Our 2022 garden: sweet potatoes harvested

This morning I spent some time doing some clean up in the garden, taking off the netting from a couple of beds and removing the supports and twine. While I was at it, I decided to go ahead and harvest the Covington sweet potatoes from the grow bags. They did survive the frost, but with the cooler temperatures, anything there wouldn’t be getting any bigger.

This is it. Our entire sweet potato harvest.

They’re smaller than fingerling potatoes!

Now, I know we can grow short season sweet potatoes in our zone. In some of the local gardening groups I’m on, I’ve seen people posting pictures of their very nice sweet potato harvests. The soil in the grow bags looked good; there were lots of worms in the soil, and even mushrooms growing out the sides of the ones that tore; a sign of healthy soil. Like so much else this year, they just never really recovered from our horrible spring. This is actually more than I was expecting to find, to be honest.

Yes, I want to try growing sweet potatoes again. Whether we’ll be able to try again next year, I don’t know yet, but I do want to grow them. They would make a valuable, nutritionally dense, storage crop to help meet our self sufficiency goals.

What a rough gardening year it has been this year!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: deer damage and harvested squash

When doing my rounds, one of the things I’ve been making sure to check is for damage to the berry bushes we plants. Especially that one highbush cranberry that has been eaten, twice. Putting the old saw horse over it seems to be helping, and there are even the tiniest of green leaves appearing again. We’ve had a pretty constant and gentle rain since yesterday evening, so that is sure to be helping as well.

This morning, I found this.

Overnight, the self-seeded sunflowers had almost all their leaves eaten. The green beans also had a lot of their leaves eaten, along the length of about half the trellis. The pods got left, though. We have stopped harvesting the beans, though we could probably still be picking the green ones. They are still blooming and producing new pods, though in much reduced quantities.

Two of the self seeded (well… bird seeded…) sunflowers by the sweet corn also got et. There is no new damage to the corn, though. It doesn’t look like the deer went into the bed. Just munched the sunflowers at the edge.

I’m not sure if this is deer damage, or some small critter. One of the sweet potato bags got torn apart more, and the grass mulch turned over, which isn’t too unexpected. The bottle waterer in the black grow bag being knocked out is a bit of a surprise. Nothing else in that bag was disturbed.

Happily, the eggplants were completely undisturbed. I put everything back, including the mulch, and in the process found that the sweet potato vine that got pulled aside seemed undamaged, too.

I checked everything else closely, and nothing else seems damaged. I did, however, decide it was time to harvest the ripe squash and pumpkins, just in case. Except the giant pumpkins. We could harvest both of those, but I’ll come by with the wagon to carry them to the house, another time.

There is the one Kakai hulless pumpkin and three Baby Pam pumpkins. Both have more green ones on the vines that I hope will get time to ripen fully. I also harvested seven Red Kuri squash, leaving one to ripen a bit longer on the vine. These are all now set up in the kitchen to cure.

With all the other squash I looked at, I’m rather impressed with the Boston Marrow. We will still likely get only two that can be harvested – one of which is starting to turn colour – but I’m seeing a surprising number of little ones developing, plus more female flowers. It looks like they would have been very prolific, had we not had such a terrible spring. Definitely something to try again next year.

The Baby Pam pumpkins are supposed to be an excellent pie pumpkin, but with just these three little ones, there isn’t enough to make one! We’ll find some other way to enjoy them. I do look forward to trying the seeds in that Kakai pumpkin. We already know we like the Red Kuri squash, and I promised one of those to my mother. I think next year, we should plant more of them.

I’m thankful that we at least have these to harvest. We planted so many more that just didn’t make it. Hopefully, we’ll have better growing conditions next year!

The Re-Farmer

Rough morning

I could really use a full night’s sleep!

Got awakened by cat shenanigans in the wee hours, repeatedly.

Don’t they look so innocent?

Actually, only Cheddar was responsible for some of the noises. David and Ginger are among those who can’t be in my room overnight. David is sometimes allowed in, but Nosencrantz and Butterscotch hide from him. Ginger actually becomes aggressive towards them! Cheddar, they are content with, but he has a terrible habit of scratching at the door to be let out – but when I get up to let him out, he runs over to the food bowls and starts begging, instead! Nosencrantz, meanwhile, has troubles getting to a spot on the shelf that she likes. Normally, she can go from my vanity to the window sill to the shelf, but the window sill now has a fan in it. What she hasn’t figured out is that she can still get to the spot on the shelf by using the office chair, but she won’t do it. The noise of her attempts to get at the shelf, and the things that get knocked about (including the fan, in spite of it being braced) is getting very tiresome.

And that’s just the start of the nightly interruptions – but it’s still better than all out cat fights!

I eventually gave up trying to sleep and headed out to do the morning rounds a bit early. Nice and cool, but my goodness, the mosquitoes were insane!

It looks like we have one, maybe two, losses among the sweet potatoes. They don’t look like they’ve been eaten by anything. One just looks withered away. The other still has a leaf trying to grow, while the rest has withered away. The rains might have something to do with it. I don’t know. We did have two extra slips in our package, though, and the grow bag is probably too small for 3 plants, so this is not necessarily a bad thing.

I don’t think we got more rain last night, though we are very humid, so everything was soaked by dew and there is still standing water in a few places. I’m hoping things will dry up enough to get some weed trimming done, if not actual mowing. We are supposed to reach a high of 19C/66F today, which shouldn’t be too bad to work in. People are getting a bit freaked out because we’re supposed to hit 31C/88F in a couple of days, as if this was some new thing. Which I don’t understand. The record high for today was 37C/99F, set back in 1995. The record high for the day we’re expected to hit 31C/88F is 32C/90F, also set in 1995. As far as I know, most of the people alarmed by the predicted highs are old enough to remember a much hotter June in 1995. As much as I dislike the heat, it’s still preferable to today’s record cold of 4C/39F, set in 2001.

Then, just to make my morning even more “fun”…

The enter key on my keyboard stopped working last night.

Which is when I discover just how constantly that key gets used. In some places, like on Discord, it’s not even possible to post comments, because there is no “post” button to click on. The family has a Discord channel we use to message each other, as it’s the one app we all have and use regularly.

So this morning, I went digging around for spare keyboards. We have some from upgrading computer systems. We never use the keyboards they come with, as they generally suck. My own keyboard is an old Microsoft ergonomic split keyboard. It’s painful for me to type on anything else. When I wore off the keys from my original one, my husband got me a split keyboard with letters that lit up, so that wouldn’t be a problem anymore, but I wasn’t able to use it. So my husband gave me his keyboard, which was identical except you could still read the keys. He tried the light up one but had issues with it, and ended up using my old one. He doesn’t use the alphabet keys as much as he uses the number pad and arrow keys, so not being able to read the keys wasn’t a problem for him.

Yes, I do touch type, but sometimes, I just need to see those keys.

While digging around, I found the original keyboard for my husband’s desktop and tried that. It is way too tiny, and hard on my wrists. My husband found the split keyboard he’d bought me, so I tried that again. Typing on that was worse than the standard keyboard. All the keys are slightly off, but worse of all is that they split the space bar, so it’s under the hand instead of across the middle. I went back to the standard keyboard, and soon gave up trying to type on that.

I ended up going back to the one with the enter key that doesn’t work. I’d completely forgotten that there is an entre key with the number pad. That one still works.

I’m willing to put up with that, so I can finally type again!

I do find myself wondering how long I’ll be able to type at all. The arthritis in my fingers is getting worse. The pain isn’t as much of a problem as the reduced mobility. I’m slowly losing the use of my hands, and fine motor control is being lost even faster.

Frustrating.

Bah. Enough of the negative stuff. I have work to do. I can still do that!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: sweet potatoes, bed prep and… frost?

Yay! A day without rain! We finally got to get some serious work done outside!

I had a few goals for the day, but before I could even start on any of them, I had to get the weed trimmer out. The grass is getting out of control, but it’s still too wet to mow in most places. In the main garden area, the ground is so rough, it’s just easier to use the weed trimmer.

Easier on the lawn mower, that is. Not on me! Particularly since I was trying to trim as close to the ground as possible, as well as under the logs framing the beds. It’s pretty much all crab grass, with some dandelions thrown in for good measure, so it’s all going to come back, but at least it’ll take a bit longer, this way. :-/

Once that was done, I decided on where I would put the purchased grow bags we are testing out this year. I picked up a couple at Canadian Tire, mostly because they were on clearance. My original plan was to try growing some sweet potatoes in one of them, then have the remaining slips planted in the ground. The bed I was going to use for that now has the white strawberries in it, so I figured they could all go into the grow bags.

I decided to place them near the small potato bed, where they will get full sun, and be sheltered from the winds at least somewhat. I did put some straw in the bottom of the bags. The straw will act as a sort of sponge to hold moisture, but it also held the sides of the bags up, making it easier to add the soil.

The truck load of garden soil by the main garden is mostly used up, but so far it has been enough for what we need. The problem is that, after a year, it’s so full of roots, it’s actually hard to stab the spade into it!

We really need a soil sifter. I don’t have the materials to make one right now, so I rigged one up.

This steel mesh is what we use on the burn barrel as a spark catcher. I used it to sift soil last year. A couple of sticks to support it over the wheelbarrow, and it worked all right. Some roots still got through, but at least the big stuff was kept out.

It took a couple of loads to fill the bags. They’re not that large, but even with the straw on the bottom, they hold quite a bit of soil. I decided not to fill them to the top. I figure, once sweet potatoes start to form, they’re going to need some space. I’ve never grown them before, so we’ll find out!

Also, you can see that one of the handles has already torn off on one side!

These bags are probably too small for sweet potatoes, but this is a bit of an experiment, anyhow, so we’ll see.

For these, I decided to use the stove pellets as mulch. In the above photo, the one on the right had its first watering, and you can see they’re already starting to swell and soften.

After wetting them both down, I left the pellets to absorb the water and moved on to our other experiment.

I got a pair of these at The Dollar Tree to test out. The fabric they’re made of is a thick felt.

Hmmm… Did I mention I got these at The Dollar Tree?

You get what you pay for! The first one I opened, and it had a hole in it!

Some of the stitching looks like it simply came undone, but the opening was about a third of the circumference!

The other one was fine, though, so I gave the first one to my daughter. She’s been doing a lot of sewing, so she’s got all the supplies on hand and was able to stitch it up for me.

While she worked on that, I filled the second one. As with the others, I added straw to the bottom, using it to help hold up the sides. In between loads of soil to fill it, I watered the pellets in the first bags a couple more times, before smoothing out the sawdust, then repeated the process on the smaller fabric bed.

It looks so small compared to the other two!

The sweet potato slips I ordered was a 5 pack, and I decided to plant 2 in one of the green bags, then 3 in the black felt bed. I wanted to see if the black fabric, which would absorb more heat, would be better. We did get a short season, cooler climate variety, but they are still a heat loving plant.

Well, would you look at that!

We have extras!

After breaking up the bundle of slips (there was still ice in the packing medium!), the green bags got two each, while the shorter but wider black fabric bed got three.

Sweet potato slips, I’ve learned, are the only other plant that share a trait with tomatoes, in that you can bury them up to their leaves, and new roots will grow out of the buried stems.

I’m sure these bags will be too small, but with how sweet potato vines grow, I think I will let them spread onto the ground. Where the vines touch the ground, they can root themselves, and grow more sweet potatoes. So we might get some growing in multiple places. 🙂

Once those were in, I got to work on one of the low raised beds that needed to be weeded (again) and prepped for planting.

It was actually a bit worse than the remaining bed that needs to be weeded. I got as many of the rhizomes and dandelion tap rooms out that I could. I know I didn’t get all of them, but at least I got most.

We’re running low on the canopy tent pieces I’m using for supports. This bed got only 6 of them. The other beds got 8. There are 4 left of these longer ones. After that, there are only some really short pieces. Short enough that I’m not sure where we can use them in the garden at all!

By the time I got this bed done, I really needed a break, so I popped inside for lunch … er… lupper? and a rest.

When I sat at my computer, one of the first things I saw was a flashing red alert on my task bar’s weather app icon.

It was a frost advisory.

*sigh*

Pretty much everything else we’ve got going right now is frost tolerant. These sweet potato slips, however… yes, they’re supposed to be a cool climate variety, but they just got planted!

I decided to play it safe.

We hang on to more of our water bottles, rather than putting them in recycling, and this is one reason why! They can be used as cloche over smaller plants.

Such a hot day, and we’re supposed to get frost. Ugh.

Okay… “hot” is relevant. It was only 16C/61F out there! It certainly felt hotter while working outside. I got a wicked sunburn on the back of my neck. My daughters chastised me for not wearing sunscreen, while one of them applied some aloe vera gel on the burn for me. 😀 We do have sunscreen. Somewhere. I just forgot sunscreen existed, and didn’t even think that I might get sunburned!

Tonight, we’re supposed to dip to 2C/35F. Tomorrow’s high is expected to be much the same as today, while the overnight low is supposed to be 4C/39F. After that, our overnight lows are supposed to continue to slowly increase over the next couple of weeks.

Which means that we have one more night before we can start transplanting our warm weather crops. Even then, though, we will start with the ones that are most likely to handle colder overnight temperatures. There is still lots of work that needs to be done, including a repair on the squash tunnel – one of the screws holding a bottom cross piece snapped. Likely because of the winds we’ve been having.

There is still so much to do! The extended cold and the rains have really set things back.

Once everything is in, though, I expect we’ll have quite a good growing season. I look forward to not having to water all the garden beds, twice a day, almost every day, like we had to last year.

Between the weather and the critters, though, nothing is ever a sure thing!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: remaining T&T Seeds order is in

Before I get into how the rest of the day has been going – aside from “wet” – the rest of our order from T&T Seeds came in! You can read about the whole order, and why we chose what we did, here.

We got our forage radish seeds a while ago, and it was the perishable stock that had to wait to be shipped in time for planting in our zone. I never got a shipping notification. I’d actually gone to the website a few days ago to look up my order and see if there was anything to tell me when it would be shipped, so we could be ready for it. There was nothing. Not even anything to say that the seeds got shipped already. So I tried their live chat function. I ended up getting an automated reply, apologizing for being really busy, and giving me the option of leaving my email with my question, and they’d respond later. I did that, but the only thing I got in my email was a transcript of the chat that didn’t happen.

Well, something must have happened, because suddenly, here they are!

We have decided the highbush cranberry will be added to one end of the rows of silver buffalo berry, where we’d grown corn and sunflowers last year. The sweet potato slips will be split between a grow bag and a bed where we’d grown potatoes last year. The sunchokes are still not 100% decided, but I think there’s really just one spot for them; in an unused bed near the garage. We’d tried to grow strawberry spinach there last year, but that didn’t work. There are invasive that keep trying to take it over, but sunchokes have a reputation for being somewhat invasive, too, and I think they’d win out on that battle. 😉

I also got a shipping notification for our TreeTime order. You can read about what we ordered and why, here. We’re expecting a total of 41 trees and shrubs that will need to be planted right away.

Which is going to be difficult. What came in today needs to be planted as quickly as possible, but it’s been very rainy off and on, all day today, and it’s expected to continue through tomorrow. In fact, we have started to get weather alerts.

There’s another Colorado Low on the way.

At least it’s bringing rain and not snow, though we’ve have a rather cool May, and it’s looking like June will be, too.

The warnings for our area is for heavy rain falls. Once again, the south end of the several provinces are expected to get the worst of it, as the system swirls its way east and west. There are even tornado warnings!

The transplants did not get taken outside today. They are probably okay with the temperatures by now, but being in pots, and the pots in trays and bins where they get watered from below, it doesn’t take much for rain to accumulate too much in their containers.

For the stuff that can’t be planted until after last frost, it’s looking like we won’t be able to get them out until after June 5, because of the overnight temperatures. Once they’re in and established, if temperatures dip again, we can try protecting them with row covers, but not while they are still undergoing transplant shock.

One good think about everything being in at least low raised beds: the paths may be full of mud and water, the the beds are still good.

Somewhere in there, we need a break in the rain – or at least the heavy rain – and get our T&T Seeds order into the ground!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: T&T order, and McKenzie seeds

Well, this is it. Today, I placed my last order for our 2022 garden. While I was doing the first half of our monthly shop, I also picked up some pea seeds. I am now done ordering things we are planning to grow this year.

First, the peas.

There are so many varieties of peas, I have been struggling on which ones to pick. While at the Walmart, I saw a new McKenzie Seeds display, and finally settled on one. As much as I love edible pod peas, I decided to go with shelling peas.

Some selling points on these: very productive, heat tolerant and disease resistant. Plus, of course, they’re supposed to be tasty. While I hope we don’t get another drought this year, our summers to get as hot as our winters get cold, so heat tolerant peas are a good thing.

My daughters are not big on peas, but they have never had peas, fresh from the garden. The ones we grew last year did not really produce, due to the heat (just the odd pod, here and there), then the green peas got eaten by a groundhog! The peas sown late in the season, in with the corn, were planted for their nitrogen fixing qualities, and the few pods we got were there only because we had such a long, mild fall. Nothing reached their full potential in flavour. Hopefully, this year will be different, and we will get lots of delicious fresh peas!

Once I got home, I placed an order with T&T Seeds.

All images belong to T&T Seeds.

First up is Jerusalem Artichokes, or Sunchokes.

I just ordered the smallest size; a 10 pack. A friend on a neighbouring farm successfully grows them, so I know they will grow here.

We’re sort of taking a chance on these ones. We’ve never tasted them before. I’ve never even seen one in real life before. However, these are something that can easily be propagated from year to year, and are supposed to be quite delicious. If we like them, we have another good storage food to add to our inventory of foods for self-sufficiency.

If not, well, they are in the sunflower family and have pretty flowers.

We will be planting them in a location that can be permanent, so not anywhere in our main garden areas.

Covington Sweet Potato

This one is pretty much just for me, as I seem to be the only person in the family that actually likes sweet potato, so I got the smallest option; five slips.

This variety is the only short season variety of sweet potato that can grow in our zone that I have found. I think I will make a grow bag or two from our feed bags, and set these up somewhere near the south facing side of the house, just to hedge my bets, though I would need to make sure there is space for the vines.

Highbush Cranberry.

The girls and I debated whether to get Highbush Cranberry, or more raspberry bushes. We decided to work with the raspberries we already have, and go for the Cranberry. I ordered two.

In cleaning up along the east fence line in the spruce grove, I actually found an American cranberry (at least that’s what Google Snap told me it was). It now gets light and everything, but I would like to transplant it, eventually, to a better location. Not sure where, yet.

Forage Radish

Also called “tillage radish.”

We had tried to plant a daikon type radish to help break up the soil in the corn blocks last year, but I think something ate them shortly after they sprouted, because they all just disappeared. So I was quite excited to find these forage radishes.

They are sold as a green manure and a type of cover crop. They get planted, then left to die off. Their roots can reach up to 6 feet in depth, boring into the soil as they grow. After they die off and decompose, they leave behind root channels that other plants can take advantage of.

With our concrete-like soil, filled with rocks, the plan is to basically just scatter these in strategic areas, so we got the 500 gram/1 pound size, which can cover 5,500 square feet. I don’t expect to use it all this year, but who knows.

So that is it for this year’s seeds and trees, though it’s entirely possible we might still order more. I forgot to order more alternative lawn and wildflower seed mixes from Veseys, but those would be sown in the fall, anyhow. We shall see how the ones I sowed this past fall turn out, this spring.

We still have a monthly “seed” budget, though, and now it will go to other things we need. I did pick up more potting soil today, as we will be starting onion seeds and luffa soon, and have lots more seeds to start over the next few months. After much searching, the girls and I found some netting online that we will be using to help protect our garden from critters. It’s a netting that is 14 x 200 feet. We can get one roll this month, and another roll later. Some of it will be used for the temporary fencing we will need to build around larger blocks, such as the corn. We can also cut it to the sizes needed to cover individual beds. We simply have too much ground to cover, and beds spread out in too many places, to fence it all in from both deer and smaller critters. Particularly since so much of it is still temporary. We’ll also have to figure out what best to use to support the netting, in the different ways we plan to use it, and get what we need for that. We are shooting to have consistent sizes on the permanent raised beds, so that any protective covers we build will fit any raised bed. The low box raised beds are 3 feet by 9 feet (because that’s the size the boards I found resulted in). The high raised beds will all be 4 feet by 9 feet, but with the thickness of the logs we are using, the planting area inside will be smaller, and the 3×9 covers should still fit. Other beds, such as in the old kitchen garden, are oddly shaped, so they will need completely different ways to protect them from critters.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer