Our 2021 garden: progress in the old kitchen garden

After finishing planting the carrots and beets, it was time to get back to the old kitchen garden. We’ve done almost nothing there, since we ended up building the path instead of hauling soil over and planting.

Here is how it looks before I started.

The first thing that needed to be done was to get rid of the lump of soil near the new path. A thatching rake did that job well, as I spread out the soil and mulch down the slope, or around the lilac, honeysuckle and rose bushes.

The long row of mulch on the grass in the background was removed from one end of the garden. It was excess flax straw from inside the cat shelter, and was added as mulch last fall. It’s not breaking down very much, so I plan to go over it with a lawn mower.

I also pruned a large branch from one of the ornamental crab apple trees. That poor little pink rose bush will finally get more light!

After leveling the ridge of soil from the path at the back, I worked out where more paths would go, and raked those areas clear. I was almost done with that when my older daughter came out to help, and she started bringing over loads of soil. It’s hard to see, but along the retaining wall is a bit of green. That’s a flower that managed to work it’s way through the layers of mulch and bloom last year. We ended up transplanting it to a corner near the rhubarb, where it’s too awkward to plant anything that requires tending.

We were not going to finish the job today, but we did get quite a bit done! Here is how it looked, when we stopped for the day.

The area next to the retaining wall is filled to the edge of the path and ready for planting. A small “island” at one end was made, and that’s where we ended up planting the poppy seeds. Flowers next to the flowers! The bulbs my daughter planted there are just starting to emerge. 🙂

Here is where the paths will be, marked in grey.

We will continue adding soil to finish the “island” around the little rose bush, which will be extended to the stone patch. Another path runs through about the middle of the garden, joining the stone path and the one that runs across the garden. In the one corner, the path runs around a patch of rhubarb. More soil will be added to border the path, but we will not be putting soil all the way in. There are flowers in one area that we will eventually transplant, but most of that area is crowded by the lilacs, honeysuckle and white roses, and not a good place to plant things anymore, so we’ll just stick to the border of the path. More beets and carrots will be planted in the fresh soil.

It may not be done, but the poppies are now planted, and it shouldn’t take too long to finish adding soil.

We haven’t figure out what we’re going to use on the paths to walk on. We need to put something there, if only to have something to keep the soil from spilling onto the paths. We’ll have to figure that one out.

So that is now done and soon, the rest will be ready for planting in.

It was a good day’s work!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: Crespo squash, and pea beds ready!

Oh, I’m going to be in for a world of hurt, tomorrow.

It’s going to be worth every bit of it! 😀

But first, I have to show off the little Crespo squash baby!

I got this photo last night.

This is how it looked, less than 24 hours later.

Then I checked it this morning, the leaves hadn’t broken free of the soil yet. Every time I look at it, it’s noticeably bigger! It’s still the only one of the Crespo squash that has sprouted. Hopefully more will emerge, soon. 🙂

Today, the priority was to get the pea beds ready, and that took me pretty much all day! Thankfully, the girls were able to come out and help quite a bit, which made some jobs faster.

The first thing that needed to be done was to dig post holes and set up the uprights for the new pea trellises.

That… got interesting. The posts could not be buried at all the same depth, that’s for sure.

My apologies for the out of focus photo, but you can still see the bottom of this post hole. Yeah, that’s a rock. A rock big enough I couldn’t dig around it to pull it out!

Others were more like this one.

What I ended up having to do was to start with a spade to remove the sod on top. Then I used a trowel to pull out the bigger rocks or find and remove pieces of roots. Then I would use the post hold digger until I hit more rocks it couldn’t get through. If I needed to go deeper, I’d use the trowel again to get the rocks out, then use the post hole digger again.

I set the posts at each end first, between the flags marking the width, then strung a cord between them to make sure the other posts were in a straight line. Every 5 feet was marked with the post that would be going there.

Then the holes got dug, and the line put back across again, and I’d double check the distance for each pole before setting it.

With the girls helping, tying the cross pieces in place was much, much easier and faster!

I tried the cordless drill to see if I could drill pilot holes and place at least one screw at each pole of the first trellis we did. The batteries couldn’t hold enough charge to finish drilling a hole. I had a hard time just to reverse the drill back out again! So that jobs is going to have to wait.

We put all our hoses together, and it wasn’t enough to reach all the way, so we moved the rain barrel to a new spot. For the first bed, we had shredded paper that we soaked on the mesh top of the rain barrel, then placed along the row before topping it with straw. We were able to wet the straw down, before taking a break for lunch, and my older daughter went back to working on commissions.

Then my younger daughter and I continued preparing the beds. These are now ready for planting! The new trellises are not done yet, though. The first trellis will have a single row of peas in the middle, with the seeds planted alternately on either side of the bottom cross pieces.. The other two will have double rows, planted about 2 ft apart. After the peas are planted, the trellises will get A frame supports at each upright, with cross pieces at the bottom, and then they will be strung similar to the first one. Once the top cross pieces were in place, I got the measurement I needed. To finish this, I’m going to need 20 poles at about 5 1/2 ft long, plus another 12 poles at 5 ft long for the bottom cross pieces. My husband went ahead and ordered some more cord that I can use to string supports for the peas, sweetheart that he is. 🙂

We made quite the dent in the pile of soil! 🙂

Before we finished for the day, the girls started laying down straw for a pair of re-oriented beds, then hosing them down.

The three, small beds in the middle that ran East/West are being turned into two longer beds oriented North/South. For the peas, we could get away with laying down the soil in narrow rows where the peas will be planted, rather than the entire space. These beds are going to be intensely planted with onions, spinach, purple kohlrabi and purple kale, at the very least. There are two more smaller, former potato beds that are going to be lengthened to match these ones, and they will be intensely planted, too, similar to Square Foot gardening. So these beds are going to need a whole lot of soil added all over. Thankfully, these beds are much closer to the pile of soil!

By this time of the day, the winds had picked up significantly, so wetting the straw was needed as much to keep it from blowing away as for preparing it to have the soil added on top. I’m going to see if I’ve got anything else I can layer on there before adding the soil. I tried digging into the old compost pile yesterday, and the first thing I hit was the remains of some Styrofoam packaging, of the sort you might buy meat in. Plus a hard plastic lily, which was actually kind of pretty. I know my mother would never had thrown things like that into the compost pile, which means that someone else was using it for garbage, after she’d moved to her apartment. *sigh*

I might not be able to work on this area tomorrow, as I’ll be helping my mother with her grocery shopping in the afternoon, but I hope to at least get the peas planted in the morning. We’re supposed to get very warm tomorrow afternoon, so it would be good to get them in early.

I’m pretty excited about finally getting our first seeds into the ground! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Gardening progress: transplanting

Today, it was time to transplant some of the squashes we started from seed indoors.

I am really hoping we’re not jumping the gun, here, but many were outgrowing their Jiffy Pellets and really needed to get in the ground. In the future, for things that need to be started so early indoors, I am thinking it would be better to go straight into 4 inch pots, instead. That would give a more flexible timeline for getting them in the ground.

In going through the seedlings to see which ones had their true leaves and were ready to transplant, I counted out 16 in total, so I decided to do two rows of 8. I think most of them – at least the largest ones – are from the zucchini surprise mix, but after the trays got knocked over yesterday, they are all going to be a surprise! 😀

I used flags I picked up at the hardware store to mark the first row at 2 feet apart.

Though we mulched the area last summer, and the soil has improved quite noticeably, we are still dealing with lots of rocks and a soil in need of amendments. Several times, when placing the flags, I hit rocks and had to poke around to find somewhere I could push the wire in. We needed to figure out a way to get around that, and this is what I’ve come up with.

The first step was to open a hole in the mulch to the surface of the soil (removing any rocks I found in the process.

I also prepared a soil mix.

The wheelbarrow still had some straw on the bottom that I didn’t bother taking out when I dumped in a bag of garden soil I also picked up at the hardware store (only because they were on sale! *L*) and a couple of spade fulls of peat. This got mixed together with plenty of water. The dry peat was actually being blown away by the wind while I mixed! It took a while to get it wet enough for the next step.

Into each opening I made in the mulch, I added a spade full of the soil mixture. Then a hole was made in the middle of each one for the transplants, with more water added as well.

Each squash was then transplanted and secured in their own little “hill” of soil mix.

Then I mixed some more soil and peat and repeated the process for the next row, which was made about 2 feet away from the first.

Which was when I discovered I had 2 extra seedlings! LOL So I added them to the ends of the rows, taking a little bit of the soil mixture from each of the other plants, to transplant the extras into. So we now have a total of 18 surprise squashes transplanted.

Once both rows were planted, they were mulched with more straw. When we add a trellis, it will go between the two rows.

After the straw was placed – with the wind trying to take much of it away! – I gave the bed a fairly thorough soaking, to dampen the straw. Not too much, as I didn’t want to shock the transplants with cold water in this heat! I will set up a sprinkler over it this evening. Unless the predicted showers make it to our area. It’s been quite a hot day, and the rain will be most welcome.

When I was done and inside the house, I checked the weather. My phone app said it was 18C, (“feels like 18C”) (46F).

They lie.

I checked the app on my desktop and it said we were at 26C, with a “feels like” of 28C (79 and 82F). That was certainly the more accurate one!

Our barometer agrees.

Since we cleaned this out and refilled it, I have never seen it this high!

We had thunderstorms predicted for the next couple of days, but now those have been pushed back to Sunday. Whether the storms reach us is always touch and go, but I’d like to find some way to cover the transplants, if we do. The straw will protect them, but only so much.

Meanwhile, we’ll be keeping watch on what’s left in the seed trays. We won’t be transplanting as much as we hoped, but right now the only thing I’d say is a total loss is the fennel. I still have hopes for the gourds to emerge! Not that I’d be able to tell which ones they are at this point. 😀

Still, I hope we’ll have a couple more rows of squash in this garden bed by the end of the month. Tomorrow, however, the plan is to get the sunflower seeds in. 🙂

We shall see if planting them in their own little islands of soft, stone-less soil will work!

The Re-Farmer

Progress: working on the flower garden

Today, I decided to get started on the flower garden off the Old Kitchen.  When my mother came by a couple of days ago, we talked about what was there, what she wanted, and what I was thinking of doing.  I now know that the vines, while deliberately planted, turned out to be invasive, so she wants them gone.  There are several bushes she wants to stay, but the greenery below can go completely.  The fence will also be removed, but she doesn’t care if any new fence gets put up again later.  It can stay down.

I had already started clearing the area a bit.  Now that I know my mother is good with the greenery being gone, I have decided that I will start doing “lasagna garden” type layering to build up the soil, while at the same time killing off the invasive plants.

I intend to keep the rhubarb, which will be fairly easy to work around, and the chives are on the outside of the fence line, but whatever onions are growing among the crab grass will be buried, too.

First order of business, then, was to remove the fencing.  My daughters would continue to clean around the yard, but instead of taking the raked leaves to the big garden, I asked them to pile it near the flower garden, and I will use it later.

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The first section to work on was the “gate”.  I’d used a stick to prop it open, because it kept flopping.

When I moved the bright yellow thing hanging there, it was actually the first time I’d looked closely at it.  I had just thought it was some sort of decoration.

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Turns out, it’s a glass hummingbird feeder!

I really like it.

No idea why it was left hanging there, instead of being taken inside for the winter.  Now that I think of it, it may well have been hanging there for years.

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This is the toy rocking horse I’d found buried in the leaves and other dead foliage, when I had first started cleaning the area.

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This is the opposite end of the fencing by the gate.  It just sort of ends, sticking out past the clothes line platform.

I honestly can’t think of why any fencing was added there.  It was attached to the platform in places, so it’s not like it was added before the platform was rebuilt.  It serves no purpose that I can think of.

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While working on the gate, I quickly discovered I needed to watch my step; these broken blocks and bricks move when you step on them!

There is a downspout near there, currently with a rain barrel under it.  I am guessing these were added because the area would become muddy.

We’ll have to figure something else out, later.  I don’t know about right by the Old Kitchen, but in the garden itself, I might look into putting some stepping stones or some other decorative, yet useful, elements.

After removing the gate portion, I found a challenge.

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The self-sown trees can actually grown around the wire of the fencing.  To remove the fencing, I had to free it by cutting the trees.

That was another reason the fencing needed to go, here.  There was no way to clear away the self-sown saplings.  They have to be cleared away, or they will destroy the clothes line platform as they get bigger.  Plus, of course, they’re close to the house, and the roots would cause problems, too.

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First section clear!  Yay!

I’ll come back later to cut away the remaining bits of saplings and do other clean up.

Here is how things looked from the inside of the garden, as I started.

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This is the south side section.

Note the wooden post, at an angle, supporting the metal post.

That comes up, later.

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This is what the middle looked like.  All that greenery on the bottom is invasive plants.

It was now time to work on the side section of the fence, which started at the corner of the clothes line platform.

But first, I needed to be able to get to it.

I’d talked to my mother about the trees in the re-purposed tire planters, and the bush that was in the way of hanging anything from the planter.  She was good with me getting rid of the planters, and the saplings in them were self-sown.  While she didn’t say it outright, it was clear she wanted to bush under the clothes line to remain, but she was okay with it being pruned.

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The saplings in the planter had shallow enough root systems, that I could pull them up fairly easily, except for one in each planter.  The toughest one had to be sawed at the tap root.

Then I pruned the bush under the clothes line.

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Very stabby little branches!

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I will have to work on it again, later, to get rid of the dead branches and stuff, but for now, I just needed to get it cut back enough to clear the rail, and access the fence post at the corner.

After starting on removing the fence from the post, I quickly realized I needed to get the planter next to it out completely.  It was in the way.  So, I dumped out the soil and discovered…

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There was still a rim attached!

How utterly strange!

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A couple of longer roots that had been giving me trouble could now be seen.  One, I had been able to break.  The other, the one to the right, had to be sawed.

Something else to go back to and clean up, so no one will trip over them.  Plus, once it’s all cleared and cleaned, we will be mowing there.

I finally was able to reach the post and start removing this section of fencing which was, for the most part, nailed in place with U nails.

Lots of U nails.

At the very bottom of that first post, however, there was one nail sticking out.  I tried several times to pull it out with the claw of my hammer, and it wouldn’t budge.

I did, however, knock off some dirt and rust, which is when I could see it was no nail at all!

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Yeah.  No wonder I wasn’t able to get it out with my hammer!

I am really appreciating the tool set my older brother and his wife gave us for Christmas.  I went into it quite a lot, today!

I got the fencing off up to the corner, where I found this.

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It turns out that the section I had been working on ended at this post.  It was held in place with twisted wire, which went through holes in the metal post.  The fencing on the end section was folded around the post, then pieces were bent back to form hooks that held onto the continuing fence.

And that supporting wooden fence post at the top?

It was held in place with a large nail, through a hole at the top of the metal post, which was then hammered to a right angle to hold it in place.

In the end, it was easier for me to pick up the wooden post and hammer away at it, near the nail, then to try and pull the nail out from the other side.

Which actually served to straighten out the nail.

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About half of the length of that nail was in the wooden post, while the other half or so was bent down on the other side of the metal.

Then I had to use pliers to untwist the wires that held the first section of fencing in place.  The wire was so old and rusting, several pieces broke off.

By this point, I’d found a bucket to take along with me, to put in the assorted nails, screws and bits of metal that I managed to keep out of the grass.

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Side fence, gone!

The next section was a different challenge.  After removing the twisted wire that held the fencing to the posts, I then had to cut away the rose bushes that had come up on the outside of the fence, more stems that had woven themselves through the gaps of the fencing, and cut away the vines at the base of the fence.

Then I just left the fence there, and took a break!  There was just the north side section to do, with two more fence posts and more roses to trim out of the fencing.

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My mother tells me this is a white rose bush.  I cut away just what I absolutely had to, to get the fence loose.  I noticed some dead stems and branches that will need to be cleared away, so it’s another thing to go back to, later.

Much to my surprise, the rest of this fence was held up by what looked like a broken broom handle, shoved into the ground, a length of pipe stuck into the ground, and at the corner of the house, it was tied to the fence post with twine.  The other fence post in the middle?  Nothing.  It wasn’t attached to it at all!

Once that was done, we only needed to roll up the fencing (still full of plant matter in some areas) and haul it away.  We’ve selected a spot to leave all the detritus we find, so when we hire someone to haul the junk away, it’ll mostly be in one place.

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Here is what the south corner looked like, after…

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And the centre.

Later today, when it is cooler, I will go back and do some more clean up, and see if I can take out the fence posts.

The next major step is to first lay down a layer of cardboard (after our move, we’ve got lots of that!) and wet it down, then start to layer the leaves the girls have been piling up for me, as well as the straw that was over the septic tank like, and the straw that’s in front of the dog houses the outside cats have been using all winter.

Throughout the summer, we will continue to layer grass clipping and other yard waste, and the kitchen trimmings that would normally go onto the compost pile.  I plan to use what’s currently the compost pile as well.

By the end of fall, I hope to have some pretty solid layers on there, and by next year, it should be well-built-up soil.

At least, that’s the plan!

The Re-Farmer