Our 2021 garden: clean up, little harvests and high raised bed progress

It was a chilly day for it, but we got quite a bit done cleaning up in the garden today.

My focus was on finishing with the abandoned carrot bed that was half done yesterday.

This is how it was left lat night. The second half had the Kyoto Red carrots planted, and after the groundhogs got at them, most had gone to seed when they grew back among the weeds.

Yet we still managed to have some carrots of an edible size!

There were a lot more twisted ones than with the Napoli carrots. This bed had been built on top of one of the potato beds we’d planted the year before, then basically doubled the length. The half the Kyoto Red were on was on top of non-amended ground, and you could see in some of the longer carrots, where they had hit rocks or harder soil, and twisted their way around. Even using the garden fork to loosen the soil and pull up the carrots was harder than the first half.

What a difference with the carrots that had gone to see!

It doesn’t look like we’ll be collecting any; if there are any mature seeds on some of these, I can’t tell.

Once I pulled as much as I could, I started working on cleaning out the weeds and roots. One of my daughter came out after I started that part, and she started working on the sweet corn blocks.

She stacked those next the high raised bed, as I’ll be using some of them in the layers of material used to fill it.

The sunflowers were left for now, but all three blocks of sweet corn were cleared.

She also pulled the summer squash and beans. These beds will be used again next year, so I got her to leave the plants there for now. The beds still need to be weeded and prepped for next year, and I might be able to make use of the plants to improve the soil more.

My daughter also moved the sprinkler hoses, but they were pretty cold and brittle, so they’ve been laid out in the sun for now. It’s supposed to start warming up over the next while, so I’ll wait for a nice warm day before rolling them up for storage.

By the time she got all that done, I was just finishing cleaning the carrot bed. Thankfully, none of the other beds will need as much work to clean them, and will go a lot faster!

My daughter did the final leveling and raking of the bed while I got the tools to continue working on the high raised bed.

I’m finally starting to get a bit of a method down. Between that and the narrower logs, I’m getting the notches cut faster. The logs on the ends are so huge, if I were making this bed only two logs high, I could leave the ends as they are now! As it is, when I add the end pieces for the next level, the narrower side logs means I should only need to cut notches on the cross pieces.

When I got to the point where the second battery on my baby chainsaw needed to sit for a bit before I could squeeze in a few more cuts, I took the time to cut some of the sunflowers. Checking them this morning, I was seeing a lot more losses to birds, so I figured we should get them inside while we still had seeds. πŸ˜€

One pile has the Mongolian Giants and the other has the Hopi Black Dye. I don’t know that all the seed heads I collected will give us finished seeds, but we shall see. I cut the stalks pretty long, which meant some of them included the little baby sunflowers that were branching out, too. Those will, for sure, not have any mature seeds on them, but that’s okay.

At this point, we would be hanging them someplace warm and dry. The best place right now is the sun room, and we have no way to hang anything in there just yet, so I made do.

They should still get good circulation around them on these shelves as they dry. I am very curious as to what we will get out of them!

There is a lot more clean up to do, but thankfully we are expected to continue to get mild weather. So much so, that I am still holding off in broadcasting the wildflower seeds for a while longer. Doing this in the fall will only work if there is no chance of germination, so I would rather wait a bit longer. I think one more week will do it, just to be on the safe side.

The Re-Farmer

Today’s progress: high raised bed and half a carrot bed. Plus, a robocall with a difference!

One of the things about living our here is that phone calls are pretty rare things.

We like it that way.

Every now and then, we’ll get a robocall. Sometimes, from political parties, for conference call town hall meetings, or urgent messages telling us that we are about to be arrested by Canada Revenue for some reason or another, if we don’t call them immediately – and give them our personal information, of course. You know. The usual.

I was just preparing to write this post when we got a robocall with a difference. It was for our municipality, but from the RCMP. It was a warning that there was possibly an armed and dangerous suspect in our area! And by “our area”, they meant the two nearest cities, plus our region. Not municipality. Region. Which is huge.

The alert came with a name, but no description of the person. We did get a description and license plate of their truck, as if that means anything.

After the call, I settled back at my compute to continue with this post. I am happy to say I finally got some progress on the high raised bed that’s worth blogging about. Of course, I’m keeping a close eye on the weather. One of the handy things is that I have a little icon from The Weather Network in the corner of my task bar with the temperature on it and, when warranted, it flashes red with a white lightning bolt as a weather warning. We used to get those whenever there was a frost warning, but I have not seen that, even after last night’s heavy frost. It was flashing when I sat down, though, so I figured we were finally getting a frost warning.

Nope.

My weather app was giving a public safety alert, and it took me to the exact same message from the RCMP that I got from the robocall!

There is no other information about this guy, but they sure to want us to know he’s dangerous and might be in the area!

Or hours away from us, considering how large of an area they are including!

None of us are particularly concerned, but the warnings are appreciated.

Anyhow. To the topic at hand!

Progress on the high raised bed has been frustratingly slow. My tools are the baby chain saw, a hatchet (our other axes are too big for the job), a hammer and a chisel. Basically, I use the baby chain saw until both batteries are drained, with the other tools used to remove material in stages.

Today, I also worked on the carrot bed next to the high raised bed, which meant the first battery actually had time to charge, giving me a chance to get more done than usual.

Which means I FINALLY got the second log in place on one side of the bed.

That took ridiculously long to do! But, it’s now in place, and I’ve started on the other side.

I used the second log to mark where I needed to cut the notches on the side log and end logs. The logs at the end are the thickest, so I started removing material from there, first.

I think part of why I’m so frustrated is, I’ve got three chain saws. The gas powered one broke when I tried to start it, simply because the plastic shell was so old and brittle. The electric one I found was checked out, and they found nothing wrong with it and just sharpened the chain for me, but I discovered it leaked chain oil when I found it in a puddle after the first time I used it, which was for just a single cut before I switched to the baby chainsaw. The next time I used it, I found it would simply stop cutting after just a few seconds. I still have the little, electric, convertible pole chain saw with a 10 inch blade my husband got for me a couple of years ago. It would be enough to do the job, but something went wrong with it the first summer we got it. I checked it out again today, and it basically just screams when I try to make a cut, and the chain stops turning. I’ve got that in the van now, for the next time I go into town and can leave it at the small engine shop to see if they can fix it. I can’t even try using the reciprocating saw. It runs, but no longer shuts off. It needs to be unplugged to turn it off, and it even starts trying to run when it’s plugged back in, making and it quite unsafe to use.

If even one of those chainsaws worked, this thing would be done by now!

*sigh*

Ah, well. It is what it is. Hopefully, I will still be able to complete the high raised bed, and fill it, before the snow flies.

One of the things I found with the baby chainsaw is that, when it first seems to run out of juice, and the red light starts blinking on the battery meter, I can set it aside for a little bit and it will actually “recover” and run again for a while. That usually gives me time to chop or chisel away excess wood. I can usually do this a few times before the battery is finally completely dead. This also gave me time to pull carrots while waiting on the battery life.

I just dug up the Napoli carrots in half the bed. With the Kyoto Red mostly gone to seed, I figured they could wait.

Pulling them all from in between the weeds was certainly a challenge, even using a garden fork to loosen the soil and weeds!

After draining the second battery on the baby chainsaw, I had time to clean up the weeds, pulling out all the roots I could. If some leaves got left behind, I didn’t care, but my goodness, there were some REALLY deep roots I had to dig out!

Half the bed, all done! Hopefully, I’ve pulled out enough roots that it won’t get this bad again, next year! The time it took to do this was enough for a battery to charge, and get more done on the right raised bed.

The temperatures are supposed to stay the same as today for a couple more days, then start to warm up again, which should hopefully give more time to work on the high raised bed and, of course, finish cleaning up all the garden beds and ready them for next year, too.

The Re-Farmer

Low raised beds: ready for planting

Oh, what a lovely day we’re having today! As I write this, we are at 17C/63F, which is a couple of degrees warmer than forecast. We’ve got beautiful blue skies and sunshine, though it was a bit winder than I would have liked – only because I needed to do some spray painting.

While the girls cleaned the eavestroughs, then brought the pieces of insulation from the barn to put around the based of the house, I started with spraying the sign I’m working on with reflective paint. With a white base, the reflective paint is not visible. Later this evening, I want to try taking a picture of it with flash, which should show me how well it worked. According to the label on the can, it works better with a light coat than with a heavy one, so as long as I got good coverage, it shouldn’t need another coat.

That done, I grabbed the baby chainsaw with the one charged battery (I forgot to switch them in the charger!) and did quick work on the high raised bed. After taking about an inch more off the notch on one side, that was done. I had enough juice left in the battery to start cutting away excess on the top of the end piece, where the next log will rest. I didn’t get very far, though.

Those little jobs out of the way, I got to work on the big job! Topping up the low raised beds, so we’ll have somewhere to plant the garlic when it arrives.

One of the beds wasn’t filled as much as the other, so I started with that one, first. We had soil from the potato bags in the kiddie pool, and there are still 10 bags of fingerling potatoes, so I decided to use it as filler, as it had already been amended with organic material. With all the rain we’ve been having it was very wet and heavy! While filling the wheelbarrow, I could see some nice, fat, happy worms in there, too. πŸ™‚

It filled a couple of wheelbarrow loads, with some soil being left to weigh down the kiddie pool, so it doesn’t blow away. I even found a couple of little potatoes that got missed in the process! After spreading it around evenly, I added another three wheelbarrow loads of the garden soil we bought in the spring. I’m really glad we were able to get two dump truck loads! We’d have been out by now, if we hadn’t, I’m sure.

After the one bed was filled, I brought another three wheelbarrow loads of soil for the second bed, then leveled them both with a garden rake.

Next, I split a 40 pound bag of hardwood pellets between the two beds, and worked them into the soil. One of the things we found with the new garden soil is that, over time, it gets really hard and compact. Since we don’t have any compost or manure to help prevent that, the pellets should do the job.

After working the pellets into the top couple of inches of soil, both beds got thoroughly watered, until the pellets reverted to sawdust. They absorb quite a lot of water in the process.

The sawdust does tend to rise to the top, though, so after they got a solid soak, I worked it back into the top couple of inches again.

They are actually a bit fuller than I had intended. The garlic will get a heavy layer of straw mulch after they are planted, so having it a bit lower would have help keep it from blowing away. The beds will settle, though, plus they will be covered with plastic, before we get snow that stays.

If all works as intended, these beds, with their layers of wood and lighter organic material in them, should require almost no watering, even if we have another summer of drought. If we had a wet summer, they should have good drainage, too.

I do find it kind of funny that I had to get these two beds ready for the garlic, because the other beds we have, in the old garden area, still have things growing in most of them! Not counting the one that’s being converted to a high raised bed right now, the only one that’s completely empty had onions growing in it, so I wouldn’t want to plant another allium in it.

It should be interesting to see how the garlic does in these beds!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: starting the first high raised bed

Our glorious weather isn’t going to stick around, and we’ve got garlic ordered, so I wanted to make sure we had at least one prepared bed for them.

This is the empty bed that had yellow onion and shallot sets in it. It was also supposed to have purple kohlrabi, but that never grew. We were planning to rotate our garlic to a different location that did not have alliums in it, but this bed is going to be so drastically changed, it shouldn’t matter.

Also, in the foreground, in the right hand corner, is a single onion that got missed! πŸ˜€

The first order of business was to move out the bits and pieces of logs framing the bed.

One of them had mushrooms attached! πŸ˜€

These are all the logs that were framing the bed. They will be buried at the bottom of the high raised bed. These are already starting to rot, which will be a good thing for our modified hΓΌgelkultur method of filling the bed.

Also, my spell check has hΓΌgelkultur in it!

This bed is so overgrown, you can hardly tell all those logs were removed!

Next began the tedious process of loosening the soil and pulling all the crab grass and weeds out by the roots and rhizomes.

Mostly crab grass.

When we built this bed in the spring, we extended what had been a shorter potato bed, using the Ruth Stout method, the previous year. Basically, potatoes were laid out on the ground and buried under straw mulch. After the potatoes were harvested, the straw was worked into the soil a bit. For the added portion, we just laid down more straw over the grass, as well as the previous year’s bed, then topped it with new garden soil.

There’s a reason we did it that way.

This is as deep as I could get the garden fork into the soil. About half the length of the tines. After that, I was hitting rocks. I’d shift the fork a few inches, and hit more rocks. Shift, hit rocks. Shift, hit rocks. It was insane!

Along with the onion that got missed, I found a shallot, too!

They got set aside on the chicken wire cover over the chard to cure. πŸ˜€

I pulled as many weeds by the roots as I could, but there’s no way I got all of them. The wheelbarrow is mostly crab grass, so this is not something that will go into our compost pile. I dumped it by the edge of the spruce grove, instead.

The high raised beds will be 9 feet long, and this bed is about 14-15 feet long. Originally, I wanted to keep them long like this, but we also want to be able to cover them, and at that length, the covers are very unwieldy. By going shorter, we can potentially add a second row of beds. I had to decide. Should we build the high raised bed at the south end, leaving room for a second row on the north, or start it at the north end, with a potential second row on the south side?

In the end, I decided to build the bed on the south end. It was the shade that decided it for me. If we were to make a second row of beds further south, they would be more shaded by the trees between the garden and the house. If we add a second row on the north side, they will be closer to the short row of trees my mother allowed to self seed among what had been her raspberry patch, but I want to get rid of those trees, as they are causing problems. If nothing else, they won’t be shading any new beds that are closer to them.

That decided, it was time to start digging!

I dragged over a couple of logs to use as a guide, then started removing the loose soil and piling it on the end that will not be part of the bed, pausing to remove more roots and rocks every now and then. I was happy to see how much the straw had broken down – and by how many worms I was finding!

This is it for the day!

I dug down only as far as the rocks, so it’s not very deep. Mostly, I just removed the straw and soil layer we made in the spring, and maybe a couple of inches lower.

The next step will be to level this off and straighten the edges for the logs. I cut the logs a bit longer than 9′ and 4′, to give room to trim the ends straight, but I may not even bother with that. As long as the beds themselves measure no more than 4′ wide on the outside, we’re good. I don’t care if there are bits that stick out a bit further at the corners.

I want to get this bed at least 2 logs high before I start putting the layer of logs on the bottom down. They’re smaller and lighter, but it’ll be easier to put them into place while the walls are a bit lower. The other layers can be added when the bed it as its full height. When it is 3 logs high, I’ll decided if it needs to be higher or not. Then it’s a matter of filling it with layers and getting it ready to plant garlic in. We might be able to plant all three varieties on one bed.

As much as I enjoy the work, it does help me realise how necessary having high raised beds will be. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to continue doing stuff like this. Weeding the bed was the most difficult and painful part. Thankfully, I was able to sit on the scooter for some of it, which helped, but this old body is breaking down. I can still do big stuff, like cutting and breaking down trees and carrying logs, but I’m loosing my fine motor skills on my hands. I drop things a lot more often, the joints are almost always stiff and sore, and that one finger just doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Then there is the back pain from bending over to weed. I can’t bend at the knees, since my knees are already shot. Strange that I’m losing my ability to do small, easy things faster than doing heavy manual labour!

I can still crochet, though, so that’s good. I whipped up a couple of hats recently, and plan to work on other small projects. The only problem has been choosing what yarn I can work with. My hands are so rough right now, some types of yarn catch on my fingers while I work! LOL Working with my stash of metallic yarns is out of the question, as well as anything the least bit fuzzy. πŸ˜€

Hopefully, I will be able to continue working on this raised bed tomorrow, after I’ve headed out to do some errands. We hit 27C/81F today, but tomorrow should be a bit cooler, and we’re expected to get rain – possibly even a thunderstorm – over the next couple of days. Looking at the long term forecast, we’ve got another nice, warm week before things start to cool down, and overnight temperatures may result in frost. It’s not until the end of October that we’re looking at the possibility of snow. Of course, looking that far ahead, things are very likely to change, so we shall see what really happens! Until then, I’ll be taking advantage of the mild weather and doing as much work outside as I can!

The Re-Farmer

Let’s get fungi!

After working on the low raised bed yesterday, I was not physically up to working on another one today, so I figured I would do a project that was less physically taxing.

In other words, I’m a bit of an idiot. πŸ˜€

It’s gotten to be that time of year to do something with the mushroom spores my awesome husband got me for Christmas. Today, I started with the morels.

The package doesn’t have a lot of information about how to inoculate an area with them. One thing it did recommend was several different types of trees to inoculate under. The only one we have around here is elm.

I spent some time online, seeing what other people did, and came up with a plan of action. I used one of the remaining sections of the old goat catcher we made, a couple of summers ago, and made it into a box frame.

Then it was time to work on the location we finally settled on.

This double row of elms in one area is too narrow and lumpy to mow well, and far enough away that I really don’t want to bother with the weed trimmer. So both the morels and the giant puff balls will be going here.

Since the morels will be going into a framed bed, they were going into the widest, most open part of the area.

First, it needed to be cleaned up. The stump of a dead little elm tree got trimmed flat to the ground, and a thatching rake was used to remove leaf litter and other debris. The remaining quack grass was so sparse, I ended up going over the area and pulling them up by hand, getting quite a bit of the rhizomes out in the process. Then I went over the area again with the thatching rake, loosening things up even more and getting a bit more debris out.

Next, the frame was brought over and placed in the most level spot that could be managed here. I wasn’t too worried about being perfectly level, since the next step would make that a non-issue.

We had kept the box the new washing machine came in, with its wonderfully thick cardboard. I was able to cut it in half, and use it to line the framed space in two layers. This should not only keep the crab grass from coming through, but ensure that little elm stump won’t start sending out suckers, either.

The next step was to give the cardboard a thorough soaking. As it is two very thick layers, I just left the hose running while I prepared for the next step. Morels like wood ashes; there is always a bumper crop after a forest fire. In the time it took me to get wood ashes from the fire pit and mix it with some of our purchased garden soil, there was a bit of a pool inside the cardboard! πŸ˜€

The wood ashes and soil combination made only a thin later on the bottom, and that’s okay. From what I was finding online, this could have been filled with straight wood pellets or shavings, and no soil at all.

Speaking of which.

After thoroughly soaking the ash/soil mixture, I used the remaining half of the 40 pound bag of wood pellets I’d used in the low raised bed I made yesterday. Once those were spread out, they got a thorough soaking as well.

Then, while the pellets absorbed the moisture and began to break apart, I opened up a bag of wood shavings. Our general store/post office has them, probably for chicken coops. It’s the same sort of stuff you can get at pet stores for animal cages, except in a bigger bale.

A very thin layer of the wood shavings was added, more to cover the ash/soil mixture, and it got yet another soak with the hose.

Time to inoculate!

The packet the spores were in was the same sort of packet most garden seeds come in. Usually, mushroom spores come in blocks that get broken apart, so I was very curious as to what I would find when I opened the packet.

Huh. Interesting! These are about the size and shape of Orzo pasta, or some types of rice.

They got scattered over the shavings and wood pellets as evenly as I could. Can you spot them in the picture?

Those wood pellets have really expanded and broken apart. Perfect!

Once the morel spores were scattered, the bed got a light misting, more to make sure nothing would blow away.

Finally, a thick layer of the wood shavings was laid down and gently raked out evenly. Most of the bag of shavings got used up for this part. Once it was spread out, the whole thing got one final, very thorough, soak with the house.

And that’s it! It’s done! Now, we just wait and see. Hopefully, we will see morels in here around May next year, though it may take a year or two for anything to show up. That’s one thing that the package did say; it can take years for the spores to actually fruit. Or, nothing may show up at all. It’s hard to know.

As for the giant puff balls, those did come with more instructions, and need to be soaked in a water and molasses solution for a couple of days. After that, it just gets poured over grass. No advance preparation of the soil needed. If I can find a suitable container the cat’s won’t knock over, I’ll get those started tonight.

Meanwhile, now that I’ve had a delicious supper my daughters prepared, I think it’s time to pain killer up! This may have been less physically demanding than digging out a garden bed, but I probably should have given my broken old body a day to recover, first! πŸ˜€ Actually, it’s not to bad. The thing that’s bothering me the most is the arthritis in my finger joints, which is more of a problem while typing than while shoveling. πŸ˜€

The Re-Farmer

Second low raised bed: done!

You can read about the first raised bed I did, here and here. Things were done a bit different this time, so here is another step-by-step post with lots of photos! πŸ™‚ I actually started this bed over a week ago. This is how it looked then.

This bed has been almost completely untouched since the garlic was harvested, letting the weeds get fairly large. This made them easier to pull.

Along with pulling the weeds, with as much of the roots as I could, I lengthened the bed to match the size of the box. Right away, I could tell this one was going to need a “foundation” under the box, too. I was definitely hitting rocks, and a whole lot of roots, while trying to loosen more soil and remove grass and weeds.

Once the weeding and loosening of soil was done, it was left to sit so that any weeds I missed would have a chance to start growing again.

When I started working on it today, the first thing I did was go over the area again, pulling out any new growth by the roots. Then it was time to start shoveling!

Like the previous bed, this one had been originally amended by burying the contents of our compose pile and straw. So I only wanted to remove up to the straw, basically.

In the process, I was finding a LOT more roots! It looks like the cherry trees are encroaching again.

Once I was satisfied with how much of the topsoil I had removed, I raked around the edges to try and level the soil where the box would be resting, as much as possible, while heaping it all in the middle.

Then the box was laid down and, once I had it where I wanted it, I used a sledge hammer to hammer in the supports on either side, at the middle, to prevent the long sides from bowing out when filled with soil. I also hammered down the corners and such, to leave marks in the soil that I could use as guide lines.

The ground wasn’t anywhere near as level as I probably should have made it, but that’s okay. Things will settle and adjust over time, and these boxes can be easily replaced in the future, if need be.

The next step was to raid the pile of old, salvaged boards that the groundhogs have made their den under, and build up a foundation to support the box. Once that was in place, a daughter came out to help me carefully place the box on top of the foundation, and in between the support posts.

Then it was just a matter of shifting the foundation boards a bit, to make sure the box was fully supported. Again, not quite level, but that’s okay.

The soil heaped in the middle was then raked out to the sides, covering the foundation boards and creating more of a recess in the centre.

Then it was time to add the first layer of fill, and raid the branch pile. This time, I added more and larger branches than with the first bed I did.

This, unfortunately, left a lot of gaps and air pockets. They will fill in as the wood decomposes and everything settles and sinks, but that will take time. To help fill in spaces and speed up the decomposition process, I started adding back some of the soil. After returning about a quarter of the soil, I hosed it down thoroughly, so wash it further down into the gaps, then added about another quarter of the soil and soaking it down again.

The next layer was contents from the compost heap, most of which was greenery I’d cleared from around the dead spruce trees that were cut down. This got another soak, another scattering of soil, and yet another soak.

The next layers were grass clippings and shredded paper. This time, after soaking it all down, I walked back and forth over the whole thing, to try and compact and break the buried branches more.

It as at times like this that being a woman of generous proportions comes in handy. πŸ˜‰

Yet another thin layer of soil was added and soaked down.

Note the gap between the box and the board path. By this point, it had become a bit of a safety hazard! Without the soil to hold them in place, the boards at the edge kept moving and catching on my feet, and I was constantly catching myself to avoid twisting my ankle in the loose and lumpy soil in the gap.

Another thin layer of grass clippings was added and hosed down. At this point, the fill in the new raised bed is about the same level as in the first one. Adding the extra and larger branches made a noticeable difference, even after being tromped down.

Once this was done, it was time to amend the remaining soil on the tarp. I added about half a 40 pound bag of wood pellets, as was done in the first raised bed, and then a couple of wheel barrow loads of new garden soil was brought over; one added to the soil and wood pellets on the tarp, and the other added directly on top of the grass clippings, then raked out as evenly as I could.

It was about this time that a daughter came out with the kitchen compost buckets, so that got added straight into the raised bed and spread out, then hosed down again.

The next while was spent mixing the soil and wood pellets together, as much as I could, before adding it to the bed.

Once the soil was added, it was raked out evenly. This layer was NOT hosed down, though.

One more layer of grass clippings was added as mulch, then it got one last, very thorough, soak with the hose. This was the time to clean up the sides and edges, too.

This is as much as will be done in the bed, this year. Both beds will get more amendments added to them in the spring, after they’ve had a winter to settle and sink.

Also, remember the gap in the path on the other side of the bed?

I was going to work on filling that to make it safe, but I had reached my limit. A daughter will be working on that for me later. As these beds have been worked on, and rocks were found, I had been tossing them next to a nearby stump; you can see it in the background, with some bricks on it. Those can be gathered to use as fill in the large gap on the far side of the bed, and more boards will be added, and whatever else my daughter can thing of to make it safe to walk on. The eventual plan is to cover the board paths with sand and gravel.

After this, there is still the third bed in this location to be made, but with the beets still growing, there is no hurry. The last bed will be just one board high, as that is all the wood of this type we have left, but these boards are slightly wider, plus we still have plenty of the scrap wood bits to use as a foundation, so it shouldn’t be too much of a difference.

Two raised beds down; seven more to go! πŸ˜€

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: today’s project, and new growth

One of my goals for today was to modify one of the wire mesh covers for the main garden beds. I will be planting in this bed soon, and have set up the soaker hose in it for now.

I had one board left of what we used to make the long sides, and used it to make end pieces just over 3 feet long, so it will fit in the narrowest part of this bed. The lengths of hula hoops are woven through the wire and their ends are screwed in place. It’s still kinda floppy, but it won’t collapse completely.

We might still add chicken wire to the ends of the cover, to keep small critters out. Of course, it won’t stop the woodchuck, since it can just dig under it, but I hope to at least reduce the chances. I did see it briefly this evening, dashing under the garden shed when I came around the house. I have not seen any new nibbled on plants today, thankfully.

I have to go digging around to see if I can find more of this wood, so I can do the other wire cover as well. It’d be good if I can find enough to make a third cover, but I doubt it. We’ve picked over the area we found those boards in pretty thoroughly.

The board on the ground is something I found in the barn. This bed is a bit wider than the others, so I plan to lay the board down the middle, so that we’ll have something to step on, to make it easier to tend the bed.

Now that this has the end pieces, it will be easier for one person to move it aside to do weeding, then put it back again. It was the “put it back again” part that was the most awkward, without a second person to help.

If all goes well, we will have some radishes and chard planted in here tomorrow. πŸ™‚

The girls did the evening watering while I was doing this, and called my attention to something that I did not see this morning.

Our beans are showing flower buds!

So awesome! It looks like we’ll have more of the purple beans than the green or the yellow.

While flower buds are forming here, we have flowers blooming somewhere else.

This is part of the area at the edge of the spruce grove that I cleaned out this spring, partly to get materials needed to build the squash tunnel. With all the little trees and dead branches cleared away, they finally have enough light to be able to bloom. I expect this to happen more, as we continue to clean up the spruce grove.

When we first moved here, we worked out a plan: the first two years, we would focus on cleaning up the house and inner yard. In the third year, we would start on the outer yard, and then in the following years, we would start working on things beyond the outer yard, as warranted. In the first year of working the inner yard, we would clean up the maple grove, which we did. The second year of working the inner yard, we were to clean up the spruce grove. Then things happened, and we only got parts of it done. As time goes by, however, we’re realizing just how much bigger of a job the spruce grove is. This is now an area we’re going to have to chip away at, little by little, as we can. We need to work on the outer yard more, in the process. Particularly since we plant to build permanent raised bed gardens in the outer yard.

We still have a multi-year plan to get this stuff done. It’s just been adjusted quite a bit! Plus, with our starting to garden ahead of “schedule”, the time and resources we have available has had to shift, too. As much and things need to be cleaned up, and we have to get the junk hauled away, doing things that will actually feed us has become more of the priority. It was always the goal. It just went from a mid term goal, so a short term goal!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden bed prep, and dealing with the heat

The weather forecast said that we would be cooler today.

They lied.

When I did my morning rounds, it was already above 20C/68F, and we easily hit 28C/82F this afternoon, with a humidex above 30C/86F. Which meant that we spent as much of the day indoors, out of the heat, as we could. Thankfully, the way things are oriented, we can keep certain windows open to allow a cross breeze without heating the house up.

The cats appreciate that.

Yes, we leave the little step ladder at the door, just so they can look out the window! It was so funny to watch these to, with their matching positions, heads turning and tail tips twitching, in unison! Hard to believe that little Layendecker is now just as big as Cheddar! With the smaller cats, three of them can fit up there, but these big boys fill up the whole stop step! πŸ˜€

I did have to make a run into town, as we ran out of kibble for the outside cats. While I was there, I picked up some ingredients for my daughters. Yesterday, they finished off one of the giant bowls of spinach to make a spinach soup.

We’d already finished off one giant bowl, mostly through dehydrating (using the screens in the sun room didn’t work, so we did batches in the oven). When making the soup, that huge bowl cooked down to a remarkable small amount in the stock pot! πŸ˜€ With my trip into town, the girls have enough to make a huge batch of baked spinach dip, which we plan to enjoy while watching watching Sherlock Holmes, with Jeremy Brett and David Burke.

It’s going to be a late one, though. We didn’t get back from working on the garden until past 10pm. I had tried going out a bit earlier to start prepping the spinach beds to plant in again, but those beds are in full sun. I wasn’t interested in getting heat stroke! It didn’t get cool enough to head out again until past 8:30pm.

The girls did the evening watering while I worked on the beds.

The logs were added after we’d started making the beds, so once I’d cleared away the remains of the spinach plants and the weeds, I took advantage of the situation to level the beds out, and create a bit of a ridge around the edges, to help keep the water from draining down the sides – and taking the soil with it. I used a garden fork to loosen the soil, to more easily pull the roots out. I was most pleased with how keep the tines could go, without any sort of resistance. This bed would handle root vegetables very well!

I had “help” while I was working.

Nutmeg could not get enough attention! πŸ™‚ While I was pulling out roots and weeds, he kept getting under me, demanding pets, and rolling around in the freshly turned soil, sometimes rolling right off the edge of the garden bed – just like his brother does on our beds, indoors! Unfortunately, when I was using the garden fork, he had a terrible habit of suddenly lunging at the fork to “catch” it, even as I was stabbing it into the soil.

This bed was surprisingly different from the first one. When pushing the fork into the soil, I would quickly go through the raised part of the bed – about 8 inches – then hit solid. I wasn’t hitting rocks. Just rock hard soil! The last bed was much the same, though not as bad as this one. There is a difference between them. The first bed I worked on had been a squash bed, mulched with straw, last year. These two beds were a last minute change. When I’d prepped the area last fall, I’d made three smaller beds oriented East-West, where three pumpkin hills had been. This spring, I decided to make these two larger beds, oriented North-South. The soil beneath would be a mix of soil that had been turned in the fall, and walking paths. It’s remarkable what a difference that one season of use the previous year has made in the soil of that first bed.

All three beds are now prepared and ready for planting! We will be planting lettuces in succession along one side of each bed.

Since the radishes we interplanted with the corn all disappeared, and I ended up picking up more. Three different varieties to try, though I couldn’t find a daikon type that my daughter likes. They are fast maturing, so we should be able to grow some radishes, and still be able to grow more spinach in these beds for a fall crop.

We’re not actually fans of radishes in general, so we won’t be planting many. I do want to leave some to fully mature. I’ve read that radish pods are very tasty, but it’s not something available in stores, and I’d like to try them. From what I’ve read in the past, radishes used to be grown for their pods, not their roots, and the pods can be canned as well. It should be an interesting experiment. I’m still disappointed that none of the ones we planted earlier survived, even though they did germinate so quickly. I had specially ordered those varieties for my daughter. 😦

We’ll just have to try them again, next year!

Well my other daughter had just swung by to inform me that the baked spinach dip is ready! I am really looking forward to it! πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: transplanting progress

We’re taking a break from our push to get the squash and corn transplanted today. Lots has been done, with lots more to do, but we just had to stop for a while.

My daughters didn’t take any photos of what they were doing, so I just have “after” pictures to show.

This is the summer squash. We have only 15 transplants; quite a few did not germinate, but we do have some of all 4 varieties. There’s an extra hill. Later on, straw will be added around the hills for mulch, and I will be adding stakes near the transplants, to train them to grow vertically. This is supposed to help prevent fungal infections or rot from touching the soil, increase air circulation, make it easier for pollinators to get to the flowers, increase yield and make it easier to harvest. The bottom leaves are supposed to be pruned away, and it will also be easier to water them at the roots.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. We shall see!

Next, they started building the beds at the squash tunnel. Priority for planting here are the luffa and dancing gourds and the winter squash. Oh, and the little pumpkins. We have quite a lot of melons to transplant, too, but if there is no room here, there is a lot more space where the sunflowers were planted last year.

What they were working on those, I worked on the new corn block.

I had turned about 2/3rds of it last night, so I didn’t expect it to take too long to finish.

Then I hit something, right near the end. Of course, I was hitting rocks the whole time, but usually I could just move the fork a few inches and keep going. Not this time!

I ended up using a space to dig around the rock. I dug up a few other rocks, but part of it seems to continue below where the soil is still undisturbed.

I used water pressure to clear the stone and try and see how much further it went, but that wasn’t much. My younger daughter decided to give it a try, and ended up bending the fork, trying to move the rock!

So… it will stay. πŸ˜€

The next step was to take out as many roots, rocks and start leveling things off.

That stick coming out of the ground in the background is a tree root. I have to grab something to cut it with!

For this part, I had a garden claw with a long handle we found in the basement when we were cleaning it out. What a back saver! You can see, all around in the grass, where the roots, crab grass and weeds were tossed. Rocks got tossed under trees, so they wouldn’t be “found” with the lawn mower. Of course, it’s not possible to get all the roots out, but I got most of them.

Finally, I could go over it with the thatching rake, which picked up a few more roots that I missed, as well as some rocks, and leveled it off a bit. I chose not to bury the big rock again, as it was so close to the surface. I’d rather see it and know it’s there, than forget about it and plant something on top by mistake.

One thing about this area; it has the deepest top soil of any part of the old garden, yet! I didn’t reach gravel until I started digging deeper to try and get around the big rock, and while I found other chunks of rock, I just barely reached the gravel layer. This is the soil my mother is talking about, when she talks about how great the soil used to be. Except for the rocks. She didn’t remember the rocks! πŸ˜€

The next step was to mark out for planting. I counted the corn plants this morning, and there are 65, plus a couple of bitty ones that probably shouldn’t be transplanted, but I likely will, anyways. I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough space, but with rows 2 feet apart, and the transplants 1 foot apart in each row, I will have enough space.

While the soil may appear good, all the soil tests I did showed a lack of nutrients, so it will still be amended. I used the flags to lay down grass clippings. I lay them out in rows, but I don’t mind them spilling over into the paths in between, to help keep the weeds down.

After this photo was taken, I used a watering can and rainwater to wet down the grass clippings, since the hose and sprinkler were needed at the other end of the garden.

Then we headed inside. We reached 30C/86F while we were out there! So we will take a few hours indoors and let things start to cool down before we continue.

We have predictions for rain tonight, and possible severe thunderstorms by tomorrow afternoon. They might even hit us. :-/ If it does look like we will get a severe storm, we have things we can use to cover the squash to protect them, though the corn would be on its own. It is, however, in a more sheltered area of the old garden. We shall see.

We might still hit our goal to get all the transplants done here by this evening! After that, we have transplants for the south yards, but they are not as urgent and can wait a bit longer.

As for me, I’m seriously thinking of joining all the cats on my bed for a short nap. I’m so tired, I have been falling asleep while writing this!

I’m going to be hurting so much by the time all this done, but it’ll be worth it!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: direct sown corn and sunflowers, done!

The crab apple trees near the old garden area are starting to bloom. Not all of them yet, but this one was looking gorgeous, today. πŸ™‚

This morning, after all the garden beds were watered, my older daughter and I got to work on the corn and sunflower blocks. She started by making furrows for the seeds and watering them, then I followed behind to plant.

We managed to get 2 corn blocks done, with radishes planted in between, when we stopped for lunch. It started raining, and for a while I thought we wouldn’t have a chance to finish, but it did get done! Mind you, I was getting rained on while planting the last seeds, but not enough for it to be an issue. πŸ™‚

These are the three types of corn that got planted today. At the far end in the photo, is the Sweetness, then Early Eh, and finally the Montauk, in the foreground.

Because the soil is hardest packed the further north we go, we planted the April Cross Chinese Radish, a Daikon type radish, in the northernmost corn block. The packet had much fewer seeds than I expected, so we were able to include them in only 3 of the 5 rows. There was enough Red Meat Watermelon Radish to interplant with the remaining two blocks of corn. Hopefully, both varieties will help with breaking up the hard soil and, once harvested, will give the corn’s roots more room to grow into. This is really late for radishes to be planted; they can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked, however with their short growing season, it should still work out.

The blocks of 3 rows were for the sunflowers. The Mongolian Giant got planted in the block to the north; with how big they are supposed to get, I figured that would work out better. There aren’t a lot of seeds in the packets, but at 2 ft apart, I did end up filling two rows. There will still be the transplants to include, about a week from now. The 3 row block that’s to the south got the Hopi Black Dye sunflowers. The flags mark the block with the Hopi Black Dye and, not being a giant variety, they were planted 18 inches apart. That filled 2 rows as well. Not a single one of the packet we started indoors has germinated, so there is nothing to transplant. We will have more Mongolian Giant transplants than will fill in the one row left in that block, so we might end up splitting them between the two blocks. I didn’t think ahead, and planted seeds on the northern rows. Any Mongolian Giant transplants could end up shading the Hopi Black Dye – though with zero germination from the first packet, I wouldn’t be surprised if none of these germinated, either. I am at a loss as to why the ones we started indoors completely failed to germinate.

Now that these beds are done, we have some time before we can start transplanting, which should be enough time to get the squash tunnel built, and create more beds for them and the other transplants that need them.

Two weeks from now, if all goes well, all the planting (not counting successive sowing) should be done!

The Re-Farmer