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. 🙂

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. 😀 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: peas, carrots, onions and more prep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: filling the gaps

Today was nowhere near as productive as I intended it to be. Ah, well.

I headed out early in the day to the nearer small city, to pick up a few things we couldn’t get during our big city trips. The first stop was Canadian Tire, where I was able to get more of the stove pellets we’re using for cat litter now; we now have enough to last the month or more. A day or so after the frost we got, we could see that it did damage the new Heritage raspberries I’d bought as a gift for my daughter. They will recover, but they won’t do will this year. So I went looking to see if I could got more, but they were completely out of stock for raspberries. I resisted the temptation to buy blueberries, instead. Blueberries need acidic soil, and ours is very alkaline. We do plan to have blueberries, and once we decide on where we will plant them, we will have our work cut out for us to amend the soil to something they can do well in.

I hoped to get more chicken wire, but they only had 2′ wide rolls in stock. I ended up getting a 4′ x 50′ (1.2m x 15.2m) roll of 4 inch square wire mesh fencing. I even remembered to pick up a new hose nozzle to replace our broken one. Paid a lot more than I usually do; I usually get the Walmart cheapies, but I figured it was worth paying for quality for a change.

Then it was across the way to the Walmart to get more cat food and a few more little things, including a garden hose for the front of the house. It’s only 50′ but it’ll be enough to water the old kitchen garden, and as far as the grapes. Which, I am happy to say, are actually showing leaf buds! I thought for sure they had been killed off this winter, but they survived! Yay!

The down side of making the trip is that it basically wiped me out. I’ve been pushing myself too much of late and, while it feels good to do it, this broken old body doesn’t recover like it used to. 😦 Once the girls unloaded the van and put everything away, I ended up crashing for a couple of hours. By the time I was mobile again (to find lunch waiting for me! ❤ ), I still wasn’t up to doing much. Particularly since we were getting into the hottest part of the day. So we waited a couple more hours before heading outside.

I am really happy we got the new hose and nozzle!

While my daughter watered the old kitchen garden and anything else she could reach on that side (and planted that mystery bulb I found among the tulips), I started watering the north east garden beds until my daughter could join me. It was very handy to have her using the hose on some beds, while I used the watering can on others. Though we hadn’t needed to water this morning, by this time of the day, everything was thirsty again. Especially the newly planted corn and sunflower blocks.

While watering the Dalvay peas, I decided it was time to fill the gaps.

I figured that whatever was going to germinate, already has, and what hasn’t by now, isn’t going to. With these peas, we had a lot of seeds left over, so I went around with a bamboo stake and poked holes in the gaps between the seedlings, sowed new seeds, then covered the holes with fresh soil. Then the beds got thoroughly watered again.

That’s one thing about this area. It’s almost impossible to over water out here.

The King Tut purple peas also have gaps where seeds did not germinate, but there were no extra seeds left over from that packet, so whatever has come up is all we’re going to have for this year. We’ll still have a decent number of plants, and they are supposed to be rather prolific, so I’m hoping they work out.

And that’s about my limit for today. Other than bringing our transplants that are hardening off back into the sun room for the night, my body is letting me know that I am done like dinner!

I think maybe getting to bed before midnight would be a good goal to shoot for, this evening… 😉

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: direct sown corn and sunflowers, done!

The crab apple trees near the old garden area are starting to bloom. Not all of them yet, but this one was looking gorgeous, today. 🙂

This morning, after all the garden beds were watered, my older daughter and I got to work on the corn and sunflower blocks. She started by making furrows for the seeds and watering them, then I followed behind to plant.

We managed to get 2 corn blocks done, with radishes planted in between, when we stopped for lunch. It started raining, and for a while I thought we wouldn’t have a chance to finish, but it did get done! Mind you, I was getting rained on while planting the last seeds, but not enough for it to be an issue. 🙂

These are the three types of corn that got planted today. At the far end in the photo, is the Sweetness, then Early Eh, and finally the Montauk, in the foreground.

Because the soil is hardest packed the further north we go, we planted the April Cross Chinese Radish, a Daikon type radish, in the northernmost corn block. The packet had much fewer seeds than I expected, so we were able to include them in only 3 of the 5 rows. There was enough Red Meat Watermelon Radish to interplant with the remaining two blocks of corn. Hopefully, both varieties will help with breaking up the hard soil and, once harvested, will give the corn’s roots more room to grow into. This is really late for radishes to be planted; they can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked, however with their short growing season, it should still work out.

The blocks of 3 rows were for the sunflowers. The Mongolian Giant got planted in the block to the north; with how big they are supposed to get, I figured that would work out better. There aren’t a lot of seeds in the packets, but at 2 ft apart, I did end up filling two rows. There will still be the transplants to include, about a week from now. The 3 row block that’s to the south got the Hopi Black Dye sunflowers. The flags mark the block with the Hopi Black Dye and, not being a giant variety, they were planted 18 inches apart. That filled 2 rows as well. Not a single one of the packet we started indoors has germinated, so there is nothing to transplant. We will have more Mongolian Giant transplants than will fill in the one row left in that block, so we might end up splitting them between the two blocks. I didn’t think ahead, and planted seeds on the northern rows. Any Mongolian Giant transplants could end up shading the Hopi Black Dye – though with zero germination from the first packet, I wouldn’t be surprised if none of these germinated, either. I am at a loss as to why the ones we started indoors completely failed to germinate.

Now that these beds are done, we have some time before we can start transplanting, which should be enough time to get the squash tunnel built, and create more beds for them and the other transplants that need them.

Two weeks from now, if all goes well, all the planting (not counting successive sowing) should be done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: beans are in, and first spinach protectors

Once again, our temperatures have lurched from one direction to the other! From days cold enough for the furnace to turn on, and overnight lows below freezing, we’re back to the heat. It’s past 7:30pm as I write this, and our temperature is still at 24C/75F. A week from now, we’re expected to hit 31C/88F.

Well, by then we should be transplanting our squash seedlings, so that will be good for them, at least!

This morning’s job was to direct sow our bush beans. I am so glad we picked up that extra hose. The mini-beds we made for them needed to be soaked, re-soaked, then soaked again, before I even planted the seeds. I can’t believe how quickly things have dried out already, though I suppose with the winds we’ve been having, I shouldn’t be surprised. You can even see that the pea trellises have been moved around by the winds! I even found one end of a cross piece had come loose after one particularly windy days. The bags may work to startle critters, but they also act like sails.

The yellow and green bean packages had 200 seeds each. With a 20’/6m double row, we still had seeds left over. The purple beans were packed by weight, and a 50g package was just enough for its double row.

Once planted, they all got watered, and watered again! Normally, I would have pre-soaked the beads, but these were inoculated seeds, and I figure soaking them first would have washed off the inoculant!

After the beans were done, we set up the sprinkler to start soaking down the rows for the corn and sunflowers. We left it running over one side for a few hours, then moved it to cover the other end. Much to my surprise, the sprinkler can cover all but 3 rows. There isn’t a lot of pressure, this far out!

Our afternoon project was to see what we could do about protecting our spinach beds. After scrounging in a little shed near the barn, we dragged out the last of some narrow old, salvaged boards. Many of them had several 3″ deck screws in them that had to be removed, first. There were 13 boards, and we ended up using 12 of them, because they were not all the same length.

The roll of chicken wire (or 1″ hex wire) we got was 25′ (7.6m) long and 4′ (1.2m) wide. We have three spinach beds we need to cover. While the beds themselves are about 3-4′ (about a meter) wide and roughly 15′ (just over 4.5m) long, the rows of spinach were, of course, less than that. So we were able to use the roll to cover 2 spinach beds. Well, mostly.

We stole a couple of hoops from the small beet bed by the garlic beds to hold the wire up in the middle. The sides are held in place with sticks, that have a bit of mesh hooked onto their tops, so they are helping hold that up, too. Once we get more hoops, we’ll be able to stop using the sticks to hold up the mesh, which will allow us to move the covers to harvest the spinach.

The edges of the chicken wire were sandwiched between boards that were screwed together. Because of the different lengths, we had to cobble them together. A couple ended up with small gaps between the ends of boards, but they were still secure. The covers don’t really leave much room to do a second sowing, though, which we could do any time now, if we wanted. I think I will skip it, and save the seeds to sow later in the summer for a fall crop.

Like everything else we’re doing this year, this is a temporary thing, so we don’t need to get too fancy. When we build our permanent, high raised beds, we will make protective covers that fit properly, and be properly framed and supported. Right now, neither one completely covers the rows of spinach, so the ends might still get nibbled at, but it should be fine. If we want, we can tie on brightly colored or metallic ribbons to flap in the wind and discourage critters.

I’ll have to make a trip to the local dollar store again and see if they’ve restocked on things like pinwheels. I’ll pick up more hula hoops, too. I figure a couple more rolls of the chicken wire would not be a bad idea. I think we still have enough of that wood in the basement that we can make one more cover for the third spinach bed. For the small beet bed, I’m hoping the mosquito netting we ordered will come in soon, but if not, we can use chicken wire.

While in the city, I also picked up 200’/60.9m of yellow rope to string around where the corn and sunflowers will be planted. If what I read about deer not having good depth perception, so having two shorter fences a few feet apart works as well as a high fence, is accurate, we should be able to string just one “fence” of the yellow rope around half the garden, since it’s already so close to the barbed wire perimeter fence. Since most of the other half will be edged with squash, which deer don’t like, we might not need to do much more than that. We shall see!

Now that the blocks for the corn and sunflowers have been soaked down, tomorrow’s job is to plant the corn, with radishes in between to help break up the hard soil, and direct sow the rest of the sunflowers. The transplants are not done hardening off yet, and all our transplanting will wait until after June 2, regardless of what the weather forecasts are right now! The forecasts change so often, I don’t really trust them beyond a couple of days, and, even then, they are frequently wrong for our area.

Once the seeds are sown, we can finally get back to working on the squash tunnel!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: asparagus is in!

Well, it hasn’t really cooled down all that much, but I wanted to at least get the asparagus planted.

The first thing was set the crowns to soak in water before covering the cardboard with a layer of soil, and laying out the sod around the edges to make a sort of wall to support the height of the bed. The base got a very thorough watering. Then we mixed a load of soil with peat, thoroughly soaking it in the wheelbarrow while mixing it with a spade.

That took a while. 😀

The wet peat mixture was used to create the hills for the crowns. They’re supposed to be planted 2 feet apart. With the bed being longer than 6 feet, they were staggered a bit.

They look a bit like facehuggers. 😀

The crowns were then covered with a rather deep layer of soil, and a light layer of mulch. From what I’ve read, they may need more soil added later.

We will have to make a point of watering it deeply over the next while, just to get the top layer wet through to the crowns. Wetting it in layers should help prevent them from drying out until that’s accomplished.

It’s past 8pm as I write this, and we are finally starting to cool down again. I’m going to see if I can get to bed before 3am for a change. I tried to do that yesterday, and ended up still wide awake at 4am. *sigh* Anyhow, I’d like to get out earlier in the day to continue working on the block for the corn.

Meanwhile, the girls and I have been talking about finding a different permanent spot for the mulberry. One of the best suggestions was to plant it along the north side of the big garden; we intend to plant fruit and nut trees in most of this area anyhow, so why not start now? Then I remembered that the location we were talking about has buried telephone wires somewhere in there. I had tried contacting the phone company about the location and was given the contact information for the Call Before You Dig organization. I ended up sending them an email with our longitude and latitude.

I’ve discovered why people have such a hard time finding our place in the process.

I tried several different map sites to pinpoint our location, but our physical address would not work. I finally just found us manually, and discovered that the road that goes past our place is not labelled. At all. This road has two names; one is the numerical grid number, and the other is my family name. Neither are on the maps.

All but one of the stop signs along our road with the name on them have disappeared. There had been one on one of the stop signs at the intersection near our garden, but not long after we moved here, someone broke the stop sign and the street sign on it disappeared. I am pretty sure this was no accident, since this happened after our first falling out with our vandal, but whatever. The road number was on the other stop sign, so it’s still there. I’d asked about having the road signs with the name replaced at all the intersections that are missing, but I think the councilor I spoke to (who also happens to be the guy renting most of this property) forgot about it. Anyhow. Now that I know that the road that runs past our driveway is unlabelled on any of the maps, I’ll have to find out how to get that fixed.

Meanwhile, I’ve not heard back from the Call Before You Dig people.

Until we do, we’ll avoid planting trees along that strip. There’s already a self sown chokecherry tree there. Those don’t get very big, so we should be able to leave it. The mulberry, however, gets much bigger, so we’ll have to think again about where to put it. It needs to go into the ground right away, so we can’t dilly dally about the decision!!

The Re-Farmer

Gardening progress: sunflowers are in!

Today has been a lovely, cool day! Perfect to get those sunflowers done.

I had assistants.

When I started filling the holes with the soil mixture, the Potato Beetle decided to sit his butt over one of the next holes! My first thought was that he was taking a dump and I went to push him away. He just flopped onto the ground and looked at me as if to say, “Yes. Rub my belly. That’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?”

Then he moved over to the next hole and sat over it, watching me. When I moved to fill that one, he went to the next one and lay down.

With his butt over the hole.

What a weird cat. 😀

Creamsicle was also fascinated by the holes.

I have no idea what he was seeing down there that was so interesting! 😀

The soil mixture in the little pool got quite a lot of rainwater, along with the water I’d already put into it, so it was quite saturated. I was still finding pockets of dry peat, though! Still, this was perfect, as it meant I didn’t have to drag buckets of water over the very rough ground to water the soil mix, first. I could just go straight to planting.

I decided to alternate the two varieties. The row still marked with flags starts and ends with the variety that can grow 10-12 feet high, while the other row starts and ends with the variety that can grow 6-8 feet high. The varieties ended up lining up with each other where the two rows overlap.

And that will be it for today, with it being Sunday. I just did what had to be done, before we got more rain (if we get more rain; we’ll see if the forecasts are right for a change).

Next, for this area, we will be adding a straw mulch, little by little, as well as taking the opportunity to dig up the burdock that’s starting to come up, as well as the self-sown trees that are showing up.

Tomorrow, weather willing, the priority will be to get more of the squash transplants in. Quite a few more are ready, now. And I might even be seeing some of those gourds finally emerging, too!

Putting in a garden this year is really changing what is being worked on outside. The original plan was to spend the first 2 years cleaning up the inner yard, the next year or two working on the outer yard, and moving beyond the outer yard as we could, after that. With my husband ended up in the hospital for 3 weeks last year, and many trips to the city to see specialists, things got more focused. Which worked out, since we ended up focusing on cleaning up where the old wood pile used to be, and finding that wonderful soil we have planted the carrots in. For this year, we will continue to work on cleaning up the spruce grove, but will also have to get things done in the outer yard, and now keep up on the garden beds. Oh, and build that new outhouse as a cordwood practice building, too.

First, the garden needs to be planted.

Then, we can mark out where we want to put the cordwood building and start clearing the space and removing sod. Cleaning up the spruce grove, etc., will continue in between stages of building. I’m hoping I can borrow my brother and his trailer, and visit a salvage yard for materials to use as a floor/base. I’m thinking along the lines of pavers, but who knows what else we might find! 🙂

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Garden progress: setting up for sunflowers

The winds finally died down today, and we were able to prep for the giant sunflowers we will be planting.

To recap, these are being planted for several reasons. One is to have seeds for the birds over the winter (and for ourselves, if we want). Another is to create a wind break and privacy screen at the far end of the old garden area. A potential bonus is that sunflowers are supposed to be good for improving soil, and the area can use all the improvement it can get!

Normally, like anything else grown from seed, the sunflowers would be planted closer together, then thinned out after they germinate. For these giant varieties, they would be thinned out to 2 feet apart.

We’re not going to do that.

I counted the seeds in the packets, and they each have exactly 25 seeds in them.

We will be planting one seed every two feet. If they don’t all germinate and we end up with gaps… well… we’ll just end up with gaps.

I also decided to plant them in a gradual curve rather than in straight lines. To do that, I used these.

The bundle of flags I picked up had 25 in it, so that worked out perfectly. I decided on where I wanted to have the ends and pounded a stake into the ground, with another stake to help guide the paracord, (which my husband had ordered a spool of that just happened to come in the mail today) and a tape measure to place a flag every two feet.

I attached the paracord to the two stakes in the ground, with about 3 feet of slack.

For the first flag, I eye-balled where I wanted it to be in relation to the first stake. The extra stake was used to hold the paracord taut.

I then slid the stake along the cord and used the tape measure to determine where to put the next flag. I continued to do this for each flag.

The hard part was making sure the cord wasn’t getting hung up on grass and weeds, which would mess up the arc! 😀

The end result was a long, gentle curve.

One of the things I realized as I was placing the flags was, there was no way I was going to be able to use my new soil auger. I kept hitting rocks, and even bent the wire of one of the flags!

My daughters were sweet enough to take over and dig the holes while I had to do something else. Then after supper, I got back at it. The first thing was to move the stakes in the ground over about 2 feet. For the second row, I started at the opposite end.

This will give us two overlapping rows that will stretch across the entire end of the old garden area.

Digging the wholes was certainly a challenge. Not using the soil auger was definitely the right decision.

This is an example of how many little rocks we had to deal with, at each flag, just on the surface. The holes ended up being somewhat varying in widths and depths, from having to dig out more rocks, as well as pulling out rhizomes. The riding seat we found in the basement and brought out last summer came in very handy, though the terrain was rather rough to roll around on, thanks to whomever botched the plow job however many years before we moved out here. Still better than bending and stretching!

Digging out the holes was made extra interesting by another battle.

Cartoon Mosquito Clip Art Clipart Free Clipart

Squadrons of mosquitoes were dive bombing me the whole time. Mosquitoes that seemed to treat bug repellent as nothing more than a condiment that was tasty and delicious!

(image source)

The two rows overlapped for 10 holes, at about 2 feet apart.

Tomorrow, weather willing, we will add a very damp soil mix into each hole, and get those sunflowers planted. 🙂

Since the kitty pool didn’t work out, I’m thinking of taking it outside and using it to mix the bags of soil, compost and peat together. It’s big enough to fit all the bags we’ve got, and it will be much easier to mix it all together at once, than doing it in batches in a wheelbarrow. We should have enough left over to use elsewhere, too.

I’m really hoping planting the sunflowers like this works. We’re basically breaking all the “rules” doing it like this. 😀 But then, pretty much everything we’re doing for gardening this year is an experiment.

As for the kitties, they are now settled with Mom in the basement. Lots of places were set up for them to cozy up into, and the girls were diligent in making sure everything set up for them was either elevated a bit, or at least not directly touching the concrete.

This would be why.

This was the corner my older brother found full of water and starting to mold, the summer before we moved here. A rain barrel outside this corner had been allowed to overflow right against the basement wall, through most of a very wet summer. He cleaned it up and bleached it (then we bleached it again a couple of months ago), and for our past two summers here, it was so dry, we never had an issue. Now, for the first time, water is starting to seep through the concrete – and we’ve had very little rain! Which means it is as we feared; the weeping tile is probably filled with soil and no longer doing their job, thanks to the overflowing rain barrel.

*sigh*

Another thing that will be a big, expensive, fix.

As for the corner, we already made sure the things we put there were raised off the floor. The only exceptions were the pieces of light figures, and the legs for a folding table. The plastic light cover is not a problem, but the metal piece is now raised off the floor, and the metal table legs were move out completely.

This would explain why, when we did a temperature and humidity check in the root cellar yesterday, the humidity was almost up to 80%! The temperature had gone up to about 13C. With a potential cheese cave in mind, the humidity would be good, but the temperature is now a bit too warm. It should be interesting to see if it gets any higher over the summer.

Meanwhile, we’ve now got a fan on the corner to help try it out. The old part basement already has had the blower for a while, to try and keep things drier there, too. We still need to rebuild the mesh cover for the window on that side, so we can open it up for the summer and not have to worry about critters getting in.

Little by little, it’ll get done. 🙂

At least we were finally able to get prepping for the sunflowers checked off the to-do list!

The Re-Farmer

Gardening progress

We’re having another wild and windy day! Still, stuff needs to get planted. I made a quick trip into town and my errands included stopping at the hardware store. Their garden centre was open, so I checked it out.

I couldn’t resist.

I bought some muskmelon transplants. Muskmelon is a type of cantaloupe that I remember we grew here when I was a kid. I absolutely loved them. I only got 2 plants, and we shall see how they do.

In preparation for today, my daughter and I made a bunch of markers to label our plantings.

We made one for each variety of seeds or transplants we have, plus an extra. The cucamelon don’t need one, since they are going to be completely separate from everything else.

We… won’t need to use all of them anymore.

I’ve been hardening off our seedlings. Because of the high winds, I’ve been leaving the trays inside the mini-greenhouse with the flap completely open – that way, they’d get some wind, but still be protected from the worst of it. I also put the mini-greenhouse in front of the old basement window, where it is more sheltered from the wind, and still gets full sun. When I brought home the new melon transplants, I tucked them into an empty shelf in the mini-greenhouse.

When it was time to start planting in the garden, I came out and found this.

My initial thought was that the wind had done this, but now that I think about it, I have changed my mind. If there were a wind enough to knock those trays – and their shelves – down, the whole thing would have been blown over.

I am now thinking a cat decided to go exploring.

Unfortunately, the squash seedlings are now all mixed up. The gourds still haven’t emerged, so at least we can guess that if there is no seedling, it’s a gourd, but there were still some other squash that hadn’t germinated.

I think the few fennel seeds that germinated and promptly bolted are a lost cause. 😦

Most disappointing.

Still, I’ll transplant what I can, tomorrow. One of the seed packets I got was a “surprise” mix. Now, they’re all going to be a surprise! 😀

This is where we focused on today.

Even though this area is turning out to be pretty well sheltered from the wind, there is still enough to really dry out the soil. I watered it earlier in the day, then watered it again before planting.

I also re-arranged the pieces of wood to make different sized beds, taking into account that I now have kohl rabi seeds and muskmelon transplants.

This is how it looks after the girls and I finished.

We still have seeds from the 3 varieties of beets, and kohl rabi left.

One of the things I’ve been doing is keeping the large plastic containers from some treats we sometimes get at Costco; cheese balls and pork rinds. I took two old cheese ball containers, drilled holes all around the sides near the bottom, then cut off the tops. I have a wood burning kit that includes a knife, and I used that to cut the tops off. Much better than hacking away at it with a utility knife or scissors! 😀 These are now being used as cloches for the melons, which are surrounded by a mulch of straw. The cloches are tipped a bit sideways right now, but I will put them down for the night, when I do my evening rounds. In the morning, I will tip them over again.

Before the melons grow much bigger, I plan to add a trellis of some kind for them to climb.

Once the seedlings emerge, we’ll remove the plastic and the boards. The seeds were planted with square foot gardening in mind, and after the boards are removed, I will most likely add straw in between the beds for foot paths. An odd problem to have here, is that the soil is so soft, we sink when we walk on it. Our usual problem is the opposite. 😀

Here’s a bit more about square foot gardening.

When we do get do building raised beds, they will be quite a bit taller than the ones made in the video, for accessibility requirements. For those, we plan to use materials to fill the beds that turn out to have a name. Hugelkultur.

Or maybe more like this…

Basically, we’ll use whatever we’ve got to fill the bases, then topping with a soil mix. It might be a few years before we reach this point, though.

There is still one section of the new garden plot with nothing planted, and that may just stay empty. Tonight, I’ll be prepping the area in the old garden, where we will be planting our squashes, so we can start transplanting tomorrow. Then we’ll focus on the sunflowers next. Depending on how things go, we might plant some of our leftover seeds from the beets and kohl rabi, elsewhere. There is still the old kitchen garden area available, so we’ll see how things turn out.

The Re-Farmer

Garden progress

This morning, when checking the soaking carrot seeds, I FINALLY spotted some roots!

For those who are new to following this blog (welcome!), this video shows the technique I am trying.

The first thing I needed to do was make the conrstarch gel. I noticed in the comments that people found the ratio in the video made too thick a gel, so I used 2tsp cornstarch to 1 cup of water. I made more than I needed, since I figured if it worked well for the carrots, I would use it for other things with very small seeds.

It took a while to cook the mixture down to gel state, and I think if I do it again, I would increase the cornstarch a little bit more.

Once the gel was cooked and cooling down, we started getting the new garden bed ready.

I had already raked the soil to even it out, and we gave it a thorough soaking. Then I added a bit of peat to each section and raked it out evenly. After the above photo was taken, it was given another thorough watering.

The gel took a while to cool down so, in between getting things ready outside, I put some of the gel into slide lock bags to cool down after. Then put them in the fridge, and finally putting them in the freezer. They didn’t have to get cold, but they at least had to be cool enough not to harm the seeds.

I prepped 4 bags. One for each variety of carrots, plus one for the parsley.

The instructions for the parsley said to let the seeds soak for a half hour, so that was done while I worked on the carrots. I used a measuring cup to hold the bag of gel up.

Also, the cats somehow managed to knock one of the dishes of carrot seeds upside down. 😦 It was the deep purple variety. I was able to salvage most of the seeds, but there was a fair bit of seed loss, too. 😦

Once the seeds were added, I squeezed out as much air as I could, then smooshed the package around to evenly distribute the seeds in the gel.

When it came time to plant the seeds, a corner was snipped off, to make like an icing bag, and the seeds were squeezed into the prepared soil in short rows. By the time that was all ready, the parsley had soaked long enough and those were planted, too.

I’m using a combination of techniques, and one of them is based on square foot gardening. Rather than long rows, they’re being planted in squares. I’ve got the carrots planted in alternating sections, and the parsley is in the middle of the group of three.

I found a roll of plastic in the basement (I think it’s for roofing), so we used some of that to cover and protect the seeds. Those will be removed as soon as sprouts can be seen.

The squares seem very close together, but there really is a fair bit of space in between the plantings.

Also, my daughter is a sweetheart.

She trimmed some branches and made labels for me. 🙂

The way things are looking, and using the square foot gardening method, we might be able to plant more here than originally planned. The three varieties of beets will go here, plus I ended up buying some kohl rabi. I don’t know if we’ll have much success with the fennel transplants; there really isn’t much improvement there. What few have sprouted can fit here. The parsley and fennel was originally going to be planted in the old kitchen garden, but I think we’ll continue to build up the soil in there and save that for next year.

Today turned out to be surprisingly hot, so we didn’t stay out for too long. We were forecast to hit 22C (71F) this afternoon, but we ended up reading 26C (78F). We will continue planting tomorrow. I think it is safe for us to start planting things that are supposed to wait until after the frost date. Looking at the long range forecast, we seem to have passed that point early.

Which reminds me. I was hoping to use the fire pit and burn barrel in the next while, so I checked the municipal website to see what the burn bad status was at. We are now on a total burn ban, which means no fire pits or burn barrels, either. That sure didn’t take long! And we still have standing water in the ditches and ponds. Ah, well.

The next few days are going to be very busy ones, as we get more things out into the gardens! I’m looking forward to using that soil auger to prep where we will be planting our giant sunflowers. 🙂 My mother also gave us some pumpkin seeds that were being given away for free at her local grocery store. They had tiny little envelopes, each with 3 seeds in them, and I had grabbed one, not realizing my mother had already included 2 packets in with a bag of stuff she’d prepared for me to take home. I don’t know what variety they are, but my mom tells me her town has annual pumpkin growing contests, so these might be a giant variety.

I think we’ll just plant them and see what we get! 😀

It should be interesting to see how our first year of gardening since we moved here will turn out. 🙂

The Re-Farmer