Our 2022 garden: beds prepped, spinach, onions and turnips sown

With a steady rain all night, we’ve got a lot of standing water and mud in the yard again. The straw mulch where we will be planting our 5kg bags of potatoes got well soaked, though, so I don’t mind.

This afternoon, I finally had a chance to work on the garden again, and I’ve got some thing figured out, too.

The spinach sown in the high raised bed has started to sprout. There was room for one more row of spinach, so that got planted today.

Then it was time to work on the low raised beds.

We are well behind on direct sowing our cool weather crops, so I focused on the 2 1/2 low raised beds that my daughter and I had gone through, pulling out as many roots and rhizomes as we could. A few that we missed started growing again (there will always be some of those!), so I pulled out some more, before leveling the beds out. I decided to use the stove pellets as mulch for these beds. After leveling the soil in one bed (the back of a fan rake is great for leveling the soil), I’d scatter some pellets as evenly as I could over the bed, soak them with the hose, then work on the next bed. It generally took about 3 soaks before the pellets had expanded and broken up enough to be spread evenly with the back of the rake.

It always surprises me just how much sawdust is packed into those tiny pellets!

Once those were done, I gave them one last spray with the hose, then moved on to what will be a deep mulch bed for the 1kg package of potatoes. We had considered planting those in the low raised bed by the compost heap, but have decided the kulli corn will go in there. It’ll be easier for us to put a barrier around the wooden frame to keep the critters out. Potatoes need no such barrier.

In our second summer here, we started preparing an area for future gardening by mulching the area heavily with straw, and trying to kill off as many weeds as possible. You can read about those preparations here, here, here, and here.

Yeah. It was a big job, spread over months.

The next summer, we had our first garden, and all along the north side, we planted a row of birdhouse gourds. We’d started them indoors, but I thought our last frost date was May 28, the same as a town to the east of us, only for us to get hit with a frost on June 2 – which was the last frost date for a town to the north of us (our own little hamlet is too small to be on any of the frost date lists). The gourds didn’t really survive, and since then, this particular area has not been planted in.

The straw you see raked aside in the above photo has been there for 4 years.

The area was still mostly clear of crab grass, though I spent some time pulling those out. With the straw layer, the rhizomes tended to be running across the surface of the soil, so that made it easier to get them.

I knew we had a few moving boxes left in the basement. I thought there was three left, so I cleared an area to roughly match how much I thought those three boxes, opened flat in a single layer, would cover.

I was wrong.

There was 5 boxes left, so I laid them down folded in half, to get a double thick layer. This should be more than enough for the smaller amount of potatoes.

After soaking the cardboard, I put most of the old, wet straw back, then topped it with some newer straw to get a good, thick later.

This bed is now ready for potato planting.

While I was working on this, the girls got the fire pit going, and I finished just in time for a wiener roast. πŸ˜€

We’ve used that fire pit in the past month, almost than we’ve been able to in the past 4 years. No fire bans, this spring!

After the girls made sure I was fueled up, it was back to the low raised beds. Time to do some planting!

Look how big that garlic is!! They are just thriving, here.

For this half-bed, I marked out a grid, but planted in rectangular boxes. I started with some spinach – a variety called Space – planted around the middle of the bed. There are still some seeds of this spinach variety left, if we want to sow some for a fall harvest.

One those were in, the outer perimeter, I planted some onions. These are Red of Florence; the last of the onions we started from seed.

The centre of the bed was left empty. Later on, we’ll put in plants that we won’t be harvesting leaves from, or harvesting many times. Perhaps we’ll put some eggplants or peppers in the middle. There’s room for only a few plants in this half-bed.

There will be more room in the next bed.

The centre row was marked, but nothing is planted in it. On one side of the centre line, a third variety of spinach, Lakeside, was sown. On the other side, Tokyo Silky Sweet turnips were planted. Then, all around the perimeter the last of the Red of Florence onions were planted.

The onions being planted around the perimeter like this is to dissuade critters at least a bit. That is not our first defense, though.

These will be covered with netting. I’m not sure the bamboo stakes will hold those hoops very well, though. Trying to push them into the ground, I kept hitting rocks. In one spot, right at a corner, I just couldn’t get around a rock, so that one is more shallow than I would prefer. A couple of stakes broke while I was trying to push them into the ground. Since I couldn’t get them very deep, I ended up having to break the tops off of the rest, to be able to put the hoops on them.

Later, bamboo poles will be tied to the centre of the hoops to hold them steady and hold up the netting when it’s added on. Not until after something has been transplanted in the middle.

For the long bed, I grabbed pieces from the canopy tent that was dismantled. Those were easier to pound into the soil. Literally. I had a piece of would I could use as a mallet, and got them in pretty deep.

With the logs bordering the bed, the supports aren’t spaced very well. For the ones in the middle, most had to be squeezed into the spaces between logs. Which is fine. After something is transplanted in the middle, cord will be strung through the holes in the supports around the perimeter, then criss crossing across the middle to support the netting. With them so oddly spaced, it’ll be wonky, but it’ll work.

The ground staples will be used to tack the net down , but we still want to be able to easily life the sides, to harvest greens as needed.

The third bed was left for tomorrow. We have 2 more varieties of turnips to plant, or I might do carrots, first. They should have been sown about a week or more ago!

Beds will continue to be bordered by onions from sets. I’ve got 2 boxes of yellow onions and one of red onions, so there is plenty to go! πŸ™‚

The other thing that really needs to get done are the two varieties of peas. Hopefully, it won’t get too hot for peas over the next while! Meanwhile, we need to get those potatoes into the ground.

The next few weeks are going to be very busy in the garden! Lots to go in, in a very short time.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: heavy mulch, and high raised bed cover

I was hoping we wouldn’t get a lot of wind, but it was gusting pretty wildly when I came out to check on the garden beds.

The cardboard did not get as saturated as I’d hoped, but it also didn’t get blown away as badly as I’d feared it might.

The cover on the high raised bed, on the other hand, was all over the place.

I fought with it for a while, using bricks to try and weigh down the edges, and the pieces of garden hose we cut last year as crimps on the hoops. The main problem was how high the hoops were. Ideally, I would have just laid the plastic flat across the top, but I have no way to fasten it down right now.

I did push the hoops deeper into the soil, but they are right along the walls, and the lower logs are thicker than the top ones, so I kept hitting the wood and having to adjust. There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room to avoid the onions.

Thankfully, onions are very hardy.

By the time I finished mulching, though, I just took the plastic off.

The only reason the plastic was being added was in case it snowed (I did actually see some flakes!), but by then, the temperature had risen enough that it wasn’t an issue.

Gathering up and folding that sheet of plastic was interesting. I usually try to use the wind itself to help, which usually works well, but not this morning! The wind kept coming from all directions, and I found myself as likely to suddenly have plastic wrapped around me as having the wind blow it straight out.

The future potato bed now has a nice, deep mulch at least a foot deep. I had wanted to chop the straw first with the shredder chute on the wood chipper, but there’s no way to get the chipper out there through the mud and water.

The straw bale has been left exposed to the elements all winter. Layers of it were sloughing down and, as you can see, it’s wet and starting to decompose. Which is exactly what I want for mulching. Straw takes quite a while to decompose, which is the main reason we wanted to put it through the shredder, first. The wet straw is also not going to blow away. Normally, after laying the straw down, we’d be taking a hose to it, but between how wet it already is, and the rain, it should be pretty moist.

Well, crud. I just looked at the weather forecast, and it’s changed again. We might get rain with snow again this evening! We’re supposed to hit 0C/32F overnight, with the wind chill making it feel like -4C/25F. Then more light rain tomorrow. I guess we should cover the !#$%!$# high raised bed again.

*sigh*

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden progress: As the saying goes…

“Make hay while the sun shines.”

Except the sun isn’t shining, and we’re raining again, but I did get to take advantage of an unexpected opportunity.

This morning was mild enough that I was able to get our transplants outside to harden off. I also took advantage of the lack of rain to work on the old kitchen garden some more, trying to get as many roots as I could out of the L shaped bed, then in a couple of tiny little plots we may or may not plant in. In one of them, I noticed asparagus coming up! There’s just the one plant there, but I knew there were more on the opposite side of the garden, so I went looking. Sure enough, there were some spears coming up there, too. These are asparagus that have been there since before my parents bought the property, in the early 1950’s! I weeded around them as best I could, then checked under the straw much of the purple asparagus bed we planted last year. Still nothing there, that I could see.

After the transplants were brought back indoors, I started to settle in with “breakfast” (it was past noon. LOL) and check my computer, when I got a message telling me about someone who was offering up some carboard for mulch. There is a food waste reduction program that collects food that cannot be sold for human consumption for one reason or another, and distributes it to people to feed to their animals, thereby keeping it out of the landfills. Much of this is in cardboard boxes, which can pile up pretty fast! I was able to get in touch with this person and, before I knew it, I was heading out to pick up some cardboard!

That muddy spot on the road near our intersection is getting worse. With the upcoming expected rain, I’m not sure we’ll be able to get through for much longer. We shall see.

The person I met up with was absolutely awesome, and we ended up chatting for quite a while about the things they’re doing on their farm. I was really interested to see some of their fencing; particularly their buck and pole fence. No post holes required! That would be ideal for the temporary fencing we want to make. I just showed the girls pictures and talked about it, and they thought it was a good style of fencing to use, too. Over the next while, as we work on cleaning up dead trees and collapsed sheds, we’ll set aside the materials we’ll need to make them.

The town I went to, to pick up the cardboard, is a town I’ve never been to before. One of many places we drive past on the highway, see the signs and think “gee, we ought to go there one of these days”, and never manage it! While there, I drove past an antique store and flea market that happened to be open today (they are open only 3 days a week), so I had to stop by on the way home.

One of my favourite things about visiting antique stores is seeing all the stuff that I grew up using. Like this.

We used a saw like this to cut our firewood. We had an old tractor with a wheel on it that the belt attached to, to power the saw. That thing made short work of a big job!

There were so many things in there that I either used as a child, or that we have here at the farm, including a couple of pink glass antique oil lamps, like one we’ve had here at the farm for as long as I can remember. It’s still tucked away in a storage space near the ceiling in the kitchen, though we’ve had to block it off to keep the cats out of it. Ours is missing the chimney, though. I asked about it, and was told they are VERY hard to come by. They are a very different size and shape. There were a lot of other really awesome things there. I definitely want to come back with the girls.

Once at home, I backed the van up near the garden – unfortunately tearing up some of the lawn in the process, because parts of it are so muddy! At first, we were thinking of leaving the van there,, with the cardboard stored inside, but I knew it was going to start raining soon. So, while the girls started supper, I went ahead and started going through the boxes to take off any pieces of tape or labels that would come off.

I was able to set up the rolling seat and a garbage bag under the lift gate, and mostly stayed out of the rain once it started. πŸ˜€

Yeesh. Laying that black tarp down really doesn’t do much to kill off the grass and weeds. Normally, I would have taken the weed trimmer to the ground, first, not our weed trimmer is corded. This far from the outlet on the house, I’d have had to use at least a couple of cords, and there’s a puddle of water in the way. Not going to happen! The tarp I took off is now pegged down on top of the second tarp. The two of them together will do a better job in killing off the grass, until we can start laying cardboard down under there, too.

I was able to lay down such a nice, thick layer of cardboard! When we were laying cardboard down under previous beds last year, we had to be rather parsimonious about it, because we just didn’t have all that much cardboard. It was better than nothing, but not enough to make a really good weed barrier. Some of these boxes are made out of a really thick cardboard, and I was able to overlap the edges really well, too.

It has been left like this to be rained on. Normally, we’d be taking a hose to it, to saturate the cardboard before laying the straw on it. It can take a really long time for the cardboard to get wet all the way through. It would take even longer, with such thick cardboard and so many layers. These boxes had been stored outside, though, so some of them were already damp, which helps.

This is all the cardboard that’s left!

I’ve already been offered more, if I want it. Which I will happily accept! We’re still supposed to get rain all night, with a mix of rain and snow by tomorrow morning. At least now the forecasters are saying the rain will stop tomorrow morning, and we aren’t expected to get more for the next 5 days. That should give the road enough time to dry up and be more accessible, I hope. The municipality might even have a chance to fix it before we get another expected 4 days of rain! At least it’ll be warmer by then, and we won’t have to worry about snow.

Speaking of which…

The high raised bed now has its plastic cover, to hopefully keep things a bit warmer if it snows. Both the onions and spinach under there should be able to handle the cooler temperatures, but I’d rather give them what protection I can.

After taking the picture, I noticed the plastic already has a hole in it! It’s a pretty thin plastic. Or perhaps the hole was already there, right off the roll. This was the last of a roll, so the very end of it was a bit mashed up.

This should be the only time we’ll want to cover the high raised bed with plastic. After this, if we ever need to cover it again, it’ll be with netting or something like that, to keep the critters or the insects out.

As you can see in the back on the left, the garlic here is doing really well! The other two beds are still barely showing, and very few of them. I’m starting to wonder if I’d planted them too deep or something, though these ones were planted at the same depth, so… I don’t know. We’ll see how they do as things warm up.

This was not the only step ahead we got in our garden and growing plans. While I was out, my daughter started digging holes for planting trees in. Holes that are now half full of water, but that’s to be expected right now. Hopefully, that won’t be an issue once the trees actually get here and we start transplanting them.

I’m so glad I was able to head out to get this cardboard today! Having a flexible schedule, and the girls to take care of things while I’m gone, is something I really appreciate. That and people like Wolfsong, who let me know about the cardboard being offered up. Thank you so much! You’re awesome!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: first spinach sown, and onions transplanted

It was a bit cooler and overcast this morning, but still pleasant enough to get the plants outside for a couple of hours.

I am really happy with the newest seedlings. This tray has the cucumbers in the left half, with the Teddy and Red Kuri winter squash on the right. It took so long for the winter squash to germinate, I wasn’t sure they’d make it, but we have 100% gemination!

The purple peas in this tray are getting nice and big. The summer squash in the other cells took a long time to germinate, too, but they seemed to get a boost after I put the warming mat under them. It’s hard to see, but even the green zucchini is finally germinating, next to the peas. I thought the Magda squash had started to germinate, but not quite yet. We had less success with those the last 2 years we planted them, too. Our first year, we had only 2 surviving plants. Last year, there was just the one. Magda squash just seems to have a harder time of it.

So far, only 2 of the yellow zucchini have germinated. Last year, we had some germinate, but when they started producing fruit, they were green, and we no yellow zucchini at all. I’m hoping that won’t happen again, this year!

The transplants seem to be quite liking their time outdoors, and even the newest little tomatoes in the foreground are looking generally robust.

We have 3 Crespo squash – and they are budding! Would you look at that!

I considered pinching them off, but these first flowers would be all male flowers. The next batch of buds should be both male and female. So I’m thinking to just leave them? I don’t know. There is very little information out there on how to grow Crespo squash. They do seem to be very enthusiastic growers!

While moving the blooming Wonderberry in and out of the sun room, we have been brushing the 3 plants against each other, in hopes to pollinate them, just in case. I don’t know how if they are self pollinating or not. Nowhere I’ve looked about them even mentions pollinating.

The transplants were left out for 2 hours today, which gave me time to work on our very first direct sowing – and transplanting – in the high raised bed.

The first thing to do was dig trenches through the wood chip mulch, so that things could be seeded/planted into the soil beneath. We have three varieties of spinach seeds from last year, and for this bed, I chose Lakeside, which is the fastest maturing variety of the three. The tray of onions I grabbed are the red onions, Tropeana Lunga, which should look like this when they mature…

This image belongs to Heritage Harvest Seed. You can see what else we ordered with these, here.

By planting the onions around the spinach, they should help with keeping away harmful insects, and maybe even keep hungry critters away. The high raised bed is buffet height for deer, though, so we will be covering them later.

There is space to do a second planting of spinach in two weeks, which will also finish off the seeds we’ve got left of this variety.

The largest Tropeana Lunga seedlings filled the two outside rows, but there were still a few tiny seedlings left. The size that would be considered not worth planting. I hate to just toss seedlings, though, so I ended up sticking them in the soil at the base of the raised bed on the north end. When this was a low raised bed, it was quite a bit longer, so the soil is softer on that end. If they take, great. If not, that’s okay, too. We don’t have a lot of this variety, so I’m hoping to be able to overwinter a couple of bulbs to go to seed next year.

I was left with nice, soft potting soil in the tray the onions seedlings were growing in, so I used that to gently top the spinach seeds, and put just a little around each onion plant, more to keep the wood chips from falling onto them than anything else.

I have to say, I LOVE the high raised bed to plant in! It was completely pain free, with no strain on my joints. Well. I suppose that doesn’t include my arthritic fingers, but I didn’t even notice pain in my hands, either. It took me less than half an hour to plant into this bed

I didn’t bother watering these, since it was already starting to rain by the time I was finishing up. It’s been raining off an on, ever since. My daughter and I got a bit damp when we headed out later on, to figure out exactly where to plant our tree order when it comes in. With 30 silver bison berry to plant, those were the ones we need to figure out the most. They should be planted 3-4 ft apart. Since we are doing these as a privacy hedge, we will planting them 3 feet apart, with most of them along the east end of the garden area, leaving a lane just wide enough to drive through, if necessary, between them and the fence line. Taking into account where the phone line is buried, we’ll be able to plant two staggered rows of 10, though as we get closer to the spruce grove, we many need to jump the rows closer to the fence itself, to keep that driving lane open. There is a branch pile that will be in the way of any lane we leave open, but we’ll still be able to plant around it.

We’ve got 5 sea buckthorn that will be planted nearer the north fence line, to close a gap in the lilac hedge. Any remaining bison berry can also be planted along the lilac hedge, and still keep the lane over the telephone wire clear. This will leave a gap in the privacy hedge, once they’ve grown to full size, that will need fencing or a gate to close it off from deer.

The Korean pine are a whole other issue. Originally, I wanted to plant them in the space between the north side of the spruce grove, and the crab apple trees. These, however, have an 18 foot spread. At their mature size, they would completely fill that space, and we need at least some of it to be kept open to drive through. The alternative was along the north side, which would make an excellent wind break, but with that 18 foot spread and the lilac hedge, we’d be planting them on top of the phone line. Not going to happen.

Which means we’ll have to plant them in the outer yard.

Just past the fence on west side, which has a gate that leads into the garden, there is a space where we can plant 2 of them. Then there is the gate to the secondary driveway – our “emergency exit”, if you will. It was through here that one of our truck loads of garden soil was delivered.

The remaining 7 seedlings will need to be planted on the other side of that back gate, along where there is already a couple of rows of spruces, with some willows at the south end. If we plant them 18 feet apart (we might go with 16 feet), we will have a row of seedlings matching the length of the existing shelter belt trees.

The only problem with this is that the south end is currently under water.

Still, knowing that this is a low spot will help. We can make sure to basically build things up a bit, so that the seedlings will stay above water during spring melt.

Then we’ll have to make sure to put something over them to protect them from being eaten. I don’t know that deer would eat Korean pine, but they could certainly damage them, just by walking over them.

We have not yet received a shipping notice for the trees, but with so many holes to dig, the earlier we get started, the better. Hopefully, by the time they do arrive, we’ll be ready and can plant them right away.

Oh, I just double checked my order! We’re not getting 9 Korean pine. We’re getting 6.

Which means we won’t be digging holes in water, after all. πŸ˜€

It’s going to feel weird getting our little 2 yr old plugs and planting them so far apart. Especially since they will grow very slowly for the next 3 years. Which is exactly how my mother ended up planting so many trees way too close together! πŸ˜€

Oh, my goodness. I just checked the short range weather forecast, and it’s changed yet again. We’re supposed to get more rain over the next couple of days, then for the two days after that, we’re supposed to get a mix of rain and snow!

What I planted in the high raised bed should be cold hardy enough to handle that, but we might cover it anywhere, just in case, at least for the night.

Last year, May was a very warm month. On this exact day last year, we had a new record high of 30C/86F. The record low for today, -4C/24F, was set in 2002.

After a long, cold winter, it seems we’re getting a wet cold spring.

Still, there are things we can plant. I just hope things warm up decently in June, so we can get the warm weather transplants in!

The Re-Farmer

Filling the high raised bed.

Today worked out to be a longer day than planned. I had intended to do a Costco trip to the city tomorrow but decided that 1) I didn’t want to deal with weekend crowds and 2) Halloween is around the corner, and I didn’t want to deal with even bigger crowds because of it! So I headed into the city this morning. After this, we’ll need to go over what’s left that we need to pick up, then make one more trip – after Halloween!

Once that was done and everything was put away, I headed to the finished high raised bed, to start filling it, modified hΓΌgelkultur style.

While making the bed, I tried to put all the scrap bits of wood inside, so the first order of business was to spread those out more evenly. Then the short logs that had been used to frame this bed over the summer were added to the bottom. There weren’t a lot of those, but we have plenty of piles of wood to raid. I tried to put the bigger pieces on the bottom, then smaller pieces on top, using them to fill gaps as best I could. Then I started adding bark to fill gaps, too. Ideally, there would be no gaps, but with so many odd shaped pieces of wood, that wasn’t really an option.

Thankfully, we have lots of bark debris. This spot used to have a pile of logs between the two spruces. There is just one long one with a weirdly shaped end left. It needs to be cut up before we can use it.

The nice thing is, along with the partially decomposed bark, I was able to pick up quite a bit of spruce needles. Not enough to increase the acidity of our very alkaline soil, but every little bit helps!

I added a couple of wheelbarrow loads of bark into here, and even went around the bed to pick up little bits of wood and handfuls of sawdust to toss in. I wanted to fill the gaps as much as I possibly could.

Next, a few shovels full of soil was added. This is the soil that had been dug out of this bed before the high raised bed was built. Just a very thin layer was added to fill in the gaps a bit more, and give the breakdown of the wood a bit of a boost of soil microorganisms.

Next came a nice thick layer of corn stalks that we saved, just for this! If we did not have the corn stalks, this layer would have been straw, because straw takes longer to decompose than the other things that will be added.

Yes, we have straw, now!

This got delivered while I was working on the corn stalk layer.

I broke that baby open almost right away!

With the layers, I was alternating between “brown” and “green” layers. The corn stalks were a brown layer, so the next layer (after a bit more soil) was grass clippings, which are considered a “green” element.

I stole the grass clippings from the nearby garlic bed, replacing it with straw. I was concerned the grass clippings might smother the garlic. Later, we will replace the grass clipping mulch on the other two beds with straw as well.

But not today.

With each additional layer of soil, I added a bit more than the previous soil layer. The layers were still pretty thin, comparatively speaking, but I could already notice the weight of it was causing the looser layers below to settle and sink. If I had any, I would have been using compost or manure to layer instead of, or in addition to, the soil.

The next brown layer was leaves.

The final green layer got all the bitter lettuce and frozen chard that had been pulled from the other beds. The kitchen compost buckets got added as well, so there’s also things like egg shells and coffee grounds in there.

Now, it was time to add the rest of the soil. This job actually took the longest, because I frequently stopped to spread it out, pull out the roots and rocks, break up clumps, and make sure any worms that hitched a ride were gently and safely buried.

I stopped adding soil when I was getting too many crab grass rhizomes and rocks to make it worthwhile anymore, and the last of it got raked out evenly, as did the soil in the raised bed.

The very last layer was a mulch of wood chips. Thanks to my mother’s generosity in getting us the wood chipper, we had enough to add a couple of inches to the top.

I expect the contents to settle and sink over the next while. We’ll probably be down a few inches, by spring. Which is okay. We will continue to add more organic matter to build it up.

I must say, I am so thrilled with the height of this. It is SO much easier on the back to work at this height! I don’t even have a back injury. I’m just old. πŸ˜‰ It might be a bit low for my husband, if he ever wanted to do a bit of gardening, but he would be able to reach while sitting in his walker just fine.

One down, five more to go!

Eventually. πŸ˜€

Temperatures are expected to continue to be mild over the next couple of weeks; a few degrees above freezing during the say, and just barely below freezing overnight. We’re expecting some rain tomorrow, then possible rain and snow over the next couple of days. Which means we can still continue preparing garden beds for next year. I might even be able to start cutting down more dead trees before things start getting too cold. It would be good to have the lengths pre-cut to build more beds, even if building them ended up waiting until next fall. Mind you, there’s nothing stopping us from adding more beds to the main garden area, other than possibly running out of material to layer with. My only hesitation is that we intend to expend our garden area into the outer yard, where there is better sun exposure, and those will all be high raised beds. Perhaps by the time we’re ready to build those, we’ll be able to use materials other than salvaged dead spruce trees!

Gosh, I’m having so much fun with all this!

The Re-Farmer