Our 2021 garden: Crespo squash, and pea beds ready!

Oh, I’m going to be in for a world of hurt, tomorrow.

It’s going to be worth every bit of it! 😀

But first, I have to show off the little Crespo squash baby!

I got this photo last night.

This is how it looked, less than 24 hours later.

Then I checked it this morning, the leaves hadn’t broken free of the soil yet. Every time I look at it, it’s noticeably bigger! It’s still the only one of the Crespo squash that has sprouted. Hopefully more will emerge, soon. 🙂

Today, the priority was to get the pea beds ready, and that took me pretty much all day! Thankfully, the girls were able to come out and help quite a bit, which made some jobs faster.

The first thing that needed to be done was to dig post holes and set up the uprights for the new pea trellises.

That… got interesting. The posts could not be buried at all the same depth, that’s for sure.

My apologies for the out of focus photo, but you can still see the bottom of this post hole. Yeah, that’s a rock. A rock big enough I couldn’t dig around it to pull it out!

Others were more like this one.

What I ended up having to do was to start with a spade to remove the sod on top. Then I used a trowel to pull out the bigger rocks or find and remove pieces of roots. Then I would use the post hold digger until I hit more rocks it couldn’t get through. If I needed to go deeper, I’d use the trowel again to get the rocks out, then use the post hole digger again.

I set the posts at each end first, between the flags marking the width, then strung a cord between them to make sure the other posts were in a straight line. Every 5 feet was marked with the post that would be going there.

Then the holes got dug, and the line put back across again, and I’d double check the distance for each pole before setting it.

With the girls helping, tying the cross pieces in place was much, much easier and faster!

I tried the cordless drill to see if I could drill pilot holes and place at least one screw at each pole of the first trellis we did. The batteries couldn’t hold enough charge to finish drilling a hole. I had a hard time just to reverse the drill back out again! So that jobs is going to have to wait.

We put all our hoses together, and it wasn’t enough to reach all the way, so we moved the rain barrel to a new spot. For the first bed, we had shredded paper that we soaked on the mesh top of the rain barrel, then placed along the row before topping it with straw. We were able to wet the straw down, before taking a break for lunch, and my older daughter went back to working on commissions.

Then my younger daughter and I continued preparing the beds. These are now ready for planting! The new trellises are not done yet, though. The first trellis will have a single row of peas in the middle, with the seeds planted alternately on either side of the bottom cross pieces.. The other two will have double rows, planted about 2 ft apart. After the peas are planted, the trellises will get A frame supports at each upright, with cross pieces at the bottom, and then they will be strung similar to the first one. Once the top cross pieces were in place, I got the measurement I needed. To finish this, I’m going to need 20 poles at about 5 1/2 ft long, plus another 12 poles at 5 ft long for the bottom cross pieces. My husband went ahead and ordered some more cord that I can use to string supports for the peas, sweetheart that he is. 🙂

We made quite the dent in the pile of soil! 🙂

Before we finished for the day, the girls started laying down straw for a pair of re-oriented beds, then hosing them down.

The three, small beds in the middle that ran East/West are being turned into two longer beds oriented North/South. For the peas, we could get away with laying down the soil in narrow rows where the peas will be planted, rather than the entire space. These beds are going to be intensely planted with onions, spinach, purple kohlrabi and purple kale, at the very least. There are two more smaller, former potato beds that are going to be lengthened to match these ones, and they will be intensely planted, too, similar to Square Foot gardening. So these beds are going to need a whole lot of soil added all over. Thankfully, these beds are much closer to the pile of soil!

By this time of the day, the winds had picked up significantly, so wetting the straw was needed as much to keep it from blowing away as for preparing it to have the soil added on top. I’m going to see if I’ve got anything else I can layer on there before adding the soil. I tried digging into the old compost pile yesterday, and the first thing I hit was the remains of some Styrofoam packaging, of the sort you might buy meat in. Plus a hard plastic lily, which was actually kind of pretty. I know my mother would never had thrown things like that into the compost pile, which means that someone else was using it for garbage, after she’d moved to her apartment. *sigh*

I might not be able to work on this area tomorrow, as I’ll be helping my mother with her grocery shopping in the afternoon, but I hope to at least get the peas planted in the morning. We’re supposed to get very warm tomorrow afternoon, so it would be good to get them in early.

I’m pretty excited about finally getting our first seeds into the ground! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

I got Ginger pics!

Ginger has been so active, it’s been hard to get pictures of him!

I finally managed to catch him while napping. 🙂 He earned that nap! He spent much of the day, running around and batting at a cat toy. He clearly has adapted well to the loss of his leg, but being able to run and bat at things at the same time is really impressive!

His sister, Cabbages, and Keith were being absolutely adorable. Those two get along really well.

Ginger is not the only cat that likes to hang out on the very edge of the bed.

He’s also not the only one that has rolled and squirmed around so much near the edge of the bed, they fall right off! 😀 It’s usually Cheddar that does it. Thankfully, Ginger didn’t fall off this time. 🙂

(Oh! I just wanted to add that I got a rather exciting interruption while I was working on this post. My daughter came over to let me know a Crespo squash has emerged! It was not visible when I checked on them this morning. 🙂 )

Back to cat stuff…

While doing our city shop, we’d picked up some wood pellets to try as a litter alternative. Today I cleaned out one litter pan and put some in. The cats were very, very curious about it! It does make a lot more noise while being poured into the pan than normal cat litter does. 😀

There was one unexpected problem, though.

As the cats checked out the new, rattling round things in the litter box, they started trying to chew on it! We caught a few of them grabbing pieces and taking them out of the litter box. We discouraged that, of course. We were starting to think the cats wouldn’t use it, but I’m happy to say one of the cats finally did – and I’m not smelling a thing!

So far, so good! If this stuff works out, it’ll be much better on the budget.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: quick finish on the unplanned bed

A while back, the girls and I decided to create a bed in an unplanned area. Today, things got pleasant enough outside that I quickly finished part of it.

This is the side that will have the Strawberry Spinach planted. These can be successively sown every two weeks, starting before the last frost date, so I wanted to get it finished.

It’s warm enough to have the garden hoses out, though we still have to be careful to make sure they don’t have water in them overnight. This meant I was able to give the cardboard layer a solid soak, first. Before we lay the cardboard down, the dead grass and leaves had been raked away, and that got put back on top of the cardboard, followed by another soak, a layer of straw, another soak, then a layer of garden soil, followed by a final soak. Over the next while, weather willing, I want to continue to soak the new garden beds as often as I can before planting, to get them damp through the layers (at least those we can reach with hoses!). That will help the layers break down faster, plus they will act as a sort of sponge, so the beds will need less watering later.

At least, that’s the theory!

The rest of this area still has just the cardboard, which also got a thorough soaking, to kill off the grass and soften the soil a bit until we get the asparagus crowns that will be going there.

At least I got one area done today! The winds had picked up quite a bit, but this corner seems to be more sheltered. That should be good for the plants!

The Re-Farmer

Snowy morning

This morning, we had snow coming down with flakes so big, I could see them without my glasses! 😀

They even triggered the motion sensor on the security camera during daylight. That happens all the time at night, with the infrared flash (and I wake up to hundreds of emails with images of snow or rain streaking across… 😀 ), but almost never, during the day.

The outside cats are completely unphased by this little bit of snow. 🙂

The future tomato bed got some much needed moisture! The more the better, to help break down that cardboard and straw.

The garlic sprouts don’t mind the snow at all. 🙂 The snow actually made it easier to see how many more have sprouted since I last checked them out.

It was interesting, going through the maple grove and checking out the areas we planted bulbs and corms in. There was a void in the snow, under every single spruce tree. This is a good visual to ID which areas are getting the least moisture, so if/when we do water where we planted, we know which areas need it more. Of course, once the other trees and bushes leaf out, there won’t be any difference, but that’ll be a while, yet.

There are still only two tulips showing, and that one onion that’s managed to survive from when this was my mother’s garden, in the areas my daughters planted their bulbs. They don’t seem to mind the snow at all!

In the sun room, while it was still just below freezing outside, the thermometer was reading 10C/50F. That is more than adequate for the onion seedlings. The light and heater bulb kept the tomato and luffa seedlings nice and warm through the night.

By the time I finished my rounds, much of the snow was already melted away, and from what I can see on the security camera live feed, there isn’t a bit of it left.

I don’t know that we’ll have a nice enough day to continue working outside today, but we’re supposed to get warmer over the next couple of days, then cool day with rain. As much as it slows down how much progress we can make on the garden beds, I am thankful for every drop of moisture we’re getting right now! After one hot day, the temperatures will drop down and basically flat line at around 8C and 10C (46-50F) for highs, and hovering at or just above freezing for the overnight lows, for the next two weeks. We might even get a bit more rain in there, too!

The weather for today is still saying we’ll have a high of 7C/45F, but that it’ll feel like 4C/39F. I’m hoping to be able to get some more progress outside, but we shall see. The melted snow might actually make it easier to dig more post holes for the other pea trellises we’ll be making. If we can’t get to that, there’s plenty of other things we need to work on! 🙂

What fun! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden seedling shuffle, monthly shop, and man that’s bright!

Wow. It’s coming up on 10pm as I start this, and this is the first time I’ve had to sit down for most of the day!

Today was our monthly shop, so after doing my rounds, my younger daughter and I headed out to the city. We were going to do our usual shop when I remembered I wanted to pick up some wood pellets to try as a litter replacement, so we added a stop at Canadian Tire, first.

Canadian Tire is a dangerous place for me to be, on payday! 😉

While we were there, I got my daughter to choose a paint colour so we can finally paint the kibble house. We’ll be able to paint the cat house, too. This is the colour she chose.

She actually chose two colours, then asked me which one I preferred, and I chose the darker one. “Citrusy”, I think it’s called. The girls have declared we don’t have enough colour around the farm, and they would like to change that.

It’s going to be colourful, all right! 😀 The kibble house is going to be really bright!

One of the other things we picked up was a new axe. We’ve found a whole collection of them, mostly in the old basement, but the girls have examined every one, and they’re all in terrible shape. I suppose we could fix them, but we’d much rather have something new and higher quality. After we paid for our stuff and were heading for the van, my daughter suddenly asked, “where’s the axe?”

Yup. We’d forgotten it at the cash desk!

So off my daughter went with the receipt to get it. It was so hilarious to see her coming out again, long flowing hair, skirt swirling in the wind, and an axe over her shoulder. A woman happened to be getting out of her vehicle beside us and called out, “walk proud, and carry a big axe!” Too funny!

With our rather meager success with onion seeds, when I saw some onion sets at Canadian Tire, I did pick some up.

When we got home and I quickly checked my email, I found a shipping notification from Vesey’s. The onion sets we ordered from them have shipped, with an expected arrival of May 7. Those are a red variety, so between the two, we’ll have a couple hundred onion sets to plant, on top of the surviving seedlings. We shall see how they compare! I’d rather grow onions from seeds, if only because there are so many more choices in varieties, but I’m not too fussy about it! We use a lot of onions, so I’ll take whatever will grow.

After all the shopping was put way and we had supper, the girls and I then worked on planting the squash seeds. That required taking everything out of the big tank to make room for the new starts, so the tomatoes, luffa and the last onion seeds I started have all been moved to the sun room.

All of the onions have been moved to the new shelf we got for our transplants.

This photo was taken somewhere around 9pm. I love how bright it still is outside! It was an overcast and rainy day today, so not a lot of light, but the sun room was still quite warm.

Not warm enough for the new seedlings, though. I had to get creative.

I rigged up the light we’ve been using to keep the small tank warm, so it hangs from the support bar holding the top points of the mini greenhouse in place. It has a full spectrum bulb in it, so they’ll get both good light and warmth from above, as well has warmth from below, where the ceramic heater bulb is set up. We still need to use that at night.

The small tank now has all the remaining gourds that have not sprouted yet. Without the light fixture that was helping to keep the tank warm, I added a couple of bottles filled with hot water help maintain the temperature.

We changed the level of the base in the big tank, so the cups would be closer to the lights. One of the fixtures does give off warmth, but the other does not, so I added bottles of hot water to this tank, too.

This tank now has the one cup with the Tennessee Dancing Gourds, and one cup with a single tomato seedling in it that isn’t doing well, but we just can’t bring ourselves to get rid of. Everything else is summer and winter squash. We planted fewer of the winter squash, pumpkin and zucchini, and lots of the melons and pattypan squash.

We are really looking forward to lots of summer squash in particular! The pattypans are our favourite vegetable, and we really miss being able to pick a bunch of summer squash every morning, for that day’s meals. 🙂

We now have a couple of weeks or so before we start the last of our seeds; the Montana Morado corn, cucamelons, and half of our sunflowers. The corn will be in toilet paper tubes, so they’ll be in their own bin to keep the tubes supported. By then, we should be able to use the sun room exclusively, instead of the aquarium greenhouses. The gourds might even have germinated by then! 😉

The next few days are going to be odd ones. Our days are going to warm up again, but check out those expected lows…

Tomorrow, we’re supposed to have a fairly decent 7C/45F, but then drop to -4C/25F with flurries overnight! Then, two days later, we’re supposed to reach a high of 19C/66F, only to drop to 4C/39F overnight. Then Sunday’s overnight low is back below freezing again! At least the long range forecast shows no lows below freezing after that, but… well, we do have a frost date of June 2, so there’s a good chance will dip below freezing a few times more. I just wish it wouldn’t lurch back and forth like that! Still, those daytime temperatures will give us plenty of opportunity to get garden beds prepped, and the early planting started. We have lots of work to do outside, and will need to take advantage of every good day we get!

It’s going to be fun! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: building the first pea trellis

We had a beautiful warm day today – prefect for working outside!

Our peas are among the things that require the most preparation before we can direct sow them, so we decided to focus on building trellises for them. After looking over some design ideas, drawing some sketches and making some decisions, I headed out with my baby chain saw and rifled through the pile of poplar poles we kept after doing some clean up and testing out the cordless pruner.

That baby chainsaw made cutting poles to size very fast!

In the background are the support poles, cut to 6 ft lengths. The poles on the wagon are the cross pieces. I am short a few to be able to complete all the beds, but I ran out of medium sized poles. We are saving the bigger ones for the squash trellises, as they will have the most weight on them. The smaller ones will be good as stakes, but are too thin to be cross pieces.

I’ll just have to do more clean up and gather more poles! 🙂

Our purple peas have the fewest seeds, so it got the simpler trellis design.

I started by laying out the support poles near where they will be set. Each bed will have 5 support poles, with the biggest ones on the ends, and the middles.

That rain barrel in the background is the one I patched up last year, to keep water at ambient temperature near our squash beds. We will need to fill it with water soon, so it doesn’t blow away! It’s going to take all our hoses put together, to reach that far.

After finding the centre of the first bed, I started digging a post hole – and immediately started hitting roots and rocks!!

I did drag over one of the post hole diggers we found, to try it out.

I’m pretty sure it has pieces missing. 😀

It can handle smaller pebbles, but roots and larger rocks were a problem. For some of the rocks, I had to get in there and bring them out by hand, because not even the spade could get them out. We only have one spade, and I don’t want to break it! We did have a second spade. The handle broke while I was digging holes for the haskaps. :-/

First pole is in!

The pile of rocks was later added to the top of the soil around the post. The soil that was put back into the hole and tamped down was a lot softer, and sank down quite a bit.

Shortly after that, my younger daughter was able to join me, and the rest of the poles went in much faster. 🙂

Attaching the cross pieces was a bit of an issue. What I really would have liked to do was screw them together. There’s no way to do that manually, since we’d end up pushing the poles around in their holes. We don’t have enough extension cords to reach this area to use a corded drill and drill pilot holes. Our cordless drill is old and the batteries no longer hold a charge – and it’s old enough that the brand no longer uses the same batteries and does not make them anymore. Once we work out a solution, we’ll go back and put in screws.

Before adding the cross pieces, we measured and marked heights at the top and bottom of each support pole, then cut flattened spots on the ends of the cross pieces and at the marked areas of the support poles. When cleaning up the basements, we found a ball of old bale twine, so we used that to tie the crosspieces in place. That twine is really old, so while it’s holding surprisingly well right now, I expect it to disintegrate fairly quickly.

Once that was done, I used the twine to weave on strings for the peas to climb.

Which took quite a long time! The ball of twine was lots of shorter pieces. I kept stopping to tie ends together and make centre pull balls, to make wrapping around the cross pieces easier. I ended up using most of the ball, so we’ll have to find something else to use for the other trellises.

This bed is now ready to layer straw and soil down. We might even be able to find something usable in the old compost pile to add to the layers. We don’t have a lot of material that can be used to build over that grass, but anything is better than what’s already here! And we can deal with weeds.

It seems a bit much, to do all this burying of posts for a temporary garden, but wind is something we have to take into consideration. Hopefully, we were able to get the support poles deep enough that they won’t be blown over.

The other two beds will have double rows of peas planted in them, so the trellises we build there will not have the cross pieces at the bottom. Instead, we will put cross pieces about a foot away from the centre poles, at about the same height as these ones. Once these trellises are strung, they will form a sort of A frame, with each row having it’s own side of strings to climb.

When I was a kid, my mother always grew peas, but never used trellises. One of my jobs as a child was to flip the rows of peas, so that the sun could reach the other side of the plants. I do remember a lot of yellowed or rotted leaves when flipping my mother’s un-trellised peas. This would have been due to lack of sunlight in the bunched up plants, and contact with the soil. There was likely fungal issues, too, but as a child, I wouldn’t have recognized it for what it was. It worked, and we always had lots of peas, but this will be healthier for the plants, and should result in better yields.

While I was working out here, I was able to hear people out and about, walking on the road, etc. The old house across the road from us has no one living there, but the current owners come out regularly. It was so wonderful to hear the voices of children, playing outside! At one point, I was even visited by a very friendly little dog. The only down side was having our vandal come driving by on his ATV, very studiously avoiding looking our way and pretending to be doing something else other than creeping on me. As if his driving over, turning around and going home again wasn’t making it really, really obvious. :-/

We definitely need privacy screens! The corn and sunflowers will help, once they’re tall enough, but when we clear the fence line so we can repair the fence, we’ll be removing what little screening we have in that area right now.

For now, I’m rather pleased with our “rustic” pea trellis. Not too bad for something made of completely salvaged materials!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: killing grass, and first one!

While doing my rounds today, I brought out one of our black tarps and headed over to where we will be planting the Montana Morado corn.

None of our corn can be planted until well after our June 2 last frost date. Covering this area now will give us about 5-6 weeks to kill off the grass as much as possible, before the corn can be planted. There’s a lot of crab grass around here, so I don’t expect to kill those off completely, but we should be able to pull up a lot of the rhizomes later on.

The Montana Morado is the only corn we will be starting indoors, as we are not sure how well they will grow in our zone. If things go to plan, we will save seeds from these and, over the years, it should develop hardiness to our local climate. But first, we have to get a successful crop! I’m really looking forward to how these turn out.

Of course, while continuing my rounds, I checked the areas where we planted in the fall. There are more tiny little muscari showing up, as well as the snow crocuses. This was my morning surprise, though.

The very first of my daughter’s tulips has emerged! So exciting! The tulip bulbs they planted here needed to be buried quite deep, and heavily mulched. While they need cold winters, we didn’t know if they survived the extreme cold we got in February. If they had been established, I would not have been concerned, but this is their first winter after planting, and they were more vulnerable. Hopefully, this means we will be seeing the other tulips, and the irises come up soon.

We did see something coming up that we thought might have been an iris, though my daughter didn’t remember planting that far out. It turned out to be an onion! When we moved here, the old kitchen garden had a fence around it, and my mother had some onions just outside the fence line. One or two have been coming up every year, but they never reach full maturity before dying back, so I’m really surprised to see one coming up.

It makes me think about transplanting our bulb onions in the sun room soon. The ones started in the Jiffy pellets are getting really big. 🙂 We still need to add soil to the beds those will be going into, though, which means I should probably start hardening them off now.

We’re going to have an awful lot that needs to get done, all at once, pretty soon!

The Re-Farmer