Our 2023 garden: newest sprouts!

I love it when seedlings suddenly burst out of the ground and grow so fast, things are different every time I check on them!

When I checked on them yesterday, I could just see one Crespo squash starting to shoulder its way through the soil. Near the end of the day, I could see two emerging and one more just visible. I also spotted one eggplant peaking through. By the time I shut down the lights for the night, the eggplant was up, with signs of more starting to emerge, plus signs of one Caveman’s club gourd.

This morning, two of the Crespo squash are fully up, with the third one almost there – and the soil in the other pot looks like something might be breaking through soon, too. There are still more tomatoes emerging, and more eggplant peeking through. Still just one Caveman’s club gourd visible, so far.

As for the older seedlings, it looks like all the ones that got potted up have survived, though one drum gourd that did not need potting up doesn’t look like it’s growing. There had been two in that pot and one died. I was hoping the second one would make it. We shall see. The other two that were thinned by division are growing, and the third pot was reseeded, so I hope there will be more to transplant once the garden is ready. The more there are to transplant, the better the chances that at least one will reach maturity!

I’m happy to see so many seedlings emerging now. Soon, these will be moved off the heat mat to make room for the next batch of seed starts.

So far, things are looking good!

The Re-Farmer

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: spring is… here?

Yesterday was the first day of spring. Check out our spring garden!

πŸ˜„πŸ˜„πŸ˜„

It’s going to be a while before we can start building the trellis tunnels (we will be starting closer to the high raised bed, and I hope to eventually have two or three, though maybe not this year), never mind planting anything!

BUT!!!

We do have other signs of spring.

When I shut the lights off for the night, I found two Black Beauty tomatoes had emerged! There had been no sign of them when I turned the lights on in the morning. I could just make out the “elbow” of a third one, and this morning I can see there is a second “elbow” emerging. These are in the cell just below the one with the visible sprouts.

Today, I plan to pot up some of the transplants, and try to start seeds for some losses. We are down to one luffa, two pots of zucca melon still have had no germination, along with one pot of drum gourds, so I’ll see if I can get new ones started, though I won’t bother putting them in the aquarium greenhouse. Their current location above a heat vent should be warm enough. I did remove the plastic cover on the mini greenhouse, as I think the lack of air circulation may be contributing to the losses, and even some of the bigger seedlings have started to look unhealthy.

I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some milk for my mother, and ended up picking up a seed kit. One of the things I wanted to do later on was get strawberry transplants – quite a few of them, depending on the budget – and plant them as a living ground cover around the silver buffalo berry. Last year, the transplants cost about $3 or $4 each. The kit was only $4. So I’m going to try growing strawberries from seed, which will hopefully give me more to transplant than I would be able to afford if buying transplants. And if they fail, it’s not an expensive fail. So that is something else I plan to work on today.

Oh, and I’d better call the plumber about our bathtub before I forget again! After that, I’ll know if I have to be making a trip to get a tub surround and the replacement taps I want.

We’ll see how that works out!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: last seed order has arrived

The last seed order I made, with Baker Creek, arrived this morning!

This was a last minute order that was not at all part of our garden plan for the year.

Interestingly, while the website warned that Canadian orders are now subject to duty, I did not have to pay anything when I picked up the package. There is a customs label on top of the original package label, and it says something about an exemption with a code on it, so I’ll assume that has something to do with it.

The Merlot lettuce we got as free seeds with our order are a variety we’ve grown before. We weren’t planning on growing lettuce in the garden this year, but still ended up with several packets of lettuce seeds! Now that we’ve got the cat barriers up, though, we might try growing some lettuce indoors, instead. That would probably be far more useful for us than trying to grow them in the garden and having to barricade them from critters.

The write up for the Mountain Morado corn now says these can be planted up to 2 weeks *before* last frost, so I might actually plant these this year, even though I have several other types of corn. It will depend on whether we can prepare a large enough plot for them, on top of all the other work we need to get done, like building trellis tunnels for the climbers. I intend to plant the popcorn in one of the low raised beds this year, and want to plant a variety of sweet corn, too, so this would make at least 3 varieties of corn we would need to make space for. We shall see.

We’ll be planting at least a few of the Spoon tomatoes, for sure; they did well for us when we grew them a couple years ago and, this time, we will be sure to keep seeds.

We’re still figuring out where we want to plant the two varieties of bread seed poppies we have; the only caveat is to plant them well away from each other, to reduce the chances of cross pollination, as we intend to treat them as perennials.

The salsify, we will definitely be planting this year, though they will be planted in deep containers – likely garbage cans we will be salvaging from the barn and garage, or in feed bags – so we can compare this variety with the others we have. With these, we won’t need to be concerned about having garden beds ready for them. Our top soil is way too shallow for salsify.

The sunflowers are still a “maybe”. If we do plant them, they will be direct sown. In the past, we grew giant sunflowers to act as wind breaks and privacy barriers, but we are starting to plant trees and bushes in those areas now, so we may not plant these this year at all. We shall see how our spaces work out. Plus, the deer really like sunflowers, so they need extra protection, too.

We’ve been expanding our gardens every years since we started – this will be only our 4th year of gardening since our move – but this year, we’re going to be building a lot more permanent structures, now that we have a better idea of what has been working, and what hasn’t. Most of that work has to be done by the middle of May, since the earliest direct sown seeds will go in at about that time or shortly after.

Here’s hoping the weather cooperates this year!

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! πŸƒπŸŒΏπŸŒ±

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: another Baker Creek order

I couldn’t resist.

I ordered more seeds!

There was actually a reason for this.

One of the things I’ve been wanting to grow and acclimate to our climate is kulli corn. The first time I tried growing them, I ordered seeds maize morado seeds from Baker Creek, which I thought was kulli corn but those turned out to be Montana Morado corn… which then turned out to be Mountain Morado. Long confusing story there. They grew well, until something destroyed them!

Montana/Mountain Morado in our 2021 garden.

For last year, I was able to find and grow Peruvian kulli corn, they got wonderfully tall and healthy, started to form tassels, but not a single cob formed. After much research, I believe I’ve figured out why. These were grown in a new low raised bed, with trench composting and our purchased garden soil, plus beans interplanted with them as nitrogen fixers. Corn is a heavy nitrogen feeding plant after all but… it may have actually been too much nitrogen. Excess nitrogen can lead to lots of robust leaf growth, but can compromise fruiting.

Kulli corn in our 2022 garden.

I already have several types of corn, and I will not plant all of them, however I still want to grow the kulli corn, and was going to try growing them in a less nitrogen excessive plot. I went to order some seeds, only to find they are sold out.

After looking through various seed companies, I decided to go back to Baker Creek and get the Mountain Morado seeds again. They won’t need to be acclimated, and I can still use them to try and make some chicha morada.

Of course, I’m not about to order just one packet of seeds, so I got a few other things, but only one new thing.

In this picture from Baker Creek in 2021, the corn was still listed it as Montana Morado!

First, of course, is the Mountain Morado corn. When we first tried these, thinking they were something else, we started them indoors, even though corn doesn’t like being transplanted. However, I see this is now part of the description: Β Direct sow into the richest soil available 1-2 weeks before last spring frost.Β 

A corn that can be direct sown before last frost will make a big difference! We can actually plant in May instead of June! There’s only 75 seeds in a packet, so we’ll have to make sure to save seed from these, if they succeed.

I am not expecting to plant sunflowers this year; it’s more a matter of effective use of space and time. However, I did go ahead and pick up more Hopi Black Dye and Mongolian Giant sunflower seeds. We did save seed heads from when we grew them before, but none of them got as large as they should have, and they were stored in the old kitchen, then the sun room, which means they’ve gone through freezing and heat cycles that have probably damaged the seeds. So I got more, to ensure I had good seed, and they will be properly stored. If we can actually plant some this year, that would be a bonus!

Another repeat is the Giant Rattle breadseed poppy. We had planted some from our own seed last year, but that spot has been completely redone, so even if they managed to self seed themselves, they’re not going to pop up again there. We do have another variety of bread seed poppy that didn’t get planted last year, because we didn’t have a space where we could treat them as perennials. The massive flooding we had last spring changed quite a few of our plans! However, I do still want to have two varieties of breadseed poppy, planted well away from each other, so we can see which we like best.

One last repeat was something that I’d looked at before, but rejected because of the insane price, and there were only 10 seeds in the packet for that price. Well, things have changed! The price of Spoon Tomato seeds has gone down, and there are now 15 seeds in a packet. πŸ˜„ We have a whole 5 seeds left in our original packet, and these miniscule tomatoes are something even I can eat, and fresh tomatoes normally make me want to gag. This time, I want to grow a few plants and make sure to save seeds from them. In the reviews, people who grew them commented that they self seed easily, since it’s almost impossible to pick all the teeny tomatoes without losing some, but again, the bed they were in was totally redone, so none came up the next year.

Finally, there is one last new item – sort of. Salsify. We actually have salsify; the same variety from two different companies. We were going to compare them, since their photos looked quite different. However, there is also this variety.

These are Duplex Russian Giant Scorzonera salsify. One of my daughters requested salsify because it’s a root that apparently tastes like seafood. She likes seafood, though we don’t get it often due to cost. She’d be happy with a root that tastes like it, instead!

It should be interesting to compare them. Because the roots get so long and can be fragile, we will likely be planting them in garbage cans. There are garbage cans all the place, in the barn and sheds, so we should be able to find three that we can use for these!

The down side of ordering from Bake Creek again is that orders to Canada over $20 now incur duty. I have no idea how much that would be on an order that came out to just over Cdn$40, including shipping. We’ll see, and that will help us figure out if it’s still worth ordering from there – or any other US seed company – again.

And here I thought I was done with buying seeds… πŸ˜…

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: seedling progress

This morning I got a picture of some of our seedlings, after refilling trays to water them from below.

There are still only two little pepper seedlings. The thyme and lemongrass don’t seem to be growing much. I think this might be part of why they need to be started so early!

The two drum gourd seedlings in one pot are still the only ones to have germinated. With using these biodegradable pots, it’s been interesting to see how the pot the germinated seeds are in dries out so much faster than the other ones. Even the square cells the herbs are in show noticeable drying out in the ones with the most seedlings. For this reason, I still mist them as well as water from below.

Last year, I remember my first zucca melon seeds never germinated, and I had to try again. I’m hoping I won’t need to do that again this year. The zucca and the drums need as much growing time as we can give them.

We’re going to have to start other seeds soon. That means rotating things out of the aquarium greenhouses and, for that, we still need to make a trip to the city to pick up the materials we need to build barriers and keep the cats out of the living room. When picking up eggs yesterday, I noticed they had lumber in their truck and asked about prices. Lumber prices have gone down a LOT in the last while, which is encouraging. The prices are still high, but not astronomical anymore.

The trip to the city will have to wait until after the van’s date at the garage to get the temperature gauge sensor replaced.

Still holding out hope that we’ll qualify for financing on the Caravan, but if I’m going to be honest with myself, the odds are not in our favour. Mind you, our situation wasn’t much better when we got financing for the Grand Caravan we got, years ago. Oddly enough, my husband being on disability gives us a more reliable income now than when he was still working. Nothing like moving to a new city for a 2 year contract, only to have the contract end after 6 months, instead!

Ah, well. Whatever happens, happens. We just need to deal with what’s in front of us.

Which, at the moment, means turning the living room into a cat proof plant room. 😁

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: it seems to have worked! We have peppers

In my last post about our seedlings, I mentioned that I thought maybe where the peppers were in the tray was a bit too cold. So I squeezed things over a bit and pulled the tray and heat mat a couple of inches away from the end of the aquarium greenhouse wall. I checked them a few hours later, and would you believe, I found peppers sprouting already! Maybe they would have sprouted anyhow, but it sure was nice to see!

As of this morning, they were noticeably bigger.

When I shut off the lights for the night, the one that is upright in the photo was like the bent one in the foreground. There’s just the two seedlings, but that’s better than none!

I’ve just come back from a long day, which I’ll write about in a separate post, but I checked them again when I got back. Not only are the peppers a bit bigger (though there’s still just two of them), there is now a second drum gourd seedling starting to show through the soil! It’s in the same pot as the first one, with no sign of seedling in any of the other drum gourd or zucca melon pots, so I hope to see more seedlings soon.

I’m just happy to finally be seeing some peppers showing up!

The Re-Farmer

Hulless seed pumpkins, and treating the deer?

Check out this handsome lady I found in the trail cam files this morning!

The critters much prefer the paths humans have cleared, including the trailed packed down by snow mobile-ers! This piebald seems to be the only deer that is visiting us regularly this winter, even though we’ve stopped putting food out this year, to raid our compost pile.

Yesterday, I decided it was time to crack open some of the hulless seed pumpkins. All the pumpkins and squash seem to have handled curing and storage pretty well. All the ones that were green or green striped have turned yellow and orange, with some of the hulless seed pumpkins turning more yellow with green, rather than green with yellow.

One type of hulless pumpkins (Styrian, I think. I’ve lost track!) have turned completely yellow and orange. So I decided to open up the two largest ones, first.

One of them was already being stored in the kitchen. It had a very hard shell and took some doing to break into!

There were fewer seeds than I expected, but that might be just the variety. The seeds looked nice and plump at least. I did try one, and the tasted was… meh. I’m sure they’d be much better, roasted and salted. After taking the seeds out, this was all there was.

So I went and got another one, which was larger.

That one did not have as hard a shell on it and was much easier to cut into. Which I actually took as a bad sign.

It had plenty of seeds in them, but they were all flat. Which suggested the pumpkin was still too immature when it was harvested. Considering the growing conditions of last year, that’s not surprising. I left them out as long as I could. I did go back and check the rest, and some are softer than others, but I’ve left them for now.

I know these pumpkins are supposed to be edible, not just the seeds, but in the end, I cut them into smaller chunks and set them on the compost pile for our visiting deer and the birds.

Later on, I was going through seed sites (because I can’t help myself!) and checked out the descriptions for things I’d already bought from other companies, including the hulless seed pumpkins. A couple of them noted that, while the flesh is edible, it’s not really table worthy. One of them even said that they are good for livestock!

Can we count a deer as livestock? πŸ˜„

As of this morning, I could see that the pieces were knocked about in the snow, but were still there. Something at least tried to eat them!

The Re-Farmer