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October 20, 2021

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.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - Planting Garlic

Our Senior Garden - October 20, 2021Rows staked and strung for plantingWe're having a lovely fall day today with bright sunshine and mid-day temperatures in the upper 60s to low 70s. Even though we haven't yet experienced our first frost, I went ahead and planted our garlic. In the last three years, I planted garlic on November 19, December 26, and November 24 and got good crops each time. I think so long as the ground isn't frozen, there's a lot of latitude in when ones garlic needs to go into the ground. But I was really pushing my luck with that December 26 planting.

I'd cleaned up and tilled most of our main raised garden bed in September. Frequent scuffle hoing kept weeds under control, so only a quick pass today with a bow rake was necessary to have the garlic area smoothed and ready for planting. Note that when I tilled the raised bed, I'd worked in some 12-12-12 fertilizer and a good bit of Muriate of Potash (0-0-60).

I measured and staked my rows, adding string to keep on row two rows at a time. I space our rows eight inches apart and plant the garlic cloves about seven or eight inches apart. With fifteen foot rows, that often comes out to about twenty plants per row. I sorted out 20 elephant garlic cloves and thirty each of softneck and hardneck garlic for the planting last night.

Burpee Seed CompanyI worked from outside the bed, planting two rows at a time. I'd make eight to ten holes with a dandy garlic dibbleicon I got from Burpee. It took a few repairs and improvements, but is a great tool. Burpee is out of stock right now, but Amazon offers quite an assortment of garden dibbles.

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I sprinkled just a bit of 12-12-12 fertilizer in and around the planting holes and even less of bone meal. We've found that bone meal tends to attract moles, even though we treat our beds with Milky Spore which kills most of the grubs the moles are after.

The garlic cloves go in the soil, pointy end up, so that the top of them are about two inches deep.

I'd like to mulch the planting with grass clippings, although that's not really necessary. The mulch can prevent weed growth along with preventing soil heaving through winter's freezes and thaws. But if mulched, one has to remove the mulch pretty early, as it can mat and prevent early emerging garlic leaves from reaching the light.

Our how-to feature, Growing Garlic, gives all the ins and outs about how we grow and store our garlic. Burpee has a great video on How to Plant Garlic. And while the owners have retired, they continue to maintain their Boundary Garlic Farm site that has a wealth of information on all aspects of garlic.


Supper tonight will be delicious, but possibly not all that healthy. We're having coney dogs along with butternut yams. I used a butternut that had been sitting on a shelf in our plant room. While grown last year, it was still good. But when I reached into a burlap bag of other butternuts, my fingers ran into some slime from a rotten butternut.

Hardware World


Monday, October 18, 2021

Field next to us harvestedKale nibbled by rabbitsThe folks who farm the ninety acre field west and south of us harvested corn yesterday and today. That gives us a nice view to the west and also denies deer and rabbits cover to approach our raised garden beds. Unfortunately, rabbits found our kale several days ago and did some serious damage to it. Interestingly, the left the carrots alone.

Our extended weather forecast currently suggests farmers should have another week or so of dry weather to finish their harvest. I still see lots of fields of corn and soybeans unharvested.

We're coming off several cool mornings. We've had morning lows of 41, 40, and 43° F the last three mornings. But things are supposed to warm up over the next ten days. The forecast shows no signs of frost. That's a good thing for us and our local food bank, as we're still picking some tomatoes. There are lots of green tomatoes on our plants in the East Garden.


Underripe Crimson Sprinter tomatoesAn apple and a banana helping tomatoes ripenI goofed when our Crimson Sprinter tomato plants began maturing fruit. I didn't get a picture of the deep red tomatoes to use when I post the seed for sharing on the Grassroots Seed Network and Seed Savers Exchange. With bugs once again prevalent on our plants, I picked five nice, but under ripe Crimson Sprinters today. To help them ripen, I followed the suggestions in a San Francisco Chronicle article by Julie Christensen, Does Setting Tomatoes Next to Apples Make Them Ripen Faster? I already knew that putting an apple with tomatoes can help them ripen, but I didn't know bananas could do the same. So I put the five under ripe tomatoes in a covered plastic container with an apple and a banana.

The science of this trick is that some fruits such as apples and bananas give off "ethylene gas, which accelerates ripening."Christensen also notes, "Although tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) are used as vegetables, botanically, they're fruits. Like all fruits, they ripen from a hard green knob to a soft, flavorful specimen. Storing tomatoes with apples (Malus domestica) can speed up ripening, but it's not the best method."

A2 Web Hosting

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Our Senior Garden - October 13, 2021Weather Underground Extended ForecastIt's still rainy here and promises to be so for at least a couple of more days. That makes working the soil a no-go. But our extended weather forecast also shows no sign of frost for the next nine or ten days.

Even if we don't get a frost by the end of next week, I plan to go ahead and plant our garlic. The conventional wisdom in planting garlic is to wait until after the first frost for planting. But getting it in a week or two early shouldn't hurt anything.

Old Geezers (like me), Rejoice!

The government announced today that Social Security checks will go up starting in January a whopping 5.9%!

Gloxinia Leaf Cuttings

Gloxinia leaf cuttings startedNew gloxinias from leaf cuttingsTowards the end of June, I took leaf cuttings from two of our best gloxinias. As will happen, one cutting took and the other one died. The cutting that took apparently has produced several new gloxinia plants. Once I determined the other cutting had died, I took another leaf cutting from the original plant, and it took.

I tell about how to take gloxinia leaf cuttings in our Gloxinia Blog.

While I produce most of our new gloxinia plants from seed, taking leaf cuttings is a way to clone a pretty much exact replica of the original plant. And, leaf cuttings often produce plants that bloom months before new gloxinias started from seed.

Renee's Garden

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Fall carrots and kaleRow of parsley (front) and basil (rear)We received a very welcome inch of rain last night. It seems to have shot up our fall carrots and kale. Our row of basil and parsley is doing well also. But our row of spinach is pretty sparse and may not even be worth trying to pick. With our current extended weather outlook, I'm beginning to hope we might get a nice crop of carrots and maybe even be able to make our annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup, although the carrots are doing far better than the kale.


ZinniasMore pretty zinniasSome of the zinnias in our eighty foot row of them are now around six feet tall. They're also beginning to look at bit ragged. I've taken out and composted a few plants, but will need to get busy and take out the row soon. While I've saved lots of zinnia seed this year, I'm considering buying a lot of State Fairicon zinnia seed to have some shorter plants than our saved seed seems to produce. I'll also try to save some seed from some of the shorter plants at one end of the row that probably grew from seed purchased this year.


I glanced out a window this evening and saw a lovely half moon. Stepping outside, I also could see and identify the planet Venus somewhat low in the western sky. Two bright objects to the left of the moon had me back inside firing up my copy of the free, open source Stellarium planetarium software. I quickly saw that the other two objects were Jupiter and Saturn. Seeing three bright planets was quite a treat for me.

Stellarium map of night sky 10-12-2021

Astronomy software may be a pretty far reach from gardening. But then, I was a science teacher for a few fun years.

Monday, October 11, 2021 - Blame the Rain!

Old compost pileNew compost pile and East Garden plotToday's posting may be a little off, as I'm functioning on not much sleep. I blame the rain last night. Not rain here, but in Kansas City that delayed the Sunday Night Football game between the Bills and Chiefs. It didn't end until midnight or so. By then, my second wind had kicked in, and I stayed up watching NCIS re-runs until I fell asleep in my easy chair. But it's not just me. As I read Peter King's Football Morning in America, I noticed lots of grammatical errors that are rare in his usual postings. Guess the game kept him up late as well.

As I'm writing in the afternoon, the storms that delayed last night's game have just rolled in here. Fortunately, I got my outside work done this morning. I did a little scuffle hoing in our raised beds to knock downs weeds missed in my last pass over the beds. Then I started moving our old compost pile to a new site. Some of the material was pretty well digested, but there was far more that needed to go to a new site outside our East Garden plot to decay a bit longer. I need the old pile moved so that I can till the East Garden plot before winter sets in.

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Hoss Tools and SeedsThe moved compost got a good sprinkle of Jerry Baker's Compost Tonic. The recipe for the compost starter concentrate is a cup of household ammonia, a 12 ounce Coke (regular, not diet), and a quarter cup of dish detergent. Baker recommended using a hose end applicator at a 15:1 water-concentrate ratio, but I just pour a bit of the concentrate in a 2 gallon plastic watering can I reserve for this task with a gallon or two of water.

I also picked tomatoes and paprika peppers today. The tomatoes weren't much, as bugs have really hit our row of tomatoes in our East Garden plot. In response, I loaded up our insecticide sprayer with Sevin for the first time this season and sprayed the plants. But now, I'll need to wait five days before picking any more tomatoes from that row.

Paprika peppers

I was surprised by the amount of ripe paprika peppers there were. I shouldn't have been surprised, as our pepper plants often produce their best pickings late in the season. After washing and letting the peppers dry, they, and some really ugly tomatoes, went to our local food bank for their Monday night food distribution.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Friday, October 8, 2021 - Rain?

Our Senior Garden - October 8, 20211-800-Flowers Deal of the WeekWe had varying predictions of rain for the past two days. The almost one inch of precipitation predicted at one time turned out to be 0.04 inches of rain at our nearest Weather Underground reporting station. I think we got a bit more than that, but not much. My level of confidence in the amount of rain is shown by the red hose from our rain barrel running into one of our narrow raised garden beds. We didn't drown any plants. (You'll probably need to look at the larger version of the image to actually see the hose.)

More Germination Tests

Not really trusting some previous seed germination tests that were done in extremely hot conditions, I began a number of new tests and re-tests yesterday. I started ten germination tests, including tests of paprika and bell pepper seed and tomato seed. Instead of putting the Ziploc baggies containing the tests in our too hot sunroom, they went into a tray in our basement plant room over a soil heating mat set to 75° F. I also covered the tests with several layers of black plastic, as neither peppers nor tomatoes require light to germinate.

Action Against Hunger USAI think we're close to being done with seed saving for this season. I still want to save some asparagus and hosta seeds, but that will come when I clear our asparagus beds and finally clean up our front flowerbeds. Beyond that, we've saved seed this season of some landrace basil, Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers, a Champion of England/Maxigolt landrace mix of peas, Eclipse and Encore supersweet peas, Earliest Red Sweet bell peppers, a landrace mix of paprika pepper seed, Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed, Crimson Sprinter, Earlirouge, Moira, and Quinte tomato seed, zinnias, gloxinias, snapdragons, and dianthus.

We aim for at least 80% germination for seed we save and share. That's a bit higher than what the Federal Seed Act requires. And germination rates for different vegetables vary a good bit in those standards. While the Federal Seed Act is available online, offers a much easier to read table of the requirements. And obviously, those requirements are aimed at commercial seed houses involved in interstate sales.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Spinach row before hand weedingSpinach, basil, and parsley rows after weedingA year ago today we had our first frost of 2020. This year, there's not a frost in sight. Our high temperature today was almost 80° F with nothing lower than 56° F in our extended weather forecast. While I'm somewhat eager to plant our garlic after our first frost, I'm a pretty happy gardener with our late planted fall crops possibly having time to mature.

My first gardening job today was to clean up some weeds in and around our row of spinach. I'd previously scuffle hoed around the row of spinach and a mixed row of basil and parsley. Today, I used a soil scratcher to disrupt mostly grass weeds in the spinach row, hand pulling grass seedlings close to the spinach plants.

I moved on to using a scuffle hoe to clean up the rest of the main raised bed. It was covered with seedling weeds. While this pass with the scuffle hoe won't get all of the weeds, it will get most of them, cutting them off at soil level and/or burying them. I need to keep the very end of the bed clear of weeds, as that's where I plan to plant our garlic.

Main raised bed scuffle hoed

Bonnie's Asparagus Patch weededWhat turned out to be a big job today was clearing weeds from Bonnie's Asparagus Patch. It had grown up in weeds to the point that I wondered if the weeds might crowd out the asparagus. My lovely wife reminded me that the patch had survived for years with little or no care before we started taking care of it about ten or fifteen years ago.

Donors ChooseI forgot to take my camera with me when doing the weeding, so I later had to put my long lens on my camera to get of shot of it taken from an open sunroom window. Even later, I spread a bit of 12-12-12 over the patch. I didn't bother to work the fertilizer into the soil, as it's supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow which should wash in the fertilizer.

I dumped a full cart of weeds onto the site of our new compost pile. I also lifted a little material from our current compost pile, only to be delighted to find some nearly finished compost under the soil and mulch surface. I'd also cut a few fading zinnia plants to add to the new compost pile.

And maybe the highlight of the day was finally getting a good picture of a Viceroy butterfly. They'd proved elusive in my photo attempts before today.

Viceroy butterfly on zinnia

I'm still working through all the seed we've saved this season. As I sat and watched football games on TV on Sunday, I also worked at separating dried tomato and other seed we've saved. The tomato seed often dries in clumps of 30-50 seeds which separate with a little rubbing in ones hand. One batch of seed, basil, left a strong but pleasant odor on my hands as I tried to release the seed from its blooms.


Saturday, October 2, 2021

Kale and carrots loving the rainSeedling spinach and seedling weedsIt's a rainy Saturday here. I got out and took some pictures and picked peppers in a light mist. Our rows of kale and carrots have begun to grow rapidly now and are benefitting from the rain.

Our row of spinach appears to have more seedling grass plants in it than spinach plants. Despite my having scuffle hoed around the row, I'll need to do some weeding on my hands and knees soon.

The rain, however welcome, has popped up seedling weeds over the rest of our recently tilled main raised bed. At this point, I may be able to control the seedling weeds with the scuffle hoe. If not, I'll use our walking tiller to clean up the bed.

Lots of seedling weeds emerging

Cooking peppers, garlic, and onions from our garden
Chicken and tomato purée added
Earlirouge tomato plant Another Earlifouge tomato plant

Picking peppers was prompted by a cooking failure last night. I'd started to make chicken marsala, but something went terribly wrong. I ended up pan frying the chicken breasts with mushrooms, but the result was nasty.

So this morning, I was out in a light rain picking both bell and paprika peppers. Pepper slices got cooked a bit with a red onion and some garlic, all of course from our garden. I later added chicken breast strips, some taco seasoning, and a pint jar of our own tomato purée. Combined with some of our refried kidney beans and cheese on a flour tortilla topped with sour cream, today's effort turned out to be a nice save from a previous nasty mess.

I'd been toying with the idea of pulling our six Earlirouge tomato plants. We have twelve other tomato plants producing well in our East Garden. The Earlirouges produced heavily earlier in the season, but really tapered off in the hot, dry weather later in the summer. But looking at the plants today, filled with blooms and ripening tomatoes, I decided to wait and see if these tomatoes beat our first frost.

With friends, family, and a food bank happy to receive our excess, we never seem to have too many tomatoes.

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, October 1, 2021

Our Senior Garden - October 1, 2021
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Our East Garden - October 1, 2021
Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.

A lot of what happens in our garden next year depends on things we do this fall. I've covered this subject in our feature story, End-of-Season Gardening Chores, but will expand upon it here a bit.

Getting crops out of our raised beds with the plant leaves, stems, and sometimes rotting or immature fruit composted helps prevent insect and disease carryover to the next season. Since we've had some blight in our tomatoes this year, I was glad to read in Late Blight on Tomatoes and Potatoes that blight doesn't carry over in tomato seeds (a lot of which fall on the ground). Infected plant parts are another matter and probably shouldn't be composted if the compost is to be used on tomatoes or related crops the next season. Since most of our compost goes to our asparagus beds, that shouldn't be a problem for us.

Once the beds are cleared, I'll do a soil pH test and add lime if necessary to bring the pH up to around 6.8-7.0. While I don't like leaving our beds open to wind erosion over the winter, I usually fall till them if the weather and soil conditions permit. I've already tilled in some lime and 12-12-12 fertilizer to most of our main raised garden bed. The areas where our garlic, onions, and carrots will go got a good dose of Muriate of Potash (0-0-60) worked in as well. One narrow raised bed will get a bale of peat moss added to raise its soil level.

The narrow raised bed where our early peas will go will get a heavy layer of grass clippings. That allows me to plant our peas in early March by just pulling back the mulch and planting without tilling. I go into how to get around planting in or on frozen ground in Another Garden Delicacy: Homegrown Peas. grin And once I get our garlic planted, hopefully this month, that area will be mulched.

Dave's Garden Frost Page for 47882Our average first frost date for this region is October 17. But that's just an average. We got our first frost last year on October 5. But once that frost happens, we'll plant garlic and begin to clear our asparagus beds. Composting tough asparagus stalks takes some time, and we often get some interesting asparagus seed germination in our compost pile in the spring!

St. Jude Children's Research HospitalGetting our large East Garden plot ready for the next season will be a challenge this year. Other than our glorious row of zinnias and a long row of caged tomatoes and peppers, the plot grew up in grass weeds all summer. While I'm not yet up to mowing our whole property, I mowed the East Garden plot yesterday. Previously, I'd have to take two days to do the job, as my neck would go nuts after about a half hour of traveling over the bumpy ground. (Since my accident, we've paid some wonderful friends to keep our lawn and the field mowed.)

So, if/when I'm able, I'll till the East Garden plot. In years past, the plot has had a winter cover of dead buckwheat or hairy winter vetch, but neither got planted this year. I will add some soil sulfur to the area where I hope to grow potatoes next season. Unlike most of the rest of our garden vegetables, potatoes do best with a soil pH of around 6.0. I read one source that recommended a soil pH of 5.0 to 5.2 for potatoes.

One unpleasant job I've made for myself is moving our current compost pile out of the East Garden plot. It's been convenient having the pile closer to the house than usual, but I need the pile moved before tilling. Moving it will also give it a good turn and mixing to speed decomposition. And this time of year, the pile grows rapidly with all the plant parts and trash moved to it from our garden plots.

Having finished washing trays and pots yesterday, today's gardening was pretty minimal. I rinsed a couple of jars of tomato seed that had been fermenting for seed saving.

And finally, today's splashshot was taken from an open window in our sunroom. It's the first time in three months that I've attempted to and been able to close the heavy window. So I'm slowly getting better each day and hope to be full strength by next gardening season.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants

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