Our 2023 garden: onions update

Not a lot of garden related stuff going on, but I thought it was time to post another picture of how our onion seedlings are going.

They are really coming up well! So many, they’re actually lifting up the surface soil on one of the trays.

If anyone is wondering why I’m starting onions so densely like this, it’s based on how MI Gardener now does it.

We did this last year, and they did just fine!

I’m looking at the trays, though, and thinking…

We don’t have enough onions! πŸ˜„

As for the luffa, no sign of germination, yet. It might be a while for those, still.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: That was fast!!! and planning ahead

We had a light snowfall last night, making everything all white and fluffy this morning.

The outside cats didn’t mind it at all!

I counted 21 this morning.

Meanwhile, indoors, we have our first signs of spring.

When I checked the trays this morning, three out of four of them had onions sprouting. When I came back about an hour later, there were sprouts in the fourth tray!

I’m absolutely amazed by two things. One is, how quickly they started to germinate.

The other is, how much cat hair there is, all over the soil surface. These trays had lids on them. Where did all that cat hair come from? I mean, Beep Beep practically lives on top of the lights. She naps on them, rolls around on them, and even hugs them, so yeah… I can see some of her fur drifting down… but getting under the lids?

Yesterday, I marked on our communal calendar, two sets of dates. One was the number of weeks counted back from our last average frost date, June 2. This way, we can see at a glance that something that needs to be started 10 weeks before last frost, needs to be started around March 24, while something that needs only 4 weeks can wait until May 5th.

The other dates I marked was number of days counted back from our average first frost date, which is Sept. 10. We have exactly 100 days between our average last spring and first fall frosts. That’s the growing season we can mostly count on for frost sensitive plants.

For things that have really long days to maturity, it’s that “days before first frost” that we need to consider. If, for example, I have a gourd that requires 110 days to maturity, that’s May 23. If it needs 7-10 days to germinate, I would start them at least a week before that.

If I have something than need 90 days to maturity, that falls on June 12 and, by then, I could get away with direct sowing, instead.

One of the really useful tools I’ve found is the Farmer’s Almanac planting calendar. Most planting calendars just give number of weeks before first frost, because they’re meant to be generic. I can get that information from the seed packet. Farmer’s Almanac, however, lets you input your area code (or zip code, if you’re in the US). You can even put in your city (ha!) and province/state. It will find the climate station nearest you, then give you the calendar dates for starting indoors and transplanting, or seeding outdoors. It even gives you the choice of dates based on frost date, or on moon dates. Oh, and I discovered something very handy when I hit the print button on the web page. It allows you to remove things from the list that you aren’t growing, which greatly reduced the number of pages that got printed out!

It’s still a bit generic, of course, but the date range is pretty wide. For example, it tells me bell peppers should be started between March 24 and April 7. We have five varieties of bell peppers, and four of them are early varieties, so we could use the information on the seed packet to figure out which ones need to be started in March, and which can wait until April.

Of course, they can’t cover everything, so we still need to make adjustments. For example, their calendar says to start winter squash outdoors between June 16 and July 14. With some varieties, we could do that, but we’ve got some large varieties of winter squash that need more time to fully mature, so we would be better off starting them indoors. If we use the biodegradable pots that can be buried, that would reduce transplant shock.

We have always started summer squash indoors. I think, this year, we might direct seed them. The calendar says zucchini can be planted anywhere between June 16 and July 14, which is when we can expect the soil to finally be warm enough.

As for the things we’ll need to start the earliest, the herbs (except dill, which is direct sown) will need to be started at the same time as bell peppers; in March. The eggplants and tomatoes can be started in early April, melons can be started in early May, while pumpkins and watermelon can be started in mid May.

The direct sowing dates are pretty interesting for some things. If we decide to try growing radishes again, they can be direct seeded in early April – at the same time we’d be starting eggplant and tomatoes indoors. Carrots can be planted in late April, early May, which would be about the same time we’d be starting melons indoors.

All of which needs to be taken with a grain of salt. For example, the calendar says to start onion seeds outdoors in early May. Sets, sure, but seeds? Nope. There’s a reason people out here start their onion seeds indoors in January! Also, it has dates to start lettuce and chard indoors, but none for direct seeding. Who starts lettuce and chard indoors? I mean, sure, you can grow them indoors, but for transplant?

As it stands now, though, we won’t need to start anything else indoors until March 24, at the earliest.

That gives us February and most of March to get the materials we need and build a removeable door and frame, to keep the cats out of the living room, and out of the seedlings!

We’ll also need to build a barrier to block an opening in the shelf to the left of the door in the image.

Frosty garden plans

We had fog roll in yesterday, so by morning, we were back to looking like a winter wonderland!

Nothing like seeing frost to get me thinking about the garden! πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„

One of my goals for today is to mark out on our calendar, when we need to start different seeds indoors. We will also need to figure out how to build a barrier to keep the cats out of the living room, as we need to migrate trays out of the aquarium greenhouses and over to the rest of the room. Last year’s set up had serious issues when it came to protection from cats determined to get at the pots. The problem there comes down to funds. The “unallocated funds” of our budget we would use for projects like this are now allocated to make “car payments” into savings, so that we’ll have a down payment for a replacement vehicle before next winter. That’s not going to leave much wiggle room for other things.

Still, it will need to be done! We’ll figure it out.

With the ground still frozen and covered with snow, I’m thinking about where things will be planted, and when. The old kitchen garden is getting to the point where we can start making it into an actual “kitchen garden” – the place to plant those things that we would be wanting to harvest casually and continually, as needed for our cooking. It is also a good place to plant things that will need more protection and warmth.

The waffle weave bed is done and ready. The contents will, of course, sink as time goes by, but I deliberately filled it higher than I wanted it, so that won’t be too much of a problem. With the woven walls, I do want the top of the soil to be lower than the top of the bed by a fair bit, so it’s less likely to fall through the gaps. That bed gets full sun on the long, narrow side, while the short side that gets wider at the end gets quite a bit more shade.

The rectangular bed will be built up a bit higher on the sides, plus an even higher “wall” to hold back the pink rose bush, so that won’t take much to finish. The hard part on that one will be trying to pull up all those mint roots again!

The small raised bed along the south side of the garden is ready, and the strip in front of it has bulbs planted. The area right against the bed, covered with grass clippings in the photo, has bulbils from the single walking onion that keeps coming back, planted. Last year was the first time since we’ve been here that it didn’t get broken by something before the bulbils formed! We’ll see if they survived the winter. It would be nice to have perennial onions in here. This garden would be a good place to grow bunching onions, too, though those failed completely, last year.

There’s a section by the laundry platform that is overgrown with mint that needs to be cleaned up. That could be another bed for some flowers, perhaps – my younger daughter really wants to have a flower garden in here. There’s a bed along the retaining wall blocks that needs some work – it got very compacted last year, and I finally gave up trying to keep it weeded. That bed is where the bunching onions died. πŸ˜„

This garden would be a good place to start our herb garden. We transplanted mint into alternating blocks of the retaining wall, and they did survive and grow last summer. I don’t know what variety they are, but we now have spearmint seeds. We could plant the spearmint in the remaining blocks, so we can keep it under control.

I like having a retaining wall that doubles as planters!

Other herbs seeds we have now that can go in here are the thyme (two types), chamomile and oregano. I do not want to plant the dill here, as I want to plant that somewhere it can grow freely and self seed, without taking over a bed from everything else. The lemon grass, of course, will be going into a pot and set into a microclimate against the house.

I’m thinking this garden would be a good place for the Little Finger Eggplant, as well as at least some of the peppers. The free seeds for Jebousek lettuce we got would probably do well in the shadier beds, and I’d love to try the Hedou Tiny bok choy in here.

It sounds like a lot, but I think we’ll have enough space for all of this. For things like the peppers, we’re looking to have just a few plants of each variety, as we see how well they grow here, and which ones are enjoyed the most, so they shouldn’t take up excessive amounts of space. As for the herbs, we’ll only need a couple of plants each to meet our needs, so they won’t take up a lot of space, either.

Hopefully, with raising the beds higher, we’ll have less of a battle with all those invasive flowers my mother had in here, taking things over! The raised beds should also make it easier to have protective covers we can more easily move aside, to access underneath. That was one of the biggest problems I had with tending this garden last year. We had netting to protect the plants from critters, but it had to be fixed so thoroughly, it kept us out, too!

The corner around the honeysuckle and white roses really turned into a jungle of periwinkle and purple bellflower last year. I’d like to keep fighting those off as much as we can, so my daughter can start planting new – non invasive! – flowers to eventually out grow the invaders. The purple bellflower even buried other flowers – lilies, if I remember correctly – to the point that they never bloomed. That patch needs to be divided, so we could take advantage of that and perhaps use them to create a border. I am considering transplanting the rhubarb out of there completely. They are not doing as well as they could, right under the ornamental apple trees as they are. Though, to be honest, I’d like to get rid of those apple trees, They’re creating too much shade and preventing other things from thriving. They’re so beautiful, though, and they do provide food for the birds, so I’ve no plans to do that until we have something to replace them with – somewhere else!

It will be good to have more effective use of this garden. Having a small garden so close to the house should be very convenient, if we plan things right.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: Veseys order placed – potatoes and more

Yes, I have gardening on my mind!

Among the things we were talking about ordering that will be delivered in the spring were potatoes and, potentially, raspberries.

It seems we weren’t the only ones that had a bad growing year in 2022, because the potatoes I was looking for were simply not available. However, Veseys has potatoes again, and so I placed another order with them.

Among the items we have ordered before, we are getting the Purple Peruvian Fingerlings again. We were really happy with them, in their grow bags, two years ago. They come in 2 lb packages, so we ordered two of them.

I am also ordering a couple of seed mixes from them that we ordered before (and using the coupon code from Maritime Gardening saved me the shipping costs!). I ordered two each of the Alternative Lawn Mix, and the Western Mix Wildflowers. The areas we had planted them, in the fall of 2021, got flooded in the spring, and nothing came of them. With so many wood piles chipped, we now have areas of bare ground that I would like to seed before they get taken over the invasive weeds again! Two of those areas will get the alternative lawn mix. The third does get accumulated snowmelt nearby in the spring, but should be fine to plant in. That area is next to our budding food forest, and will be good for attracting pollinators.

The seed packs will be sent right away, but the rest will be sent in time for planting in our zone 3.

Here are the new varieties we are going to be getting. All images belong to Veseys.

These are Red Thumb fingerling potatoes. They are noted for their delicious flavour. Unfortunately, there isn’t any information about how well they store over winter. These come in 2 lb packages, so we ordered two of them.

These are Irish Cobbler potatoes, an early variety also noted for their exceptional flavour. They come in a 3 lb pack, and we ordered just one of them.

These last ones are for our food forest. Royalty Raspberries. They come in packages of three, and we ordered just one package to try them. They are a late maturing variety, hardy to zone 2. So far, everything we’ve tried that’s purple has done really well for us, even in poor growing conditions, so I’m hoping the trend continues! These will produce fruit in their second year, so as long as we can keep them alive this year, we should have purple berries to try, next year.

There are still other things we will want to order for spring delivery, such as replacement sea buckthorn. We’ll just have to be careful to set aside the budget for them as we place the spring delivery orders, because we’ll be charged for them all at once, when they’re shipped!

This year, I’m happy to have several items, with different maturing rates, added to our food forest. The raspberries for production next year, apples that should start producing in 4 or 5 years, and the zone 3 mulberry trees that should take a few more years before they begin producing berries, as we will be getting 2 smaller, younger seedlings, instead of the 1 larger, older seedling they normally would have shipped, but are not available.

Little by little, we’re getting to where we want to be!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: getting started (video)

Yesterday, after many delays, I finally sorted through all our seeds, old and new. I was happy to find I still had luffa seeds left, so I got those started, along with our onions.

Since I’m running out of media storage space on my WordPress account (the down side of having such a photo heavy blog!), I took my photos and made them into a video, instead. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to let me know what you think of it, either here or in the comments under the video at YouTube. If you watch the video on YouTube, you can subscribe to my channel there. I’ll be uploading it to my Rumble account, too.

I will probably be doing a lot more of these, since I’m not about to spend over $300 a year to upgrade my account, when all I want is more storage space! It takes a lot more time, and I borrow my daughter’s microphone for the voice overs, but it does allow me to use higher quality images, and more of them, than I would here. I’d call it an experiment, but it’s not like I have much choice!

On another note, I’m quite enjoying the Movavi Video Suite to make these videos. I’m just barely skimming the surface of what the software allows me to do, since my needs are really basic, but if I wanted to, I could create some pretty professional looking videos. The only complaint I have is how it keeps wanting me to buy into subscriptions to get more choices in media and effects, etc. But that’s pretty typical of most media software these days, I think.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the video!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: Heritage Harvest and Baker Creek seeds have arrived!

Last I checked the tracking for my Baker Creek order, it was still hung up in Illinois, so it was a wonderful surprise to get it in, along with the Heritage Harvest order I knew had arrived in yesterday’s mail.

First, Baker Creek. You can read about what we ordered and why, with links, here.

The hulless seed pumpkins, carrots and onions are all repeat orders. The free Merlot lettuce seeds are a variety we’ve ordered before. We hadn’t planned to buy lettuce seeds for 2023, but there they are!

The Hedou Tiny Bok Choy is something I’d not heard of before! I don’t know if we’ll plant the lettuce for 2023, but I’d sure like to try this variety of Bok Choy! From the description, they are a cool weather crop, so we should be able to grow them all right, here.

Then there is our second order from Heritage Harvest. You can read about what we ordered, and why, with links, here.

Well, would you look at that! Thanks to the free seeds, we now have two types of lettuce! Jebousek lettuce. “A wonderful heirloom deer tongue lettuce from Czechoslovakia. Ella Jebousek of Brooks, Oregon received this variety from a descendant of the family who brought it from Czechoslovakia. Looseleaf type.”

We’ll see if we try them in 2023 or not.

What I’m looking forward to is going through that seed saving book!

I don’t think we’ll be ordering more seeds after this. We will be ordering other things, though, that will be shipped in the spring. Potatoes, for sure, and likely raspberry bushes or strawberries. That won’t happen until after the holidays, though.

At least, that’s the plan so far… πŸ˜‰

The Re-Farmer

Analysing our 2022 garden: final thoughts

Okay, it’s that time! I’ll be working on a serious of posts, going over how our 2022 garden went, what worked, what didn’t, and what didn’t even happen at all. This is help give us an idea of what we want to do in the future, what we don’t want to do in the future, and what changes need to be made.

Okay, so I’ve gone over how things went for our 2022 gardening year. We expanded our garden so much this year – and it was still less than we intended – I decided I need to do one last post to wrap it all together.

In a nutshell, though, I could probably just say this.

It was a terrible growing year.

In 2021, we got hit with drought and heat waves. For the longest time, we were out there watering the garden twice a day, just to keep it alive. With all that, things produced way better than I excepted, even when much of it did not thrive, or got eaten by groundhogs repeatedly, or got chomped on by deer.

I never thought that this year would be worse!

A lot of the failures can be attributed to things outside of our control. Winter dragged on long, as we got walloped with blizzards and large amounts of snow. I couldn’t complain about the snow, since we needed that moisture badly. Unfortunately, snow melts faster than ground thaws, and when the temperatures rose, the ground just couldn’t absorb it fast enough.

Even growing up here as a kid, I don’t remember ever having standing water in these areas!

The sad thing is, even with all this water, it would not have been enough to replenish the water table after years of drought.

Where, last year, we had things produce far better than expected, this year, it was the other way around. It turns out our garden handles drought and heat waves better than flooding and average temperatures.

Gotta look for that silver lining, though. We’ve had the two extremes, which gave us a lot of information to help us decide on our next steps.

The goal is to grow and produce as much of our own food, and be as self sufficient as possible. When we get animals, we want to grow their food as much as possible, too. How we get to that point can be changed or modified as much as it needs to be!

A lot of what we grew this year will be grown again in 2023, though not necessarily the same varieties.

As we expand our main garden area, we’ll be moving away from the distant garden beds, where we are now starting to build up our food forest. That’s what those beds where there to help prepare the soil for.

Which means that 2023 will have pretty much all the garden beds closer to the house, and we will be building more permanent structures. The temporary trellises have come down and, in the spring, we will be taking down the trellis tunnel, saving the wire to be reused.

We plan to start building permanent trellis tunnels where some of the newest, deep mulched garden beds were started. We will also focus on building more high raised beds – the challenge is to safely harvest the dead spruces to build them with, since we don’t have the funds to hire a company to take them down for us. I don’t begrudge them the cost at all; it would be worth every penny. We just have too many other things pulling at those pennies that are a higher priority, when we can do most of this work ourselves.

The low raised beds were enough to keep some things from getting drowned out, but in other areas, it still wasn’t enough. So while I do want to keep some beds low, the majority of our beds will be high raised beds.

The one high raised bed that is complete, filled hΓΌgelkultur style, did very well. By the end of the season, it had settled quite a bit and needed a top up, which was to be expected. At this point, I think the bed’s “topsoil” is deep enough that it could be used to grow longer root vegetables now. This is definitely the way we will continue to build and fill our high raised beds, though we might tweak a few details, such as finding better ways to join the logs in the walls. We have a few more and better tools to help us now, and will continue to acquire more.

Since a major component of building our permanent beds is accessibility and mobility, as we build the permanent structures, we will make sure that the paths will be at minimum 4 ft wide – wide enough for a walker or wheelchair to turn around in. That will include the trellis tunnels we will be building. Now that we are aware of how much water can accumulate where we plan to build them, we intend to build probably middle height beds on the outside of the tunnels. Those beds will be 2 ft wide, since they will be accessible from only one side. I figure we should shoot for building at least three or four of these in the main garden area (not all in one year!), along with the 9′ x 4′ high raised beds we will be making. We will be sticking to 9′ x 4′ as much as possible, regardless of how tall the bed is, so that any covers we build for them can be interchangeable. Obviously, the narrower beds we plan to build at the trellis tunnels will be the exception, but the things planted in there would need different types of protection – if any at all.

Even aside from the trellis tunnels, we will want to built quite a few other trellises that can be moved around to wherever they are needed. Among the things that actually started to grow well (if too late), I noticed that the hulless pumpkins really, really wanted to climb. The melons we want to plant are also climbers, as are some of the gourds we want to grow. These would need support that can hold the weight of their fruit, so they will need the strength of the permanent tunnel trellises. Lighter climbers, like peas and pole beans, would be fine with portable trellises.

While we will be focusing on permanent structures in the main garden area, we are also needing to plan ahead to when we build permanent garden beds in the outer yard, where there is better sunlight. We are also working on plans for an outdoor, off-grid kitchen in that general area. That’s on top of the shed we need to dismantle, so that we can salvage the lumber for other projects, like the mobile chicken coop I want to build.

We’ve got a lot of building and heavy labour ahead of us, and none of us are quite able bodied, so it might take a while to get it done!

As terrible of a growing year it was in 2022, it provided us with much useful data, and will actually help us in planning our next steps.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Analysing our 2022 garden: the things that never happened (updated)

Okay, it’s that time! I’ll be working on a serious of posts, going over how our 2022 garden went, what worked, what didn’t, and what didn’t even happen at all. This is help give us an idea of what we want to do in the future, what we don’t want to do in the future, and what changes need to be made.

Okay, so now let’s look at the things that never happened – or the things that kinda, sorta happened.

I’ll start with a kinda-sorta happened, and didn’t happen, at the same time!

The bread seed poppies.

Last year, we’d planted some bread seed poppies in the old kitchen garden, which didn’t thrive, but we were still able to harvest dried pods and keep seed for. For 2022, we also bought two other varieties. The plan was to plant them well away from each other, to prevent cross pollination. Poppies self seed very easily, so wherever we planted them, they would be treated as a perennial.

In the spring, we scattered our collected seed over the same bed we’d grown them in before. They really were too densely sown, but at the same time, it was just such a terrible growing year. Lots of them germinated, but there were weeds growing among them that had leaves very similar to the poppy leaves. I had to wait until the got larger before I could tell for sure, what was a weed, and what was a poppy. They still didn’t do all that well, and I didn’t bother trying to collect any of the few dried pods that formed to collect seed. Instead, that bed was completely torn up, and there is now a low raised bed framed with small logs. Whatever we end up planting there should do a lot better.

As for the new varieties, we never found a place we felt was suitable to sow them. The flooding certainly didn’t help. Some of the places I was thinking of ended up under water, so I guess it’s a good thing we never tried planting there.

So bread seed poppies are something we will try again, once we figure out permanent locations to grow them that are in very different parts of the yard.

Then there were the wildflowers.

We got two types of wildflower seed mixes, specific for our region. Both were sown in the fall, when overnight temperatures were consistently below 6C/43F. One was an alternative lawn mix, so we sowed those between two rows of trees behind the storage house, where it’s very difficult to mow or tend. The other was sown outside the fence near the main garden area, where we later put the new sign to identify the property, after the old one disappeared. There is a broad and open strip of grass between the fence and the road, that I would eventually like to fill with wildflowers. To start, our first sowing was done near the corner, where we hoped they would attract pollinators that would also benefit our garden.

We got nothing.

The photo on the right doesn’t show the space between the trees the seeds were broadcast onto, but it was filled with water. The storage house didn’t just have a moat around it, like the garage. The space under it, where the yard cats often go for shelter, was completely full of water.

The photo on the right shows where the Western wildflower seed mix were broadcast and, while there was some standing water in places, it also got covered with sand and gravel from the road, as the ridges left behind by the blows melted away.

Yes, the snow got flung that far from the road!

Not a single wildflower germinated, in either location.

I suppose it’s possible that some seeds were hardy enough to survive the conditions and will germinate next spring. Who knows.

I’d intended to get more seed packets, which would have been sown in the fall, but completely forgot to even look for them. I might still get them and try broadcasting the seeds in the spring. We do still want to turn several areas that are difficult to maintain, over to wildflowers and groundcovers. Once we get them established, they should be virtually maintenance free. It’s getting them established that might take some time!

During our previous two years of gardening, we grew sunflowers. The first year, we grew some giant varieties. For 2021, we grew Mongolian giants and Hope Black Dye. These were to do double duty as privacy screens.

They did not thrive during the drought conditions we had last year, and deer were an issue, but we were able to harvest and cure some mature seed heads and intended to plant them in 2022.

That didn’t happen.

Basically, with the flooding, the spaces we would have planted them in were just not available. Plus, the bags with the seeds heads were moved into the sun room, after spending the winter in the old kitchen, with the intention of planting the seeds, they ended up in there all year. With how hot it can get in there, I don’t think the seeds are viable anymore.

Still, it might be worth trying them!

The reason we wanted to grow the varieties included using them as both privacy screens and wind breaks. We also want to grow them as food for ourselves and birds and, at some point, we’ll be getting an oil press, and will be able to press our own sunflower oil. So sunflowers are still part of our future plans.

We did have sunflowers growing in 2022, none of which we planted ourselves. They were all planted by birds, and were most likely black oil seed; the type of bird seed available at the general store. Only a couple of seed heads were able to mature enough to harvest, and we just gave them to the birds.

I do want to plant sunflowers again, but at this point, I’m not sure we will do them for 2023.

Several other things we got seeds for, some we intended to plant in 2022, but others for future use.

Of those we had intended to plant, one of them was Strawberry Spinach.

These are something we’ve grown before on our balcony, while still living in the city. The leaves can be eaten like a spinach, while also producing berries on their stems. We’d ordered and planted some in a new bed, where we could let them self-seed and treat them as a perennial, in 2020.

They were a complete fail. We don’t know why.

I ordered more seeds and we were thinking of a different location to plant them, but then the flooding hit, and we got busy with transplanting and direct seeding, and basically forgot about them.

I still want to grow them, but we still need to figure out a good, hopefully permanent, location for them.

We also found ourselves with a packet of free dill seeds (, plus we were given dill that we were able to harvest seeds from. Since cleaning up the old kitchen garden area, we did start to get dill growing – dill is notorious for spreading its see and coming back year after year! – but they never got very large. We have bulbs planted where they’ve been coming up, so we’re not exactly encouraging them in that location.

In the end, with the way things went, we never decided on a location to plant them, and with all the other issues we had with the garden this year, it just wasn’t a priority.

For 2023, however, we’re actively starting to order herb seeds and will be building up an herb garden, so hopefully we’ll be able to include dill in those plans, too.

One thing we ordered that we did not intend to plant right away was wheat.

These are a heritage variety of bread wheat, and we only got 100 seeds. Even if we had a good year, I doubt that would give us enough yield for even a loaf or two of bread. We do, however, plan to invest in a grinding mill in the future.

Meanwhile, when we do plant these, it will be for more seeds, not for use. In the longer term, we’d need to have a much larger area to grow enough wheat for our own use.

We’ll be starting slow!

Then there were the forage radishes.

Also called tillage radish. We got these to help amend our soil, and loosen it for future planting. These would be something we would use to break new ground in preparation for future garden plots. There are a whole lot of seeds – and that was the smallest size package! – so we’ll probably have a few years to use these to prepare new beds.

I think that’s it!

I’m sure I’m forgetting something. πŸ˜„πŸ˜„

Next, I’ll post my final thoughts on how everything went. With everything that went on this year, that’s going to need its own post!

The Re-Farmer

Update: I knew I was forgetting something! Two somethings.

The first is our winter sowing experiment. You can read about how that turned out, here. Basically, we got nothing, and I think it was due to our extended, cold winter. I know this is something that has worked for others in our climate zone. It just didn’t work for us this year. In the future, I will probably experiment with it more, but not for the 2023 growing season.

The other is our cucamelons. In 2021, the cucamelon vines grew well in a much more ideal spot, but we had almost no fruit. The previous year, we grew them in a spot that was too shady for them, but still managed to get more fruit. I believe it was a pollination problem.

While we do want to grow them again in the future, we decided not to get more seeds. However, in cleaning up and redoing the spot they were growing in, putting in chimney blocks to plant in and keep the soil from eroding under the chain link fence, we found lots of tubers. In theory, we could over winter the tubers and plant them again in the spring. So we buried them in a pot and set the pot into the sun room, where it doesn’t get as cold. The first year we tried that, there was pretty much no sign of the tubers by spring. I found only the desiccated skin of one. When I brought the pot out for 2022, I didn’t even bother digging for the tubers. I knew they wouldn’t have survived the extended cold, even in the sun room. We should have taken it into the house and maybe into the old basement, where the cats couldn’t get at it, but those stairs are difficult for to navigate, and we go down there as rarely as possible.

So winter sowing and cucamelon tubers were both things that just didn’t work for 2023.

Our 2023 garden: second Heritage Harvest order placed

Okay, I just couldn’t resist.

I ordered more seeds from Heritage Harvest today.

In truth, we might not actually plant these seeds. It will depend on the space and conditions we have. However, I do want to have them in my seed collection, just in case, or for future planting.

Here is what I ordered (all images belong to Heritage Harvest).

First, there is the Gold Ball turnip.

This is something we got as free seed last year and planted in our 2022 garden. They germinated quickly, then completely disappeared! It is described as one of the best tasting turnips, and a good storage variety, so I would like to try them again.

This time, making sure to use floating row covers to protect the seedlings from whatever has been eating them!

Here we have the Cream of Saskatchewan Watermelon.

The early season watermelon variety we tried last year died off almost immediately after transplanting. Whether that was due to transplant shock or the flooding, I’m not completely sure. Very likely, both. I couldn’t find it again, so I would like to try this one. This is not a storage variety, due to the very thin rinds, but it is described as extremely tasty, so storage likely won’t be an issue! With only 80-85 days to maturity, we might even be able to direct sow these, instead of starting them indoors.

This is Orchard Baby corn.

Yes, we already have two varieties of corn seeds, including a popcorn. These are a dwarf variety that matures in only 60 days. They are also described as being extremely rare. There’s only 50 seeds per packet, so I ordered two.

Yes. More corn. This time, Yukon Chief.

This variety matures in only 55 days. While not a dwarf variety, the stalks grow to only about 4 feet in height. This variety was introduced from the University of Alaska, so they should do all right here!

These also come with only 50 seeds per packet, but I decided to just get one.

Which variety or corn, or how many we end up planting, is a decision we will make once we have a better idea of what we have to work with in the spring. After the past couple of years, we know full well that whatever plans we make now can change very quickly. Hopefully, I will plant at least the popcorn, plus one sweet corn variety, but if we can manage more, that would be great.

I actually removed several things from my cart in order to get this book, and stay in budget. How to Save Your Own Seeds.

I do know how to save seeds for quite a few things, but there are some that I’m not as sure about. With availability of seeds, or specific varieties of seeds, fluctuating so much at the best of times – and these are not the best of times! – I figured this would be a valuable resource for our library.

I was so, so tempted to order more! I saw the Tropeana Lunga onions were in stock, but decided against them this time. They did really well, but their super thick necks prevented them from curing properly, so we’ll stick to other varieties that will hopefully not have that issue. I was looking at giant sunflowers and herbs, flowers, and even more tomatoes. It’s hard not to over indulge! Especially when they are things we do want to grow, like herbs that will also attract pollinators, or flowers that can be used as trap crops for insects.

All in good time. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, before we’re ready to grow many things we are planning for!

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Analysing our 2022 garden: starting seeds indoors, and other physical challenges

Okay, it’s that time! I’ll be working on a serious of posts, going over how our 2022 garden went, what worked, what didn’t, and what didn’t even happen at all. This is help give us an idea of what we want to do in the future, what we don’t want to do in the future, and what changes need to be made.

Our 2022 garden had a lot of challenges, and a lot of failures. Some of challenges and failures started well before we planted a single thing outdoors.

With our short growing season, we need to start a lot of things indoors. That, in itself, is expected and not a big deal. Our circumstances, however, have thrown in some major difficulties.

Fourteen of them, in fact.

Well. Sixteen, when we were trying to get them going this year.

Our indoor cats.

The other challenge is a combination of space and light. This house is oriented to the East. Our largest windows face the sunrise – with a grove of 60’+ spruces not far away. Our south facing windows are smaller and inaccessible for the purpose. The exception to that is the sun room, however the sun room is not warm enough to start seeds in when we need to. Plus, during colder weather, we allow the outside cats to use it for shelter.

Which means we need to figure out how to start seeds indoors, provide adequate artificial light, and protect the seedlings from cats that are determined to either roll on them, or eat them!

The first solution was one that we started doing last year. We have two aquariums that we have been able to convert into greenhouses, of a sort. When we moved out here, we brought our big tank, with a second light fixture to replace the kit light. Both work just fine, and provide adequate light for starting seeds.

The corner of the living room the tank sits in gets cold, so we added rigid insulation against two walls for extra protection. We were also able to get a warming mat to place under seed trays of things that needed extra heat. Since the lights can’t be raised or lowered, we used cardboard boxes under the seed trays to adjust the height, with new plantings closer to the lights, and larger ones lower down, rotating and adjusting as needed. We built frames with hardware cloth to cover the top of the tank, which both protected the seedlings from the cats, but also allowed more air flow.

This above picture was taken with the hardware cloth covers removed for access. As you can see from the bedraggled seedlings, we didn’t quite manage to protect them from the cats. More on that later.

The other tank is much smaller; just a 20 gallon tank. It, too, tended to get chilly, plus the light it came with was not as bright as having two lights, as with the large tank. It has insulation on three sides to protect from the chill walls, which also got covered in aluminum foil to reflect the light.

When we first started using this tank the previous year, we used the original lid it came with. The cats were incredibly determined to get at the trays below, and were able to reach through the opening for the filter, no matter what we used to block it, completely destroying the trays below. This year, we found some window screens in a shed, and used one of those as a lid, weighted down with hand weights. We removed the light from the bottom of the original lid and attached it to a foil lined piece of rigid insulation, and simply set it on top of the window screen. The cats still sometimes managed to knock the weights around and displace the screen but, over all, it did keep them out.

The problem with both tanks, but especially the little one, was air circulation. For that, we used a tiny fan we found in one of the basements while doing clean up. We could put it right into the big tank, or on top of the hardware cloth covers, aimed downwards. For the small tank, we could just set it on the screen, also aimed downwards. Ultimately, though, we used the small tank as little as possible.

We had an awful lot of seeds to start indoors, however. Way too many to fit in the tanks. Since the seeds needed to be started at different times, we could start the earliest ones in the tanks, then rotate them out when the next seeds needed to be started.

The question was, rotate them out where?

One of my daughters had bought a mini greenhouse for me the year before, so we brought that into the living room. We also bought a long, narrow, LED shop light to illuminate it better. That worked out well enough that we later bought a second one.

We set it up as close to the window as we could, on a chair to catch more light. The only way we could use the light, however, was to hang it from a plant hook in the ceiling above, so that it rested on the chair as well, oriented vertically.

The cats were absolutely determined to get into it!

They managed to squeeze in from under the chair, so we tried taping the plastic cover to the chair.

That wasn’t enough.

We added pieces of cardboard to block the spaces they were squeezing through.

It… mostly worked.

In the end, it was a combination of taping the bottom, the cardboard, and covering the back and sides of the frame with aluminum foil – which also helped reflect light onto the seedling better.

They still managed to get in.

I came out one morning and found cats had somehow squeezed through one of the zippers, pushing it open more, and rolled all over a couple of the trays.

It was such a disaster!

We did managed to save some of the seedlings, but not all. Thankfully, we had seeds left for some of them and were able to start over.

We were eventually able to keep the mini greenhouse sealed up well enough to keep the cats out, but it meant keeping the plastic cover on and closed up at a time when the seedlings didn’t need a cover. This meant no air circulation in there at all. Even so, there were times when a cat or two managed to get in, and try to eat some of the seedlings!

I was able to rig the little fan up inside the mini greenhouse, aimed at the walls in such a way that the air flow would be pushed upwards and around the whole space.

That little fan got one heck of a work out!

So we finally got that working, but there’s not a lot of space in between the shelves. Before long, some of the seedlings began to outgrow the mini greenhouse. They needed to be moved out, and the only place we could move them to was the sun room – but we had to wait until it was warm enough!

Eventually, we were able to move the largest seedlings onto shelves in the sun room, while other seedlings got rotated into the mini greenhouse, and newly sown trays were set up in the aquarium greenhouses. We had our seeds organized by when they needed to be started, with the earliest started 10 weeks before our average last frost date, then 8 weeks, 6 weeks and finally 4 weeks.

We still ran out of space.

In the end, we set up a surface to hold seedlings over the swing bench, and eventually we could move the mini greenhouse to the sun room – and finally take the cover off! The second shop light was hung above the plants over the swing bench, and we eventually hung the one from the living room on the inside of the shelf.

For a sun room, the sunlight doesn’t actually reach far into the room.

There were so many things that needed to be started indoors! In fact, most of what we were growing needed to be started indoors, with only a few things that needed to be direct sown.

That’s not really going to be changing, so we need to figure something better out. How do we provide the seed trays and seedlings with the light, air flow and space they need, while also protecting them from the cats?

Well, the girls and I have been talking about it, and the only real solution we have is to find a way to keep the cats out of the living room completely, and turn the living room into a plant room.

The question is, how?

There are floor to ceiling cabinets between the living room and dining room. On one set, the living room side is completely covered. On the other, there is a “window” at one shelf that allows access from both sides. It’s a favourite lounging place for David! Between the cabinets is an open space somewhat wider than a standard sized door for access between the two rooms.

The only way to prevent the cats from getting into the living room is to build a barrier in that space, with a door in it, plus another barrier to cover the “window” in one of the cabinets.

Barriers which need to be strong enough to withstand cats trying to get through, yet still be easily removeable.

One of my daughters has drawn up plans for a barrier with a doorway, while the “window” will just need a simple rectangular frame to fit the space. It’s basically going to be all wooden frames and hardware cloth.

Unfortunately, we’ll need to actually buy the lumber for this, and lumber is extremely expensive right now. There is nothing in the piles of salvaged lumber in the sheds and barn suitable for what we have in mind.

It’s something we’ll have to figure out soon. Some things, like onion seeds, could be started as early as January. February at the latest. Honestly, I just don’t see how we can get the materials and build the barriers that quickly. We could start off using the large aquarium, which might give us until March to get it done, but… I’m not very hopeful.

It would be a lot easier, if the cats weren’t so absolutely determined to destroy the seed trays!

The Re-Farmer