Our 2022 garden: harvesting carrots and red onions and cleaning up

I took advantage of the lovely temperatures (and being in less pain) to do some more clean up in the garden. Earlier in the day, my daughter and I drove into town so she could get a new photo to renew her driver’s license, while I popped across the street to pick up a few things at the grocery store. I was thinking of making a cream of chicken soup and was about to buy some carrots, when I remembered…

We have carrots. They’re just still in the dirt.

So I went over to where the chocolate cherry tomatoes had been planted, and pulled up the Napoli (orange) and Kyoto Red (dark orange) carrots – and a single shallot! I also dug up the red onions from sets that were planted with the yellow pear tomatoes.

The new soil sifter came in handy! 😁

I’m actually surprised that we got so many decent sized carrots. The Kyoto Red were pretty small – there were two I left behind because they’re blooming, and I hope to collect some seeds. I used up the last of the Kyoto Red seeds, but I think I still have some Napoli pelleted seeds left. Those really did far better than I expected.

Then there’s that single, solitary shallot!

There were actually two more, but they also bloomed, and I’m waiting for the seed heads to dry before collection.

As for the red onions…

Most of them aren’t any bigger than the sets we planted in the first place. Given how spindly the greens were, I thought they might be rotted out, or at least soft, but nope: they are quite firm. They’re just really tiny. I think they were simply too shaded by how massive the yellow pear tomatoes got.

I was going to take them in and was trying to figure out where I could lay them out to dry a bit, until I thought to check the weather again.

We’ll be having at least a couple relatively warm nights, and no rain is expected. I just spread them out on the soil sifter and will leave them out overnight. Tomorrow, I should be able to brush the dirt off more easily, before bringing them inside.

With that in mind, I think I’ll soak some of those blue grey speckled tepary beans overnight, to include with some our garden’s carrots and onions in my soup!

Once these were gathered, I worked on taking down the hoops in the main garden area, as well as the mesh and supports over the spinach in the old kitchen garden. The spinach is a loss. They germinated, and then got mostly yellow and stopped growing.

With the mesh and netting, I laid them out as straight as I could on the ground, then rolled them up around whatever straight sticks I had that were long enough.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult that is with a yard full of kittens!

The twine I used got salvaged, too, and the shorter pieces came in very handy to tie off bundles of netting, mesh, supports and hoops.

We have a few more warmer days, and my priority right now is to get the empty bed in the main garden area prepped, and then plant our fall garlic. When we go into the city next for our stock-up shopping, I hope to pick up more hardneck garlic to plant. It’s a bit too late to order them like we have for the past couple of years.

Once that is done, I plan to work on building up some of the beds in the old kitchen garden. I have ideas for those that I hope will work. If I get at least one of those done over the next few days, that will give us a prepared bed to plant any garlic I pick up later on. There’s still the beets to harvest from that garden, but I suspect those will be going straight to compost.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: peas, carrots, onions and more prep

One of things we started indoors were the four seeds we managed to save from the King Tut purple peas we tried to grow last year. All for successfully germinated, and were really needing to be either transplanted, or potted up.

Potting up didn’t make sense for these, so today, they got transplanted! Being peas, they are frost hardy, so we didn’t have to wait until after our last frost date.

I did change were they were meant to be planted. I was originally thinking of using the same pea trellis we used for them last year, but there’s just 4 of them, so we’ll save the trellises for the green peas we’ve got.

As the purple peas were already looking to climb, I decided to put them here.

This is where we grew tomatoes very successfully last year, and tomatoes will be grown here again this year. It got completely reworked in the fall.

This bed was going to get a mulch of wood shavings, too, but I also did the concrete blocks on the other side of the small gate, too.

We’ll be looking at planting some climbers in here, that can use the fence as a trellis.

The bag of wood shavings left over from last year got finished off in the long bed, and most of the new bag got used up, too! There was enough to mulch the haskaps (the male haskap is blooming!) and there’s still a bit left over.

All the mulch got watered as I laid it out, as the wind was picking up and threatening to blow it away. Once it was laid down, all the mulch got watered again, multiple times, as I worked.

Of course, the bed didn’t stay looking pretty like this for long!

This bed is going to be intensely and strategically planted! Along with the purple peas, there will be tomatoes planted all along the fence. Just inside where the tomatoes will go, there will be carrots, as they are good companion plants. On the outer edge, near the bricks, will be onions, as a critter deterrent.

In the bowl are the last of the pelleted Kyoto Red seeds from last year.

Clearing out a row to plant the carrots was a bit of a challenge, as there were sticks in with the leaf mulch that had to be removed. With pelleted seed, the carrots could be spaced as they were planted. I still got only half way down the row before running out of seeds. The other half is now planted with Napoli carrots; another pelleted variety from last year. With the Napoli, there are still a LOT of seeds left, so we have the option of tucking them around other things, too. We have 2 other new varieties that are not pelleted seed, so I will likely use cornstarch gel to help plant those.

There were not a lot of the Oneida yellow onions we started from seed to transplant, but it was still close to the half way mark. Of the onions we stared from seed, we have one tray or red onions left, but there’s quite a few of those, and I didn’t want to split them up. We also had a few shallots started from seed – a whole 7 of them survived – so I used those, and there’s still half the row left. We have shallot sets, too, so I’m thinking of using some of those to finish off the row. That will be another job for tomorrow!

As for the peas, I cut some of the plastic bottles from distilled water we have so many of, to put around the peas, to protect them from the wind. One of them blew away while I was transplanting onions. I’d tried to push it into the soil, but there turned out to be too many little sticks in the leaf litter. 😀 Once I got that fixed, I added the sticks to help keep them from blowing away. They are the sticks sold for toasting marshmallows, broken in half. We got a package for cookouts last year, but I’ve been using them as supports for some of the taller squash and gourd plants that were starting to flop around a bit. They work really well for that!

This bed now has only tomatoes to be transplanted into it, and that won’t be until after our June 2 last frost date, just to be on the safe side. We will be adding netting after the tomatoes are planted. The decorative wire garden fencing that you see in one of the photos above will be placed right up against the bricks, to hold the net away from the net, which will be attached to the top of the fence. The tomatoes and onions should be fine, but the carrots will need to be protected from critters. The net won’t stop a determined groundhog, but between that, the onions and the carrots, we hope the greedy buggers will decide they’re not worth the effort!

While I was working on this, my younger daughter was working on one of the low raised beds in the main garden area.

The girls cleaned up these beds last year, and this one was the worst for crab grass.

It still was. It took my poor daughter hours to get it done, diligently and carefully pulling up all the roots she could. Unlike me, she’s agile enough that she can kneel down on the ground to work, but she still knackered her back in the process. Once inside, she ended up having to put on her corset she made for herself, to use as a back brace just so she could sit upright at the table! She plans to continue with other beds tomorrow, and will likely just wear the darn thing from the start.

Her sister ended up helping me bring the transplants back inside after everything we done. She was up sick much of the night, but was finally feeling better. It was a bit of a juggle, since the chitting potatoes were sitting on the platform the seed trays and most of the bins sits on. Those had to go outside and onto the roof of the cats’ house until all the transplants were brought into the sun room, then we had to figure out how to fit the potatoes back in! Some ended up on the swing bench under the platform. Potato Beetle has lost his favourite bed for now. 😀

I fully expect we will expand our garden again, next year, which means starting more seeds indoors. Having at least a small, portable greenhouse is going to be increasingly a necessity! We almost got one this year, but the funds ended up being reallocated. Mind you, we still haven’t gone into the old hay loft, where my brother tells me there is the frame for a carport. If all the parts and pieces are there, we’d just need to get the plastic, and we’ll have a polytunnel. I can’t get up into the hayloft anymore – my body is too broken to clamber up there – so I’ll have to ask the girls to do it.

Well… that last paragraph got quite the interruption. I hadn’t realized my mother had phoned and left a message while we were working outside. She called again. It seems the painkillers the doctor prescribed for her back pain are not helping at all, and she’s in a lot of pain. Can’t sit, can’t stand, can’t lie down… She’s convinced the doctor gave her the wrong medication. She called the pharmacist, and he assured her she got the right meds. I guess she now thinks the prescription was a mistake? So tomorrow morning, when the clinic is open, I’ll give them a call. Hopefully, either her doctor, or the doctor that saw her in the ER, will be available to call her today and talk to her about it.

My husband is feeling very sympathetic for her. She’s entering his world, and is completely unprepared for it.

My plans for tomorrow may be changing, if I find myself having to drive my mother somewhere!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: final harvest!

Today, I went out to get together with some friends. When I got back, the girls were in the old kitchen garden, starting our final harvest!

I started off helping with the beets in the L shaped bed, before heading over to quickly do the beet bed next to the garlic.

What a difference!

In the old kitchen garden, all the beets were very small. I was expecting that in the bed along the retaining wall, since they had been eaten by the groundhogs, but I expected more from the L shaped bed.

The girls don’t take pictures like I do, so I just got a shot after they were done. The piles of greens in the beet beds include beets too small to keep. This will all be worked back into the soil. In the carrot bed, you can see the Kyoto Red fronds that had gone to seed, left behind as well. I figure those can be worked back into the soil, too. And if we find little carrots coming up in this bed next year, I’m okay with that! 😀

We got a lot more bigger beets out of the little bed by the garlic! Now that this bed is clear, we can build the last low raised box for it, and the bricks used to frame it will be used elsewhere.

Then my older daughter and I started picking the fingerling potatoes. Being able to dump a bag into the kiddie pool, then go through the soil to pick the potatoes, made the job very easy! We moved the bags away from the fence, so that the picked over soil could be dumped back against the fence before we moved on to the next bag, which also made it easier.

The Purple Peruvians are SO dark, it was hard to find them in the soil! We got a lot more of them than expected, and had to start using another container to hold them.

Of course, some of them got used for our supper! Here, you can see the Purple Chief on the left, and the Purple Peruvian on the right. I cubed them, as well as three types of carrots, added some garlic cloves, tossed them in flavoured olive oil and seasonings, then roasted them. I can hardly wait to try them!

While I worked on supper, the girls finished cleaning the vegetables and set out the beets and carrots in the sun room, with the ceiling fan going, since leaving them outside in the sun is not an option right now. There are three types of carrots here; Deep Purple, from Veseys, Kyoto Red and Lounge Rouge Sang from Baker Creek. It’s hard to tell which ones are the Lounge Rouge Sang, as the colour gradient isn’t very visible. All the beets from the small bed are on here, plus most of the beets from the old kitchen garden as well. We did take some straight inside, and a few of them are in the oven, too. They got peeled and chopped, tossed in olive oil and seasonings, then roasted at the same time as the potatoes.

With the beets, we may actually have enough to make it worthwhile to pickle them. I’m not sure. Mostly, though, we’ll just eat them fairly quickly. As for the carrots, I think we’ll either be eating them quickly, too. I don’t think there is enough to even be worth blanching and freezing.

It’s a very small harvest, considering how much we planted, but I’m still happy with it, since we came so close to not having anything at all.

Now our work is really cut out for us! All the beds can now be cleaned out and prepared for next year.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: clean up, little harvests and high raised bed progress

It was a chilly day for it, but we got quite a bit done cleaning up in the garden today.

My focus was on finishing with the abandoned carrot bed that was half done yesterday.

This is how it was left lat night. The second half had the Kyoto Red carrots planted, and after the groundhogs got at them, most had gone to seed when they grew back among the weeds.

Yet we still managed to have some carrots of an edible size!

There were a lot more twisted ones than with the Napoli carrots. This bed had been built on top of one of the potato beds we’d planted the year before, then basically doubled the length. The half the Kyoto Red were on was on top of non-amended ground, and you could see in some of the longer carrots, where they had hit rocks or harder soil, and twisted their way around. Even using the garden fork to loosen the soil and pull up the carrots was harder than the first half.

What a difference with the carrots that had gone to see!

It doesn’t look like we’ll be collecting any; if there are any mature seeds on some of these, I can’t tell.

Once I pulled as much as I could, I started working on cleaning out the weeds and roots. One of my daughter came out after I started that part, and she started working on the sweet corn blocks.

She stacked those next the high raised bed, as I’ll be using some of them in the layers of material used to fill it.

The sunflowers were left for now, but all three blocks of sweet corn were cleared.

She also pulled the summer squash and beans. These beds will be used again next year, so I got her to leave the plants there for now. The beds still need to be weeded and prepped for next year, and I might be able to make use of the plants to improve the soil more.

My daughter also moved the sprinkler hoses, but they were pretty cold and brittle, so they’ve been laid out in the sun for now. It’s supposed to start warming up over the next while, so I’ll wait for a nice warm day before rolling them up for storage.

By the time she got all that done, I was just finishing cleaning the carrot bed. Thankfully, none of the other beds will need as much work to clean them, and will go a lot faster!

My daughter did the final leveling and raking of the bed while I got the tools to continue working on the high raised bed.

I’m finally starting to get a bit of a method down. Between that and the narrower logs, I’m getting the notches cut faster. The logs on the ends are so huge, if I were making this bed only two logs high, I could leave the ends as they are now! As it is, when I add the end pieces for the next level, the narrower side logs means I should only need to cut notches on the cross pieces.

When I got to the point where the second battery on my baby chainsaw needed to sit for a bit before I could squeeze in a few more cuts, I took the time to cut some of the sunflowers. Checking them this morning, I was seeing a lot more losses to birds, so I figured we should get them inside while we still had seeds. 😀

One pile has the Mongolian Giants and the other has the Hopi Black Dye. I don’t know that all the seed heads I collected will give us finished seeds, but we shall see. I cut the stalks pretty long, which meant some of them included the little baby sunflowers that were branching out, too. Those will, for sure, not have any mature seeds on them, but that’s okay.

At this point, we would be hanging them someplace warm and dry. The best place right now is the sun room, and we have no way to hang anything in there just yet, so I made do.

They should still get good circulation around them on these shelves as they dry. I am very curious as to what we will get out of them!

There is a lot more clean up to do, but thankfully we are expected to continue to get mild weather. So much so, that I am still holding off in broadcasting the wildflower seeds for a while longer. Doing this in the fall will only work if there is no chance of germination, so I would rather wait a bit longer. I think one more week will do it, just to be on the safe side.

The Re-Farmer

More garden surprises

If you’re on Facebook, you know how they pop things into your news feed that you posted, X number of years ago today?

Yesterday, I saw one of those, with a photo I posted, three years ago.

After a snowfall.

Not only have we blown past our average first frost date of Sept. 10, but we are at a point where it is not at all unusual to have snow on the ground. Nothing that lasts, really, but usually at least one storm.

I am so loving our extended summer. Especially with how it’s giving our garden so much more time to recover from the extreme heat and drought conditions of the summer.

This morning, I found new Ozark Nest Egg flowers, both male and female! I hand pollinated some other ones, but it’s too early to tell if it works. I went ahead and hand pollinated the female flower here, too.

While looking through the Ozark Nest Egg plants, I found a single flower from the Thai Bottle Gourd that has made its way up the fence, mixed in with the Nest Egg gourds! I’ve only seen male flowers on this one, though.

Remember that carrot bed the groundhogs kept decimating, over and over? The one we finally gave up on, other than watering it now and again? Half of it, where the Kyoto Reds are planted, has carrots gone to see, pushing their way up through the weeds. The other variety, Napoli, have fronds visible among the weeds, but none are going to seed.

I watered the gardens this morning and, out of curiosity, pulled up some Napoli carrots. I was really surprised by how big they were! After having their greens eaten away several times, It’s amazing that there are any at all, never mind anything of a decent size! That had me looking around among the Kyoto Reds for carrots that had not gone to seed, and I found a surprisingly large one there, too!

The squash tunnel thermometer is definitely whack. We might be at 30C/86F as I write this, but it was only about 22C/72F at the time I took this photo.

While watering the peas among the corn, I couldn’t help but notice the corn block that is the furthest south.

We actually have corn. This block as lots of cobs developing!

They are very small – the husks make them look like there is more than there really is – and poorly pollinated, but we actually have corn. I went ahead and ate the one I picked, right after taking this photo, and it was tender, sweet and delicious. I will have to go back later today, with a container of some kind, and pick more!

I didn’t get a photo, but I picked 4 more of the largest Tennessee Dancing Gourds, too.

Once back inside, I started up a big chili in the crock pot. It’s got our own onions, garlic, carrots and bush beans in it, as well as both ground beef and the ground pork we got from our neighbour. Oh, and I also tossed in some Spoon tomatoes we’d tucked into the freezer. In the future, I plan to grow beans for drying, so some day we will be making chili with our own dry beans, too, along with the paste tomatoes we plant to grow and can. 🙂

With a goal of being as self sufficient as possible when it comes to growing our own food, this year has shown just how touch and go that can be. We had a very warm May that had all sorts of things starting to bloom, only to get a single cold night that killed all the flowers off. Because of that one night, we have no crab apples, no saskatoons, no chokecherries, and it killed off the (expensive!) mulberry bush we’d transplanted. Even the lilacs and roses got damaged by that one night. Then we had the drought conditions that had us watering every day, twice a day, for so long. And now we’ve got an extended summer, and instead of frost and snow, parts of our garden are able to recover and start or continue producing! It’s been a crazy gardening year, but as much as I shake my head over how extreme conditions have been, the reality is, this isn’t actually all that unusual. As every farmer, gardener or homesteader knows, you could have the best year of all, only to have all your hard work wiped out by a single storm, or one unusually cold night. Or you could get a terrible spring and summer, but then get a great fall and winter. Some years, you might not get any real summer at all, and in others, the winter will be as mild as any fall or spring. As fantastic as it can be, to be able to grow your own food and preserve it for use in the off season, I’m just as thankful that we have grocery stores and imported food. I think both are good! As my brother and his wife have both said, if they had to rely on their garden, they’d starve!

The Re-Farmer

Fall garden update: carrot and beet surprise!

One last garden update to post, interrupted by having to make a run to the post office to pick up a package before they closed! 😀

With the kittens mashing down the netting on two of the beds in the old kitchen garden, I finally gave in and removed the mesh completely.

With the beets along the retaining wall, there isn’t much we can do about them anymore. If the deer eat them, it’ll be no more of a loss than it already is. I’ll be cleaning that bed up for the winter soon, and if there are any beets to harvest in there, that’s just bonus. The L shaped beet bed, however, will remain covered. The kittens haven’t been going after that one, and they are doing well enough that we don’t want the deer to eat them.

After removing the hoops and netting from the carrot bed, I found my first surprise. I did not plant this bed. My older daughter did. Two types of carrots, with kohlrabi down the middle.

Well, nothing came of the kohlrabi – I finally decided the big leafy plants that did show up were a weed of some kind, as I found them growing in other areas where kohlrabi has never been planted.

What I did notice is that there are three carrot labels, not two. Which I sort of noticed before, when I weeded the bed and added the hoops, but for some reason, never stopped to actually read the label. Along with the Deep Purple and Lounge Rouge Sang, there are Kyoto Red! If you look at the photo, towards the far end of the bed, you can see carrots that have gone to seed. Those are the Kyoto Red. Like the ones planted in the main garden bed, after the groundhogs ate the greens, they got tricked into acting as if they were in their second year and started to develop seed heads. The other two varieties didn’t.

This morning, I decided to pick some, and ended up up quite a few. The ones on the far left are the Kyoto Reds. There were very few that haven’t gone to seed, so I only got a couple of them. The purple ones are obvious the Deep Purple variety, but when I’d picked from that bed before, they were not this dark purple, and I thought they were the Lounge Sang Rouge!! I hadn’t picked any from the other row, as they did not need any thinning.

Which means we got to try two new varieties of carrots today! My daughter decided to use up the summer squash we had in the fridge and make a soup, and she included a few carrots as well. After they were sliced up, we tried each of them. The Kyoto Red, unfortunately, was bitter. They may not have been going to seed, but tasted like they were ready to. The other two tasted fairly similar. We’ve had the Deep Purple before, and they tasted much the same as I remember from last year. The Lounge Sang Rouge seemed to be a bit sweeter.

When cut, the Kyoto Red was that deep reddish-orange colour, all the way through. The Deep Purple carrots were purple with a pale orange, almost yellow, ring inside. The Lounge Sang Rouge was a solid pale orange.

After picking the carrots, I used the rain barrel to water the old kitchen garden, then went on to water the loan beet bed that we made in the spring, next to where the fall garlic beds. This bed was planted with Merlin beets, only. That bed is covered with netting, too, tacked down on the long sides with tent pegs, and the excess netting on the ends rapped around boards to weigh them down. After watering it, I decided to lift the boards at the ends to see how the beets looked.

I ended up picking a couple from each end!

I should have held these differently; there was one quite large beet, but it’s underneath. It’s about the size of the other three, all together!

I’m rather pleased with these – and I know there are larger beets in the middle, from when I last tended it. I’d found a groundhog had managed to squeeze it’s way under the netting, when it was only weighted down with rocks and bricks.

We don’t plan to harvest the beets for a while; possibly not until after first frost. When we do, however, we should have enough to make it worth doing some canning!

Aside from the deer and the groundhogs wanting to eat them, beets have been among our most successful vegetables. We planted a LOT of beets this year, which we may not do next year, but I’m sure we will plant them again. We’ll just have to decide on what varieties we want, and if we want to try some new ones.

And that’s it for our fall garden update! The other parts of the garden were pretty much unchanged, so there’s nothing to really say about them. 🙂

I am so incredibly grateful that our growing season has been extended this year, and am glad our drought and critter ravaged garden has had a chance to recover and continue to produce as much as it has!

The Re-Farmer