Our 2023 garden: newest sprouts!

I love it when seedlings suddenly burst out of the ground and grow so fast, things are different every time I check on them!

When I checked on them yesterday, I could just see one Crespo squash starting to shoulder its way through the soil. Near the end of the day, I could see two emerging and one more just visible. I also spotted one eggplant peaking through. By the time I shut down the lights for the night, the eggplant was up, with signs of more starting to emerge, plus signs of one Caveman’s club gourd.

This morning, two of the Crespo squash are fully up, with the third one almost there – and the soil in the other pot looks like something might be breaking through soon, too. There are still more tomatoes emerging, and more eggplant peeking through. Still just one Caveman’s club gourd visible, so far.

As for the older seedlings, it looks like all the ones that got potted up have survived, though one drum gourd that did not need potting up doesn’t look like it’s growing. There had been two in that pot and one died. I was hoping the second one would make it. We shall see. The other two that were thinned by division are growing, and the third pot was reseeded, so I hope there will be more to transplant once the garden is ready. The more there are to transplant, the better the chances that at least one will reach maturity!

I’m happy to see so many seedlings emerging now. Soon, these will be moved off the heat mat to make room for the next batch of seed starts.

So far, things are looking good!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: potting up, and trying again

Today, I potted up most of our seedlings, among other things.

For the larger seedlings, I thinned by dividing, so the zucca melon and a couple of drum gourds are now in their own larger pots. The pots where nothing germinated now have new seeds in them, including the luffa on the side.

The four cells of peppers are now in 7 red solo cups. The thyme and lemongrass did not get thinned, just transplanted into deeper biodegradable pots.

I also got the strawberry kit done, and that little tray is in the aquarium greenhouse with the other seed starts. Every time I look at in there, the Black Beauty seedlings are bigger, and I can spot more of them breaking through the soil. They are practically exploding in growth! I even spotted a couple of Indigo Blue tomatoes breaking through, too!

In about a week, we’ll need to start the next batch of seeds, which will include all the remaining short season peppers and the paste tomatoes. I’m quite glad we have the living room cat proofed, so we can shift things around more freely. Yesterday, my daughter was using the room and Fenrir teleported in, as she tends to do. My daughter thought it might be okay, since she was in there to supervise. She turned her head for perhaps 30 seconds, and suddenly Fenrir had a mouth full of onion greens!

Onions are toxic to cats.

My daughter was able to catch her and get the greens before she actually ate them. Thankfully, there is no apparent damage to the onion seedlings!

So much for even one cat being allowed in, with supervision!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: spring is… here?

Yesterday was the first day of spring. Check out our spring garden!

πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„

It’s going to be a while before we can start building the trellis tunnels (we will be starting closer to the high raised bed, and I hope to eventually have two or three, though maybe not this year), never mind planting anything!

BUT!!!

We do have other signs of spring.

When I shut the lights off for the night, I found two Black Beauty tomatoes had emerged! There had been no sign of them when I turned the lights on in the morning. I could just make out the “elbow” of a third one, and this morning I can see there is a second “elbow” emerging. These are in the cell just below the one with the visible sprouts.

Today, I plan to pot up some of the transplants, and try to start seeds for some losses. We are down to one luffa, two pots of zucca melon still have had no germination, along with one pot of drum gourds, so I’ll see if I can get new ones started, though I won’t bother putting them in the aquarium greenhouse. Their current location above a heat vent should be warm enough. I did remove the plastic cover on the mini greenhouse, as I think the lack of air circulation may be contributing to the losses, and even some of the bigger seedlings have started to look unhealthy.

I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some milk for my mother, and ended up picking up a seed kit. One of the things I wanted to do later on was get strawberry transplants – quite a few of them, depending on the budget – and plant them as a living ground cover around the silver buffalo berry. Last year, the transplants cost about $3 or $4 each. The kit was only $4. So I’m going to try growing strawberries from seed, which will hopefully give me more to transplant than I would be able to afford if buying transplants. And if they fail, it’s not an expensive fail. So that is something else I plan to work on today.

Oh, and I’d better call the plumber about our bathtub before I forget again! After that, I’ll know if I have to be making a trip to get a tub surround and the replacement taps I want.

We’ll see how that works out!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: last seed order has arrived

The last seed order I made, with Baker Creek, arrived this morning!

This was a last minute order that was not at all part of our garden plan for the year.

Interestingly, while the website warned that Canadian orders are now subject to duty, I did not have to pay anything when I picked up the package. There is a customs label on top of the original package label, and it says something about an exemption with a code on it, so I’ll assume that has something to do with it.

The Merlot lettuce we got as free seeds with our order are a variety we’ve grown before. We weren’t planning on growing lettuce in the garden this year, but still ended up with several packets of lettuce seeds! Now that we’ve got the cat barriers up, though, we might try growing some lettuce indoors, instead. That would probably be far more useful for us than trying to grow them in the garden and having to barricade them from critters.

The write up for the Mountain Morado corn now says these can be planted up to 2 weeks *before* last frost, so I might actually plant these this year, even though I have several other types of corn. It will depend on whether we can prepare a large enough plot for them, on top of all the other work we need to get done, like building trellis tunnels for the climbers. I intend to plant the popcorn in one of the low raised beds this year, and want to plant a variety of sweet corn, too, so this would make at least 3 varieties of corn we would need to make space for. We shall see.

We’ll be planting at least a few of the Spoon tomatoes, for sure; they did well for us when we grew them a couple years ago and, this time, we will be sure to keep seeds.

We’re still figuring out where we want to plant the two varieties of bread seed poppies we have; the only caveat is to plant them well away from each other, to reduce the chances of cross pollination, as we intend to treat them as perennials.

The salsify, we will definitely be planting this year, though they will be planted in deep containers – likely garbage cans we will be salvaging from the barn and garage, or in feed bags – so we can compare this variety with the others we have. With these, we won’t need to be concerned about having garden beds ready for them. Our top soil is way too shallow for salsify.

The sunflowers are still a “maybe”. If we do plant them, they will be direct sown. In the past, we grew giant sunflowers to act as wind breaks and privacy barriers, but we are starting to plant trees and bushes in those areas now, so we may not plant these this year at all. We shall see how our spaces work out. Plus, the deer really like sunflowers, so they need extra protection, too.

We’ve been expanding our gardens every years since we started – this will be only our 4th year of gardening since our move – but this year, we’re going to be building a lot more permanent structures, now that we have a better idea of what has been working, and what hasn’t. Most of that work has to be done by the middle of May, since the earliest direct sown seeds will go in at about that time or shortly after.

Here’s hoping the weather cooperates this year!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: new seedling set up

After a bit of adjusting, our new set up for the seedlings rotated out of the aquarium greenhouses is figured out.

The seedlings that need more warmth are inside the mini greenhouse, which is set up over a heat vent. The plastic cover is there to help trap a bit more heat, and protect them from the cold window.

It looks like we’ve lost one luffa, likely due to the chill, and one drum gourd, but there are still 2 luffa left, and 3 drum gourds. There are also several pots that had nothing germinate in them, but I’m leaving them for now, because who knows? Now that it’s over here, maybe something will happen.

The rolled up door in the cover is hiding them, but the thyme is looking like it could be potted up already!

The onions and shallots get to be on one of the shelves, as they can handle the cooler temperatures better. They look ready for a hair cut!

We were able to use some paracord to bring the lights down lower, and their heights can easily be adjusted. With just the two areas with seedlings, only one light is needed for the space right now. The shelves are closer to the window than the lights, so the seedlings are getting lit up from both sides. That was a major problem with our seedlings last year, and I was using aluminum foil to try and reflect light back to the shadowed side of the trays.

Also, you can see the trays of gourds from last year, in the mini greenhouse. They’re one shelf level above the heat vent; the bottom level won’t be used at all, since it’s right over the heat vent and very dark. If, for some reason, we need the space, we’d have to elevate the entire greenhouse frame somehow. The Tennessee dancing gourds are drying up nicely, but it looks like the Ozark nest egg gourds may still have been a bit too green when harvested. There wasn’t much choice about harvesting when we did, since we were starting to get frost, and that would have wrecked them completely. I still have seeds, though, and we will likely be starting them with the batches we’ll be planting before the end of this month.

With the cat barriers in place, and the living room rearranged for the seedlings, it’s actually made the room more useable. The girls have taken to actually having their meals in there, and even watching shows on Tubi. At the moment, they are enjoying some birthday cake in there! I’ve actually allowed myself one exception to my Lenten fast from sugar/starchy foods, to have a piece of birthday cake. It’s been long enough since I’ve eaten any sugar or starch, it’s actually making me fill a bit dizzy!

Anyhow. That’s our garden progress for the day! πŸƒπŸŒΏπŸŒ±

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: starting a variety of seeds

Today is another mild day – bright and sunny, with our high expected to reach -3C/27F, and we’re almost there as I right this. Unfortunately, we have insane winds today, and apparently for the next several days, too! My computers weather app is saying 32kmh/20mph winds, but to be honest, I think we’re getting higher than that. I’ve been eyeballing some of the trees in the spruce grove, wondering which one is coming down next, and I’ve already had to break trail through the main garden area to reclaim stuff that was being blown away. There was even a gust the blew the dining room door ajar! Not the storm door – that one stayed closed – but there was enough of a pressure change to force the inner door open. Thankfully, we have a bar latch on that door, too, so it couldn’t open very far.

Yes, the door was locked. We never use it except once in a rare while in the summer.

A daughter and I are going to be driving in this soon, as we head out to pick up some birthday pizza for her sister!

My main goal for today was to get some seeds going that need to be started much earlier. These were the ones that needed to be done.

I don’t have a “days to maturity” for the Crespo squash, which now seem to be gone from the Baker Creek website! Looks like I bought fresh seeds for this year, just in time. I still had 3 seeds left from last year, so I used those, plus three fresh ones, so there’s still some left for another year. We’ll see how the germination rate is.

I also chose only 6 Caveman’s Club gourd seeds. I took sandpaper to the large seeds to scarify them before setting them to soak. I had intended to start them soaking last night, but ended up on the phone with my brother and his wife for more than an hour, and it was quite late by the time I was done. It was worth it!

The other bowls are holding all the seeds from the packets, including both packets of Indigo Blue Chocolate tomatoes.

I had intended to use Jiffy pellets to start some of the seeds, thinking I had a full box of them, plus a partial box, from last year. I never found the full box, and the partial box had only one pellet in it, but I did have alternatives.

I was unable to find more of the larger biodegradable pots the last few times I’ve been shopping, so the 6 Crespo squash seeds were divided between my last two of those, while the smaller pots got two seeds each of the Caveman’s Club gourd.

These are my last two trays of biodegradable square cells. I decided to plant more of the Black Beauty tomatoes and give them a whole tray to themselves, while the Indigo Blue Chocolate and Little Finger Eggplant are in the second one. Each square cell has 4 seeds in it.

I made sure the soil was moist before planting the seeds, then once they were in the aquarium greenhouse, I spritzed their tops, then added water to the bottom of the tray. It’s awkward to get these long trays in, as there is a divider bar across the middle of the tank’s top. After this photo was taken, I put the covers and lights back, and plugged in the heat mat. The soil was feeling quite cold while I was working with it! “Room temperature” in our living room is definitely on the chill side.

It wasn’t until I settled down to write this post that I realized I didn’t need to put the covers back on the aquarium, since the cat barriers are now in place! Except when I came out this morning, I found Tissue sitting at the inside of the latched door, waiting to be let out. Yup. She managed to pull the bottom open and squeeze through! We’ve got it blocked in that corner for now, so hopefully, she won’t get in again.

As for the other seedlings, they’ve been moved to the shelves by the window. There’s a heat vent right there, so that will help, though now that I’m done with the new seeds, I’ll have to do some rearranging. The lights are too high, so we’ll have to find away to attach cords that will allow us to have them lower, and adjust the height as needed.

Hopefully, these will germinate within the next couple of weeks, because we’ve got another batch to start before the end of March, and they’re going to need that heat mat!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: another Baker Creek order

I couldn’t resist.

I ordered more seeds!

There was actually a reason for this.

One of the things I’ve been wanting to grow and acclimate to our climate is kulli corn. The first time I tried growing them, I ordered seeds maize morado seeds from Baker Creek, which I thought was kulli corn but those turned out to be Montana Morado corn… which then turned out to be Mountain Morado. Long confusing story there. They grew well, until something destroyed them!

Montana/Mountain Morado in our 2021 garden.

For last year, I was able to find and grow Peruvian kulli corn, they got wonderfully tall and healthy, started to form tassels, but not a single cob formed. After much research, I believe I’ve figured out why. These were grown in a new low raised bed, with trench composting and our purchased garden soil, plus beans interplanted with them as nitrogen fixers. Corn is a heavy nitrogen feeding plant after all but… it may have actually been too much nitrogen. Excess nitrogen can lead to lots of robust leaf growth, but can compromise fruiting.

Kulli corn in our 2022 garden.

I already have several types of corn, and I will not plant all of them, however I still want to grow the kulli corn, and was going to try growing them in a less nitrogen excessive plot. I went to order some seeds, only to find they are sold out.

After looking through various seed companies, I decided to go back to Baker Creek and get the Mountain Morado seeds again. They won’t need to be acclimated, and I can still use them to try and make some chicha morada.

Of course, I’m not about to order just one packet of seeds, so I got a few other things, but only one new thing.

In this picture from Baker Creek in 2021, the corn was still listed it as Montana Morado!

First, of course, is the Mountain Morado corn. When we first tried these, thinking they were something else, we started them indoors, even though corn doesn’t like being transplanted. However, I see this is now part of the description: Β Direct sow into the richest soil available 1-2 weeks before last spring frost.Β 

A corn that can be direct sown before last frost will make a big difference! We can actually plant in May instead of June! There’s only 75 seeds in a packet, so we’ll have to make sure to save seed from these, if they succeed.

I am not expecting to plant sunflowers this year; it’s more a matter of effective use of space and time. However, I did go ahead and pick up more Hopi Black Dye and Mongolian Giant sunflower seeds. We did save seed heads from when we grew them before, but none of them got as large as they should have, and they were stored in the old kitchen, then the sun room, which means they’ve gone through freezing and heat cycles that have probably damaged the seeds. So I got more, to ensure I had good seed, and they will be properly stored. If we can actually plant some this year, that would be a bonus!

Another repeat is the Giant Rattle breadseed poppy. We had planted some from our own seed last year, but that spot has been completely redone, so even if they managed to self seed themselves, they’re not going to pop up again there. We do have another variety of bread seed poppy that didn’t get planted last year, because we didn’t have a space where we could treat them as perennials. The massive flooding we had last spring changed quite a few of our plans! However, I do still want to have two varieties of breadseed poppy, planted well away from each other, so we can see which we like best.

One last repeat was something that I’d looked at before, but rejected because of the insane price, and there were only 10 seeds in the packet for that price. Well, things have changed! The price of Spoon Tomato seeds has gone down, and there are now 15 seeds in a packet. πŸ˜„ We have a whole 5 seeds left in our original packet, and these miniscule tomatoes are something even I can eat, and fresh tomatoes normally make me want to gag. This time, I want to grow a few plants and make sure to save seeds from them. In the reviews, people who grew them commented that they self seed easily, since it’s almost impossible to pick all the teeny tomatoes without losing some, but again, the bed they were in was totally redone, so none came up the next year.

Finally, there is one last new item – sort of. Salsify. We actually have salsify; the same variety from two different companies. We were going to compare them, since their photos looked quite different. However, there is also this variety.

These are Duplex Russian Giant Scorzonera salsify. One of my daughters requested salsify because it’s a root that apparently tastes like seafood. She likes seafood, though we don’t get it often due to cost. She’d be happy with a root that tastes like it, instead!

It should be interesting to compare them. Because the roots get so long and can be fragile, we will likely be planting them in garbage cans. There are garbage cans all the place, in the barn and sheds, so we should be able to find three that we can use for these!

The down side of ordering from Bake Creek again is that orders to Canada over $20 now incur duty. I have no idea how much that would be on an order that came out to just over Cdn$40, including shipping. We’ll see, and that will help us figure out if it’s still worth ordering from there – or any other US seed company – again.

And here I thought I was done with buying seeds… πŸ˜…

The Re-Farmer

Getting ready, and a 2023 garden seedling update

First, my morning cuteness!

Butterscotch has discovered the window shelf! She doesn’t spend much time there, but enough to keep Nosencrantz from using it as often. πŸ˜„ So far, the only other cat that’s checked it out is Potato Beetle, and he does just that – checks it out, then leaves.

At the moment, I’m taking a bit of a break from preparing for spending a day and a night at my mother’s. This will be the first time I’ve been away from the farm overnight since we’ve moved here! Which means I’ve been spending a fair bit of time digging around, trying to remember, where is my travel toothbrush? Do I still have a travel toothbrush? Oh, there’s a case for a full size toothbrush. What smaller bag should I use to pack into, and how much will I have to dig to find it behind the barricade made to stop the cats from using the suitcases and scratching posts? Does my husband have an extra pill case I can use for my meds and supplements?

It’s just an overnight trip, but it’s an overnight trip to my mother’s which puts a whole new level of considerations. Plus, I want to stick to my Lenten fast while also not depleting my mother’s grocery supply, so I’m not only bringing food for myself, but enough to share with her. She won’t be able to eat for at least 4 hours after the procedure, since they are going to be freezing her throat, so she’s going to be hungry.

I ended up making a quick trip into town with my mother’s car for a few things for my overnighter, plus a few extras until I can make my next city trip. That will, at the very least, have to wait until after the tire on the van is fixed. Hopefully, our mechanic will find something suitable at the auction that the financing company will accept for the loan that’s already approved. So many things are getting delayed or side tracked because of all the problems with the van!

I am so thankful we have my mother’s car that we can use as a back up vehicle. It’s been needed often enough to be worth the extra expense. Living out here, having two vehicles is a necessity, not a luxury.

Meanwhile…

While tending the seedlings in the large aquarium greenhouse, I graduated the drum gourds that germinated first. They’re getting tall enough to need more space from the lights, so that one pot has been moved to the lower tray that the onions and luffa are on. I almost, kinda, maybe, think I could see new growth in the one last pot with drum gourd seeds!

Now, in theory, I really should thin out one of the seedlings in the pot I moved. The problem is, they are both so very strong and healthy! Meanwhile, the second pair of seedlings are still recovering from being stuck in the hulls of their seeds and are not looking anywhere near as healthy yet. So I am keeping both and, when it’s time to pot them up, will thin by transplanting one out into its own pot, while the other can be potted up without removing it from the biodegradable pot. Hopefully, the one that gets thinned out will survive. The more seedlings I can keep alive until it’s time to transplant outside, the better our changes of having at least one plant survive transplanting and maybe even enjoy a full growing season!

I took a closer look at the tiny little zucca seedling. There was still just an “elbow” showing, but something seemed odd about it.

Where those roots?

Yup.

I very gently poked around in the soil and found the seed leaves were still thoroughly encased in the hull, which was trapped enough by the soil that instead of the leaves lifting up, the root end was being pushed out! So I very, very carefully and gently uncovered the seed hull encased leaves while covering the roots – only to accidentally reveal a second seedling working its way out, too! That one was also still stuck in the hull, so I loosened the soil over that, too. Once they’ve gotten large and strong enough to fully emerge and start standing upright, I will gently remove the hulls, like I did with the second pair of drum gourds that germinated..

I’m just babying these suckers! πŸ˜‚

I am just itching to start more seeds but, for what we’ve got, it’s still a bit too early.

Well, break time is done. Time to go dig out a bag to pack for tomorrow.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: new seedlings!

I’ve been waiting for days before finally getting a picture with the newest drum gourds, then went again and got progress pictures of the rest.

I found a new baby this morning!

The red arrows are pointing to the barely visible first zucca melon!

The new drum gourds were taking a lot longer than the first ones to break free of the soil. When the first one did, the reason became obvious. It was still completely encased in the seed shell! After a while, I very carefully removed it and just dropped the pieces on the soil surface, but the seed leaves have still not started to separate. I can now see that the other one is also still encased in the seed shell. Once it manages to break free of the soil, I will carefully remove it, too. The risk in doing that is tearing the encased parts of the seed leaves right off, as they are so very fragile in there.

The earlier drum gourds are just barely starting to show their true leaves. The luffa’s true leaves are coming out nicely. Even the lemongrass is showing some true leaves. I think. They don’t look very different, other than there being more blades. I honestly can’t tell with the thyme.

That last cell of sweet chocolate peppers finally has a single seedling germinating, so we now have a total of four. Still just the seed leaves in even the oldest ones, though.

The onions and shallots are growing very slowly at this stage. No new haircuts needed! So far, they’re all surviving, too. Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep them alive! Last year, we had some issues with the yellow onions and shallots not doing well, but we have different varieties of both this year, and they seem to be doing better so far.

We’ve got two varieties of red onions, one of yellow onions, and one of shallots.

I keep thinking… we need more yellow onions! πŸ˜„

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: seedling progress

This morning I got a picture of some of our seedlings, after refilling trays to water them from below.

There are still only two little pepper seedlings. The thyme and lemongrass don’t seem to be growing much. I think this might be part of why they need to be started so early!

The two drum gourd seedlings in one pot are still the only ones to have germinated. With using these biodegradable pots, it’s been interesting to see how the pot the germinated seeds are in dries out so much faster than the other ones. Even the square cells the herbs are in show noticeable drying out in the ones with the most seedlings. For this reason, I still mist them as well as water from below.

Last year, I remember my first zucca melon seeds never germinated, and I had to try again. I’m hoping I won’t need to do that again this year. The zucca and the drums need as much growing time as we can give them.

We’re going to have to start other seeds soon. That means rotating things out of the aquarium greenhouses and, for that, we still need to make a trip to the city to pick up the materials we need to build barriers and keep the cats out of the living room. When picking up eggs yesterday, I noticed they had lumber in their truck and asked about prices. Lumber prices have gone down a LOT in the last while, which is encouraging. The prices are still high, but not astronomical anymore.

The trip to the city will have to wait until after the van’s date at the garage to get the temperature gauge sensor replaced.

Still holding out hope that we’ll qualify for financing on the Caravan, but if I’m going to be honest with myself, the odds are not in our favour. Mind you, our situation wasn’t much better when we got financing for the Grand Caravan we got, years ago. Oddly enough, my husband being on disability gives us a more reliable income now than when he was still working. Nothing like moving to a new city for a 2 year contract, only to have the contract end after 6 months, instead!

Ah, well. Whatever happens, happens. We just need to deal with what’s in front of us.

Which, at the moment, means turning the living room into a cat proof plant room. 😁

The Re-Farmer