Our 2021 Garden: a tour

It occurred to me that, while I’ve been posting lots of pictures of our garden, some areas get focused on more than others. As we are now in July, I figured it would be a good time to do a “tour” of all the garden, and review how things are doing so far.

This is going to be a very photo heavy post! πŸ˜€ Which is probably silly of me, as our internet connection is horrible right now, so it will probably take me at least a couple of hours to get it done! πŸ˜€

Let’s get started!

Asparagus bed with onions

Our first photo shows both success and failure.

In the foreground is the asparagus bed. We planted 6 crowns of Purple Passion Asparagus. The crowns came in at the same time as our Mulberry sapling. I didn’t get a photo of that. It did not survive that one unusually cold night in late may. 😦 But the asparagus did emerge, and we are very happy with them!

Along two sides of the asparagus bed are some tiny onions. These were some last minute Norstar onions we started indoors after having so many of the other onions seeds we started get destroyed, one way or another. They are incredibly tiny, and yet they are forming bulbs!

In the other bed is where we planted the Strawberry Spinach. That is a total loss. We have no idea what happened to them after they sprouted. I do want to try them again, next year, though. These are both intended to be permanent beds.

Here we have our three bush bean beds, planted in a temporary garden location. The photo on the left has the Royal Burgundy beans. We are totally amazed by how vigorously they are growing! The middle photo shows the Lewis Green beans, and the final photo shows the yellow Golden Rod beans. It’s interesting to see how the colours of the leaves show differently with the different coloured beans!

I would call all of these a success, so far. Aside from the odd deer walking through them, or a cat rolling around in them, they have not had any external issues, and they seem to be growing very well. I’m really looking forward to eating fresh beans! We pretty much never buy them at the grocery store, as they never look good, so these will be a real treat. πŸ™‚

Robin beets with onions

This is the new bed in the old wood pile area, built this spring. It was seeded with Robin beets, a new variety we got along with some Merlin beets, which we tried last year. Later, when we planted onion sets, some were planted around the beets to act as a deer deterrent.

It didn’t work.

Need more onions.

The beets do seem to be recovering, though. A while back, shredded Irish Spring soap was scattered in the bed, and this morning I added the Critter Ridder granules, so hopefully, it will not be a deer buffet again!

This bed, and the two others near it, are intended to be permanent beds, and we will eventually build boxes around them, and figure something better out for the paths in between.

These are the rest of the beets, in the old kitchen garden. They have not been nibbled on by critters, thankfully.

The beets planted along the retaining wall blocks are of the Merlin seeds we got this year, plus seeds from last year, which was a collection of Merlin, Boldor and Chioggia. The girls planted them in blocks. There were still seeds left, and when we finished planting in the other beds, I went ahead and mixed all the remaining beet seeds together and planted them in the L shaped bed, so that is a beet surprise!

All of the beets here are looking to be quite a success. Mostly because the deer haven’t gone into the garden, and apparently our woodchuck doesn’t like beet greens.

We planted 4 types of lettuce in the retaining wall blocks, alternating with Lunix, Merlot, Lollo Rossa and Buttercrunch. We added the mosquito netting wall later, as a deer deterrent. The Lollo Rossa seemed to struggle, but the others were doing okay.

Right up until the woodchuck ate them all.

We will be planting more lettuce later this month, well after the current heat wave is over. The seed packets were together in a slide lock bag that got knocked about, and there was spillage, so they’re all mixed up now, so we’ll have lettuce surprise! πŸ˜€

Here we have our carrot beds. The large bed has two types of carrots; Kyoto Red, at the far end, and Napoli. These were pelleted seeds, which made it much easier to plant them without having to thin them later. We also had plenty of seeds left over for next year.

They had been doing so well, until the woodchuck ate all the greens! The wire cover isn’t going to stop a woodchuck, but will hopefully at least slow it down or discourage it. I’m still holding out hope that they will recover, and will be spraying around them with repellent soon.

In the old kitchen garden, we have two other varieties of carrots. Deep Purple and Longe Rouge Sang. There were far fewer seeds in these packets. I’d made a cornstarch gel to make planting them easier, which we did last year successfully, even though the gel was way too thin. This year, however, I made the gel too thick. When my daughters planted them, it came out unevenly, but it still worked out. These have, unfortunately, also been nibbled on, but not decimated like the others were. At the moment, we have a motion sensor light set up that will hopefully startle critters away, and this morning, I sprinkled Critter Ridder granules around this bed, and the beet beds nearby.

The two leafy things in the triangular bed are, I hope, white kohlrabi. These were seeds left over from last year, which had failed so spectacularly. Thankfully, we have seen no flea beetles this year. Still, I’m not even sure these plants are kohlrabi at all! I would call them a definite fail, unfortunately.

Next year, I want to try kohlrabi again, but will start them indoors. They are supposed to be good to sow directly before last frost, but they just don’t seem to do well that way.


Here we have our cucamelon transplants. We did these last year and, in spite of a poor location, they did really well. This is where we had intended to plant them last year, in the rest of the chimney blocks we have left over after using some for the retaining wall. I am hoping the increased sunlight in this location, plus the chain link fence to climb, will lead to an even better crop than last year. πŸ™‚

Here we have our two experimental corn blocks!

The purple Montana Morado corn (the photo on the left) were started indoors and transplanted, and so far they seem to be a success. A few of them don’t seem to be thriving at all, but most of them look like they are doing just great.

The Dorinny corn were planted before last frost, and you can see the remnants in the photo on the right. Though they are a cold hardy hybrid that would have been able to handle a normal frost, it turned out they couldn’t handle the -8C/18F night we had in late May. The seeds that had germinated before then did look like they survived, but after a few days, they were gone. Thankfully, more germinated later, and of those, they are doing quite well. As long as more don’t get eaten by the deer! The ones that did get nibbled on seem to be recovering, but I doubt we’ll get any corn on those ones.

Just yesterday, I used one of the empty rows in the Dorinny corn block to transplant some Hopi Black Dye seedlings. I’ll talk about those more, later. I also transplanted the few, spindly pink celery seedlings. I don’t expect those to survive. They should have been started indoors much, much earlier. I want to try them again, next year.

Where the Dorinny corn is planted is temporary. Where the Montana Morado corn is planted will probably become a permanent part of our garden. I was really surprised by how much better the soil was in this location, compared to other parts of the old garden area.

Here we have our hard neck garlic beds, which were planted last fall.

The Porcelain Music is looking amazing! Big, strong plants. They started showing scapes first. As I write this, we’ve gathered scapes from all these plants.

The Purple Stripe is looking like they will be ready to harvest soon – but they are still producing scapes! I’m not sure if this is a problem, or if this is normal for the variety!

The Racombole got split between the two beds. They came up later than the others, and the plants are smaller and slighter. They were also the last to start producing scapes. I don’t know if that’s normal or not for this variety. It’s possible, being on the East ends of the beds, they had slightly less sunlight than the others.

So far, these are looking like a fabulous success.

Now, we move on to the gourds. πŸ™‚

I honestly didn’t expect to have gourds this year. We started them indoors early, yet they didn’t germinate until much later.

These first ones are next to the cucamelons, in an area that will be a permanent bed.

These ones are the Ozark Nest Egg gourds. These had one plant germinated per pot, even though several seeds were in each. This morning, I noticed one of those seeds had germinated!

Thai Bottle Edible Gourd

Last time I posted about these, I mistakenly referred to them as the Tennessee Dancing gourd. Silly me. These are the Thai Bottle Gourds. There’s just the two of them.

The Tennessee Dancing Gourd were among the first to germinate, and we got quite a few of them! If they are as prolific as I’ve read in reviews, we’ll be up to our eyeballs with them. πŸ˜€

It’s the luffa I am most eager to see how they turn out. They also germinated faster, though that’s not saying much, considering how long it took for the other gourds to germinate!

This area is temporary, even though we built a squash tunnel for them to climb. We intend to plant trees in this far-flung area, but this area, and the squash tunnel, might see another year of use. I’m pretty sure there is a telephone line buried under here, so we will probably not be planting trees exactly here.

As late as they all started, they all seem to be doing surprisingly well! They are really loving this heat wave. I’m looking forward to seeing how they climb the structure!

Here we have our grapes. There are two vines. We did not plant these. My mother did, but she does not remember what variety they are. I was talking to my mother today, and she worked out how long ago she planted them here, and figures it was about 12 years ago. !!! They had been completely engulfed by spirea when we first moved here, and we’ve been slowly working at getting them strong and healthy again. They are producing tiny clusters of grapes right now, and I look forward to seeing if they grow bigger this year, than last year. πŸ™‚

I am really excited at how the melons are doing! We stared them indoors at the same time as we started with summer squash, but everything took a long time to germinate. That we ended up with so many is totally bonus. I love melons and really look forward to how these do! They are currently blooming, and starting to get big enough to train up the mesh, so I hope that means they’ll have a good summer’s growth.

Here we have more successes and failures.

The Norstar onions were started from seed, and they are growing nice big bulbs right now! They may have been small when they were transplanted, but they easily match the Red Karmen sets they share a bed with.

What you don’t see is what should be growing in that gap in the middle. The very first seeds we planted outdoors was purple kale; seeds we got for free with one of our Baker Creek orders. If they ever germinated, we never saw them.

Because the bunching onions and shallots we tried to start from seed died a glorious, cat induced death, we ended up buying sets. Unsure if the Norstar seedlings would survive, I picked up some onions sets when they came out in the stores. When I found shallots as sets, too, I grabbed a couple of bags. They both seem to be doing well.

However, they too should have a neighbor.

In the middle, our purple kohlrabi was planted. Like the kale, if anything sprouted, we never saw them.

I do want to try the purple kohlrabi again, but will start them indoors next time.

Here we have our peas. We planted all of the purple peas in the one row, while there were so many of the green peas, we were able to replant in spaces where peas did not germinate, and still have some left over!

They are currently blooming and growing pods, but I am not sure if they are actually doing well. They aren’t very big! It could be because of the poor soil in this temporary location. Quite a lot of whatever was trying to grow here before is now making its way through the straw and garden soil we added, quite enjoying the watering and feeding the peas are getting!

We shall see how they do over the next few weeks.

Here we have before and after pictures of our potatoes.

The first picture was taken four days after they were “hilled”. The other was taken 10 days later.

I can’t believe how huge they are! All four varieties are just thriving in these home made grow bags.

And now for something a bit different.

Raspberry bushes.

We bought raspberries for the first time this year, as a birthday gift for my daughter. She chose the Heritage variety. They were doing great after transplanting – until they got nibbled on by deer, and then hit by that late May frost.

They won’t do very well this year, but they will survive, and should be fine, next year.

The others are a combination of raspberries my mother transplanted many years ago, and other self-seeded plants we transplanted when we mulched the area that now has our main garden beds in it. They, too, were hit hard, not just by that one bitter night, but also the Polar Vortex we got hit with in February. Yet, they survived, and we will probably get raspberries from them this summer!

Here we have our Crespo squash. This is another one we weren’t sure would work – and I’m still not sure we have a long enough growing season for them, even with starting them indoors. They seem to be doing very well, though, and one of them is starting to bloom quite nicely!

and now, the summer squash!

This morning, I finally saw some little Sunburst squash! They were our favourite, last year. We are also seeing the green Endeavor zucchini, and the lighter green Magda squash. Still no sign of the yellow Goldy zucchini.

This year, we are trying to grow them vertically, but not all of them are big enough to tie to the stakes yet. But we’ve already got squash forming on those little plants! I am so excited by these! πŸ˜€

Winter Squash

Here we have our two varieties of winter squash, Little Gem and Teddy, both chosen for their shorter growing season and smaller size. They look like they are doing very well in this heat wave, too! They’re not big enough to train up the mesh, yet, but I do see some tendrils forming on some of them.

Mystery squash

Then there are these mystery squash, growing out of the old compost pile. We think they might be from the pumpkins we tried to grow last year. Hopefully, they’ll grow well enough that we’ll find out!

Here we have our sunflowers, in between blocks of corn. The corn are from a collection that included, Early Eh, Montauk and Sweetness. I didn’t bother taking separate photos of them. They are doing remarkably well, considering the poor conditions in this temporary location.

The sunflowers that are supported by twine are the Mongolian Giant sunflowers we started indoors, then transplanted. None of the Hopi Black Dye we started indoors had germinated… until they finally did! Long after these were done, which is why they are now planted near the Dorinny corn. Aside from losing a few to deer, I think they are doing well. At least as well as can be, in these conditions, and surrounded by weeds! Last year, none of our giant sunflowers reached full maturity before the first frost hit. I’m hoping at least the transplanted ones will have the time they need. If not… well, they make a good privacy screen.

If all goes well, we will be planting our first nut trees in the area next year.

Here are our wee little tomatoes! The teeny Spoon tomatoes have fruit developing already, while the Mosaic Mix is still just blooming.

In front of the Spoon tomatoes, you can see tiny wisps of onions. Those are the Red Baron bunching onions, from a very late start with the last of the seeds, indoors. In front of the Mosaic Mix, we have little Norstar bunching onions, again a late planting of the last seeds indoors. Starting these were a bit of a Hail Mary, and I doubt much will come of them, but hwo knows? πŸ˜€

Here we have a bit of a mish mash.

The photo on the left is where we seeded the Giant Rattle poppies. They came up in patches, mostly beside the rhubarb in the background (which predates us living here!). At the tip of this triangular bed, my daughter planted an iris that was shipped for spring planting – only to get hit by that late May frost, which killed it off. Other irises were planted in a trench along the south side of the old kitchen garden. One type has come up. They are hard to see, but several are by the laundry platform in the middle photo, with a few along the edge in the left photo. The ones planted in the trench towards the rhubarb never came up at all.

However, while trying to weed the area, I noticed something. You can barely see one in the photo on the right.


All in a row, along the edge of where the trench to plant the irises last fall was dug!

We did not plant any dill. In fact, we have not seen any dill coming up since we moved here!

My guess is that, in digging the trench to plant the bulbs last fall, any dill seeds in the ground were brought closer to the surface, and this year, they could germinate.

I’m letting them be. We were intending to plant dill eventually, anyhow! πŸ˜€

Not pictured: our spinach beds. Because they’re all harvested and the beds are empty right now. The three varieties of spinach were a huge success, even with loosing some to deer. We will be sowing more in late July, for a fall crop. πŸ™‚

Also not pictured are our little pumpkins, Baby Pam. None germinated. We have seeds left over, though, so we can try again next year.

Also, also not pictures. The radishes we interplanted with the Peaches ‘n Cream corn blocks. They germinated, then disappeared, and we have no idea what happened!

That is finally it!

And now I hope I can actually publish this. I’ve lost internet over and over while trying to write this, almost lost the entire post while the editor was stuck on “autosaving” – and now it’s stuck there again!

I might have to do some browser magic to save this post and finally get it published… more than 4 hours after I started!

If you’re reading this now, I succeeded, and didn’t give up in a fit of rage. LOL

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: old kitchen garden, ready for planting!

It’s finally done!!

The old kitchen garden beds are done and ready for planting.

These beds were made fairly deep, as they will have root vegetables planted in them.

The only problem is that the soil is going to fall into the paths without something to support the sides. For now, the flax straw I’d taken out and was going to chop smaller with the lawn mower is going to be laid down in the paths, along with straw, until we can get pavers or something to make more permanent paths.

After these photos were taken, I watered everything, including the poppies that were sown last night, and the lilacs, honeysuckle and roses. I do hope that little pink rose survives!

For now, the beds are sitting and warming up in the sun. Later on, the girls will do the planting. There’s a second type of beet, plus two types of carrots, to go in here. I also dug out the seeds left over from last year, which includes beet seeds left over from the variety pack we got last year. There was even some green kohlrabi left. So the girls will plant those, too. The purple kohlrabi is going to get planted in between the shallots and the yellow onions (I almost forgot about those!), which they will take care of today, as well.

Next, a block needs to be marked out and prepared for the one type of corn we have that needs to be planted before last frost.

Absolutely nothing we’ve planted outside so far has started to emerge. I know it’s too early, but I still can’t help but wonder if we did something to kill them off or something! πŸ˜€ At least I’m finally seeing some summer squash and melon seedling starting to emerge in their cups in the sun room. Not very many, still, but at least I can be sure we’ll have a couple of varieties to transplant and a few weeks!!

My entire body aches from hauling all that soil and spreading it (yes, the girls helped – and they’re feeling it, too!!), but I’m so happy with how things are looking so far!

The Re-Farmer

Cold climate seed sources (updated)

I have to admit that, right now, I’m rather obsessed with gardening! Mostly, I’m just glad we’ve reached a point, since moving here, where we even can garden at all, even if we really aren’t all that ready for it.

One thing I want to clarify when I talk about gardening. Growing up here, my mother maintained a HUGE garden, and in my mind “gardening” means “growing food.” There was gardening, and then there was flower gardening. They were always two different things in my mind. I still remember how startled I was, the first time I was talking to someone about gardening after I’d moved off the farm. I was so confused to hear her talking about planting flowers. Not a single vegetable! I eventually clued in that, when a lot of people talk about “gardening”, they mean growing flowers, and that very few of the people I met over the years grew any kind of food at all, except maybe some herbs.

It was the strangest of revelations for me! πŸ˜€

So I just wanted to make I don’t confuse anyone reading my posts here. Gardening, to me, is generic for growing food. My brain puts flowers, and even berry bushes and fruit trees, into completely different categories! πŸ˜€

With all the crazy going on right now, a lot of people are looking to grow their own food. On the one hand, I think that’s awesome, and it’s something I have always felt more people should be doing, if they are able. On the other hand, it means a lot of seed companies are running out of stock and are having a hard time meeting the demand!

Though I have already ordered what we’ll be planting this year, that hasn’t stopped me from researching, or just enjoying going through websites and thinking further into the future.

Image source

Researching is something I do for fun, which is handy, because I’m been spending a lot of time researching cold climate gardening and looking for seed, plant and tree sources. Unfortunately, most of the sources I’m finding that talk about “cold climate” tend to be US based, which means the coldest they talk about is zone 4. Mostly, zone 5. We’re zone 3 (or 2b, according to my Veseys catalogue label!).

So I have been making a point of bookmarking anything I find that is aimed at Canadians, where I know I’ll have more choices for things that will grow in our zone.

I will be including some of the sources I’ve found, here. My focus here is on Canadian companies, with items hardy to our zone, and I’ll talk a little about each one.

I will be including sources, in alphabetical order, that I’ve found for hardy fruit and nut trees, berry bushes and grape vines, as well as vegetables and herbs. I hope that these will be useful for anyone else who is trying to grow their own food in colder, short season zones.

Blazing Star Wildflower Seed Company. This company, in Aberdeen, Saskatchewan, specializes in Canadian wildflower seeds, specifically for the prairies. They also have a small selection of heirloom vegetable seeds. Mostly tomatoes. Their wildflowers are in many categories, including those that attract bees, butterflies, birds in general, or hummingbirds specifically. They also have categories for flowers that are deer resistant, flowers that prefer different types of lighting, and even a category of plants for tea. While my own focus is on food gardening, attracting native pollinators is really important, since our local pollinators come out at different times than in other zones. For us, we have to be careful where we plant flowers, due to my husband’s allergies to bees, but as we continue to expand our cleanup, wildflowers are going to be an important part of the ecosystem we will be building. More flowers -> more pollinators -> more food!

Green Barn Farm. Green Barn is a Quebec based nursery that specializes in hardy fruit, nut and berries that can survive our extreme winters. Their selections include nut trees, apples and crabapples, apricots, peaches and nectarines (!!!), berries and wild native species, cherries, pears, plums, grapes, passion fruit and kiwi (!!!), and permaculture plants. They even have coffee trees! Their varieties are amazing.

One of the things I like about their website is how easy they make it for you to see what’s already sold out – which, as I write this, is a lot! I find their prices are unusually high, but considering what they carry, and their efforts in genetics and agroforestry, I can see the prices are warranted for what you’re getting! They also have things like grafting workshops, seminars and consultations available. They do have a section for products for the US, but it seems to be down at the time I am writing this. They also have a YouTube channel. The last video was posted 8 years ago, but the videos that are there are very topical and useful.

Hardy Fruit Tree Nursery. When I started looking for food trees that would grow in our climate, this is the first place I found, and it’s still the one that inspires me! I really look forward to when we are ready to order from here!

This is another Quebec based company, and their specialty is fruit trees that can grow in our climate, but they also include a wonderful range of nut trees. They have quite a selection of trees hardy even to zone 2! They also carry plums, cherries, berry bushes, and more. Along with food trees, they also carry forest trees to reestablish and rehabilitate different regions. Their package deals include various collections at bulk prices, including a nut orchard, which I am pining for!

Harmonic Herbs. Unfortunately, this company will not be able to supply seeds for 2021, due to a combination of weather related crop failures, deer damage and the whole Covid thing. Hopefully, they will be up and running soon. This company is in Barrhead, Alberta, and provides vegetable, flower, grain, herb and other seeds. They don’t have a large selection, compared to other sites out there, but they do have things I haven’t seen anywhere else.

2022 update: sadly, another poor seed harvest has meant this company is retiring from their current format. They are changing focus, though, so keep checking on them.

Heritage Harvest Seed. This company is based out of Fisher Branch, Manitoba and… oh, my goodness… what an amazing resource! I’ll just cut and paste this blurb from the website.

All of our heirloom seed varieties are natural, untreated, non hybrid, open pollinated, non GMO seeds. We have over 800 varieties of rare and endangered heirloom vegetable, flower, herb and ancient grain seeds. Heritage Harvest Seed is a Canadian seed company with the largest selection of heirloom seeds in Canada.

I have spent waaayyyy too much time on this website, which was recommended in one of the cold climate gardening groups I’m on, and I’ve still only looked at their vegetables! They include all sorts of interesting information about the items, including historical background and even personal experiences with them, that I absolutely love. I’ve lost count of the number of items I’ve looked at and, after reading the info, wanted to order them just to be able to save seeds and help preserve the species!

Unfortunately, like so many other seed sources, they are overwhelmed with orders right now. Many items are sold out, and they’ve had to limit orders. I am really excited about ordering from here in the future!

2022 update: I was able to order seeds from Heritage Harvest for this year’s garden, and while it’s too early to say much about the resulting crops themselves, I can say that they have an excellent response time and great customer service. They have also revamped and updated their website, and it looks great!

Incredible Seeds. This Nova Scotia based company is run by an off-grid family. A small company with a remarkable selection of vegetable, herb, flower, fruit and tree seeds. Yes, tree seeds, not saplings. Which means they are much more affordable, but will take longer to reach food production stage. Nova Scotia has a warmer climate zone than ours, but they even have items that are hardy to zone 1! All their plants are heirloom and open pollinated, and they encourage seed saving.

Lindenberg Seeds. This site is a bit different, in that you have to look at their catalog as a pdf (or you can request a print catalogue). It’s 104 pages, so there is lots to look at! You can also print off their order form and fax it in, mail it to their Brandon, Manitoba address, or place an order by email. They’ve got vegetables, flowers, ferns, roots, bulbs, tubers, and more. Their selection is massive! They also carry growing mixes and pellets, plant pots and heat mats, fertilizers, row covers, and other useful things. I do wish they had a website you could view items on and order from, but I’m just spoiled that way. πŸ˜€

McKenzie Seeds. This is a company that’s been around since 1896, and in Canada, you can find their seeds all over. Like Lindenberg Seeds, they are also based in Brandon, Manitoba, and their selections of vegetable, herb and flower seeds, bulbs, crowns and tubers are massive.

Ontario Seed Company. This company is based in Kitchener, Ontario, and bills itself as the largest wholly Canadian owned and operated company. They started in Waterloo, Ontario, in the late 1800’s, and still have a presence there! They carry vegetables, herbs, flowers, lawn seed, ground covers, legume and forage crops, trees and ornamental grasses, as well as garden accessories and supplies.

Prairie Hardy Nursery. “An Artisan Nursery of Edible and Unique Trees on the Canadian Prairie. Cold hardy grown trees suited for cold climate growing.” Prairie Hardy Nursery is based on a third generation family farm north of Edmonton, Alberta, in operation since 1942. Their selections include apple, plum, pear, nut and apricot trees, as well as grape vines. Alas, for 2021, they seem to be almost completely sold out!

Stokes Seeds. This is a company that is in both Canada (Thorold, Ontario), and the US (Buffalo, NY). They also have a research farm in St. Catharines, Ontario. They supply a wide selection of vegetables, flowers, herbs and accessories. The accessories include everything from seed starting mixes and supplies, to decorations. They also have collections available, including herbal teas, sunflowers, stir fry, butterfly gardens, and more.

Saskatoon Farm. No, this is not a farm near Saskatoon, Saskatewan, but a farm that grows Saskatoons! They are a family farm in Alberta (their website gives directions from either Calgary or Okotoks) that includes a restaurant, bakery, outdoor Christmas Market, market garden, u-pick, gift shop, etc., and hosts events like weddings, private parties, cooking classes and other events. At least they did, until Covid happened. Some things are still open to the public, though closed for the season, and they do still have a catalogue, though only the 2020 one is on the website at the time I write this.

Silver Creek Nursery. This nursery is in Wellesly, Ontario, and ships bare root fruit trees. Their categories include apple trees, including a separate cider apple tree category, pear, quince, peach, plum, cherry, and apricot trees. They also have berries and vines (haskap, blackberries, grapes, kiwi, etc), nut trees, native and nitrogen fixing plants, and orchard supplies. They also have a lot of information on the site for each product (the most I’ve seen anywhere), a section on how to grow fruit trees, and they offer courses, including how to choose the right fruit trees.

T&T Seeds. I have to say, I was pretty excited to find this website. I remember spending many hours flipping through their catalogue as a child! I don’t know why we were on their mailing list, since my mother refused to spend money on seeds, but I sure was glad to get it!

T&T Seeds is a Winnipeg, Manitoba based company, where they also have a retail store. They have been around since 1946, and continue to be a family business. They claim to have the most extensive refrigeration facilities in Canada, to store dormant plants. On their website, you can shop by category: vegetable, flower, perennials, bulbs, sets & potatoes, fruit plants, shrubs and trees, garden accessories, home accessories, pest control, fertilizers and health products. You can also shop by catalog pages. Some of the more unusual items they carry (at least for Canadian suppliers) are things like lingonberry, jostaberry, figs, hops, wisteria, and sand cherry.

New: Tree Time. This nursery specializes in windbreak and shelterbelt trees, with a focus on a large selection of trees, shrubs and berries with a high survival rate and affordability. This is the place to buy in bulk! For 2022, we placed our first major tree order from here, which will be shipped when ready to be planted in our zone. They came highly recommended by people on several different cold climate gardening groups I’m on.

Veseys. Of course, I have to include Veseys! This is where I’ve ordered most of our items for this year’s garden, and the only place I ordered from, last year. Veseys is based in York, Prince Edward Island, where they have a garden shop and trial gardens. Their website has both Canadian and US versions. Their categories include vegetables, flowers and bulbs, herbs, fruits and berries, tools and accessories, plus a Gardening 101 section. They used to have a fundraising program, but that is currently on hold due to Covid. I can say from personal experience that they have excellent quality products, and their customer service is also excellent. I have been very happy with my orders from them.

West Coast Seeds. This is a Vancouver, British Columbia based, 4th generation family owned company. Vancouver is temperate rainforest. I don’t expect to find a lot here that will grow in our zone! However, it is another one that was recommended on one of the cold climate growing groups I’m on. Their seed categories include vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruit, cover crops, microgreens, “lawn solutions”, ornamental grass seeds and plant stock, as well as garden supplies.

W. H. Perron. This company was founded in Quebec, in 1928, and “is the most important horticultural company in North America…” Their categories include garden accessories, annuals and indoor plants, herbs, fruits, sprouts and micro greens, vegetables, potatoes and bulbs, native seeds, perennials and biennials, organic or untreated and heirloom seeds. They also have sections for collections (patio collection, basil collection, cut flower mixes, easy pick green patio collection, etc.), urban gardeners and novelties, as well as top sellers. I admit, I haven’t spent a lot of time on this website, as I find it quite hard on the eyes. :-/

Whiffletree Farm & Nursery. This is a company based in Elora, Ontario and, compared to some of the others on this list, is just a baby company, having started in 2012. It is owned and operated by a family “of the Horse and Buggy Mennonite sect”. As such, they may take a bit longer to respond to calls, while using third party services for electronic communications.

On the website, you can scroll through an electronic version of their catalog, without having to download it separately. While in the catalog, you can click on individual item code lines to add them to your cart, though a lot of what I looked at had mouse-over notes saying they are not available this season. Among the unexpected items in the catalogue are things like persimmons, medlars, varieties of haskaps I’ve never seen before, and others plants I’ve never heard of before, like Schisandra Vine, and goumi. They also have items such as bee kits (for mason and leafcutter bees – bees included!), organic fertilizers and sprays, tools, orchard supplies and tree protectors. The catalogue also has a lot of very useful information included near the end. I do hope they are able to restock as the seasons allow, because there are some really awesome and unusual items here!

Update: Wiffletree has redone their website, and they did a fantastic job of it!

Wildrose Heritage Seed Company. This is another company recommended in one of the cold climate growing groups I’m on. They are based in Lethbridge, Alberta, family owned, and they grow, harvest, clean and package everything on site. Packaging is one of the more unique things about them: they use waterproof Mylar bags that are resealable and reusable, to encourage people to save seeds and still have all the packaging information. They offer bulbs (garlic and onions), vegetable, herb and flower (dwarf and giant sunflowers) seeds. At the time of this writing, they are shipping only within Canada.

William Dam Seeds. Another family run business, based in Dundas, Ontario, starting in 1959. They have a retail outlet, currently closed due to Covid restrictions. They offer a large variety of seeds for vegetables, herbs, flowers and green crops (including the largest selection of cover crops and nitrogen fixers I’ve seen, yet!), plus tools and supplies.

Younder Hill Farm. This company is based on a homestead in Nova Scotia, family run and commercially growing seed since 2009. They have farm stays and apprenticeships available. They offer vegetables, grains, culinary and medicinal herbs, flowers, live plants, willow whips, and even “basic apocalypse prep garden packs” in starter and deluxe! Both are out of stock, at the time I’m writing this, and from what I’m reading in the list of what’s included, I can see why. They are really well thought out collections.

Zappa Seeds. This company has store locations in North York, Brampton and Waterloo Ontario. You can even apply to become an affiliate or Zappa retailer. They offer a decent variety of vegetable seeds, as well as herbs and fruit (watermelon and tomatoes), but their most interesting offerings are their packs and collections. These include a beginners vegetable garden, a garden staples back, an East Asian international blend, easy seeds for kids, garden staples, and more. I think these packs and collections are a great idea, particularly for beginning gardeners. With so many varieties available, it can get pretty overwhelming to try and figure out which ones to try!

New: Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes. This Alberta company specializes in all things potatoes! It’s January, 2022 as I write this update, and I just finished ordering three varieties. The website provides all sorts of information, from maturity rates to storage capabilities to best cooking methods! I wish I’d found this company earlier, because they even have a list of what potatoes are good for grow towers – something that would have been handy when we tried to grow in bags!

There you have it! A selection of Canadian companies that supply seeds and trees suitable for colder climate and short season growing. I hope these are useful for anyone looking to grow their own food, even if you’re not in a cold climate zone! πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Garden progress

This morning, when checking the soaking carrot seeds, I FINALLY spotted some roots!

For those who are new to following this blog (welcome!), this video shows the technique I am trying.

The first thing I needed to do was make the conrstarch gel. I noticed in the comments that people found the ratio in the video made too thick a gel, so I used 2tsp cornstarch to 1 cup of water. I made more than I needed, since I figured if it worked well for the carrots, I would use it for other things with very small seeds.

It took a while to cook the mixture down to gel state, and I think if I do it again, I would increase the cornstarch a little bit more.

Once the gel was cooked and cooling down, we started getting the new garden bed ready.

I had already raked the soil to even it out, and we gave it a thorough soaking. Then I added a bit of peat to each section and raked it out evenly. After the above photo was taken, it was given another thorough watering.

The gel took a while to cool down so, in between getting things ready outside, I put some of the gel into slide lock bags to cool down after. Then put them in the fridge, and finally putting them in the freezer. They didn’t have to get cold, but they at least had to be cool enough not to harm the seeds.

I prepped 4 bags. One for each variety of carrots, plus one for the parsley.

The instructions for the parsley said to let the seeds soak for a half hour, so that was done while I worked on the carrots. I used a measuring cup to hold the bag of gel up.

Also, the cats somehow managed to knock one of the dishes of carrot seeds upside down. 😦 It was the deep purple variety. I was able to salvage most of the seeds, but there was a fair bit of seed loss, too. 😦

Once the seeds were added, I squeezed out as much air as I could, then smooshed the package around to evenly distribute the seeds in the gel.

When it came time to plant the seeds, a corner was snipped off, to make like an icing bag, and the seeds were squeezed into the prepared soil in short rows. By the time that was all ready, the parsley had soaked long enough and those were planted, too.

I’m using a combination of techniques, and one of them is based on square foot gardening. Rather than long rows, they’re being planted in squares. I’ve got the carrots planted in alternating sections, and the parsley is in the middle of the group of three.

I found a roll of plastic in the basement (I think it’s for roofing), so we used some of that to cover and protect the seeds. Those will be removed as soon as sprouts can be seen.

The squares seem very close together, but there really is a fair bit of space in between the plantings.

Also, my daughter is a sweetheart.

She trimmed some branches and made labels for me. πŸ™‚

The way things are looking, and using the square foot gardening method, we might be able to plant more here than originally planned. The three varieties of beets will go here, plus I ended up buying some kohl rabi. I don’t know if we’ll have much success with the fennel transplants; there really isn’t much improvement there. What few have sprouted can fit here. The parsley and fennel was originally going to be planted in the old kitchen garden, but I think we’ll continue to build up the soil in there and save that for next year.

Today turned out to be surprisingly hot, so we didn’t stay out for too long. We were forecast to hit 22C (71F) this afternoon, but we ended up reading 26C (78F). We will continue planting tomorrow. I think it is safe for us to start planting things that are supposed to wait until after the frost date. Looking at the long range forecast, we seem to have passed that point early.

Which reminds me. I was hoping to use the fire pit and burn barrel in the next while, so I checked the municipal website to see what the burn bad status was at. We are now on a total burn ban, which means no fire pits or burn barrels, either. That sure didn’t take long! And we still have standing water in the ditches and ponds. Ah, well.

The next few days are going to be very busy ones, as we get more things out into the gardens! I’m looking forward to using that soil auger to prep where we will be planting our giant sunflowers. πŸ™‚ My mother also gave us some pumpkin seeds that were being given away for free at her local grocery store. They had tiny little envelopes, each with 3 seeds in them, and I had grabbed one, not realizing my mother had already included 2 packets in with a bag of stuff she’d prepared for me to take home. I don’t know what variety they are, but my mom tells me her town has annual pumpkin growing contests, so these might be a giant variety.

I think we’ll just plant them and see what we get! πŸ˜€

It should be interesting to see how our first year of gardening since we moved here will turn out. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Potato beds, and new garden area status

Yes! Finally! The weather is cooperating, and I was able to get our potatoes in!

From a previous post, this is what I was starting with.

The frames are just there to mark out where the beds will be. As you can see, there’s a fair bit of grass and weeds. It has been a while since this area had any sort of gardening done in it.

While the no-till, no-dig method we’re using is something that can be done directly on the grass, I wanted to add at least some amendments, first.

I used a wheelbarrow to mix 1 bag of manure with a slightly larger volume of peat.

After spreading it out on one of the beds with a rake, I used another bag of manure mixed with peat on the second bed. I then topped them with a thin layer of straw, making sure to use the damp straw from the bottom of the bale, where it was starting to decompose already.

I had hoped to use some material from our own compost pile, but as I dug around, I did not find any usable material. I had tried to clean out some of the older compost, from before we moved here, but as I dug around, I found more stuff I missed. Twigs and branches are one thing. It looks like people had stared to use it for garbage, and I found pieces of wood that were probably used as support stakes, plastic trays from transplants, and even a piece of fabric. There was some well composted material, but it was so full of sticks, it was unusable.

I’m thinking we will need to start a completely new compost pile somewhere else. This one is looking like a write off. 😦

So, no compost of our own for the potato beds.

Once both beds were spread with the manure and peat mixture, I gave them a very thorough watering. Even though we’ve had rain for the past couple of days, the soil was still pretty dry.

After soaking the beds, I added the potatoes. Each box was 3 pounds of seed potatoes. That worked out to 3 rows of 6 potatoes (plus 1 extra, so I put 2 small ones together) in one bed, and 3 rows of 5 potatoes in the other.

After spreading the potatoes out, I went back to evenly space them and push them gently down to have contact with the ground. With one potato, I went to pick it up, but it wouldn’t move.


I tried again, but it was stuck to the ground.

Amazingly, in the space of a couple of minutes, this one potato that had direct contact with the ground and shot out a 3 or 4 inch root, with capillaries! I wish I’d made the effort to take off my muddy gloves to take a photo, but instead, I dug a quick hole in the ground where I wanted it to be and “transplanted” it. I still can’t believe a potato could grow a root so deep, so fast, even after seeing it with my own eyes!

The next step was to cover the potatoes with a deep layer of straw. Again, I used straw from the bottom of the bale, where more of it was already damp and some was starting to decompose already. I made a layer roughly a foot deep.

I then scattered more peat across the top, then tamped it all down with the back of the spade. This peat is as much to add some weight to prevent flyaway straw as it is to amend the soil.

After the above photo was taken, I spent the next while thoroughly soaking the straw.

With this method, I saw recommendations of putting a layer of hay (which I don’t have, so I’m using straw) 2 feet deep. This is definitely not 2 feet deep. Over the next day or two, I plan to soak the straw some more, add another layer, then soak it again. After that, I should not need to water it much, if at all, for the rest of the growing season. I’ve heard people using this method say that no watering is needed at all, because the mulch maintains moisture as it breaks down, but I expect to need to water it at some point. It all depends on whether we have another drought this summer.

After the straw has started to settle and pack itself down, I will remove the frames to be used elsewhere.

Once this was done, I checked out the area we are planning to transplant our squash seedlings. We had covered this area last year with straw, then covered with tarps, to amend the soil and try to kill off the grass and weeds. We still ended up having to use Round Up. Even covered with tarps, weeds where pushing their way through the straw and lifting the pegged down tarps off the ground!

This is how the area looks now.

The black tarps in the back are there to warm up the mulched soil on that side a bit faster.

I could not do this here, last year. In fact, the soil was so hard, we were bending tent pegs while fastening down the tarps. While working on the potato beds next to this area, I would sometimes shove the fork or the spade into the ground to set it aside while I did the next thing, and ended up leaning them on the bale or wagon most of the time, because the ground is just so hard. Yet here, I could sink the fork’s tines their entire length down!

I pushed aside some of the mulch and dug around a bit. There are still a LOT of quack grass roots in there. I pulled some up, and you can see the bundle of roots in the above photo. The soil is quite “sticky”. The exciting thing was uncovering a worm. A very good sign!

Which means our efforts last year are paying off. The soil is already improving. When it’s time to transplant into the area, we will still be dealing with rocks and root systems, but the ground is now workable.

It’s amazing, what a mulch can do to improve soil conditions!

The Re-Farmer

Recommended: Maritime Gardening

Welcome to my β€œRecommended” series of posts. These will be weekly – for now – posts about resources I have found over the past while that I found so excellent, I want to share them with you, my dear readers. πŸ™‚ Whether or not I continue to post these, and how often they are posted, will depend on feedback. Please feel free to comment below, and if you have a favorite resource of your own, do share, and I will review them for possible future posts.

I hope you find these recommendations as useful and enjoyable as I have!

You’d think that, having grown up on this farm and with my family being subsistence farmers, I would already know how to garden here. And I guess I do, really. The thing is, I want to do things differently than my parents did. Some simple things, like trellising, which my parents never did. One of my jobs as a kid was to flip the rows of pea plants, so the sun could get at the other side. We also want to grow new things I have no experience in, use no-till methods my parents never used, and eventually have raised beds.

So basically, I’m learning how to garden, all over again.

Part of this learning curve is figuring out how to grow what we want in our climate zone, which is a zone 3. It takes extra measures to produce food in our short growing season. We can’t even take advantage of any urban heat island effects.

With that in mind, I have been looking up resources for cold climate gardening. In my searches, I have found many sites and YouTube channels dedicated to cold climate gardening. How wonderful, I would think, as I eagerly began to explore them.

Right up until I discovered that these “cold climate” gardeners were in…

Zone 5.


Just about everything I look at that I’m interested in growing is rated to zone 5. How is zone 5 considered a cold climate?

Okay, okay. I realize that these sites are almost all based in the US, and northern states are rightfully considered cold climates compared to the southern states. But I’m in frikkin’ central Canada. To us, zone 5 is almost tropical. πŸ˜€

All joking aside, it did make my searches frustrating. It turns out there just aren’t a lot of active Canadian gardening resources out there.

So I was pretty excited to find Maritime Gardening.

Maritime Gardening is run by Greg Auton, in Nova Scotia. It’s basically one person and 2,500 square feet of back yard garden! He’s been making these videos since 2016.

The only down side?

It’s still a zone 5 climate region… but it’s far closer to our situation than anything else I’ve found! There are lots of videos on how to lengthen the outdoor growing season, like getting the soil to thaw out faster, or dealing with high winds.

There are also a lot of videos on specific crops, such as garlic, onions, potatoes, and strawberries, and techniques, such as no-till gardening, using cold frames, different types of mulches, and so on.

There are videos on planning out your garden spaces, dealing with weeds and insect problems, saving seeds, harvesting and preserving.

There are even cooking videos, fermentation videos, videos on how to make tool handles, and so much more.

There is just SO much to learn from here! I highly recommend this channel as a resource.

Especially if you’re a frozen Canadian. πŸ˜€

The Re-Farmer