Our 2023 garden: potting up, and trying again

Today, I potted up most of our seedlings, among other things.

For the larger seedlings, I thinned by dividing, so the zucca melon and a couple of drum gourds are now in their own larger pots. The pots where nothing germinated now have new seeds in them, including the luffa on the side.

The four cells of peppers are now in 7 red solo cups. The thyme and lemongrass did not get thinned, just transplanted into deeper biodegradable pots.

I also got the strawberry kit done, and that little tray is in the aquarium greenhouse with the other seed starts. Every time I look at in there, the Black Beauty seedlings are bigger, and I can spot more of them breaking through the soil. They are practically exploding in growth! I even spotted a couple of Indigo Blue tomatoes breaking through, too!

In about a week, we’ll need to start the next batch of seeds, which will include all the remaining short season peppers and the paste tomatoes. I’m quite glad we have the living room cat proofed, so we can shift things around more freely. Yesterday, my daughter was using the room and Fenrir teleported in, as she tends to do. My daughter thought it might be okay, since she was in there to supervise. She turned her head for perhaps 30 seconds, and suddenly Fenrir had a mouth full of onion greens!

Onions are toxic to cats.

My daughter was able to catch her and get the greens before she actually ate them. Thankfully, there is no apparent damage to the onion seedlings!

So much for even one cat being allowed in, with supervision!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: new seedling set up

After a bit of adjusting, our new set up for the seedlings rotated out of the aquarium greenhouses is figured out.

The seedlings that need more warmth are inside the mini greenhouse, which is set up over a heat vent. The plastic cover is there to help trap a bit more heat, and protect them from the cold window.

It looks like we’ve lost one luffa, likely due to the chill, and one drum gourd, but there are still 2 luffa left, and 3 drum gourds. There are also several pots that had nothing germinate in them, but I’m leaving them for now, because who knows? Now that it’s over here, maybe something will happen.

The rolled up door in the cover is hiding them, but the thyme is looking like it could be potted up already!

The onions and shallots get to be on one of the shelves, as they can handle the cooler temperatures better. They look ready for a hair cut!

We were able to use some paracord to bring the lights down lower, and their heights can easily be adjusted. With just the two areas with seedlings, only one light is needed for the space right now. The shelves are closer to the window than the lights, so the seedlings are getting lit up from both sides. That was a major problem with our seedlings last year, and I was using aluminum foil to try and reflect light back to the shadowed side of the trays.

Also, you can see the trays of gourds from last year, in the mini greenhouse. They’re one shelf level above the heat vent; the bottom level won’t be used at all, since it’s right over the heat vent and very dark. If, for some reason, we need the space, we’d have to elevate the entire greenhouse frame somehow. The Tennessee dancing gourds are drying up nicely, but it looks like the Ozark nest egg gourds may still have been a bit too green when harvested. There wasn’t much choice about harvesting when we did, since we were starting to get frost, and that would have wrecked them completely. I still have seeds, though, and we will likely be starting them with the batches we’ll be planting before the end of this month.

With the cat barriers in place, and the living room rearranged for the seedlings, it’s actually made the room more useable. The girls have taken to actually having their meals in there, and even watching shows on Tubi. At the moment, they are enjoying some birthday cake in there! I’ve actually allowed myself one exception to my Lenten fast from sugar/starchy foods, to have a piece of birthday cake. It’s been long enough since I’ve eaten any sugar or starch, it’s actually making me fill a bit dizzy!

Anyhow. That’s our garden progress for the day! 🍃🌿🌱

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: starting a variety of seeds

Today is another mild day – bright and sunny, with our high expected to reach -3C/27F, and we’re almost there as I right this. Unfortunately, we have insane winds today, and apparently for the next several days, too! My computers weather app is saying 32kmh/20mph winds, but to be honest, I think we’re getting higher than that. I’ve been eyeballing some of the trees in the spruce grove, wondering which one is coming down next, and I’ve already had to break trail through the main garden area to reclaim stuff that was being blown away. There was even a gust the blew the dining room door ajar! Not the storm door – that one stayed closed – but there was enough of a pressure change to force the inner door open. Thankfully, we have a bar latch on that door, too, so it couldn’t open very far.

Yes, the door was locked. We never use it except once in a rare while in the summer.

A daughter and I are going to be driving in this soon, as we head out to pick up some birthday pizza for her sister!

My main goal for today was to get some seeds going that need to be started much earlier. These were the ones that needed to be done.

I don’t have a “days to maturity” for the Crespo squash, which now seem to be gone from the Baker Creek website! Looks like I bought fresh seeds for this year, just in time. I still had 3 seeds left from last year, so I used those, plus three fresh ones, so there’s still some left for another year. We’ll see how the germination rate is.

I also chose only 6 Caveman’s Club gourd seeds. I took sandpaper to the large seeds to scarify them before setting them to soak. I had intended to start them soaking last night, but ended up on the phone with my brother and his wife for more than an hour, and it was quite late by the time I was done. It was worth it!

The other bowls are holding all the seeds from the packets, including both packets of Indigo Blue Chocolate tomatoes.

I had intended to use Jiffy pellets to start some of the seeds, thinking I had a full box of them, plus a partial box, from last year. I never found the full box, and the partial box had only one pellet in it, but I did have alternatives.

I was unable to find more of the larger biodegradable pots the last few times I’ve been shopping, so the 6 Crespo squash seeds were divided between my last two of those, while the smaller pots got two seeds each of the Caveman’s Club gourd.

These are my last two trays of biodegradable square cells. I decided to plant more of the Black Beauty tomatoes and give them a whole tray to themselves, while the Indigo Blue Chocolate and Little Finger Eggplant are in the second one. Each square cell has 4 seeds in it.

I made sure the soil was moist before planting the seeds, then once they were in the aquarium greenhouse, I spritzed their tops, then added water to the bottom of the tray. It’s awkward to get these long trays in, as there is a divider bar across the middle of the tank’s top. After this photo was taken, I put the covers and lights back, and plugged in the heat mat. The soil was feeling quite cold while I was working with it! “Room temperature” in our living room is definitely on the chill side.

It wasn’t until I settled down to write this post that I realized I didn’t need to put the covers back on the aquarium, since the cat barriers are now in place! Except when I came out this morning, I found Tissue sitting at the inside of the latched door, waiting to be let out. Yup. She managed to pull the bottom open and squeeze through! We’ve got it blocked in that corner for now, so hopefully, she won’t get in again.

As for the other seedlings, they’ve been moved to the shelves by the window. There’s a heat vent right there, so that will help, though now that I’m done with the new seeds, I’ll have to do some rearranging. The lights are too high, so we’ll have to find away to attach cords that will allow us to have them lower, and adjust the height as needed.

Hopefully, these will germinate within the next couple of weeks, because we’ve got another batch to start before the end of March, and they’re going to need that heat mat!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: first drum!

I spotted a hint of green while spritzing the pots in the aquarium greenhouse last night, so I was quite eager to check this morning.

This, my friends, is our very first African Drum gourd seedling!

I’m rather surprised that this sprouted first. The peppers we’ve got planted have yet to germinate, but here we’ve got one of the massive gourds breaking ground!

You can see the big, remarkably fuzzy, seeds on the far right of the above photo.

I’m quite excited by this! It’s going to be a challenge to get these to grow to full maturity, so the gourds can then be set aside to cure and dry for at least a year. The zucca melon are also supposed to get huge, but they are for eating, not crafting.

The inside of the tank is lined with insulation, and the tray is on a heat mat, but I do wonder if it’s still too cold for the peppers. They’re at the end of the tray right in the corner. I’ve considered rotating the tray, but if it’s too cold for peppers, then it would be too cold for the drum gourds and zucca melons. We have time to try again with peppers, if it comes down to that, but not the drum gourds or zucca melons. Maybe I can find a way to rearrange the onions and luffa seedlings, so I can shift the tray on the heat mat closer to the middle.

I think I’ll go do that now.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: starting gourds, peppers and herbs

What a beautiful day it is today! As I write this, we are at -1C/30F, and have yet to reach our predicted high of 0C/32F.

It’s a good thing it’s getting nice and warm. Yesterday evening, I went to set up the one of the new ceramic heat bulbs in the sun room. Before I did, I screwed it into the fixture and plugged it in, in the old kitchen, to test it.

It didn’t work.

So I took the heat bulb and removed one of the bathroom light bulbs to test it there.

It works.

Looks like the old light fixture is toast. This was something my brother had attached to a board so that he could use the heat of a light bulb to keep pipes from freezing in the kitchen, when this place was empty. We might have some other portable light somewhere that I could safely set up in the sun room, but if we do, it would be in one of the sheds or the barn, where we won’t have access until spring.

The sun room is above freezing, however, so the kitties will be fine. This morning, I counted 25!

Today I went through the packets of seeds to start indoors and selected these as needing to be started very early.

I was finding contradictory information about the Sweet Chocolate bell peppers. The package says to start the seeds indoors 8-12 weeks before last frost – but the days to maturity I found maxed out at 86 days! We could potentially start though by direct seeding by that, if the soil were warm enough right after our last frost date. I am considering planting more of them, when I do the other peppers, but we have so many varieties to try, I don’t want to take up the space, if we don’t have to.

The lemongrass will eventually end up in a large pot, while the thyme will be going into a raised bed in the old kitchen garden. They, and the peppers, will eventually need to be potted up at least once before going outside, so I decided to put them in the degradable square pots, so that can be done without disturbing the roots.

Because of the size the Zucca melon and drum gourds will get before transplanting, those went straight into the largest degradable pots I have for now.

But first, I needed to make space in the aquarium greenhouses.

I could fit only two trays of the onions in the small aquarium. The problem is, there’s nothing we have that fits in there that can be used as a drain tray for bottom watering.

We have a large jade tree that we had to cage with hardware cloth because the cats wouldn’t stop digging in it. I had to remove the top of it because the jade tree was starting to grow through the openings, so I used that to rig a cover for the tank. Last year, we used salvaged screen windows, but they were larger than the top of the tank and, even with weights, the cats kept knocking it about. I’m hoping this works. On the one hand, the openings are large enough that the cats could reach through and dig at the trays – the first year we used this tank as a greenhouse, the cats destroyed our onion starts by reaching through the filter opening in the tank’s lid. They were incredibly determined to get at those trays! However, the larger size mesh also means it’ll be harder for the cats to walk on it, so maybe they’ll just stay off?

We’ll see!

The luffa seedlings have joined the remaining tow trays of onions. I wanted to keep them in this aquarium greenhouse, since it’s warmer than the little one, thanks to the two lights above. One of the seedlings seems to have stalled and isn’t getting any bigger. The second seed in the pot hasn’t germinated at all, and probably won’t by now. I thinned out the extra seedlings that were in two of the pots. So we are probably down to three luffa. Hopefully, they will survive long enough for transplanting!

We now have four cells each of lemongrass, thyme and Sweet Chocolate peppers – those thyme seeds are so incredibly tiny! While I was sowing the seeds for those, I had six each of scarified zucca and drum gourd seeds soaking in water, and now each round pot has two seeds. The seed starting mix was premoistened and the surface got spritzed with water after the seeds were planted, but I also made sure to add a lot of water to the tray, once it was on the warming mat. I want those pots to absorb water from the tray, not the soil.

It should be interesting to see how these do, with being started this early! We won’t need to start more seeds until probably March, though I’ll have to double check on some of them. I think things like the Crespo squash and Boston Marrow could use an earlier start. We’ll have time to move things around in the living room to make space for trays as they get rotated out of the aquarium greenhouses while need seed trays go in.

Since the fixture used for the heat bulb in the sun room is broken, I won’t need the frame of the mini greenhouse to support it anymore. The mini greenhouse can be brought in and gotten ready, too. Plus, we should be able to use some of the plant hooks in the ceiling to hang the shop lights we’re using for grow lights, and generally have a much better set up than last year.

Which means we’ll have to make building a cat barrier a priority over the next few weeks!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: getting started (video)

Yesterday, after many delays, I finally sorted through all our seeds, old and new. I was happy to find I still had luffa seeds left, so I got those started, along with our onions.

Since I’m running out of media storage space on my WordPress account (the down side of having such a photo heavy blog!), I took my photos and made them into a video, instead. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to let me know what you think of it, either here or in the comments under the video at YouTube. If you watch the video on YouTube, you can subscribe to my channel there. I’ll be uploading it to my Rumble account, too.

I will probably be doing a lot more of these, since I’m not about to spend over $300 a year to upgrade my account, when all I want is more storage space! It takes a lot more time, and I borrow my daughter’s microphone for the voice overs, but it does allow me to use higher quality images, and more of them, than I would here. I’d call it an experiment, but it’s not like I have much choice!

On another note, I’m quite enjoying the Movavi Video Suite to make these videos. I’m just barely skimming the surface of what the software allows me to do, since my needs are really basic, but if I wanted to, I could create some pretty professional looking videos. The only complaint I have is how it keeps wanting me to buy into subscriptions to get more choices in media and effects, etc. But that’s pretty typical of most media software these days, I think.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the video!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: first order in, with Veseys

We haven’t even done a thorough assessment of our 2022 garden, nor fully decided what we plan to grow next year, but I’ve gone ahead and made our first order for next year’s garden, today.

The main reason is, there are things I wanted to order before they have a chance to be out of stock. Particularly with trees for the food forest we are slowly developing. These will be shipped in the spring, and we won’t be billed until they are shipped. I ordered seeds as well, because I used a sponsor promo code from Maritime Gardening, which gives free shipping if there is at least one package of seeds in the order.

This is what I ordered today. All images belong to Veseys, and links will open in new tabs, so you don’t lose your place. 😊

The new Trader Everbearing Mulberry is the main reason I wanted to place an order right away. We tried a different variety before, that promptly got killed by an unusually cold night shortly after it was planted. Cold enough that even if we had this variety, it likely would not have survived, so soon after being planted.

Here is the description from the site (in case you’re reading this years later, and the link is dead).

Morus alba x rubra. There are so many things to love about ‘Trader’ Everbearing Mulberry! First, the tree itself is absolutely beautiful and can be grown as a single trunk or multi-stemmed shrub. Big, glossy black fruit are present throughout the summer and are an irresistible blend of sweet and tart. Even the leaves are starting to be considered a super-food and can be made into a powerfully healing tea. ‘Trader’ is winter hardy (Zone 3-4), vigorous, long-lived and disease and pest resistant.  We ship 8-12″ non-grafted tree.

Please note: Due to a crop shortage, we are not able to supply the Mulberry in a 3.5″ pot. We can supply in a 2.5″ pot. Since these are smaller, we will send 2 of the smaller size for spring 2023.

That last bit about pot sizes is another reason we wanted to order the mulberry right away. They may be smaller, but we’ll be getting two trees for the price of one. Which means chances are better for at least one of them to survive!

The other tree we ordered was Liberty Apple. From the website:

Malus. Superlative variety resistant to a host of diseases. This apple has outstanding flavour and is aromatic and juicy. The conical red fruit is among the very best and as an added bonus is excellent for cider. Crispy, juicy apples right in your back yard. Good Scab resistance, making them much easier to look after. For best results, two varieties should be planted. We are offering 1 yr. whips. approximately 18-24″ in height which have been grafted onto hardy rootstock. They should mature to about 15-18 ft. Hardy to zone 4.

Yes, it says zone 4 and we are zone 3, but we will just have to take extra care in where it’s planted, and to protect it while it’s small. We have crab apple trees, but no regular apples. One apple tree should be enough to provide for our needs, and the crab apples will be the second variety pollinator.

Then there are the seeds.

While we didn’t have much to show for peppers this past summer, that had more to do with our horrible growing year in general. My pepper loving daughter had thought we would be ordering several varieties for this past year, but I’d only ordered the one type. I think we learned enough about growing them to order more varieties, so I ordered a sweet bell pepper combo.

This is Vesey’s Sweet Pepper collection, and here is their description:

A few of our favourite sweet peppers! This collection contains 3 pkgs, 1 each of Early SunsationEarly Summer and Dragonfly sweet peppers.

Early Sunsation: Bright yellow and big. Very heavy yielding with thick, juicy walls. This variety stays nice and crisp even when fully yellow. 3 lobed fruit. Resistant to Bacterial Leaf Spot races 1-3. 65 days to green; 80 days to yellow from transplanting.

Early Summer: Elite, early and extra large! Early summer is an early maturing, yellow bell pepper. The fruit are large at 5″ and an elite disease resistance package gives Early Summer a winning combination.

Dragonfly: Sweet and colourful. Dragonfly’s early production was a standout for our trial staff. Fruit emerges green and turns deep purple when mature. Dragonfly continues to produce fruit into the fall even after temperatures have dropped.

The Early Summer is new to Veseys for the 2023 growing season.

There was another new for 2023 item I just had to order.

The Caveman’s Club Gourd! This is definitely something for the “just for fun” list. 😁

Truly different! This 12-16″ gourd produces a dark green, ridged, alien-like, bulbous fruit that are not like anything we have seen before! Growing them on a trellis ensures a straight neck. Plant early for best results. Matures in 120 days. Approx. 15 seeds/pkg.

I just couldn’t resist. This will be an ideal thing to try growing on the new trellis tunnels we will be building in the spring.

After we’ve taken the time to assess things from our 2022 garden, then gone through what seeds we still have, we’ll start making final decisions about what else we want to order for the 2023 growing season. One thing we will almost certainly be ordering are different raspberry bushes, that mature at different times. Any raspberries we order won’t start producing until their second year, so what we order to plant in 2023 will be to have raspberries in 2024. As we add to our perennial food producers, while still staying in budget, it’s a balancing act between ordering things that will take years before they start producing, like the apple and mulberry trees, and things that will start producing more quickly, like the raspberries.

Little by little, though, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Tree planting, and a different kind of apple

For a while now, my mother had been telling me she had a tree for me to take home and transplant. She’d grown it from seed collected from trees in her town, and it was in her little garden plot.

When I was at her place a couple of days ago, she had it dug up and in a bucket, waiting for me to take home.

I asked her about the tree to try and get a sense of how big it would get, or even where she got the seeds from, so I could see for myself. She wasn’t able to tell me much, but did think that, in English, it was called an Ash tree.

So I looked it up and confirmed it was Ash, but couldn’t narrow it down to a specific variety. This is not something that normally grows in our area. Using the ID function on my phone’s camera, it listed European Ash first, but there was no way that was right. Those can’t grow in our climate zone.

From what I could find, Ash trees can grow anywhere from 30 to 100 feet tall – I even saw one listed as growing up to 115 feet! Given that the trees she got the seeds from were planted to line streets somewhere in her town, I figured this one wouldn’t get that tall, but probably more than 30 feet.

Which that in mind, I decided to plant the tree in the outer yard, replacing one of the Korean pine that died.

Since I have both, it got a double mulch. The grass clippings will break down faster, and both will keep the grass and weeds down, while the roots establish themselves. Wind is a problem, though; even as I was planting it, the wind was pushing it over. The Korean Pine that had been here had a tomato cage to protect it, secure in place with a branch, so I made use of the branch to support the Ash tree. It can stay there through the winter. In the spring, we can see what it would still need for support.

We still have some chicken wire left over. I will cut some to size to put around the tree to protect it from deer, too, making sure to spray it with the high visibility paint, like the ones protecting the surviving Korean pine. I hope it does well.

Earlier on, while checking the garden during my morning rounds, I found a surprise. I don’t know how I missed this!

I’ve been admiring all the little gourds forming on the Apple gourd plants, but never saw this big one until this morning! It had been hidden behind some leaves. There is another one that’s about 3/4 the size of this one. The little ones may not have time to fully mature before the growing season ends, but this big one has a chance!

We continue to have forecasts for mild temperatures over the next couple of weeks. Early next week, we may reach as high as 24C/75F.

Or… maybe higher?

My husband found this article a couple of days ago.

Canada, a perfect storm is about to change your September
Tyler Hamilton
Meteorologist

Tuesday, September 13th 2022, 9:10 pm – On paper, Typhoon Merbok appears unremarkable. An intensifying typhoon in the Pacific is hardly noteworthy, but its location where it’s intensifying is a little perplexing.

The part that caught my attention was this…

The perturbation continues eastward. As the trough digs across the West, there will be a region of adverse weather, including the prospect of a classic fall low developing across the eastern Prairies. The temperature extremes across the Prairies will be extraordinary, with wet snow across higher terrain in Alberta and southern Manitoba pushing towards 30°C.

Across Ontario and Quebec, there’s increasing confidence in temperatures surpassing 30°C, so some daily temperature records will likely fall next week. It’s a relatively rare feat to record 30°C across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) after mid-September, with Pearson International Airport reaching it this late in the season more than 15 times since 1938.

Where we are, we’re not likely to get such extremes, but perhaps that 24C/75F day we’re supposed to be getting is a result of this. We’re supposed to have and overnight low of 14C/57F that night, yet just three nights later, we’re supposed to reach lows of 1C/34F, which would likely mean frost. This would be a week from now. The app on my phone, however, says we’re supposed to have a low of 5C/41F that night, so no frost.

I’m just obsessing over the temperatures forecast right now. I want the garden to be able to squeeze in every bit of mild weather. However, if things start dipping too low overnight, I’ll have to at least harvest the winter squash and pumpkins that I can, and might be able to cover a few beds.

I would really, really love it if the frost held off until well into November, like it did last year! That might be too much to hope for, though. We shall see!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: surprise!

Look what I found this morning!

There was a new and different flower among the dancing gourds, and it turned out to be a luffa!

Which means there may actually be two surviving luffa gourds that got transplanted.

Along with this open flower, I found some teeny, tiny female flowers developing as well. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single male flower or bud to be seen, so this luffa likely won’t get pollinated.

It’s way too late in the season for something like luffa. We started them indoors early enough to have given them the time, even after the Great Cat Crush, but everything got set back by the weather so much after transplanting, any advantage we had was lost. Still, it was a nice surprise to find they did survive!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: confirmed

After doing some watering with the hose, I hooked up the soaker hose on the tomatoes, then let it run while I finished mulching the paths in the squash patch.

Our straw bale is now completely used up, and all the paths in the squash patch are now mulched. Yay!

Somehow, I didn’t think to take a picture, though. Too focused on getting the watering done!

The rain barrel at the trellises was half empty, so I set the hose to fill it and use the watering can, taking my time to give the barrel time to actually fill up in between my taking water out. That gave me the chance to train more of the cucumbers up their trellis net, as well as the mystery gourd.

Which is no longer a mystery.

The labels had worn off, but I figured they were either luffa or ozark nest egg gourds – and they didn’t look like luffa.

While training some of the vines up their trellis net, I found some baby gourds.

Which officially confirms it. They are Ozark nest egg gourds.

Which mean that none of the luffa transplants survived at all.

Hopefully, this year, we will actually have some mature gourds! Last year, once the heat waves and drought conditions eased off, the Ozark nest egg gourds absolutely exploded with new growth, and many baby gourds. Unfortunately, it was too late in the season by then, even with our unusually long and mild fall, and they were killed off by frost.

Hopefully, these will have more time! The gourds aren’t particularly large at their mature size, so there is a chance for them.

I would love to finally have some gourds to cure and use for crafting!

The Re-Farmer