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 hügelkultur 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. 😄😄

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.

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

Analysing our 2022 garden: ground cherries, wonderberry, Korean Pine, sea buckthorn, silver buffalo berry and highbush cranberry

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.

2022 saw us making some significant steps towards our perennial and food forest plans. This included getting nitrogen fixing berry bushes that will also act as privacy barriers and wind breaks, and annuals that are known to easily reseed themselves and can be potentially treated as perennials.

Let’s start with the berry bushes.

The majority of what we got in 2022 were silver buffalo berry, which came in a pack of 30 bare root plants.

As you can see by the first picture, they certainly got affected by the flooding! Mostly just at one end, though – around where you can see the old saw horse in the second picture.

We also got a package of 5 sea buckthorn, which were planted along the lilac hedge, to fill in a gap in the hedge that the deer jump through.

Those are the nitrogen fixers, but we also got a couple of highbush cranberry, which were planted at the ends of the rows of silver buffaloberry, not far from the sea buckthorn. Unfortunately, one of the cranberry saplings got chomped by a deer.

Twice.

That sapling now has the sawhorse over it, to protect it.

The deer seem uninterested in any of the other saplings.

Unfortunately, of the 5 sea buckthorn, one transplant didn’t seem to take at all, and another died soon after. A third got broken somehow and never recovered. So we are down to just two sea buckthorn.

As for the silver buffaloberry, they all seemed to survive. We might loose one of them, but that’s my fault. While I was weeding around them, I accidentally pulled one up. I replanted it immediately, but we won’t know if it survived until next year.

Conclusion:

I’d say our first food trees did okay, for their first growing season here.

We will need to get more sea buckthorn, but we were going to do that, anyhow. Sea buckthorn requires 1 male plant to pollinated up to… I think it’s 5 female plants. The problem is, there’s no way to sex the trees until they are at least a few years old. It’s entirely possible all the saplings we got were female. We were planning to get more later on, which would increase our chances of having both male and female plants.

With so many silver buffalo berry, even if we loose some, there should still be plenty to have the privacy barrier they are partly meant to be.

Now, if we can just keep those two highbush cranberry alive, that would be a good thing!

Thanks to getting the branch pile chipped this summer, we also had plenty of wood chips to place a thick mulch on the carboard around the berry bushes. That should help them a great deal.

It will take a few years before we know how well these do. They are all supposed to be prolific berry producers. If it turns out we don’t like sea buckthorn or silver buffalo berry, they will still serve to help feed the birds, and as nitrogen fixers, privacy screens and wind breaks.

As for increasing our food forest, we currently have two different varieties of apple trees on order. We have a lot of crab apple trees, but we’ve found only one of them tastes good. The very small apples are good for making vinegar and hard cider, plus we have made apple sauce with them. There was a second crab apple tree that had tasty apples, but it seems to have died over the summer.

We’ll have to cut down others that have either died, or have a fungal disease. We will likely end up with just two crab apple trees in the row along the main garden area. Those will be able to serve as cross pollinators that the eating apples we ordered will need.

Also on order is a pair of mulberry bushes specific to our zone, which will arrive in the spring, about the same time as the apple trees. Little by little, we’ll be adding other cold hardy fruit trees, such as plums and pears, but we really need to get started on planting nut trees, as those can take a decade before they start producing.

Speaking of which…


We also planted 6 Korean pine, in the outer yard.

Of the 6 we planted, one promptly got dug up by something. I found the seedling and replanted it, but it did not survive. After that, I picked up some dollar store picnic protectors to put over them. The white fabric made them easy to see, too.

Over the summer, one other seedling died, so we are now down to four. They started to get too tall for their covers, so I used chicken wire, sprayed with orange marking paint for visibility, to create larger protective cages for them. My mother gave us an ash tree she’d grown from seed, and that was planted in one of the spots where a Korean pine hadn’t made it, also with a chicken wire protector around it.

Conclusion:

With the Korean pine, loosing 2 out of 6 is not a major concern. One mature tree would be enough to meet our needs. Anything beyond that is gravy. It’ll be a few years before we really know how they do. These are 2 yr old seedlings, making 2022 their 3rd year. I’ve read that they grow slowly for the first 5 years, then suddenly start getting huge. They are still considered a slow growing tree, and we’re looking at another 6 years before we can expect to harvest pine nuts.

These trees can potentially reach 30 ft wide and 60 ft high, which meant we had to plant them far apart, and take into account other ways we use the area – such as keeping a vehicle sized lane open to access the secondary gate. Over time, we will probably plant other nut trees in the area, as many of them have a chemical they release into the soil, so they have to be planted well away from our vegetable garden and fruit tree areas.

This is all long term stuff. Let’s take a look at the short term stuff now!


This year we planted Aunt Molly ground cherries, and Wonderberry.

The ground cherries are something we’ve grown in containers on a balcony when we were still living in the city, so we at least knew we like them. I’ve seen this on lists of things not to grow, because they reseed so easily, but for me, that’s a bonus.

The Wonderberry is something we’d never grown before, but they were also described as being something that reseeds itself easily, and comes back year after year. We had never tried them before, but the berries are supposed to be good for many things and, if it turned out we didn’t like them, they would still be a good food source for birds.

Which meant that, for both of them, we had to consider planting them in locations where we could allow them to come back, year after year.

The Result:

Based on research, we started the Wonderberry indoors quite early. They were among the seedlings that got damaged by cats and had to be restarted. In the end, we had three plants that could be transplanted, and they actually were doing a bit too well!

The Wonderberry quickly became too large for our indoor growing spaces, including the plant shelf we set up in the sun room. They ended up having to be on another shelf on the side, where there was nothing above to constrict them. They were blooming and forming berries before we could transplant them! We put them around the stone cross in the yard, after pulling up the invasive bell flowers as best we could. Hopefully, the Wonderberry will crowd out the weeds, instead of the other way around!

The ground cherries were planted in a new bed near the compost ring. I had concerns that the transplants would not make it, as the ground was so incredibly saturated. Make it, they did, and they thrived in that location! They got so big that they could barely hold themselves up. After high winds knocked some down, I had to set up supports on one side. They kept right on growing and blooming, and setting fruit.

Conclusion:

After transplanting, the Wonderberry seemed to take a while to recover, and they never got much bigger. However, they continued to bloom and produce berries until the frost finally got them.

The berries themselves are… not anything special. They didn’t live up to their descriptions. They were surprisingly prolific, considering how small the plants remained. We were fine with eventually leaving them to go to seed, and we shall see if they come up again in the spring. The only problem is their location: I kept forgetting they were there, when I was weeding and watering! So they were a bit neglected. I think they can handle that all right, though!

The ground cherries, on the other hand, were amazing! They got very large, and started continuously producing so many flowers and berries! The plants got so thick, it was actually difficult to reach and harvest the berries. Mostly, I picked what had fallen to the ground, as I knew those would be ripe. Ultimately, though, I just let it go, so that more could fall to the ground to grow next year.

If they do start growing, I want to put in a support structure using some horizontally placed 4″ square fence wire we found, to help support the plants as they grow taller. In fact, I might put two layers of the wire supports, given how tall the plants got!

These berry bushes, whether shrubs or annual plants, are all part of plant to feed not only ourselves, but birds and even the soil. I think we got a good start on the whole thing. This is definitely an area that requires long term planning, and careful decision making. As much of a problem the flooding was, it did give us information that will be quite useful as we make these decisions.

The Re-Farmer

Analysing our 2022 garden: strawberries and asparagus

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.

This is our second year for the purple asparagus. We should have one more year of letting them establish themselves before can we start harvesting anything.

I’d read that strawberries are a good companion plant for asparagus, so we bought some transplants this spring. Eventually, we plan to have a lot more strawberries as part of our self-sufficiency goals, but this was just a start. I hoped that we would be able to use runners to expand our strawberries next year.

I also snagged a package of 10 bare root, white strawberries as a spur of the moment purchase. We planted those in a new bed along the chain link fence, where the potato grow bags had been the year before.

The Results:

The asparagus and red strawberries may have been in a low raised bed, but the asparagus crowns get buried quite deep, and that bed ended up affected by the “moat” that formed around the garage with this spring’s flooding. (click on the images to see them full size)

The asparagus bed had been well mulched for the winter. When we transplanted the strawberries, the straw mulch was moved to around the bed, and wood shavings were added for a lighter mulch on top of the bed. That was done in early June and when the straw was moved, we could see that some asparagus spears were starting to make their way through the straw.

Then the flooding happened. I don’t think I’ve ever seen standing water that close to the house before! It’s hard to tell in the picture of the flooded yard, but the path around the beds at the chain link fence were filled with water, too.

Where the white strawberries were planted, however, was high enough that it wasn’t affected by the flooding in any significant way.

We did get a few red strawberries, but most of the berries ended up pretty misshapen and didn’t fully ripen. They just did not do very well at all. Lack of pollinators may have played a part in that.

As for the white strawberries, I thought we might have had some start to grow, but what I thought was a strawberry turned out to be a local weed that has leaves similar to strawberries. Not a single white strawberry grew, and I don’t really know why.

Conclusion:

With the asparagus, we are looking at 20 years of production in one place, so it’s not like anything is going to change, there – as long as they survive! There were fewer spears this year, than in their first year. I suspect that they have been set back at least a year, by the flooding.

Part of the plan had been to get more asparagus crowns every year, with both green and purple varieties, but that just didn’t happen for 2022. Finding a spot that can be given over to something for at least two decades is always a challenge, however with this spring’s flooding, that just wasn’t going to happen. We will have to keep in mind what areas so the most water collecting, and make sure to avoid them.

As for the red strawberries, the bed has been mulched, so hopefully they will survive the winter, and we’ll see better production next year.

The white strawberries were a complete fail. I would still like to try them again, but will likely order a different variety from somewhere else.

Strawberries can be planted under other things as a productive ground cover, so we have more flexibility when it comes to deciding where to plant them. We could order the roots in packages of 25, to be shipped in the spring. I’m thinking of getting at least one 25 pack, and planting them around the Silver Buffaloberry. Something we still have to decide on.

The Re-Farmer

Analysing our 2022 garden: squash, gourds and melons

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.

*sigh*

I had such high hopes for our squash and gourds for 2022. We planted SO many varieties of squash! We especially worked towards growing winter squash, with a focus on varieties that stored well for the winter. This is part of our working towards being as self sufficient as possible, and to have a good supply of food during the winter months when we can expect to be unable to get out, either due to being snowed in, or vehicles freezing, or whatever, for at least two months. Something we’ve already had to deal with, somewhat.

We also planted a variety of pumpkins, including 3 hulless varieties for their seeds, and summer squash, plus had both new and old varieties of gourds.

Almost everything was a loss, and what wasn’t a loss was still nowhere near fully successful.

We’ll start with our “fun” plants: the gourds.

I am wanting to grow gourds to cure them, then use them for crafting or to make useful objects out of them. Three that we had grown before were:

  • Tennessee Dancing Gourd, which did very well in 2021, even in drought conditions.
  • Ozark Nest Egg, which was set back in growth for quite time time, but when they did start to grow, looked to be incredibly prolific and would have done amazing, if they had not been killed off by frost.
  • Luffa, which had not done well before, but I really want to grow them for their sponges.

These were grown from seeds left over from the previous year. They germinated well, though there were issues with the cats getting into the mini-greenhouse they were in and destroying many seedlings. I used the last of our seeds to try again, and we did manage to have a few survive.

New gourds included the canteen gourd, and apple gourd.

The Results:

I am really, really happy with how the Ozark Nest Egg and Tennessee Dancing Gourds did!

The Ozark Nest Egg gourds are absolutely beautiful! I just love the size and shape of them. The Dancing Gourds managed to produce a decent amount that were larger than those we collected at the end of the previous, drought stricken year.

As I write this, they are both in a bin, curing. The Dancing gourds have mostly turned a tan colour. The Ozark Nest Egg gourds were already almost white, so there’s not a lot of change in their colour.

I look forward to seeing what we can do with them, after they are fully cured!

Then there was the luffa…

They took such a very long time to even start blooming, and when they did, it was all male flowers for quite a long time. When the female flowers started showing up, there were no male flowers to pollinate them! So when we finally got both blooming at the same time, I made sure to hand pollinate them.

By then, however, it was just too late in the season. There was no chance for them to fully mature. When the frost finally hit, that was the end of them.

Conclusion:

I would definitely want to try all three again. Hopefully, I’ll have seeds from the Ozark Nest Egg we harvested, because I didn’t see them when I was ordering other things from the site I got them from originally. I may have just missed them.

As for the luffa, I think those will wait until we have a greenhouse or polytunnel before I try again. I really like them, and when the plants finally do start growing, they grow so incredibly fast!


Next, we have the canteen gourd and the apple gourd.

The canteen gourds ended up needing potting up a couple of times, and even then, by the time I could transplant them, they were getting way too big for their pots. I’d have transplanted them earlier, but had to wait until after our last average frost date (June 2). They were already showing flower buds when they were transplanted – which promptly died.

They never really did well after transplanting, staying long and gangly, and never filling out. They did bloom, but again, it was male flowers only. We did, eventually, get female flowers that I hand pollinated, but it was too late in the season.

The canteen gourds were planted at the tunnel trellis, which had been used the year before, but the apple gourds were grown in a completely new garden area. This squash patch had most of our winter squash and pumpkins. Each transplanted went into its own dug out hole that was filled with fresh garden soil before transplanting. Unfortunately, this area got heavily saturated during the flooding, and it was way too long before everything finally got well mulched.

Out of everything there, though, the apple gourds did the best.

It still took them a long time to get to the point of flowering and producing fruit – I would hand pollinated them, any time I saw new female flowers show up. The three surviving transplants began to produce quite a few gourds, but it was simply too late. Then, even with protection, they were pretty much killed off by our first frosts.

I know these grow in our climate zone. It was just a terrible growing year that set everything back so much.

Conclusion:

I’ve already picked up more canteen and apple gourd seeds. In fact, I’ve also picked up some drum gourds to try, too! Plus some Caveman’s Club. I am just determined to make it work! I want to make stuff with these, and there are other varieties of gourds I will eventually be trying to grow, for different purposes.


Then there was the summer squash.

*sigh*

We accidentally bought three, instead of one, variety pack of summer squash seeds, so we’ll have green zucchini, yellow zucchini, Magda and sunburst patty pan seeds for years to come. Summer squash was one of the first things we grew, in our very first gardening year, and even though we lost half of them to frost because they were transplanted too early, we still had so much summer squash, we were able to harvest them daily for a while.

They didn’t do as well during the drought of 2021, but we were still able to harvest enough summer squash to be able to do refrigerator pickles. Mostly, though, we enjoy eating them fresh and raw!

For 2022, we were accidentally sent a packet of G-Star patty pans, a green variety, as well. When the mistake was pointed out, we were sent the seeds we were supposed to get, and told to keep the ones we were sent by mistake. We were quite happy to try a new variety of patty pans!

The Result:

*sigh*

The Magda, yellow zucchini and sunburst patty pans were planted in a low raised bed together. Because we like them so much, we had twice as many sunburst as anything else. The green zucchini were planted into the new squash bed, right next to the low raised bed.

We planted as many of the G-star as we did the sunburst patty pans, but those got planted in another new bed, on the opposite side of the main garden area, along with corn, winter squash and hulless pumpkins.

All of these had been started indoors with an excellent germination rate.

None of the summer squash did well, though we did get more Magda squash than in previous years, when fewer plants survived. We quite like the Magda squash. Still, there were very few of them overall, and the plants did not thrive.

We got almost nothing from the green zucchini, and not much more from the yellow. Most disappointing of all was how few sunburst squash we got. Even with hand pollinating.

The G-star had a rough start, but once they got well mulched, they really perked up and grew very quickly. We were even able to harvest some, though the biggest, healthiest plant suddenly died, its stem completely cut through by an insect.

Conclusion:

Since we’ve had such success with summer squash in previous years, we know that 2022 was an exception for how bad our summer squash did. The question is, was it because of the flooding? Or where there other factors? I think lack of pollinators were part of the problem, but the plants also just didn’t bloom much at all.

We’ll be growing all these varieties again, and hopefully, 2023 will be a better growing year!


Now we go into what was one of the more disappointing things; our winter squash. I’m including the pumpkins with these, even though they actually did better.

Along with the three types of hulless pumpkins, which were transplanted well away from each other, we had a couple of free giant pumpkin seeds we grew in a hill we used for Crespo squash the year before, and some Baby Pam pumpkins from seeds left from the year before. Those had a zero germination rate the year before, but for 2022, we had a 100% germination rate!

In the new, big squash patch, we also had Teddy Squash, a tiny, short season variety we’d had seeds left over from the year before, Georgia Candy Roaster, and Winter Sweet. In the corn and squash patch, we had Boston Marrow, while Red Kuri was planted in a new bed by the chain link fence.

I feel like I’m forgetting another winter squash. Maybe I’ll remember later. Oh, right! We also tried Crespo Squash again. Those tried to do so well the year before, but kept getting eaten by deer and groundhogs!

The Results:

Again, it was almost a total loss. Especially for the winter squash.

While the big squash patch didn’t have standing water during the flooding, the ground did get quite saturated. We lost some of our transplants completely. The squash and corn patch, on the other hand, so SO much more flooding!

Still, if we’d been able to well mulch the big squash patch better, I think it would have helped. Also, the south side of the patch got more shade than the north side, due to the tall trees between the garden and the house, which certainly didn’t help!

The Georgia Candy Roaster and Winter Sweet just didn’t grow. It’s like they never recovered from transplanting. The Teddy did a bit better, and even started to form tiny squash, but it was way too late for them to mature. The Baby Pam did surprisingly well, and we did get a few little pumkins (they only grow 5-6 inches in diameter). We got a couple of Kakai hulless pumpkins, too. The Crespo squash never even bloomed.

Probably the only really successful thing was the giant pumpkins. We made no attempt to get actual giants, but they still grew really big. We had two plants, and got two pumpkins out of it.

In the corn and squash bed, which got so much more flooding, I’m amazed we got any Boston Marrow at all. They took a long time to recover from flooding, but they did eventually start blooming and producing fruit. We did pick a few, but they were under ripe, and even the ripest one was much smaller than they should have been.

We did get some Lady Godiva and Styrian hulless pumpkins, though nowhere near as many as we should have, nor where they as big as they should have been.

The only real success was the Red Kuri (Little Gem) squash, that grew in the south yard up the chain link fence. They were still smaller than they should have been, but we did get an okay harvest.

Conclusion:

Well, our reasons for growing so much squash haven’t changed, so we’ll definitely be trying to grow them all again. There’s nothing we could have done about the damage the flooding caused. When we try again, we will have to take extra care to make sure they are well mulched, as that made quite the difference, once we were finally able to do it. We’re going to be trying pretty much all the varieties again. My source for Baby Pam pumpkins and Teddy squash no longer carries, them, though. I don’t remember right now if we have any seeds left, but if we do, we will try them again, too.

Among the things we are slowly working on is building high raised beds in the main garden area. When we get to building them where the large squash patch was, the extra height will also help get away from the shade problem on the north side .


Now we reach one more disappointment.

A total and complete loss of our melons.

We had made two new large garden plots, using the Ruth Stout deep mulch method. The north half of both had potatoes planted in them, and the south half got melons.

The previous year, we’d grown two types of melons. In spite of the drought, they did very well, and we got a surprisingly good harvest. We loved having fresh melons, so for 2022, we planted even more. Some were seeds harvested from grocery store melons. We also tried Zucca melon (a giant variety) and a short season watermelon, for six varieties altogether.

The Results:

When some of the transplants died, we filled the gaps with Yakteen gourds (the ones with the red arrows pointing to them).

The watermelons died almost right away. Of the ones that didn’t die outright, they just didn’t grow. It wasn’t until the very end of the season that a couple of Zucca melons started to grow, and even bloom, but it was just way too late by then.

Conclusion:

After the success of the previous year, this was such a huge disappointment. We all really love melons, but they are quite expensive to buy, so growing them would be well worth the effort.

For 2023, we’ve bought more Halona and Pixie melon seeds, which we had successfully grown the year before (we had saved Halona seeds, but not Pixie), plus we are trying a new cantaloupe type variety. We will also be trying the Zucca melon again, plus we still have saved seeds from other varieties.

The flooding we got last year was exceptional, so I don’t think we’ll have that happen again, but we will still need to work on improving the soil and planting them in, at the very least, low raised beds. The Pixie and Halon were planted at the trellis tunnel the first time, and are excellent climbers. We don’t plan to use that tunnel trellis again, but will be building new, permanent trellis tunnels closer to the house, with low raised beds at their bases. That should make a big difference in growing conditions – so long as the weather is cooperative!

The Re-Farmer

Analysing our 2022 garden: cucumbers, bell peppers and eggplants

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.

Here, we are looking at growing stuff that was new to us. When I was a kid, my mother did grow cucumbers here, but she never grew peppers or eggplants. Our own experience with growing peppers goes back to before our move, when the co-op we lived in built accessible garden beds, and we signed up for one of them. We tried growing a hot variety of pepper, and we were getting one that was developing really well – then it got stolen. I don’t know if I feel sorry for whomever took it and tried to eat it, thinking it was a bell pepper, not a hot pepper! We ended up potting it up and bringing it inside for the winter, and got many peppers from it, that we dehydrated.

I am not able to eat fresh tomatoes. They make me gag, and I’ve since learned this is a thing similar to how some people find cilantro tastes like soap. There’s something in fresh tomatoes that I react to, but not when they are processed.

Peppers is a bit different. It doesn’t matter if they’re fresh or processed. They make me gag if I can taste them. I’ve eaten things with peppers in them as an ingredient, without reacting to it, so it’s not an allergy, but if there is enough that they can be tasted, I can’t eat it. Oddly, I can eat jalapeno stuffed peppers just fine! As for fresh peppers, I love how they smell, and the crispness as I cut them up, but when I try to eat them, I just want to puke! However, my husband and one of my daughters both love peppers, so we gave it a try.

Eggplant is something that most of us like, but we rarely buy, so we decided to try growing them to see if we liked them enough to make it worthwhile to grow them every year. Peppers and eggplant are both heat loving plants, but as long as their growing season is short enough and they are started indoors, they can be grown in our zone 3. Our summers can get extreme heat as much as our winters get extreme cold!

I’ll start with the cucumbers, though.

We chose a variety that was supposed to be good for both fresh eating and for pickling. They were started indoors, and were transplanted at one of the A frame trellises.

The Result:

In a word, frustrating.

As with so many other things, the cucumbers did not reach their full potential. However, they did grow and bloom and produce. We would even have had enough to do a few jars of pickles, but we mostly ate them fresh.

For the amount of cucumbers we planted, we had enough for our own use.

The frustrating thing?

My sister had a very productive year for cucumbers, and she dumped bags of them with us.

We made up a dozen jars of pickles, but she gave us so many, they started to mold before we could use them all, and ended up composting a lot of them. With so many cucumbers given to us, it made it harder to use up our own cucumbers, too.

As for the pickles we made, we used a garlic pickle recipe. They’re good, but we’ll have to try different recipes, and different varieties of pickling cucumbers, to find what we like best.

The Conclusion:

Yes, we will be growing cucumbers again. Hopefully, we’ll have a better growing year, with bigger, stronger and more productive plants. We’ll be trying different varieties and, as we grow more herbs and continue to grow garlic, we’ll hopefully be making tastier pickles, in the future.

I’m also going to have to tell my sister that, if she has another bumper crop of cucumbers, to please not pass on any to us! We like cucumbers and pickles, but we don’t like them that much!


With the peppers, we got one variety of purple bell peppers (Purple Beauty) that were supposed to be so dark, they were nearly black when ripe. They were started indoors and germinated quite well. They were transplanted into one of the low raised beds, surrounded by spinach on one side, turnips on the other (both of which failed) and onions (which did well). We also had them under netting for most of the growing year, to protect them from critters.

The Result:

These were definitely a fail.

We did get tiny little peppers that ripened to the dark colour they were supposed to become, but the plants never thrived. I think they would have benefited from being mulched properly earlier, but we just didn’t have the material to do it until it was probably too late. How much of a difference the mulch would have made, I can’t actually say, but I would guess it would have at least improved things a bit.

We simply had a really bad growing year, even aside from the flooding. The low raised beds were enough to protect what was in them, for the most part, even when there was standing water in the paths, but it’s likely the flooding was still too much for the roots. The peppers were in the bed under the mosquito netting, on the left of the above photo. It wouldn’t have taken much for the roots to be hitting saturated soil and starting to rot.

What’s amazing about that standing water is, our top soil is only about 6-8 inches deep in this area. Under that is rocks and gravel. Which would normally mean, really good drainage. We had so much water this spring, however, there was nowhere for the water to drain!

Conclusion:

While the peppers may have been a fail, we’re going to try again. Hopefully, we’ll have better conditions in 2023.

My daughter had mentioned she thought we’d be trying more than one variety of pepper in 2022, so for 2023, we’re going to try several different varieties, including one hot variety. We’ll be looking at what we can do to improve soil conditions – perhaps using a higher raised bed, and making plastic domes to cover them, for extra heat. And, of course, mulching them very well, much earlier!

In the process, if we have a good growing year, we’ll figure out what varieties are enjoyed the most, and eventually work our way down to just one or two varieties to grow every year.

Assuming we’re able to grow them at all! We shall see.


Last of all, are the eggplants.

We chose the Little Finger variety, because I liked their shape and, from all I’d been able to find, they were described as quite delicious. I got them from a seed source that is even further north than we are, so we could be quite sure that they would grow here.

Well, not quite.

In the above photo with the flooded paths, the eggplants were transplanted into the middle bed, where the front half is planted with garlic. The eggplants were planted in the middle, with spinach surrounding them (which failed) and onions around the outer edge (which did okay). We had hoops to hold up mosquito netting to protect them but, like many other things, we were not able to mulch them properly until late in the season.

As we were doing the last of the transplants, we found a couple of eggplants that were missed, so those got planted into a dollar store “raised bed garden” that was made of black felt. This was set up quite a ways away from the low raised bed, which turned out to be slightly elevated, and not affected by the flooding.

The Result:

These were mostly a fail.

The eggplants in the low raised bed did not thrive at all. It wasn’t until very late in the season that one of them finally started to bloom, and develop a tiny little eggplant. Covering them did not seem to help them at all. The lack of a good mulching for so long probably didn’t help, either.

The ones in the black felt bed did better. I suspect the black fabric warmed up the soil more, and that they preferred that. They still took a long time before starting to bloom and develop fruit, however. One plant did noticeably better than the other.

That handful was our entire harvest.

We left them to grow as long as possible. We didn’t get frost until quite a lot later than average and, when we did, we covered them to protect them and squeeze out as much growing time as we could.

The few eggplants we did get, however, where quite tasty!

Conclusion:

We are definitely going to grow the Little Finger variety again, plus we will be trying some “regular” eggplant – the size and shape we would typically find in any grocery store.

With what we learned in 2022, I think that we will perhaps try growing them in pots or grow bags, or higher beds. If we can do black fabric grow bags, that would be even better. With two varieties to try, we’ll see which ones we like better, and see if we use them enough to keep growing them, year after year.


In the future, we hope to have some sort of greenhouse or polytunnel to help extend our growing season, and provide better growing conditions for heat loving plants, such as peppers and eggplants. Once we have a really good growing season for them, we’ll finally be able to determine if we actually like them enough to be worth growing annually, or if these are things we would continue to buy only once in a while at the grocery store.

The Re-Farmer

Analysing our 2022 garden: peas and beans

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.

It was a mixed bag when it came to growing legumes in 2022!

As with so many other areas in the gardens, we did have flooding around the pea and bean trellises, but that area is a bit more elevated, so it wasn’t much of an issue, compared to other garden areas.

The previous year, we’d grown three types of bush beans, and they did very well, in spite of drought conditions and heat waves. We were very happy with them.

For 2022, though, we decided to try growing pole beans, and shelling beans.

The previous year, we had little success with peas. For 2022, we decided to try an edible pod pea, as well as shelling beans. Plus, we had a whole four saved seeds from the King Tut Purple Peas we tried growing the year before.

Let’s start with the peas.

We used the same trellis we’d grown peas at, the year before, amending the soil a bit more. The trellises were all meant to be temporary, but we did get one more year out of them.

Don’t those peas look nice and healthy?

That was about the best they got.

The Results:

The sugar snap peas germinated, then almost disappeared. I think we got a whole two pea pods out of them. There weren’t a lot of those, however, and were planted in half of one side of the trellis. The shelling peas too up the rest of the trellis, which means some were planted across from the snap peas. Those pea plants also did not do well, which tells me that the soil on that end of the trellis was most likely the problem.

A couple of weeks later, we planted more of the shelling peas at an A frame trellis, shared with gourds and cucumbers. Those plants actually seemed to do better.

In general, though, the peas did not thrive. Even the healthiest, strongest plants only got to about half the size they should have. I did have shelling peas to harvest, but never more than a handful. Usually, it was just a few that I could eat right away.

Then there were the purple peas.

The Results:

As with the other peas the year before, the King Tut Purple Peas did not do well, but they kept trying to grow and bloom for a surprisingly long time. I decided to try starting the four seeds we’d managed to keep indoors. All four germinated and were looking quite healthy. They were transplanted in a south bed with the chain link fence to climb. Shortly after transplanting, I cut the top and bottom off some gallon water jugs and put them around the peas for extra protection from the wind until they could grow big enough to start vining into the fence.

They… grew. Like the other peas, they did not reach their potential at all. They grew tall and thin, without a lot of foliage. There were a few purple blooms and pea pods developed, but they were green instead of purple, except for one. I never tried harvesting them at all, but just left them to go to seed. There wasn’t a lot to collect at the end of the season, and I’m not even sure I want to try growing them again. They weren’t the tastiest of peas, but that could be because they just didn’t grow well.

The Conclusion:

While the peas did not do well, we will still be growing them again. For 2023, I’ve already ordered the variety of shelling peas we’d tried in 2020. The pea and bean trellises have been dismantled, and they will be grown in a completely different area, as we build up our permanent garden beds. Hopefully, that will make the difference. I really love fresh peas, and would love to have enough to freeze. I would love to have edible pod peas, too, but I’m not sure if we will try them again in 2023. I think it will depend on how far we get with the permanent gardening locations.


Then there were the beans.

While we bought pole beans, we also had green and yellow bush beans left over from the year before.

We planted a green and a purple variety at an A frame trellis. The shelling beans and the red noodle beans were planted at what had been a squash tunnel, the year before. The yellow beans were planted with the kulli corn to act as a nitrogen fixer, as well as to help shade out weeds.

The green beans from the year before were planted with our sweet corn as well, but that bed got flooded out. While most of the corn survived, not a single green bean germinated. We bought another variety of green bush bean and planted those, and they did grow.

The Results:

The purple Carminat and the green Seychelles pole beans did great, considering what a horrible growing year it was.! Both varieties were quite productive. I wasn’t picking beans every day, as I was with the bush beans the previous year, but I was at least picking some every couple of days. The purple beans seemed to do the best – even when a deer went by and nibbled on them all along the row!

The yellow bush beans planted with the kulli corn did quite well, too. The only downside was that we had a net around the bed to protect the corn from deer and racoons, which made harvesting the beans very inconvenient.

The green bush beans we planted with the sweet corn didn’t grow as large as they should have; it was a new bed and it had lots of issues, so I’m not surprised by that. Everything did a lot better when we were finally able to finish mulching it all. The bean plants were so small, however, that it was hard to harvest them with the mulch. They were there more for the corn than for us, so I decided to just leave them and hopefully have seeds, but I think they were planted just too late for the season, and none of the pods dried out.

Then there were the shelling beans and Red Noodle beans at the tunnel trellis.

The shelling beans (Blue Grey Speckled Tepary) were very small plants, just barely getting tall enough to start climbing the trellis, yet they produces so many pods! Still, there wasn’t much of a harvest of these very small beans. That photo is the entire harvest! I saved 100 seeds (we’d planted 50) to grow in 2023, and we ate the rest. It was the first time we’d tasted these beans, and they were barely enough for one meal! Still, we found them tasty, and I look forward to trying them again. I hope a better growing year will improve things.

As for the Red Noodle beans…

These are supposed to be a vining type bean, but it wasn’t until near the end of the season that they actually got large enough to start climbing the trellis. It took even longer before I finally saw blooms. We were starting to harvest and pull up the garden for the end of the year, when I found a single, solitary, baby red noodle bean pod, which you can see in the above photo.

I had been looking forward to trying these beans, and would like to try growing them again, just to find out if we like them! Not in 2023, though.

Conclusion:

Beans are such a staple crop, and we enjoy having a variety of types, we are definitely growing beans again in 2023. Along with the seeds we saved for shelling beans, my mother gave me a jar of white beans that are descendants of beans she used to grow here. She gave seeds to my sister to grow in her own garden, which she did for quite a few years. She’s not growing shelling beans anymore, though, so she gave her saved seeds to my mother, who passed them on to me. What a circle!

On top of that, we have ordered seeds for green, yellow, purple and red varieties of beans, including one that is supposed to be good as both a fresh bean and a shelling beans.

While we’ve had our failures this year, beans are one of the few crops that have produced really well for us, even in adverse growing conditions, making them a reliable food to grow.

The Re-Farmer

Analysing our 2022 garden: carrots, turnips and beets

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.

This year was quite a mixed bag, when it came to our root vegetables!

Let’s start with the ones we had more success with. Carrots.

We planted 4 varieties of carrots in 2022. Two varieties were seeds left over from the year before, and one was included in a seed order as our free gift. The older seed got planted between tomatoes and onions/shallots in the low raised bed by the chain link fence. The new seeds were planted in a low raised bed in the main garden area, along with a couple of varieties of turnips.

The Results:

The old seed – Kyoto Red and Napoli – seemed to start out well enough, but like so many other things planted in this bed, they were affected by the flooding. Especially at the end near the vehicle gate, which is the lowest area.

Still, we did manage to get a small harvest of both. A couple of Kyoto Red (the darker carrots on the right) bolted, so I left them to go to seed, but they never finished blooming before it got too cold.

Then there were the Uzbek Golden carrots (the free seeds) and the Black Nebula carrots.

It’s hard to tell in the above photo, but we got a lot of Black Nebula carrots – and a surprising amount of Uzbek Golden carrots! The free seeds didn’t have a lot in the packages, so I was pleasantly surprised by the quantity that we harvested.


As you can also see in the above photo, the turnips didn’t do so well!

We planted three varieties of turnips. Gold Ball, Purple Prince and Tokyo Silky Sweet. One variety we got as free seeds, Gold Ball, were planted near the Uzbek Golden carrots, and then the Purple Prince you see in the photo were planted at the end of the same bed.

More of those, plus the Tokyo Silky Sweet, were planted in other beds, shared with onions, spinach, and peppers.

Those were a total loss!

The Gold Ball turnips germinated quickly – and were just as quickly completely destroyed! Something completely decimated their leaves. The Purple Prince also were badly eaten, but enough survived to get that tiny little crop you see in the picture.

In the other beds, I know I saw some start to germinate but they, too, promptly disappeared! A total and complete fail.


Finally, there were the beets. We had four varieties to plant. They went into a small bed in the old kitchen garden, protected by netting.

They, too, were a complete loss!

The Results:

They had a decent germination rate, but that’s about it. They barely grew at all. Eventually, we took the netting off and pretty much abandoned the bed, other than watering them and occasionally weeding out the mint that kept trying to take the bed over again.

When it was time to clean up the bed for next year, however, we did find a tiny, sad little crop!

That’s all we got.

This is the third year we’ve grown beets and have never had a really good crop, but this was by far the worst year. We can’t even blame it on things like deer and groundhogs eating them! Nor can we blame the flooding we had, because this garden is next to the house, and slightly elevated. There was no flooding in that garden, even with the sump pump’s hose ejecting into one of the paths. Everything drains away from the house. Even one of the bottom corners, which was near where water collected and formed a moat around the storage house, is elevated enough to not be affected by the flooding.


Conclusion:

With the carrots, things went pretty good, all things considered. For 2023, we will be trying a different variety of orange carrot, mostly because of how much the Napoli carrot seeds increased in cost. We enjoyed the flavour of all the carrots we grew, and I’ve ordered more Uzbek Golden carrots as well. I really like their nice, crisp texture.

As for the Black Nebula carrots, they are good, and I’m glad we tried them, but we won’t be growing them again; at least not any time soon. These are a very long carrot, and our soil compacts very quickly, which made thinning by harvesting pretty much impossible to do. When cooked on their own, their colour is very dramatic, but when cooked with something else, like in a soup or stew, their intense colour can make things look very… unappetizing! We still have lots, stored in a bin in a chilled location, and have discovered they very quickly become white, with capillary roots! It makes them look moldy. 😄 This isn’t a bad thing. Those little roots are collecting just enough moisture to keep the carrots firm and crisp, but they have SO MANY of these little roots, it actually makes it hard to clean the carrots in preparation for cooking.

So for 2023, we will still be growing carrots, but just two varieties.

As for the turnips… I don’t know that we’ll bother growing them again in 2023. When we do try them again, we will have to make sure that they are under floating row covers, as soon as the seeds have been sown. Turnip greens are supposed to be good for salads, too, but we never had a chance to find out if we liked them or not. I would have loved to try the Gold Ball variety. The main reason we wanted to grow turnips in the first place is because their bulbs are a good storage crop, making them something we want to include in our goals of self sufficiency. So we will definitely be trying them again. Just maybe not in 2023.

Finally, there are the beets.

I don’t know what went wrong with those. They should have done well, where they were. My daughters like beets, however, so we did order one variety to grow in 2023. I think we’ll have to be more selective on where we plant them.

Root vegetables are definitely going to continue to be a challenge for us, given what the soil it like here. It will take time – and more raised beds! – for us to amend the soil until root vegetables can reach their full potential. Which is something we’ve already been working on, and have long term plans for.

The Re-Farmer

Analysing our 2022 garden: lettuce, spinach and chard

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.

Growing greens this year was pretty touch and go.

We had three varieties of spinach seeds left over from the year before. Only one variety was a success.

The Results:

These were planted with the Tropeana Lunga onions in the high raised bed, and they did quite well. They were not as lush as the year before, but still quite good.

The other two varieties were planted in nearby low raised beds, together with other onions, and with peppers in one bed, and eggplants in another. The few that managed to germinate disappeared very quickly, with none growing beyond their seed leaves! I don’t know what went wrong with them this year. Last year, they were grown in the low raised beds and thrived.

After the high raised bed spinach was harvested, the space was replanted with chard.

We also had three varieties of lettuce seeds left over form the year before, and those were planted in the L shaped bed in the old kitchen garden, with netting to protect them from critters – whether those critters be groundhogs or playful kittens! The last of the seeds were scattered, all mixed together, over an open space by a nearby rose bush, since there weren’t many seeds left.

The Result:

The lettuces did pretty well, in general. Even in the area you see in the photo above, which kept getting overtaken by the nearby invasive flowers, managed to do well. I think the Buttercrunch lettuce did the best of the three varieties.

We eventually removed the netting, when it seemed the groundhogs had moved on, because the netting made it very hard to keep up on the weeding. Ultimately, though, we found we just didn’t eat a lot of lettuce, and they started to bolt. I left some plants to go to seed while harvesting the rest, and then the bed was reseeded with the last of our spinach seeds.

The Result:

The second sowing of spinach was a complete fail! The first section that got planted had started to germinate, but the kittens flattened the protective cover and rolled all over them. They never recovered.

We planted more in two other sections, and made the netting supports stronger – strong enough for the kittens to use it as hammocks, and not touch the ground!

It made no difference. The second sowing barely germinated at all, and never got past their seed leaves. They were a total fail, which really surprised us.

Then there was the chard.

*sigh*

The Result:

What you see in the above photo is all the chard we got. As soon as they started to germinate, their leaves became riddled with holes. Some insect was eating them, but we never saw the insects themselves! In the end, we simply left the chard alone. Most died off, but I figured whatever was left could act as a bait crop for whatever insect was eating them.

Conclusion:

There are expectations, and then there is reality!

With growing greens, we were picturing having plenty of salads, or having lettuce in our sandwiches, and basically just enjoying having access to leafy greens, any time we wanted. We figured they would be among those things we would eat more of, simply because they were there.

Well, that was more or less true of the spinach – what we got of it. But not so much with the lettuce. We found we just don’t eat lettuce all that much. Having them barricaded under netting didn’t help. None of us wanted lettuce enough to go through the bother of taking out pegs holding the netting to the ground (so nothing could crawl under it) to harvest leaves.

As for the plants we left to go to seeds, only one variety seemed to reach full maturity. The others were still blooming when I finally cleared the bed out.

With how well the lettuce did, I expected the second sowing of spinach to do well, so it was a real surprise for them to fail completely. Now that the L shaped bed has been built up to a low raised bed with wattle woven walls, anything we plant there should do better. There is new garden soil, as well as layers of organic matter trench compositing below.

As for the chard, we really didn’t know what to do with it, that we actually enjoyed eating.

For 2023, we will have just one variety of spinach. That, at least, is something we enjoy eating, sometimes even just picking leaves to snack on while doing other things.

We will probably not grow lettuce again next year. If we do grow chard again, it’ll be because we still have seeds left, and have space for it.

It turns out we just don’t like leafy greens all that much. It actually makes more sense for us to buy greens at the store every once in a while, rather than grow them ourselves.

I do still want to get chickens next year, if we can build a brooder and coop for them early enough. One of the things we plan to do is grow as much of their feed as possible, and I can see us growing greens more as chicken feed than for ourselves!

The Re-Farmer