After checking on the road conditions, I continued checking areas of the inner yard we can now access again. I also checked on the old kitchen garden. It just happened that the sump pump was running, and I was quite amused by what I saw.
Along with the water coming out the end, there was water spraying like fountains out of the hose! There are three areas with holes in them. Once I saw the two smaller holes next to the rain barrel, I pulled up the slack a bit, so that they will hopefully spray on the paving slabs, instead. Once things dry up a bit, I’ll just patch it with some electric tape. We do have spare hose, but I’m still considering adding it to the end of this one, to send the water further away from the house. The ground does slope away from the house rather well, here, so I really don’t need to, but it does give us more options.
Walking through the old kitchen garden, I could see deep hoof prints in the garden beds from the deer. Which made a good indicator of how thawed out the ground is!
Going into the maple grove, I noticed an area was clearer of snow that I wanted to get a closer look at.
Between these two rows of trees is where we planted crocuses. About a quarter of it is still too covered with snow, but I wanted to see if there was any sign of them, where it was clear.
Yes!!! In one section, I found so many little crocuses coming up! Including the one you see here, that has pierced its way through a leaf. 😀
I am just thrilled that they survived the winter. I went to check the area we planted the grape hyacinth in, but it’s still too covered with snow.
With the crocuses coming up, I was curious. Was it possible? I had to check.
YESSSS!!!!!! We have tulips coming up! Just look at them all! I put arrows pointing to the ones I could find. It’s entirely possible there are more, camouflaged among the leaf litter.
There are even a few visible in a section my daughters planted fewer, more unique, tulips. Only a couple are visible in this photo, but there were more.
This is just so exciting! After the deer and other critters decimated the tulips last year, we thought they were done for. It was their first growing season, and we didn’t think they had the chance to establish themselves.
My daughter is so happy. She was heart broken when all her tulips were eaten! One of the things the girls had done was make sure the bulbs were buried extra deep, as recommended on the package to keep them as perennials. A lot of people buy and plant tulips and other bulbs every spring. If they’re buried closer to the surface, they can’t survive our winters. We didn’t want that, so my daughter made the extra effort. It looks like all their hard work paid off!
Now I’m wondering if my daughter’s irises and daffodils, planted along the edge of the old kitchen garden, will come up, too. One type did show some leaves last year, but never got to the point of sending up flowers. Another type didn’t come up at all, that we could see.
Aside from some leaf buds starting to show, this is the first major sign of spring growth we’ve had this year!
Oh, and we have more exciting growth, this time indoors. We’ve got melons sprouting! Two types; the Halona melon, plus one of the grocery store melons I lost the name for.
Flowers and food, there’s lots to look forward to in the gardens this summer!
With all the damage done to our seedlings, we’ve been keeping a close eye on them. So far, it looks like most of the damaged seedlings will survive, except maybe the two little tomatoes that were reduced to just stems. I’m still leaving them. Who knows. New leaves might still emerge! Probably not, but one can hope. 😉
The pots and trays in the mini-greenhouse need to be rotated regularly, since most of the light comes from the window, off to one side. I was very happy to see not one, but two, new seedlings!
Two canteen gourds are popping up. 🙂
From the looks of the repotted seedlings in the big aquarium greenhouse, we should be able to switch trays again.
My tax return should be coming in soon, and I’ve been thinking of things we need to pick up. Certain tools come to mind, but I also spotted this, at Home Depot (photo belongs to Home Depot); a soft sided, walk in, portable greenhouse.
At $355, it’s a much more reasonable price than I expected. I could get a larger one for the same money, but this one comes with shelves already, which I think is worth the trade off. I’ve seen reviews people have done with small greenhouses made of these materials, and they have all been quite positive, with a few surprised by how well they stood up to severe storms. It might be too late for this spring’s seedlings, but we do need a better space for our seed starts. Plus, since we are also starting tree seeds that will be staying in pots for their first couple of years, this would help overwinter them. I was checking the baggies with the seeds and misting them with a bit more water the other day. My daughters had set them up, with one seed per baggie with a bit of seed starting mix, and this was the first time I went through each of them individually. I had a bit of a surprise – instead of 20 tulip trees, there was 26! There were extra seeds. 🙂 If we have even just a 50% germination rate, that would mean 6 paw paws and 13 tulip tree seedlings in pots, and we’ll need somewhere safe to keep them them all.
Plus, my brother says we have a frame in the hayloft of the old barn that we could use to create a small polytunnel. We would just need to get the appropriate plastic to cover it. We don’t even have a path dug out to the barn this winter, so we’ll see about that after the snow melts!
So… do I get a portable greenhouse?
Or do I get certain much needed power tools?
I might be able to get both, but we also need materials to build temporary fencing around our garden beds.
There are so many things we need to get, and only so much cash is coming in.
Well, I just couldn’t resist. After looking over the Heritage Harvest site, then going over my budget, I went ahead and placed another seed order. We may not be able to plant them all, but we’ll at least have a good start on our own seed bank, if we don’t!
I am absolutely determined to grow gourds for crafting purposes. This company is in Fisher Branch, Manitoba, which is in the same zone, or colder, than we are, so we should be able to grow these here, too!
The first two, Apple and Canteen, were gourds I already had on my favorites list (a function the updated website doesn’t seem to have now), and had been out of stock, so I wanted to snag them while I could!
The third gourd, Yakteen, is a new variety for 2022. It is a type that can be eaten when young (which is supposed to be true of all varieties of gourds, but I don’t think they all taste good), or left to mature and be used for crafting, which is what I plan to use it for. It’s also listed as very rare, so saving seeds will be an important part of growing these.
The rest that I ordered are all on their new-for-22 list. It was really hard not to order more from my old favorites list! I already have other varieties of most of those, so I didn’t. The only exception is…
… the Red Noodle bean. I have two other varieties of pole beans, in different colours. None are as long as these get, though – they can reach 16-20 inches in length! There’s only 25 seeds in a packet, and I was already planning to get a third variety of pole bean, so this fits in.
These are Little Finger eggplants. We are not big eggplant eaters, but it’s not because we don’t like them. It’s just that, with X amount in the grocery budget, they tend to get passed over. I don’t know if we’ll be up to growing eggplants this year, but these are supposed to be good container plants, so they would be a nice thing to have tucked somewhere on the south side of the house. In the end, it will probably depend on how much space I have to start things indoors.
These are Purple Beauty peppers. My husband and older daughter are the ones that like peppers, so having a few plants for them would be nice. And if we’re going to grow peppers, why not a variety that isn’t available in stores? 🙂
Here we have the Kaho watermelon. They are an early variety that grow to only 2 – 4 pounds. Watermelons were not something I was planning to try, yet, but with an early variety, it might be worth starting a couple of plants indoors, if we can fit them.
Finally, we have the Wonderberry. Something I have never heard of before. These fall into the category of permanent plants, as they are supposed to self-seed prolifically. We will have to plan out where we grow them, but once we do, we should have berries, year after year. That makes them worth trying, in my view! Plus, they are drought tolerant. Bonus points on that one!
So this is my second order from Heritage Harvest Seed. I look forward to seeing how the seeds we get from them do in our zone, compared to ones we have ordered from other seed companies that are not as far north as this one.
With snow on the ground and temperatures dropping, this is the perfect time to look at how our gardens did this past year, compare it to the year before where we can, re-examine our goals, make some adjustments, and use that information to plan on what we will do next year.
Because we went from a pretty small garden the year before, to a much larger – and spread out – garden this year, I will go through things in more detail in later posts. For now, I just want to do an overview.
When we first moved out here, we worked out a multi-year plan. The first summer would focus on clearing and cleaning up the inner yard. The second year, we’d continue working on cleaning up the spruce grove and start working on the outer yard while maintaining what we cleaned up in the inner yard. The outer yard, we figured would take another 2 or 3 years.
With this plan, we would have been ready to start gardening around year five. Which would have made it next summer. Instead, we started our first small (ish) gardens in 2020. We had a few beds in the old garden area, and planted in the newly uncovered, soft soil found under the old wood pile. We were not very ready for gardening at all, but really – if we only ever did things when we are “ready” to do them, nothing would ever get done! 😉
This past year, we kept our main goals, and added some new ones. The main goals have stayed the same. Ultimately, we want to be as self-sufficient as possible. That means growing as much of our own food as we can, in quantities sufficient to store or preserve enough food to last us through to the next garden season. So, not just through the winter, but until we can start harvesting fresh food from our garden again. (Animals will be part of the picture, too, but for now I will focus on plants.)
We didn’t plant anywhere near enough onions for our needs, but that’s part of figuring things out!
When it comes to planting things, whether it is our garden or trees or bushes, we try to meet multiple goals. In our long term goals, we want to have fruit and nut trees. Mid term includes certain types of berry bushes. Growing vegetables are part of our short term goals, simply because they are mostly annuals.
After being here a few years, we have identified gaps in the shelter belt we need to fill, as well as the need to increase privacy screening and dust protection from the surprisingly busy main gravel road that runs past one side of the property. With the aim of meeting multiple goals, any trees or bushes we plant will be chosen not only to meet those needs, but also provide food – and if they can provide enough for ourselves and for birds and wildlife, that’s just bonus. Soil testing has also helped us focus on what we can reasonably expect to grow here at all.
In trying to meet these multiple goals, we did things that would normally be gardening no-nos, like planting as far from the house as we could, and still be in the yard, breaking new ground that will later have things planted permanently. Choosing what to grow was based on things like short growing seasons, high yields and long term storage capabilities.
One thing we have is the luxury of space. That means that we have room to experiment and try new things to see how they do in our zone and growing conditions.
Some things, of course, end up being completely out of our control. Drought conditions being the main issue we had to deal with, this past summer. A plague of grasshoppers certainly didn’t help, either. Then there was the critter damage. That combination of things, plus the far-flung garden beds, made things considerably more difficult than it should have been.
Looking at things from a very broad perspective, though, we had more success than failure. Under the conditions we had, that’s pretty amazing!
I will talk about more specific things later but, in general, here is how we hope to progress next year, which will help us decide where our monthly “seed” budget will go.
The main thing we really need to focus on is trees. These can take years before they will start producing fruits or nuts, so we need to get those going as soon as we can. We’ve identified areas where we can plant things that will need more protection from the elements, and we’re looking at varieties that can handle our climate zone, as well as our nutrient depleted soil. Some of the varieties of nut trees we want to get cannot be planted in the inner yard, though, so we will still have to hold off on those until we can prepare areas in the outer yard. The renter is planning to rebuild the fence around the outer yard, and if he is able to do that next year, that means his cows won’t be able to get through anymore. We won’t have to worry about cows damaging seedlings; just deer! We will also be able to start taking out some of the old fencing around the inner yard, which will make it easier to tend to anything we plant in the outer yard.
We do not have the funds to get everything at once, so we have to focus on getting what will provide the most benefit in the shortest time frame. We will be able to get a few of the slower growing/producing trees, little by little, but will need to focus on faster growing/producing trees and bushes first, even though logically, it’s the trees that need the most time to mature that we should be getting first.
With that in mind, we will be ordering shelter belt berry bushes as soon as we can. Unfortunately, the varieties we had decided on are currently not available, but they might be available for ordering in December or January. Our first layer of “defense” will be to plant Bison Berry (if we can get them) along the East property line, to create a privacy screen. Sea Buckthorn is another one we are looking at, for another area, and we’re also looking at the Rugosa Rose. These will not only provide privacy screens, but will act as dust protection and deer barriers. The berry bushes are also nitrogen fixers. Once mature, they are supposed to be very prolific producers. What we don’t use ourselves will provide food for birds and other wildlife. The Rugosa Rose produces unusually large hips, and the flowers are also edible. (This will be on top of the wild roses we already have growing here.) These are more short to mid term items, as they should be able to start producing in just a few years. It will also take a few years for them to get big enough to form privacy and dust screens, and probably longer before they are dense enough to be a barrier to deer.
For long term, we are looking to order a bunch of Korean Pine Nut trees, if they are available. They require shade for their first few years, and we have the perfect spot to plant a row of them, though they will still need extra shade (and deer!) protection, at first. They are hardy to zone 2, and with 3 yr old saplings, it will still be at least 7 years before they start producing pine nuts. These will be the first nut trees we plan to get.
In the row of crab apple trees that we currently have, we will need to get rid of most of them, due to disease. I’m hoping we can save two of them that produce the best fruit. Crab apples are good for pollinating other apple varieties, so it’ll be important to keep at least a couple of healthy and strong trees.
What we are currently looking at are different cold-hardy apple varieties. I hope to get at least a couple varieties ordered this winter. We are looking for apples that are good for fresh eating, good for storage, and suitable for making cider, as well. Over time, we will be adding pears and plums as well, with the same requirements. These are more mid to long term goal plantings. They will need several years before they start producing, but nowhere near as long as the nut trees we are looking at. Once they do start producing, they are prolific, so we shouldn’t need a lot of trees to meet our needs.
Speaking of prolific, I found a source for a cold hardy variety of ever bearing, white mulberry that we plan to get. A single tree should be enough to provide for our needs, with plenty to spare for the birds as well. I even found a source for zone 3 paw paws! Given the rarity of those, I think we will put a priority of ordering them before they are sold out. Which means that is likely where our upcoming seed budget will be spent.
For short term, we need to start on our raspberries. This past year, the bushes my mother had planted did not produce at all, and the new ones we planted had to struggle with deer damage as well as the drought. We want to get several varieties of raspberries, in different colours and maturity rates. We all love raspberries, so the goal is to eventually have quite a lot of them.
We have found several bushes that appear to be black currants. There are two fairly large bushes, but they are completely shaded and barely productive. I plan to transplant those into sunny areas. I’m also looking to pick up some gooseberry and/or josta berry bushes as well, though probably not for 2022. We shall see.
The main focus with all of these is that they are perennial and, once established, should provide food for many years, so the sooner we can get them growing, the better.
For short term food growing, our original plans have changed a bit. Where the main garden area is, we will be building high raised beds to replace the current low beds, using logs from dead spruces in the spruce grove. Now that I have a chain saw that works, we should be able to clear the dead trees out much more quickly, and have logs cut to size ready and waiting to build high raised beds in the fall. Clearing out those dead trees will open up the spruce grove a lot. While we will be planting more spruces in the spruce grove (there are many little spruces we can transplant from elsewhere), we will also plant food producing trees that can use the extra protection the spruces provide.
The high raised beds we will be building in the main garden area will also serve multiple purposes. A primary one is accessibility, so we can continue to garden even as we get older and more broken. Filling them hugelkultur style should reduce how much water they need, even as high as they will be. This garden area has some shade issues, due to the tall trees my parents planted along the south side, and the beds will be high enough that they should even get more sun.
We will need a LOT more garden space to grow food in the quantities we need, however, and for that, we will be making garden beds in the outer yard, where they will get full sun, too. We won’t have enough dead spruces to use as materials for high raised beds there, as well as the main garden beds, but hopefully by the time we need to build them, we’ll have the funds to buy materials.
Looking at our long term plans, however, we are going to need to expand beyond growing vegetables for ourselves, too. We plan to get a hand mill. Among things I want to grow will be varieties of corn that can be ground into flour, and even different varieties of grains. I am hoping to at least get seeds this year, even if we can’t plant them right away.
As we start to include animals, I want to be able to grow as much of their food, as well as our own, as possible, which means forage crops. I’m even looking at plants that we can use to make our own sugar or syrup (yes, sugar maples are on our list, but there are other possibilities, too).
While some of these things may not be started this year, or even next year, we can still keep the plans in mind as we work on things this coming summer, to prepare. There is a rather massive amount of clean up needed in the outer yard, to have room for all this, as well as for the larger trees we intend to plant. Especially since some of those trees will need to be planted a minimum 30 feet apart, or cannot be planted near food crops because of the chemicals their roots release. Between that and the extra space needed between the raised beds, for accessibility purposes, things will be very spread out.
This past summer was a very difficult growing year. While I will go over specific things later, in general, I consider it a successful year. Remarkably successful, under the circumstances! Even some of our failures where still successes, since we had multiple purposes in mind. Some things we will do again, others will be dropped, if only temporarily, and new things will be tried. We learned a lot in the process, too, making everything a step forward to our ultimate goals.
While the squash and melons are died back, or in the process of doing so, I continue to be amazed by the Tennessee Dancing Gourds.
These were one of our “fun” crops. Yes, I hope to use them for crafting purposes, but really, I just thought they were adorable and hoped that maybe, just maybe, they would grow in our Zone 3. From reviews I read when I bought the seeds, I knew they could be prolific, and the certainly have been, even with poor growing conditions.
While I’ve harvested only four mature dancing gourds, that are now drying out on our kitchen counter (protected from the cats!), there are more on the vines that are just as big, but still firmly attached.
More amazingly, the vines are still growing and blooming, with both male and female flowers. They have been doing amazingly well!
The luffa have decided to surprise me. I thought that, by now, they were basically a lost cause.
The very first luffa gourd that started to form ended up withering away, so when these ones showed up, I tried to hand pollinated them. Which I hope worked, but it’s still too early to tell.
You can just see a minuscule female flower developing, above my finger, too.
There are more male flower buds forming, and even another tiny female flower, with its tiny gourd, developing.
The vine itself is the only one that has grown enough to start making it’s way over the top of the squash tunnel.
I took this picture above my head to show the flowers that are blooming, but I was pretty blinded when I took it. So it was not until I uploaded the photo that I realized, there are gourds forming up there, too! There is no possibility of hand pollinating them, as I can’t reach them, but they might just make it!
None of the gourds we planted are zone 3, so that was a strike against them growing here, right from the start. While they would have loved the heat of our summer, it was difficult to water them adequately during drought conditions, so that was another set back. Though we have not have frost yet, we have had some pretty chilly nights, so I am really amazed they are still green, growing and flowering, while plants more suited to our zone, such as the nearby winter squash, are dying back. Especially the luffa, which didn’t even start blooming until very late, and didn’t start producing female flowers even later. It is unlikely the mild temperatures will continue long enough for the luffa gourds to fully mature, but the Tennessee Dancing gourds are doing just fabulously! I definitely want to try growing both, again. If they did this well in such poor conditions, imagine how well they’d do in better conditions?
Today is turning out to be cooler than predicted – as I write this, we are at 16C/61F, instead of the hourly forecast temperature of 22C/72F we’re supposed to be getting.
I’ll take the cooler temperatures. Especially since the predicted rain has not happened. Oh, we’re getting the odd spittle from the sky, but that’s about it. Meanwhile, the humidity level is at 94%! We kept holding off because of the predicted rain, but once I’m done with this post, I’m going to have to go out and do some watering in the gardens.
Unfortunately, it has also been an incredibly smoky day. Thick enough that I can see the haze in the garden when I look out my window. There has been no reprieve for the wildfires all over the province. Most of them are to the north of us, and they’re getting even less rain than we are. 😦
When doing my rounds this morning, however, there was some bright “sunshine” through the haze. The summer squash and everything at the squash tunnel are blooming like crazy, with flowers so bright and yellow, they practically glow in the distance.
The luffa is blooming fairly consistently, though no gourds have started to form yet.
The vines, however, are enthusiastically climbing the squash tunnel, and have even reached the very top. It looks like they grew almost six inches, overnight!
The nearby Tennessee Dancing gourds are also enthusiastically growing and blooming. Unlike the luffa, there are many gourds forming here!
I am somewhat amused that these have such big flowers, yet such tiny gourds!
Then there are the melons, which have such tiny flowers, followed by such hefty fruit – and these are small varieties of melons!
The Little Gem winter squash are also kicking into high gear as they climb the trellis, with many flowers and quite a few squash developing. The plants themselves actually don’t look all that healthy; the bottom leaves in particular are yellowing, with some dying off, but they are still doing really well.
The Teddy squash, however, are not. The plants themselves are looking strong and healthy, but it looks like there has been more nibbles. These are at the very end of the tunnel, and it’s almost as if they are being nibbled in passing, but nothing is showing up in the garden cam. If it were a smaller critter, like a woodchuck or a raccoon, that would make sense, though I would have expected the damage to be more spread out among other things, not just in those two plants. Whatever it is, it seems to have a preference for the flowers. The leaves aren’t showing as much damage. I might have to set the camera up, right on that spot, to find out what’s going on.
The flowers on the Little Gem winter squash have such dramatic, frilly edges to their petals.
While the summer squash are also blooming heavily right now, the Crespo squash, out by the purple corn, has not been. It does not seem to be recovering well from all the critter damage, even though there is no new damage since we added that third layer of protection around them. Thankfully, we still have most of the seeds in the package, so we can try again next year.
The gourds in the south yard, at the chain link fence, haven’t kicked in yet. There are lots of flower buds, though – at least, on the Ozark Nest Egg gourds – so I expect to see plenty, soon. The cucamelons planted next to them are covered with the tiniest flowers, and we are seeing lots of teeny little cucamelons forming. If things go well, we should have lots of them, soon.
All these bright yellow flowers are a cheerful sight to see, through the gloom. While walking outside, yesterday evening, my daughter noticed something about their window fan on the second floor. We’ve got several 20″x20″ box fans set up in various windows. That happens to be the size of our furnace filters, so when the girls noticed their box fan seemed to be pulling tiny insects right through the screen, they put a filter on the back of it. From outside, we could see the filter – and how brown it was, from the smoke!
Today, I finally added a filter to the back of my window fan, too. Usually, when it gets hot outside, I flip it to blow air out instead of in, but with a cooler day like today, I actually want to keep it drawing air in, but that smoke it starting to really affect my chronic cough!
Not that it’s going to be much help while I’m working outside…
Last night, a massive storm system passed over us. In parts of the province, there were tornado warnings.
Here, we had rain.
It started to rain somewhere around 2am, and didn’t stop until about 7am, and we might still get more, later.
For all the watering of the gardens we’ve been trying to keep up on, it couldn’t match last night’s deep soak, and it really showed!
We now have several of the self-sown, tiny sunflowers under the platform bird feeder with seed heads opening up.
The pumpkins had been starting to bloom for a while, but I was only seeing the odd male blossom here and there. This morning, there was an explosion of flowers and new buds, and…
Our very first baby pumpkin.
This is on one of the first pumpkin plants that sprouted. I found a second one, on the mound that took so long to sprout one of the 5 seeds planted in it, that I had begun to think none would come up there.
We’ll keep an eye on them to see how many more begin to develop, then select one or two on each plant to keep growing. It’s still highly unlikely they will have a chance to fully ripen, but who knows; we might have a long and mild fall this year.
The big sunflowers have been pretty remarkable.
More and more seed heads are developing, which I would expect with these ones that are well above my head.
There are others that are quite a surprise.
This is one of the deer damaged sunflowers. You can see the dark spot in the middle, where the original top of the plant had been eaten off. Two branches have now developed into stems, and have their own tiny seed heads starting to develop among the new leaves.
Which is impressive, but this next one shows resilience at a whole new level!
You can see, lower down, where the original top had been eaten off. Of the two new stems that developed has also lost it’s top, and basically all the leaves have been eaten off – and yet there it is! A seed head, developing among the tiny cluster of new leaves.
I was out doing my rounds a lot earlier than usual, though I skipped tending to the kittens for later. My husband needed to go into town to get his blood work done – something that has been postponed several time already – and we were planning to get there for when the lab opened.
Of course, since I had something scheduled in the morning, my brain decided that sleep was not going to happen.
Yeah. I was up all night.
It turned out to be a gorgeous morning. We were at 9C! (48F) It was absolutely wonderful!
Not wonderful enough to make me a morning person, but I did appreciate it. 😀
One of the things I made sure to check was our haskap bushes. The flowers in the bed around them have grown high enough to almost completely hide the bushes, even though I made a point of pulling up anything growing near the haskap. In time, the haskap will be taller than the flowers, but that might take a couple more years.
I was sure the female haskap had died last fall, but it has recovered remarkably well. I had noticed a couple of flowers, and then some berries forming, so I wanted to see how they are doing.
There are actually 2 berries here; one is still green, and is hidden by the ripe one. In another spot, I found a couple more berries, one ripe, one green.
It looks like that’s all we’ll get this year. Which I am happy with, since the alternative would have been trying to find a replacement female plant, and I just haven’t seen them at all in the garden centres this year. I had hoped to get 1 or 2 more female plants anyway (the ratio for pollination on these is 1 male for every 3 females), but there were none to be had.
That’s okay. Next time, I want to order them from Vesey’s instead. I think I’ll get better quality plants from them.
Until then, I am happy with our bitty baby berries!