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Seed n such

J. D. MATTHEWS is Professor of Forestry, University of Aberdeen, Old Aberdeen, Scotland. Other members of the drafting team were H. Kriebel (United states), H. Barner (Denmark) and O. Fugalli (FAO).

Seed stands or seed production areas are formed to produce seed of the best provenances of forest trees; seed orchards are planted to produce seed of new improved cultivars. It is shown that forest trees flower and fruit most regularly and profusely when given favorable climatic conditions, sufficient growing space and adequate nutrition. Periodicity in flowering and fruiting can be further reduced by adequate protection from animals, insects and fungi which damage or destroy flowers, fruits and seeds.

Seed stands are formed by selecting vigorous, healthy and well-formed trees as seed trees and releasing their crowns by removal of all other trees in the crop. Fertilizers are applied to increase seed production and the ground cover is carefully managed.

Seed orchards may consist of clones of grafts, cuttings or layers derived from selected (plus) trees, or selected seedlings, derived from open or controlled pollination. Rapid early growth is essential for early onset of flowering. Thereafter production of well-filled viable seed is maintained by the use of fertilizers and careful treatment of the ground cover. Choice of rootstock and treatment with plant growth substances should eventually provide additional increases in flowering and seed production.

In both seed stands and seed orchards the degree of genetic improvement depends on effective isolation of the seed trees from inferior sources of pollen and on the intensity of selection practiced.

The object of seed certification procedures is to make available to the forester seed and plants that are true-to-name and satisfy certain minimum requirements of quality.

Four categories of seed and plants are moving in national and international trade: unclassified, source-identified, selected and certified. The first two categories of seed and plants are being discarded as rapidly as possible and are being replaced by selected and certified seed and plants.

Twelve national comprehensive certification schemes for forest seed and plants are analyzed to bring out the essential features of national schemes for forest seed and plants. The present lack of quick growing-on tests and the difficulties of separating provenances and cultivars of some species make essential adequate field inspection and records.

Six international bodies are active in matters affecting trading in forest tree seed. Nationally acceptable seed certification standards are being framed for forest tree seed and plants.

Consideration of the facts presented during the earlier chapters of this report leads to the conclusion that the use of well-filled viable seed of good inherent quality provides a sound basis for the raising of vigorous and healthy forests capable of producing wood of good quality. The efforts of forest geneticists and tree breeders to introduce superior provenances and improved cultivars into forest practice depend on the organization of an adequate supply of seed for which special seed producing units are required. Seed of the best provenances is produced in selected parts of natural forests or selected plantations which have been converted into seed stands or seed production areas; while seed of new improved cultivars is produced in seed orchards which consist of grafted plants or plants of seedling origin, derived from selected parent trees.

Besides being of a superior provenance or cultivar, the seed which reaches the forester for sowing in the nursery or in the forest must be clean, viable and healthy if wastefully low yields of plants or crop failures are to be avoided. In more precise terms, the seed must be free from impurities, possess high germinative capacity and be free from seed-borne pests and diseases. Thus, if the productivity of the forest is to be raised through the use of the products of selection and breeding, the supply of seed and plants must be so organized and regulated that it is possible to obtain seed and plants that are both true-to-name and satisfy certain minimum requirements of quality.

Seed production areas and seed orchards exist to produce the greatest possible yield of well-filled viable seed. Their successful management depends on a thorough knowledge of the genetics and physiology of flowering and seed production, and it is therefore necessary to summarize the present state of knowledge on these subjects. For the sake of brevity, this summary is largely derived from a recent review by Matthews (1963) of some of the factors affecting the production of seed by forest trees. The reader is also referred to Chapter 6 of this report and to the paper by Kozlowski (1963).

Initiation of flower buds

The juvenile phase of growth has already been discussed in Chapter 6 and it is convenient to begin here at the adult phase of growth when the flowering condition has been attained.

In many temperate tree species flower primordia are formed early in the growing season preceding the spring in which the flowers appear. The critical period appears to lie between early May and the end of July. A certain minimum degree of heat is apparently necessary for flower bud initiation. Trees grown in sunny positions come into flower earlier in life and flower more regularly and prolifically than those grown in a close stand or in shade. A reduction in water supply in summer is frequently associated with flower bud formation but lack of moisture evidently can become a limiting factor and cases are known where irrigation resulted in an increased seed crop. Sarvas (1962, 1963) has provided ample evidence for Pinus sylvestris that flowering and seed production are better on the more fertile sites. Although similar detailed studies of the relationship between flowering, seed production and high soil nutrient status are lacking for other species, it is now generally accepted that a relatively high soil nutrient status is essential for the regular initiation of flower buds and that vegetative vigor per se does not necessarily preclude flower bud initiation (Priestley, 1962).

There is no doubt that on many forest sites the application of fertilizers will stimulate flowering and seed production but the results obtained so far have been very variable. Responses in flowering and fruiting have been obtained from the application of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium applied singly; from combinations of nitrogen and phosphorus, and phosphorus and potassium; and from complete NPK fertilizers. In at cases where the fertilizer was applied in combination with crown release by thinnings, the combined treat meets produced better results than were obtained with fertilizer alone, and the same obtains where fertilizes has been applied in combination with irrigation.

Little is known of the role of plant growth substances and the internal changes in forest trees associated with flowering, but the success of Japanese workers in using gibberellic acid to induce flowering in a number of coniferous tree species encourages further research into the role of plant growth substances in flower initiation.

Flowering and pollination

The importance of adequate pollination for the development of viable seed by forest trees has been well demonstrated for several species. Cross pollination is the general but by no means universal rule in many tree species of economic importance, and a considerable number are more or less self-sterile.

It now appears that the dispersal of pollen in wind-pollinated species is not so dependent on the weather prevailing during the period of flowering as was once thought; the reason appears to lie in the great speed and quantity of pollen dispersal as soon as conditions are right. Extensive observations on the flowering of Betula verrucosa, B. pubescens, Picea abies and Pinus sylvestris in Finland led Sarvas to conclude that the start of flowering, the duration, and the occurrence of the peak of flowering are all closely dependent on temperature. Strong winds may accelerate pollen release and rain may interrupt it, though rain seems to have less effect on pollination and seed set than has often been assumed. In the case of insect-pollinated species, such as Acer pseudoplatanus and Tilia , good flying weather for insects is required for pollination, that is bright, dry and fairly calm weather. The reader is referred to the paper by Sarvas (1963) for information on the design of pollen catching equipment.

There are many records of small amounts of airborne tree pollen traveling great distances from the source (” foreign pollen “) but several workers have shown that the bulk of airborne pollen falls fairly close to its source (” local pollen “). The results suggest that pollination is mainly effected by trees in the immediate vicinity of the seed tree. However, the behavior of pollen produced by stands of trees must also be considered as well as factors affecting the distance of dispersal including the size and shape of the stand, and the quantity and nature of the pollen produced (Andersson, 1955, 1963). Pollination conditions are best in extensive stands containing trees with well-developed crowns.

Fertilization and seed formation

Pollination is normally followed by fertilization. The process of pollen formation, pollen shedding and sub sequent germination on the tip of the nucellus in Larix and Pseudotsuga is described in detail by Barner and Christianson (1960, 1962). The lapse of time between pollination and fertilization is usually quite short, but in Pinus the interval is about one year.

The comprehensive study made by Sarvas (1962) can again be referred to for a good account of the normal course of fertilization in Pinus sylvestris. The pollen grains are normally very viable, they develop sperm nuclei with great regularity and these are carried with great accuracy to the eggs by the pollen. The eggs are generally fertile and there appear to be no genetic barriers that significantly prevent fertilization. However, the competition between developing embryos is often decided by genetic factors as, for example, when the union of semi-lethal genes to form homozygotes at fertilization leads to the defeat of the embryo during the competition in the embryo cavity.

Nonpollinated ovules gradually collapse, mostly during the first growing season and in Pinus poorly-pollinated cones soon drop. High embryo mortality in Pinus sylvestris is attributed by Sarvas (1962) to self-fertilization, and Ehrenberg et al. (1955) also showed that self-fertilization often results in poor germination of full seeds and inferior progenies.

The size of the seed crop

Trees that bear heavily one year and then sparsely or not at all for several years are said to show periodicity in seed-bearing. In many species the seed crop of one year affects the seed crop of the following year, both through the reduction of potential foliage-producing or vegetative buds and the reduction of carbohydrate resources (Kozlowski, 1962; Priestley, 1962). The flowering and seed production of young trees is commonly sparse and sporadic but increases rapidly with increasing age and size. Within a forest stand it is the larger, dominant trees that bear the most seed but there are also inherent differences between trees in flowering, fruiting and the production of viable seed that make necessary careful selection for fertility and fruitfulness.

Good flower years occur much more frequently than good seed years. There may be several reasons why a spate of flowers often fails to produce a spate of seed, but deficient pollination, the effects of self-fertilization, the activities of seed-destroying and cone and fruit-damaging insects, animals and birds and unfavorable weather are usually to blame for this. Periodicity in flowering and seed production depends to a large extent on external factors and protection from climatic dangers and the animals, birds, insects and fungi that damage or destroy flowers, fruit and seed should do much to mitigate, but not prevent irregular seed production. For many species the gap between good seed years can be bridged by the use of refrigerated seed storage.

The quality of the seed crop

The spells of warm, dry sunny weather which appear to favor the initiation of flower buds and the accumulation of carbohydrate resources also favor the maturing of the fruit and seed. Considerable variation in seed quality and time of maturation has been found between individual trees and stands of the same species.

In northern latitudes a greater part of the cone or fruit crop is borne on the south than on the north side of the crowns of seed trees. This distribution affects the methods used to assess the size of seed crops. In many species the best cones, fruits and seeds are generally found on the middle and upper parts of the crowns. There is also a variation in seed quality within the cones of many coniferous species, the middle portion being the most productive of well-fired viable seed.

Two general recommendations for the improvement of seed supplies can be made.

1. Full advantage should be taken of good seed years in all species, because the highest proportion of well-filled viable seed is produced in such years.

2. Much can be gained by improving seed collection methods both from standing trees and from the ground as in Fagus, Quercus and Tectona.

Objects and choice of seed stands

The objects of forming seed stands or seed production areas are to:

1. produce seed of improved inherent quality by selecting and favoring seed trees which are vigorous, straight-stemmed and healthy and produce wood of good quality;

2. concentrate seed collection into a few specially treated parts of the forest, thus making seed collection easier to organize and control;

3. improve the germinative energy and germinative capacity of the seed collected.

All three objects can be achieved by one simple treatment, that is, the careful selection of seed trees and the complete isolation of the crowns of these seed trees by thinnings.

A necessary preliminary to the formation of seed stands is a survey of the region (Figure 20) to locate suitable natural stands or plantations (Jensen and Broekhuizen, 1952; Arnborg and Åkebrand, 1955; Matyas, 1960; Morandini, 1956). A seed source is a crop of fast-growing and healthy trees with good growth habit suitable for seed production. Plus seed sources are suitable for regular and intensive seed collection; normal seed sources are suitable provided careful selection is made of the seed trees; minus stands are unsuitable for seed collection. A seed source becomes a seed stand or seed production area when all defective trees have been removed, leaving the best trees isolated to develop big crowns and so produce more seed. The ground and the seed trees may also be treated to increase the seed crops and make collection easier.

Seed stands are usually formed in natural forests or plantations that are sufficiently old or sufficiently well-developed to provide reasonable assurance that they are well adapted to the site and will continue to show rapid and healthy growth. A suitable lower limit is a top height of 11 to 12 meters (36 to 39 feet) (Faulkner, 1962) and a good upper limit is half the rotation age (Rudolf, 1960). Clearly it is desirable to convert relatively young stands because the response of younger trees to thinnings and fertilizers is greatest and there will be opportunity as the trees develop in later years to make further selection among the seed trees. Nevertheless, many outstanding or plus stands approaching or at the age of maturity for timber purposes can form valuable seed stands. The area of seed stand required can be fixed by observing the average seed production of well-grown trees and setting this against the future planting or regeneration program.

FIGURE 20. – Seed collection map for Picea abies in the Province of Alvsborg, Sweden. Districts with good stands are indicated by cross hatching; minus district are blank. Stands chosen for seed collection are marked by dots.

Isolation from foreign pollen

An additional criterion in choosing seed stands is the absence of neighboring natural stands or plantations of the same or closely related species which are of poor or minus quality. Such isolation from inferior sources of pollen is very important. It has already been shown in this chapter that dispersal distance is affected by very many factors and it is easy to oversimplify a complex situation. Nevertheless, when fixing the size of isolation strips around the seed stand and isolation distances from large sources of undesired foreign pollen, it should be remembered that the degree of contamination by foreign pollen is roughly proportional to the size of its source, and that contamination is least when the size of the seed stand and the local pollen cloud are large in relation to the cloud of foreign pollen. These considerations are the basis for the recommendation that seed stands should be at least 3 and preferably 5 hectares (7.5 to 12 acres) in extent (Andersson, 1963).

Selection of seed trees

The first step in forming a seed stand is to select and mark the seed trees. These should be fast-grown healthy dominants capable of producing wood of good quality. The stems should be persistent and straight, and also free from defects such as fluting, spiral grain and epicormic shoots. The branches should be smart in relation to the stem at the point of origin, the branch angle should be flattened to moderately ascending, and good natural pruning is also a desirable feature. The crowns should be compact and well-provided with foliage and the trees should show signs of having borne seed in the past. Where wood characters such as specific gravity or tracheid and fiber dimensions can be clearly specified, it may also be possible to select seed trees for these characters.

The number and relative superiority of the seed trees marked have an important effect on the genetic improvement of the progeny raised from the seed collected in the seed stand. More precisely, the genetic gain or change in the average genotype of the population produced by the selection of seed trees depends on the heritability of the characters for which selection is made, the variability of these characters and the proportion of the population selected. The genetic gain from seed stands is greater when the proportion selected is low, but the number of seed trees per hectare must be sufficient to ensure adequate cross-pollination between the seed trees, thus avoiding the effects of self-pollination or inbreeding.

Thinning seed stands

The second stage in forming a seed stand is the removal of the phenotypically inferior trees to free completely the crowns of the seed trees. Sometimes seed stands are formed from groups or avenues and such trees often have long, well-developed crowns. In most cases, however, the seed stands will previously have been managed for wood production so that the crowns of the seed trees are relatively small. This is particularly the case in the light-demanding species of Pinus and Larix and also holds for Tectona grandis, Eucalyptus species and Casuarina . The frequency and intensity of thinnings to achieve full crown release must depend on local conditions, and particularly the danger of windthrow, but the sooner the seed trees are isolated the better for future seed production. The first thinnings should be in the nature of heavy crown thinnings to free the crowns of the seed trees, and to remove large, rough dominants from the seed stand and isolation strip. Thereafter the remaining trees are removed as soon as convenient or safe.

The next step is to consider what other treatments should be applied to increase flowering and seed production still further and to make their occurrence more regular. Root pruning and stem girdling or strangulation are likely to be more harmful then helpful, but the application of fertilizers stands out as a beneficial and worthwhile treatment, especially where soil fertility is relatively low.

The quantities and relative proportions of the various major elements which are necessary to stimulate flowering and seed production obviously vary with the nature of the crop, especially the age and size of the trees and the site conditions. It is, however, clear that the fertilizer should correct existing deficiencies and supplement the major nutrients and for this a general prescription such as 2N: 1P: 2K at the rate per hectare of 112 kilograms of nitrogen, 56 kilograms of phosphorus and 112 kilograms of potassium (or about 100 pounds of nitrogen, 50 pounds of phosphorus and 100 pounds of potassium per acre) would appear to be a good starting point for fertilizer treatments. Usually the fertilizer is applied over the whole area but where the seed trees are scattered it is preferable to apply it below each seed tree to an area of ground one-and-a-half times the diameter of the crown.

In general the best time to apply compound fertilizers is in early spring before the new flower buds are differentiated: the period February to May is suitable in the temperate regions. But the most effective time of application does vary somewhat with the major elements, and it appears that nitrogen should be applied in late spring but not later than May (Devitt, 1960). Potassium can also be applied in spring but phosphorus may best be applied in autumn (Ozawa and Matsukai, 1958). Finally, it appears certain that fertilizer application will in most cases have to be repeated if high seed production is to be sustained. Irrigation cannot be dealt with in detail here but it may have an important part to play in areas where water supply can become limiting to flowering and seed production.

Other treatments of trees and ground

The stems of seed trees in older seed stands should be high-pruned to the base of the living crown to facilitate the use of the Swiss tree bicycle or special ladders for climbing to collect the seed (Seal, 1959; Carlborg, 1961; Hagner and Bergman, 1961), but no live branches should be removed from the base of the crown because this is the region of pollen production in many species. If truck-mounted ladders are used (FAO, 1958), any undergrowth and lop and top will either have to be removed from the site or stacked in heaps so that the truck can be maneuvered.

Strong weed growth often develops on the forest floor following the application of fertilizers and heavy thinnings; if allowed to grow unchecked, shrubs and weeds will be a serious barrier to the collection of the fruits and nuts of Quercus , Fagus and other species which are picked from the ground. Such weed growth can be suppressed by regular cutting and clearing or by the use of complete weedkillers such as “Simazine” or “Monuron” which have given promising results in apple orchards (Anon, 1960). Another possibility worth serious consideration is the use of leguminous ground crops; this has been the subject of much investigation for maintaining the health and yield of Hevea plantations in Malaya (Watson, 1963).

Where there is little or no ground cover, the fallen seed can be easily seen and taken by birds and the use of bird-scaring devices may become necessary.

Protection against fungi, insects and animals

The effects of these agencies in reducing flower, cone and fruit crops have already been stressed. The immediate application of creosote or other recommended chemical to the freshly cut stumps of felled trees in coniferous seed stands will reduce the spread of infection by Fomes annosus (Low and Gladman, 1960). Hardwood stumps which show signs of attack by Armillaria mellea should be grubbed up and burned where this is practicable.

When crown feeding insects assume epidemic proportions, as, for example, Bupalus piniarius on Pinus sylvestris , control should generally be achieved by applications of DDT, using ground fogging machines; aerial sprays are not normally economically justified. For tall trees in seed stands and smaller seed trees in seed orchards, systemic insecticides may eventually provide a suitable means of protection against the attacks of shoot borers and Adelges species, but this method is still at an early stage of development. Of the insects which attack flowers and seeds, Megastigmus species are among the most important at present.

The gray squirrel ( Sciurus carolinensis ) is a serious pest feeding on nuts, buds and bark. It can be controlled by poking out drays and shooting or trapping (United Kingdom Forestry Commission, 1960). Wide metal bands placed round the stems of widely spaced seed trees have been used in the United States of America to prevent red squirrels climbing (Tackle, 1957).

Many species of both wild and game birds eat fallen seeds and some, for example the crossbill ( Loxia curvirostra ), extract seeds from cones. Control measures may be necessary and will depend on the wild life laws of the country concerned.

Zobel et al. (1958) have defined a seed orchard as a plantation of genetically improved trees, isolated to reduce pollination from genetically inferior outside sources and intensively managed to produce frequent, abundant and easily harvested seed crops. It is established by setting out clones or seedling progeny of trees selected for the desired characters. Seed orchards are often established while genetic evaluation of the parent material is still under way. In such cases components shown by progeny testing to be genetically undesirable will subsequently be removed from the seed orchards.

FIGURE 21. – The procedure used to form clonal seed orchards in Sweden. A. Twenty-five high elevation plus trees between latitudes 62 and 64° North are selected and grafted. The grafts are planted in a seed orchard on the coast. The seeds from the orchard give seedlings for planting in the interior.

C. A sketch showing the arrangement of the grafts in one part of an orchard containing 25 clones. At the first thinning every other tree is removed.

Kinds of seed orchard

There are several kinds of seed orchard. Clonal seed orchards consist of grafts, rooted cuttings or layers; while seedling seed orchards are composed of selected progenies derived from open-pollination or controlled crosses. Clonal seed orchards may be subdivided into those in which the clones are from plus or untested parent trees; and those composed of clones from elite or tested parent trees.

Concentrating first on clonal seed orchards based on plus trees, three kinds may be recognized on the basis of the origin of the clones:

1. Plus trees are selected from a specified geographic or climatic region; or from a group of stands; or, more rarely, from a single stand. All the plus trees are of the same species. This is a very common kind of seed orchard, and the procedure employed is illustrated in Figure 21.

2. Plus trees are of the same species but originate from different geographic regions. These are called “provenance seed orchards” by Andersson (1960) who described one such seed orchard containing Swedish and Polish clones of Picea abies.

3. Plus trees are of different species and the object is to produce interspecific hybrids. Examples are
the seed orchards planted to produce seed of the F 1 hybrid Larix decidua x L. leptolepis = Larix x eurolepis. Andersson (1963) calls these “species crossing seed orchards.”

Clonal seed orchards composed of elite or tested clones will form the next generation of seed orchards. Their formation is dependent on systematic test crosses made in the seed orchards composed of plus or untested clones.

Seedling seed orchards have been advocated by Wright (1963) who bases his argument on a theoretical comparison of the response to selection or genetic gain to be expected from several alternative selection procedures.

Test crosses in seed orchards

The design of test crosses and the associated progeny testing have already been discussed in Chapter 2. To repeat the main point, the object is to identify clones showing low combining ability so that they may be removed from the seed orchard. The minimum number of clones in seed orchards composed of plus trees is now generally accepted to be 20 or 30, and a common maximum number is 60 clones. When elite or tested clones are available 2-clone orchards are envisaged by Andersson (1963).

Choice of site and ground treatments

Seed orchards are planted on sites well isolated from large areas of plantations of the same or related species, the distances recommended being up to 1,000 meters (1,100 yards), and favorable to the regular initiation of flower buds and the regular production of large crops of well-filled viable seed. The local climatic requirements are shelter from strong wind and adequate air drainage to reduce the damage done to flowers and fruits by frosts. Soils with a good nutrient status are preferred; the evidence presented in the first part of this chapter suggests that is it generally a mistake to site seed orchards on soils of low nutrient status.

There are three possible ground treatments during the early growth of seed orchards: clean cultivation (this being the treatment favored in Sweden at the present time), cover crops and sward (see Figures 21, 22, and 23; see also Figure 25 on page 123). Once the seed trees are well established, the sward appears to be a convenient treatment for many temperate tree species because of the relatively simple management and, by analogy with fruit trees, beneficial effects on the potassium and phosphorus status of the seed trees. On the three main types of sward used in fruit orchards, that is, the “tumble down,” white clover sward and grass-white clover sward, the last appears to satisfy the three conditions of contributing soil humus, supplying some nitrogen (through the clover) and providing good ground cover. It should be noted, however, that drought effects can develop under uncut sward conditions so regular grass cutting or grazing is essential. Again, as with seed stands, grass swards are not suitable for all species and leguminous cover crops are worth consideration (Watson, 1963).

Manurial regimes for seed orchards are unlikely to differ much from those already suggested for seed stands, with the possible exception of methods of application. In top-fruit orchards (that is, apples, pears, etc.) certain fertilizers, in particular nitrogen and magnesium, are often more readily absorbed by the leaves of trees than through the roots. Olroyd (1957) made special reference to foliar applications of urea to top fruits.

Distance between seed trees

The most suitable distance between seed trees varies with species and methods of management, but initial planting distances should not be too wide because pollen production will be sparse and consequently the yield of viable seed will be rather low in the early years. Moreover, at a later stage, clones or seedlings shown by test crosses and progeny tests to be genetically inferior are also removed from the seed orchard, thus giving more growing space for the trees which remain.

Layouts designed to allow one or two “mechanical” thinnings are now general. The distances recommended range from initial spacings of 3 meters (10 feet) for Pinus sylvestris and Fagus sylvatica (Jensen, 1954; Matthews, 1960) to final spacings of 6 to 9 meters (20 to 30 feet) for species of southern American pines Zobel et al. , 1958). The arrangement of the clones of grafted plants or seedling progenies must meet the requirements of adequate cross-pollination and reduced self-pollination and so a randomized distribution of single seed trees is general (see especially Andersson and Andersson, 1962, and also Figure 21c). The value of clone or tree banks as a means of preliminary screening of clones for time and pattern of flowering, self compatibility and other related characters is worth stressing here.

Treatment of seed trees

In seed orchards the seedlings, grafts or cuttings should be encouraged by careful choice of site and favorable treatment at planting to grow rapidly from the beginning; this should lead to an early onset of flowering and fruiting. Thereafter, everything should be done to favor rapid growth and the best treatments appear to be regular crown release, the application of organic and inorganic fertilizers, control of the ground cover, pruning and geotropic treatments and, in some areas, irrigation. It may also be necessary to stimulate flowering by excessive applications of fertilizers, restricting water supply, stem girdling or root pruning, but in general these should be regarded as emergency or experimental, rather than regular, treatments. In the long term, choice of rootstock and treatment with plant growth substances will play their part.

Shoot bending, pruning and other crown treatments

The literature on these subjects has recently been reviewed by Matthews (1963). The orientation of the shoot has a marked effect on flower initiation in apple and species of Larix . The geotropic or branch bending treatment developed for Larix by Longman and Wareing (1958) can be applied in larch seed orchards by tying branches of the seed trees into a downward pointing position during the dormant season. Goddard et al. (1962) report favorable flowering responses from bending over grafts of Pinus elliottii in Florida. Disbudding to induce or increase flowering has proved useful in Pinus sylvestris , and pinching off the shoot tips before meiosis takes place has been used in Japan in experiments on the artificial control of sex differentiation in Pinus densiflora and P. thunbergii (see Matthews, 1963. There is also scope for much more work on the effects of foliar application of growth regulators and nutrients on the initiation and differentiation of flower buds. Finally, it is clear that attention should in general be focused on the use of shoot bending, pruning (Figures 22 and 23), nutrients and growth substances to increase pollen production, which is often insufficient in young seed orchards of Pinus species.

Use of selected rootstocks in grafting

It is now commonplace to find that grafted plants, formed by grafting scions taken from adult flowering trees on to seedling rootstocks in the juvenile nonflowering condition, soon begin to flower and bear seed. This is the basis of seed production in clonal seed orchards. In fruit orchards, selected clonal rootstocks are used to control the size of the grafted tree and the nature of the fruit bearing, and it would appear that the use of selected clonal rootstocks will also lead to similar benefits or uniformity and control of tree behavior in tree seed orchards. The idea is not new, Johnsson and others having grafted Pinus sylvestris scions on to seedling rootstocks of Pinus mugo and two origins of Pinus sylvestris . Analysis of the cone and seed harvest of 1959 and 1960 from these trees (Johnsson, 1961) failed to reveal any influence of the rootstocks on the seed production of the scions, so the only evidence so far is negative. Nevertheless, an additional problem associated with the interaction of rootstock and scion is that of incompatibility of the graft union and this has been reported for Pseudotsuga taxifolia and Fagus sylvatica and may make necessary increased attention to selection of rootstocks.

Protection against fungi, insects and animals

A factor which may have to be considered in the siting and subsequent treatment of Pinus seed orchards is the damage done by cone rusts. An example is provided by Cronartium strobilinum which damages the cones of Pinus elliottii and P. palustris. Quercus virginiana appears to be the most important alternate host, and Maloy and Matthews (1960) have recommended the siting of Pinus elliottii seed orchards away from Quercus virginiana and rust control measures in established seed orchards. In young seed orchards of Larix , Pinus and Pseudotsuga taxifolia the Adelges species which commonly appear on the grafted plants can be controlled by “Malathion” sprays. As in seed stands, systemic insecticides may also prove useful as a control measure in the future.

The future for seed orchards

In conclusion, it may be said that the early development of seed orchards in Europe and America has been very promising, but the problem of mass-controlled pollination requires attention and more must be learned about the variation in self-incompatibility of the different clones and the role and nature of inbreeding. The early estimates of annual seed yields for Pinus sylvestris , which ranged from 11 to 16 kilograms of seed per hectare (10 to 15 pounds per acre), now appear, after 10 years’ experience, to be sound (Johnsson, 1961), and the estimates for other species – for Larix 17 to 22 kilograms per hectare (16 to 20 pounds per acre) and for Pinus taeda 22 to 45 kilograms per hectare (20 to 41 pounds per acre) – also appear to be reasonable. There are now very considerable areas of seed orchard and, although most of them have been planted during the past 10 years, there is no doubt that they form a valuable and essential part of forest genetics and tree breeding work.

The efficiency of clonal seed orchards in producing regular crops of well-filled viable seed will depend to a large extent on the knowledge gained about the flowering and fruiting behavior of the present clones.

Need for certification

The object of the certification of tree seed and plants is to maintain and make available to the practicing forester sources of seeds, plants and other propagating materials of superior provenances and cultivars so grown and distributed as to insure the genetic identity and high quality of the seed and plants.

Superior provenances are identified by means of provenance tests (see Chapter 4). The duration of these tests depends on the rate of growth and the length of the economic rotation for each species but, in general, it must be accepted that provenance tests are essentially long-term experiments. The need to provide safe prescriptions for the movement of seed and plants so that expensive losses in wood production can be avoided has led foresters in countries with large variations of site and climate to devise zoning schemes defined in terms of latitude or distance and elevation (see Rudolf, 1963). Thus in Austria (Tschermak, 1953), Czechoslovakia (Vincent, 1958), Norway (Austin, 1959), Sweden (Langlet, 1936, 1945, 1957) and the Federal Republic of Germany (Hermann and Astinet, 1961) to name a few such countries, seed is collected and the plants are utilized within the same zone. Countries with smaller ranges of site and climate tend, when importing seed, to look for seed sources growing in places with similar features of site and climate, although as the results of provenance tests accrue the specification can sometimes be made less strict and the search for superior provenances tends to range farther afield.

The state forest services of many countries maintain registers of seed sources which list classified seed sources for home use and export, and acceptable provenances that can be imported. General lists of acceptable provenances covering a wide range of species have been published in the United Kingdom (Macdonald, 1957), Denmark (Barner, 1958, and Gøhrn, 1962) and Belgium (Reginster, 1954) and more restricted lists are available in other countries. Even if the best provenances are not yet known, foresters are often clear about what they should not use.

The rapid progress made with selection and breeding in the genus Populus has been largely due to the easy propagation of many species and hybrids by means of stem cuttings. There is a very wide range of distinct and stable cultivars in use, and control of genetic identity is exercized in most western European countries, partly by control of the sales of planting stock (as in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain) and partly by the distribution of cuttings from registered stool beds (as in Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom).

The production of cultivars of those species of forest trees that are reproduced through seed is now developing rapidly and, as the seed production areas and seed orchards described earlier in this chapter become more productive, an increasing quantity of seed and plants of superior provenances and improved cultivars will be available for general use. The efforts of forest geneticists and tree breeders will be largely nullified unless certification procedures are available to maintain the genetic purity and quality of the seed and plants.

Categories of seed and plants

Four broad categories of tree seed and plants are moving in national and international trade (Isaac, 1960; Sweden, 1951) and these categories are distinguished by the precision with which origin is described; the degree of selection of the seed trees and their isolation from foreign pollen; whether the offspring of the seed trees have been tested or not; the amount of supervision and independent inspection of seed collection, processing and storage, and plant production; and the standards of record keeping and labeling. It is convenient to describe these four categories of seed and plants in ascending order of genetic value.

1. Unclassified seed and plants. The origin of this category is unknown or inadequately described, or the seed has been collected in stands not classed as seed sources by a recognized agency because of poor quality of the trees or lack of isolation from inferior trees of the same or closely related species. Unclassified seed is largely collected from felled or stunted trees and the seed, and plants are collected, raised and marketed with little or no supervision. The object of every country is to discard this category of seed and plants as rapidly as possible.

2. Source-identified seed and plants. This category is derived from good natural stands and plantations registered as seed sources by a competent service. The place or region where the seed is collected is clearly defined; the seed is harvested, processed and stored and the plants are raised under supervision and independent inspection; the labeling is adequate and records are available for inspection.

3. Selected seed and plants. The seed is collected from carefully selected seed trees growing in natural stands and plantations classified as better than average and registered by a competent service. Trees that do not conform to stated standards of growth rate, stem and crown form, branching habit, health and other characters are removed as rapidly as possible from within the stand and from an isolation surround of prescribed width. These seed stands or seed production areas are also treated to increase seed production by means of fertilizer applications and protective measures against the animals, insects and fungi that damage seed. The statements made for source-identified seed about supervision, independent inspection, labeling and records also apply to selected seed.

4. Certified seed and plants. This category is derived mainly from clonal seed trees in seed orchards (and also from elite trees and stands) whose genetic superiority has been proved by progeny testing to standards defined by a competent service: Certified seed and plants are produced in a manner that insures genetic identity and proved interspecific hybrids may be included in this category. Clonal seed orchards contain highly selected clones arranged to favor cross-pollination. The site is well isolated from pollen of inferior trees of the same or closely related species. Certified seed is harvested, processed and stored, and certified plants are raised under supervision and independent inspection. The labeling is adequate and records are available for inspection. In particular, the exact sources of the individual components of the seed orchards and the results of progeny testing must be readily available (Wakeley, 1960). Seed collected from seed orchards before progeny testing is completed is sometimes sold as plus or selected seed.

TABLE 9. – PROGRESS OF THIRTY COUNTRIES TOWARD NATIONAL CERTIFICATION SCHEMES

Seed n such J. D. MATTHEWS is Professor of Forestry, University of Aberdeen, Old Aberdeen, Scotland. Other members of the drafting team were H. Kriebel (United states), H. Barner (Denmark) and O.

Seed n such

The Old Guy’s Garden Record

Friday, December 1, 2017

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Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.

We’re beginning this December with some pleasant days with high temperatures in the 50s. But by the middle of next week, high temperatures will hover just over freezing. The ground will gradually freeze, ending most outdoor gardening activity.

After cleaning up the last of our regular garden beds, I’ll need to cut and clear our asparagus beds of stalks to reduce the chances of insect or disease carryover. I still have a bag of saved compost to spread over Bonnie’s Asparagus Patch, a second patch just off our property that we care for (and gladly harvest).

All of our pots and hanging baskets have been soaked in bleach water, washed and dried, and stored in our basement plant room. I still have a bunch of trays to clean on one of our few remaining warm, sunny days. I also need to haul the tub of various garden chemicals from our back porch to the basement for the winter. Letting that stuff repeatedly freeze and thaw over the winter just doesn’t seem to be a very good idea, although I have no facts to back up that opinion. I’ll also spread the last of our remaining Serenade biofungicide over areas where we’ll be growing tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers next season. I’m not sure that will do any real good, but I like to start each gardening season with fresh biologicals (Serenade, Thuricide, and Milky Spore).

I didn’t get our inventory of seed on hand completed in November, so I’ll need to take a day early this month to complete that task. Once that is done, I can begin to seriously scan seed catalogs for seed we’ll need to order for next season. Since we start things like petunias, daisies, geraniums, impatiens, vinca, and onions in January, I’ll need to place our main seed orders this month.

Garlic Bed Ready

I’d planned to plant garlic this morning. When I got out to our main raised garden bed, I realized that the soil there was just barely dry enough to be rototilled. So instead of planting garlic, I spread peat moss, lime, and fertilizer over the bed and thoroughly tilled it. Doing so will make planting the garlic easier and save me a lot of weed problems next spring. There was also more mulch and garden trash on the soil surface than I’d like. That organic trash is now tilled under. I also took time to stake my rows for the garlic and spread Milky Spore over the bed.

With the tiller out, I also turned a narrow raised bed and mulched it for our early peas. In March, I’ll pull back the mulch from the center of the bed to seed the peas.

I also found time to snip a few cuttings from our wandering jew plant. It’s beginning to show signs of age, so I need to get a replacement pot of plants started. I usually root the cuttings first in water and then dip them in Clonex Rooting Compound Gel before putting them into sterile potting soil.

Enjoy What You’ve Read?

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Saturday, December 2, 2017 – Garlic Planted (finally!)

I got our garlic planted this morning. After delaying planting for several weeks to allow our soil to dry out, I was finally able to rototill our main raised garden bed yesterday. According to my records, December 2 is the latest I’ve ever planted garlic, although we planted it several years in late November with good results.

When I tilled, I turned under a (3.8 cu ft) bale and a half of peat moss into the garlic area and where we’ll grow our spring carrots. The remaining half bale went into our narrow bed where we’ll grow our early peas. That bed’s soil level had dropped a bit and needed to be restored.

I also turned in a very light sprinkling of 12-12-12 commercial fertilizer, some lime, and a fairly heavy amount of Muriate of Potash (0-0-60). When the tilling was completed, I topdressed the entire raised bed with Milky Spore, as we’re still having lots of mole activity under the bed. Obvious mole tunnels outside the bed got some poison peanuts dropped into them.

With my garlic cloves already separated and chosen, planting was just a matter of making a hole with our garlic dibble, sprinkling a little bone meal into each hole, and then making sure the garlic clove went in root side down and pointy side up. Most of the garlic got about two inches of soil over it, although I put in the elephant garlic a little deeper. I planted one row of elephant garlic and three rows of mixed softneck and hardneck garlic.

Our garlic dibble has homemade markings on it for depth. While I don’t drive the dibble in quite to the eight inch mark when making a hole, that measurement is important, as I lay the dibble down to make sure I’m spacing the garlic about eight inches apart in the row.

Preparing the soil and selecting and separating the garlic cloves took several hours previously this week. Planting this morning took a half hour!

Growing Garlic is our tutorial on growing, harvesting, and storing garlic.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Our Twilley Seed catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. Their catalog cover art this year belies Twilley’s usual outstanding product illustrations in the catalog.

We’ve used Twilley for most of our sweet corn seed since our farming years in the 1980s. They were a pioneer in carrying sh 2 supersweet sweet corn seed and continue to carry an extensive array of sweet corn varieties.

While the price of some of Twilley’s sweet corn offerings may jolt you a bit, they have some real bargains in flower seed. If you’re looking for small quantities of flower seed that isn’t a new offering, there are lots of varieties to choose from at just a buck and a half per packet.

Today’s mail brought a package from Seeds ‘n Such, a new vendor I decided to try. Their catalog arrived with half of the front cover torn off. That turned out to be a good thing, as it revealed their offering of the new AAS winner, American Dream sh 2 bicolor sweet corn on page 3. They seemed to have the best price around for their untreated seed. Several companies that should know better are selling the seed treated with products containing neonicotinoids which have been linked to honey-bee colony collapse disorder (CCD).

I also ordered a very small packet of Bella Rosa tomato seed. Thirteen seeds cost $2.79, but Seeds ‘n Such has an attractive flat rate shipping price of $2.95. Note that some of their newest offerings can be pretty expensive. They also included two very small packets (5 seeds in each) of “free” seed that I didn’t order, a practice I wish seed companies would abandon.

We’re not quite ready to begin ordering seed as yet. The orders we’ve already placed have been for new items or things I was sure we’d need. But before I place our main orders, I need to complete our inventory of seed we have in frozen storage. We’re also waiting on print catalogs from Burpee, Fedco, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds to arrive.

Full disclosure: Botanical Interests, Burpee, and True Leaf Market are Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. We’re also a consumer member of the Fedco Seeds Cooperative.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 – Seed Inventory

Once a year, I pull the large bag of carried over seed from our freezer to do a seed inventory. Some of the seed inventoried is commercial seed, while the rest is seed we’ve saved ourselves. It’s a job that can take the better part of a day, although I got through it today in just an afternoon of steady work.

I keep our seed fairly well sorted by family, such as brassicas, beans, sweet corn, and such. While I weigh or count the seeds in some seed packets, I’m often able to estimate if I have enough seed left just by feeling the seed through the packet.

I record the results of the inventory on a spreadsheet that is formatted the same as our seed order spreadsheet to facilitate cutting and pasting between the two files. Quantity amounts recorded can range from pretty exact references such as “out,” 2.8 ounces,” and “137 seeds,” to rather subjective references such as “lots,” “some,” “a few,” and even “a baggie.” While the latter references are pretty inexact, they tell me what I need to know for the upcoming gardening season.

In the process of doing the inventory, I get things pretty spread out. This year I worked at the kitchen table counting, weighing, estimating, and recording the results. The big bag of seeds got spread out over our dining room table and a kitchen counter. It’s not a tidy operation.

While completing this task, I realized that I needed to start some sage plants as possible replacement plants for some of our corner marker plants in the East Garden that are looking pretty puny. I also had to winnow some zinnia seed I’d forgotten before bagging it for storage.

Once done, the bulk of the seed went back into our manual defrost freezer in the garage. Packets of seed varieties we offer other gardeners went into our refrigerator freezer, while some jars and big bags of seed went to a cool, dark shelf in the basement for storage.

I’ll still need to add the seed samples currently hiding behind the doors of our Burpee Advent Calendar to the inventory. But for that task, I’ll need to decide what I want to keep and grow and what I’ll share with one of our daughters who helps with school and community gardens in Bloomington, Indiana.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Our Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. Since I was tied up with doing our seed inventory, I didn’t get a chance to get a good look at the catalog until late last night. As usual, the Baker Creek catalog is a thing of beauty. It’s heavy because it has a lot of pages and is printed on heavy, glossy paper. The illustrations for each open pollinated and heirloom vegetable offered are bright, colorful, and accurate. Their photo of cut Chioggia beets on page 20 blew me away. (You can request or download their catalog here.)

The first line of our Baker Creek order this year will be for Ali Baba watermelon seed. Year in and year out, Ali Babas have been our most dependable watermelon variety. when we can keep the raccoons out of them!

Baker Creek has added the Red Ursa variety of kale to their offerings this year. That’s the kale that produced our Best Garden Photo of 2013. When we ran out of seed for the variety, we got some similar named kale seed that just didn’t cut it. Then we tried Red Russian. Even with half a packet of the Red Russian left, we’ll order more Red Ursa for next fall’s kale crop. It’s that good, although it may overgrow anything planted near it!

We don’t order seed from Baker Creek every year. Part of that is that Baker Creek doesn’t carry any hybrid varieties and about 40% of what we grow are hybrids, But beyond that, Baker Creek gives a fair quantity of seed in their packets at a good price which allows us to use some and carry over the rest for the future.

With our seed inventory done, I was up really late last night going through it. I couldn’t resist beginning to figure out what we needed to order for next year. I must say that I had a lot of trouble sorting out “want” from “need” in the process, as every description in a seed catalog sounds like a world beater. Our seed ordering process will take several weeks. Orders that contain stuff we need to start in January will be placed next week. Then we’ll move on to the last of our main orders. I almost always find sometime in February that there’s something I need but didn’t order earlier. That’s often when slowpokes like Burpee and Johnny’s Selected Seeds who can’t seem to get their catalogs out early in December get a small order.

I finally gave up and went to bed when I realized that I wanted to take several hours going through all of Twilley Seed’s inexpensive flower offerings (around $1.55/packet).

This morning, an email from Fedco Seeds arrived, explaining the tardiness of their 2018 catalog going out. It seems they had a bit of a power outage.

The turkey has been digested. The weather is getting colder. The woodstove crackles. The couch beckons. Seed catalogs cover the coffee table. But wait – where’s the Fedco catalog? Alas, Maine’s week-long power outage in early November struck right in the middle of our catalog production cycle. Our paper catalog will hit your mailbox soon, in all its quirky black-and-white glory, but the internet waits for no one: if you can’t wait to see our new varieties and want to get a head start on ordering, come on over to our website!

Fedco actually seems to be a bit ahead of schedule, as we didn’t receive their catalog last year until December 14. Besides shopping Fedco’s web site, one can also download their latest catalog from which I poached the cover photo at right.

Since our weather has turned cold and windy. I’m just letting stuff in our garden plots sit until I get a nice, sunny day to work outside. Instead, I’m sitting in my office with the heater turned way up looking through gorgeous garden catalogs.

I couldn’t find a way to work it in above, but can’t resist again posting the 2013 photo of our Red Ursa kale.

I hope you’re having as much fun as I am going through seed catalogs and planning for our next garden. It’s one gardening activity that doesn’t cause sore muscles!

Friday, December 8, 2017 – Snow in the South

If you live most anywhere across the south and into the east coast, you may have lots of snow. (Snow from San Antonio to Atlanta: Winter just got real) Gardening buddy Marcus Blanton sent me photos of the snow they got in central Mississippi today. He wrote that they ended up with six inches of snow. His hens decided to just stay in their house and lay more eggs than usual!

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, two of our granddaughters saw their very first snow. Mom, Dad, Olivia and Nora played in the snow and built multiple snowmen.

When I called daughter Julia to ask permission to use the image at left, she related that their power had just come back on after being out all day. Brrr.

More on our Burpee Advent Calendar

I had been dutifully opening the doors of our 2018 Burpee Advent Calendar each day to reveal a sample of a new flower or vegetable variety offering by Burpee for 2018. On Sunday, I was disappointed to find the space behind the “three door” empty. It was supposed to have a sample of the Mini Piccalo Hybrid Watermelon seed, the variety I most wanted to try of Burpee’s freebies. (I cheated and looked all the way through an accompanying booklet describing the varieties.)

After opening a door to another empty space today for a variety I really wanted to try (Tattoo Papaya Vinca ), I opened up the back of the Advent Calendar. I knew Burpee had better quality control than that. I was rewarded with several packets that had slipped from their rubber cement and dropped into the bottom of the calendar.

I decided to place the seed packets in seed envelopes, as the labeling on them was hard for my old eyes to read. I sorted out eight varieties I’ll grow next season, gave several to Marcus, saved two hot peppers for a son-in-law who loves them, and sent the rest to another daughter who helps with school and community gardens.

I’m excited to grow Burpee’s new Piccalo mini-watermelons next year. If they do well, they should go well with our favorite icebox cantaloupe, Sugar Cube , which Burpee also added to their catalog this year. I’ll also be trying a new variety of Vinca, Tattoo Papaya , that Burpee is offering.

Also included in the Burpee seed samples were three new zinnia varieties. They’ll be included in our usual long row of zinnias in our East Garden that heavily relies on the old, tried and true State Fair variety. We grow our annual 50-80 foot row of zinnias in our East Garden each year mostly from saved seed. I’m not sure how one new hybrid from Burpee will work in, but I expect to have a nice, long row of zinnias again next season.

As I tweak our garden plan for next year, I shortened our row of zinnias to make room for a row of sweet potatoes. I’d originally planned to skip sweet potatoes for next year, but this year’s crop convinced me to try them again in our East Garden. I still have one or two more crops I need to work into the plan somewhere. But that’s just part of the fun of planning a garden.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

In our west facing kitchen window, we now have a gloxinia in bloom, wandering jew cuttings rooting in water, and of course, our large wandering jew hanging plant. Most of our gloxinias are now dormant with a few still heading for dormancy and one or two just emerging from their required annual period of dormancy.

Six of the nine wandering jew cuttings had put on water roots. I dusted the bottom half of each cutting with rooting hormone and put them in potting soil to form true roots. Some will take, and undoubtedly, some will wither and die. But I also refilled the glass jar in the window with a few more fresh cuttings.

Wandering jew cuttings may root well for you without any rooting hormone. I take the extra step of adding it because I have plenty of it on hand. The big thing for us is to get the rootings started early enough to be ready to take over the spot in our kitchen window come spring. By that point, the year old plant hanging there will be pretty well worn out with lots of dead stems and dry leaves. Our current wandering jew plant in the kitchen is a sixth or seventh generation plant produced from cuttings from the previous wandering jew. We also give away some extra wandering jew plants each year. It was a real treat a few years ago to give a daughter who gave us our original wandering jew plant some plants of her own.

The cuttings in a deep sixpack went under our plant lights. They’re sharing space with a recently rooted cactus and some freshly seeded pots of sage and hosta.

Annie and I took another one of our weekend getaways last night. We drove to Effingham, Illinois, to see The Guess Who perform at the Effingham Performance Center. I’m not sure, but I don’t think there is an original member of the band still with the group. The current lead singer of the band teased the audience in a friendly way about all the wrinkles and gray hair in the crowd. At 52, I think he is about twenty years younger than most of the attendees. But they put on a good show, pleasing the filled venue, and apparently totally enjoyed putting on the show.

After doing these getaways for about ten years, we’ve become fond of food and lodging close to the venues. In Effingham, we always have a great meal at the Firefly Grill. They’ve greatly expanded their gardens, producing a lot of what appears on their frequently changing menu. They also locally source as much of their menu as possible.

We’ve also gotten to like the Hampton Inn & Suites, just down the road from the grill and performance center. They have very nice rooms, and are very close to the venue. in case we happen to imbibe too much during a show. While our room was excellent, as usual, I have to say that their breakfast was way below what we expect and what they usually provide. Watered down orange juice, powdered eggs, cold sausage, very little bread, no donuts or danish, and an anemic offering of old cut fruit just doesn’t cut it. Shame on Hilton/Hampton. We’ll probably move on to another hotel on our next Effingham getaway.

I sent Hilton Honors a complaint last night about the horrible breakfast provided by the Hampton Inn & Suites in Effingham, Illinois. This morning, I was greeted with an email from Hilton giving me enough honor points to pay for our next stay at a hotel. Whether they will follow through with the specific hotel and improve their food is uncertain.

There’s No Place Like Home

We got home in time today to see our Colts show they could lose in the snow as well as in good playing conditions. But our day ended with an incredibly beautiful evening sky.

Note: The Firefly Grill is not a Senior Gardening Affiliated Advertiser. We just enjoy eating there.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I’m taking it easy today, recovering a bit from a trip to my friendly neighborhood laser surgeon. While I scheduled the appointment because a potential cancer was growing rapidly on my left shoulder, the surgeon instead burnt off eight or nine other bad spots from my head, arm, and back. The big one has to be cut off at a later appointment.

Instead of sharing any nasty photos of the skilled surgeon’s handiwork, I decided to throw together an animated GIF of some garden photos I like from this year. Many of them appear on Our Best Garden Photos of 2017 feature story that links to larger versions of each photo. Sadly, the animated GIF may take forever to load, as it’s a pretty big file.

Please note that all photos on this site are copyrighted, but may be used for desktop photos without permission or payment. All other use requires prior consent, massive royalty payments, your left pinkie finger. (Actually, I’m a pretty soft touch on non-commercial use of my photos, especially for educators. Just , please.)

Getting back to my resting up, all the laser work made me sick yesterday, the first time that’s happened from one of these all too frequent appointments over the last decade or so. At any rate, I was sick at my stomach and the burns hurt. It’s a bit better today, but I’m still not willing to try doing anything of consequence (other than making the GIF).

The moral of this story, of course, is to protect oneself from the harmful rays of the sun when working outside. I won’t repeat here my annual nag on the subject, but will suggest sun protective clothing as possible gifts for gardeners. Lightweight shirts and sun hats with serious UPF ratings (50 or so) can help gardeners with skin cancers keep on gardening. Don’t forget good gardening gloves. My first cancer in 2002 was on my right hand.

One thing from yesterday’s experience that made me feel good was that the doctor didn’t order a blood draw, a sure sign he might have thought any of the cancers had metastasized. I have lots to be thankful for this season, but a good session with my cancer doctor had me again thanking the Lord.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Despite their warnings of a possible late delivery due to Maine’s week long power outage in November, our Fedco Seeds catalog arrived in yesterday’s mail. That’s a full day earlier than last year. The “flipping Fedco catalog” on the front cover refers to the back half of the catalog being the Organic Growers Supply & Moose Tubers catalog (when you flip it over vertically).

Fedco’s catalog differs from a lot of other seed houses’ catalogs in that is a black and white catalog with lots of interesting woodcuts instead of photos. Vegetables aren’t arranged in alphabetical order, which I find a bit disconcerting. I also find it difficult to read because of its extremely small print. After a quick scan of the print catalog, I relied on their downloadable PDF version which I can magnify to my heart’s content.

With those criticisms, I must say that I like buying from Fedco. They have a good variety of both hybrid and open pollinated vegetable varieties. Big seeded items such as beans and peas seem to be priced a bit better than the competition when ordered in half or pound quantities. Packet prices are also reasonable. And I like doing business with a customer and employee owned cooperative, enough so that I coughed up the bucks a few years ago to become a consumer member of the co-op.

So far, I only have three items to order from Fedco, Mokum and Yaya carrots and Jericho lettuce. The Yaya carrot listing is on the same page as the Mokums and I liked the description. Jericho lettuce is a romaine that may extend our spring lettuce harvest due to its heat resistance.

Since Fedco won’t begin shipping seeds until January 3, 2018, I can hold this order for a while to see if there is anything else I want or need to add to my small order.

Along with everything else carried by Fedco, they now offer a fairly reasonably priced soil test done by the Maine State Soil Lab.

Finally, page 3 of the catalog announced that Fedco founder C.R. Lawn has retired. He has been a pioneer in the seed industry and seed saving.

Full disclosure: Botanical Interests, Burpee, and True Leaf Market are Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. We’re also a consumer member of the Fedco Seeds Cooperative.

Friday, December 15, 2017

We had another one of those really pretty evening skies this evening. Dark blue clouds over an orange red horizon. My wife, Annie, liked the shot of the sun setting just on the horizon better. So I decided to use them both here.

Earlier in the day, I waited too late to get our usual splashshot from our sunroom window. By the time I tried taking it, I was aiming the camera directly into the low afternoon sun.

The evening shots were taken with my old Nikon P-60. While I treat my good photo equipment with great care, the P-60 that only functions well in the fully automatic mode sits atop our microwave oven in the kitchen for impulse shots like the ones above.

Reader Alex Grier had sent me emails with photos of his still green lawn and garden in Ontario when I was running shots here this month of Marcus Blanton’s snowy yard in Mississippi. Alex now has lots of snow.

He also has a new toy, his web site, Senior – In the Garden. He’s just getting started with the garden site and blog, but already has lots of gorgeous garden photos posted. I edited a screenshot of his blog to show his snow and previously green back yard.

Our seed orders are coming in. Two arrived yesterday, one today, and one more is due on Monday. I’m not quite done ordering, as there are a few items I want/need that are only available from seed houses that haven’t yet sent out their seed catalogs. Yes, I could order online, but then I’d miss the fun of paging through the seed catalogs, a visual temptation much akin to sampling the smells from food vendors at a county or state fair. So far, I’ve placed a total of eight orders including our sweet potato plants for a total of $101.78, about two bucks over what I annually plan for seed orders. I still need to order another soil heating mat, as the oldest of ours finally gave out last spring.

It was Portuguese Kale Soup for supper here tonight. Annie has an infection under a crown, so soft, comfort food was the order of the day. Served with a hearty bread, it’s a great meal for cold, windy days like today.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

After way too many days of inactivity in the garden, I got out this afternoon and cleared our asparagus patches. It may be that I was clearing the patches a bit later than usual, but there seemed to be less stalks to cut and dispose of than in years past. I’m not sure if that’s an indication of a need for more soil nutrients or not. At any rate, each patch got a sprinkle of fertilizer. Bonnie’s Asparagus Patch got the last of our finished compost.

While I was at it, I cut back our Gloriosa Daisies to about four inches tall. Most of what I cut were dead stalks, but there were still some green leaves at the base of the plants.

I usually don’t compost our asparagus stalks. They can be pretty fibrous and break down slowly. But I decided to just pile them and the daisy cuttings on top of our compost pile. We’ll see how that one works out.

We still have a few things to be cleaned up in our garden plots (at this late date). Kale in the main garden and cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli in our East Garden need their leaves stripped and composted with the hard roots going onto our burn pile. Our long row of zinnias at the edge of the East Garden need to come out. I don’t know whether to burn the stems or compost them. And I left the T-posts for our long row of tomato plants in the ground when I pulled the tomato cages and plants. I’ll need to dig the T-posts out of the heavy clay soil of our East Garden.

When those chores are done, we’ll pretty much be done with garden cleanup. At some point, I plan to dump the last of our Serenade biofungicide on areas where we’ll grow tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes next year. I like to start with fresh biologicals each spring. Dumping the Serenade on the ground may or may not help prevent plant diseases. The last of our Thuricide (BT) just gets pitched into the trash. And I used up our bag of Milky Spore on our main garden bed when I planted our garlic earlier this month. I was pleased to find no Japanese Beetle larva under some walking boards I moved off the garden soil today. Often, one will find bunches of them snuggled under such things.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Our house if filled this evening with pleasant cooking aromas. A pot of spaghetti sauce from scratch is thickening on a back burner. A large pot of kale seasoned with garlic and bacon has been boiling for about three hours. Supper can’t come too soon.

I’d hoped to clear our kale row today, but our day started out rainy. By mid-afternoon, the rain had stopped, and the sun came out. I cleared a little over half of the kale row, pulling the plants and saving the best leaves. By that point, my bucket was full of kale leaves, our garden cart full of discarded stems, and my hands were too cold to continue picking. The remaining kale, the oldest in the row, is pretty ratty and will probably just get pulled and composted.

When I took the splashshot today to top this page, I also grabbed shots of the areas cleared yesterday. Bonnie’s Asparagus Patch (at left) got a light coating of compost.

Our raised bed of asparagus still has lots of plant trash on it that I’m hoping will blow away.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Twilley Seeds (9)
Johnny’s Selected Seeds (5)
Stokes Seeds (4)
High Mowing Organic Seeds (3)
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (2)
George’s Plant Farm (2)
Reimer Seeds (2)
Seeds ‘n Such (2)
Seed Savers Exchange (1)
Turtle Tree Seed Initiative (1)

I finished our initial seed orders last night. I combined several orders and submitted a small order to Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I gritted my teeth as I did it, as Johnny’s prices are a bit high, as is their standard shipping fee. But I was ordering several lettuce varieties, and I’ve found lettuce seed from Johnny’s to be fresh and reliable in the past.

Numbers in parentheses in the table at right indicate the number of items ordered from each vendor.

Then I broke the bank and placed my annual supplies order with the Greenhouse Megastore (DGW rating). The big item there was a replacement Gro-Mat for my original that cooked itself last spring when trying to germinate seedless watermelon. Triploids (seedless) require a germination temperature of at least 80° F, with 85-90 being preferable.

I gave up searching for several hybrids I like. Nelson carrots, Roadside Hybrid muskmelon, and Red Zeppelin onions all appear to have been discontinued. While I liked the Red Zeppelin onion variety, I have to admit its name was what got me. Both Red Zeppelin and Grateful Red hybrid onions were introduced the same year. Red Zeppelins were cheaper, so that is what we tried.

For our red onions this year, we’ll try the new Red Carpet hybrid, but rely on the tested open pollinated Rossa di Milano, Tropeana Tonda, and Red Creole varieties. The reason I did some extensive (for us) testing of onion varieties in 2014 was that I could see the end coming for some of our favorite hybrid onion varieties. That test gave us several good, open pollinated varieties that grow well here that we could fall back on when hybrids were discontinued.

With little actual gardening to write about today, I’ll list our most accessed pages for 2017 on this site. Note that I didn’t include basic pages like this page, the about page, our suppliers page, and indexes. So here are the ten most read feature stories, how-to’s, and recipes on Senior Gardening so far for 2017:

New to the list is the Mulching with Grass Clippings feature story. I’m guessing that a lot of readers hate weeding as much as I do.

Not appearing in our Top Ten are the new articles I posted this year.

  • Earliest Red Sweet Peppers – A little bit about our favorite and an endangered pepper variety (March 10, 2017)
  • Our Tomato Cages – I lucked into how to make some really great tomato and pepper cages. (June 6, 2017)
  • Whither Seed Savers Exchange – Not all of the Seed Savers Exchange’s work occurs at the Heritage Farm. It’s happening every day on the farms and in the gardens of SSE’s members. It seems that the leadership of the exchange has forgotten its core. (October 9, 2017)
  • Our Best Garden Photos of 2017 – (November 14, 2017)

Beyond finishing up our garden cleanup, I’ll be turning my attention to our garden plan for next year. I published our initial garden plan for 2018 in September, but have tweaked it a good bit here and there since. It appears that I’ll need to open up some isolation patches not used this year to grow out some varieties we need to isolate and save seed from.

Thursday, December 21, 2017 – Winter Solstice

It’s officially the first day of winter and the shortest day (in terms of daylight) of the year. The Weather Underground’s astronomy section for today says that both today and tomorrow we’ll receive 9 hours and 25 minutes of daylight. Then our daylight periods will begin to increase before peaking at the summer solstice (June 21).

We’re still experiencing some nice days with high temperatures getting close to 50. That is supposed to dramatically change over the weekend as winter weather really will arrive.

I got out early yesterday morning and worked on cleaning up our fall broccoli and cauliflower. I was surprised to find that some of the broccoli plants had good sideshoots. I didn’t get the job done, however, as my gloved hands got too cold to get all of the two rows of plants pulled and composted. By the time things warmed up in the afternoon, I was too busy with some shopping to get back to the task. Maybe later today.

Like a lot of folks, we’re receiving lots of deliveries daily. Beyond Christmas gifts for family, our garden orders are coming it. One Christmas/garden order that came in yesterday was especially pleasing (to me, at least). It was our 2018 wall calendar from Vistaprint.

Since we no longer get as many freebie wall calendars as we once did, I ordered a calendar last year from Vistaprint with lots of garden photos. It was such a hit with my wife that I put together another one for her for this year. I didn’t have enough good new shots to fill the twelve months, so I had to drop back into years past for some of the photos. Vistaprint did a great job on the printing. Clicking on an image below will open a new window or tab with a larger size image used for the month.

Since I’m burning through space and bandwidth, I’ll add what I used for a cover photo for the calendar.

My office calendar for next year will once again be one from Habitat for Humanity, one of the charities we support.

Friday, December 22, 2017 – Possibly Save a Few Bucks on SSE Order

I ran into a strange discrepancy late last night when attempting to place an order online with the Seed Savers Exchange. When I attempted to check out after ordering a pound of Champion of England pea seed ($11.00 retail, $9.90 with member discount), the site automatically imposed a shipping charge of $8.29 on my order.

I backed out of that order, cleared my browser history, and tried an order for just a packet of the seed. I did this one without logging in. The retail $2.99 packet of seed would require a shipping charge of $3.26! The SSE print catalog specifies a shipping charge of just $3 on orders under ten dollars.

Thinking that there must be something wrong with the SSE site or my reading of their shipping charges, I popped out an email to SSE Director, Lee Buttala, just before midnight. Amazingly, I got a response a few minutes after midnight. Either they’re partying late at SSE, or Lee is burning the midnight oil there.

Lee referred my question to customer service. I had an explanation by noon today. Online order shipping charges from the SSE Store are calculated on order weight and zip code. Print catalog mail orders follow the shipping rates shown on the order form.

So if you plan to order seed from the Seed Savers Exchange, you may want to place an old fashioned mail order as I did today. My pound of Champion of England pea seed only required a $3 shipping charge for a total of $12.90. Had I placed the order online, the same pound of seed would have cost me $18.19!

My thanks to Lee and Laura at the Seed Savers Exchange for their helpful responses to my question. Since SSE is going on vacation after today until January, I was glad to get the quick answers.

And since I’ve been pretty free to express my concerns about the current direction of the Seed Savers Exchange, I should add here that they’ve put together a very attractive print catalog for 2018.

Saturday, December 23, 2017 – 2017 Garden Review

We got a very light dusting of snow overnight. Since Annie and I had been up late last night watching Christmas movies, I just barely got up in time to snap a photo of the snow before it all melted off. We’re supposed to get a little more snow tomorrow.

Having slept in, I decided to work inside today. At one point a month or so ago, I had decided not to publish a garden review for this year. But I began updating the table of successes and failures I keep all season and decided to finish the piece.

As it turned out, I first completed writing the text and then had loads of fun adding pictures to the story. Most of the images used have already appeared somewhere on Senior Gardening this year, but a good many of them got touched up a bit.

So I uploaded A Year in our Garden – 2017 a few minutes ago. The text may be only slightly informative, but the pictures may entertain readers with images of warmer times and fresh vegetables. Doing the final editing on the piece made me hungry!

BTW: The last movie we watched last night was Scrooged.

Sunday, December 24, 2017 – Christmas Eve

Two more seed catalogs arrived in yesterday’s mail. Both the Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seed Initiative and the R.H. Shumway catalogs are interesting to look through. We first came across Turtle Tree last year when they had Nancy lettuce seed that we wanted and no one else had. Turtle Tree specializes in open pollinated and heirloom seed varieties. Since I’ve already ordered a packet of seed from Turtle Tree this year, perusing their seed catalog was just for funsies.

The Shumway catalog is one that used to get a lot of my attention. During our farming years in the 80’s when Shumway was located in Illinois, we ordered field corn and annual hog pasture seed from them. Since then, we’ve often used them for pea, melon, and bean seed.

They have pretty good prices for half pound packets of green bean seed, although Fedco beats the pants off of them price wise on half pound packets of the same varieties. Small packets of flower seed are also quite reasonable from Shumway. until you get to their minimum shipping charge ($6.95).

Like a lot of folks, our day today will be taken up with wrapping presents, cleaning, and cooking.

Monday, December 25, 2017 – Merry Christmas

And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.

The image above is a “scene from a life size nativity at the Luxembourg Christmas market.” It was taken in 2006 by graphic artist Debbie Schiel who lives in Far North Queensland, Australia, and shared on the royalty-free stock.xchng site. The scripture was copied from my installation of the free Macintosh Online Bible. There’s also a free version for Windows users. On my iPhone, I currently use the ESV Bible app.

Best wishes from Annie and I to you for a joyous and fulfilling holiday season.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

In the category of “Be careful what you wish for,” I think that I’m getting mine. I’ve frequently mentioned that some extended, really cold weather might help with our insect problems in our garden next year. Well sure enough, we’re now in for an extended period of freezing weather with lows in single digits for about a week.

When I was outside today, the temperature ran around 12° F, with 20-30 MPH winds. It was dark and visibility was limited due to snowfall and blowing snow.

There are far colder places in our country right now and certainly worse places in the world to be. But I’m having trouble getting used to the cold.

Garden Catalog Weather

While I really prefer to receive garden seed catalogs in November or early December, the four seed catalogs that arrived in the mail today will give me something to look at during our current cold spell.

I’ve already placed and received our order with Johnny’s. Burpee may get a last minute order of things I forgot to order. Jung and Territorial’s minimum shipping charges pretty well preclude my doing business with them.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My wife has the flu, so that got me up really early (5 am) this morning. Our dogs have needed to be let out and back in several times already. Since outdoor temperatures are running around zero with a wind chill of -11° F, I’ve not been too upset with their wanting back inside. Other than some whimpers and dog snores, they’re pretty good inside. When they finally go outside for the day, I’ll have to remember to put thawed water in their water dish several times throughout the day.

Being up early gave me some time to look through the seed catalogs that came in yesterday. Both the Burpee and Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalogs are printed on glossy paper, so the color images of the varieties offered are really attractive. The Territorial catalog has lots of color images, but they suffer from being printed on matt paper. I won’t comment on the Jung catalog, as I have trouble warming up to the conglomerate that has gobbled up trusted old seed names such as R.H. Shumway Seedsman and the Vermont Bean Seed Company.

I was sad to find that Shumway no longer offers the Sugar Cube hybrid icebox cantaloupe variety. We got our first seed for the variety from Shumway in 2010. It’s funny that now eight years later, lots of other vendors (Burpee, Johnny’s, Stokes, Territorial. ) have picked up the excellent variety.

When I looked for a Sugar Cube image on this site, I also found an image of a Sarah’s Choice melon from 2010. While regularly priced in Johnny’s print catalog, I noticed that the variety is on sale on Johnny’s web site. Sarah’s Choice melons have a bold cantaloupe flavor.

While rambling here, I should add that all five cantaloupe varieties we plan to grow in 2018 are hybrids! (Avatar, Athena, Roadside Hybrid, Sarah’s Choice, and Sugar Cube) That leaves us susceptible to losing a variety such as the Roadside Hybrid variety that has been discontinued. I’ve tried, but simply haven’t found any open pollinated cantaloupes that I like as well as the hybrids we grow. Knowing that the end was in sight for the Roadside Hybrid variety, I tried saving seed from it several years ago. As often happens with seed saved and grown out from hybrids, this experiment turned out to be a total failure.

The flip side of the melon coin is that all of the watermelon varieties we like, other than a couple of triploids (seedless), are all open pollinated varieties. (Ali Baba, Blacktail Mountain, Congo, Crimson Sweet, Kleckley Sweet, Moon & Stars, and Picnic) Since we got a free sample of Burpee’s new Mini Piccolo Hybrid in their Advent Calendar, we’ll probably try that hybrid this season. While we could probably isolate an open pollinated watermelon variety or two each year for seed saving, we don’t. I prefer to buy seed for them every few years to help support vendors offering the great old open pollinated watermelons.

As I perused seed catalogs this month and this morning, it became apparent that lots of seed vendors have picked up the open pollinated Blacktail Mountain watermelon variety. Just two years ago, seed for the variety was pretty hard to find. We got our start of it from Fedco Seeds.

Developed by “eminent seedsman Glenn Drowns.” Blacktail Mountains mature early in the season. They can produce fruit with good watermelon flavor without the really hot weather other varieties require to be really sweet.

Our Christmas tree looked pretty bare in the daylight this month. I brought the wrong pre-lit tree downstairs from our attic, but kept it in place. Our miniature pre-lit and decorated tree would have been an invitation for disappointment if used. We still have some very young cats from a spring litter that were very interested in the tree.

In years past, we’ve had problems with cats climbing Christmas trees to get at ornaments attractive to them. But during the evening hours, the tree was beautiful with its lights turned on.

We still have more indoor cats than we need to discourage mice, but are coming to like the kittens’ antics more and more each day. Eventually, some of them will need to move to our garage. At right are two of the culprits who initially tried to climb and chew on the tree. Without the usual ornaments, they quickly lost interest.

We again traveled to one of our kid’s house for Christmas this year. It’s always nice when someone else is the host, as it saves a lot of cooking and cleaning. I did, however, get assigned several dishes to bring for our Christmas dinner.

I did a good bit of the food preparation on Christmas Eve, putting the half prepared dishes (covered) on the back porch overnight. The first dish to be prepared was candied yams. Our sweet potatoes had a lot of bug damage this year, but it peeled and trimmed out pretty easily. I’m always amazed by sweet potatoes’ ability to heal over cuts and bad spots.

I usually make our “yams” with butternut squash, but our crop failed this year. Making them with real sweet potatoes is something rather new to me. The recipe remains about the same, though. Sweet potatoes (or butternut pieces) baked with brown sugar and marshmallows, seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper, and nutmeg make a delicious holiday dish.

If I had a choice, I’d go with the “butternut yams” over the sweet potato ones. I think the butternuts taste better.

The next dish I could prepare ahead of time was the traditional green bean casserole. I depart from the standard recipe by adding some chopped fresh mushrooms to the dish. I decided to try adding a bit of shredded cheddar cheese this time around, although I don’t think the cheese really improved the flavor.

I brought in and thawed both dishes Christmas morning. The yams got some more brown sugar and marshmallows and the green bean casserole was topped with French’s onions before going into the oven.

I also started a batch of Grandma’s Yeast Rolls on Christmas Eve, using the overnight method for their first rising. Since the usual recipe takes about five hours, start to finish, letting the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight cuts down the time required the next morning to let the rolls raise and bake.

While not originally assigned, I ended up taking a rib eye roast to the feast. And that’s what got me writing about cooking today. I overcooked the roast, basically a boneless standing rib roast, drying out the meat a good bit. So yesterday, I bought another big rib eye loin. I cut it in half, freezing one half. The other half was left uncovered in the fridge overnight, per a new recipe I found. This morning, I put the roast in the oven (turned off) to warm to room temperature. The recipe calls for letting the roast warm on a kitchen counter. In our house of cats and dogs, that’s a definite no-go.

In a few hours, I’ll rub salt, pepper, and homemade garlic powder on the roast before browning it for 20-30 minutes in the oven at 500° F. Then I’ll cut the oven back to 325° F for another hour and a half, making sure this time not to overcook the meat.

While there won’t be candied yams or green bean casserole for our mini-feast, mashed potatoes and gravy and some sugar snap peas should nicely fill out the menu.

Another Apple Tree

An Indiana Tree Survey I received yesterday from the Arbor Day Foundation pushed me to order another Stayman Winesap apple tree last night. We lost our original Stayman Winesap to fire blight years ago. A full dwarf replacement from the Arbor Day Foundation finally produced fruit this year after eight years in the ground. The apples were yellow!

Maybe the branch the yellow apples grew on is a sport, the term for a spontaneous mutation that produces a new variety. But since the “free” tree I selected with my order so long ago turned out to be a silver maple instead of the red maple I chose, I’m guessing that whoever pulled our order on that day long ago wasn’t having a good day.

I let the Foundation know of my disappointment with the trees. Their prompt response was to agree to remove me from their mailing list. I didn’t expect a credit or refund, but an apology would have been nice. Sadly, Ryan B of member services for the Arbor Day Foundation apparently has no empathy for those the Foundation has screwed.

Even though Stayman Winesap trees are getting hard to find, I did find two vendors offering them last night. Obviously, the Arbor Day Foundation didn’t get the order.

Friday, December 29, 2017 – Bleak

When I processed the splashshot today for this page, I wondered if I’d done something to my camera settings. For the second straight day, almost all color was washed out of the photo, leaving a very contrasty almost black and white image. I took a flash shot in my office just to make sure I hadn’t messed up something. Sadly, it wasn’t the camera settings. The color in the office shot was just fine.

It’s just that bleak looking outside today. I lightened the image at left a good bit in Photoshop. I also decreased its contrast a good bit. It’s still bleak, but at least a little brown shows in the field next to our garden.

When I decided to use the sharpen/lighten filter to the office shot, Photoshop took over almost all of my computer’s processor cycles and RAM. I finally went and got a fresh cup of coffee while the application struggled to complete my handiwork. Under the operating system I use most of the time (Snow Leopard, Mac OS 10.6.8), my Mac Mini can only access 8 of the 16 gigs of RAM installed. When I know that I’m going to be doing some heavy photo processing, I boot the Mini to its macOS High Sierra (10.13.2) partition that allows it to access all the RAM installed.

I was just operating with Apple’s latest and greatest last night when I installed and updated TurboTax 2017 . And when I started to create the link for TurboTax, I found that Sam’s Club had dropped the price ten bucks since I ordered the application! Amazon hasn’t as yet matched the Sam’s Club price.

Other than some hosta and sage, I haven’t started any plants for next year’s garden, but I’m getting ready. I sterilized a kettle of potting mix yesterday and brought in bags of flower seed from our manual defrost garage freezer. I need to get some daisies going to fill in blank spots in our plantings at the back of our yard and at the side of the house. I also brought in impatiens, petunia, vinca, and ivy leaf geranium seed for hanging baskets. While we’ll grow some impatiens, petunia, vinca, and seed geraniums for our garden, they don’t have to be started as soon as the plants for our hanging baskets.

I wondered for a moment about the petunias that we usually start in styrofoam egg cartons, but spied several on top of our fridge. Egg carton petunias are often the first thing we start for an upcoming gardening season.

Our hanging basket plants get started first because they’re portable. I can hang them outside on warm days in late March and early April, but still bring them back inside on freezing nights.

One other preparatory chore I did was to set up and test the new soil heating mat I ordered from the Greenhouse Megastore (DGW rating). This time of year, our basement runs around ten degrees cooler than the rest of the house, so a soil heating mat and thermostat are necessary for seed starting there. The temperature shown on the thermostat is where it started out after I turned it and the soil heating mat on.

BTW: While Hydrofarm (now Jump Start, I think) makes a great thermostat, I can’t say as much for their soil heating mats. We had one that lasted 366 days before burning out, one day past its warranty.

The Beef Roast Lives On

The rib eye loin I cooked on Wednesday starred as beef manhattans yesterday. Tonight, in probably its final appearance, it will either return for another round of beef manhattans or as beef and noodles.

Our kids growing up came to expect any large, somewhat expensive cut of meat to appear in some form for three days at supper. In retirement with the kids now grown, I haven’t much changed my cooking habits.

The real star of the meal shown both left and right were the sugar snap peas. The beef manhattan was delicious, but the peas were extraordinary. We’ve already eaten up the few sugar snaps we froze during the summer.

A local grocery often puts their Green Giant Steamers on sale for a dollar a box. We stock up at those times on things we don’t freeze a lot of, such as sugar snaps.

While I published our initial garden plan for next year in a September posting, I’m struggling to find room to grow more peas. I’m juggling garden rotations, as peas need good soil, and isolations to find somewhere to grow more second early peas and sugar snaps. I put a long row of peas in the plan for our East Garden, but that soil is pretty poor. I’d added a lot of compost to that area last fall, but it’s also dangerously close to the woods. Deer love to nibble on tender, newly emerged peas and such.

Even though the temperature isn’t too bad today and there’s little wind chill, I didn’t do much outside today. Bringing in the mail, giving the dogs food and thawed water, filling our bird feeder, and cleaning a litter box were the total of my outside efforts.

There is, however, a good story that goes with the bird feeder.

The late Don Smith wrote me years ago, telling of a great bird feeder he’d found. He included links to a glowing review and to the feeder on Amazon. The feeder was pretty expensive for my tastes, but also sounded like it would last longer than some of our previous, cheapie bird feeders had.

At that time, I had counted on Don’s reliable advice on a good many things. So I counted my pennies and decided I could spring for the near $50 the Droll Yankees Bird Feeder would cost.

When it arrived and was filled and hung, it turned out to be all the good things the review said it would be. I wrote and thanked Don for the tip.

He wrote back thanking me, as he’d only read about the feeder and hadn’t bought one yet!

Every time I fill the feeder, I have to laugh and think fondly of Don. The bird feeder is now a bit over three years old and still functions well.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

I looked through two more new seed catalogs today. The John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog arrived in the mail. While we don’t have a paper copy as yet, I downloaded the PDF version of the Annie’s Heirloom Seeds catalog. Scheeper’s sells open pollinated and hybrid vegetable seed, while Annie’s specializes in open pollinated and heirloom vegetable varieties.

We’ve gotten good seed from both vendors in the past, but just haven’t needed anything they offer in the last few years. We got our first Red Ursa kale seed from Scheepers. Annie’s supplies us with Violet of Sicily cauliflower seed.

Neither of these vendors would suffice as a main seed supplier for us due to their limited offerings. But for some odds and ends, they’re great.

Egg Carton Petunias

I was going to wait until the new year to start any more seed, but decided this evening to go ahead and seed our petunias for hanging baskets. In a throwback to a practice of my mother, I start these petunias in egg cartons, albeit the styrofoam egg cartons are different than the cardboard ones my mother used. While I germinate the seed on a heat mat, once the plants get started, they grow for a month or so on a kitchen windowsill. Of course, they quickly outgrow their egg carton cells, requiring transplanting first into fourpack inserts and later into ten inch hanging basket pots.

Since I did an in depth how-to last January, I won’t repeat that information here. I seeded one egg carton to Supercascade and another to Double Cascade (listed in Twilley’s catalog as Petunia grandiflora double). Both varieties of petunia seed came from Twilley Seeds and are incredibly inexpensive!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

We began December playing catch up in our garden plots. I planted our garlic on December 2, later than I ever have before. I also didn’t mulch the garlic for the first time in years. The late planting was due partially to waiting for the ground to dry out enough to rototill and also because our weather conditions remained very warm through much of November. I didn’t want the garlic emerging in the warm fall weather.

The lack of mulch was to deny hiding places for overwintering bugs. We may pay a price for that in weed growth and garlic cloves heaving with the freezing and thawing of the soil over the winter. But I’m willing to take some losses there to ward off some new insect problems we’ve had indications of this year.

Finally clearing our kale and asparagus beds completed our cleanup of our main garden plots for the year. Clearing the kale produced a final, nice harvest of kale. We boiled the kale for dinner and froze the leftovers for winter use.

Garden seed catalogs arrived this month, over a dozen of them. After completing our annual seed inventory, orders were placed (and received) from our major seed suppliers.

I took and rooted wandering jew cuttings this month for new plants for next spring. It takes wandering jew cuttings about five months to make a nice plant. We’ve had a wandering jew plant hanging in our west facing kitchen window for seven or eight years, replacing the almost worn out plant each spring with a fresh one from cuttings.

We also started some hostas and sage, initially slow growers that need a big head start before going into the ground.

My thanks to you, the readers of Senior Gardening for regularly returning to this site and for your emails.

Let me wind up the calendar year with another one of those beautiful evening skies we have here.

Contact Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening

Seed n such The Old Guy’s Garden Record Friday, December 1, 2017 Click on images to open larger view in new tab or window. Hover mouse over images to reveal labeling.