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September 19, 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.

Saturday, September 18, 2021 - Saving Basil and Zinnia Seed

Basil plants wedged between sage
Basil seed spikes drying
Zinnia row
Zinnia seed heads

I noticed this week that our basil plants were beginning to mature seeds. So today, I used scissors to snip off mature sections of the stems bearing blackened seed pods.

I'll later strip the seed pods off the stems. Rubbing the pods between ones hands easily releases the seeds...and a bunch of plant trash. When the wind is just right outside, I'll winnow the seeds and trash to clean up the seeds.

Our basil this year came from a Genovese/Large Italian landrace mix from previous years when I let the plants cross pollinate and saved seed from them.

I also began saving seed from our long row of zinnias along the side of our East Garden plot. Saving the seed is easy. One just cuts or snaps off browned seed heads. I pay the most attention when saving seed to the bloom color of the parent plants, trying to get a good mix of colors.

I've let our saved zinnia seed tend towards taller plants. In our setting, four to five foot tall zinnias aren't a problem. For city gardeners, such plants might be a nuisance. When I pick up seed packets next spring, I'll look for some colorful, but shorter zinnia varieties.

Kale and carrot bedI'll let the zinnia seed heads dry a bit indoors. Then I'll rub the seeds off the stems. That leaves a lot of trash along with the seed. Since I don't share zinnia seed, I just freeze the seed, trash and all, in Ziplock bags between seasons. Note that I'll collect more zinnia seed once or twice more yet this season.

Kale and Carrot Bed

I've been surprised that I'm not seeing any weeds germinating in our bed of kale and carrots. I did, however, see a white cabbage moth visiting the tiny kale plants this morning. Upon closer inspection, I saw that we'd already had a good bit of insect damage on the plants. So I filled our two gallon sprinkling can with a mix of Thuricide, dilute fertilizer, and Not Tonight, Deer! I concentrated the watering on the kale rows, although part of the carrot rows got some.

I'm hoping to transplant some of the kale and carrots to fill in bare spots in the rows. Additionally, I really need to thin some areas in the carrot rows where I dropped clumps of seed.

Tilling and Raking

The big gardening item of today was raking out grass clumps from our main raised bed. I woke up this morning with a very stiff and sore neck and back from having rototilled most of the bed yesterday. I sorta forced myself outside to do the raking, which surprisingly loosened my neck and back a bit.

Getting this bed in shape is for multiple purposes. I'd like to transplant some nice basil and parsley plants into the area, along with direct seeding some spinach. But even more important is to have the bed ready for planting garlic next month and having the bed somewhat ready for spring planting.

Main raised bed tilled and raked

I'll need to till the area one more time to get it planting ready.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies


Thursday, September 16, 2021

I dropped off tomatoes and peppers at our local food bank today. I did, however, retain the ripest of the paprika peppers I picked yesterday. Those six peppers got split open and their seeds harvested. Since about half of the peppers were a bit wrinkly, I discarded the pepper flesh.

Ripe paprika peppers for seed saving Ripe paprika pepper split open for seed saving Paprika pepper seed from just six peppers

The pepper seed is a mix from the Hungarian Spice, Boldog Hungarian Spice, and Sweet Paprika Pepper varieties. Assuming that I'll get a good germination test from this and a previous batch of paprika pepper seed, I'll be sharing seed via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange.

GNRL Click & Grow

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Our Senior Garden - September 15, 2021Today's harvest of tomatoes and peppersThings have really slowed down in our garden plots this month. Most of what I'm doing is cleaning up and recovering from weeds overgrowing nearly everything. Earlier this week, I cleared the weeds from around our rows of tomatoes and peppers in our main garden. I also weeded our raised bed of asparagus. Interestingly, most of the weeds there were tomato plants from compost I spread that didn't heat up enough to kill the tomato seed.

Every few days, we get a nice harvest of tomatoes and peppers. While most of the tomatoes we canned earlier this season came from our six Earlirouge plants in the main garden, the bulk of our tomatoes are now coming from the row of plants in our East Garden. While there are several open pollinated plants there, we're also getting some beefsteak tomatoes from a few hybrid plants I put out.

We got a little rain last night, but our monthly total so far remains at less than two tenths of an inch. Things are really getting dry here.

A local grocery had bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts on sale this week. So I bought two packages (eight breasts) of them. I began marinating four of the chicken breasts while freezing the rest of the breasts. The skins, bones, and attached meat got boiled down with just the broth being frozen. I used the breast meat boned from the boil down to make Chicken Salad.

Shake 'N Bake Parmesan CrustedPrego Traditional Spaghetti SauceI used a recipe from Cafe Delites to guide me in making chicken parmesan for supper last evening. I followed their directions for marinating the chicken breasts, but cheated and used Shake 'N Bake Parmesan Crusted Coating Mix for the breading and Prego Traditional for the spaghetti sauce. I followed Cafe Delites instructions for browning and then baking the chicken, adding lots of sauce and mozzarella and parmesan cheese during the final baking.

Since my lovely wife still works full time, I get to do most of the cooking at our house, although she made some fantastic tuna casserole last weekend. When I begin to get in a rut in meal planning, I try something new. The chicken parmesan was delicious. But...I also brought in a package of frozen Member's Mark Stir Fry Mix from the garage freezer as a hint for her to make her delicious stir fry this weekend.

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Saturday, September 11, 2021 - Well Vent Area Cleaned Up

Weeds before cleanupWell vent after cleanupOne of my jobs today was to finish the weed cleanup around our deep well vent. It and the cinder block that protects it had gotten overgrown with weeds. When I was able to mow, I could get fairly close to the cinder block. But I've also run over the block when I wasn't paying attention, so I didn't mind our mowing crews' caution about mowing around it.

I'd poured a mix of vinegar, Epsom salt, and Dawn dish detergent over the weeds on Thursday. The mix had done its work by today, with most of the weeds browned out. I took our new string trimmer to the area, and it cleaned up pretty well. I'm guessing that I'll need one more application of the organic weed killer to keep the area clean.

Main Bed

With my string trimmer and garden fork in hand, I got most of our main raised garden bed ready for another round of rototilling. During a previous tilling, the tiller rode up and over some stubborn grass clods. So I've been rolling those clods over with the garden fork this week. I also edged parts of the bed with the garden fork, as our walking tiller doesn't quite till up to the landscape timbers that enclose the bed.

Main raised garden bed cleanup continues

I was finally able to clear some stubborn grass weeds close to our row of caged Earliest Red Sweet peppers. While the bed still looks a mess, another tilling will get it close to planting ready.


Sage transplantsSage plantsAt this late date in the gardening season, I still have some nice transplants on the back porch ready to go into the ground. Most of our sage plants that mark the corners and halfway points of our East Garden plot died this summer. I have seven sage transplants ready to go into the ground. Just in case, I rooted a couple of sage cuttings that seem to be doing well under the plant lights in our basement.

The sage cuttings came from our two sage plants in our herb bed around our shallow well. These sage plants seem to have gone nuts growing this year, getting larger than ever before.

Basil and Parsley

Basil plant blooming and maturing seedBasil and parsley transplantsThe basil squished between our sage plants in the image above right has totally gone to seed. It's said that basil leaves become bitter when the plants bloom. On the bright side, the basil has begun to mature seed which I hope to save.

We have lots of nice basil and parsley transplants on our back porch. While we probably have enough dried basil and parsley left from last year to last us all winter, I'd like to squeeze in another harvest and drying of the herbs.

Carrots and Kale

Fall kale and carrots upMost of our fall carrots and kale are up now. I'm still watering the double carrot rows daily in hopes of filling out the row a bit more. But there's enough there to make a nice fall crop if we have enough time before our first frost.


Over the last week, traffic at our three hummingbird feeders has considerably lessoned. We still have birds at the feeders, but not the riot of birds fussing for position we've had almost all summer. And this is about the usual time for the birds to begin their long migration south to Central America. From now on, many of the hummingbirds we see may be migrants from further north on their way to the Gulf or beyond. Hummingbirds seem to know where the rest stops are on their way south.

We slightly increase the amount of sugar in our homemade hummingbird nectar for about a month before the birds begin their migration. This practice allows the birds to gain a little weight before their long flight. Our general ratio of sugar to water is 1:4. While I don't overdo it, I let a bit of sugar overflow the measuring cup as fall approaches when I make their nectar mix.

Here are a couple of possibly useful links about humming birds and their migration:

New Toys

Greenworks Striong TrimmerGreenworks Cordless ChainsawI ran the charge out of the battery on our new Greenworks 40V 14 In String Trimmer this week. I'd withheld judgment on the new weedeater until I saw how long the battery charge lasted. At this point, I can give an unqualified thumbs up on the device and recommend it to others. I'm still evaluating the companion Greenworks 40V 16-inch Chainsaw, as I haven't yet exhausted its first battery charge. At this point, I think I'm done swearing at onry two cycle tools that are difficult to start!

When talking to our mowing crew yesterday, the dad of the father and son team had a really funny, if slightly evil idea. He and his uncle play tricks on each other each Halloween. He plans to attach a paint roller handle to the top of a cordless leaf blower and use it to blow toilet paper up to sixty feet into the air, presumably over his uncle's trees!

He noted that toilet paper decays quickly and falls off the trees after a few good rains.

Hoss Tools

Thursday, September 9, 2021

As I work to clean up our yard and garden, I took a few minutes this evening to mix some of My Heavenly Recipe's 3 Ingredient Weed Killer. It's a mix of vinegar, Epsom salt, and a surfactant such as Dawn dish detergent. I'd effectively used it around our deep well vent last year, and that's where it went this evening. I prefer not to use regular weed killers around water sources. While not long lasting, the mix does knock down weeds.

Moira and Crimson Sprinter tomato seeds drying

I finally got enough Quinte tomatoes yesterday to save seed from them. I picked about a dozen of the tomatoes and squeezed and cut the seeds out of them. The Moira and Crimson Sprinter tomato seed I'd had in jars fermenting were ready for rinsing and drying yesterday.

With these seed savings, I now have at least one batch of each of the tomato varieties I work to preserve.

Most of my gardening these days could fall under the category of End-of-Season Gardening Chores. While we're still nurturing and harvesting a few crops, most of what I'm doing is getting our garden plots, yard, and flower beds cleaned up for next season. With me out of action for a good bit of the summer, a lot of areas got overgrown with weeds.

One onerous chore today was servicing our lawn mower. Lacking a lift or grease pit, the easiest way to service the lawn tractor and mower deck is to drop out the mower deck. Out from under the lawn tractor, I was able to clean the deck, lubricate it, and sharpen the mower blades. The lawn tractor got an oil change and filter while the deck was removed. I'm still not able to stand the bumps involved in mowing, but I was glad to finally be able to service the mower again. I'm hoping the next time I drop out the mower deck, it will be to mount our pull-type tiller and get our East Garden plot ready for next season.

Garden Tower Project


Monday, September 6, 2021 - Labor Day (U.S.)

Our Senior Garden - September 6, 2021Earlirouge tomatoesWe had a another lovely late summer day today. While a bit warm (87° F), there was a nice breeze that made working outside tolerable.

High on my to do list today was to spray our tomato plants. The tomatoes are showing some bug damage and the foliage signs of blight. Before spraying, I picked a nice bunch of rather small Earlirouge tomatoes. The Earlirouges in our main garden and the other tomato plants in our East Garden got a good dose of Serenade biofungicide and Neem Oil. The tomatoes shown here will go to my wife's co-workers tomorrow, as we're soon going to be overrun with tomatoes from the plants in our East Garden plot.

The paprika peppers I began drying yesterday were ready for grinding today. It was a small batch that topped off our jar of previously ground paprika.

World Food Program US

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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.

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I made a trip to town today to drop off some peppers and tomatoes at our local food bank. A second reason for the trip was to get some portobella mushrooms for an Olive Garden copycat recipe for Braised Beef and Tortellini. The geniuses running the restaurant chain removed the popular dish from their menu offerings a few years ago. While there are other items on their menu I like, their action reminds me why I have online recipes for Texas Nachos from the failed Chi-Chi's restaurant chain and Shrimp Portofino from Romano's Macaroni Grill before they caved from criticism about unhealthy meals, changed their recipes, and ended up having to close lots of their locations.

Enough of my rant. The beef and tortellini dish was delicious.

David's Cookies

Sunday, September 5, 2021

After storms going both north and south of us all day yesterday, we finally caught a good shower around 11 last night. It dropped a much needed half inch or so of precipitation. I'd been waiting for a good rain to wet the ground. I took advantage of it today, burning a large collection of shipping boxes and some branches without danger of setting the field on fire.


Processing paprika peppers for saved seed and ground paprikaPaprika pepper seed dryingI picked both paprika and Earliest Red Sweet peppers today. This was the first good harvest of paprika peppers we've had this season. While I found around twenty-five paprika peppers to pick, some of them were a bit over the hill. I used those peppers for seed, discarding the pepper flesh. The good peppers yielded seed for saving as well, but I also washed and sliced them. They went into our food dehydrator and will eventually get ground for paprika.

The saved paprika seed was from the Hungarian, Boldog Hungarian Spice, and Sweet Paprika Pepper varieties. Unfortunately, as with some of our tomato plants in the East Garden, variety labels had faded when I had to replant. So if the seed tests good and I choose to offer it, it will be a mix of the varieties.

I also picked a small bucket of Earliest Red Sweet peppers today. The oldest (sometimes a bit wrinkly) true-to-variety peppers got cut for seed. I obviously discarded their flesh. I washed the rest of the ERS peppers and will share them with our local food bank tomorrow.

The Home Depot

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Bale of peat moss opened to catch rainRecovering main raised garden bedRain was predicted for the whole day today. I got out in the morning before the rain started and did a first picking of the tomato plants in our East Garden plot. I also moved a bale and a half of peat moss from the East Garden to our main raised garden bed which is recovering from being overgrown with weeds. The rain turned out to be late and not a lot of far.

Since peat moss doesn't absorb cold water well, I cut open the bales before I intend to use them and let the peat collect rain water. One hint though: Have the bales where you want them before you cut them open. The bales will more than double in weight when they've absorbed rain water.

Cucumber seed drying and a germination testMoving inside, I poured off the floaters from the jar of Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed I'd had fermenting for three days. With cucumber seed, the length of fermenting time can be tricky. As I poured off the floaters, I noticed at least one seed that had germinated in the fermentation jar. Wait too long to rinse the seed clean, and you could end up with a bunch of sprouted seeds. Once thoroughly rinsed, we ended up with a nice bunch of cucumber seeds. The brown coffee filter with seeds on it is my initial germination test of the seed.

I wanted to save tomato seed from our Moira, Quinte, and Crimson Sprinter plants today. It turned out that there weren't enough ripe Quinte tomatoes to justify the effort needed to save seed from them. The Crimson Sprinter plants had lots of ripe tomatoes. They weren't perfect tomatoes, but were good for seed saving. The Moira plants had several ripe tomatoes as well.

Crimson Sprinter tomatoes

Crimson Sprinter and Moira tomato seed in fermentation jarsAction Against Hunger USAI tell how we save tomato seed in our how-to feature, Saving Tomato Seed. For these smaller batches of seed, I used pint canning jars instead of our usual quart jars. I'll let the seed, juice, and gel ferment for about four days. That usually separates any pulp attached to the seeds.

While I've saved Earlirouge, Moira, and Quinte tomato seed for years, this is the first time I've saved Crimson Sprinter seed. The first year I grew the variety, the seed we got was infected with anthracnose which spread to most of our tomato plantings in the East Garden and even to a hill of watermelons!

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.

Please note that our charity ads don't produce any commissions for us. It's just part of our Christian duty.

Last season, our Crimson Sprinters (seed hot water treated and from a reliable vendor) did quite well, but weren't isolated from other tomato varieties for seed saving. On the strength of last year's performance, good color, and great taste, there's a bit of space between the Crimson Sprinters and our other tomato varieties for seed saving.

I did notice that some of the carrots I seeded on Sunday had begun to sprout. It was just a few sprouts that were hard to see, but it pleased me greatly. I also saw, now that I already have a full jar of ground paprika, that our paprika pepper plants are filled with ripe peppers. If the peppers are good, I may have to find a larger jar for our paprika.

And...I got scolded by my lovely wife again. I tilled most of our main raised garden bed yesterday. There are some really stubborn clumps of grass that resist being tilled. I've been flipping them over a few at a time with our heavy garden fork. But I paid last night for pushing the envelope on my recovery from a neck injury. With rain today, it will be a few more days before I can and am willing to try rototilling the area again.

Hardware World


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Kale upWalmartOne of the two rows of kale that I seeded on Sunday is pretty much up. Since one of our cats had dug in the other kale row, I re-seeded that area and a few other bare spots in the rows. I had soaked the seed in warm water for about four hours before seeding. And for this seeding, I stuck exclusively to dependable Vates (Dwarf Blue Scotch) kale seed.

Well before seeding the kale, I'd watered the rows of kale and carrots this morning. Judging from how dry the soil was when I planted this afternoon, I'll need to water the rows again this evening.

After re-seeding the kale, I spread lots of Repels All over the bed. Generally, Repels All does a better job at discouraging cats and dogs than it does rabbits.

I'm encouraged with the kale emerging. Getting kale seed to germinate in hot, dry weather has been a problem in the past. Apparently, soaking the seed was what was needed. And if the kale continues to do well, it should mature in mid to late October to make a nice batch of Portuguese Kale Soup.

Burpee Gardening Supplies & Gifts

Wednesday, September 1, 2021 - Saving Cucumber Seed

Our Senior Garden - September 1, 2021
Click on images to open larger view in a new tab or window.
Cucumbers for seed
Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.

It was time today to harvest seed from about a dozen Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers I let mature for a couple of weeks on our drying/curing table.

It only took a half hour or so to scrape the seeds out of cucumber sections halved lengthwise and dump them into a quart canning jar. I added a little water and a teaspoon of sugar to the cucumber seeds and gel.

Jenny Harrington wrote in How to Ferment Seeds: "Seeds of pulpy vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) and cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), require a fermentation process that mimics the natural rotting that occurs in nature. As the seeds ferment, the pulp separates, leaving behind clean seeds that are suitable for saving."

Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed and gel fermenting in jarI add that the fermentation process also can kill bacteria and diseases on the seed surface in an August, 2014 posting, Saving Cucumber Seed.

I'll let the seed ferment for at least three days before rinsing and drying it. It's important to keep an eye on the fermenting seed. One wants the gel that surrounds the seeds to detach from the seeds, as the gel prevents seed germination. But if you wait too long and the gel has separated, the seeds may begin to germinate in the liquid in the jar!

Donors ChooseSince I took out our cucumber vines early this year, I didn't get as much seed as in most years. But there's certainly enough for our planting next season. While I share our extra seed via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange, Reimer Seeds sells a similarly named variety the produces cucumbers slightly shorter and fatter than our strain. I bred a little of their strain into ours several years ago when we began to experience inbreeding depression in our seed.

If you wonder where our start of Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed came from, the images below should answer your question.

JLP packet front JLP packet back


Even with the good rain we had a couple of days ago, I watered the carrot and kale rows I direct seeded on Sunday. Some of the kale plants were just barely emerging. But then, I'd soaked the kale seed before planting. I also noticed that one of our cats had used part of a kale row as a litter box. I'll probably have to replant that area. The carrots will require regular watering until they emerge, something that often can take around ten days.

Saving Spinach Seed

Spinach seed drying on cookie sheet1-800-Flowers Deal of the WeekWhen our Abundant Bloomsdale spinach plants bolted and set seed this spring, I pulled the seed bearing plants, put them in a large, paper grocery bag, hung the bag in the garage, and forgot all about them. In the last week or so, I noticed the bag and realized it was probably time to strip the seeds off the spinach stems.

Spinach seeds grow in clusters on the stems and often are hard to separate. Most of these seed clusters rubbed apart easily, probably because they'd hung and dried so long in the garage. I spread the seed across a small cookie sheet and put it on a high shelf to dry. I'll need to winnow the seed as there was a lot of leaves, trash, and dirt along with the seed.

The Abundant Bloomsdale spinach variety has quickly become one of our favorites since its introduction in 2016. It's an open pollinated, open source variety that produces delicious savoyed spinach leaves. While we share seed from our plantings, I really recommend folks get their seed from commercial vendors, such as the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange or High Mowing Organic Seeds, unless you live and grow in an environment such as west central Indiana. Our saved seed has probably adapted somewhat to our local growing conditions. Such adaptations are part of why we save seed.

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

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