Our 2023 garden: Irish Cobbler potatoes planted

The girls and I are still trying to figure out the best place to set up grow bags for the potatoes, where they would get full sun, but also be closer to the house for watering. We don’t have a lot of the old feed bags left to use as grow bags, so we decided to use one of the Old Kitchen Garden beds that was recently fixed up.

The bed still needed topping up, so I started by adding some of the sheep manure I recently purchased. I didn’t add a lot, as this bed was filled with purchased garden soil, and it should still be pretty rich in nutrients. What’s missing is organic matter. This is a blend of compost and composted manure, so that will help a bit. This got worked in with a rake.

Also… do you see that bit of green poking out of the wattle weave bed?

It’s a stray onion!

I have no idea where that onion came from. This bed had never had onions planted in it.

I’m not going to complain, though!

Next, it was time to raid the garden soil pile and do some soil sifting.

Three wheelbarrow loads of the garden soil was brought over. The weeds are already starting to grow under the cover on that pile!

Some of the Irish Cobbler seed potatoes were very small, so to fit them all in the bed, I put some of the smaller ones together. Then they got buried as deep as I could, so they don’t need to be hilled.

As this area slopes away from the house, the far end of the bed is somewhat deeper than the end closer to the house, to level it off. Still, with this bed being newly rebuilt, and the layers of organic matter below, the top layer of soil still isn’t very deep.

Once the potatoes were planted, I scattered some stove pellets over the top, then began watering. Once the pellets had expanded into sawdust, I used a rake to spread it out evenly. This is not at all for the potatoes, but to protect the soil and help reduce soil compaction. Over time, we will continue to add grass clippings and wood chips as mulch. The potatoes will easily be able to grow through a mulch. With this bed being higher now, and not using straw for a mulch, hopefully, that will reduce the slug problems!

After spreading out the sawdust, I gave it a deep watering, and plan to water it again a couple more times, today. I want the water to go through all those bottom layers that were added, which will speed up their anaerobic breakdown, while also acting as a sponge to retain moisture. Once those bottom layers are good and moist, this bed should not need much watering at all.

Now comes the hard part.

Keeping the cats from digging in the bed!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 Garden: planting carrots! (video)

Okay, this is a first. Planting something in April!

We had a bed prepared and covered with plastic over hoops for the soil to warm up more, so that is where I started. All of the carrot seed tape we made fit into the bed, with even a bit of room to spare. After that, another bed was finally prepared and covered with more plastic, and in a couple of days, it will get spinach planted in it.

I tried an experiment this time, setting up an old phone to take a time lapse video of both jobs.

Plus some random cat appearances.

The time lapse made for a short video. I hope you enjoy it!

The Re-Farmer

Progress on the old kitchen garden bed and water bowl shelter

To continue working on the low raised bed in the old kitchen garden, I couldn’t use the mini chainsaw any more – the batteries just don’t last long enough for a job like this.

It was time to break out the electric chain saw. It’s very handy. The only problem is that I was moving around so much to reach the corners, the extension cord was in the way.

It still made the job much easier and faster. There was one log that was so bumpy, I spent more time trying to smooth it out than all the rest of the work put together!

You can see in the background that the kittens had been playing in the soil on the tarp, spreading it out quite a bit!

The whole thing wasn’t very stable, though. Something needed to be done to stabilize it, so it wouldn’t fall apart when the soil was added.

I decided to sacrifice some of the plastic coated metal stakes that I’d used to hold hoops supporting netting over the spinach bed.

I used an auger bit to drill holes into each corner of the bed, then hammered in a length. A couple had to have excess length broken off, but I think the other two actually went all the way through and into the ground below.

This made the whole thing quite sturdy. Now I could start filling.

On top of the wood chips I’d added earlier, I added some of the contents of our compost pile. Vegetation, apple pieces from straining the apple cider vinegar, coffee grounds, and even a few eggshells went in.

Next was a layer of dry grass clippings. One of the logs at the end had a fair bit of space under it, so I stuffed it with some grass clippings, too. Then it all got a thorough soaking before the soil was returned.

Once the bed was full, soil was added around three side of it, to fill in the gaps left from digging out a larger hole than the bed itself.

Which, of course, a kitten promptly tried to use as a litter box!

Finally, some grass clippings were added to mulch the top, and it got another thorough watering. I was also able to clear off the stepping stones at each end.

This bed is now done, and ready for planting next year.

My next job will be to try and weed along the whole side of this garden, before we start figuring out the low wall we want to edge it with (my daughter wants to use rocks – we have lots of those!) and top it up with some of the leftover sifted soil. The next bed I want to work on, though, is the L shaped bed that goes around the double lilac. Even if it only gets a supporting wall on the inside of the L shape, that will help. Trying to work about that lilac bush is a pain, and there are so things trying to grow into the space from there. We’d already tried to remove so many roots over the past couple of years, but it’s just getting worse! As with this bed, the L shaped bed will be only 2 feet wide, except possibly the tip of the short part of the L shape, where it can be accessed from three sides and is already wider than the rest of the bed.

Little by little, this garden will eventually have all walled, low to middle height raised beds. I was wanting to make this our kitchen garden, with things like herbs and salad vegetables that get used the most often over the summer, in here. My younger daughter wants to make it into a flower garden. Considering most herbs have lovely flowers, I’m sure we can come up with a compromise. 😊

Speaking of my younger daughter, when I was done working here, I helped my daughter out with her project.

By stealing kittens.

You’ll notice one of them has yellow paws. My daughter was painting the water bowl shelter, and that kitten would NOT leave her alone! The only way to keep him out of the paint was to put him on her shoulders – which means her skin and the tank top she was wearing got paint, too!

The first coat is done. The underside won’t need another coat, except for the legs. She was able to crawl inside and paint there, too. Carefully, as the roof is resting on bricks to hold it off the ground, and it’s not particularly strong. I think she even got the floor done, as well as the underside of the roof. After the legs and walls get a couple of coats, we’ll flip it right side up again to do the roof and whatever else can be reached at that point.

I’m surprised more kittens didn’t end up with paint all over them. They really, really love playing in this thing! Once it’s done and set up with the water bowls, they’ll have three roofs they play on. 😁

When I picked the colour, I tried to get a yellow as close as I could to the colour used on the kibble house. I couldn’t remember where we’d bought the original paint from, so I figured it was a different brand’s colour and would be slightly different. My daughter remembered that we bought it at Canadian Tire, too. It turns out I really did pick the exact same colour! We used up an entire gallon on the kibble house, but the water shelter is smaller, so we should have enough left over to do the tree stump bench out by the main garden area, too.

It feels good to have visible, tangible progress done! A lot of the fall clean up work doesn’t look like a lot got accomplished, because things get taken away, rather than added.

Little by little, it’s getting done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022/2023 garden: finishing the garlic bed

Once I got home from the city and grabbed a meal, it was right back out to work on the bed our fall garlic will be planted in.

This is how it was left, the night before.

Because I had been tromping across it with the wheelbarrow, the first thing I wanted to do – after putting the new handle on our garden fork! – was loosen up the soil at the bottom.

It was not easy. At this point, not only was I hitting a lot of rocks, but at the north end of it, a lot of tree roots, too!

I also had a kitten on my back, most of the time. The little grey and white tabby that is the most socialized of the bunch. At one point, he simply draped himself across the back of my neck and stayed there as I moved around!

I was also picking up and tossing quite a few larger rocks into the trees, too.

Something this guy really loved! He kept chasing after the rocks as they bounced on the ground, then came back to watch me, waiting for the next throw! He even made it a challenge not to bean him with a rock, the way he was running after them!

Silly thing.

After the base was loosened, I gave the whole thing a thorough watering.

Then I got a wheelbarrow load of wood chips. Just one, for a think layer all across. This is on the same principal as using logs in a hΓΌgelkultur mound. As the anaerobic bacteria slowly breaks down the wood, the wood acts as a sponge to hold water for the roots above. Since these are wood chips rather than logs or branches, as we used in the high raised bed, they will break down faster. With garlic having shallow roots, the breakdown of the wood chips won’t affect their nitrogen needs.

The wood chips got a thorough soaking before the next step.

I pulled up the frost-killed summer squash, the remaining dead tomato, eggplant and pepper plants from the other two beds, and quite a bit of dead winter squash plants, too.

Then, because they were so bushy, I tromped them flat, being careful to just step on the dead plants. I just loosened the soil on the entire bed. I didn’t want to compact it all again!

Once they were flattened,, then given a soak, I could start adding soil back.

The soil was raked out evenly, though I tried not to get too close to the logs. That’s where the crab grass will inevitably grow in from the path.

With so many rhizomes catching on my rake as I was working, I finally went ahead and raked the weeds and roots I’d tossed into the paths.

There was a lot more than it seems, while all spread out! It all got dumped among the nearby trees.

With all that soil getting sifted, plus what was added to the bed, this is what I was left with.

Almost half the soil I took out is still there! The logs framing the bed are so low, if I add more back, I’ll have a problem with the sides washing down into the path – something that was an issue when watering the tomatoes.

Which is fine. The high raised bed’s soil level dropped over the summer, as expected, so I can use it to top that up, and still have some left over.

I did not, however, soak the freshly laid down soil. That would have just compacted it. We got a frost advisory for tonight, but things are supposed to warm up after that. We might even hit 21C/70F in a couple of days! So the grass clipping mulch went back right away.

Then it got a thorough soaking!

When it comes time to plant the garlic, we can make holes through the mulch. After tonight’s frost, we’re supposed to have some very pleasant evenings, which will be prefect for the cloves to start rooting themselves before the overnight temperatures start to be consistently too low for growth.

Thankfully, none of the other low raised beds need this much work put into them. They just need to be weeded and mulched for the winter. Except for the bed with the carrots and turnips in it. That will stay as it is for a while longer, as they won’t be bothered by frost.

Lots of clean up to prepare for next year, still! But this bed, at least, is all done and ready for garlic.

The Re-Farmer

My morning buddy, and our 2022 garden: eggplants and slow going

I had such a slow start to the day today. Not a lot of sleep, and when I tried getting up this morning, I lost my balance and almost fell. My husband was up and I ended up asking him to take care of feeding the cats this morning so I could lie down again. Considering it’s because of his own pain levels that he’s up (or not) at odd hours, it takes a lot before I ask him to take over like that. I have a theory on what’s going on and will be testing it over the next few nights. If I don’t follow up on that later, it will be because nothing changed.

When I finally did get out, the kitties had full bellies, which means I had company during my rounds!

Especially as I went up the driveway to check the gate and switch out the memory card on the gate cam. The new camera, with its direct solar power and battery backup, has the batteries still at 100%! The other two trail cameras are at about half, and both have had their batteries changed at least once, since we got the new camera.

I’m not actually all that happy that the kittens follow me to the gate. I don’t want them wandering to the road, so I try to pick them up if I can. At one point, I was carrying the three amigos, all at the same time. Interesting that the three most socialized kittens like to stay together the most, too. I can’t say it’s because they are all from the same litter, because the fourth one of that litter is more or less indifferent to its siblings, while the muted calico, from an older litter, still likes to hang out with these three the most. That one is a lot more socialized now, too. It still runs off at time, but more often than not, we can pet it and even pick it up for cuddles.

I worked on the garden bed I intend to plant the garlic in last night, but didn’t get very far.

This is where I left off when my back started to give out.

I really look forward to when we have more high raised beds!!!

I removed the grass clippings mulch and loosened the entire bed with a garden fork first, then started working my way around, pulling out as many crab grass rhizomes and other weeds as I could. The job was made much more challenging, because the kitten in the earlier photo decided it absolutely had to be on my back while I worked! When I straightened up, she would climb up to perch on my shoulder until bent down again.

I managed just over half the bed. I found the soil to be much improved, easy to work into with the garden hoe – though I’m still hitting rocks – and filled with worms. Compaction, however, is still a problem.

Once I’ve got more of the roots and weeds removed, I’ll use the soil sifter to get more out. I plan to dig a trench down the middle. The summer squash bed is right next to it. I’ll be pulling those up and burying them in this bed as a soil amendment. After the garlic is planted, the grass clipping mulch will be returned. The summer squash bed will be ready to work on next.

Things are going much more slowly than I expected, and it’s basically because of pain. Yes, I pain killer up before I start, I’m just taking your basic painkillers. They’re not particularly strong. I’m the sort of person where pharmaceuticals tend not to work as expected to begin with, and typically need double the dose to maybe get the same effect as a regular dose on someone else. It’s the same thing with the painkillers dentists inject before working on a tooth – something I discovered the hard way when I was in 5th grade. I still remember the dentist working on a cavity. I had my eyes squeezed shut in pain and was clutching the arm rests when the dentist made a snarky comment about opening my eyes, it’s not that bad. I did open my eyes, glared at him – and broke one of the arm rests. I was an adult before I dared go to a dentist again. As an adult, the dentists would actually listen to me when I told them there was still pain.

So… yeah. I do have an extremely high pain tolerance because of this, and can typically just keep working through all sorts of pain. That’s getting harder and harder to do as I get older. The problem is, there’s really no one else to take over. My older daughter has joint problems that has lead to injuries that just won’t heal, so there’s only so much she can do, and both of them have back problems that won’t go away unless they both get reduction surgery (as I did, more than 20 years ago: best thing I ever did!!!), but neither of them trust doctors. At all. They’ve seen the BS my husband and I have put up with over the years. Since we’ve moved back to this province, we’ve found health care has gotten even worse during the almost 15 years we were away. So while they can help, all four of us are just really gimpy. Plus, my older daughter has her commissions to work on, so she gets paid, and isn’t available as much. They both also take care of the inside stuff for me, so I’m free to work on the outside stuff – an arrangement I am quite happy with. Still, the way things are going, I’m going to have to ask them to help me with the outside stuff more. It’s frustrating. When we first moved here, I was able to get much more work done in much less time. I did not expect my body to give out that much in so few years!

Ah, well. It is what it is.

I’ll be taking pain killers and heading back out soon.

On another note, we had another small harvest this morning.

I decided it was time to pick the Little Finger eggplant. I actually found one more little one, after I took this picture. These are all from just one plant. None of the others matured enough to produce anything. I had intended to leave them for longer, but last night we dropped to 2C/36F. We were only supposed to drop to 6C/43F, so I didn’t try to cover them for the night. They don’t look frost damaged, but with how messed up the forecast has been, I figured it was time. This variety is meant to be picked while still relatively small and glossy – maybe a bit bigger than the largest one I’m holding.

In talking with the girls about what to plant next year, we are thinking of trying 3 varieties of peppers, and I’d like to try this variety of eggplant again. However, we will need to work out better protection for them. My older daughter is wanting to save up for a type of greenhouse that is specifically designed for our extreme temperatures. Something like the polycrub that Stone Croft Skye has. Before then, I hope to pick up a decent sized portable greenhouse, or maybe a smaller one to use for our seedlings. We have GOT to come up with something better for starting seeds. We had to spend way too much effort to protect them from cats, making for less than ideal growing conditions.

That is something to think about later, though. For now, we need to clean things up and get beds prepared for next year, first.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: Latte corn, green bush beans, Yakteen gourds – and we’re officially done!

Yes!! It’s done! I can now officially say, we have finished spring planting and transplanting everything! Whether we do a fall planting or not, we’ll decide on later, but right now, everything that will be growing this year is in.

Not that the work is done, but the focus gets to change, and the pressure to get it all in, in time, is gone.

The first thing to get done was finish the bed for the last of the corn and beans.

It took another 3 1/2 wheelbarrow loads of soil to top of the rest of the bed. You can really see the difference between what we laid down earlier, and got rained on. I’d taken out the rest of the sod divots, but we still need to gather the rocks.

The bowl in the photo is holding some of the inoculated Latte bi-colour corn seeds. It came as a pack of 200, but that’s less than half the pack, and some went back into the bag. The corn was planted in the three rows in the middle, that are marked off. The plan was to have bush beans on either side, but we only had enough of the Lewis green beans from last year to fill the one side.

The only other beans we had were pole beans, so we left the last row.

Also, I’ve run out of labels that won’t fade in the sun. It’s a good thing I’m using this blog as a gardening journal! πŸ˜€

Now, all that’s left here is to mulch the area with straw.

I then decided to go ahead and transplant the Yakteen gourd. The were 4 sprouts in one pot, while the other two pots still had nothing!

The largest plant went into an empty spot in a row of cantaloupe type melons (one of the grocery store melons we saved seeds from), because one of the seedlings withered and died before we could transplant them.

The two smallest seedlings were planted together. Here, they are in a pair of empty spots in one of the rows of Kaho watermelon. The seeds in those spots never germinated, so the space is being used for the gourds.

It feels so good to be all done planting!

Which meant it was time to work on other things…

One of the low raised beds did not have supports of netting yet, so I dug out the rest of the bamboo stakes in the garden shed and use the unbroken ones. This bed has all summer squash, and it not something I expect we’ll need to cover for any reason, so we just need supports to put netting around it, if we need to. Last year, the groundhogs were enjoying themselves some squash, but nothing was bothering the plants, so if we need to put netting around them, it wont be until they are quite a bit larger.

In the low raised beds with the upright supports, it didn’t have the twine strung around yet. Because of the logs, the spacing was really off. I ended up grabbing a couple of sticks, which the arrows are pointing to, to fill in the gaps.

The hoops in the background got a couple of bamboo stakes tied across the tops.

Now, all of these beds have supports on them, whether for netting or shade cloth or whatever we need.

I think we’ll take a bit of a break and let things dry up a bit. I’d still like to take the weed washer into the larger squash bed before we lay the straw mulch down.

Then we need to put the A frame supports at the two trellises beyond the bean tunnel, for the cucumbers, peas and more pole beans, as well as mulch the hulless pumpkins that got planted out there, too.

I’d be excited for the progress, but I’m just too tired. I’ve been pushing my limits a lot, lately, and it’s catching up with me. A bit of a breather, and I should be back up to snuff in no time.

She says, optimistically… πŸ˜‰

On top of this, it’s been a busy phone day. My husband had a phone appointment with the doctor to talk about his lab results, and a slight change to one of his medications because of it. Then my husband made another phone appointment… for me! I was outside, weeding, when the call came, so he sent me messages to let me know, but with muddy hands, even if I get the notifications, I can’t check my phone until I’ve washed my hands. It’s a good thing I came in when I did! The appointment was to talk about my own lab results, but first I got a call from home care to talk about my mother. The guy then called my mother and booked an appointment for and assessment next week, which he has asked me to be at. Then he called me back with the appointment time – and a concern. Because of her bed bugs, he’s going to have to be wearing the appropriate PPE, but they wouldn’t consider even doing an assessment if the potential client wasn’t going to do anything about their bed bugs. My mother told him she didn’t have an appointment, because when they asked (who? when?) in her building, who had noticed bed bugs in their units, she didn’t say anything – because she didn’t want to bother anybody!

*sigh*

I explained to him what my brother had done, and that it’s being arranged by schedule. I ended up getting the name of the site manager for her town, which I was able to pass on to my brother.

Then I had my telephone appointment with the clinic, which was basically to tell me nothing has changed. I consistently have one reading that is “on the high side”, but still within normal, so they want to keep an eye on it. All because, back in 2005 or 2006, I took a short term medication with a side effect the doctor wanted to monitor for the duration. Ever since then, everyone’s misunderstood why that was on my file.

One of the other things I did was send an email to the company I ordered the shed from. I asked a couple of questions about the amount charges and what shipping company would be used. Mostly, I’m feeling the waters to see what kind of response I get. Given the time frame for when we’re supposed to receive the boxes, if I don’t get a response soon, I will assume they are not legit and cancel the order and ask for my money back. The problem is that, in looking them up, I’ve found both that they are a scam site, and that they are not the best, but not fake, either.

Ah, well. We’ll find out soon enough.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: kulli corn, yellow beans and garlic

Yes! Finally! Major transplanting was started today. πŸ™‚

The first thing I needed to finish was topping up the low raised bed they were going into.

Since the snow melted away, we’ve been adding our kitchen compost in the trench, which already had some straw in it, and I even tossed in the soil from various pots we had, from house plants that died, to seed starts from last year that didn’t germinate. The last layer before adding the soil was some fresh grass clippings.

This is the first time this pile of garden soil has been uncovered since last year.

So. Many. Thistles!

And those roots go all the way though the pile.

Which meant I had to bring the makeshift soil sifter into service, so get as many of the roots as possible out. It was long and tedious, but at least it was made a bit easier by scavenging a couple of scrap boards out of a pile to support the steel mesh, rather than the found branches I was using before. Sifting the soil had to be a gentle process, because there were SO many worms.

I kept the worms for the new bed. πŸ˜€

After the soil was added, stove pellets were scattered across the top and hydrated so act as a thin mulch. It won’t stop any weeds, but it will help keep the soil surface from compacting. After several soakings, the sawdust was spread evenly with the back of a fan rake.

It took a couple of hours, but I could finally transplant the kulli corn!

They had a major root system going! It made it difficult to get them out of the bins, then pull apart the tubes. The toilet paper really wanted to come apart!

With the larger bin, it was even more difficult to get them out, and the whole thing ended up falling out and apart. I think only one corn plant actually got broken, though. We’ll see if it makes it.

I counted the seedlings, then marked three rows of 20 evenly spaced spots for the corn. The actual total was 58, including some smaller ones that may or may not make it. We ordered 100 seeds, and there were extras, so we’re looking at roughly 50% germination rate. Which I don’t mind. We would have had trouble finding space for more. They are quite closely planted, as it is. Which should be good for improving pollination.

Of the remaining rolls, I broke apart the cardboard and rifled through it. No sign of the remaining seeds that did not germinate. The carboard went into the compost pile, while the remaining soil was used to top dress any seedlings that looked like they could use it.

I had also grabbed a bag of bush beans from last year, picking the one that looked like it had fewer seeds. That was the yellow “Golden Rod” variety. We still have some green bush beans left, too.

I counted the bean seeds and there was 38 – which was perfect! I could plant two rows of 19 beans, in between the corn.

As they are “old” seeds, I don’t expect 100% germination. This bed is very densely planted, but they should be complimentary.

The corn, however, needed to be protected. The question was, how?

I made a trip to the barn and dug out the T posts I spotted in one corner, a while back. There turned out to be 6 of them, all different lengths. :-/

I had to dig holes to be able to set them, using a garden trowel, since a spade would have been just too big. Within inches, I was hitting water, then rocks and gravel. After placing the posts and trying to push the soil back against them, there was literally water, shooting out from the ground, as I stomped on the soil!

We have no post pounder, so I found a heavy hammer to try and drive them deeper. Especially the longest one, but I think that one ended up hitting a rock. Being the short person that I am, for the taller once, I had to stand on the corners of the bed to reach. Even with a board across the corner to stand on, I was wobbling all over the place! LOL

Once they were in, I strung some twine around to further support the net, once it was added. That was a job that had to wait for when the girls were available.

In the two garlic beds, the nearer one had only 6 remaining garlic coming up – and one of those was barely there. I could find no sign of the few others that had emerged, as well.

I decided to transplant those 6 garlic into the other bed. That one has a lot more garlic trying to grow, but there was still plenty of space at one end to transplant the remaining 6 of the other variety.

The left a bed available for planting into, which we did end up doing.

The main challenge was, how do we cover the bed with netting, yet still be able to access the plants, easily, for weeding and eventual harvesting of yellow beans.

Piece of pool noodles were added to the tops of the posts, so they wouldn’t tear apart the net. When the one on the tallest post fell off, I left it. If it tears, it’ll only go down to the twine, and will actually line up better with the rest.

When I brought the T posts out of the barn, I also grabbed a stack of narrow pipes. I have no idea what they were for, or why they were stored there, but I figured the might make good supports. The short ends of the net are wrapped around those pipes and zip tied into place. For the long sides, we zip tied narrow fence posts we found… somewhere, to weigh down the netting. Any gaps were further secured with ground staples. If we want to tend the bed, we can remove the ground staples and lift the poles to get under the netting.

Hopefully, that will work out.

The corn can potentially grow to 8 ft tall, which is higher than the netting, but if they do get that tall, we’ll deal with it, then.

That was my big job for today, but it wasn’t the only one we got accomplished! I’ll write about that, in my next post. πŸ™‚

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: sweet potatoes, bed prep and… frost?

Yay! A day without rain! We finally got to get some serious work done outside!

I had a few goals for the day, but before I could even start on any of them, I had to get the weed trimmer out. The grass is getting out of control, but it’s still too wet to mow in most places. In the main garden area, the ground is so rough, it’s just easier to use the weed trimmer.

Easier on the lawn mower, that is. Not on me! Particularly since I was trying to trim as close to the ground as possible, as well as under the logs framing the beds. It’s pretty much all crab grass, with some dandelions thrown in for good measure, so it’s all going to come back, but at least it’ll take a bit longer, this way. :-/

Once that was done, I decided on where I would put the purchased grow bags we are testing out this year. I picked up a couple at Canadian Tire, mostly because they were on clearance. My original plan was to try growing some sweet potatoes in one of them, then have the remaining slips planted in the ground. The bed I was going to use for that now has the white strawberries in it, so I figured they could all go into the grow bags.

I decided to place them near the small potato bed, where they will get full sun, and be sheltered from the winds at least somewhat. I did put some straw in the bottom of the bags. The straw will act as a sort of sponge to hold moisture, but it also held the sides of the bags up, making it easier to add the soil.

The truck load of garden soil by the main garden is mostly used up, but so far it has been enough for what we need. The problem is that, after a year, it’s so full of roots, it’s actually hard to stab the spade into it!

We really need a soil sifter. I don’t have the materials to make one right now, so I rigged one up.

This steel mesh is what we use on the burn barrel as a spark catcher. I used it to sift soil last year. A couple of sticks to support it over the wheelbarrow, and it worked all right. Some roots still got through, but at least the big stuff was kept out.

It took a couple of loads to fill the bags. They’re not that large, but even with the straw on the bottom, they hold quite a bit of soil. I decided not to fill them to the top. I figure, once sweet potatoes start to form, they’re going to need some space. I’ve never grown them before, so we’ll find out!

Also, you can see that one of the handles has already torn off on one side!

These bags are probably too small for sweet potatoes, but this is a bit of an experiment, anyhow, so we’ll see.

For these, I decided to use the stove pellets as mulch. In the above photo, the one on the right had its first watering, and you can see they’re already starting to swell and soften.

After wetting them both down, I left the pellets to absorb the water and moved on to our other experiment.

I got a pair of these at The Dollar Tree to test out. The fabric they’re made of is a thick felt.

Hmmm… Did I mention I got these at The Dollar Tree?

You get what you pay for! The first one I opened, and it had a hole in it!

Some of the stitching looks like it simply came undone, but the opening was about a third of the circumference!

The other one was fine, though, so I gave the first one to my daughter. She’s been doing a lot of sewing, so she’s got all the supplies on hand and was able to stitch it up for me.

While she worked on that, I filled the second one. As with the others, I added straw to the bottom, using it to help hold up the sides. In between loads of soil to fill it, I watered the pellets in the first bags a couple more times, before smoothing out the sawdust, then repeated the process on the smaller fabric bed.

It looks so small compared to the other two!

The sweet potato slips I ordered was a 5 pack, and I decided to plant 2 in one of the green bags, then 3 in the black felt bed. I wanted to see if the black fabric, which would absorb more heat, would be better. We did get a short season, cooler climate variety, but they are still a heat loving plant.

Well, would you look at that!

We have extras!

After breaking up the bundle of slips (there was still ice in the packing medium!), the green bags got two each, while the shorter but wider black fabric bed got three.

Sweet potato slips, I’ve learned, are the only other plant that share a trait with tomatoes, in that you can bury them up to their leaves, and new roots will grow out of the buried stems.

I’m sure these bags will be too small, but with how sweet potato vines grow, I think I will let them spread onto the ground. Where the vines touch the ground, they can root themselves, and grow more sweet potatoes. So we might get some growing in multiple places. πŸ™‚

Once those were in, I got to work on one of the low raised beds that needed to be weeded (again) and prepped for planting.

It was actually a bit worse than the remaining bed that needs to be weeded. I got as many of the rhizomes and dandelion tap rooms out that I could. I know I didn’t get all of them, but at least I got most.

We’re running low on the canopy tent pieces I’m using for supports. This bed got only 6 of them. The other beds got 8. There are 4 left of these longer ones. After that, there are only some really short pieces. Short enough that I’m not sure where we can use them in the garden at all!

By the time I got this bed done, I really needed a break, so I popped inside for lunch … er… lupper? and a rest.

When I sat at my computer, one of the first things I saw was a flashing red alert on my task bar’s weather app icon.

It was a frost advisory.

*sigh*

Pretty much everything else we’ve got going right now is frost tolerant. These sweet potato slips, however… yes, they’re supposed to be a cool climate variety, but they just got planted!

I decided to play it safe.

We hang on to more of our water bottles, rather than putting them in recycling, and this is one reason why! They can be used as cloche over smaller plants.

Such a hot day, and we’re supposed to get frost. Ugh.

Okay… “hot” is relevant. It was only 16C/61F out there! It certainly felt hotter while working outside. I got a wicked sunburn on the back of my neck. My daughters chastised me for not wearing sunscreen, while one of them applied some aloe vera gel on the burn for me. πŸ˜€ We do have sunscreen. Somewhere. I just forgot sunscreen existed, and didn’t even think that I might get sunburned!

Tonight, we’re supposed to dip to 2C/35F. Tomorrow’s high is expected to be much the same as today, while the overnight low is supposed to be 4C/39F. After that, our overnight lows are supposed to continue to slowly increase over the next couple of weeks.

Which means that we have one more night before we can start transplanting our warm weather crops. Even then, though, we will start with the ones that are most likely to handle colder overnight temperatures. There is still lots of work that needs to be done, including a repair on the squash tunnel – one of the screws holding a bottom cross piece snapped. Likely because of the winds we’ve been having.

There is still so much to do! The extended cold and the rains have really set things back.

Once everything is in, though, I expect we’ll have quite a good growing season. I look forward to not having to water all the garden beds, twice a day, almost every day, like we had to last year.

Between the weather and the critters, though, nothing is ever a sure thing!

The Re-Farmer

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