Analysing our 2022 garden: the things that never happened (updated)

Okay, it’s that time! I’ll be working on a serious of posts, going over how our 2022 garden went, what worked, what didn’t, and what didn’t even happen at all. This is help give us an idea of what we want to do in the future, what we don’t want to do in the future, and what changes need to be made.

Okay, so now let’s look at the things that never happened – or the things that kinda, sorta happened.

I’ll start with a kinda-sorta happened, and didn’t happen, at the same time!

The bread seed poppies.

Last year, we’d planted some bread seed poppies in the old kitchen garden, which didn’t thrive, but we were still able to harvest dried pods and keep seed for. For 2022, we also bought two other varieties. The plan was to plant them well away from each other, to prevent cross pollination. Poppies self seed very easily, so wherever we planted them, they would be treated as a perennial.

In the spring, we scattered our collected seed over the same bed we’d grown them in before. They really were too densely sown, but at the same time, it was just such a terrible growing year. Lots of them germinated, but there were weeds growing among them that had leaves very similar to the poppy leaves. I had to wait until the got larger before I could tell for sure, what was a weed, and what was a poppy. They still didn’t do all that well, and I didn’t bother trying to collect any of the few dried pods that formed to collect seed. Instead, that bed was completely torn up, and there is now a low raised bed framed with small logs. Whatever we end up planting there should do a lot better.

As for the new varieties, we never found a place we felt was suitable to sow them. The flooding certainly didn’t help. Some of the places I was thinking of ended up under water, so I guess it’s a good thing we never tried planting there.

So bread seed poppies are something we will try again, once we figure out permanent locations to grow them that are in very different parts of the yard.

Then there were the wildflowers.

We got two types of wildflower seed mixes, specific for our region. Both were sown in the fall, when overnight temperatures were consistently below 6C/43F. One was an alternative lawn mix, so we sowed those between two rows of trees behind the storage house, where it’s very difficult to mow or tend. The other was sown outside the fence near the main garden area, where we later put the new sign to identify the property, after the old one disappeared. There is a broad and open strip of grass between the fence and the road, that I would eventually like to fill with wildflowers. To start, our first sowing was done near the corner, where we hoped they would attract pollinators that would also benefit our garden.

We got nothing.

The photo on the right doesn’t show the space between the trees the seeds were broadcast onto, but it was filled with water. The storage house didn’t just have a moat around it, like the garage. The space under it, where the yard cats often go for shelter, was completely full of water.

The photo on the right shows where the Western wildflower seed mix were broadcast and, while there was some standing water in places, it also got covered with sand and gravel from the road, as the ridges left behind by the blows melted away.

Yes, the snow got flung that far from the road!

Not a single wildflower germinated, in either location.

I suppose it’s possible that some seeds were hardy enough to survive the conditions and will germinate next spring. Who knows.

I’d intended to get more seed packets, which would have been sown in the fall, but completely forgot to even look for them. I might still get them and try broadcasting the seeds in the spring. We do still want to turn several areas that are difficult to maintain, over to wildflowers and groundcovers. Once we get them established, they should be virtually maintenance free. It’s getting them established that might take some time!

During our previous two years of gardening, we grew sunflowers. The first year, we grew some giant varieties. For 2021, we grew Mongolian giants and Hope Black Dye. These were to do double duty as privacy screens.

They did not thrive during the drought conditions we had last year, and deer were an issue, but we were able to harvest and cure some mature seed heads and intended to plant them in 2022.

That didn’t happen.

Basically, with the flooding, the spaces we would have planted them in were just not available. Plus, the bags with the seeds heads were moved into the sun room, after spending the winter in the old kitchen, with the intention of planting the seeds, they ended up in there all year. With how hot it can get in there, I don’t think the seeds are viable anymore.

Still, it might be worth trying them!

The reason we wanted to grow the varieties included using them as both privacy screens and wind breaks. We also want to grow them as food for ourselves and birds and, at some point, we’ll be getting an oil press, and will be able to press our own sunflower oil. So sunflowers are still part of our future plans.

We did have sunflowers growing in 2022, none of which we planted ourselves. They were all planted by birds, and were most likely black oil seed; the type of bird seed available at the general store. Only a couple of seed heads were able to mature enough to harvest, and we just gave them to the birds.

I do want to plant sunflowers again, but at this point, I’m not sure we will do them for 2023.

Several other things we got seeds for, some we intended to plant in 2022, but others for future use.

Of those we had intended to plant, one of them was Strawberry Spinach.

These are something we’ve grown before on our balcony, while still living in the city. The leaves can be eaten like a spinach, while also producing berries on their stems. We’d ordered and planted some in a new bed, where we could let them self-seed and treat them as a perennial, in 2020.

They were a complete fail. We don’t know why.

I ordered more seeds and we were thinking of a different location to plant them, but then the flooding hit, and we got busy with transplanting and direct seeding, and basically forgot about them.

I still want to grow them, but we still need to figure out a good, hopefully permanent, location for them.

We also found ourselves with a packet of free dill seeds (, plus we were given dill that we were able to harvest seeds from. Since cleaning up the old kitchen garden area, we did start to get dill growing – dill is notorious for spreading its see and coming back year after year! – but they never got very large. We have bulbs planted where they’ve been coming up, so we’re not exactly encouraging them in that location.

In the end, with the way things went, we never decided on a location to plant them, and with all the other issues we had with the garden this year, it just wasn’t a priority.

For 2023, however, we’re actively starting to order herb seeds and will be building up an herb garden, so hopefully we’ll be able to include dill in those plans, too.

One thing we ordered that we did not intend to plant right away was wheat.

These are a heritage variety of bread wheat, and we only got 100 seeds. Even if we had a good year, I doubt that would give us enough yield for even a loaf or two of bread. We do, however, plan to invest in a grinding mill in the future.

Meanwhile, when we do plant these, it will be for more seeds, not for use. In the longer term, we’d need to have a much larger area to grow enough wheat for our own use.

We’ll be starting slow!

Then there were the forage radishes.

Also called tillage radish. We got these to help amend our soil, and loosen it for future planting. These would be something we would use to break new ground in preparation for future garden plots. There are a whole lot of seeds – and that was the smallest size package! – so we’ll probably have a few years to use these to prepare new beds.

I think that’s it!

I’m sure I’m forgetting something. 😄😄

Next, I’ll post my final thoughts on how everything went. With everything that went on this year, that’s going to need its own post!

The Re-Farmer

Update: I knew I was forgetting something! Two somethings.

The first is our winter sowing experiment. You can read about how that turned out, here. Basically, we got nothing, and I think it was due to our extended, cold winter. I know this is something that has worked for others in our climate zone. It just didn’t work for us this year. In the future, I will probably experiment with it more, but not for the 2023 growing season.

The other is our cucamelons. In 2021, the cucamelon vines grew well in a much more ideal spot, but we had almost no fruit. The previous year, we grew them in a spot that was too shady for them, but still managed to get more fruit. I believe it was a pollination problem.

While we do want to grow them again in the future, we decided not to get more seeds. However, in cleaning up and redoing the spot they were growing in, putting in chimney blocks to plant in and keep the soil from eroding under the chain link fence, we found lots of tubers. In theory, we could over winter the tubers and plant them again in the spring. So we buried them in a pot and set the pot into the sun room, where it doesn’t get as cold. The first year we tried that, there was pretty much no sign of the tubers by spring. I found only the desiccated skin of one. When I brought the pot out for 2022, I didn’t even bother digging for the tubers. I knew they wouldn’t have survived the extended cold, even in the sun room. We should have taken it into the house and maybe into the old basement, where the cats couldn’t get at it, but those stairs are difficult for to navigate, and we go down there as rarely as possible.

So winter sowing and cucamelon tubers were both things that just didn’t work for 2023.

Our 2021 garden: late season growth progress

We have been really fortunate with the frost holding off so far. If the long range forecasts are right, we won’t get a frost for at least two more weeks, possibly longer. Other areas in our province have already had their first frost, so I am really thankful that it’s held off in our area so far.

The continued mild temperatures is giving the garden more time to recover and progress, and we even have some new little surprises this morning!

We’ve got two more Ozark Nest Egg gourds forming! That makes for a total of three. I did not see these two when I checked the garden beds yesterday evening, so this is pretty much overnight growth.

This is one of the new ones, from outside the fence. They have such pretty flowers. 🙂

The Tennessee Dancing Gourds are one I don’t have much concern over. Though there are a lot of little gourds developing still, there are quite a few “large” ones like this, that have reached their full size, but are still ripening on the vine.

One of the few remaining Halona melons came off its vine this morning. There are a couple of somewhat larger ones left that might have enough time to fully mature, plus a few more tiny ones that won’t.

In the background of the photo above, you can see the biggest Pixie melon in its hammock. These guys could really use the extra time, it looks like.

We’ve still got Red Kuri developing, and they are growing fast at this stage – and you can even see a new squash developing in one of the photos.

The mutant is my favourite! 😀 I’m just fascinated by it. It’s shape is different than the other Red Kuri, which can be expected with cross pollination, but it is also getting bigger than the others. If this is the result of cross pollination with the nearby Teddy squash, I would have expected it to be smaller, not bigger! The Teddy squash are a miniature acorn squash and their mature size should be smaller than the Red Kuri. For a hybrid to be bigger than either parent type seems quite unusual. I hope this has time to fully mature, because I really want to see how it turns out!

Speaking of Teddy squash…

We have another new baby! Of the two plants, the one that had only a single squash developing, now has two.

The other plant still has four developing squash, with the one in the photo being the biggest.

While checking the Crespo squash, I was able to find an open line of sight to get a picture of the one developing fruit that I’ve been able to see so far. It should be interesting to see how far it gets, before the frost kills it all. We certainly won’t get the large, green, lumpy pumpkins we are supposed to, but even a little one will be interesting to see.

The cucamelons are an odd one for this year. The plants are growing up the fence rather well, will plenty of blossoms and fruit beginning to develop. Unfortunately, most never get past the size you see in the photo above. They just drop off.

I did find a single, mature cucamelon. Which I ate. 😀 It’s the first larger one I’ve seen in quite some time. This suggests a pollination problem, unfortunately.

And finally, we have our potato bags.

I’m not sure what to make of these! They just don’t seem to be dying back. Oh, the two varieties at the far end are looking a bit like they are dying back, but they also got hit the hardest by the grasshoppers. The two fingerling varieties just keep on growing!

When we first decided to use the feed bags to grow the potatoes, I expected to continually add soil over time. It was after learning that all four varieties are determinate, not indeterminate, that I changed my mind. They would not benefit from having soil continually built up along the stems, so only a single layer was added to protect the developing potatoes from light, and that’s it. The purple fingerlings, however, just keep getting bigger and bigger. Which leads me to think that these may actually be indeterminate potatoes, and would have benefited from continually adding more soil. I don’t know. It should be interesting to see how many potatoes we get when we do harvest them. I don’t image we will be getting many, but we shall see. If we decide to go with grow bags again next year, we will have to make sure to choose indeterminate varieties, which means finding a source for seed potatoes that actually labels them as determinate or indeterminate.

Until this year, I didn’t even know that tomatoes had those labels, never mind things like potatoes!

It has definitely been a year of learning!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: morning after the rain

The gardens seem to be really enjoying all the rain we’ve been having!

The Ozark Nest Egg gourds are having a growth spurt, and more flowers are blooming.

They are the first ones I’ve seen with only three petals on them.

So far, I’m only seeing male flowers, but I might be missing some. I’m not about to lift the chicken wire protection just to look.

On the leaf above the blossom, you can see that the cayenne pepper is still there! I’m rather amazed it didn’t get washed away.

The newest Mongolian Giant sunflower that opened is looking very nice. What surprised me, though, was…

…finding that it is growing stalk babies, too, now!

I don’t know if I’m supposed to prune them or something, but I’m leaving them be.

I even picked some teeny tomatoes and cucamelons this morning. 🙂

It’s been interesting on some of the zone 3 gardening groups I’m on. Quite a few have been sharing photos of all their green tomatoes that they rushed to bring in, before the rain, so that they wouldn’t split. If you like at the tomatoes in my photo, you’ll actually see a couple of Spoon tomatoes that have done exactly that! I’m not concerned about that, with these little guys. What caught my attention more, though, were all the people talking about getting overnight frost. !! They are all at much higher elevations than we are, so while they are zone 3 like we are, us being so close to sea level makes a difference.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: yesterday and today

Yesterday ended up being even hotter than was forecast.

We also didn’t get the thunderstorms that were predicted. 😦

I still ended up outside to take care of a few things. One of them was to check on our curing onions, shallots and garlic.

They are not cured yet, but they’ve dried enough that I took the time to brush off the soil from the shallots, then kept right on going, doing all the onions and hanging garlic, too.

Quite the difference!!

They will probably need at least a few more days, probably a week, to cure, but I might be able to trim and re-string them and hang them in the root cellar to finish curing. We shall see what the conditions are like. They really shouldn’t be hanging outside in the heat like this, though they are at least dry. I found out from my SIL that my mother would braid her garlic and hang them in trees, so I guess this should work out fine, too.

Though we did not get the predicted thunderstorms, we did have high winds from the south all day.

High enough to break a heavily laden tomato branch that didn’t have enough support. 😦 I spent some time adding supports to the tomatoes, and found others that were bent, but not broken like this one. This one was still attached, so I tied it upright, but by this morning it was wilting. It’s likely a lost cause, but I went ahead and took it off completely, then stuck the end into the ground.

After adding support to the tomatoes, I picked the ripe ones – there are three different types of tomatoes in this photo – and picked the largest cucamelons, too. We’re still getting just enough for snacking on. 🙂

Speaking of cucamelons, check this out.

This morning, their vines were reaching even higher past the top of the fence. How these are not falling over, I don’t know! The vines are clearly much stronger than they appear!

For the past while, I’ve been watching the sweet corn grow, wondering that there were so may tassels forming, but no cobs. When I went to water them yesterday evening, it was a relief to finally see silks emerging on several stalks. We might have corn to eat, after all!

This morning, I was able to pick some more beans, too.

The yellow beans seem to be getting into the height of their production, and I even found green beans large enough to harvest, but only one purple bean large enough to pick!

With how many we planted, I had hope to have more, but with our drought conditions, I’m happy that we have enough to eat fresh with our meals.

Also, do you see the drops of moisture on the colander in the photo?

That’s not from rinsing the beans.

Those are rain drops.

Yes! We have rain! It started to rain lightly just as I was finishing up with my rounds, and has been raining off and on ever since.

So exciting!

Even my older brother is getting rain at their place. They’ve had even less rain than we have. They get the same weird weather phenomenon that we do. As the systems move over us, something seems to just push them to go around, or even cause them to dissipate. Our theory was that it has something to do with being between such large lakes, but my brother’s place is well past the southernmost tip of the lake. So it can’t be that

We are just so happy for the rain we are getting right now. I can’t wait to check on the gravel pit this evening, to see if there’s any water at the bottom of the new dig!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: first taste, and getting big!

This evening, our first real harvest of beans was prepared to accompany our supper, and did a taste test. Though we’d picked a few beans before, they were so few, they just got chopped up and added to a hash.

For these, they were first steamed until almost done, then pan fried in butter with fresh garlic (our own, of course!), then seasoned with salt an pepper.

The purple beans turn green when cooked, and I made a point of tasting them individually, to compare the flavour.

Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference. As far as I could tell, they tasted the same! 😀 Which was very good, I might add. 🙂

I forgot to follow up on how the Dorinny corn tasted. We had those last night, wrapped in foil with butter, salt and pepper, then roasted in the oven, next to a ham.

I really liked the Dorinny corn. If you’re a fan of really sweet corn, it probably wouldn’t be your thing, but it had a good, solid corn flavour. It was also wonderfully toothsome. As much a pleasure to eat as to taste. I don’t think we’ll be able to save seeds from these, there are so few of them, but I will definitely want to pick up more for next year’s garden. In fact, I think I will get two packets this time.

While heading out to check on the gravel pit, I paused to look at the cucamelons and had a lovely surprise.

Hiding behind some leaves are some really big ones! Not quite big enough to harvest, but very close.

Yes, this is “big” for cucamelons. 😀

So awesome!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: more brightness

The predicted rain never came today, but then, neither did the predicted high of the day, so I went ahead and watered the gardens in the late afternoon.

Having mentioned the Ozark Nest Egg gourds in my previous post, I just had to get a picture when I found this.

A single Ozark Nest Egg flower blooming. Still no gourds, though; all the buds appear to be male flowers, so far. There is nothing on the nearby Thai Bottle Gourd at all. If there are any flower buds, I can’t see them. The down side of having to add the mesh over these is that we can’t reach under it to handle the plants with undoing part of it!

While the Ozark gourds are still just starting to reach a point where we can train them up the fence, the nearby cucamelons have shot their way to the top of the fence and are looking for more height! They are such fine, delicate vines, and you can barely see many tiny little yellow flowers all over them.

Many of the flowers have teeny little cucamelons under them. 🙂 They are such prolific plants!

Speaking of prolific, the melons are certainly attracting a lot of pollinators to their many flowers! This is one of the Halona melons.

I love how incredibly fuzzy the baby melons are!

I decided to count what melons I could see. Not the little ones like this, but the larger ones, at least the size of a golf ball. I counted a dozen Halona melons, and another nine Pixies! If they keep up with their blooming, and their ratio of male to female flowers, we could potentially have a lot more than that, if they have enough growing season to fully mature.

There’s always that “if” factor, when it comes to gardening, isn’t there? 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: some growth, some critter damage, and WE GOT RAIN!!!!

I just have to start with the exciting part. We actually got rain today!

Okay, so it was maybe only for about 20 minutes, but it was a nice, gentle, steady rain, and enough that after several hours, the ground is still damp. Not only that, but we’ve got a 90% chance of more rain overnight and into tomorrow morning.

Thank God!

Hopefully, by then, the smoke will finally clear out of the air, and some of that rain will hit the areas that have fires right now.

It is not going to make up for months of drought and heat, but it will certainly help. Even the completely dry, crispy grass has started to wake up and show green already.

It was lovely and cool when I did my rounds this morning, then a daughter and I went and checked all the garden beds just a little while ago.

I’m really glad we set up the chicken wire over the gourds and cucamelons. I found this critter damage this morning. It looks like something, likely a woodchuck, leaned on the wire and managed to nibble on a leaf through the gaps. Just one leaf here, and another on the other side of the chain link fence. Without the wire, we probably would have had a lot more damage.

While I was checking on these, Nosencrantz was playing on the concrete block leaning on a tree nearby, so I paused to try and get her to come to my hand. I managed to boop Nosencrantz’s nose before she ran away. Toesencrantz, on the other hand, was far more interested in trying to get at a lump of dirt on the other side of the chicken wire! He could get his paws under the wire, but the tent pegs held and he couldn’t get the lump out. Not for lack of trying! So that confirmed for me that the kittens were doing the digging in the dirt. More reason to be glad for the wire! The dirt lump got broken up, so as to remove further temptation.

The cucamelon plants looks so tiny, but they are starting to develop fruit! The chain link fence gives an idea of just how tiny these are. I’m looking forward to seeing how they do in this location, which gets more sun than where we grew them last year. They produced quite well last year, for a plant that’s supposed to have full sun.

While checking things out with my daughter, I found new critter damage. When I checked the bed this morning, the damage wasn’t there. These are the Champion radish sprouts. Not all of them were eaten, and the purple kohlrabi sprouts next to them seem to have been untouched. Which would lead me to think it was grasshoppers, not a groundhog, except that after the rain, there were NO grasshoppers around. I didn’t see any in the morning, either, but I usually don’t, that early in the day. They tend to come out later.

Unfortunately, this bed has only the wire border fence pieces to hold up the shade cloth. We are out of the materials to make another wire mesh cover, so with the shade cloths not being used, this bed is unprotected, and there’s really nothing we can do about it right now. 😦 On the plus side, it wasn’t a total loss, and I’m thinking the woodchucks, at least, are preferring the easy pickings under the bird feeder.

At the squash tunnel, we found this lovely friend, resting on a Halona melon flower. The melons, winter squash and gourds are doing quite well right now, though all the garden beds are due for another feeding. The baby melons are getting nice and big, and we keep finding more. I was really excited when my daughter spotted this, hidden under a leaf.

These are the first flower buds on the luffa! I was really starting to wonder about them. They started out well, then went through a rough patch, but since I started using the soaker hose, they are already looking more robust again.

In checking the onion beds, my daughter spotted an onion that had lost its greens completely, so she picked it. It will need to be eaten very quickly. It is so adorable and round! This is from the onions we grew from seed. Though I’ve trimmed the greens of almost all the onions, we’re finding some of them with broken stems. Most likely, it’s from the cats rolling on them, as I’ve sometimes seen Creamsicle Baby doing.

We also found a green zucchini big enough to pick. I’ve checked all the plants, and while there should be at least one golden zucchini, I’m not finding any. Every plant is starting to produce fruit now, too, even if just tiny ones, and no golden zucchini. Odd. Perhaps the package was mislabeled and we got a different kind of green zucchini instead? There are differences in the leaves that suggest two different varieties, even if the fruit looks much the same.

Oh, in the background of the onion picture is the Montana Morado corn. We’re always checking them and the nearby Crespo squash for critter damage. There does seem to be some, but I am uncertain what to make of it. One corn plant, in the middle of the furthest row, lost its tassels and top leaves, but none of the others around it were damaged. It has a cob developing on the stalk, so I pollinated it by hand. Then I spotted another stalk, in the middle of the bed, that also lost its tassels. But what would have done that, while ignoring all the other plants around it? Very strange.

And finally, we have the poppies.

The Giant Rattle Breadseed poppies continue to bloom in the mornings, loosing their petals by the end of the day. Their pods are so tiny at that point, but in my hand, you can see the pod from the very first one that bloomed. It has gotten so much bigger!

We also found a couple of these.

My mother had ornamental poppies in here, and even with the mulching and digging we did, some still survived. This photo is of the bigger of two that showed up in an unexpected place: where my daughter had dug a trench to plant her iris bulbs. Somehow, they survived, and now we have two tiny little ornamental poppies. 😀

In hopes that we will get rain tonight, we will not be doing our evening watering. If we don’t get rain, we will water everything in the morning, instead.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: one last bed, and transplants

Today, I built what should be the last garden bed for the year. This one is for the climbers.

Here is what the space looked like when I started.

New garden bed location.

The original plan was to use the remaining chimney blocks, like the one in the photo, as planters along the chain link fence, but they remain in the basement until we can figure some thing out, and it is not a priority.

cardboard layer

We’ve been saving up our cardboard, and had just enough to create a barrier layer, which got a thorough soaking.

straw layer

The next layer was the straw, which is also the mulch to cover the path between the new bed and the flower bed beside it. I was able to get some of the straw at the bottom of the bale that has had time to start breaking down, too, which was great! This layer, like all the layers, got a thorough soaking – after I beat it flat with the back of a fan rake.

kitchen compost layer

Then, because we had some, I emptied our kitchen compost along the fence line, which got tromped on before a soak.

There wasn’t much. We don’t get a chance to accumulate much for the compost pile. It tends to get used right away!

grass clippings layer

We still have grass clippings, so a thick layer of it got laid down.

shredded paper layer

We’ve been keeping our compost-safe paper for shredding, and I had a bag full to add for another layer. After giving it a soaking, my daughter tromped it down for me, while I went to get a load of soil. This was from the nearby tarp covered pile in the outer yard. When I pulled back the tarp, I just had to call the girls over to take a look!

finding weeds

The white tarp allowed enough light through for the weeds to start growing, and grow they did!! They were huge!

These are mostly lambsquarter, which are supposed to be edible and very healthy. Better than spinach!!! At least that’s what the breathless Pinterest images that have started to show up in my feed are all exclaiming. Maybe some day we’ll try them, but for now, they are growing in places we want other things to be growing (or, in the case of our soil pile, nothing to be growing!), so we’re pulling them. Still, it was something else to see how big they got under that tarp! It actually is encouraging, since we plan to build polytunnels and high raised beds in the outer yard, eventually.

soil layer

Finally, a thick layer of garden soil was added to the new bed, with a trench down the middle to hold water. My daughter did catch me before I made the new bed too wide. With the one we made for the tomatoes, we’re finding it a bit hard to reach, even though we ended up narrowing it down when we added more soil for the transplants. We’ve noticed the same issue with the beds of spinach, carrots and onions. They’re only about 3-4′ wide, but they are low beds right now, and we’re short. It’s hard to reach the middle while bending down so far; our balance goes off kilter. Especially for my daughters who, unlike me, have not had their generous proportions surgically reduced. That really affects center of balance! It would not be an issue with the tall raised beds we plan to build, but we need to remember that, for low beds, they need to be narrower. Especially if we can reach from only one side, like these along the fence.

One thing that was an unexpected issue is that the chain link fence on this side is higher above the ground at the bottom than on the other side of the gate.

soil spill

Which means that the damp cardboard flaps against the fence couldn’t quite hold the soil in some places! Which is fine. We’ll work around it.


After filling the trench in the soil with water to soak it, I brought over the cucamelons that have sprouted (most did not, but that’s okay; we planted way more than needed!), as well as the gourds. The bucket and plant pot have the cucamelon tubers in peat that I dug up from last year, to see if they would grow this year. Time to dump them out and find out if they survived!

peat in a wheelbarrow

They did not.

Aside from a few wispy root clumps and what may have been the dried outer skin of a tuber, I found nothing. They had completely decomposed.

Well, that just left me with some peat I could make use of.

peat trench

So I widened the trench I’d made before, added some peat to it, and watered it again.

Then it was time to do the transplanting.

transplanted cucamelons and gourds

The cucamelons were all in their own Jiffy pellets, so they were easy to space out. I planted even the tiny ones. If they make it, great. If not, at least they had a fighting chance! Our cucamelons from last year were quite prolific, even in less than ideal conditions. This location gets much more light, so I expect them to do even better, here. If all grows well, this fence will be completely covered with climbing vines!

Of the gourds, the pot that had 2 Ozark Nest Egg seedlings had sprouted a third! I’d forgotten I’d planted 3 seeds in the cups. The pot that first sprouted still had only one, plus there is the one Thai Edible Bottle gourd. These are in Jiffy pots, so the ones with just one seedling in them got planted whole. The one that had three in them, I gently broke it open along one side and sort of unrolled the contents to separate the seedlings. One of them just sprouted today, so it’s unlikely to survive, but who knows? It might do even better than the others. 🙂 I believe in you, little sproot!

That done, I had some more transplanting to do. I’d put the last of our Norstar onion seeds into a Solo cup, and they not only sprouted, but are starting to form bulbs!

The girls and I had talked about where to put them, and the border of the asparagus bed seemed the best place.

bulb onion transplants

The onions are shallow growers, and there’s plenty of space between them and where the asparagus are, so this should be fine. At this stage, I doubt they will reach full maturity, but they will help deter critters and insects. There were more seedlings than would fit here, so I added the last of them in front of the Mosaic Mix tomatoes. There had been some bunching onions transplanted there before, but they were the tiniest, wimpiest ones that we probably shouldn’t have bothered with, and only 3 were still alive. Which is fine. There are more bunching onions in front of the Spoon tomatoes. We’ll see how these ones do!

That’s pretty much it for the transplanting. We should probably plant the one Hopi Black Dye sunflower that finally sprouted. Since there’s just the one, I’m thinking of planting it somewhere else, like in the old kitchen garden. The pink celery will go into a pot that we can move in and out of the sun room, as needed, but they are way too tiny to do anything with, yet.

Which means that tomorrow, it’s back to the other garden beds. The pea trellises need to be finished, the squash tunnel needs to be worked on, and the summer squash needs a garden soil top up, before getting mulched with straw. Somewhere in there, I need to actually mow around the main garden beds. It’s getting pretty out of control around there! For the old garden area, I’m seriously considering using the weed trimmer, instead. It’ll take longer, but I won’t have to worry about hitting rocks or lumps of soil with the lawnmower. Also, of course, weeding. Especially in the corn and sunflower blocks. All the stuff that barely grew there before have had the most moisture and inadvertent tending since… ever, and they’re really liking it! 😀

The main thing is that, aside from the pink celery and that one sunflower, we’re done the transplanting! Anything else that didn’t germinate by now, isn’t going to. We won’t be tending those pots anymore.


It was getting late, so I paused and took the pink celery seedlings indoors, then went ahead and transplanted the one Hopi Black Dye sunflower in the old kitchen garden, in the bed we planted the poppies in. So that’s done now, too!

Today was a good day of progress! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: planting day, indoors – and that didn’t work!

Today’s priority was to start the last of the seeds indoors. I’d been preparing a bin with toilet paper tubes, as something that would allow the least root disruption when transplanting (at least, so I’ve read). After a couple of days, it was time to start planting the Montana Morado corn!!

Aren’t they gorgeous?

The seed packet said “at least 75 seeds”. That’s a lot more than 75!

I started puttering with the peat filled tubes in preparation of planting in them, but something felt wrong. Ever after a couple of days, some of the tubes were still floating on a layer of water, and as I made holes in the medium, it seemed really dry below the very top.

I didn’t want to take a chance, and decided to crack open one of the tubes.

I am very glad I did.

It was completely dry inside!

Well, so much for that idea. If the peat didn’t absorb the water after all this time, it wasn’t going to happen.

For the next while, I opened every one of those tubes to empty them.

Once that was done, I kneaded it like bread dough, to work in the water. Then added more water and kept working the mixture until it was completely wet.

I should have done that right from the start!

I did work in the last of the sifted garden soil, too. The soil absorbs the moisture faster than the peat, so I thought that might help. The amount was quite small, compared to the quantity of peat!

As for the toilet rolls, they will not go to waste. These were dumped into the old kitchen garden, where they be composted directly into the garden, as we add soil.

The bin is still being used, though.

After punching holes into the bottoms of more cups and filling them, I ended up quite quite a bit of unused peat mix.

I made sure to water them from the top again, just to be sure, and left them to drain for a while.

For small seeds, I like to use a bamboo skewer to handle the seeds, but for larger seeds like this, I find a straw works great. It’s just the right size to push holes into the medium, and is perfect for pushing the seeds down to the right depth.

I knew I wouldn’t use up all the cups, so I didn’t cover up the seeds until they were all done, so I could easily see which cups were planted, and which were not.

Then I used some twine to wrap around and between the cups, to mark between the planted and unplanted cups.

I ended up with 33 cups with corn in them; 31 with 4 seeds each, and 2 with 3 seeds each.

I have some concerns about doing it this way, but starting corn indoors has been an active topic of discussion on several cold climate gardening groups I’m on. Most of the experienced Zone 3 gardeners say all corn should be started indoors (my mother never did; I would say the varieties make a difference!). Some insist that corn is too tender for transplanting, but the few who say that usually have many others commenting, saying they start their corn indoors all the time, and have never had issues with transplant shock.

So I’m hoping this works out. I really want to successfully grow this variety here!!

The remaining cups were planted with Mongolian Giant sunflowers. There isn’t a lot in the package, but the remaining 13 cups all got 2 or 3 seeds in them. I think there was a total of 33 seeds in the packet.

They all gone one last watering when all the planting was done.

The cover can be placed over the bin to help keep the moisture and warmth, if necessary. I think it should be fine, without, but we’ll see.

That done, it was time to plant the Hopi Black Dye sunflower seeds, and the cucamelons.

Again, there weren’t a lot of sunflower seeds in the packet. I’d forgotten how small the cucamelon seeds are! 😀

Since these were going into Jiffy pellets, the sunflower seeds each got their own pellet. It still filled less than half of the tray. There were 28 seeds in the pack, and I used the twine to mark between the two seeds. The cucamelons each got several seeds per pellet. I didn’t keep track of those. We still have the tubers from last year’s cucamelons, so it should be interesting to see which do better after they are planted out in June.

After these were done, we did the onions outside, which freed up shelves in the sun room. All the remaining seeds in the aquarium greenhouses are now in the sun room. I’m starting to be a bit concerned. Not a single squash or gourd has sprouted since the one Crespo squash germinated. That one is doing well (as are the dancing grouds), at least. I know gourds take a long time to germinate, but I would have at least expected more Crespo squash to germinate by now. I’m hoping the warmth of the sun room will be what they finally need to get them going. We shall see!

Starting the seeds indoors – and having to change plans on how to do some of them – took a lot longer than expected.

So did planting outdoors. Because, of course, things got changed up there, too!

You can read about that in my next post! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Fall clean up: cucamelon surprise

The frosts we have had didn’t quite kill off the cucamelons, but they are certainly beyond being able to continue producing.

There were still a few left on the vines that were big enough to withstand the frost, though!

They were still tasty, too. 🙂

After taking down the yarn net I made for a trellis, I started pulling each of the plants up.

Which is when I found a surprise.

They have tubers!

When I looked up how to grow cucamelons, I found one site that said, if you lives in a colder climate, you could dig up the roots and pot them. Kept in a cool, dark place over the winter, they could be started indoors for better transplants in the spring.

I don’t remember the site mentioning the roots were tubers!

When I kept finding more, I decided I would try it.

These are the biggest ones that I found. After trimming away the vines, I filled a couple of deep buckets with peat (we still have most of a bale) and planted the a bunch. I fit about 9 tubers between the two buckets. That left a few littler ones that I decided not to bother planting.

The buckets are now being repeatedly watered, to get as much of the peat to absorb moisture as possible. Then, they will go into the old basement (where the cats can’t get at it!) for the winter.

The next thing to do was to prepare the retaining wall blocks. When I placed them last year, which you can read about here and here, I filled the bottoms with mulch, then topped with peat. As expected, everything settled a couple of inches, so they all needed to be topped up.

For that, I wanted to use the soil from the remaining tire planter, so the retaining wall waited for a bit, while I dealt with that.

Which will get it’s own post.

It turned out to be a pretty big job!

Once I had the soil, I loosened and broke up the peat layer, topped off all the blocks with soil, then watered them thoroughly, to help it settle in.

After giving each block a thorough soaking, my daughter and I made a dump run, giving the soil plenty of time to absorb the water and settle. Once back, I topped up the soil again, then gave them another soak.

The cucamelons are now all cleaned up, and the retaining wall is ready for whatever we decided to plant here next.

Oh, I almost forgot!

One of the other things we transplanted in the area where the surviving fennel seedlings.

This is the biggest and strongest of the 4 that survived.

I admit, all I did with them over the summer was water them. I suppse they’re still edible. If nothing else, I think the fronds can be used as an herb, and there are plenty of those! 😀

The only thing left in the blocks are the two with chives in them. I will be leaving them for now, but before winter, those will get topped up with soil, too.

Another job off the list! 🙂

The Re-Farmer