Our 2022 garden: morning transplants

Well, I got some of the transplants in this morning! I’m just taking a break for hydration and sustenance, before I get back at it.

The first priority of the morning was to fill the remaining “instant raised bed” I got from The Dollar Tree that had a split seam, so my daughter sewed it up for me.

The one with the sweet potato slips in it got some straw on the bottom to act as a sponge, and to hold up the sides while I added soil, then stove pellets to create the sawdust mulch. For the eggplant, I had grass clippings, so some was added to the bottom, then it was filled almost to the top with sifted garden soil, with more grass clippings to mulch the top. Then the two eggplants were transplanted. It should be interesting to see how these do, compared to the ones that were transplanted earlier, in one of the low raised beds.

The next job was to reclaim the squash hill the Crespo squash was in last year. The old straw mulch was pulled back, the soil broken up and weeds pulled up. I ended up using our makeshift soil sifter on quite a bit of the soil, to get out more of the weed roots. After I sifted enough to fill the wheelbarrow, I broke up the soil in the hill some more, pulled out as many roots as I could, then returned the sifted soil. After re-burying the watering container (to fill with water for deep root watering, rather than spraying the entire hill), the hill got mulched with grass clippings, then straw. Once that was all ready, the two giant pumpkins were finally transplanted. If the critters don’t eat it first, these should get quite large and spread out quite a distance.

Then it was time to start planting into the holes my daughter had already dug. I did use the space to loosen the soil a bit more (it’s so incredibly hard!) and ended up pulling out quite a few rocks. The smaller ones got tossed into the trees. The larger ones, I set aside. We might actually find a use for them.

After loosening the soil, the holes were filled with water, then they got a couple of spade full’s of sifted garden soil. We still have some left of the dump truck load we had dropped off here, but it is so full of roots now, most of my time was spent sifting it out. At least the pile is close to where we are currently working!

The first thing that went in were the two Kakai hulless pumpkins. Once in place, they each got a light spade full of soil places around them. Then they got another watering.

Along the same row went the three Crespo squash.

For all of these, any flower buds got removed. Hopefully, they will now expend their energy towards establishing their roots and growing, rather than making flowers.

With the squash hill and the eggplant planter done, the rest of the transplanting should go faster. Except for all the soil sifting! Once everything is in place, the whole area will get a layer of straw mulch. I had intended to use the weed trimmer, first, but the sheer amount of time that will take is a bit much. All the grass and weeds would eventually make their way through the straw, but I hope that the plants will be big enough for the leaves to start acting like a mulch.

Well, I’m done eating lunch. Time to use more bug spray and get back at it before the hottest part of the day! We’re almost there now. On the plus side, we’re expecting overnight showers, so that will be quite nice for the transplants. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: soil protection

We are quite pleased with the new garden beds at the chain link fence. They are working out very much as we intended, and the chain link is providing support for the plants, just as planned.

There is just one real problem.


While scavenging for wood I could use to make raised bed boxes for where the garlic was harvested, I noticed some other old wood in the barn. Today, I decided to grab a few boards and use them to help keep the soil where it belongs.

This is where the cucamelons and some gourds are planted. The ground slopes a bit here, so the bottom of the chain link fence has more of a gap under it. When we lay cardboard down first, we put flaps up against the chain link, but once the soil was added and things were being watered, the cardboard slid under the fence and the soil started to erode away.

It had been intended to place more of the chimney blocks along this section, to use them as planters like the ones we’re using as a retaining wall in the old kitchen garden. We still haven’t taken the last of those blocks out of the old basement (hauling those up the stairs and through the house is going to be difficult enough on its own, never mind no top of having to keep the cats out of that basement). We still intend to do it, though, and once they are in place, this will no longer be a problem. All that’s needed right now is to keep the soil from washing away under the fence, and taking the plants with it.

So for here, I just used a hoe to move enough soil to level things, then pushed boards under the bottom of the chain link from the outside. After that, I just tried to return some of the soil through the bottom of the fence, to hold the boards against the chain link. Otherwise, they would just lean inwards.

The boards were placed as far as the chicken wire critter barrier at the far end, making for a bit of overlap. It only needs to last until the end of the growing season, so as long as the boards keep the soil where it belongs, it’s doing its job.

More boards where then slid between the tomato plants and the chain link fence, though I did need to go back to the barn for another board. Erosion was not as much of a problem, here. There is much less of a gap between the bottom of the fence and the ground, so the cardboard flaps are still holding the soil in place. However, I wanted to add more soil under the tomatoes, and I didn’t want to be losing that.

Once the boards were in place, I was able to add quite a bit of soil, without having to worry about it sliding through the fence.

In time, this bed will get some sort of frame as well. What it will be made of will depend on what materials we end up acquiring. I’m leaning towards brick, partly because we are looking to use paving stones or something similar on the paths along both new beds.

The boards are just a stop gap measure for this season. Like most of the other wood I’m finding in the sheds and barn, it was reclaimed from somewhere, and has various levels of damage. They’re solid enough to do the job for the rest of the season, though, and I’m glad to have it!

The Re-Farmer

Uncovering things

We’ve had high winds for the past while, and my morning rounds have increasingly included picking up dead branches that have been knocked down. This morning, I found that the winds managed to uncover part of the garden soil pile in the outer yard.

Revealing a whole lot of lambs quarters and other weeds, thriving under the white tarp!

I pulled all these out, then moved the tarp to get at other areas and pulled more. The pile has been covered up again, but there are still sections we haven’t got to, yet, that I’m sure are covered with more of these! We’ll need to try and get at them, before the weeds go to seed.

Speaking of weeding…

One of the areas I check in the mornings is our little patch of while strawberries in the maple grove. It’s overrun with other plants, but the strawberry plants are so delicate, weeding is a very careful affair.

I did, however, uncover some strawberries that are forming!

The berry in the photo above is smaller than my pinky fingernail.

At some point, these will be transplanted to a spot just for them, but that might not happen for a couple more years, yet. Wild strawberries don’t handle transplanting well, so I’m not in any hurry about it, and want to make sure they have a really good bed set up for them, first. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Soil tests three and four

Well, I finally got around to doing two more soil tests.

You can read how the first two tests went, here, here, here and here. (Links will open in new tabs)

One of the areas I tested was the soil under where we planted potatoes last year. The other sample was from the northwest corner of the garden area, where we will be planting blocks of corn and sunflowers, and where no one has ever tried to grow anything before.

Here is the potato bed soil. We tried the Ruth Stout method of simply putting the potatoes on the ground and topping it with a thick layer of mulch. Straw mulch, in our case, because that’s what we had. In the fall, I had removed the mulch to find the potatoes, turning the soil a bit in the process, then put the mulch back again. Though I’d done nothing to the ground other than put mulch on it, the soil was quite soft and easy to dig into to get the potatoes. It was still very soft when I dug down to get my sample.

As with the other tests, the soil is very alkaline. That green is darker than the darkest green on the scale, which is a pH of 7.5. Like all the other soil samples, our pH is probably 8.

The orange is potash (potassium), and the blue is phosphorus. Both tested at about the medium range; almost, but not quite dark enough to rate a “high”.

The purple is nitrogen, which is as low as it goes!!

Now for the soil that has had no amendments of any kind.

This area gets very hot, with only a couple of hours of shade at sunrise. There is more grass and green at the south end of this area, but in the north corner, even weeds have a hard time growing.

I think we can see why!

As with the other samples, the soil is very alkaline. There is some potash (the colours appear darker in the photo than in real life), but basically nothing for phosphorus (blue cap) and nitrogen (purple cap)! And we’re going to be growing corn there!

Have I mentioned how glad I am we were able to buy so much garden soil?

I think I’ll be mentioning it more than a few times, over the summer! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: peas are in, and other progress

Our first direct sown seeds are in!

This morning, I got the peas planted in their new beds.

I also added our first line of defense against birds and deer: flappy, noisy grocery bags.

As soon as we can, those will be replaced with whirligigs, wind chimes, flags, flashy things – whatever we can find that will startle critters, but not act as potential sails and pull the trellises down!

While covering up the seeds, I made a point of pressing down little trenches on either side of the seeds, where water can collect and soak in, rather than flow off the soil. I made slightly deeper trenches on the insides. The more water gets through the soil to the straw and old soil below, the better for the ground to soften up and encourage worm activity. That was one thing I noticed when digging the post holes. I think I saw only one worm, and I’m not even sure if I’m remembered that correctly or not. :-/

Everything else being planted in this area has to wait until after the last frost date, so when I was back from helping my mother with her grocery shopping (I showed her pictures of what we’ve done so far. She had nothing positive to say, of course. 😉 ), then making a dump run, the girls and I moved on to where we will be planting things that can go in before our last frost date.

The two beds now covered in soil had looked like the long bed with the bamboo poles, before. Aside from raking around the edges to clean them up, adding the raked up material onto the beds, all we did was cover them with several inches of new soil.

The straw layered beds were rakes around the edges and evened out to more or less match the first two in size, then got thoroughly soaked. Then the soil beds got soaked, too.

Tomorrow, they will all get another soak, and then the straw will be covered with soil. After that, the two short beds that are off frame will be lengthened to match these ones in size, then they’ll be soaked, topped with soil and soaked again. Meanwhile, our onion seedlings are being hardened off for transplanting. Until they’re ready, we will continue to soak down the beds to get them thoroughly, deeply moist. This area had a summer under mulch and black plastic before we planted in it last year, so the soil is decently soft. We mostly want to encourage the break down of the straw.

Once these beds are ready, plus a couple in other areas we will be planting cold-hardy seeds, we will be able to move back to where the peas are and continue marking off and preparing beds for what will be planted there in June, after the last frost date.

I am so glad we were able to get that soil!! It’s going to make such a difference.

The Re-Farmer

Soil test; finishing first sample, starting the second

I left our first sample’s water and soil mixture to sit overnight again, and this is what it looked like this morning.

This is with the morning light behind it. Still very opaque, after having more than two days to settle!

Also, very orange with the light behind it! The soil in this area does have a reddish cast to it, overall, likely due to so much decomposed wood in it.

Here, you can see the layers pretty clearly. The colours look wildly different from this angle!

I went ahead and started the tests for nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, then got a sample of the new garden soil started in the water for later.

Emptying those capsules into the test tubes is quite the pain. You’re supposed to be able to just open the gel caps, but they don’t come apart. I ended up having to snip them, but that sends powder flying, no matter how tiny the snip!

This is after just a minute or two after mixing. They needed to sit for at least 10 minutes.

And here they are!

Keeping in mind that this soil sample is from an area that has been buried under wood for decades. The only things growing in it were things that could force their way through the pallets, like the cherry trees, some poplars, crab grass and other weeds. This specific spot included the pallet fence on top on top of it, which has a number of little trees growing through it.

Last year was the only time any amendments were added, and that was in the from of a mulch of grass clippings. I did use some Miracle Gro fertilizer on the garden beds we had last year, applied with a garden hose, but the area this sample was taken from was where we had tried to plant kohlrabi, which did not succeed, so any fertilizer this area got was from whatever mist that happened to blow over.

I’m actually pleasantly surprised. It’s a bit on the low side for nitrogen, more of a medium for the phosphorus, and medium – almost high – for the potash. (Note: the colours show up slightly different in the photos than in real life.) It’s a lot better than I expected for soil that has been in the conditions this soil has.

Here is the second sample, after settling for maybe half an hour. What a difference between the purchased garden soil, with its 5 part blend of compost, manures and sand, and the first sample!

I’m actually going to hand on to these after the next batch of tests is done, to compare with the next sample. I should probably do at least two more tests; one from the beds we used last year, and one from an area that has never had any garden in it, that we will be planting in this year. Those should be very interesting!

I need to find more jars I don’t use for food! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Soil tests, first area (with technical distraction)

Before I get into this post, I just wanted to add that this is my first post written using the SeaMonkey browser. It’s also the first time I’m actually using the browser, yet I’m already seeing a HUGE difference while working in the WordPress editor. Everything is loading SO much faster. The image uploads, the block editor, everything. I’ve just opened a whole bunch of blogs I follow in new tabs, and not a single one is showing the weird colours, not a single image has failed to load, and when I scroll the bottom of posts, everything is loaded. Including the “like” button which, frustratingly, was often the one thing that would fail to load, even as the rest of the page would load. I have yet to try and leave a comment anywhere, but I’ve uploaded media, including directly into this post, without a single problem. I had been using Mozilla Firefox for this blog (to keep is separate from my personal stuff), and it’s been really awful. SeaMonkey is like Mozilla Netscape, and it works a dream, so far! Many thanks to The Hinoeuma for telling me about it!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled post…

I broke out our soil tester and began with a sample from the newest garden bed. This is soil that was under the old wood pile. You can read about that massive clean up job, here. Under it was the only soft soil we had!

The soil test kit I have is from HoldAll Decorative Plant Accessories, and this is our first use. It has the supplies to do 40 tests; 10 each for pH, nitrogen, phosphorous and potash.

The test of pH is the quickest; soil gets put directly into the test tube with the contents of a capsule (all are colour coded), shaken, then allowed to sit for a minute. The other tests required a soil sample to be mixed with water at a ratio of 1 part soil to 5 parts water, so I started that first. Though only the pH test could be done right away, I readied the capsuled for all the tests, so I wouldn’t have to go into the mylar bag again.

I had just finished setting the pH sample in the test tube holder when something large and white caught my eye through the window.

It was the tarp over the load of garden soil in the outer yard, blowing around!

A daughter and I dashed off to get it before it blew away.

The wind has only been picking up! I don’t think I’ll be moving soil onto the new garden bed today. 😦

We fixed the tarp, adding more rocks and even a tire rim onto it, to keep it from blowing away.

Then we came inside, and I found three cats on the table, going after the remaining three test capsules!

They were licking them, and the gel capsules were starting to dissolve. 😦 I don’t think any of the powder was ingested, though. They are now sealed in a container.

The pH test had more than enough time to be ready, but the water and soil mixture will need a lot more time! The instructions said it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours, depending on how much clay is in the soil.

The soil in the new garden bed came up as neutral. We have a soil meter that is simply stuck into the ground that reads sunlight, moisture and pH. It had been used in the area that now has garlic, and read at about 7.5, so this was pretty much what I was expecting. Most of the things we are planting do better in a slightly acid soil – about 6 – 6.5 – but what we planted in this area last year did pretty good anyhow.

As I write this, the soil and water mixture has been sitting for more than an hour, and is still totally opaque! From the looks of it, it may need to stay overnight.

Meanwhile, I’ve already gathered a sample of the next test I want to do: the new garden soil! I suppose I could do a pH test right away, but I’ll wait until the other three tests on this first sample is done, first.

Testing the soil in the old garden is going to be a challenge. The samples are supposed to be as free of rocks and organic matter as possible.


We’ll see how close to that we can manage!


As I was working on this post, I got a phone call from my mother. After a while, she asked what we’ve been doing, so I told her about the new garden beds. I tried to describe to her where we put the new bed for the tomatoes, and made the mistake of starting with, “you know where your yellow flowers are?” She immediately launched into “you mean you destroyed my flowers!!” I had to stop her and tell her, “wait, no… you know that space between those flowers and the chain link fence?”

I honestly think my mother forgets that the chain link fence even exists at times! It took her a while before she realized I was talking about the grassy area. Which confused her even more, because nothing was ever grown there, and how can I plant without plowing the soil first? Or at least tilling it? So I described to her what we did with the layers of cardboard, straw and soil. Once she knew our garden soil was delivered, that helped, but she still accused me of killing off her flowers again! Then she brought up the shade of trees, and I told her we only had to take down the one tree that was killing her lilac, anyhow, and that we picked that spot because it will get full sunlight now.

She still had a hard time understanding that we’re planting anything on that side of the house, in the yard, and was all, “so you’re letting the garden go to weeds again”, meaning the area she used to garden in. I told her no, we’re going to be planting all sorts of things there. Without plowing? Yes. Without plowing.

That lead to a whole lot more explaining of things, even though we’ve had this conversation several times, now. She has the hardest time with the concept of no-till gardening. It’s just too wrong! 😀

At least this time, she ended by saying, when everything is in and growing, we need to bring her over so she can see it! 😀 So that’s progress, at least! She certainly wasn’t impressed by what she saw last year, but we’ll see how it goes this year. I’m sure she’ll find lots to be angry about! 😀

I didn’t even try to explain to her about the soil testing, though. Maybe another time. Us planting in an area she never planted in was already pressing her limits! 😀 Which is funny, because she would stick little gardens in, or plant trees, all over the place. Some of them in places that are now very difficult to work around! 😀 So it’s not like I’m doing something she hadn’t already done herself.

One thing that was funny was when we talked about starting things indoors, and I mentioned needing to start squash. She asked if we were growing zucchini, and I told her yes, in green, yellow and a different green, plus the bright yellow round squash (the pattypans) that I’d given her last year. Oh, those are just toys! she tells me. 😀 I reminded her that we find them quite delicious!

Hmm. Now I’m suddenly wondering. Did she eat the fresh pattypan squash I’d given her? Or did she get rid of them, because they were too new for her?

I don’t think I want to know the answer to that. 😀

As we talked more about starting things indoors, she had the hardest time understanding that yes, we already have tomatoes started from seed. I think she was disappointed that she couldn’t chastise me for not having them started already. 😀

Talking to my mother about this place can be very challenging! I don’t think she forgets that she doesn’t own it anymore, but she still wants to control everything that is done here, including things she doesn’t understand (if only because my dad and brothers took care of them for her, over the years). I try to respect her wishes as much as possible, but our job is to take care of the place, not keep it in stasis. It’s slowly working out, though. It just takes a lot of explaining, sometimes! Or, in some cases, not even bringing them up.

Like testing soil. I’ll bring that up only if we have a lot of time for me to explain things in ways that make sense to her. It’s not so much that she isn’t aware of some things; it’s more likely she’s never encountered the terms to describe them before.

It’ll work out. It’ll just take time and patience!

The Re-Farmer

I got dirt!

Oy, what a day today has been!

Of course, the best part was getting the garden soil in. I figured I’d call and it would be brought in after a few days or something. I never imagined they’d be able to bring it so quickly!

We now have a load both in the outer yard, and by the old garden area, near where we were be doing most of our gardening this year.

It’s absolutely gorgeous soil! I’m so incredibly happy with it!

I want more.


In truth, we probably will end up using both piles up this year. We will be using it judiciously, but once a load was no longer in the truck, it suddenly looked very small! 😀 We were already expecting to finish on one load and use at least part of the second, so this is not too unexpected. For the price we got it for, we will be able to get more if we need to, when the permanent raised beds are built.

Just a little while ago, my daughters and I scrounged around in the barn and found a tarp that could mostly cover the nearby pile. Then we brought over some of the old tires that were stacked behind the pump shack after I cleaned up there and fixed a window. May as well get some use out of them! There’s also a rock pile with some trees growing out of it, nearby, so we grabbed some of those. Hopefully, it’ll be enough to keep the tarp from blowing away – and the tarp will keep most of the soil from blowing away! We’ll cover the other pile, too, but not tonight.

Along with the soil delivery and the septic tank getting cleaned, we kept getting phone calls. One was from the place I’d bought our baby chainsaw from. The spare battery I’d ordered had come in! Which was a very pleasant surprise, all things considered. I was fully prepared for it to take weeks, or even months, before it came in.

Then we got an odd call from the tax preparer. We’d dropped off my older daughter’s papers. We did TurboTax last year, but they are so messed up this year, we just gave up. My daughter does her transactions through PayPal, and the Excel spreadsheet she downloaded from there was not something that could be printed out and make any sense, so I put it on a memory card and included it.

The tax preparer had no idea what it was. Her computer doesn’t have a port for it. That never even occurred to me!

So we were going to put it on a thumb drive and bring it over, but my daughter went back to her PayPal to try and find something that made more sense. She ended up finding a sales summary that we could print out. So my younger daughter and I headed out to run some errands and I swung by to drop off the printouts.

I ended up talking to the tax preparer, who seemed totally lost. She had a hard time understanding that everything my daughter does is digital and online. She took some notes and said she would call if they had any more questions.

By the time we got to our next errand, we got a text that the tax preparer had called and left and exasperated sounding message, but no details.

I don’t get it. This should be a very simple return.


We’ll call them back tomorrow.

We ran the rest of our errands in town, including picking up the spare battery – it’s a good thing we had to drive by the place because I almost forgot! – then paid for the garden soil on the way home.

After we got home, my older daughter was finished work for the day, so we went outside and ended up covering the one pile of soil. My younger daughter has already started to move soil over to the old kitchen garden! 😀 This is one of the areas we can start adding soil to right way, as we’ve already been building it up for the past couple of summers.

The chives we transplanted into two of the old chimney blocks making up the retaining wall are coming up quite strongly. Which is nice, because they’d been pretty spindly, before. Prolific, but not a lot of substance! The rest of these blocks, where we had planted cucamelons, were topped up with soil last fall, so they’re already good. 🙂

Along the south edge of this garden, my daughter planted bulbs, and it looks like one or two of her irises has emerged! It’s hard to tell with one of them, they’re so small, still. We also found more garlic sprouts, and my daughter found more snow crocuses. Everything is so tiny, but it’s still very exciting to see them coming up.

While checking the areas we planted all the grape hyacinth and snow crocuses, we can also check out the wild strawberries.

They have been visible through their leaf mulch for a while. Such tiny, delicate things, yet very hardy! They get quickly overgrown with wildflowers, so the plan it to transplant them as soon as we can.

It was good to get all these big things done, but I usually like to have them more spread out, not all in one day! 😀 The one thing that didn’t get done, was taking my husband to the lab for some blood work. He’s been in too much pain to go to the clinic, so late last week, I asked and they faxed the requisition to the lab that’s closer. With so many things going on, we’ll just do it tomorrow. It’s already a few months late. One more day isn’t going to make a difference! 🙂

For now, I think it’s time for a nice pot of tea, while I daydream about dirt, and plan all the things we’ll be doing with it!

It doesn’t take much to make me happy. 🙂

The Re-Farmer