Garden prep – getting work done outside

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

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

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

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

*sigh*

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

Anyhow. Back to business!

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

Click on the images to see them larger.

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

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

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

So. Many. Rocks.

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

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

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

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

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

Next, it was the garlic and asparagus beds.

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

First, the garlic beds.

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

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

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

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

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

As for the straw mulch…

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

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

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

Maybe here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, dear.

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

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

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

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

I’m having so much fun right now… πŸ˜€

The Re-Farmer

Garden finds, mystery squash, and pretty things

Heading out to do my morning rounds, it was already getting really hot. As I write this, we’ve reached 28C/82F, and we’re still about 5 hours away from when the hottest part of the day usually hits. We’ve got forecasts for possible thundershowers this afternoon. I hope we at least get some rain, but I doubt it.

The spinach we set out to dry in the sun room was… wimpy. πŸ˜€ I set them up outside, covered with mosquito netting, to dry in the sun and wind. We’ll see how it works. Meanwhile, once the oven is available, after making a spinach frittata, I plan to set some up to dry in there.

I had a very pleasant surprise while checking the garden.

The bigger Crespo squash plant has flower buds! Quite a few of them. It looks like it’s all male flowers for now, just like with the other squash.

Speaking of squash, we have some mystery squash!

These have popped up in the old compost pile. I’m not sure what they are. When we cleaned up the squash beds last fall, we used the old compost pile instead of dragging everything across the yard, but I didn’t think anything went in there that had mature seeds. The only think I can think of is the pumpkin. They were planted very late, and the few pumpkins were quite small and green when the first frost hit and killed them off.

It would be cool if they were pumpkins! Whatever they are, I’ve been watering them, too. πŸ˜€

Then we have these, near the pink rose bush in the old kitchen garden.

I had spotted them last night, when they were just little bumps breaking through the ground. They tripled in size, overnight.

In setting up the old kitchen garden beds this spring, one of the things I made sure to do was make paths that allowed us to enter and exit the garden in several places. The straw covered path that runs across the far end of the garden, near the beets against the retaining wall, continues around one of the rhubarbs and out the middle.

It now has a “gate.”

An asparagus gate!

It always amazed me that these are still coming up at all. There were more of them, when I was a kid. My mother had asked about them, not that long ago, and she mentioned that these were here before my parents bought the property. Which means they’ve been growing here for at least 60 years. I’ve never seen spears suitable for harvesting, but that’s okay. I love the ferns!

Now, they make a lovely gate across the path. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: morning progress, and changes in plans

My morning rounds now includes watering all the garden beds. Though we have had rain in the forecast, so far we’ve only received the lightest of smatterings. Hopefully, over the next few days, we’ll get some real rain.

I had a lovely surprise when I came into the sun room this morning.

SO many more of the Mongolian Giant sunflowers and Montana Morado corn are germinating! The corn is just little points of green, barely visible in most of the cups.

In the pellet tray, I think I even saw a cucamelon sprout starting to break through.

It’s getting close to time to start hardening off our bigger seedlings for transplanting. πŸ™‚

I can now say, with absolute certainty, that all three spinach beds have sprouts. πŸ™‚ I might even have, just possibly, maybe, seen our first pea sprout this morning, too! πŸ˜€

When done checking the trail cam files, I headed back outside until it got too hot for manual labour in the sun. My computer’s weather app says we’re at 16C/61F that feels like 15C/59F, while my phone’s app says we’re at only 9C/48F with a RealFeel of 12C/54F! There is no way we are only 16C out there, never mind 9C. I have no doubt it’s at least 20C/68F out there right now. I’m thinking of picking up another outdoor thermometer to set up at the pea trellises.

One of the areas we needed to work on is the block for the Dorinney corn. I was loath to just start adding soil on the chopped straw. It would end up in the paths in between and we’d end up walking on it, and I just don’t want to waste that precious dirt! πŸ˜€

Then I remembered all that mulch I put around the sunflowers last year. A thick layer of grass clippings I kept adding to throughout the summer. I figured that would work well to put on the paths as a mulch to walk on, while it would also serve to hold the soil in the rows.

Once I started gathering up the grass clippings and laying them down, I realized this partially broken down mulch would work much better under the soil, than the straw.

So this bed will now be reversed. The grass clippings will have the soil added on top, while the chopped straw will serve to hold the soil in place, and keep the grass/weeds down in between, as well as helping keep any moisture. We lost a row in the process, but I wasn’t sure we have enough of these seeds to fill the entire block, anyhow. If we have more, we can just add another row to one side. Before we add soil, though, the area will get another thorough soaking. We can just reach this area with the hose. I should see if I can set up the sprinkler. I don’t think we’ve got enough hose to set that up where it can water the whole block, though.

In the background, you can see the row of sunflower stumps, where I took the mulch from. I didn’t even get as far as where the rows of sunflowers overlapped in the middle, and after finishing laying down mulch in the corn block, I still had enough mulch in the little wheelbarrow to add it elsewhere.

The girls saw carrot sprouts and took off the plastic covering this bed, so I added a light layer to the surface to protect it. Especially if we do end up getting that predicted rain.

I also put a light layer over the Strawberry Spinach bed.

In preparation for planting the asparagus crowns, I soaked the trench, put the cardboard back to discourage any of those roots we didn’t clip or dig out from growing, then soaked it again. Later today, we’ll put the crowns to soak while we start adding soil and preparing it for planting.

We’ve reached that point in the season, where we are switching from going out in the afternoon, when it was finally warm enough to work in the garden, to splitting our days between the cooler mornings and evenings, while avoiding the hottest parts of the afternoon. The problem with that is, the hottest part of the day tends to be around 5pm, so we’re easily losing at least 6 hours of daylight productivity. Long range forecast says we’ll be hitting 30C/86F in four days – and we’re still in May! At least it’s expected to cool down gradually after that, but we’re still going to be in the high to mid 20’s for another week. We’re also supposed to get rain. I’d say “more rain”, but what’s been predicted so far has been missing us, as usual. :-/ We shall see how it goes.

The hard part is going to be waiting until after the last frost date before planting/transplanting. I think direct sowing a bit earlier would be safe, but after losing so many transplants last year, I don’t want to take that chance again, this year!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: order in, and digging trenches!

Our Veseys order arrived in the mail a day early!! We are so thrilled!

One of the boxes was the Purple Passion Asparagus (6 crowns), and Black Form Iris.

The other box was our Illinois Everbearing Mulberry.

It even has leaf buds!!

We still need to take down a whole lot of dead trees in the area we want to plant this, and we’re thinking that for this year, we’ll plant it in one of the grow bags we made for the potatoes, then maybe keep it in the sun room over the winter. Either that, or find another place for what will become a fairly large tree that needs full sun, and zone 4 protection to survive in a zone 3.

The asparagus, at least, are decided on. While the girls did the evening watering, I started on trenching.

We’ve been keeping this space near the Strawberry Spinach bed covered with cardboard and regularly soaking it. The grass below was dying off quite nicely, and the ground was good and soft to dig in.

Well. Except for the big roots.

And all the rocks.

After the girls finished the watering and uncovering the sprouted beds, they came over to give me a hand. Most of the roots we could cut out with the loppers.

As with the other beds, this is going to be built up, so all I really wanted to do was take off the sod and get rid of the bigger roots and rocks.

Except for that really big root running across the trench, near the middle. Once we realized how big it was, we just left it.

One of my daughters took on stacking the rocks.

In a nice little display! πŸ˜€

There were too many to balance on the stump, so she stacked the rest nearby.

All these rocks, just from removing the top 3 or 4 inches. We could have pulled out many more!

Tomorrow, we start bringing in the new garden soil and plant the asparagus. The sod that was removed will be laid upside down along the sides to stabilize it. When we’re done, it should match the Strawberry Spinach bed in depth.

In two years, we should be harvesting our first purple asparagus! Before then, I expect to get more for planting elsewhere. My husband doesn’t care for asparagus, but the girls and I all like them, so that is reason enough to plant more than just these ones. πŸ™‚

Since none of what came in today will be planted until tomorrow, they are all sitting in the cool of the old kitchen.

I need to think about that mulberry. This is what it says on the Veseys page about planting them.

Planting:

Unless you have heavy clay soil, there isn’t much to do in terms of soil preparation. You can add amendments such as compost or peat moss to the soil and/or a layer of mulch over the root area after planting will help retain moisture, especially during the first year. While it may be tempting to add fertilizer or manure to your freshly dug hole before planting your new tree, PLEASE resist! Fertilizer or manure in close contact with the root system could chemically burn the roots and potentially kill the tree.

Mulberry trees can grow quite large, up to 15-20 feet tall. Avoid planting near walkways and driveways as the fruit will drop and create stains. Mulberries are self-fertile and require full sunlight. 

https://www.veseys.com/ca/illinois-everbearing-mulberry-37812.html

Our new garden soil has three types of manure and compost in it, but it is thoroughly broken down. Would it still be too much to plant it in? That’s what we would be using in a grow bag, if we did it that way for the first year. Maybe it would be better to just find a different spot and plant it permanently. I can think of a good area that would work; the only downside is that it would be more difficult to get water to it.

Whatever we decide to do, it’ll have to be done quickly!

The Re-Farmer

Morning company

I had some company while doing my rounds this morning.

Beep Beep also joined me, emerging from somewhere beyond our driveway.

We have been having plenty of rain during the night, which is making things really beautiful.

Like the berries on this self-sown asparagus along the eastern fence line.

So beautiful!

The Re-Farmer

Growing things

While doing my significantly more limited rounds this morning, I had to pause and get a photo of the ground by the feeding station. With the rain we’ve finally been having, things have really greened up again, and started to grow.

Including bird seed and deer feed!

This picture if of the area on the far side of the bird feeder, from the window – where we put the bulk of the deer feed in the winter. There is a smaller area on the side closer to the house that also has a patch like this.

The only thing I recognize in there is oats! We haven’t bought mixed bird seed, sticking to the black oil seed, since fall and we tried several different types, so I have no idea what all might be growing here. It’s going to get mowed, anyhow, but it’s neat to see!

While switching out the memory card on the trail cam, I got a picture of one of the asparagus growing wild by the fence.

None of the asparagus by the house is showing signs of berries, which makes these the only female plants around. This makes me extra curious about how they ended up growing here. It’s still possible that the seeds were spread by birds, but there are no other female asparagus plants nearby that could have been the source. The nearest garden to us is my brother’s, about a quarter mile away, and as far as I know they don’t have any.

I’m looking forward to when they turn that beautiful bright red again. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Work done, things found and kitten fix

While doing my rounds yesterday evening, I decided to prune away the dead parts of the mock orange at the clothes line platform.

It did so well last year, it’s a shame so much of it died over the winter. At the same time, I was happy to see the tiniest of leaf buds struggling to emerge from some main branches. I pruned all the dead stuff off and cleared out some Virginia Creeper that was trying to re-establish itself. That’s a wheel barrow full, right there. Now that it’s all open and pruned, I’m thinking it will recover quite well.

While hauling this away, I also started picking up branches in the West yard that had come down in the storms. I kept finding more and more branches – most were just small enough to be hidden by the grass, but still be enough that I wouldn’t want to hit them with the mower! I probably cleared another 2 wheelbarrows worth from the West lawn, including the section behind the storage house. I found more in the maple grove. I’m glad I was able to mow as much as I did, as it made it easier to find the fallen branches. Branches that had fallen into the areas I still need to get to with the weed trimmer were almost completely hidden! I’m also glad I brought my pruners with me, because I ended up cutting away spirea and caragana that was trying to reclaim the spaces between the lilacs, plum and apple trees again. It’s going to be a constant battle to keep those under control!

Then I checked on the transplanted raspberries and found a surprise.

A single asparagus spear!

It wasn’t there a few days ago. It wasn’t there last year.

It may be that, after having cleared away the weeds and mulching the area, a hidden root was finally able to grow.

Of course, I did have to go into the sun room to get my pruning sheers, and managed to get this adorable picture.

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I’m so thrilled!!!

My older brother and his wife are the best.

Awesome.Β  Amazing.Β  Fantastic.Β  Fabulous.Β  Wonderful.

They came over for a visit today, and brought me an “early birthday gift.”

20180602.riding.mower

AAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I actually started crying, when I saw them pull up with the trailer, and this was on the back.

They bought us a riding mower.Β  Fully refurbished, heavy duty enough to handle the work we’ll be making it do AND it is fully maintainable.Β  It can even tow a small trailer!

I am thrilled beyond belief.

Of course, we had to start it up and test it out, and before I knew it, I’d mowed an entire section of the lawn.

Apparently, I had a huge grin on my face the entire time.

They have been beyond generous, since even before we moved out here.Β  I am so incredibly happy and grateful!

I can’t wait until I can finish mowing the lawn.Β  Which might not be until Monday, as we’re expecting rain off and on.

When they left, they even took the push mower that needs a new carburetor, to fix.Β  And a gas powered weed trimmer to check over and hopefully get going.

I am so incredibly happy right now!

During their visit, we went around the yard to check things out (getting our feet completely soaked in the process, so we didn’t go beyond the yard).Β  While seeing what was done in the flower garden, my SIL spotted a lovely little surprise.

20180602.lonely.asparagus

One, lonely little asparagus spear. LOL There was a second one, about a foot away.Β  Who knows?Β  Maybe more will show up, eventually.

Nice to know they’ve survived.

We also went looking around to see if we could find the cherry trees my mother says are in the spruce grove.Β  It’s so overgrown with trees in that area, all about the same size, we never did find anything we could be sure was cherry.

There were a couple of other trees I’d noticed blooming a couple of weeks back, and I now know what they are.

20180602.saskatoon.berry

Saskatoon berries!

Yum!

These were on the list of food trees we want to have.Β  We might some day transplant them to a better location, but for now, I’m just happy that we have them.

So we know now for sure that we have chokecherries, Saskatoon berries, some raspberries (still need to clean that area up), gooseberries and chokecherries.Β  Hopefully, we’ll also have cherries.Β  Then there’s the rhubarb, horseradish and struggling little asparagus.

Which is pretty darn good, all things considered.

Me, I’m still grinning from ear to ear, over the riding mower. πŸ˜€

The Re-Farmer