Our 2022 garden: luffa – finally!

It took a long time, but the second planting of luffa seeds has finally germinated, just this evening.

There was nothing, when I checked them this morning.

I’m glad to see them, because it looks like the one surviving luffa isn’t going to make it. Another casualty of the Great Cat Crush. 😦 At just under 10 weeks before our last frost date, I’m hoping it’s enough time for them, still.

Some of the Sophie’s Choice tomatoes that got moved out of the big aquarium greenhouse and into the little one, to make room for the newly planted seeds now with these luffa, have suddenly withered. After a bit of rearranging and squeezing things closer together, I moved them into the mini-greenhouse. It has the brighter light, plus the little fan to maintain air circulation. Hopefully, that will help them recover and grow stronger again. There are still lots of others, though, so for now, I’m not too concern. We only need a couple of plants from this variety, along with the two or three other tomato varieties we’ll be starting in a week or two, that are being grown mostly for fresh eating.

Things are supposed to start warming up tomorrow, and keep warming up from now on. At least for daytime temperatures. It’s time to prep the sun room and start keeping the outside cats out again, so we can be ready to move things over as soon as the overnight temperatures in there get, and stay, warm enough.

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

Our 2022 garden: starting shallots and transplanting tomatoes

Okay, for better or for worse, we now have stuff in the mini-greenhouse! Let’s see if we’ve succeeded in making it cat proof. 😀

The first thing today was to get the shallots started.

There are a lot less seeds than I remember from last year. I’ll have to look back at last year’s photos and double check.

The container is a mixed greens salad container from the grocery story. It has drainage holes in the bottom, and the seed starting mix is pre-moistened.

With such easy to see seeds, after scattering them I used a chopstick to separate any that were right up against each other, and spread them out more evenly. Then they got a spritz with water, a light layer of more soil mix, then spritzed again.

The container’s lid is recessed, and I didn’t want it too close to the soil surface, so I just plopped it on upside down. I then left it in a tray with water under it, to be absorbed from below. While it was sitting, it was time to work on the aquarium greenhouses.

The red and yellow onions are doing quite well. I rotated the trays after adding more water below them. The reflective light from the aluminum foil at the back, which is closest to the trays themselves, is clearly making a difference. All the sprouts were leaning towards the back of the tank! 😀

We have our first Wonderberry sprout! These were taken out and got more water added to the outer cups, as well as a spritz, then set aside for later, so they wouldn’t get knocked over while the seedling tray was being moved around.

You can just see that a new luffa gourd is starting to sprout! It’s right against the wall of the pot at the top of the photo.

I very carefully removed the seed covering from the leaves of the canteen gourd. Normally I would avoid doing that, but I’m glad I did this time. It was really solid, and had to be broken apart to get it off.

Here are the tomatoes, on either side of the eggplants and peppers.

The tray usually gets water on the bottom well before the pots dry out this much, but when the pots are damp, they are difficult to move. They feel like they’re about to fall apart. Which will be good when they get transplanted into the garden, but not so good when I need to move them around!

With the eggplants and peppers, they were thinned to 2 plants per pot. As they get larger, we will probably thin them to one plant per pot. We don’t need a lot of either of these. Three plants each should be fine to meet our needs.

The plan was to transplant all the strongest tomatoes to thin them – but there were a lot of them! Especially the Cup of Moldova. They’re doing really well in here. In the end, there was just one seedling that didn’t get transplanted because it was so tiny.

We half-filled red Solo cups with soil and used a chopstick to make holes for the transplants. Then I ended up using a steel poultry trussing needle (which never gets used to truss poultry; I’m not even sure why I originally bought them!) to loosen and tease out the transplants as carefully as I could. After they got tucked into their new pots, more soil was carefully spooned around them to about half way up their stems and gently pressed in, just enough to make sure there were no air spaces, before they all got a spritz of water.

Each of the original pots was left with one tomato plant. With the Cup of Moldova, we ended up with a dozen transplants, making 15 altogether. These cups were used last year, too, and already had drainage holes in the bottom. If we needed to, we could double cup them, but for now, they fit into the baking tray, in one of the higher shelves of the mini-greenhouse, above the back of the chair it is tied to. I’d rather it was lower down, but with the wider baking tray, that’s where it fits.

With the Sophie’s Choice, there were only 7 strong enough to transplant, and they fit in the tray with the shallots container.

When it’s daylight, we’ll assess whether or not we need to set up a light from the other side. There may be an issue of the high tray shading out the lower one.

Then the original tray went back into the big aquarium greenhouse, on the heat mat, and the tray got a generous amount of water added, to moisten the pots from below.

In doing the transplants, the tomatoes also got moved to one end of the tray, while the eggplants and peppers are now next to the gourds. That was just because it was easier to reach the tomatoes while transplanting them.

Hopefully, these will survive their transplanting well. It should be interesting to see the difference between how the tomatoes in the mini-greenhouse do, compared to the ones in the aquarium greenhouse. There is going to be a substantial difference in light and warmth.

But first, we’ll see just how tempting the trays in the mini-greenhouse are for the cats, or if they will be left alone!

There are still two more shelves open in there. The next time we need to start seeds, which should be in two or three weeks, we should be able to move things out of the aquarium greenhouses, into the mini-greenhouse, and have the new seed starts put into the aquariums. If the weather co-operates, by the time we’re ready to start more seeds in April, we should be able to transfer the biggest seedlings into the sun room. I’m sure these tomatoes will need to be potted up by then, too.

This is the first time we’ve had so many seeds to start indoors. It’s going to be a juggling act!

The Re-Farmer

This morning’s finds

There always seems to be something new to find when I do my rounds!

Some are good, some are not so good, and some are… kind of in between. 😀

Finding holes in the ground from skunks digging for grubs is not unusual. This morning, however, it was VERY unusual! I found probably a hundred off them over by the sweet corn and sunflower blocks! They were in the open areas around them, but also right in among them.

The skunks (I’m assuming there was more than one) seem to have worked their way through two corn blocks and about one and a half sunflower blocks. Only the corn block furthest north was completely untouched. Judging from how many holes there were, I’m guessing it had something to do with very full little bellies!

Before we planted here, and were just mowing, I never saw divots. My guess is that the area was so dry and sun baked, there simply weren’t any grubs in the soil. Now that we’ve started to amend the soil and have been watering regularly, plus all the rain we’ve recently had, it’s now a skunk buffet!

I don’t mind the skunks digging up the grubs. They have no interest in the plants. The only problem was that some of their digging was close enough to our already struggling corn and sunflower plants, that roots were exposed. I worked my way through the rows, pushing the soil back into those holes, at least. The others, I left. There were just too many, and I don’t care if the weeds have their roots exposed!

It took a long time, but we now have our very first vine making its way across the top of the squash tunnel! This luffa had reached the top some time ago, but not gone over.

The winter squash still has a ways to go, but it’s working on it!

Had conditions been more ideal, this structure would at least have had the walls completely covered in vines by now, if not the “roof” as well. Given what a tough year for the garden it has been, I’m quite pleased with what we have!

The girls moved the canopy tent over the picnic table by the fire pit for me this morning, so I dragged a hose over to give the table a bit of a power wash. While there, I checked out the nearby currant bush.

We only rarely watered this bed by the fire pit at all this year, yet the currant actually has a few berries on it! After picking these, I checked on the two currant bushes near the main garden beds and found a few more. Those ones did get watered more often, but are located under trees. They get a lot less sunlight, and even with the rains we’ve been having, they would have gotten less. The one by the fire pit is on the south side of the maple grove and has no overhanging branches, so even with almost no watering, it has more berries. Even so, the berries are a lot smaller and less juicy than they should be. I’m surprised there are any at all, to be honest!

This morning, I fussed around with the potato grow bags. Some of them were falling over, so I secured them to the chain link fence, then straightened the bags out again; the tops of the bags are more to keep critters out than anything else.

In the process, I uncovered this little guy.

So incredibly adorable!!!

Finding one is exciting enough, but then I found this slightly bigger one!

This one wasn’t too impressed with my moving the bags around. 😀

These are probably my favourite type of frog. 😀 And we’ve seen so many of them, as well as the more common wood frogs, this year!

As we develop our permanent garden beds, providing shelter and moisture for frogs is on our list of things to include. 🙂

Today is supposed to be our last comfortable day before the heat comes back, and no rain is predicted for a few more days, so I will be heading out to apply cayenne pepper to some of our garden beds after this. Especially our purple beans. Checking the garden cam this morning, I caught a young buck in the garden, nibbling on something. The summer squash was blocking the view, but there is only one thing where that buck was standing; our purple beans. I didn’t even notice the damage, this morning! The purple beans are a lot bushier and leafy than the other types, but it likely explains why I’m not seeing as many beans on there. I think the deer are actually avoiding the leaves to eat the beans, instead, judging from what I do see, when I am looking closely to find beans to pick.

We keep our containers from things like sour cream, and had one with a transparent lid. I poked a whole bunch of little holes in the lid, then emptied the bulk packages of cayenne pepper into the 500ml container, to create a shaker. I’m hoping the holes aren’t too small. We shall see how it works!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: some growth, some critter damage, and WE GOT RAIN!!!!

I just have to start with the exciting part. We actually got rain today!

Okay, so it was maybe only for about 20 minutes, but it was a nice, gentle, steady rain, and enough that after several hours, the ground is still damp. Not only that, but we’ve got a 90% chance of more rain overnight and into tomorrow morning.

Thank God!

Hopefully, by then, the smoke will finally clear out of the air, and some of that rain will hit the areas that have fires right now.

It is not going to make up for months of drought and heat, but it will certainly help. Even the completely dry, crispy grass has started to wake up and show green already.

It was lovely and cool when I did my rounds this morning, then a daughter and I went and checked all the garden beds just a little while ago.

I’m really glad we set up the chicken wire over the gourds and cucamelons. I found this critter damage this morning. It looks like something, likely a woodchuck, leaned on the wire and managed to nibble on a leaf through the gaps. Just one leaf here, and another on the other side of the chain link fence. Without the wire, we probably would have had a lot more damage.

While I was checking on these, Nosencrantz was playing on the concrete block leaning on a tree nearby, so I paused to try and get her to come to my hand. I managed to boop Nosencrantz’s nose before she ran away. Toesencrantz, on the other hand, was far more interested in trying to get at a lump of dirt on the other side of the chicken wire! He could get his paws under the wire, but the tent pegs held and he couldn’t get the lump out. Not for lack of trying! So that confirmed for me that the kittens were doing the digging in the dirt. More reason to be glad for the wire! The dirt lump got broken up, so as to remove further temptation.

The cucamelon plants looks so tiny, but they are starting to develop fruit! The chain link fence gives an idea of just how tiny these are. I’m looking forward to seeing how they do in this location, which gets more sun than where we grew them last year. They produced quite well last year, for a plant that’s supposed to have full sun.

While checking things out with my daughter, I found new critter damage. When I checked the bed this morning, the damage wasn’t there. These are the Champion radish sprouts. Not all of them were eaten, and the purple kohlrabi sprouts next to them seem to have been untouched. Which would lead me to think it was grasshoppers, not a groundhog, except that after the rain, there were NO grasshoppers around. I didn’t see any in the morning, either, but I usually don’t, that early in the day. They tend to come out later.

Unfortunately, this bed has only the wire border fence pieces to hold up the shade cloth. We are out of the materials to make another wire mesh cover, so with the shade cloths not being used, this bed is unprotected, and there’s really nothing we can do about it right now. 😦 On the plus side, it wasn’t a total loss, and I’m thinking the woodchucks, at least, are preferring the easy pickings under the bird feeder.

At the squash tunnel, we found this lovely friend, resting on a Halona melon flower. The melons, winter squash and gourds are doing quite well right now, though all the garden beds are due for another feeding. The baby melons are getting nice and big, and we keep finding more. I was really excited when my daughter spotted this, hidden under a leaf.

These are the first flower buds on the luffa! I was really starting to wonder about them. They started out well, then went through a rough patch, but since I started using the soaker hose, they are already looking more robust again.

In checking the onion beds, my daughter spotted an onion that had lost its greens completely, so she picked it. It will need to be eaten very quickly. It is so adorable and round! This is from the onions we grew from seed. Though I’ve trimmed the greens of almost all the onions, we’re finding some of them with broken stems. Most likely, it’s from the cats rolling on them, as I’ve sometimes seen Creamsicle Baby doing.

We also found a green zucchini big enough to pick. I’ve checked all the plants, and while there should be at least one golden zucchini, I’m not finding any. Every plant is starting to produce fruit now, too, even if just tiny ones, and no golden zucchini. Odd. Perhaps the package was mislabeled and we got a different kind of green zucchini instead? There are differences in the leaves that suggest two different varieties, even if the fruit looks much the same.

Oh, in the background of the onion picture is the Montana Morado corn. We’re always checking them and the nearby Crespo squash for critter damage. There does seem to be some, but I am uncertain what to make of it. One corn plant, in the middle of the furthest row, lost its tassels and top leaves, but none of the others around it were damaged. It has a cob developing on the stalk, so I pollinated it by hand. Then I spotted another stalk, in the middle of the bed, that also lost its tassels. But what would have done that, while ignoring all the other plants around it? Very strange.

And finally, we have the poppies.

The Giant Rattle Breadseed poppies continue to bloom in the mornings, loosing their petals by the end of the day. Their pods are so tiny at that point, but in my hand, you can see the pod from the very first one that bloomed. It has gotten so much bigger!

We also found a couple of these.

My mother had ornamental poppies in here, and even with the mulching and digging we did, some still survived. This photo is of the bigger of two that showed up in an unexpected place: where my daughter had dug a trench to plant her iris bulbs. Somehow, they survived, and now we have two tiny little ornamental poppies. 😀

In hopes that we will get rain tonight, we will not be doing our evening watering. If we don’t get rain, we will water everything in the morning, instead.

The Re-Farmer