Our 2023 garden: corn, peppers and thyme

I had to go to the nearest Walmart to get cat kibble this morning, and took advantage of the trip to get a few more little things. It was insanely busy with people. We’re coming up on a long weekend which, for many people, is the traditional time to put in their gardens. It’s also when a lot of people open up their cottages for the summer, so it was busy everywhere! All the garden centres and greenhouses are open now.

For us, today is 2 weeks to our last frost date. That means it’s time to sow our Montana Morado corn!

Which, of course, is never as simple as just putting things in the ground!

I chose to plant these in the low raised bed we grew summer squash in, last year. As with just about everything else, the squash did very poorly last year. It was, however, the bed that needed the least amount of work done on it before I could sow.

Not by much, mind you.

After removing the grass mulch from last year, I had a whole lot of weeds to dig out. Mostly crab grass. That stuff is brutal!

The entire bed got worked over with a garden fork to loosen the soil. Then I had to go back over it to pull out as many weeds and roots as I could. Aside from using the fork to loosen the soil even more to get the roots and rhizomes out, it was very handy to support myself as I worked. I also used a board across the bed to step on, so I wasn’t stepping directly on the soil.

We really need to get more high raised beds built. This was very hard on the back. I suppose it would have been easier if I could kneel down to work, but my knees are shot, so I’m bending from the waist, for the most part.

While working towards the north end of the bed, I started finding more tree roots, from the nearby trees that my mother allowed to grow in what used to be garden space.

More reason to get those high raised beds done!

When the weeding was done, I went to get the seeds and a rake to level the bed. I brought a container to pour the seeds into and see how many there were. There was supposed to be at least 75 seeds.

I counted 94!

Once the bed was leveled, I took the board I had to support my foot while weeding, and used it to mark off three long rows. I wanted to stay well away from the edges. The crab grass is the worst along there, as the roots make their way under the log edging. Then I used the handle end of the rake to punch holes along the rows every 6 inches or so. Typically, it’s recommended to plant 2 or 3 seeds every 12 inches, but I’m doing dense block planting. I also hate wasting seed, so I planted one seed every 6 or so inches. This should be good for pollinating, and if some of the seeds don’t germinate, the resulting gaps won’t be too large.

I lost a seed while planting, though, so there’s “only” 93 in. 😄

Everything was well watered, of course. I always water before putting the seeds in, then again once they’re done.

Once planted, I put a thick layer of grass clippings all around the edges. The ends don’t have logs to hold the soil in, so hopefully the grass clippings will help keep it in place, too. Mostly, it’s to try and keep the weeds from creeping in from the edges. Once that was done, I put a very light mulch of grass clippings over the planted area. Basically, I just shook bunches of grass and let the wind blow it on. I wanted enough clippings to protect the soil, but still keep it light enough that the corn won’t have any problem pushing through.

Once the corn is up, I will might interplant some bush beans in between the rows. Maybe. I did that with the kulli corn we planted last year, and they got huge, but never reached the point of producing cobs. I now think that there was too much nitrogen in the soil in that bed. High nitrogen leads to lots of plant growth, but can result in lower yield. Or, in our case, none at all. With how densely these are planted, though, interplanting with something like beans might be too much.

Once that was done, I decided to take a chance and do some transplanting.

The Sweet Chocolate peppers that were started back in February have gotten nice and big. Normally, I wouldn’t dare transplant them before our last frost date, but I’ve been eyeballing the forecasts and decided to take the chance. It was either plant them now, or pot them up. The German Winter thyme that was started at the same time were also quite ready to be planted.

While I was transplanting, I got my daughter to cut the tops and bottoms off of some distilled water jugs for me. Since my husband needs to use distilled water for his CPAP humidifier, we have lots of those! Hopefully, they will help protect the peppers during any cool nights. In this bed, they will be easy to use row covers if we get frost warnings, too.

I had three pots with thyme to transplant – a fourth one was transplanted into a pot to stay in the house. I don’t think they’ll need any protective covers unless we get actual frost.

Eventually, I want to plant the chamomile in here, though it’ll be a while before those are big enough to do that. The spearmint and oregano we started from seed are not doing well. I might buy oregano transplants, which would also go into this bed. Spearmint is not something I usually see in stores as transplants, so we might skip those this year and try again next year. The second variety of thyme we planted at the same time as the chamomile doesn’t seem to be doing as well as the German Winter thyme has. We’ll see how they do over the next couple of weeks.

Once again, while working in this bed, I was quite impressed by how moist the soil was under the wood chips. The mulch is really doing its job!

Oh, there was one thing about transplanting the peppers that has made for a learning experience.

We started the seeds in bio-gradable pots that are designed so that they can be transplanted directly into the soil, pot and all, with no root disturbance. When the peppers needed to be potted up, they went into the larger Red Solo cups that way – except for a couple that were thinned by transplanting.

When taking the peppers out of the cups, the ones that were still in those bio-degradable pots… were still in the bio-degradable pots! They were actually rootbound inside a pot within a pot. So when I transplanted them, I removed the shells of pots they were in. The pots were very soft and easy to break off, but hardly any roots had tried to grow into them.

I still have some of these pots and seed start trays. I’ll use them but, in the future, I think we’ll skip buying those. A bio-degradable pot isn’t much use if the roots can’t get through them after being potted up!

So this is now done. The first corn is planted, and the first peppers and herbs are transplanted.

The corn is meant to be planted at this time. I just hope I didn’t jump the gun with those peppers!

The Re-Farmer


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