Our 2021 garden: squash tunnel build, day one

Not that long ago, we were dealing with freezing temperatures. Now we’ve got a heat wave!

Today’s high was predicted to be 24C/77F. Instead, we reached 28C/82F. Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be 28C… does that mean we’ll be going to break 30C/86F? 😦

Hot as it was, we needed to get started on the squash tunnel. Thankfully, we could at least work in mostly shade.

The first thing to do was go through our pile of poplar we’ve cleared out of the spruce grove, and pick the strongest, straightest ones. Straight for the first 7 feet, at least!

The upright supports were cut to 7 feet, but there was still enough from each of them to cut cross pieces at 5 1/2 feet. Of those, the strongest ones were selected, and at least 3 inches was trimmed from each end to have a narrower, flattish part to attach to the uprights.

While preparing to screw the pieces together, I found our first wood tick of the season! We ended up finding a couple more, later on.

Time to dig out the bug spray to go with the sun screen… 😦

The uprights need to be 5 feet apart, and the cross pieces were to be attached to their tops. I measured out and shoved some sticks into the ground as guides. The bottoms of the uprights would be centered at the pegs at their based, while the tops would be placed with the two sticks at the top on the outsides, to have them lying parallel at 5 feet. The cross piece could then be laid out and the flat sides lined up to the tops. Pilot holes were then drilled and they were screwed in place.

Which sounds a lot easier than it actually was. A few cross pieces needed extra trimming to rest against tops of the uprights. Sometimes, the uprights needed to be turned until they all fit together as flush as possible. Still, it got done.

There they are! Five sets up upright supports for the squash tunnel! They just needed to be dragged out to where the squash tunnel will be set up.

At this point, they are very rickety. Unfortunately, with some of the screws pulled right out of the wood, so we had to redo them with longer screws. Which, thankfully, we had!

By this point, we’d reached that 28C/82F, so once we finished with these, we packed everything away and went indoors to get out of the heat for a few hours. The next stage was to dig the post holes, and there wasn’t any shade to be had, so we waited.

When I finally did head out, I first took the time to water the garden beds and blocks from the rain barrel by the peas. I was able to use the watering can to water everything but the Dorinny corn before the barrel was too low for me to refill the watering can anymore.

While I was watering, I found a friend.

Such a cute little frog!!

Then it was time to start the post holes. Each spot was marked with a flag, so I started by using the space to stab out a circle around each flag, then moving it so I could remove the sod. Once the sod was out, I went in with a hand trowel to take out the bigger rocks, then used a lopper to take out the many roots I found.

I had company.

I love how Rolando Moon will just hang out while we’re working outside. She doesn’t want us to pay attention to her. She just wants to be close by. She even settled down for a nap!

Finally, I brought over the post hole digger and got to work. It’s pretty much a one person job, so the girls took care of the evening watering, refilled the rain barrel by the peas, and watered the last corn block. Once the barrel was full, I decided to set up the sprinkler over the corn and sunflower blocks, to make sure the seeds got the moisture they need to germinate. Going over them with the watering can may or may not have been enough, so I wanted to make sure they got a thorough soaking while I continued digging post holes.

All done! Ten post holes, all 5 feet apart.

That was it for today!!

Getting those supports in will be a three person job. Particularly since they are still so wonky. Two people will be needed to place the supports into the holes, while the third person will back fill the holes. They will still be rather fragile until the cross pieces are added to the sides. We weren’t able to pick up a cordless drill on this month’s budget, so we’re going to have to string together a whole bunch of extension cords to drill the pilot holes! The cross pieces at the top should have enough extra length that we can put a screw through them, into the side cross pieces, too. We’re all short, though, so we’ll need a step ladder to do that!

I want to add cross pieces near the bottoms of each side, too. We’ll need a total of 16 pieces to do tops and bottoms of both sides, and then we can put either wire mesh or netting for the vines to climb up and over the tunnel. Then, we can start making the beds themselves, to transplant the winter squash, gourds and melons into. These will be on the outside of the tunnel supports only, keeping the tunnel nice and wide on the inside. If all grows well, it should create a nice shaded space that we can put chairs in, to rest and enjoy while tending the garden. πŸ™‚

Next on the list are the beds for the summer squash, and the block for the Montana Morado corn. They’re getting quite big in their cups, and hardening off nicely. I hope they handle being transplanted okay! I do with the toilet paper tubes had worked out. That would have been much better and less disruptive to the roots. Well, we’ll know for next time: pre-soak the growing medium before putting it into the tubes!

The next week or so is going to be very, very busy!

The Re-Farmer

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