Our 2022 garden: hardening off and first sowing

You know that surreal feeling, when you feel like it’s one time of the day, but then you look at a clock and realize it’s a completely different time of day?

I just finished my “morning rounds”, so it should be morning, right?

Never mind that I spent several hours working on things that aren’t part of my usual morning routine. 😀

While heading around to put bird feed out, I spotted our new “tenant” under the stairs.

It backed into the space under the stairs, but still hung around to watch me!

Knowing that the main road was fixed, as soon as I finished my usual morning routine, I headed to town, passing a grader on the way. Very happy to see it. There’s only so much a grader an do with the current road conditions, but at least it helps. The area that was washed out was beautifully fixed up. Not even the grader could fix that torn up part closer to our intersection, though.

I picked up just a few of the fresh things we were running low on at the grocery store, then hit the post office on the way home to pick up the mail and a new bag of bird seed. Once everything was put away, I decided to take advantage of the weather, while I could. We’re supposed to get rain later, but for now it’s overcast and decently warm. What we needed to do was start hardening off our transplants.

The girls and I had spent some time trying to figure out what to use to hold the transplants when hardening them off, that will keep the outside cats and other critters away, while also being big enough to hold all the bins and trays. What we used last year is just too small for all the plants we have this year. Then we remembered that we still have the home made, twin sized bed frame that was here when we moved in, sitting in the basement. So I got that out this morning. We also found a pair of folding table legs when we cleaned out the basement, so I figured we could add those to the underside of the frame. It has 8 short legs on the support frame and is topped with plywood. The frame supporting the plywood was too narrow for the plates on the table legs, so I was going to attach it directly to the underside of the plywood, until I realized the shortest screws I have are 3/4″, and it’s 1/2″ plywood.

Ah, well. It would have been a good idea.

That meant using the frame from my daughters canopy tent that she got for when she used to do the art markets. Part of the frame broke in high winds, but we’re still finding ways to use it. Two long pieces of the frame that had been attached to each other with a pivot had snapped. The metal pieces are hollow, so I found a way to rejoin them using a long nail wrapped with enough duct tape to make a snug fit, tucked inside the pieces, then taping them together on the outside. They still wiggle and it certainly won’t hold much, but at least we no longer have pieces flopping around when we move the frame.

The bed platform went on top of the tent frame, with the frame opened wide enough to fit against the inside of the bed’s support pieces snuggly. The ground isn’t level, though, but nothing a couple of bricks under 2 legs couldn’t solve. Then, because the wood is unfinished, I opened the 3 pack of sturdy tarps I picked up at Costco a few months back, and covered the whole set up. Using the cords salvaged from the canopy tent I’d recently disassembled, I was able to peg the corners to the ground, then use the excess cord to lace up the ends. The long sides were still flapping in the wind a bit, so those were tied together, under the platform.

Once everything was secure, it was time to bring the plants out!

It turned out to be the exact size needed for all the bins and trays!

Not quite all the plants fit, though.

The Wonderberry and a couple of trays of onions fit onto the shelf outside the sunroom.

Look at all those Wonderberry flowers!

Since this is the first day the transplants were being hardened off, I set a time for an hour, then started working in the old kitchen garden. We had beds that were ready for planting, but I decided to use the stirrup hoe to run through the bed framed with logs and get rid of any weeds.

I’m glad I did. After a while, I gave up on the hoe and brought out the new garden fork. There were a LOT more roots than I thought.

There were SO many big, healthy worms in the soil!

When we planted here last year, we had a couple of mystery plants show up in the middle of the bed, where we’d planted kohlrabi. Once we were sure they weren’t kohlrabi, we had no idea what they were – but I found their root clusters! That’s the pile you can see at the middle, left. I hope I got all the roots out. Those things got quite large, and I wouldn’t want them choking out whatever we plant here this year.

Broken pieces from the disassembled canopy tent frame are now set up to support any row cover we use. The holes are all facing the same way, so they can be threaded with cord to keep the netting from sagging in between.

We’re still not 100% decided on what to plant here, but we do know what’s going next to it.

The poppies we planted last year really struggled in the drought and heat waves, but we were still able to harvest some dried pods for their seeds. I’d just put them into a Solo cup and left them in the sun room all winter. This morning, I broke open the pods, and these are all the seeds that were in them. Not a lot, but enough to sow. Watching the seeds as they came out of the different pods, I’ve no doubt that some of the seeds were immature and are probably not going to germinate, but there are some that look good. It should be interesting to see how they do!

This is where we’d sowed the poppies last year. Seeds had fallen and scattered there last year, but I couldn’t tell if anything was germinating. Just in case, I didn’t try to dig up the crab grass or do any weeding. I loosened the surface soil up with a rake, scattered all the seeds evenly, then used the rake again to cover them. I didn’t bother watering them, since we’re expecting rain. We did buy a different variety of bread poppy seeds for this year, which will be planted well away from this area, to avoid cross pollination.

Our very first direct sown seeds of the year! Not what I’d intended, but I’ll take it!

The timing was perfect for finishing this and putting things away, as that’s when my timer went off. All the transplants went back inside. Taking them out gave me a chance to re-arrange things, too. The seed trays that are just starting to germinate are now closest to the west window. The bins with the shortest plants all went into the plant shelf in the south window, and the mini-greenhouse frame by the other west window. As bins were being returned to the platform with the seed trays, they were arranged with the shortest plants by the seed trays, working up to the tallest at the opposite end. This way, the bin that has supports for the Canteen gourds to climb is now no longer behind the shop light!

There was one down side to all this outdoor work, though.

As I was putting the bins and trays back into the sun room, I saw Junk Pile cat going through the old kitchen garden, carrying a kitten. She was taking them away from the cats’ house, heading somewhere to the north side of the house.

When I went out for the next trays, I saw… Junk Pile cat… coming from the south. Which meant the cat I thought was Junk Pile was actually the other mamma using the cats’ house. Not long after, I saw Junk Pile carrying a kitten and taking it to the big branch pile in the outer yard. I was afraid of this. With all the traffic and commotion so close to the cats’ house, the kittens got moved to someplace quieter. *sigh* That’s going to make it much harder to socialize them! It’s too bad the mamas are separate now. They were always snuggled together with their babies in there. Ah, well. It is what it is.

Now that we’ve got the set up done, the transplants will go outside every day – weather willing – for about an hour longer, each time. By the time we pass our last frost date on June 2, they will be good and ready to be outside permanently.

Until then, we can keep working on getting the cool climate seeds direct sown.

It feels so good to finally be getting seeds in the ground!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden; more firsts – and SO many kittens!

While heading out to do my evening rounds yesterday, I topped up the cat kibble – and got invaded by kittens!

There is only one adult cat in the kibble house in the above photo, plus Rosencrantz and her two are at their private dining area under the shrine.

All three litters of kittens were running all over the yard, playing with each other! The fact that most of them stayed to eat while I took photos – even with zoom – is very encouraging. 🙂 It will be good for them to get used to each other, since we can expect them all to be using the cat shelter over the winter.

While checking the garden beds, the girls gave me a hand moving one of the mesh covers so we could collect our very first chard leaves!

These are the Bright Lights chard, with their brilliant colours.

In the other bed where we had planted chard and radishes, only a single chard plant has survived the grasshoppers, and it’s pretty small, still.

Here we have the largest of the developing Hopi Black Dye sunflower heads. These are the ones that were direct sown after last frost.

This morning, I found this.

This is another Hopi Black Dye sunflower, from the row of transplants. These are the ones that did not germinate until after the others were direct sown, so they were much smaller and further behind. Then they had their tops chomped off by deer. Yet here they are, spindly and barely knee high, yet the seed heads are starting to open before the big ones!!

Speaking of seed heads…

I collected the driest of the poppy pods. I was a bit concerned that the rain and humidity would create a mold issue, so they are now in the sun room. As you can see, some of them are even dropping seeds!

These are Giant Rattle Breadseed Poppy, and the pods should be much, much larger than this, but given the growing conditions of this year, I’m just impressed we have any at all. There are still others that are green, but starting to dry out. I am debating just leaving them be, to self sow for next year. Given how few survived, there isn’t enough for eating, other than a taste, but more than enough to keep seeds for planting in a different area next year, if we want. I wouldn’t mind even finding a spot to scatter them as if they were wildflowers, where we can access them to harvest seed pods, but also where we can leave them to self seed, year after year. At the same time, I’m thinking of ordering more of this variety from Baker Creek, plus trying a different variety of eating poppies I found from a Canadian source. This is something I don’t mind having lots of, as poppy seeds are among those things I enjoy, but rarely buy. Neither variety I’ve found are like the ones I remember my mother growing, but I believe she got her seeds from Poland.

As things are maturing, my mind seems to constantly assess for next year or, as in the case of the poppies, for a more permanent crop. For all the difficulties we’ve had with this year’s garden, due to things pretty much out of our control, we have learned a lot that we can apply to future gardens, what we want to keep, and what we need to change. Especially as we move from our temporary garden beds to our permanent ones. 🙂

On a completely different note, today we had an early birthday party to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday at my brother’s. I was my mother’s chauffeur. 🙂 We had a great time, and we able to see her great grandson for the first time in almost 2 years. They live in a different province, so it was fantastic that they could come out for the birthday party.

Between the drive and how long we stayed to visit, we were out pretty much all day, but my mother held out very well. She even seemed to like the necklace we got for her gift and put it on right away, though she was completely indifferent to the little bag I crocheted to “wrap” it in. Even when I suggested she could use it to hold one of her rosaries, she said nothing. Now that I think about it, I don’t even know if she took it home. I helped bring in and put away her packages, and it wasn’t in any of them, so unless someone tucked it into her purse, she doesn’t have it. Which is actually a better response than I was expecting. 😀

Some things just don’t change! 😉

Anyhow.

As wonderful as it was to see everyone, this introvert needs a battery recharge. I think an early bed time is in order! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: progress

The last few days have been cooler and damp. Thankfully, we have not needed to do any watering at all of late.

I think some of the plants in our garden have gotten confused! 😀

We are finally getting some “big” Tennessee Dancing Gourds. Most have been turning yellow, soft and falling off before reaching this size. Now, we have several that are getting bigger, like this one. The vines are still blooming and being prolific in growing new little gourds! Gosh, they are so adorable!

We still have just the one little luffa gourd. I suspect it is not going to live to get full size, but who knows?

Some of our Giant Rattle poppies have dried out, and when shaken, you can hear the seeds rattling inside. They are not even close to how big they should be, but that’s okay.

Remarkably, there was even one last poppy flower trying to bloom!

My big surprise is the Crespo squash.

These are remarkably resilient! I didn’t expect them to recover from the critter damage much at all, but now that it’s no longer getting eaten, it has started to shoot out new vines and leaves, and… !!!

It’s blooming again! Which just blows me away. Unfortunately, it is way too late in the season for fruit to develop. Particularly since these are supposed to get quite large.

I really look forward to trying these again next year. Even with the critters and drought, they seem to do very well in our climate!

Our 2021 garden: first!

I completely forgot to post this, this morning!

Our first poppy is blooming!

This is the Giant Rattle Breadseed Poppy, from Baker Creek. The flowers are very different from the poppies my mother grew with I was a kid; those had bright red flowers with black at the bases, similar to the Remembrance Day poppies. She may have gotten the original seeds from Poland. It should be interesting to see how big the pods get. The plants themselves had a rough start and are very small, even compared to the ornamental poppies. These are supposed to get very large (hence their name.. LOL).

Interestingly, the photos at the website show pink, not white, on petals.

The Re-Farmer