Our 2023 Garden: Purple Peruvian Potatoes planted

Well, we got one out of two done!

I thought we would have more than enough old feed bags to use for both types of potatoes we have left to plant, but I was wrong! The Purple Peruvian fingerling potatoes alone, took 14 of the 19 bags we had!

I made a quick little video with the photos I took. It’s less than a minute and a half long. 😁

The first time we grew potatoes in feed bags, we were intending to do the tower thing, expecting to add more material to the bags several times throughout the summer. Then we found out that potatoes come in both determinate and indeterminate types – and we had determinates. They aren’t the right kind for growing in towers, so there was no benefit to adding more material. The plants got huge, though, and the bags couldn’t support them. With that in mind, this time I made sure to add quite a lot of straw to the tops of the bags. It should help support the plant stems, and hopefully the bags as well.

So now we have to figure out how and where to plant the Red Thumb fingerling potatoes.

I wonder if there are too many to plant in that bed along the old kitchen garden retaining wall I just finished reworking?

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden, still going!

Last night, I heard from one of our neighbours, asking if we were missing some kittens. It seems that several kittens were sighted on the road by our place, and while one was caught, there were others around. They were not ours; by the age estimate, they were about 5 months younger than ours, plus they seem used to humans. Which means they were likely dumped. 😦 The person who caught the one said she would be coming back to try and find the others. Meanwhile, I made sure to be on the lookout for kittens while doing my rounds this morning. Especially in the furthest garden beds, which are the closest to where the kittens were spotted.

I think I did actually see a strange kitten at our house, yesterday, but it ran off, just like most of our yard cats still do. I found myself thinking the colour seeming off had to have been the light, but now I wonder! Well, if there are strange kitties around, they will find food and shelter here. So far, though, I have seen nothing today.

While I was on the lookout for strange kitties, I checked out the squash tunnel. The luffa and Tennessee Dancing Gourds seem to have finally succumbed to the chill overnight temperatures.

The luffa leaves turned really dark, but haven’t shriveled, like pretty much everything else. Take a click on the image of the developing gourds on the top of the squash tunnel! There are still flowers developing! They do look frost damaged, though.

It was much the same with the Tennessee Dancing Gourds. Most of the vines have died back, and cold damage can be seen on some of the little gourds… and yet, there are still flower buds!

The chard and the lettuce are still going strong.

This is the biggest of the surviving radishes. You can see the older leaves that still have grasshopper damage. Something is nibbling the new growth, too, but not as much. I put the bricks around this radish plant, because something has been nibbling on the bulb. I’m guessing a mouse or something like that. Putting the bricks there seems to have stopped it, as there is no new damage.

Then there is that amazing Crespo squash. Is it still going, or is it done? The leaves seem to be completely killed off by the frost, yet the vines still seem strong, and while there is cold damage on most of the squash, some of them still seem to be getting bigger!

So, we will wait and see how they do.

Meanwhile, on the south side of the house…

The Ozark Nest Egg gourds have almost no cold damage on them, and still seem to be growing just fine. In fact, there is more fresh and new growth happening, and new male and female flowers developing!

The tomatoes continue to ripen, with no signs of cold damage to them, unlike the one self-seeded tomato that’s growing near the lettuces, which is pretty much dead.

Check out that wasp on the Spoon tomato vine! Even the pollinators are still out!

The fingerling potatoes are still going strong, too. There is one bag that looks like it has died back, but the others are still very green. Especially the Purple Peruvians.

I keep forgetting to take pictures of the carrots. Even the overgrown bed we abandoned to the groundhogs has carrot fronds overtaking the weeds. Especially the Kyoto Red, which have gone to seed. I’m keeping an eye on those, as I want to try and collect them before they self sow!

It’s hard to know how much longer the garden will keep on going. Today was forecast to be 18C/64F, then things were supposed to cool down again. As I write this, we are at 22C/72F !!! Tomorrow, we’re supposed to drop to 8C/46F, then go down to 5-6C/41-43F, with overnight lows dropping to -1C/30F a couple of nights from now, but who knows what we’ll actually get?

Looking at the data for our area, our average temperatures for October are 10C/50F for the high, and 1C/34F for the low – but our record high was 30C/86F in 1992, with a record low of -18C/0F in 1991, so while a bit unusual, the mild temperatures we’re having right now aren’t that uncommon. In fact, the record highs and lows seem to lurch from one extreme to the other, within just a few years of each other, if not one year after the other!

I’m looking forward to NOT hitting any record lows this fall and winter! 😀 Still, the way things are going, it may be a while before we finally harvest our carrots, potatoes and beets – I want to leave those in the ground as long as possible – and we’ll have lettuce and chard for quite some time, yet!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: two kinds of potatoes

I wasn’t going to harvest our potatoes yet, since they can stay in the ground until after we get frost. It is, however, Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and dangit, I want to have some of our own potatoes! 😀

The fingerling potatoes are still growing, but the Yukon Gem and Norland potato plants are completely died back, so those were my target for today.

Using old feed bags as grow bags was an experiment for us, and it was interesting to see that roots had made their way through the bottoms of the bags. These will definitely not see another year of use, and they were also weathered enough to start tearing a bit while I moved them, but that’s still pretty good, considering they would have been thrown out, otherwise.

That kiddie pool is, once again, the handiest thing ever! So are those old window screens I found on the barn. 😀 The bags got dumped into the pool, where I could go through the soil to find the potatoes and set them aside on the screen.

This is the contents of the very first bag I emptied!

Each variety was planted in five feed bags. We did gather some potatoes earlier, and I tried to take out just a couple from each bag, so there was originally a few more than what you can see here.

I had assistance from a Nosencrantz, ferociously hunting leafs!

By the time I was working on the Yukon Gem potatoes, the kiddie pool was too full, so I moved aside the remaining bags and started to return some of the soil to create a new bed for planting. For the amount of soil, the new bed will extend along the fence further than the rows of bags are, as I don’t want to to be too wide or too deep. Unless I change my mind at the last minute or something, we will be transplanting some perennial flowers that need to be divided.

One of the nice things I noticed while picking through the soil to find the potatoes, was how many nice, big fat worms I found! They managed to make their way through the bottoms of the bags. I could even see worm holes in the soil under the bags, too.

Here they are! All of the red and yellow potatoes we got.

Such a small harvest, but not too shabby, considering this year’s growing conditions. These will sit outside on the screens for a bit, but with so few potatoes, there’s no need to properly cure them. We’ll be eating them pretty quickly. In fact, quite a lot of these will be used up this weekend, with Thanksgiving dinner. 🙂

It should be interesting to see what we get with the fingerling potatoes!

As for how the grow bags did compared to doing the Ruth Stout, heavy mulching method we did last year, I would say these did better. I didn’t know about indeterminate and determinate potatoes before this. If I’d known, I would have specifically looked up indeterminate varieties for these bags, and would have kept filling them with soil and mulch over the summer. That would have resulted in a higher yield. It just happened that all the varieties we chose were determinate, so they grew all on one level. The main thing was that there was no sign of any slug or insect damage on the potatoes. With the Ruth Stout method, I found a lot of slugs as I dug up the potatoes, and quite a few holes in the spuds.

For next year, I am thinking we definitely want to look into doing something like this again; maybe grow bags again, or some other way of doing a potato tower. I think it will depend on what kind of varieties we go with next year, and if I can find indeterminate varieties. I was looking at different websites last night, including some that specialized in only potatoes, and just about everything is marked as sold out. I’m hoping that’s because of the time of year, and that they will come available again after harvesting and curing is done for the winter. I’d like to try sun chokes and sweet potatoes, too – there is one place I’ve found that sells sweet potatoes that can grow in our climate. I think I’m the only one in the family that actually likes sweet potatoes, though (the rest of the household just sort of tolerates them), so I wouldn’t have to grow many. I’ve never found sun chokes to buy and taste, so that will be something to try just to find out if we like them or not!

We’ll have to find a new place to grow potatoes next year, though, since this spot will become a flower bed. We’ll have to think about that! Especially since I hope to increase the quantity we plant. Over time, we’ll need to grow a LOT more potatoes to have enough for four people, to store over the winter, but we’ll get there little by little.

The Re-Farmer

So much colour

The sunflowers are so cheerful looking!

This is the Hopi Black Dye sunflower that has the one seed head that I think will have time to fully mature – and it has four more bright and cheerful seed heads opening!

I don’t know why my phone’s camera blew out this shot, but you can still see what a deep, dark purple is developing as the seeds mature.

When my mother found out I was planting sunflowers, she immediately mocked me, telling me that the birds would eat them all. This is the first sign of birds eating them I’ve seen this year. 😀

Not too long ago, while working on supper, I decided to dig into the potato bags and see what I could find.

The Norland (red skin, white flesh) and Yukon Gem (light brown skin, yellow flesh), we have picked before, but this is the first time I tried to find any of the fingerling potatoes, Purple Chief (purple skin, white flesh) and Purple Peruvian (purple skin, purple flesh). I did not find a lot, but I’m hoping it’s because I just wasn’t digging around in the right places.

I currently have them roasting in the oven with our own onions, both red and yellow, three types of summer squash, and purple beans. The only thing in there we didn’t grow ourselves was celery. Oh, and the dill we got from my brother. 🙂 I’ve got three chickens roasting, too, so we shouldn’t need to cook for the next couple of days! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: late season growth progress

We have been really fortunate with the frost holding off so far. If the long range forecasts are right, we won’t get a frost for at least two more weeks, possibly longer. Other areas in our province have already had their first frost, so I am really thankful that it’s held off in our area so far.

The continued mild temperatures is giving the garden more time to recover and progress, and we even have some new little surprises this morning!

We’ve got two more Ozark Nest Egg gourds forming! That makes for a total of three. I did not see these two when I checked the garden beds yesterday evening, so this is pretty much overnight growth.

This is one of the new ones, from outside the fence. They have such pretty flowers. 🙂

The Tennessee Dancing Gourds are one I don’t have much concern over. Though there are a lot of little gourds developing still, there are quite a few “large” ones like this, that have reached their full size, but are still ripening on the vine.

One of the few remaining Halona melons came off its vine this morning. There are a couple of somewhat larger ones left that might have enough time to fully mature, plus a few more tiny ones that won’t.

In the background of the photo above, you can see the biggest Pixie melon in its hammock. These guys could really use the extra time, it looks like.

We’ve still got Red Kuri developing, and they are growing fast at this stage – and you can even see a new squash developing in one of the photos.

The mutant is my favourite! 😀 I’m just fascinated by it. It’s shape is different than the other Red Kuri, which can be expected with cross pollination, but it is also getting bigger than the others. If this is the result of cross pollination with the nearby Teddy squash, I would have expected it to be smaller, not bigger! The Teddy squash are a miniature acorn squash and their mature size should be smaller than the Red Kuri. For a hybrid to be bigger than either parent type seems quite unusual. I hope this has time to fully mature, because I really want to see how it turns out!

Speaking of Teddy squash…

We have another new baby! Of the two plants, the one that had only a single squash developing, now has two.

The other plant still has four developing squash, with the one in the photo being the biggest.

While checking the Crespo squash, I was able to find an open line of sight to get a picture of the one developing fruit that I’ve been able to see so far. It should be interesting to see how far it gets, before the frost kills it all. We certainly won’t get the large, green, lumpy pumpkins we are supposed to, but even a little one will be interesting to see.

The cucamelons are an odd one for this year. The plants are growing up the fence rather well, will plenty of blossoms and fruit beginning to develop. Unfortunately, most never get past the size you see in the photo above. They just drop off.

I did find a single, mature cucamelon. Which I ate. 😀 It’s the first larger one I’ve seen in quite some time. This suggests a pollination problem, unfortunately.

And finally, we have our potato bags.

I’m not sure what to make of these! They just don’t seem to be dying back. Oh, the two varieties at the far end are looking a bit like they are dying back, but they also got hit the hardest by the grasshoppers. The two fingerling varieties just keep on growing!

When we first decided to use the feed bags to grow the potatoes, I expected to continually add soil over time. It was after learning that all four varieties are determinate, not indeterminate, that I changed my mind. They would not benefit from having soil continually built up along the stems, so only a single layer was added to protect the developing potatoes from light, and that’s it. The purple fingerlings, however, just keep getting bigger and bigger. Which leads me to think that these may actually be indeterminate potatoes, and would have benefited from continually adding more soil. I don’t know. It should be interesting to see how many potatoes we get when we do harvest them. I don’t image we will be getting many, but we shall see. If we decide to go with grow bags again next year, we will have to make sure to choose indeterminate varieties, which means finding a source for seed potatoes that actually labels them as determinate or indeterminate.

Until this year, I didn’t even know that tomatoes had those labels, never mind things like potatoes!

It has definitely been a year of learning!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: morning harvest and first potatoes, makes for an awesome breakfast!

I finished off my rounds this morning by doing some harvesting in the garden. The beans in particular had plenty to pick. 🙂

I found a yellow bean, growing on a green bean plant!

It didn’t get picked. It felt completely empty. Any beans it might have had did not develop. I did find one other yellow bean among the green beans, on another plant, that did have developing beans in it, but it was super soft for some reason.

There as a big enough haul this morning to need two containers! 🙂

Among the sunburst squash, we have the one plant that is producing green squash instead of yellow, though some of the developing squash have streaks of yellow in them. An interesting mutant plant! 😀

The yellow beans are pretty much done. We’ll still be picking them for the next while, but just a few here and there.

I found flowers on both green and purple bean plants! Just a few, but still a surprise, this late in the season. We’ll be having plenty of those to pick for a while, from the looks of it. Lots of little ones developing on the plants.

Our first potatoes! We could have picked potatoes earlier, but we’ve been leaving them for now. This morning, I decided to reach into a few bags and dug around until I felt a potato and pulled it up. These are the yellow Yukon Gem and red Norland potatoes. I did not try to pick any of the fingerlings, yet.

That’s a pretty good harvest for the day! There are enough beans there to do another bag for the freezer, if we want. 🙂

I used a bit of everything when I made breakfast this morning. 🙂

I made a hash using all three types of beans, a couple of sunburst squash, a zucchini, and one of each type of potato. I also used onion and garlic that we harvested earlier. Even the oil I used to cook with was infused with our chive blossoms, and the dried parsley on top is from last year’s garden.

It tasted great, too! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: morning rain, and solution found

For the past while, we have been pretty much constantly checking the weather radar. Yesterday evening, it was getting discouraging, and the predicted overnight rain kept getting pushed back and the weather system passed us by to the south. This morning, however, I was thrilled to see a system pushing rain right over is. Granted, based on the radar images, we should have been raining right at that moment, but at least we weren’t going to be missed entirely.

We did get at least some rain last night, as the ground was still damp when I came out to do my morning rounds. It even started raining while I was out there! A very light rain; the sort of rain that, had I not been outside being rained on, I wouldn’t have been able to tell it was happening, but still, it was rain!

While checking the furthest garden beds, I was accompanied by Creamsicle Baby, who has finally started to allow us to pet him again. Frustratingly, when the cats follow us around those beds, they have a terrible habit of going into the pea trellises. This morning, I had to chase Creamsicle off the pea plants he was rolling on, only to have him come right back and start playing with the trellis twice, pulling their pegs out of the ground and getting tangled in them!

Even as I checked the garden cam this morning, I saw Butterscotch going through the pea beds, all four kittens following along, and every one of them went through the pea trellises, running, bouncing and rolling around.

Those poor peas just can’t seem to catch a break!

Other things, however, are doing quite well.

I’m really impressed by how well these Hope Black Dye sunflower transplants are doing. These are from the ones we tried starting indoors, but never germinated until well after we’d direct sown the other half of the seeds outdoors. The seedlings have pretty much quadrupled in size since they got transplanted. I don’t expect them to have a chance to reach maturity, given how late in the season they got transplanted, but part of the reason we grow sunflowers is as a privacy screen and wind break, and these might still accomplish that. Assuming they don’t get eaten. This morning, I saw deer tracks in the soil at the very ends of two bean beds, but no signs of anything new critter damage, so here’s hoping!

Every time we go out to these garden beds, we can’t help but check on the melons. They are getting so big!! This variety isn’t supposed to get as large as, say, the cantaloupes we see in the grocery store, but they are still supposed to produce lots of 4-5 pound fruit. The Pixies are supposed to reach about 1 1/2 pounds in size. I’m really, really excited about these. Melons are among my favourite foods, but we rarely buy them, as they are a treat, rather than an essential.

One of the challenges we’ve been having as been with the potatoes. Since discovering some critter damage, we unrolled the feed bags we’re growing them in to full height. If these had been indeterminate potatoes, we would eventually have done that by continually adding more soil, but these turned out to all be determinate potatoes, so there is no advantage to doing that.

Unfortunately, that meant there was nothing to support the bags, and the plants kept flopping over. Especially while being watered. If we had mulch, we could have added that to help fill the space and keep them from flopping over, but we don’t have anything right now. At least it’s been working to keep critters out, but some of the bags were flopping over to the point that I was concerned the stems would all break, and they’re still in their blooming stage.

Last night, I think I found a solution.

This is how they looked this morning, so it seems to have worked!

What I’d done is cut small holes near the tops of the bags, then tied them together with twine. The double row was tied together in groups of four, while the bags in the front were tied in groups of three. Then, just in case, extra twine was run around the front, tying them to the chain link fence. So now, the bags are holding each other up, while also protecting the plants from critters. It’s just insects we’ll still need to keep an eye on.

Hmm. One down side of finally getting some rain. There are some storms passing to the south of us, which means we’ve lost internet. The WordPress editor’s autosave has been spinning for a while, and once that starts, it doesn’t recover even once the connection is back. Which means that I can’t save my draft, and once our connection is up again, I’ll have to open whatever draft was last autosaved, then copy and paste whatever got missed into it, before I can publish it, and close this window.

Oh, the internet seems to be back again! Let’s see if I can publish this!

The Re-Farmer

Some garden stuff, and new critter damage

While heading over to put some kibble out for the junk pile kittens this morning, I found this.

Just last night, I was looking closely at this lilac, to see why one of the branches had died, and found it broken at the main stem. Now think I know what broke it. My guess is a racoon was using the lilac to get at the bird feeder, and it broke under the weight.

Which is what I think happened to this bird feeder.

When we cleaned up and painted this bird feeder, we found only two bent screws were holding it to the metal piece that fits over the pole. We replaced those and added more.

I could only find two.

What I’ll likely do is attach a new piece of wood to the base of the bird feeder, then attach the metal fitting to the new wood. Hopefully, that will prevent this from happening again.

Now that I had good light, I got a picture of the unrolled potato bags. I think this will do well to protect them from further critter damage. I’m just glad that what damage there was, was minor.

I saw no new damage in the old kitchen garden. This edge of the beet bed had been left alone until after the soap shavings were added. This end has hot pepper flakes on it.

Also, those flowers blooming in the foreground are incredibly resilient. When we ended up digging out a whole bunch of soil to make the path along the house, all the flowers and whatnot that were growing there were disturbed. I took out as many roots as I could, and the excess soil got moved over to the rose bushes and honeysuckle. The entire area was disrupted, and this far from the house, everything was buried in the dug up soil, then torn up as the soil was moved again. Yet these guys managed to push their way through the hard packed soil and mulch, and are now merrily blooming!

This morning, I worked on getting rid of the woodchuck den I found under the stairs at our dining room door. In the process, I noticed a splash of colour.

This one little cherry tree has developing cherries. There are two others, here, and they barely even bloomed this year.

I’m glad there will be at least a few cherries this year.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: how things are looking

Just a few pictures of the garden beds that I took while doing my morning rounds.

This is the newest bed in the area where the old wood pile used to be, and these beets were the first ones planted, so they are larger than the others. Well. Some of them are. We are curious about the one end there they are smaller, and not as many came up. There is no sign that deer have been eating them – the onions seem to be working! I recall that we had issues with birds digging in the garlic beds. I wonder if they were digging in here, too? I don’t know.

The onions are yellow onions we bought as sets locally, when it looked like the ones we started from seed might not make it.

Luffa, actively climbing the mesh of the squash tunnel! So far, they are the only ones long enough to reach/climb the supports.

I was thrilled to see this, nearby.

Several Halona melons are starting to bloom! So awesome! Nothing on the Pixie melons or winter squash, yet.

This bed has the two types of carrots – Kyoto Red and Napoli – that came in pelleted seeds. This allowed us to plant them further apart, so no thinning will be needed. That also meant that, even though they started coming up quite a while ago, their thin, feathery leaves were hard to capture in a photograph! 😀

These are the Norstar onions we started from seed. Size wise, they are much the same as the ones started from sets, including the red onions that share this bed with them, however none of the others are starting to bulb as much as these ones are.

Looking ahead to next year, sets are definitely easier than starting from seed, and they don’t take up the space indoors that seeds do, but I think the ones started from see seem to be doing a bit better. We shall see when harvest time comes.

Speaking of harvest, the spinach is starting to bolt. The three varieties we have are all supposed to mature at different rates, but all three are ready for harvest, now! We’ll pull the biggest plants first, and leave the smaller ones a while longer, simply because there is so much. I dug out more window screens from the shed and washed them, so we can use them to dry spinach in the sun room. Doing it in the oven worked, but the trays are smaller, and we can only fit two in the oven at a time. We have four screens in total, and we’ll be able to fit a lot more leaves on them.

We finally have a decent amount of lettuces, though some blocks don’t seem to be doing as well as others. After the spinach is cleared out, we plan to do more lettuces in those beds. Just on one side, as we will be planting more spinach for a fall harvest, later on. The lettuce seed packets were in a Ziploc bag and spilled, so most of them are now mixed up, but that’s okay.

The greens to the left of the blocks, past the plastic, are 4 varieties of beets, that my daughters planted. Not visible is the larger L shaped bed, in which we planted all the remaining beet seeds, including from last year, all mixed up.

The potatoes are doing really well! If those bags weren’t twice the height they started off at, I would think they hadn’t been “hilled” at all!

I am really happy with how the garden is looking, though we do have some failures. None of the purple kale came up at all, and it looks like the purple kohlrabi is a total loss, too. There *might* be some white kohlrabi coming up in the old kitchen garden, but I’m honestly not sure if what I’m looking at are kohlrabi seedlings, or weeds. There’s only a couple of them.

The strawberry spinach seems to be a loss, too. We thought they had started to sprout, but now it looks like there’s nothing but weeds. If they did sprout, they didn’t survive. It looks much the same with the poppy seeds, except for one little patch. We’ll see how they survive! They’re still really small. Ah, well. Whether they make it or not, I plan to get more for next year. Possibly in another variety that I’ve found, too.

It’s only June, though. I’m quite looking forwards to seeing how things grow over the next couple of months!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: “hilling” potatoes

This morning, it was time to add to the potato grow bags.

They were topped up with a mix of grass clippings and garden soil, and the bags were unrolled a bit in the process. Some of them look like they could have done with more, but I must say, it was pretty awkward to top these up. The row against the fence was hardest to reach, of course. I really need to remember how short my reach it! 😀

The mulch and soil had to be added a handful at a time, carefully spread around the sides of the bag, where there turned out to be quite a lot more room than I expected. I tried to put more soil than mulch in the middle, between the plants, compared to around the sides. As early in the morning as it was, the heat and humidity was already up there, and I was just dripping with sweat. Much of it getting onto the inside of my glasses. :-/ So as soon as I was done topping them up, I headed inside, saving the watering for later. This afternoon was our early birthday and Father’s day celebratory pizza night, which involved a couple of hours of driving to get it and bring it home, so it wasn’t until evening that the potato bags got watered.

This evening, we fertilized our garden beds for the first time this year. We found an all purpose, water soluble vegetable fertilizer while cleaning up the old kitchen, and I’d bought a tomato and vegetable water soluble fertilizer as well. Both have a higher nitrogen percentage, which is needed for our nitrogen depleted soil. There’s only so much the new garden soil can contribute. My daughter used the tomato and vegetable one, with a watering can to mix it in, and did the front garden beds, except the potatoes. I did the potatoes using the hose with the fertilizer attachment on it, before moving on to the garden beds on the north side of the house. I particularly wanted to make sure the corn, squash and gourds got a good feeding, but everything got at least a little bit of fertilizer. We even have some left over to do it again in a couple of weeks.

Today was also a day of critters, including some surprises, but that will be for my next post. 🙂

The Re-Farmer