Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity
The Senior Garden Blog Archive
Features & How-To's
Affiliated Advertisers



November 27, 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, November 27, 2020 - Sage and Hosta

Sage putting on first true leavesHosta emergingThe sage that I seeded on November 9 had put on their first true leaves and were ready for transplanting today. I need some sage replacement plants for some corner marker plants in our East Garden that didn't survive this summer. Some succumbed to weed pressure, others to drought, and one got dug up by our dogs.

Since sage puts down a pretty deep root, I used four and four and a half inch pots for the transplanting. Ten such pots fit neatly into a Perma-nest plant tray.

Some hosta I started the same day as the sage have also begun to germinate. Since the hosta seed was seed saved from some of our existing hosta, I was greatly pleased that some of the seed proved viable.

Once they get going, both the sage and the hosta will go to a sunny bookshelf in our sunroom. The sunroom stays cool at nights without dropping to freezing temperatures. The harsher conditions of the sunroom as opposed to on our plant rack seem to produce sturdier plants.

Sage transplanted

Seed Catalogs

Print seed catalogs for 2021 have finally begun to arrive in the mail. Our first catalog arrived on Wednesday with two more coming in today's mail.

Fedco Seeds High Mowing Organic Seeds Twilley Seeds

I haven't begun my usual cover to cover perusal of these catalogs as yet.


The sweet corn seed germination tests I started on Monday are already showing a good bit of seed sprouting.

Sweet corn seed germination test

Corn sprouting through paper towelCinnamon rollsA close examination of some of the seed without unwrapping it reveals spikes of corn that have pierced the moist paper towel surrounding the seed. I could see sprouts through many of the paper towels. But it will be a few more days before I'll want to unwrap the tested seed samples and see what our germination rates are.

I'd listed the menu for our planned Thanksgiving feast on Wednesday. Wednesday evening, I decided to start a batch of dough for Grandma's Yeast Rolls. I let the dough do its first rise overnight in the refrigerator. Thursday morning, knowing that the dough would make far too many rolls for Annie and I, I divided the dough in half. I made our usual rolls with one half of the dough. And with the other, I made some delicious Cinnamon Rolls.


Cyber Week! Save Up To 50% Off This Exclusive Collection at 1-800-Flowers!

(Valid 11/27 @ 12:01am - 12/6 @ 11:59pm EST)


Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - Suppliers

I've been working on updating our page of Recommended Seed Suppliers. Our list of suppliers is based on our recent and long-term experiences with the vendors listed below. Seed quality, varieties available, price, shipping & handling charges, customer service, and reader input from this site all figure into our evaluation, winnowed a bit using The Garden Watchdog ratings from Dave's Garden. Some of the relationships run back well over forty years, while others are more recent additions.

Trusted Suppliers

As I mentioned last week, Stokes Seeds no longer appears on this list as they've left the home garden seed market. They'll be missed.

Our Suppliers page also includes some other good sources that we just haven't used all that often. I'm just getting started updating shipping charges for the vendors on the page. Once seed catalogs begin to come in and/or vendors update their web sites for 2021, I'll complete updating the shipping charges info.

Thanksgiving Dinner

We're thankful for good health and life, but our Thanksgiving plans for tomorrow are pretty modest. While our family usually gathers for the holiday at one of our daughter's house, we're staying home this year due to the Covid-19 virus. Both Annie and I are seniors, more succeptible to the ravages of the virus if contracted. But I'm guessing that our phone may be busy a good bit of the day as we touch base with our family.

Our Thanksgiving feast will be nice but limited. I picked up a turkey breast last week. It will go with some Stovetop Stuffing and gravy. I bought some cranberry/orange relish at the grocery yesterday. We'll probably have a small green bean casserole and maybe some butternut mock yams as well.

Have a safe and joyful Thanksgiving!

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

Monday, November 23, 2020 - Seed Inventory

Our Senior Garden - November 23, 2020Hoss Tools and SeedsWe carry over a lot of old garden seed for years in our large, manual defrost freezer. Doing so cuts the cost of seed for us and also has allowed us to amass a lot of different vegetable varieties. But one has to be careful using old seed and not totally rely on it. I got a little lax this year on refreshing carrot seed and suffered some miserable results this fall.

I take inventory of all of our seed on hand each fall. At the same time, I also begin building our seed orders for the next season. The inventory involves assessing if we have enough fairly fresh seed to do our plantings of lots of different varieties.

I record both our seed inventory and seed orders (or possible seed orders) on Excel spreadsheets with a similar format. The formats allow cutting and pasting between the documents.

Part of our 2021 inventory

Building seed orders

It took parts of three days to do this year's seed inventory. I was a little under the weather for a couple of days, and I'd also made a mess for myself with last year's inventory. I'd sorted out all of the tomato seed I'd hot water treated for planting. I unscrambled that mess, adding a "HWT" designation after treated varieties' names. My caution with tomato seed is driven by bringing anthracnose into our East Garden plot in 2019 with the one tomato variety I hadn't hot water treated!

Year seed producedOur collection of aging sweet corn seed all needed to be germination tested. We had a nasty surprise with sweet corn germination in 2017, confirmed by a germination test in March, 2018. We caught one vendor fudging on germination figures. While we might forgive what was described by the company's president as "some stuff getting swept under the rug" by an ex-employee who left their germination records "untended," I will test any seed we might purchase from them this year before planting. "Trust, but verify."

I should add here that seed houses often purchase a three to five year supply of seed from growers. If stored properly, most such seed should be good in the year of purchase. For those of us who store unused seed, sometimes for years, the difference between fresh and five year old seed is significant. During the last reauthorization of the farm bill, I wrote several senators suggesting seed vendors be required to list the year their seed for sale was produced. I got a couple of responses to my letters, but no action. In a "do as I say and do," I began adding the year seed was produced to all of our listings on the Grassroots Seed Network and Seed Savers Exchange.

I should add here that I'm not in the seed selling business. I sell or share about fifteen to twenty seed packets with folks each year. I should note that ALL of those seed requests over the past two years have come via the Grassroots Seed Network. Obviously, the Seed Savers Exchange for us isn't getting much heirloom seed shared. Of course, the folks at SSE rarely listen to the comments of an old, retired seed saver.

Sweet Corn Germination Test

Ten seeds per germination testTray of sweet corn germination testsI had fourteen packets of sweet corn seed to test today. The last time I did such a test I only tested nine groups of seed. This test required a larger container, so I used a clean Perma-Nest tray for the test.

Each group of ten seeds to be tested were spread on a moistened unbleached paper towel and then wrapped in it. While I labeled the paper towels with permanent marker, I doubt the writing will last through the test. I purposely placed the tests in the order that they appear in our seed inventory. I also have the photo at right to identify the seeds.

Ten seeds isn't much of a test. Commercial growers and vendors are required to use far more seeds in their germination tests. But ten seeds will give me a good idea of whether a seed variety is good for planting. Anything under 70-80% isn't something we want to use. Saved seed that tests under 80% doesn't get shared by us.

The tray of sweet corn seed tests was covered first with multiple layers of black plastic and then with a humidome to retain moisture. The black trash bag layers were to keep out light, as sweet corn doesn't need light to germinate. The tray went over a soil heating mat set at 70° F. That's a pretty generous temperature setting, as soil temperatures when the seed goes into the ground will probably be a bit less. Since most of the seed tested was from temperature sensitive sh2 varieties, I went ahead and gave the seed a bit of a heat boost.

Botannical Interests

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Weather Underground Extended ForecastAsparagus bed clearedWe've had an abrupt, but not unexpected weather change. Daily high temperatures will drop around twenty degrees for the next few days. After several wonderfully warm and partly sunny days, it will be mostly cloudy with a good bit of rain. While I got our raised asparagus bed cleared yesterday, I didn't get to Bonnie's Asparagus Patch. Of course, since it's at ground level, I could just go over it with the lawn mower! It's hard to believe that in just over four months, we may be picking fresh asparagus again!

At any rate, my outdoor to do list is now on a weather hold.

Seed Inventory

Moving to indoor chores, I brought in our big bag of garden seed from the freezer in our garage. While thawing and later re-freezing the seed certainly doesn't help extend the seeds' usable life, finding out what and how much seed we have on hand is essential before ordering any new seed for next season.

Shopping Guides

Garden Shopping GuideShopping Guide for Gifts for Gardeners

I updated our garden shopping guides last night. The Old Guy's Shopping Guide for Gifts for Gardeners shown at left was the first I put together as a gift guide for non-gardeners shopping for gardeners. It mostly has items that could easily be wrapped and put under a Christmas tree or even fit in a Christmas stocking. Well, I'm not sure the garden carticon, Garden Tower, or a rain barrel meet the criterion of being wrapped and fitting under a Christmas Tree.

After doing the gift guide, I realized that there were lots of basic gardening items I'd omitted from the guide. So I wrote a general Shopping Guide for Gardeners. As usual, I advise new gardeners to start small even with garden tools. "If you're going to garden, there are a few basic tools you'll want and need. Think shovel, garden hoe, rake, and a trowel to start with. You might be able to get by with just the first three." I do go on to list lots of garden tools a gardener might eventually want and/or need. In a section I mentally named shoulder wreckers, I added a post driver to the section about post hole diggers. grin

Required FTC Disclosure Statement

Some of our text links go to the sites of our Senior Gardening Advertisers. Clicking through one of our banner ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale.

I'll add here that such pages fall under the FTC's Required Disclosure Statement (shown at right). In actuality, the pages don't produce many sales and commissions for us. Experienced gardeners often wisely insist on being able to hold a tool before making a purchase.

As you might guess, we have a considerable investment wrapped up in gardening stuff. It's important to remember that we acquired these things over fifty years of gardening.

Renee's Garden

Friday, November 20, 2020

Having not received any garden seed catalogs yet this fall, I got impatient and started looking for downloadable 2021 PDF catalogs yesterday afternoon. I found three such catalogs to download and one very sad surprise. Johnny's Selected Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and Botannical Interests all have downloadable versions of their 2021 catalog listed.

Johnny's Selected Seeds High Mowing Organic Seeds Botannical Interests

I won't review the catalogs or their contents until I receive the print version of them to page through. But they all have lovely covers and all three companies appear on our page of Recommended Seed Suppliers.

The sad news is that Stokes Seeds has announced that they "are discontinuing the sale of flower seeds and smaller home garden size packages of vegetable seeds in the USA" to concentrate on the "commercial vegetable seed market."

Free Shipping on Orders over $35

Thursday, November 19, 2020 - Garlic Planted

After numerous delays, I finally got our garlic planted today. Conventional gardening wisdom in these parts recommends planting garlic after a first frost in October. Because we often have crops actively growing throughout October, I typically don't get the job done until sometime in November. Last year, I didn't get it planted until after Christmas. I got really lucky with that planting, as it still produced a nice harvest in July.

After tilling the area to be planted, incorporating some peat moss, lime, and Muriate of Potash (0-0-60), we had several days of unfavorable weather for planting. One sunny day, we had wind gusts of up to 50 MPH! It's windy again today (30-40 MPH), but warm (63° F).

Planting garlicI'd measured and pounded in wooden stakes yesterday to mark the four rows to be planted today. I space our rows eight inches apart, planning to plant the garlics seven or eight inches apart in the row. With fifteen foot rows, that comes out to about twenty garlic cloves to be planted per row. Such a planting produces a lot of garlic, but ensures we have enough each year to re-plant, use for cooking, make garlic powder, and still give a good bit to give to family and good causes. And, the garlic bed is just twenty-four inches across!

Garlic dibble with depth measurements added

I strung my first two rows this morning and ran a piece of one inch lumber down the rows to make keeping track of the rows easier. Then I began the planting. I no longer use a trowel to plant garlic, having picked up a dandy garlic dibble several years ago. In its first use, the handle came off and the steel tip was loose. Some wood glue corrected the first problem while a couple of good whacks with a sledge hammer with the dibble's rivet on an anvil fixed the loose steel tip. I also used a wide permanent marker to add depth graduations in inches to the dibble.

Petra, Daisy, and PepperI made six or seven holes down each row with the dibble, sprinkling a little bone meal and 12-12-12 fertilizer into each hole. Then a garlic clove went into each hole, pointy side up. I covered the holes and firmed the soil slightly with a hand pat. Then I moved down the row repeating the process. A final step today was to spread some Repels All over the planted area to discourage our dogs from digging, going after moles in the bed. One more step remains: I need to mulch the area with grass clippings after I do a final mowing of our lawn. While not essential, the mulch helps prevent heaving of the cloves from winter's freezes and thaws. But, the mulch has to come off the area fairly early (February or March) to keep it from matting and preventing garlic sprouts from emerging.

As I finished the planting, I noticed that I'd had maximum canine supervision. Our three dogs, Petra, Daisy, and Pepper, were beside the bed enjoying the sun.

Here are a couple of links that may prove helpful in growing garlic:

Required FTC Disclosure Statement

Some of our text links go to the sites of our Senior Gardening Advertisers. Clicking through one of our banner ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale.

Our Senior Garden - November 19, 2020In other goings on, I ground the pulverized garlic I had dried to powder on Monday. Knowing that our tomatoes and peppers wouldn't mind a little garlicky flavor, I didn't clean the coffee grinder and moved right on to grinding egg shells to a powder. We use the ground egg shells in the soil to provide the calcium necessary to lessen blossom end rot in our tomatoes and peppers.

Probably like many readers of this page, I still have a number of end of the season chores yet to complete. From our near daily splashshot, one can see that I still have kale to do something with, asparagus patches to clear, and some mowing to do.

The Home Depot

Spend $50 on Home Decor today, receive a promo code 10% off your Home Decor purchase in December (valid 12/3-12/26)

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Our Senior Garden - November 14, 2020Cutting and peeling garlic clovesMy plan yesterday was to plant garlic, but it was cold and windy out, and I was a bit under the weather. Instead, I washed out the large garden chemical and tool tub that sits on our back porch and later sorted out garlic cloves for planting. I bagged the selected cloves in groups of hardneck, softneck, and elephant garlic. I also made a bag of extra cloves from the broken garlic bulbs to use to make garlic powder.

With rain on the way this morning, I began trimming the ends and peeling the garlic cloves. I had about two cups of peeled cloves that went into our food processor to slice and pulverize. The resulting paste got scooped onto a couple of shelves of our food dehydrator.

Having learned from experience not to dehydrate garlic indoors, I moved the dehydrator to our garage. At around 115° F, it will take two or three days for the garlic to dry out. Then I'll grind it to powder in an extra coffee grinder we reserve for such chores.

I give better directions on making garlic powder in our how-to, Growing Garlic.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2020

I crossed a big one off my to do list today. I picked up eleven 2.2 cubic foot bales of sphagnum peat moss and some lime. I would have bought more peat, but the eleven was all the Menards store on the south side of Terre Haute had in stock.

Peat moss and lime on main raised garden bed

I spread the peat moss with some lime over our large raised bed and one narrow bed. I also sprinkled some Muriate of Potash over the areas of the main bed where I'll plant garlic (possibly tomorrow) and carrots and onions next spring. With the soil amendments added, I tilled and raked smooth both beds.

The peat moss adds some needed organic matter to our main raised bed while slightly raising the soil level there. The narrow bed got a much more concentrated application of peat, as it's soil level had seriously dropped over the last two years.

A2 Web Hosting

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

We hit a high temperature again today of 77° F! Different from yesterday's similar high, we also had constant winds well over 30 MPH. I took advantage of the wind to finish winnowing our saved Goliath broccoli seed this morning.

I cleared our main raised garden bed this afternoon of the mulch and few plants still in it. There were three or four tiny carrots and some spinach that I should have picked a week or so ago. The removed grass clipping mulch and such went onto our compost pile.

Main raised garden bed tilled

Narrow raised bed tilledSoil level droppedI'd been sweating the next step in our garden cleanup, as our twenty-six year old walking tiller had refused to start a week ago. But today, it fired on the second pull of the starter cord, as usual. I tilled both our main raised bed and one narrow bed. Fall tilling the narrow bed was really important as it is where our tall, early peas will go next spring. I sometimes end up planting the peas over frozen ground and covering the seed with potting mix or whatever else I have on hand. Another narrow bed still has some good looking kale in it. And since that bed will have caged tomatoes growing in it next season, there's no rush to get that bed tilled. The tomatoes can't go in until sometime after May 1.

I'd like to till some peat moss into the beds I tilled today, as their soil levels have dropped a bit. But if that doesn't happen, I can still rake out the area I've planned for garlic in our main raised bed and get it planted.

Burpee Seed Company

Monday, November 9, 2020

WalmartHairy winter vetch - April, 2018Other than trimming the corner marker sage plants, our East Garden plot is ready for winter. I deep tilled the plot again yesterday, running the tiller in the opposite direction of Saturday's tilling. Today, I used our Earthway Seeder to broadcast about seven pounds of hairy winter vetch seed over the entire 80' x 80' plot. Then I set our pull-type tiller to run very shallow and tilled the plot again to turn in the vetch seed.

The last cover/smother crop of vetch we had was in 2017/2018. Vetch holds back weeds and produces nitrogen and organic matter for ones soil.

I'm slowly but surely checking items off my fall to do list:

  • Till East Garden and sow to hairy winter vetch √
  • Elect new president √
  • Fill seed order √
  • Start Sage and Hosta √ and √
  • Clear and till raised beds
  • Plant garlic

Sorry about the square root signs. It was the closest I could come to a checkmark.

Hosta seedsPots of sage and hosta seedI need to have some sage replacement plants, as we lost at least three of the eight plants this summer that mark the corners and halfway marks of our East Garden. So this evening, I filled a couple of four and a half inch pots with sterile potting mix, watered them with boiling water, and seeded them to sage and hosta (after the soil cooled).

Sage seed requires light to germinate well, so the sage seed was pressed into some vermiculite that topped the soil in the pot. Hosta seed doesn't require light to germinate. It's seeds are very thin and about a quarter of an inch long.

Both pots of seeds went over a soil heating mat set to 73° F. Starting the slow growers now may have them ready to go into the ground by next spring.

Grilling pork chops in the dark

Mentioning a temperature reminds me that we had a daily high temperature today of 77° F! Even though it was dark out, I went ahead and fired up our grill, possibly for the last time of the season, and grilled some pork chops for supper. It appears that our wonderful stretch of Indian summer will come to a close later this week.


Saturday, November 7, 2020

I finished washing pots today and moved on to yet another End of Season Gardening Chore. I dropped out the mower deck from our lawn tractor and mounted our pull-type tiller. Even though the soil was a bit wetter than I would have liked, I went ahead and tilled our large East Garden plot. The area had lots of grass clippings and pumpkin and squash vines, but the tiller handled them like a champion. Of course, cleaning the tiller's tines took some serious work, as some of the vines had wrapped tightly around the axles of the tines.

East Garden plot fall tilled

I'll need to till the plot at least one more time this fall, if possible. I need to do a soil test to see if the area needs to be limed. And while it's late, I still hope to seed the plot to a cover/smother crop of hairy winter vetch.

BTW: It was sunny and 75° F when I was out tilling. That's pretty nice weather for this late in the season.

Sam's Club

Thursday, November 5, 2020

I'm about half way through another one of our End of Season Gardening Chores. I'm cleaning trays and pots we've used this season. I got really serious about cleaning before reusing trays and pots when I somehow brought in the INSV virus seven years ago. We ended up losing all of our gloxinias to it. Fortunately, I had lots of saved seed to start over again.

Cleaning and drying trays and pots

I began our annual cleanup by putting a bunch of trays to soak in bleach water yesterday. Today, I scrubbed the trays with a good brush before rinsing them and setting them out to dry in the sun. Then a bunch of hanging basket and other pots went into our garden cart filled with bleach water. I probably won't get this job completely done until tomorrow, but we're into a nice stretch of warm, sunny weather right now.

Hanging basket and four inch pots soaking in bleach water Trays drying on lawn

Reusing trays and pots can save some money. The black plastic 1020 trays run about one to three dollars or so each, but the tan Perma-Nest trays are now running ten dollars each in volume! Sadly, I threw away about as many trays as I cleaned. The black ones crack and split easily and the Perma-Nests get stepped on far too often.

GNRL Click & Grow

Tuesday, November 3, 2020 - Indian Summer?

Our Senior Garden - November 3, 2020Weather Underground extended forecastI'm enthused by our extended weather forecast from the Weather Underground. We have about a week of warm, sunny, dry weather predicted. That should let the soil dry a bit and allow me to finish cleaning up our raised beds and to rototill the raised beds and our large East Garden plot.

Election Day (U.S.)

After many months of political commercials and mailings, election day in the United States has finally arrived. Whew!

Both Annie and I voted early at our county courthouse, but it's a beautiful day today for those who haven't yet voted. When out buying some mower fuel, I stopped to take a shot of our regular voting location. The parking lot at the firehouse was filled with cars parked along the highway and across the street at an elementary school. Even with lots of early voting in the state, it appears we're having a good turnout in our precinct.

Lots of cars at the Turman Township voting site

Another full parking lot didn't make me so happy. When I dropped off the butternut squash yesterday about thirty minutes before the food bank opened, there were about fifty cars lined around the food bank and in its parking lot. There's obviously a lot of need out there. I'm thankful for the abundance Annie and I share in life.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Monday, November 2, 2020 - Butternut Squash

Our saga with butternut squash had a happy ending this afternoon when I delivered about eighty of the squash to our local food bank. We'd experienced some disease and insect invasions during the growing season along with several droughty periods. But our Waltham Butternut and South Anna Butternut squash varieties held up well and produced another bumper crop of squash in about a forty foot square area!

Butternuts for the food bank

The squash were of all sizes. We had some Walthams that had extremely long necks and some very fat South Annas. Several of the squash still had green lines on them, indicating that they weren't yet fully ripe. Hopefully, folks who get the striped squash will know to let them sit and mature a while before using them.

We use butternuts in a couple of ways. We sometimes split and seed the squash, filling the cavity with butter and brown sugar before baking them. More often, I peel, seed, and cut up the squash into pieces that get baked with brown sugar, marshmallows, and a bit of nutmeg.

Compost pile - November 2, 2020

Another job for today was a sad one. I took down all of our porch plants. They weren't all dead from recent frosts, but were in pretty sad shape. One ivy leaf geranium plant went to the food bank with the butternuts, as it could still make a lovely houseplant for someone. The rest went onto our compost pile, making it look a little better.

Burpee Gardening Supplies & Gifts

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Required FTC Disclosure Statement

Some of our text links go to the sites of our Senior Gardening Advertisers. Clicking through one of our banner ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale.

Crockett's Victory GardenThe late James Underwood Crockett began his November introduction in Crockett's Victory Garden, "I would have to argue that November is the most important month in the gardener's calendar because it's the month the soil should be prepared for the next spring's plantings." I have to agree.

Preparing for next season will dominate our gardening this month. I need to buy and work in a bunch of bales of sphagnum peat moss, as the soil levels in our raised beds has dropped a good bit. A bit of lime and a smattering of other soil amendments will be selectively added.

I didn't get our garlic planted last month, but still have time. Getting the garlic in before the ground freezes is the goal.

Our asparagus patches will need to be cut down with the stalks composted.

Beyond the outdoor work, I'll be doing a seed inventory sometime during the month. Inventorying remaining seed and completing our tentative garden plans for next season have to be done before the fun of scanning seed catalogs and placing seed orders begins.

Previously on Senior Gardening


From the at Senior Gardening
The Senior Garden Blog Archive
Features & How-To's
Affiliated Advertisers