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The Old Guy's Garden Record

November 28, 2023

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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Best Garden Photos of 2023We've been offline for a couple of days as our internet service went down Sunday night. Frontier finally got it fixed this evening, although the ancient modem they supplied us is due to die at the end of the year. Both Annie and I were stunned by how much we rely on the internet, despite our very slow connection.

Last weekend, I cleaned up and posted our annual feature of Best Garden Photos of the season. It might be better titled Photos I Like, as that's what it is.

Bumblebees pollinating broccoli bloomsMy favorite shot this year was of some bumblebees visiting the blooms on our Goliath broccoli plants. I'd put in sixteen of the plants in a seed saving effort. My seed saving results weren't great, as the best germination test of three batches of the broccoli seed was just 50%. Seed for the variety originally came from Stokes Seeds. Their strain always produced better heads for us than similar named varieties from other vendors. Stokes dropped the variety some years ago and then totally left the U.S. retail seed market a few years later. I've been trying to preserve the strain since then...with very mixed results. It's been a real learning process.

With some relatively cold weather setting in recently, I've mostly just let our garden plots sit. There's still a lot of cleanup yet to be done...on warmer days.



Friday, November 24, 2023

Today's yams in Corningware 2 liter casseroleStill getting celery on November 24!Other than my usual daily chore of trimming spent blooms off our gloxinia plants, I did zero gardening today. But I did make a tasty meatloaf, green bean casserole, and some incredibly delicious butternut mock yams for supper. The yams were at my wife's urging, as we'd left our Thanksgiving day leftovers for the day's host and Annie wanted more yams.

I'd started a file for a yams recipe posting some time ago, but kept forgetting to take pictures of the various steps in making them. I finally got it together today and got all the shots I wanted.

So appearing today on our Recipes page is a quick and dirty recipe for Butternut Mock Yams.

When making the meatloaf, I was merrily sautéing onions, garlic, and carrots from our garden for the meatloaf. When I looked in the fridge for celery, there was none. So I trouped out to our main raised bed and snipped several short celery stalks that have defied our frosts and freezes. The stalks were only three or four inches long and a quarter inch wide, but it was our celery...on November 24!

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Thursday, November 23, 2023 - Thanksgiving Day (U.S.)

Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing Give Thanks:
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

We received three garden seed catalogs in today's mail. One was from the Fedco Seeds Cooperative, of which we're a consumer member. The other two were from the Jung Seed conglomerate and have 2024 digital catalogs available: Vermont Bean Seed digital 2024 catalog and Totally Tomatoes 2024 digital catalog.

Fedco Seeds 2024 Catalog Cover Vermont Bean Seed 2024 Catalog Cover Totally Tomatoes 2024 Catalog Cover

After supper this evening, I noticed that Twilley Seeds has their 2024 seed catalog available online and for download. USA, LLC

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Peat moss, lime, and ferilizer spread over next year's pea bedPea area turned and mulchedOur narrow raised bed on the north end of our backyard garden plots needed more material added to it. It also needed to be worked up and mulched for our early spring planting of peas. So I spread half of a 3.8 cubic foot bale of peat moss over it. I also sprinkled a bit of 12-12-12 fertilizer and lime over the area and began to dig it in with our heavy garden fork.

Boy, did I get a nasty surprise. While I was able to turn the soil for our garlic a full eleven to twelve inches deep, the narrow bed was filled with roots from a nearby maple tree. While I could drive the fork fully into the ground, the soil wouldn’t turn due to the roots. So I had to settle just turning the top six inches or less of the soil.

Once I finished turning the bed, I began moving used grass clipping mulch from our other raised beds to cover the pea bed. If the ground is still frozen early next March, I'll just pull back the mulch and plant over the frozen ground, covering the seed with potting mix or whatever else I have on hand. If the ground is thawed, which it often is, I'll pull back the mulch and make a wide furrow for our mix of Champion of England and Maxigolt blend of saved tall early pea seed.

Pea bed being turned

Getting the pea bed ready in the fall is obviously essential for us. I tell all about how we grow our peas in our how-to, Another Garden Delicacy: Homegrown Peas.

Working today in sunny 55-60°F degree weather was quite pleasant. Once again, I'm reminded to be thankful for such glorious days as I get emails too often about high school contemporaries passing on. I pray that the Lord continues to bless our offspring and allow us to enjoy their company.

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Friday, November 17, 2023

I had two gardening jobs I really wanted to get done today. After a bit of rain early this morning, I drug our long hose out to yesterday's planting of garlic and thoroughly watered the area. I'd water until there was standing water and then move to another area to water it before coming back and watering the whole bed again. Doing so was essential for the garlic sets to get a little moisture before I raked used mulch over the bed. The soil in the area where the mulch had been was bone dry despite the overnight rain.

Mulched garlic area

It will be important to pull the mulch in late February or early March. While the mulch protects the garlics from heaving and helps keep them moist, it will also mat and prevent them from putting up shoots.

Onions iffy for long term storageChopping onionsWhen getting out our garlic sets, I noticed that some of our stored onions had sprouted. So I dumped all the bags of onions, throwing out a good many rotting or sprouted onions. There were other onions that were sticky from onions beside them rotting that I put in a tray to dry. While some of the onions could have been re-bagged for storage, I chose to peel, chop, and freeze the onions. That was a good thing, as several of our red onions were rotting from the inside out.

Onions on cookie sheet for freezing

Both Annie and I are a bit spoiled by being able to just grab a handful of frozen Walla Walla onions when cooking. Hopefully, these yellow and red onions will do as well.

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Thursday, November 16, 2023 - Planting Garlic

Planting garlicAmazonI planted our garlic today. I put in rows of saved elephant garlic and softneck garlic, and rows of Chesnok Red and Purple Glazer hardneck garlic that came from the Territorial Seed Company. My rows were spaced eight inches apart. The elephant garlic cloves got spaced about seven to eight inches apart. The smaller garlics got about five inches between them.

I use a garlic dibble to make holes for the garlic cloves. It makes the planting process a lot easier. I try to get the garlic sets in with about two to three inches of soil over them.

The soil I was planting into was very dry. We haven't had a good rain in a long time. The U.S. Drought Monitor still lists our county as having a moderate drought. With a little rain predicted for tonight, I decided against watering the planting.

And while the soil was lumpy and dry, the deep digging I did the last few days paid dividends in the planting. Driving the dibble into the soil was easy.

I tell all about growing garlic from planting to storage in our how-to, Growing Garlic.


Grandma's yeast rollsButternut squash "yams"With holiday family gatherings coming up, I'm stocking up for our two usual dining contributions. I bought a jar of Fleischmann's Original Active Dry Yeast, since I can't find packets of it locally, as the rapid rise stuff doesn't seem to do as good in our bread and Grandma's Yeast Rolls recipes. There's also a corollary recipe using the yeast recipe for Cinnamon Rolls. Having to give up salt and extreme sweets in my old age is something I really miss.

I have all the butternut squash I need to make lots of batches of our butternut mock yams. After years of having our sweet potatoes split terribly after drought conditions followed by heavy rains, I just gave up on growing sweet potatoes here.

With our garlic planted, I can shift my gardening focus to getting our various garden plots cleaned up and ready for next year.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2023 - "First" Seed Catalog

Our Senior Garden - November 15, 2023High Mowing Organic Seeds 2024 Catalog CoverOur first usable paper seed catalog arrived in today's mail. I can't help myself: I'll go through the 2024 High Mowing Organic Seeds catalog cover to cover this evening. In the past, we've gotten Who Gets Kissed? open pollinated sweet corn, Red Ursa kale, Rossa di Milano onion, and Crimson Sprinter tomato seed from HMOS. They'll probably get an order from me for more Rossa di Milano red onion seed, as we're out of it and like the variety.

While HMOS gets kudos for being first with a paper catalog, the Territorial Seed Company and Johnny's Selected Seeds both have digital catalogs for 2024 available. When we have a rainy day or two, I need to do our annual seed inventory before beginning to put seed orders together.

Buying Guides

I did a quick update today of our two garden buying guides today. While I didn't completely go through each page, I did run my ancient BLT link checker on them.


I finished turning our garlic area and hoeing it a bit today.


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

I finished turning our garlic area and hoeing it a bit today. When done, I came inside, poured myself a scotch, took a sip, and fell asleep for two hours. When I awoke, it was dark out, but with a beautiful evening sky.

Evening sky - November 14, 2023

Seed Savers Exchange Reminder

Tomorrow, November 15, is the last day to list vegetable seed varieties via the Seed Savers Exchange and have your listing published in their annual print yearbook. As a lister, you will receive a complimentary copy of the Yearbook. I shared our listings here last month with an addition this month.

I did save seed today from a South Anna Butternut Squash that had been on a dark shelf in our plant room since this time last year. It had a bit of rot in the center, but its seed may still be good.

I brought in around forty to fifty pounds of butternuts this evening. I left a dozen or so squash on our drying/curing table because they felt sticky on one side. I also set out four of the thirty-three butternuts I'd saved that had mold or rot on them. The butternuts brought in are currently in a couple of burlap bags. I hope to spread them out over some wire shelves in our plant room. While the squash will store in burlap bags, they do better with some air circulation.

Seed Savers Exchange

Saturday, November 11, 2023 - Veterans Day (U.S.)

Peas and trellises rmovedVary hardy celery plantOther than our raised bed of asparagus, our raised beds are now cleared of their crops. Well, there's the one celery plant I didn't have the heart to take out. While the sugar snap pea vines were still alive, they hadn't set any pea pods since the frosts and freezes began. So it was time today to take out the chancy planting to make way for planting garlic in that area.

Asparagus seedAfter composting the pea vines and some nearly dead snapdragons, I went back later and raked the mulch off the area for the garlic. I'll probably use that mulch over the garlic once I get it planted.

Our raised bed of asparagus is about ready to be cut back. Once the plants go completely dormant with no signs of green growth, I cut the stalks and compost them. Doing so helps prevent insect and disease carryover.

Raised asparagus bedI usually pick and save some asparagus berries each fall. While we have two nice patches of asparagus, picking the berries and eventually saving seed from them is one of those just in case things. Allowed to dry, the seed in the berries releases easily, especially from browned out berries.

Out in our East Garden plot, our seeding of hairy winter vetch has really taken hold. Planted with some old buckwheat seed that didn't emerge well, the vetch gives half the plot some good winter ground cover.

Half of East Garden plot planted to heairy winter vetch

While in town today, I saw a couple of good developments. Having seen something about it in our local paper, I stopped at the site of our local food bank and grabbed a shot of the new building going up. The old building for Our Father's Arms was destroyed in the March 31 tornadoes that swept through Illinois and Indiana.

New food bank building going up

Just up the road a bit from the food bank location, a group of volunteers are painting a mural along a wall at Baesler's Market. They plan to add leaves and stems to the flowers and who knows what all else. It's an attractive addition to our community.

Mural at Baseler's Market

Free Zinnia Seed

Row of dead but seed bearing zinnia plantsZinnia seed headAnother local item is our long row of zinnias. The plants are now dead and I'm gradually moving them a few at a time to our compost pile. But the seed on the plants is viable. I saved seed for next year weeks ago and still have lots of lots of seed in frozen storage from years past.

While I grow the plants for our enjoyment and as a tribute to my late mother who loved zinnias, I also hear from family, friends, and neighbors that they enjoy seeing the plants. Of course, they're not quite up to the incredible display of flowers each year from our neighbors to the east. But it's not a competition.

So...if you're in the area and are so moved, feel free to pull in the farm drive behind our garage and pick some zinnia seed! When dry, the seed heads release their seed easily with just a rub with ones hand or fingers.

As commercial advertisers say, this is a limited time offer. Eventually, I'll get all the plants cut and composted. And as time passes, the seed heads will shatter, dropping their seed on the ground.

View of zinnias from the road

Renee's Garden

Friday, November 10, 2023 - Spinach

Our Senior Garden - November 10, 2023Spinach rowI picked spinach today. Since it's the end of the season, I did as I did with the kale yesterday, picking whole plants and then stripping off usable leaves. There were some funny white spots on some of the leaves. Those and leaves with other imperfections and the stems got pitched into our garden cart to go to the compost pile. But the good spinach leaves half filled a five gallon bucket.

Note that I keep a five gallon bucket labeled "Picking Only." No chemicals are ever in it so that I can be confident picking into it and rinsing the crops in the bucket.

While there were some true baby spinach leaves, I boiled the spinach instead of having spinach salad. It's been through several freezes and thaws. When I picked, I snapped off the leaves without any stems still attached. That eliminated having to stem the spinach. I ended up freezing one pint of spinach, saving another for supper tomorrow night.

Boiling down spinachMost of the large spinach leaves were heavily savoyed. This spinach was grown from our saved Abundant Bloomsdale seed. Unfortunately, our spring spinach got blown down and didn't produce any seed. While I've offered seed for the variety in previous years on the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange sites, I'm saving our limited supply of seed from past years for planting.

Donors ChooseOur start of Abundant Bloomsdale seed came from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in 2016. Their site currently lists the variety as out of stock. But as usual, SESE is somewhat late in updating their site for the coming year. Fortunately, High Mowing Organic Seeds appears to have the variety in stock now.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Thursday, November 9, 2023 - Kale

Kale rows before pickingKale stems and cullsI picked our two rows of kale this afternoon. The kale had suffered some frost/freeze damage, and some of it in the middle of the rows was dead. I suspect that damage was from dogs laying or peeing on the kale!

I half filled a five gallon bucket of kale pushed down. I also filled our four cubic foot garden cart with kale stems and rejects.

While washing and stemming the kale, I found something I'd not seen on our kale in previous years. I found bug eggs on the underside of some leaves.

The kale is currently boiling down, seasoned with canning salt, onions, and bacon pieces. I grew up on boiled kale and still love it today. Any leftover kale from tonight's supper will get frozen, as there isn't enough to justify getting out the pressure canner.

When I planted our kale rows, I mixed four varieties of seed together to soak. While that improved germination, it turned out to be a mistake. The large leaved Red Ursa variety crowded out smaller, preferred varieties such as Vates (Dwarf Blue Scotch). I won't make that mistake again.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

I've been pretty lazy of late doing gardening through some really nice weather. While a lot of little jobs get done, no major pickings or cleanups have happened lately. Both Annie and I attribute our slow efforts at recovering from Covid.

We're both enjoying the bunch of gloxinias I started in June. All but three of the twenty plants I saved are now in bloom.

Pretty purple gloxinia

Gloxinias on dining room table

I'm just getting started hand pollinating the blooms for seed saving. Once a plant has a pollinated bloom, it tends to slow blooming and work more on maturing seed.

Botannical Interests

Sunday, November 5, 2023

I added three paprika varieties to our seed sharing on the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange sites today. I'd been hesitant to list them before, as their germination rates really didn't match my standards. But after looking at the federal minimum germination standards for vegetable seeds in interstate commerce, I decided that a 60% germination rate for peppers wasn't so bad. The federal minimum is 55%. And two batches of one of the three varieties has tested at 70 and 90%!

Our offerings are linked in parentheses (GSN) (SSE). I also have linked to the original sources of our seed. If you garden in the Northeast, seed grown in the region by these companies may be more adapted for your growing conditions.

Paprika Pepper MixPaprika PeppersOur first seed saving of paprika pepper seed this year was a mix of the Boldog Hungarian Spice variety from Fedco Seeds, the Hungarian Paprika Spice Pepper from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and the Sweet Paprika Pepper from the Turtle Tree Seed Initiative. I suspect that this seed will produce a little of each variety, as there was little crossing amongst the varieties. But this is the one that tested at 70 and 90% in two batches. (GSN) (SSE)

Possibly my favorite paprika variety is the Boldog Hungarian Spice variety from Fedco Seeds. It produced most of our paprika peppers this season. (GSN) (SSE)

Boldog Hungarian Spice Paprika Pepper Plant 2023 Paprika Jar

I've found it a little funny that some paprika varieties grow their fruit point up and others point down. Boldogs are one of the point down varieties. Throughout this year's drought, our Boldog plants held up better than all of our other paprika pepper varieties with just an occasional watering. Growing in the rather poor soil of our East Garden plot, I was impressed.

Hungarian Spice paprikaWe were able to make enough ground paprika this year to last us until next season and also to give away a couple of small jars of the spice to others.

The Hungarian Paprika Spice Pepper from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is a point up paprika pepper variety. Our plants struggled a bit through the drought this year, but came on strong in the fall, producing a nice bunch of peppers for drying and grinding. (GSN) (SSE)

I'll probably start more of the Sweet Paprika Pepper 275 from the Turtle Tree Seed Initiative next spring. We got a couple such plants from the mix this year. I like the chunkiness of their paprika peppers and can always use some more variety in our slightly spicy ground paprika. The seed I still have in frozen storage is from 2021, so I hope it's still good.

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Saturday, November 4, 2023 - Carrot Day

Double row of fall carrotsLifting carrotsI direct seeded our fall carrots on August 9. I used pelletized seed for the first time for this planting so I could space the seeds more effectively and minimize dwarfed and disfigured carrots growing side by side. Days-to-maturity figures for vegetables aren't accurate for fall plantings, as the shorter daylight of fall days extends the growing season needed for around a couple weeks. It's now been 87 days since the seeding and the Naval (70), Mokumicon (54), Napoli (58), and Bolero (78) varieties I planted have nicely matured. I can't take credit for intuitive gardening, as we lucked out with our first frost coming two weeks after our average first frost for this area.

While the process of harvesting carrots is often referred to as "digging carrots," it's actually more of a matter of getting under the carrots with a heavy garden fork and lifting and loosening the soil around them. Today, the soil was moist and loose making the digging easy.

As I dug down the row, the change in the four carrot varieties was obvious at times from short, fat carrots to longer, thin ones.

Cleaned carrots
Carrots stored in green bags in the fridge

Trimming carrot tops and bottomsWhile digging our carrots took less than an hour, processing them took most of the afternoon. After letting the carrots soak a good bit, I trimmed off bottom roots and tops, leaving about an inch of green on top. Then I scrubbed each carrot with a kitchen brush before setting them aside to let them dry. The scrubbing is the most arduous part of the process, but left us with about seven and a half pounds of really lovely carrots.

That total is well off previous years when we've had ten, twelve, and even once, sixteen pounds of fall carrots. But it is enough to last us into the spring.

We store our carrots in Debbie Meyer Green Bags in the refrigerator. While the bags have received some tough reviews online, we've found them to work extremely well at keeping carrots over the winter in the fridge.

I tell all about growing carrots in our how-to, How We Grow Our Carrots.

This year has been a really tough gardening season with high temperatures and drought. Getting a good crop of fall carrots makes all the work seem more worthwhile.

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, November 3, 2023

Our Senior Garden - November 3, 2023Weather Underground forecast for November 3-11, 2023As often happens this time of year, frosts and freezes are followed by some lovely weather. Our current extended forecast from the Weather Underground includes several days with high temperatures in the 60s and 70s with no morning frosts. While it was really windy this afternoon, it was also nice to be working outside again.

Health Update

Both Annie and I now test negative for Covid. Annie had a worse case than I and still has a terrible cough. I continue to sleep about ten hours per day, while Annie sleeps around sixteen hours each day. It's a slow recovery.

Lima Beans
Picking lima beansSmall lima bean harvestI took out our row of frost/freeze damaged lima beans today. Surprisingly after several frosts and freezes, there were still some pods that promised edible beans. The bulk of the pods got dumped in a tray to dry down for possible seed saving.

This is only the second time I've tried growing limas, and the first time I've gotten a crop...however small. But it's a learning process.

With the field next to our raised beds probably being rotated to soybeans next season, I'll need to grow our limas somewhere in our East Garden plot. I usually can sneak in early bush beans without too much Japanese Beetle damage coming in from the soybeans. But limas take a lot longer to mature.

We had BLT sandwiches for supper tonight with one of our last homegrown tomatoes. We'll soon enter the time when only hothouse tomatoes are available. Generally, we just skip those. Along with the sandwiches, of course, were lima beans.

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Thursday, November 2, 2023

The last of our ERS peppersThere's lots of browned out plants around our garden plots. I'd planned to take out our row of dead Earliest Red Sweet pepper plants yesterday, saving seed from the many ripe red peppers on the plants. While slightly frost damaged, the peppers still contained a lot of what I hope is viable seed. They came out this morning.

Paprika pepper seed dryingInstead, my first job yesterday was taking our kitchen compost and a cart full of cauliflower leaves and stems to our compost pile. While out in the East Garden, I managed to find five or six still good tomatoes. I was mad at myself, as I should have picked before the frost/freezes. I also brought in eleven more mature butternut squash. And I found six good Boldog Hungarian Spice and twenty good Hungarian Spice paprika peppers. Saving the pepper seed took up a good bit of my afternoon.

Seed Library CensusJohnny's 2024 Catalog CoverGetting back to the ERS peppers, my plan was to save seed and share it with various seed libraries we support. I'd noticed a posting on Facebook from the Seed Library Network that they're looking for volunteers to help with their Seed Library Census. I'm not sure I'd be much help with the census, but hope to contribute seed again this year to several "nearby" seed libraries.

While not our preferred paper copy, Johnny's Selected Seeds has released digital versions of their 2024 seed catalogs.

While taking out our row of seven caged ERS pepper plants, I noticed that the adjacent row of Sugar Snap pea vines appear unhurt by the recent freezes. The young pods on the vines, however, showed severe freeze damage.

Our kale, carrots, and spinach rows all look good still. Our row of lima beans, however, are a mess. I'm not sure I'll get enough limas from the plants to make a meal. And we still have three small heads of cauliflower that look healthy. There's probably just enough to make some cauliflower mashed potatoes. Late planted fall crops are always a gamble, but it appears that we're going to get some nice harvests yet.

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