Garden prep – getting work done outside

Oh, what a lovely, lovely day! I was able to get things done that have been waiting for a day like today.

Before I get to that, though, take a look and who I found.

Possibly the same grog (groundhog) I saw this morning. It was at a space under the fence critters use to get through the chain link, but there’s water there right now. Because I was so close, it wanted to run through, but didn’t want to go through the water! It ended up running down the fence towards the junk pile, and I didn’t see it again until I was back in the house. The girls told me it was at the feeding station outside our living room window! I could tell it was the same one because it’s got burrs or something it its fur.

Then, as I sat down at my computer to upload photos, I saw two grogs running across the driveway towards the inner yard.

*sigh*

We’re going to have our work cut out for us!

Anyhow. Back to business!

The first thing I wanted to get done was lay out the salvaged black tarps (or whatever they are) in the main garden area.

Click on the images to see them larger.

In the background, you can see sticks coming out of the ground where a groundhog’s den used to be. It took shoving those sticks into the hole and burying them to finally get it out of there. They will be trimmed, later.

The black plastic should help warm up the soil, while also killing off the grass and weeds. We will be growing potatoes here, using the Ruth Stout deep mulching method, to start reclaiming this area.

When we’ve used these tarps before, we’d weigh the edges down with rocks, bricks, fence posts – whatever we could find. Since then, I found a big bag of cheap metal tent pegs, so I used some of those to pin the tarps down. The ground is thawed enough that I had no problem pushing them through – except for the rocks.

So. Many. Rocks.

I think only one tent peg actually made it through with minimal problems, and even then, I could feel it pushing past more rocks.

We have three types of potatoes on the way. Two at 5kg/11 pounds and one at 1kg/2.2 pounds. We will likely break the spaces covered by the tarps into 4 beds with paths, if only to make things easier to reach. We may plant the two 5kg types of potatoes here, and find somewhere else of the 1kg of potatoes. Maybe use one of the two grow bags I picked up on sale, for such a small amount.

The next area I wanted to work on was the chimney block bed along the chain link fence. The last 4 blocks had been brought over and were waiting to be placed.

At this point, all I wanted to do was level off the soil with a hoe, then line the blocks up along the fence. The ground slopes downward along this area, and the gap under the chain link increases along the way. When we built the bed here last year, we had to add boards along the fence to keep the soil from washing away when we watered things. It didn’t work as well as in the other bed (the one now bordered with bricks, in the background) because of all that space under the fence. Having these blocks will solve the erosion problem.

The blocks won’t be filled quite yet. I want to put some more organic material at the bottoms before returning the soil, and adding more, if needed. The ones we filled last year look like they could use some topping up, too.

Next, it was the garlic and asparagus beds.

I’ve been reading up and watching videos about growing asparagus – which is not yet showing – and it seems they do well with deep mulching (as well as being planted together with strawberries, which we might do). The garlic beds have mulch on them that I have decided to take off, and move to the asparagus.

First, the garlic beds.

Click on the images to see them in a larger size.

Pulling back the mulch, I can feel that the soil has thawed around the edges, but the closer to the middle, the more frozen it is. In the photo on the right, you can see some of the ice crystals exposed as the mulch was pulled back.

Also, this is oat straw, and quite a lot of seeds got caught up with the straw. I was seeing quite few sprouting grains, like the one in that second photo! (click to enlarge)

Both beds are now uncovered. The bed that’s in the back was more frozen than the one in the foreground. I couldn’t pull off some of the mulch because it was stuck in ice.

Now that there is no longer mulch insulating the ice, it should be melted by the end of the day. We’re at 18C/64F as I write this, so it won’t take long for the beds to thaw, and the garlic can start growing again.

As for the straw mulch…

The red lines mark there the asparagus is, plus there is a narrow band around it, where we shoved in some tiny onions that were really too small for transplanting, but we didn’t want to just toss. They didn’t do well, which is not a surprise, but what is a surprise is that the bulbs survived the winter and are starting to grow! So when the mulch from both garlic beds was added over the asparagus, I made sure it was not really covering where the onions are.

Who knows. We might ended up being able to collect Norstar onion seeds this year!

The asparagus planted here is a purple variety, and this is its second year. Two years from now, we should be able to start harvesting them. We also plan to get green asparagus crowns, but we’ve got so many things to plant this year, it sort of went by the wayside. I’m still not sure where we’d want to plant them, since it would be permanent.

Maybe here?

When we first cleaned out there area, there was a tire planter that was a car tire cut in half around the circumference, the tire flipped inside out, and still attached to the rim, which raised it up a bit. I had dug it out and tipped the soil onto the ground, discovering it was covering the stumps of a maple – which promptly started to send up suckers! Then we discovered that the planter had been for a type of flower that spreads through rhizomes. Which means I inadvertently spread a weed.

When we built the bed here last spring, we used carboard to try and kill things off first, then layered straw and soil on top of the carboard, to make the new bed. We planted strawberry spinach. If any of them sprouted, we had no way to tell, and they didn’t last long. Instead, the bed was filled with all sorts of other things we didn’t want in it.

So today, I took my nice, new garden fork to it, broke it up and pulled out as many roots and rhizomes as I could find. I then scrounged in the garage and found a couple of pieces of panelling, which I placed on top of the space between the two beds, for something to stand on, and also to smother out more of those flowers!

The little stumps are something we’re going to need to get rid of, too.

I’m not sure what we’ll be planting here. Maybe some squash or gourds, which can be heavily mulched and has large leaves to further shade and kill off anything we don’t want to be growing here.

That was it for outside garden prep. I also adjusted some things in the sun room.

The bright LED shop light that had been used on the inside of the plant shelf got rigged to light the new growing platform over the swing bench. This may be a “sun” room, but it’s not a greenhouse, and this far back from the window doesn’t get much direct sunlight at all.

Also, I’m happy to say that it looks like the two little peppers I thinned out of the other pots have perked up and may actually survive!

Once these were all taken care of, I started to dismantle the broken canopy tent frame. I could only do part of it, because I only brought a Phillip’s screwdriver with me, and the rest of them need a hex tip. Which I have, but I’ll continue it another time.

I still can’t get that one leg out of the soil. I can move it around, and the ground is thawed out for at least a couple of feed, but I just can’t pull it out. We’ll have to dig it out! The amount of force from that falling piece of tree must have been amazing to push that leg, with the flat plate on the bottom, through frozen ground must have been something else! So glad it didn’t land on the BBQ, or it would have been destroyed!

While working on the frame, I noticed the window in the back of the storage house had its cover knocked off, so I went over to put it back. Before I did, though, I could see it was wet under there, so I put my phone on flash, stuck it through the window and took some blind shots.

Oh, dear.

With how the water had formed a moat around the storage house, not coming up to the house itself, I thought it might have been pretty dry. Talk about wrong! It’s a lake under there! The kitties have lost their largest shelter.

This is also the brightest I’ve ever seen it under there. I’m not usually there and taking pictures, this time of day!

Well, no surprise that the entire storage house has been slowly sinking if it gets like this during wet years!

In the 14 day forecast, there are a couple of days where we are expecting light showers, but beyond that, we’ve got all warm and sunny, or mostly sunny, days for a while. That is going to be a huge help in giving the soil a chance to absorb more water, and the high water levels to drop or drain away. That means more chances to prepare garden beds for planting!

I’m having so much fun right now… 😀

The Re-Farmer

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