumber area. I spread lime and fertilizer over the ground, only the find that our old walking tiller wouldn't start! I think I flooded it, but even starting ether wouldn't get it to fire.

If the tiller cooperates or I turn the area by hand, it will get some fall lettuce and spinach planted in it.

Kale bedA cheerier and more attractive subject is our bed of kale. It's now ready for a major picking for our annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup. I've been checking our recipe and buying what items we'll need for the soup. Some years, that's just a few items. Since we didn't grow potatoes this year, I bought a bag of red potatoes at the grocery this week.

From our garden, the soup will include kale, of course, and onions, garlic, tomatoes, dark red kidney beans, carrots, green beans, peas, and possibly some sweet corn. Purchased ingredients include chicken broth with bits of chicken and potatoes.

Watering has returned to being a regular chore as we're again experiencing droughty conditions. Picking tomatoes and occasionally a few peppers is something fairly new. Pulling weeds that have defeated the mulch in our raised beds is almost automatic when walking by the beds. And hauling small loads of produce to our local food bank is now a twice a week activity. While the food bank got some melons, tomatoes, and peppers yesterday, the big/small item in the delivery was ten sandwich bags filled with grape tomatoes! Our Red Pearl and Honey Bunch plants are going nuts producing nice, ripe grape tomatoes.

Having taken out our big trellises today, it's obvious we're into some of our End-of-Season Gardening Chores. Besides pulling the trellises, I've been cutting down a few corn stalks every few days and composting them. It won't be long until our melon vines are done and I can begin cleaning that half of our East Garden plot.

Current seed drying and savingRenee's GardenWe're also saving a lot of seed these days. So far this season we've saved broccoli seed, four varieties of tomato seed, cucumber seed, Earliest Red Sweet pepper seed, spinach seed, early pea seed, parsley seed, and gloxinia seed. Each batch of seed gets a germination test. Our first batch of Red Pearl tomato seed germinated at only 40%, while a later batch germinated at 100%. After saving a batch of Moira tomato seed from some so-so tomatoes, I have another batch fermenting now that came from some outstanding tomatoes in ripeness, color, and size. Such is seed saving here.


Sunday, September 6, 2020 - Seed Saving

Our Senior Garden - September 6, 2020Saved cucumber and tomato seed fermenting in jarsMy first job today was to cut open some very overripe cucumbers and harvest seed from them. While one can scoop the seed out of cucumbers halved lengthwise and rinse away the gel around the seed, I prefer to treat the cucumber seed as wet seed. I scrape seeds and gel into a canning jar and will let the mess sit and ferment for several days before rinsing and drying the seed. The fermentation process can kill disease organisms on the seeds' surface. I've published a couple of seed saving how-to's here on Senior Gardening, Saving Tomato Seed, and Saving Gloxinia Seed. I did the equivalent of a full how-to on Saving Cucumber Seed (1, 2) in a couple of postings here in 2014.

Along with a pint jar of Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed on our kitchen counter are quart jars of fermenting Moira and Earlirouge tomato seed. I've previously saved some Red Pearl and Quinte tomato seed that are now drying on a high shelf in our dining room. I have germination tests, an essential part of seed saving, running on the Red Pearls and Quintes.

Current Growing Garden SeedsSaving ones own open pollinated seeds not only saves a bit of money, but it can allow the varieties saved to adapt to ones growing conditions. Rob Johnston, Jr.'s booklet, Growing Garden Seeds, is an excellent guide to getting started in seed saving. At $1.95 plus shipping, it's a great buy.

We've also saved seed from Goliath broccoli, an early pea cross of Champion of England and Maxigolt, parsley, and gloxinias. We had a major failure this year in saving Eclipse and Encore supersweet pea seed. I have just enough seed of those two varieties left for one more planting next season.

Note that the Red Pearl, Eclipse, and Encore varieties are patented (PVP) which prevents me from sharing any of those seeds with others.

Corn Smut

Corn smut on tasselCorn smutI noted here yesterday that I found several outbreaks of corn smut on our sweet corn stalks. One of the infections had burst, already spreading some of its spores on other plants and the ground. Careful cleanup and crop rotation are the only controls I know of for corn smut. And even growing on clean ground, we somehow had the stuff blow in. Fortunately, this infection came mostly late in the season and didn't really diminish our sweet corn harvest.

Smut often appears first on ones corn tassels. It later will occur lower on the stalk, at the base of the plant, and even inside the wrappers of ears of corn. It will often appear to be whitish with some purple showing as it progresses. The images here are end-of-season ones. I have some possibly better images of smut in our how-to, Growing a Garden Delicacy: Sweet Corn.

Pumpkins in September

I mentioned on Tuesday that most of the vines of one of our pumpkin varieties had collapsed. When out working in our East Garden plot today, I cut six small, ripe pumpkins. I moved them to the drying/curing table in our garage. I have no plans for these pumpkins other than sharing them with my wife's co-workers or the food bank.

Small, early ripening pumpkins

Lots of Tomatoes

Picked tomatoesSix quarts canned whole tomatoesI picked tomatoes today...lots of last. Our row of tomato plants in our East Garden are now really producing. The Moira and Quite varieties produced the most good fruit, but those two varieties were the first to go into the row. Our Bella Rosa and Crimson Sprinter plants are also producing lots of nice tomatoes.

While our lawn is beginning to look like a jungle, I chose to can tomatoes today instead of mowing. There were enough tomatoes to fill more then seven quart jars. Unfortunately, one of the jars broke in the water bath canner even before I started the boiling and canning process. I'll have to wash the jars of canned tomatoes before storing them in our downstairs pantry. But we did get six more quarts of canned whole tomatoes.

We should get at least one more heavy picking of tomatoes from our combined tomato plantings. That should produce enough canned tomatoes to last us until next season.

Computer Upgrade Complete?

I added what I hope is the last new piece of new equipment to my office computer setup. I installed a new APC UPS Battery Backup & Surge Protector. It seems to have taken the pressure off of my old battery backup unit which is still online protecting some less essential hardware. I also hooked up a very old G-Raid external drive that I use to back up my 2010 Mac Mini system.

New computer setup

I'm still fussing with getting essential files moved onto the new system and figuring out how to add my favorite toolbars to several applications. But after a month of using a makeshift array of computers to publish this site, it's nice to have what I hope is a reliable system in place for the next few years.

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Saturday, September 5, 2020

When I got up and dressed this morning, I put on a flannel shirt as it was just 52° F outside! That's quite a change from the high temperatures and warm nights of a week or so ago. Fall is obviously on the way.

With our local food bank closed for Labor Day for its usual Monday food distribution, I hauled a load of sixteen melons to the food bank's porch today. Folks will stop by, drop off stuff and and pick up what they need. Due to the Coronavirus, the food bank has been drive through only for some time. The Clothes Closet/Free Store has been closed other than a couple of special back to school openings as well. I remember last fall when I dropped off two huge, beautiful Wandering Jew plants at the food bank's porch. As I drove away, I saw in my rear view mirror someone loading one of the plants into her car. It hadn't been on the porch for sixty seconds! Hopefully, the free melons may brighten someone's holiday.

Our Father's Arms Food Bank/Free Store

Load of melons for the food bankNew yellow squash plant bloomingMost of today's load was watermelon. I'm hoping folks won't be disappointed with the melons. Determining ripeness has been difficult this year. All of the melons I picked "thunked" with a nice, high tone. They also had yellowed or whitened on their underside. But few of the melon stems had begun to brown. I really prefer all three signs of ripeness to be present when picking. So far, all but one of the melons I've picked and cut or plugged have been ripe.

I also included a few yellow squash. Our two remaining hills of Slick Piks aren't producing much anymore. I noticed a mature squash bug on one plant today. But we also have a couple of new Slick Pik yellow squash that I recently transplanted into our main raised garden bed that are beginning to bloom. The new plants are showing a bit of powdery mildew, so they'll need to be sprayed with fungicide this evening.

One last picking of sweet cornI picked fifteen or so rather scrappy ears of sweet corn this afternoon. While none of the ears were worthy of cooking up as corn on the cob, they made a nice pan of cut corn that should serve for at least a couple of meals. While picking, I found several outbreaks of corn smut. I'll need to cut out the infected stalks even before I cut the rest of the stalks. Corn smut spores can survive in the soil for years.

I keep thinking our hummingbirds have begun migrating south. We'll have a day or so of reduced activity and nectar consumption, followed by a big uptick in activity. I'm guessing that some of the birds that were here for the summer have left, but that we have migrants stopping by to refuel on their way south. Today, action at our feeders was pretty intense.

Labor Day Weekend

Sullivan County Coronavirus Dashboard - September 5, 2020Here's wishing you a happy and safe Labor Day weekend. Here in Sullivan County, Indiana, we're taking our lumps with the Coronavirus. Our case count of Covid-19 infections and deaths from it keep climbing. And...I still see folks out not social distancing or wearing face masks.

An article in the New York Post, Fauci warns these 7 states are at risk for COVID-19 surge over Labor Day weekend, quotes Dr. Anthony Fauci as saying, "There are several states that are at risk for surging, namely North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois." Fauci noted that Illinois and Indiana are one, two in cases and deaths from the disease of the states named at risk.

So, enjoy your holiday weekend, but play it safe and stay healthy.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Our Senior Garden - September 1, 2020

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Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.

Here in west central Indiana, we probably have a month and a half of growing season remaining. Of course, with the amount of daylight getting shorter each day, those days aren't quite like the long growing days of May, June, and July.

For the month of September, we'll still be in full gardening mode, harvesting, canning, and freezing. Other than transplanting some late lettuce and starting our garlic next month, we're done planting for the year. Well, I did order five pounds of hairy winter vetch to plant as a winter and spring cover crop for our East Garden plot.

More sweet cornOur main harvest and canning of tomatoes is yet to come. We have lots of huge watermelons in our East Garden that are almost ripe. (My back aches just from just thinking about loading those melons on the truck for their trip to the food bank.) I'm surprised every few days to find more good second ears of sweet corn on the stalks. We have as yet to get a good picking for freezing of bell peppers. And there will be butternut squash towards the end of the month or maybe next. Our Jack O' Lanternicon pumpkin vines have pretty well collapsed, leaving us with lots of little ripe September! Our Howden vines are doing much better.

I moved 23 pounds of onions to our basement plant room yesterday. I had trouble finding room for them, as we've also had a good garlic harvest this year. In clearing a spot on a wire rack, I ran across 3 Waltham butternut squash saved last November. They appeared to still be in good shape.

New computer setupI thought I was done bleeding money with our computer changeover and upgrade. But I finally realized that our old backup power supply wasn't going to be able to handle the load. The old unit came to me used, and I've replaced its battery twice. With brief power outages or when our air conditioning kicks on, my new 2018 Mac Mini would shut down. I may have too many things on the backup power supply, but a new one I ordered supplies a lot more power.

BTW: Those aren't all computers on the rack pictured at left. There's the 2018 Mac Mini and a 2010 Mac Mini on the middle rack. The other units are external and backup drives. The rack is a Seville Classics, not necessarily designed for holding computing equipment. But after cooking several Mac Minis over the years, I thought some air circulation around the units might be a good investment.

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Required FTC Disclosure Statement: Botanical Interests, Burpee, 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. We're also a consumer member of the Fedco Seeds Cooperative. True Leaf Market Fedco Seeds

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