Senior Gardening

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



July 8, 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.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020 - Surprises

Our Senior Garden - July 7, 2020Snake under plant lightsI got a couple of surprises this morning. The first came as I reached for a tray of transplants under our plant lights. A black snake was laying across the plants! I grabbed my camera and got a shot of it. But before I could grab a burlap bag to catch the thing in and put it in our garden, the snake fell off the shelf and hid under our plant rack.

The second surprise was much more pleasant than the first. I'd been out watering our tomatoes and peppers in our East Garden plot. As I started up our back steps, I saw and heard a few raindrops hit the top of a trash can. In just a few minutes, a pop-up thundershower came through. While it seemed to rain fairly hard for a few minutes, our rain gauge showed only about a tenth of an inch of precipitation.

Earlier, while running water for our peppers and tomatoes, I began picking green beans. But sadly, after the rain, the plants are wet. Picking through wet bean plants can spread plant diseases, so the beans will have to wait.

Renee's Garden


Monday, July 6, 2020 - Digging Garlic

Our bed of garlicGarlic ScapesI dug our garlic this afternoon. The leaves of the garlic were beginning to brown. Some plants had put up scapes, a garlic form of asexual reproduction. And some plants had fallen or been knocked over.

Some folks say snapping off the scapes increases the size of the garlic bulbs. I'd snapped off a few of the scapes weeks ago, but left the rest simply because I like the way they look when they "bloom." While I've never tried them, garlic scapes are supposed to be good to eat.

Digging really isn't the right term for what I did today. Like with harvesting carrots, one puts a heavy garden fork deep in the soil beside the garlic bulb and lifts by pulling the handle back towards oneself. If you get deep enough, the lever action lifts the garlic, often with a gigantic soilball around its roots.

Huge clump of soil with rootballOur current dry spell worked for me in two ways this afternoon. First, none of the garlic showed any signs of rot. Second, the dry soil was a lot lighter to dig or lift than wet soil would have been.

We ended up getting 73 good garlic bulbs out of the about 80 I planted last fall. Actually, the garlic didn't get planted until December 26, the latest I've ever planted it. Combined with our recent dry spell, the late planting produced much smaller elephant garlic than usual. Our regular garlic was about its usual size. The smaller garlic size could also be due to my omitting adding bone meal under the garlic sets. The bone meal seemed to draw moles to our previous plantings.

It was 91° F (heat index 99° F) when I came in from digging, but there was an occasional gust of refreshing wind while I worked. I dug a little more than half of the garlic before taking a much needed rehydration break.

As usual, I set up drying/curing table in the garage, once again mentally thanking my wonderful wife for the heavy duty sawhorses she gave me.

Makeshift drying/curing table

I also opened the garage windows and turned on an ancient box fan I keep in the garage to keep some air movement going over the garlic.

Note that it's important to leave the leaves on the garlic as it cures. In the past when pressed for space, I've trimmed the garlic prematurely with less than wonderful results. The leaves apparently help the garlic bulbs cure.

For more information on growing garlic, see:

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Tilling East GardenAnother view of our East GardenToday's first job was tilling down weeds in the aisles between our rows of crops in our East Garden. Well actually, the first job was an hour's work required to switch out our lawn tractor from its mower deck to our pull-type rototiller. While our current dry spell presents some challenges in keeping stuff going, it also makes for good tilling conditions.

I was pleased to see that we'd not had any more critter damage to our sweet corn or melons overnight.

Our sweet corn was ready today for its first fertilization and cultivation. With our 36" row spacing, I use our walking tiller to cultivate, turning in a little 12-12-12 sidedressed along the rows. The walking tiller has the advantage of having one shield missing which allows soil to be thrown into an adjacent row to bury small weeds without burying the corn. Later in the day, I realized that I'd probably tilled in all of our smelly Irish Spring bar soap deer deterrent, so I went back out (in a hundred degree heat index) and cut up a bar and a half of the soap around our sweet corn and kidney beans.

Sweet corn with Irish Spring chips

Slick Pik yellow squash ripeningEncore peas upAfter three hours of mechanical work and tilling this morning, I was done for the day. And that was before it really got hot out.

I did notice with some delight that we have some yellow squash ripening. Our two other Slick Pik plants have blooms on them.

I'm also pleased to see our Encore peas came up well. Sadly, the supersweet Eclipse peas planted at the other end of the row totally failed. I'm undecided whether to re-seed, start transplants inside, or wait until next year for the Eclipse peas. Poor germination has always been one of their problems.

Even though the Encores are a short pea variety, they'll get a short trellis to climb on. Keeping the pea pods up off the ground prevents rot and makes for better seed saving.

Whether it's the Eclipse or Encore pea variety, I'm hoping to be able to share supersweet pea seed with other gardeners once the Seminis/Monsanto/Bayer PVP plant patents expire!

Free Shipping on Orders over $35

Saturday, July 4, 2020 - Fourth of July (U.S.) - Transplanting Cucumbers (and Snapdragons)

Transplanting cucumbers and snapdragonsLots of Japanese Long Pickling cucumbersI transplanted nine Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers and several snapdragons between the netting of our double trellis this morning. The Japanese Long Pickling variety is one we've worked for years to preserve. It produces lots of very long, straight (well, sometimes straight) cucumbers that are good for slicing, but better for pickling. We mostly use them for bread and butter pickles and sweet pickle relish. The first ripe cucumber usually gets chilled, sliced, and consumed with a bit of ranch dressing.

I began the transplanting session by watering the sixteen inch by fifteen foot planting area. I used a sprinkler can for the watering so as not to leave any depressions in the soil. About fifteen gallons of water wet the soil to about two inches down.

Each cucumber plant got a hole that had a gallon of transplanting solution added. After pushing the transplants into the soil and firming it around them, I also watered around each plant. With daily temperatures predicted to stay in the 90s for the next week, I'll have to baby these plants, watering them each day.

Cucumbers transplanted and trellis in place

Our strain of the Japanese Long Pickling cucumber variety came from one lone seed I'd saved for years. After a few years, inbreeding depression set in. I was lucky to find that Reimer Seeds carried the variety, although a slightly different strain than ours. I added a plant or two of their strain to serve as pollinators a few years ago. Our strain of the cucumber variety regained its vitality without losing its favorable characteristics.

JLP packet front JLP packet back

I offer 2018 seed for the Japanese Long Pickling cucumber variety via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Member Exchange. Since our 2019 crop suffered the same tragic error last year as did our Earlirouge tomatoes, getting a good seed crop this year is really important to me.

I always like to plant a few snapdragons along our trellis of cucumbers. While the cukes often overgrow the snaps, they eventually outlive the cucumber vines, producing beautiful fall displays of blooms. Our snapdragons this year are from some seed saved last year and from the Madame Butterflyicon variety.

Green beans ready to pickI did a light picking of green beans today. I saw that I could pick yesterday. Our three shorter day varieties were ready to pick, while our other, longer day varieties weren't quite there yet. I also pulled a fat onion to season the beans, telling me that it won' be long before we harvest onions.

The beans snapped and canned to five and a half pints. That's not a lot, but for a light first picking, I'm satisfied. Fortunately, so far, we have not experienced an influx of Japanese Beetles which can devastate a bean crop.

Besides some of our onions, our garlic seems ready to dig. It's time for me to set up our makeshift drying/curing table in the garage.

Despite the heat and humidity this afternoon, I finally got our lawn mowed. It was hard to tell where I'd mowed in some dryer parts of the yard while I left heaps of grass clippings in other areas.

The Home Depot

Friday, July 3, 2020

I got an early start on gardening this morning to beat the mid-day heat. When I got out to the East Garden, I was dismayed to find that another hill of melons had been mauled. The Tam Dew honeydew plants weren't apparently eaten, but were torn apart. With Tam Dews being a hundred day variety, there isn't enough growing season left for me to re-seed them into the hill. Instead, I seeded some Passport honeydew, as they're just a 73 days-to-maturity variety.

I again sprayed our sweet corn with Not Tonight, Deer! I also sprayed our melon vines and spread Irish Spring soap chips around them.

I watered, scuffle hoed, and mulched for a couple of hours in the East Garden.

As I returned to the house, I brought what was left of our last bale of peat moss with me. After a short break, I hoed in peat moss, lime, and fertilizer between our double trellis where our cucumbers will go. I optimistically began watering the bed from our sixty gallon rain barrel. Although the barrel was pretty full, the watering barely made a dent in the dryness of the half of the bed watered!

Cucumber bed in main raised bed prepared

Since I've been using a double trellis for a few years for our early peas followed by cucumbers, I've gotten the bed prep down pat. I raise the bottom wire of the trellis on one side. That gives me access to hoe in soil improvements. I also take time to tighten the clothesline wires that hold up the trellis, as the wire stretches in warm weather.

I'll probably start my gardening day tomorrow by watering the rest of the cucumber bed. I may transplant cukes into it if I can before it gets too hot. With our daily highs now in the 90s, it's no time to transplant in the heat of the day.

Spinach plants full of seed falling overAbundant Bloomsdale spinach stalk filled with seedAfter lunch and a short nap, I braved the heat and went out and snipped off Abundant Bloomsdale spinach stems laden with seed. I actually waited a bit too long to do this chore, as several of the plants had fallen over and/or begun dropping their seed. But I got a lot of stems filled with seed clusters. I later spent some time pulling the clusters off the stems and rubbing them between my fingers to separate the seed. When my fingers got sore from the task, I put the separated seed on a cookie sheet to dry and the stems in a paper grocery bag hung in our plant room to dry.

Things are getting really busy here. Trying not to work outside in the heat of the day, I'm not getting stuff done as I'd like.

Our lawn desperately needs to be mowed. Once the mowing is done, I'll need to switch out the lawn tractor from the mower deck to our pull-type rototiller, as weeds are trying to overwhelm our East Garden plot.

But mowing and tilling will have to wait, as our green beans are ready for a first light picking. There's no reason to put in the effort growing vegetables only to pick them when they're overripe. I might even dig a few baby carrots for a delicious side dish of steamed green beans and carrots seasoned with fresh garlic.

Our garlic is also ready to be dug. I may steal an early bulb for the green beans and carrots, but it too, can wait. The garlic certainly won't rot in the ground as dry as things are.

These are the nice kinds of gardening problems to have.

Have a wonderful Fourth of July. And keep a mask on when out and/or maintain social distance.

Thursday, July 2, 2020 - Bad News, Good News

Deer found our sweet corn last night. I thought I was ready for them, having spread chips of Ivory Spring bar soap around the planting. But it had rained, which seems to cut the effectiveness of the soap's odor. While the deer nipped the tops off some corn and uprooted some other plants, we still have enough corn to produce a nice crop...if we can keep the deer out of the patch. The nipped plants may not tassel, but could still produce ears. And fortunately, I hadn't yet thrown out the backup corn transplants I'd started.

Sweet corn nipped by deer

After surveying the damage, I grabbed our organic sprayer and loaded it up with Not Tonight, Deer! The deer repellent I'd mixed a year ago May smelled even worse than it did last year. I put a heavy spray of it on both our sweet corn and kidney beans.

Minnesota Midget cantaloupe hill damagedPassport honeydew plants uprootedI also found that a couple of our melon hills had been damaged overnight, presumably by deer. Since the melons were mulched, there were no incriminating deer tracks around the melon hills like there were in the unmulched sweet corn patch.

Our hill of Minnesota Midget cantaloupe had been roughed up, but one plant may survive. The plants in our hill of Passport honeydew had all been uprooted. I stuck the rootballs back in the ground, but they probably won't make it. I added seed to each hill.

The Good News

Re-seeded hill of Kazakh honeydew upVolunteer gloriosa daisy by mailboxOur hill of Kazakh honeydew that I re-seeded recently has three plants up. I not sure if I put three or four seeds in the ground to replace the plants that apparently died of natural causes. But we have three seedlings up.

Normally, I have a few replacement plants left over from our transplanting. I went a little crazy this year with our melon patch, putting in every melon transplant I had. I even cut out a couple of rows of potatoes from our original East Garden plan to make room for more melons. And actually, I'm not sure my old knees would hold up to all the digging involved in harvesting potatoes.

The surprise good news of the day was by our rural route box. As I drove up to get our mail, there was a volunteer daisy in bloom by the mailbox post!

After replacing plants and scuffle hoeing a bit, I surrendered pretty quickly to the heat and humidity today. While I really need to mow the lawn, I also still need to do our taxes! Yep, I'm a procrastinator. So as I wrote this afternoon, I was also downloading TurboTax updates.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Our Senior Garden - July 1, 2020AmazonI didn't get much gardening done in today's heat and humidity. But I'd resolved to correct one issue that has bothered me all spring.

Every time I've taken our near daily splashshot that tops this page, I've been annoyed that a young maple tree's branches obscured part of our narrow raised bed of Earlirouge tomatoes. So I got out my pruning supplies and removed the offending branches. Unfortunately, the nozzle on my can of Spectracide Aerosol Pruning Seal was clogged. I began soaking it in alcohol, but also ordered a new can of it.

As we move into full summer, I'm excited by the harvests to come. We'll certainly be picking green beans soon. We'll also dig garlic and spring carrots. And from the looks of our Earlirouge tomato plants, we'll be enjoying BLTs by mid-month. But looking at our current ten day extended weather forecast, I'll also be hauling lots of water to our garden plots.

Butternut vine outgrowing mulchButternut leaf showing powdery mildewWhen I took some spent pea vines out to dump on our compost pile, I saw that our butternut squash were outgrowing their initial grass clipping mulching. I added more mulch around them, but also noticed the beginnings of powdery mildew on one of the South Anna Butternut plants. South Anna's are supposed to be resistant to downy mildew. I guess that doesn't extend to powdery mildew! Both the butternut and pumpkin plants got a thorough spraying with Serenade biofungicide.

Note that I have again omitted a link to Serenade. Vendors who have the excellent product in stock are still price gouging, charging two to four times the normal price!

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


Previously on Senior Gardening


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