Our 2022 garden: bed prep, cucumbers, peas, beans, summer squash, gourds

Oh, my goodness, what a gardening day!

Did we bite off more than we can chew?

Maybe we did.

It was a hot and sunny day, and so many trees and bushes are blooming right now.

The regular and double lilacs are just starting to open. The sour cherries are in full bloom. The Saskatoons and chokecherries are pretty much finished blooming, but the different crab apple trees are in various stages of exploding into flowers. There are also three other types of lilacs that are starting to bud, each blooming at a different time. It’s awesome!

My first priority of the day was to prep the beds at the trellises and get them ready for planting.

What a big job that turned out to be.

It didn’t take long before I found myself pulling this bugger out. Normally, I wouldn’t have tried to take out something so big, but it was close enough to the surface that it would inhibit root growth. I’m sure I hit others bigger than this, judging by my inability to work the garden fork around them, but they were deep enough that I just left them. We may get one more year out of these trellises, but most likely, next year, we’ll be building trellises closer to the house.

This trellis was so full of roots – including tree roots! – that this one bed took me about 4 hours to do.

Thankfully, the other one didn’t take anywhere near as long!

After we’ve planted into them, each upright post is going to get it’s own pair of A frame netting supports for things to climb.

At this trellis, on the right hand side, my daughter planted all the cucumbers. On the left hand side, in the foreground, is at least two, possibly four, luffa gourds. I was using labels made out of sour cream containers, and Sharpie’s fade from those! So much for “permanent” markers!

The gourds took up only a quarter of the row. We ended up planting the last of our Lincoln Homesteader pod peas in the rest of that side.

This trellis got the remaining two varieties of pole beans. On the right are Carminat, a purple type of bean. On the left are Seychelles, a type of green bean that Veseys doesn’t seem to carry anymore.

There was some space left at the bean tunnel that got filled with 4 Tennessee Dancing Gourd and 2 luffa.

The girls, meanwhile, got the last low raised bed weeded and ready for planting.

This bed is now all summer squash. The front half has 8 Sunburst patty pan squash. The back half is split between Madga squash and Golden zucchini.

While one daughter transplanted all of those, my other daughter was digging.

We were going to make more beds, but we just don’t have the materials, so we’re winging it. My daughter dug a grid of 7×7 holes roughly 3 feet apart. Before I headed in, I used the jet setting on the hose to drill water into each hole, to help soften the soil. We’ll be transplanting winter squash, gourds and pumpkins into here, with added garden soil and straw mulch. We need to go over it with the weed trimmer to cut the grass and weeds back as much as possible, before the mulch is added.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to get this done tomorrow, but I won’t be much help with that until evening. My husband and I have our doctor’s appointments in the afternoon.

For summer squash, we do still have the green zucchini, plus the G-star patty pan squash.

I have no idea where we will be transplanting those. I also don’t know where we’ll be transplanting the ground cherries. There’s the corn to direct sow, too, if we’re not already too late for those. We have the space. What we don’t have is any sort of prepared beds left.

I’d really hoped to get everything in today, but everything just took so much time.

What a long, long day it’s been.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: squash and gourd seedlings

It always amazing me just how fast some seedlings grow!

It’s like they’re bigger, every time I look in the tank. Just look at those Crespo squash!

These two pots each have 3 seeds in them. Two that were scarified, and one that was not. I think the scarification made the difference!

To the left is the Ozark Nest Egg gourd, and…

… you can see a Tennessee Dancing Gourd emerging, too. In the background, the luffa are starting to develop their true leaves.

What is interesting is that, while these squash and gourds are germinating, there is no sign of germination in the pots with eggplant and peppers seeded into them.

Last year, it took forever for the squash and gourds to germinate, and many pots never did. This is a huge improvement. I think there is a combination of reasons. One being the scarification of the seeds – except the dancing gourds, which were too small – and the other being the use of a heat mat.

I know we’re supposed to thin the seedlings down, but I’m thinking we’ll thin them by transplanting the extras. When it’s time to transplant outside, I want to have extra, just in case some don’t survive transplanting, or in case critters get to them. The more we plant, the better the chances of having at least one survive!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: seed start update

We have new seedlings!

Yesterday morning, I spotted a Cup of Moldova seedling starting to break the surface. By the end of the day, it was up, and another had emerged. This morning, I found several more. They are tiny and barely visible in the above photo, but they’re there!

The Cup of Moldova are set up lower from the lights than the other tray, and no extra heat source.

This morning, single Sophie’s Choice showed up, too!

This tray is on a heat mat and slightly higher. With the heat mat, the water in the tray dried out a lot faster than the metal tray. At the moment, both need a top up, but the pots are still quite moist and could do with a little bit of drying out. The new luffa seeds still show no signs of germination. They are the ones that need the heat mat the most.

The seedlings in the corner pot are Wonderberry. They actually showed up really fast. After only 3 days, if I remember correctly. Much, much faster than our first seeding. I planted 5 seeds in that pot, so we’re looking at a 20% germination rate on the second seeding.

I keep forgetting to take photos of the onions in the small tank. They have stagnated. I think I will find a way to move them into the mini-greenhouse to see if that helps.

As for what’s in the mini-greenhouse…

As for the seedling that survive the Great Cat Crush, they are still struggling. A few pots that had been in the corner look like they got eaten, even though we had a screen in front of the open mini-greenhouse cover. We do still have a few surviving peppers and eggplant, and even a few tomatoes, but not very many. We didn’t plant many peppers or eggplant to begin with, so I’m thinking it might be a good idea to plant more when we start our next batch of seeds. Hopefully, the new tomato starts will survive the cats. While we’ve got a few Sophie’s Choice seeds left, plus a couple other varieties that will be started next, we have no Cup of Moldova seeds left, and those are the paste tomatoes I wanted to have a lot of.

The luffa and Canteen gourd in this tray are struggling, too.

The new Canteen gourds are doing much better. The first Wonderberry is managing well, too. There had been a second on in there, but I thinned it out, as it was so tiny.

The shallots seem to be doing better than the onions in the small aquarium greenhouse – except that it looks like the tray got dug into in one corner by a cat.

Also, absolutely everything is covered in cat hair. *sigh*

I think we’ve finally got things worked out to keep the cats out while increasing air circulation in the mini-greenhouse. We really should at least be leaving the front open completely, if not removing the cover entirely, but we’d lose everything to the cats if we did that.

It will be good when we can finally transfer them to the sun room. Overnight temperatures are still too low, though; the thermometer in there read just below freezing when I headed out this morning. We could make use of the ceramic heat bulb in the corner the plants will be in to help, if necessary. I’m also thinking of making use of some of the larger sheets of rigid insulation we’ve got left, cover some pieces with foil, and set them up to reflect light for the seedlings. We’d still need to rotate the trays, but it would help keep them from getting too leggy, plus actually provide some warmth and insulation overnight. We’ll see if we can figure out a set up that will work.

As mild as things are right now, we are expecting things to dip a bit over the next few days, and there’s usually at least one more blizzard around our anniversary in April, before winter finally breaks. For parts of the province, that might actually happen today. It looks like we’ll be mostly clear where we are, but the south of the province is getting predictions of both rain and heavy snow.

Today may be the first day of spring, but winter isn’t ready to let go, quite yet!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: reboot and new set up

Quite a few seedlings, pots and trays got moved around today. The only things that didn’t need to be moved where the onion seedlings, inside the small aquarium greenhouse. That tank doesn’t fit a lot, so they get to be undisturbed for now.

These are the survivors of the Great Cat Crush.

They are still struggling, but it looks like most of them will make it.

Also, the second seed in the cup with the Canteen gourd sprouted! That makes for a 100% germination rate on those!

As for the luffa, there were two peat pots, with nothing coming up, so more luffa seeds were set to soak, this morning.

Last time, the seed coats were scarified by carefully snipping them with nail clippers. In the off chance that they were damaged by this, I used sandpaper on an edge of each seed, instead.

When it was time to plant them, I used the tip of a chopstick to loosen the seed starting soil – and see if I could find the old seeds. I found only one (there should have been 2 in each pot), and it was just the shell, completely empty.

Hopefully, we will have better luck with the new seeds.

I also decided to do more Wonderberry. We started seeds in two Red Solo cups, and one of them now has a second seedling in it. The other, nothing. So a few more seeds were used to try again. We do still have some left over.

Next to do were the Sophie’s Choice and Cup of Moldova tomatoes. There were barely even stems left with the Sophie’s Choice, and all the leaves on the Cup of Moldova were withered away. These were the ones we transplanted to thin out of the original pots. While a cat destroyed the Sophie’s Choice seedlings, I still don’t know what happened with the Cup of Moldova seedlings. They had been doing so very well, after transplant. 😦

We reseeded the Sophie’s Choice minimally, and still have some seeds left. I managed to get a couple of seeds into each Cup of Moldova pot (though I noticed some seeds were stuck together, so a few have more), and finished off the packet. If these don’t work, then all we’ll have is anything that survived the Great Cat Crush.

The newly planted seeds went into the big aquarium greenhouse. My daughter has hung her orchids in front of the window, and I found a place for our aloe that will hopefully dissuade the cats from digging in their dirt. That allowed me to set up a surface for a second tray.

The Sophie’s Choice, luffa and Wonderberry are on the heat mat, and there was space enough for a metal tray to hold the Cup of Moldova on the other side. The Red Solo cups don’t fit in the black trays as well. If they weren’t the exact size for the mini-greenhouse, I’d be using nothing but those baking trays!

Speaking of the mini-greenhouse…

We emptied that out, removed the plastic cover, then lined the back and sides with heavy duty aluminum foil. The whole set up is now closer to the window for more natural light.

The remaining seedlings went back into the mini-greenhouse. The shallots are now in here, along with the two other Canteen gourds that sprouted while in the big aquarium greenhouse, as is the sprouted Wonderberry. The new location should mean more natural sunlight – especially first thing in the morning – and the aluminum should help reduce any stretching towards the light from the seedlings. They’ll still be checked and turned as needed, of course. Eventually, it’ll be moved even closer to the window, but it’s still too cold for that.

I had hoped to be able to block the front opening of the cover with the window screen we used to use on top of the small aquarium greenhouse, but it’s not big enough to keep the cats out. So, we have the little fan inside again. Since today is quite overcast, I’ve also added the light fixture that also provides a bit of heat. There’s another lamp we use, but it doesn’t fit inside the mini-greenhouse, and will sit in front, instead.

The tray with the baggies of paw paw and tulip tree seeds is back on the top shelf, where it has the least amount of light, but is also the warmest. It should still be a while before we start seeing anything happening with those.

You know, all of this would be a lot easier, if we didn’t have to protect everything from cats! 😀 One or two shelves in the living room window, and we’d be done.

Ah, well. It is what it is!

Hopefully, the newly planted seeds and the new set up for the mini-greenhouse will work out.

The Re-Farmer

Deer visitor, and seedling status

I guess I was just too disruptive this morning, because I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the outside cats! We’re expecting another warm day, so I wanted to make sure the sidewalk was scraped and cleared, so the concrete can warm up in the sun and melt away any remaining ice and snow.

The deer didn’t seem to mind! I saw a group of three, before I headed out, then my husband saw the usual pair, before the piebald finally came around. We are definitely seeing a lot more deer lately, all over. Sadly, that also means we’re seeing more on the side of the highways, that had been hit by cars. I’ve lost count of how many bald eagles I’ve seen, scavenging the carcasses. I’ve never seen as many bald eagles as I have this year – and it’s only the beginning of March!

While checking and tending our seedlings, I was happy to see the 4 new Canteen gourd seedlings are growing very quickly. I had been wondering about the on luffa that started to sprout, but hasn’t gotten any bigger, so when I had the chance, I checked it out.

Oh. This would be why it’s not growing.

That little bit of seedling had been right against the side of the pot, but when I touched the leaves, it fell right out.

So far, there’s just the one luffa seedling we have, which seems to be surviving the cat damage all right. I’m not as sure about the one Canteen gourd in that tray, but with that one, we at least have 4 new sprouts. Aside from the one seedling that did not succeed, there is no sign of more luffa germinating. We still have luffa seeds, so I’m thinking of adding more to the pots to try again.

The seedlings in the mini-greenhouse seem to be struggling, and not just the ones with cat damage. I suspect part of the problem is that we have to keep the plastic cover on it, to keep the cats out. I’ve put the little fan we’ve got, inside the mini-greenhouse, so there is at least going to be air circulation. They may be getting over watered, too. We’ll have to watch out for that.

In other things, I got word from the garage about my mother’s car. It’s ready to be picked up. He checked it over, reset the codes and found nothing wrong with it. Most likely, the check engine light and codes were triggered by changing out the battery. Which is a relief to hear, but I still don’t know what made that “pop” noise when the car died! We’ll head in this afternoon to pick it up and hopefully, I’ll have a chance to talk to him about it.

It’ll be good to have the car issues over and done with for a while!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: morning disaster. Will they survive?

Not a good way to start the day.

One of the first things I do when I get up in the mornings is turn on the lights for the aquarium greenhouses.

This morning, I was greeted by this.

This is the tray we had just recently transferred out of the big aquarium greenhouse. A cat had managed to get through the box blocking the gap at the back of the chair, and into the tray.

The damage in some of them was really, really bad. The pots just disintegrated. Granted, they are designed to do that, but not until they’ve been put into the ground!

Some weren’t too bad. The gourds, in particular, were mostly just jostled a bit. I was able to transfer them into the Solo cups without too much trouble. These cups already had drainage holes in their bottoms.

Note the leaves on the Canteen gourd, with the almost white tips. That’s from the seed casing that I ended up breaking free of the leaves.

The remainder required much more care.

We still had some pre-moistened seed starting soil left, and I used it to help re-pot the remaining squished seedlings.

I think a couple of labels got mixed up, but I’m not going to worry about that right now. As long as the two varieties of tomatoes are labelled, it’s fine.

Once the seedings were cleared and in cups, I moistened some more seed starting soil. While mixing the water in, the remains of the Jiffy pots got mashed into the soil as well. By the time the soil was thoroughly moistened, there was no sign of the pots!

For some with still intact pots, like the gourds, I gently removed them again, added soil to the bottom of the cups, then put them back in. For the tomatoes, I basically just potted them up, adding the fresh soil around the stems. Those should recover fine.

It’s the eggplants and peppers that might have difficulties. I tried to add soil around them while raising them higher in the cups as best I could. Some were quite squished, but none looked broken or damaged.

With the tomatoes, I’m not too concerned, since we do have two more trays of them in the mini-greenhouse, but these are the only eggplant and peppers we’ve got. Even with the gourds, there are other pots that haven’t germinated yet.

Speaking of which…

To give them the best chance as survival, the repotted seedlings went back into the large aquarium greenhouse, where they will be on the heat mat and under the two light fixtures.

Which, unfortunately, meant the other tray had to go into the mini-greenhouse.

Before they did, though, my daughter flattened a cereal box and put it in first, folded so that half the box covers the gap in the back, and the other half is under the tray.

Pure chance that we had the box. We almost never buy cereal, but when we were last the Superstore, we purchased enough to get their freebie of the week. That week, it was a variety pack of cereals and breakfast bars. This was the largest cereal box in the pack, and just the right size to completely cover the gap created by the back of the chair the mini-greenhouse is tied down to.

Unfortunately, this means the items in the tray aren’t getting the light and warmth they were, in the aquarium greenhouse. The best we could do was set up a light on one side, shining into the bottom of the mini-greenhouse from the TV stand next to it. For those in pots, they need the warmth of that incandescent bulb more than the light, since they haven’t germinated yet. You can see the shallots coming up in the tray next to the pots. They will need more light, but not the heat.

*sigh*

Well, there’s only so much we can do, until things warm up enough to start using the sun room. Hopefully, before then, we’ll be able to switch the trays again, and have the newly repotted seedlings back in the mini-greenhouse, and the tray with seeds that still need to germinate, back on the warming mat. The mini-greenhouse itself should be closer to the living room window, but the closer you get to the window, the colder the room is, so that won’t work for probably another few weeks.

We don’t know for sure which cat did this damage but, really, there’s just the one that keeps trying to get into the mini-greenhouse, still. The others are content to sit in the sun spot on the chair seat in front of it.

I love the cats. I really do. But I am getting so tired of cat damage.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: shifting things around

Last might, my daughter and I moved some seedlings around.

The tray from the big aquarium greenhouse is now on the bottom shelf of the mini-greenhouse. The Cup of Moldova tomatoes in particular, were getting so big, they were getting too close to the lights. Plus, they really needed to be off the heat mat.

The bottom three shelves of the mini-greenhouse get direct sunlight in the mornings, so the tray with the tree seeds got moved to the top shelf, which gets no direct sunlight at all. The downside with this set up is that we no longer have a way to provide artificial light, so we’ll have to keep an eye on them, and rotate the trays as needed.

The pots with gourd seeds that did not germinate yet (including the one with just leaf starting to show along the side) got transferred to a new tray and remain on the heat mat. There is still only one Wonderberry sprout, so I took the outer cups off and put them in with the remaining gourd pots. Hopefully, the added warmth will help with those. I also transferred the shallots tray under the lights. There are two tiny sprouts showing!

I’m a bit perplexed over the bulb onions, in the small tank. They all seem to have dried tips. Especially the ones in the larger tray, where one entire spot of seedlings seems to be drying up. In one tray, most of the tips still have their seed cases on them, but the ones that don’t, have the dried tips. I’ve lowered the whole thing, so they’re not as close to the light, though I don’t see how this light could be the problem.

Any onion growers that have experienced this? Last year, we did have the one type that survived to be transplanted, and I don’t remember having issues like this at all, though it was in the other tank. I’m making sure the soil is hydrated, but not too wet, and the light on this tank isn’t as bright as the others, nor does it get as warm as one of the light fixtures on the big tank, so they’re not getting “burned”. We also put a fan on the tank, for air circulation and to help keep the seedlings from getting too leggy. We have just the one little fan, so it gets alternated between the two tanks.

As long as they keep growing, I’m not too worried. Eventually, they’ll be getting hair cuts, anyhow. But if they all start shrivelling away, I’d like to know why! We used all the seeds in the packets in these trays, so it’s not like we can start over, either.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: first luffa

Yesterday, we only knew a luffa had germinated because I happened to take a photo from above, while tending to the pots.

This morning, it was big enough to be able to see!

I am so thrilled to see any gourds at all, sprouting already.

Checking the onions in the small aquarium greenhouse, it looks like we have some yellow onions starting to sprout. There’s just a couple of small, white worm-like bits starting to show in the soil.

So very cheering!!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: seedling surprise!

This morning, I opened up the large aquarium greenhouse to refill the water tray over the heat mat, and give everything a spritz. This involves moving mini fan off, setting one light fixture on top of the other and pushing them back, then removing the wire mesh covers to access inside.

Once the covers were off, I took the opportunity to take a picture of the sprouts.

Here, you can see that the Sophie’s Choice tomatoes are now sprouting in all three pots, and the Cup of Moldova growing bigger every day. The eggplant is still slower, but the ones that have sprouted are definitely looking bigger.

But wait… What’s that?

Over on the right, near the back corner.

Is that…???

Yes!!! Yes it is!

A luffa has sprouted!

I went back to look again, and I still could not see it from standing next to the tank. I could only see it in the photo taken from above.

I am so thrilled!!!

Last year, it took ages for the various types of squash and gourds to germinate. The luffa did germinate earlier than others – and some never germinated at all – but I absolutely did NOT expect any gourds to germinated this early.

I am crediting the heat mat for most of this. For the luffa, the scarification and pre-soaking probably helped, too.

So exciting!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: first seeds started

Though it is very early in the year, we have our first seeds started indoors today. A lot of people in our zone have already got seedlings, while still others are saying, it’s way too early.

So which is it?

I happened on a video today, talking about planting peppers and eggplants, which we are doing for the first time this year. Both are plants we never grew when I was a kid, so I have zero familiarity with them.

This particular video mentioned something I’ve never heard before, yet had wondered about.

When reading the seed packets, they say things like “start indoors 4-6 weeks before last frost date”.

Last year, we had a lot of issues with some things not germinating. Some took forever to germinate. Others never did at all. This was particularly true of various squash, plus all the Hope Black Dye sunflowers – with did finally all germinate, when I started taking the trays outside, while hardening off other seedlings.

What got mentioned in this video, is that when they say “4-6 weeks before last frost,” it’s actually from germination, not from planting the seeds. So if you have something that needs to be started, say, 6 weeks before last frost, but the packet says the seeds take 7-10 days to terminated, then the time to start them indoors is 6 weeks, plus 7-10 days.

That actually makes so much more sense to me.

I’d already made a list of which seeds needed to be started when, and these were the ones that needed at least 8 weeks.

The gourds were started first, as they needed extra steps. Among the things recommended that I wanted to try was scarification and pre-soaking.

So that’s what I started this morning.

Of the gourds we will be trying to grow this year, I chose the Canteen gourd to start early, as the gourds are supposed to get quite large. The other gourds I want to grow are smaller at full maturity.

Which lead me to another thing. With the luffa, we’re not after “days to maturity”, which is 110 days, if I remember correctly. We’re after the sponges, so we need for those mature gourds to dry out. That puts them at 200 days. Even starting now, we might not have that long for them. It will depend on whether or not we get another really long summer again. Of course, in the end, everything depends on the weather.

I chose 6 of the plumpest, healthiest looking seeds from each, then carefully snipped their outer shells with a nail clipper, before putting them inside the folds of a paper towel.

Then they went into sandwich baggies, and the insides were sprayed with water, before being sealed and left to sit. Most places recommended leaving them overnight, but I left them “overday” instead. 😉

Then they went into planting pots filled with pre-moistened seed starting soil. My daughter used a chopstick to push them the inch into the soil they needed to go. Once covered, the tops of the soil got sprayed with water.

Then it was time to take a look at the rest of the seeds and see what we had to work with. None of the packets have a lot of seeds in them, but we are not after a lot of individual plants.

The Sophie’s Choice tomato was a conundrum for me. Everything I read about them said they needed to be started very early; a couple of weeks earlier than other tomatoes. Yet they are an early tomato, with only 55 days to maturity. At only 55 days, we could start them outdoors and they’d have plenty of time to mature. Odd.

For all but the Wonderberry, we decided to plant about 5 seeds per pot, and three pots each. With the gourds, that filled an entire tray.

The Wonderberry got planted using the double cup method. I reused some of the Red Solo cups we used last year, with the inner cups having drainage holes in the bottom, so they can be watered from below, using the outer cup.

We still had seeds left over, even with how little was in each packet, so that’s nice.

We used more boxes to bring the tray and cups closer to the lights, inside the big aquarium greenhouse. The heat mat fits under the tray. I’m hoping that just being near the mat as well as close to the light fixtures, one of which does warm up, will be good enough to adequately warm the Wonderberry in their cups.

The double cups got water in their bottoms before they were put in place, and water was added to the tray once it was settled on the heat mat. We do still have a little fan blowing into the tank, though it’s over the orchids and aloe in the other corner. We won’t be able to cover these with a plastic dome, as typically recommended, so I’ll be making sure to use a spray bottle to keep the tops moistened, since the smaller seeds are so much closer to the surface. There’s quite a bit of water in the tray so, with the heat mat, that should help increase the humidity levels, with the fan hopefully keeping things from starting to mold.

The heat mat doesn’t have a thermometer, nor do we have a soil thermometer, so we’ll have to monitor these fairly closely. Everything is plugged into a power bar, which gets shut off every night, so there will at least be that break. If it seems to be getting too warm – unlikely, for what we’ve got planted in there – we can put something under the tray to elevate it. Once the seeds germinate, we can probably take the mat out entirely.

The next things we’ll be starting are the onions, which won’t need the heat mat, but when it comes time to start the rest of the tomatoes, and all the squash, we’ll need both the heat mat and space – and space is going to be harder to come by! We do have a mini greenhouse, the frame of which we are currently using in the sun room to hold the heater bulb for Butterscotch and Nosencratnz, as they recover. We did try to use it in the living room last year, as it does have a zippered cover, but the cats still managed to get into it. If we could find some way to keep the cats out of it, it would go a long way to helping with our space issues!

We’ll figure something out.

The main thing is, we’ve got stuff started that need that extra time indoors.

Yay!!

The Re-Farmer