We are having a nice day today, before temperatures drop quite a bit tomorrow, so I wanted to get some more done on the old kitchen garden. We’ll expected to have only one cold day before it warms up again, so we should still be okay for getting things done.
With the new raised bed done, it was time to work on the south edge of the old kitchen garden.
This is where my daughter has planted her irises, and at the far right is where her daffodils are. The bulbs were planted deeply, so that they would better survive our winters, but it meant I could only dig around the top few inches. Which is where most of the roots and rhizomes are, so that worked out.
We had a couple of boards on the ground to mark where the outer edge was, though they were mostly covered by grass and weeds. After moving those out, I used where they were as my guide for were to work while clearing things. Once I’d weeded as much as I could, I wanted to see what I could do about the stepping stones and the paths we’d be leaving open in the wall it will be edges with. I found one more paving stone, like we’ve got as stepping stones under the kitty’s butt. I also tried to find matching, unbroken bricks for the gap in the wall.
The other stepping stones are actual stones. After digging around the rock pile near my late father’s car, I found a couple that had split and were nice and flat.
If you look just above the handle of my digging tool, you’ll see a bit of green. That is one of the irises that, for some reason, it still green. I wanted to make sure it was protected when we use the stepping stones.
The stones and bricks were laid down, then I dug a shallow trench along the outer edge. I was able to fit the shortest log left over from before between the concrete block retaining wall and the bricks, without having to shift the bricks much at all. The longest log from the pile just happened to be the perfect length to fit between the two pairs of bricks, with no adjustments! The last log I added didn’t need to reach all the way to the laundry platform, since that area is sheltered by the mock orange tree you can see the leaves and branches of in the bottom corner. I just hope I didn’t cover that single Egyptian Walking Onion that’s somewhere in there. That thing has managed to survive for many years. I’d hate to be the one that finally killed it!
The logs are just there as temporary place holders. My daughter wants to use rocks to create more of a wall along the edge. Once the logs and stepping stones were in place, I spread the rest of the sifted soil on the tarp all along the edge, and the logs will help keep the soil in place.
This is the first year we were able to protect that onion enough for it to grow bulbils. You can see they’re sprouting, but no roots had started to form, so I moved it out. Then I found another onions while I was weeding.
I figured, what the heck. I may as well plant them!
I planted them along the raised bed, covered them with a grass clipping mulch (and put some around that one iris by the stepping stones), then added sticks at either end to mark it. I knew for sure that there wasn’t anything else planted there. I figure they will be sheltered by the log wall, and still get full sunlight, too. If they survive the winter, we might have more walking onions next year!
That done, I gave everything a thorough watering, including washing the soil off the bricks, stepping stones and the log edge.
After that, it was just a matter of clean up. The pile of roots and weeds went to the burn barrel.
The area is now done. The next area I need to work on is the L shaped bed around the double lilac. I’ve got lettuce I left to go to seed in there and that’s it. With the weather we’ve been having, though, I’m not sure we’ll be getting any seed out of them this year. We shall see.
Once I got home from the city and grabbed a meal, it was right back out to work on the bed our fall garlic will be planted in.
This is how it was left, the night before.
Because I had been tromping across it with the wheelbarrow, the first thing I wanted to do – after putting the new handle on our garden fork! – was loosen up the soil at the bottom.
It was not easy. At this point, not only was I hitting a lot of rocks, but at the north end of it, a lot of tree roots, too!
I also had a kitten on my back, most of the time. The little grey and white tabby that is the most socialized of the bunch. At one point, he simply draped himself across the back of my neck and stayed there as I moved around!
I was also picking up and tossing quite a few larger rocks into the trees, too.
Something this guy really loved! He kept chasing after the rocks as they bounced on the ground, then came back to watch me, waiting for the next throw! He even made it a challenge not to bean him with a rock, the way he was running after them!
After the base was loosened, I gave the whole thing a thorough watering.
Then I got a wheelbarrow load of wood chips. Just one, for a think layer all across. This is on the same principal as using logs in a hügelkultur mound. As the anaerobic bacteria slowly breaks down the wood, the wood acts as a sponge to hold water for the roots above. Since these are wood chips rather than logs or branches, as we used in the high raised bed, they will break down faster. With garlic having shallow roots, the breakdown of the wood chips won’t affect their nitrogen needs.
The wood chips got a thorough soaking before the next step.
I pulled up the frost-killed summer squash, the remaining dead tomato, eggplant and pepper plants from the other two beds, and quite a bit of dead winter squash plants, too.
Then, because they were so bushy, I tromped them flat, being careful to just step on the dead plants. I just loosened the soil on the entire bed. I didn’t want to compact it all again!
Once they were flattened,, then given a soak, I could start adding soil back.
The soil was raked out evenly, though I tried not to get too close to the logs. That’s where the crab grass will inevitably grow in from the path.
With so many rhizomes catching on my rake as I was working, I finally went ahead and raked the weeds and roots I’d tossed into the paths.
There was a lot more than it seems, while all spread out! It all got dumped among the nearby trees.
With all that soil getting sifted, plus what was added to the bed, this is what I was left with.
Almost half the soil I took out is still there! The logs framing the bed are so low, if I add more back, I’ll have a problem with the sides washing down into the path – something that was an issue when watering the tomatoes.
Which is fine. The high raised bed’s soil level dropped over the summer, as expected, so I can use it to top that up, and still have some left over.
I did not, however, soak the freshly laid down soil. That would have just compacted it. We got a frost advisory for tonight, but things are supposed to warm up after that. We might even hit 21C/70F in a couple of days! So the grass clipping mulch went back right away.
Then it got a thorough soaking!
When it comes time to plant the garlic, we can make holes through the mulch. After tonight’s frost, we’re supposed to have some very pleasant evenings, which will be prefect for the cloves to start rooting themselves before the overnight temperatures start to be consistently too low for growth.
Thankfully, none of the other low raised beds need this much work put into them. They just need to be weeded and mulched for the winter. Except for the bed with the carrots and turnips in it. That will stay as it is for a while longer, as they won’t be bothered by frost.
Lots of clean up to prepare for next year, still! But this bed, at least, is all done and ready for garlic.
Well, the soil sifter I made really got a work out today! I’m actually quite impressed. It got beaten and battered, and that janky thing withstood the abuse and did the job.
The half inch mesh works out well. The soil was very full of worms, and most of them fell through the mesh quite easily. Any pebbles small enough to go through will not be a problem. In fact, they will help with drainage. Unfortunately, it’s also large enough that roots can fall through, too, so I still did most of the picking of roots by hand, tossing them on the path to be trampled on, pushing through the soil until I reached a point where I could just shake the rest through. What got left behind were the larger rocks and weeks, and small clumps of soil. I didn’t want to break those up too much, as it would have hurt too many worms.
I laid out the black landscape-type fabric/tarp we’ve got to put the sifted soil on until I’m ready to put it back into the bed.
It took many loads as I worked my way down. You can see the crab grass rhizomes I pulled out on the grass. You can’t see all the other roots and weeds that also got pulled out.
Using the wheelbarrow and soil sifter really helped a lot. I have a long handled garden claw that I used to break the soil up in the sifter, pulling up the longer roots, and using the back of it to help push the soil through the sifter. It was a real back saver! Plus, when I stopped to work with my hands, I could brace the garden claw on the ground, or even into a corner of the sifter, to lean on as I worked. The logs around the garden bed allowed me to raise one leg, relieving even more pressure from my back. Without all those little things to help out, I would not have been able to finish the soil sifting today!
This is where I stopped, after several hours.
Oh, wow. I just looked at the time stamps between the first progress photo I took, and the last one. I was working on this for four hours. !!
Basically, I removed the top four inches or so of soil. After that, I was scraping the shovel over rocks.
There are still a lot of rhizomes along the edges, but the run under the log border, and I wasn’t up to moving those out to get rid of them.
The sifted soil is now so light and fluffy, it looks like there’s so much more than what could fit into the space in the bed!
What got left behind in the sifter got dumped among the nearby trees. Plenty of rocks, clumps of soil, worms, and the occasional sticks, rusted nails and even bits of glass!
I am so glad this is done.
Tomorrow, I plan to add a layer of wood chips into the bottom of the bed, top it with the summer squash vines I’ll be pulling from the next bed over, and then the soil will be returned, ready for garlic planting and mulch. I hope to get that all finished tomorrow, because the day after, I am expecting to go into the city for a much needed stocking up trip to the city.
While I was writing this, I got a call from my brother. He had just made the trip out to my mother’s to get the battery from the motorized chair he got for her (which she refuses to use) that isn’t holding a charge for some reason. She just let him know that they’re coming to spray her apartment for bedbugs again, the day after tomorrow. She hadn’t mentioned a thing to me when I called her last, even though she’d told me about some other stuff, even though I’d really stressed with her to let us know right away if she got another letter of notification that they’d be coming in to spray her place again, so that we would have time to help her prepare. She started talking to him about staying in the lobby, even though she has to stay away from her apartment for 12 hours after spraying.
My brother took a picture of the letter she got and will send it to me. Hopefully soon, because I’d like to read it before I call her. It looks like I will be helping her book a room at the motel again, as she doesn’t want to stay at my sister’s overnight. Too many stairs in her house. Which means I’ll be using her car to go into the city, which means not a Costco trip.
At this point, I don’t even know if they are spraying her place because they’re actually finding bed bugs, or because they’ve just decided to keep spraying the same apartments every month. The guy did leave a trap, but no one comes to check it.
What a pain.
Oh, and I just found out our vandal had called my mother again – at the beginning of the month! It was her birthday, so he used that as an excuse to call her, then start harassing her about the farm again until she finally hung up on him. I had hoped, after losing his court case against me, he’d finally give up, but apparently not. She never said a thing to any of us until now. So frustrating!
Well, we’ll figure it out. For now, I’m just going to focus on getting that bed done and planting garlic for next year!
I had such a slow start to the day today. Not a lot of sleep, and when I tried getting up this morning, I lost my balance and almost fell. My husband was up and I ended up asking him to take care of feeding the cats this morning so I could lie down again. Considering it’s because of his own pain levels that he’s up (or not) at odd hours, it takes a lot before I ask him to take over like that. I have a theory on what’s going on and will be testing it over the next few nights. If I don’t follow up on that later, it will be because nothing changed.
When I finally did get out, the kitties had full bellies, which means I had company during my rounds!
Especially as I went up the driveway to check the gate and switch out the memory card on the gate cam. The new camera, with its direct solar power and battery backup, has the batteries still at 100%! The other two trail cameras are at about half, and both have had their batteries changed at least once, since we got the new camera.
I’m not actually all that happy that the kittens follow me to the gate. I don’t want them wandering to the road, so I try to pick them up if I can. At one point, I was carrying the three amigos, all at the same time. Interesting that the three most socialized kittens like to stay together the most, too. I can’t say it’s because they are all from the same litter, because the fourth one of that litter is more or less indifferent to its siblings, while the muted calico, from an older litter, still likes to hang out with these three the most. That one is a lot more socialized now, too. It still runs off at time, but more often than not, we can pet it and even pick it up for cuddles.
I worked on the garden bed I intend to plant the garlic in last night, but didn’t get very far.
This is where I left off when my back started to give out.
I really look forward to when we have more high raised beds!!!
I removed the grass clippings mulch and loosened the entire bed with a garden fork first, then started working my way around, pulling out as many crab grass rhizomes and other weeds as I could. The job was made much more challenging, because the kitten in the earlier photo decided it absolutely had to be on my back while I worked! When I straightened up, she would climb up to perch on my shoulder until bent down again.
I managed just over half the bed. I found the soil to be much improved, easy to work into with the garden hoe – though I’m still hitting rocks – and filled with worms. Compaction, however, is still a problem.
Once I’ve got more of the roots and weeds removed, I’ll use the soil sifter to get more out. I plan to dig a trench down the middle. The summer squash bed is right next to it. I’ll be pulling those up and burying them in this bed as a soil amendment. After the garlic is planted, the grass clipping mulch will be returned. The summer squash bed will be ready to work on next.
Things are going much more slowly than I expected, and it’s basically because of pain. Yes, I pain killer up before I start, I’m just taking your basic painkillers. They’re not particularly strong. I’m the sort of person where pharmaceuticals tend not to work as expected to begin with, and typically need double the dose to maybe get the same effect as a regular dose on someone else. It’s the same thing with the painkillers dentists inject before working on a tooth – something I discovered the hard way when I was in 5th grade. I still remember the dentist working on a cavity. I had my eyes squeezed shut in pain and was clutching the arm rests when the dentist made a snarky comment about opening my eyes, it’s not that bad. I did open my eyes, glared at him – and broke one of the arm rests. I was an adult before I dared go to a dentist again. As an adult, the dentists would actually listen to me when I told them there was still pain.
So… yeah. I do have an extremely high pain tolerance because of this, and can typically just keep working through all sorts of pain. That’s getting harder and harder to do as I get older. The problem is, there’s really no one else to take over. My older daughter has joint problems that has lead to injuries that just won’t heal, so there’s only so much she can do, and both of them have back problems that won’t go away unless they both get reduction surgery (as I did, more than 20 years ago: best thing I ever did!!!), but neither of them trust doctors. At all. They’ve seen the BS my husband and I have put up with over the years. Since we’ve moved back to this province, we’ve found health care has gotten even worse during the almost 15 years we were away. So while they can help, all four of us are just really gimpy. Plus, my older daughter has her commissions to work on, so she gets paid, and isn’t available as much. They both also take care of the inside stuff for me, so I’m free to work on the outside stuff – an arrangement I am quite happy with. Still, the way things are going, I’m going to have to ask them to help me with the outside stuff more. It’s frustrating. When we first moved here, I was able to get much more work done in much less time. I did not expect my body to give out that much in so few years!
Ah, well. It is what it is.
I’ll be taking pain killers and heading back out soon.
On another note, we had another small harvest this morning.
I decided it was time to pick the Little Finger eggplant. I actually found one more little one, after I took this picture. These are all from just one plant. None of the others matured enough to produce anything. I had intended to leave them for longer, but last night we dropped to 2C/36F. We were only supposed to drop to 6C/43F, so I didn’t try to cover them for the night. They don’t look frost damaged, but with how messed up the forecast has been, I figured it was time. This variety is meant to be picked while still relatively small and glossy – maybe a bit bigger than the largest one I’m holding.
In talking with the girls about what to plant next year, we are thinking of trying 3 varieties of peppers, and I’d like to try this variety of eggplant again. However, we will need to work out better protection for them. My older daughter is wanting to save up for a type of greenhouse that is specifically designed for our extreme temperatures. Something like the polycrub that Stone Croft Skye has. Before then, I hope to pick up a decent sized portable greenhouse, or maybe a smaller one to use for our seedlings. We have GOT to come up with something better for starting seeds. We had to spend way too much effort to protect them from cats, making for less than ideal growing conditions.
That is something to think about later, though. For now, we need to clean things up and get beds prepared for next year, first.
With today predicted to be very hot, the girls and I headed out much earlier than usual. Normally, they do the evening stuff while I do the morning stuff, but this was a big job, and I wanted to get it done before the heat hit.
The big squash patch is now completely mulched. I’m glad I put all those sticks in! All the squash started at 4 weeks before last frost date are all still so tiny. The mulch will also help to protect them from any heavy rains and storms we may get.
The other squash patch, with the corn and beans in between, also got a layer of mulch.
Last of all, the hulless pumpkins next to the bean tunnel got a layer, too.
I brought out the old sheets we were using as shade cloth last year, and one of my daughters helped me set them up over two of the beds with spinach in them. It felt odd to put up shade cloth when it’s so overcast.
I’m trying to think of what we can use to put over some of the other beds, to protect them from heavy rains and possible hail. The netting we have might keep critters out, but the mesh is too large to protect from heavy rains or hail. Last year’s row covers that fell apart when we moved them has old window screen mesh on one of them, but it’s too narrow to use without more support than the twine we’ve got now. I’m thinking of the mosquito netting we used as row covers might work. We only need to cover the tops of the beds enough to protect from heavy rain, while still letting water through. I’m not too keen on using the mosquito netting, as it sheds long strands from the cut sides, and I’m still finding them among the weeds in the old kitchen garden. Those strands don’t break easily, and are something small critters could get caught up in. The best thing would be to hem up the cut edges, but that wouldn’t be done until we have them in the sizes we want.
We’re getting all these predictions for high temperatures and advisories for heat, but… it’s almost cool out there. We’re also getting storm warnings that are all over the place. One minute, the storms are expected on Tuesday. Then Sunday (tomorrow). Then tonight. Then not at all. Then Monday.
I am, however, hearing thunder as I write this, and I can see from the trees out my window, that the winds are picking up.
My dropped the idea of getting more weed trimming done today. The necessary areas are already done; anything else is just bonus at this point. The ground is almost dry enough to mow in places, but that’s not going to happen either.
Well, we got the main thing done. The squash patches are now mulched.
The rain held off this afternoon, so I headed out to where we finally decided to transplant the ground cherries.
After thoroughly dousing myself with mosquito repellant!!
This spot by the compost heap has been covered with that sheet of metal for about 2 years. The metal was placed there as something to put grass clippings on top of, so they’d be easier to collect and use later on.
Isn’t it amazing that, even while under metal, things were still trying to grow under there? !!
The soil was so soft under there, I could easily push the garden fork deeper than the length of the tines, and probably could have gone deeper if I’d wanted to. The ground was also pretty saturated, so it was muddy work to loosen the soil and pull out any roots – including some thoroughly rotted roots from the old tree stump under the compost pile nearby! No watering needed after they were planted, that’s for sure. In fact, I’m a bit concerned it might be too wet for them. We shall see.
The groundcherries got a good mulch with some of the grass clippings I had to move off the sheet of metal in order to move it. Here, they can be left to self seed, and hopefully we’ll get them year after year. We’ll just have to make sure they don’t spread too far and become invasive, which I’ve heard some people have had problems with.
The sheet of metal, meanwhile, is now sitting on top of the tall grass and weeds next to the ground cherries, weighted down with rocks to keep it from blowing away. Hopefully, it will help keep the crab grass and other weeds from invading the ground cherries.
When my daughter came out to help, we went looking through all the garden beds, talking about what needed to be done in each, before she started working on where we decided to plant our corn.
First, she dug a fairly narrow trench for the Tom Thumb popcorn, between the green patty pans and the Boston Marrow. These have a slightly longer growing season – 85-90 days – so we wanted to get them in first.
After she dug the small trench, she moved to the space between the Boston Marrow and the Lady Godiva pumpkins. There’s more space there, and it’s where we will be planting the Latte corn, which needs only 65 days to maturity, and bush beans.
While she worked on that trench, I used the hand cultivator to loosen up the smaller trench, pulled out the bigger rocks, and as many weed roots as I could. Then it got a layer of shredded paper, and finally a about 1 1/2 wheelbarrow loads of garden soil was added. I also removed the divots of sod and dumped them under some trees. They are so full of roots and rocks, it wasn’t worth the time to try and salvage any of the soil.
The Tom Thumb popcorn only grows to about 4 feet. The instructions said to plant them 5 or 6 inches apart, and in rows 36 inches apart, in blocks of at least 4 rows.
Obviously, we didn’t do that.
What we did do was plant two rows, with all the seeds about 6 inches apart. Once the soil was ready, my daughter had finished removing sod in the other area, so I just went down the prepared row, poking pairs of holes into the soil while my daughter went along behind me, dropping the little bitty corn seeds in! 🙂
I’m glad we got those planted, because the next job was a killer.
In the second space, I went over it with the hand cultivator to get some of the bigger rocks out, and the more obvious roots. There’s just no way we could get rid of all the roots. While I worked on that, my daughter used one of the old, busted up wheelbarrows to get grass clippings. A full recycling bag of shredded paper went into the bottom, then grass clippings got scattered over the paper.
After dumping the remaining soil in the wheelbarrow in, my daughter went to get more soil with the good wheelbarrow, while I used the old one to remove the divots of sod.
I was reminded of just how badly broken up that old thing was! I’m amazed we got away with using it for as long as we did. In the end, I had to switch to the other old wheelbarrow. It’s smaller and also busted up, but at least it didn’t try to tip over every time I dropped a piece of sod in it, or roll away!
After a while, however, my daughter was waving the white flag. It was pretty hot, and very humid. For all the bug spray we used, we were just sweating it right off. The mosquitoes were after my daughter more than me (I reapplied bug spray, several times!), and after all the back breaking labour of removing sod, she was just done.
After she escaped the clouds of mosquitoes, I managed to move some more of the sod – using the good wheelbarrow! – before switching to getting a couple more loads of soil, and that was it. I surrendered, too! I think we did manage to get half of the area covered with fresh garden soil. The other half will probably need at least 4 – 6 more loads of soil, depending on how full the wheelbarrow is. It’s a fair distance to haul the soil from the pile in the outer yard, and we have to go around through the smaller person gate, rather than the closer vehicle gate, because there’s water there again, so we can’t get away with over filling it.
It’s a good thing the Latte corn and the bush beans we will be planting with them don’t need a lot of time to grow, because we probably won’t be able to work on this area tomorrow, and not just because I’m driving my mother to another medical appointment. We’re supposed to start raining again tonight, with thunderstorms over the next two days – complete with overland flow flooding alerts! I’ll be using my mother’s car to drive her. Hopefully, that one patch on the road near our place will stay solid enough by the time I am coming home, that her little car will get through. Anyhow; with the expected weather, we might not be able to finish this area and plant the Latte corn for several days.
By the time we’re done in this area, it will be quite intensely planted. Between that and the straw mulch we intend to add, I’m hoping that should keep the weeds down. Before that gets done, we’ll have to remove the rest of the sod and the piles of rocks scattered about.
It would have been much easier if we could do the carboard and straw like we did for the potato beds, but we just don’t have the carboard for that. We could get more later on, but we really wanted to get these in as quickly as possible. This will be the last direct sown seeds, besides any successive sowing we might do for a fall harvest.
This is also about as close as we’re getting to the “three sisters” method of planting. Hopefully, doing it this way will have the same benefits as the more traditional way. The only real problem I foresee is being able to access the bush beans to harvest them, when everything is all grown in. If we focus on putting the corn in the middle and the beans on the outside, we should be able to reach them okay. It’ll be trying to walk around the Boston Marrow and hulless pumpkins that will be more of a challenge, I think! With the Tom Thumb corn, it will be less of an issue, since they won’t be harvested until the cobs are completely dry on the stalk. Once the mulch is down, there’s not going to be much more needed for them.
If nothing else, this will be a learning experience.
And an experience in humility, as we get driven away by hoards of mosquitoes, trying to eat us alive!
I’m now going to go borrow my husband’s bath chair and shower off the smell of insect repellant now!
It was a hot and sunny day, and so many trees and bushes are blooming right now.
The regular and double lilacs are just starting to open. The sour cherries are in full bloom. The Saskatoons and chokecherries are pretty much finished blooming, but the different crab apple trees are in various stages of exploding into flowers. There are also three other types of lilacs that are starting to bud, each blooming at a different time. It’s awesome!
My first priority of the day was to prep the beds at the trellises and get them ready for planting.
What a big job that turned out to be.
It didn’t take long before I found myself pulling this bugger out. Normally, I wouldn’t have tried to take out something so big, but it was close enough to the surface that it would inhibit root growth. I’m sure I hit others bigger than this, judging by my inability to work the garden fork around them, but they were deep enough that I just left them. We may get one more year out of these trellises, but most likely, next year, we’ll be building trellises closer to the house.
This trellis was so full of roots – including tree roots! – that this one bed took me about 4 hours to do.
Thankfully, the other one didn’t take anywhere near as long!
After we’ve planted into them, each upright post is going to get it’s own pair of A frame netting supports for things to climb.
At this trellis, on the right hand side, my daughter planted all the cucumbers. On the left hand side, in the foreground, is at least two, possibly four, luffa gourds. I was using labels made out of sour cream containers, and Sharpie’s fade from those! So much for “permanent” markers!
The gourds took up only a quarter of the row. We ended up planting the last of our Lincoln Homesteader pod peas in the rest of that side.
This trellis got the remaining two varieties of pole beans. On the right are Carminat, a purple type of bean. On the left are Seychelles, a type of green bean that Veseys doesn’t seem to carry anymore.
There was some space left at the bean tunnel that got filled with 4 Tennessee Dancing Gourd and 2 luffa.
The girls, meanwhile, got the last low raised bed weeded and ready for planting.
This bed is now all summer squash. The front half has 8 Sunburst patty pan squash. The back half is split between Madga squash and Golden zucchini.
While one daughter transplanted all of those, my other daughter was digging.
We were going to make more beds, but we just don’t have the materials, so we’re winging it. My daughter dug a grid of 7×7 holes roughly 3 feet apart. Before I headed in, I used the jet setting on the hose to drill water into each hole, to help soften the soil. We’ll be transplanting winter squash, gourds and pumpkins into here, with added garden soil and straw mulch. We need to go over it with the weed trimmer to cut the grass and weeds back as much as possible, before the mulch is added.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to get this done tomorrow, but I won’t be much help with that until evening. My husband and I have our doctor’s appointments in the afternoon.
For summer squash, we do still have the green zucchini, plus the G-star patty pan squash.
I have no idea where we will be transplanting those. I also don’t know where we’ll be transplanting the ground cherries. There’s the corn to direct sow, too, if we’re not already too late for those. We have the space. What we don’t have is any sort of prepared beds left.
I’d really hoped to get everything in today, but everything just took so much time.
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.
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!
Last night, I was able to head outside again and work on a couple of the low raised beds. We’d done these in the fall, but they need more work again.
I managed to get a bed and a half done last night.
We definitely need to raise these beds higher. With the constant bending to pull the rhizomes and roots out, by the time I was done, I was feeling light headed and ill. 😦
The garlic hear is doing very well. The other two beds are doing very poorly. Because I planted them in a grid, I could use the few sprouted garlic to figure out where others should be, and gently dug down. I’ve found some cloves with their bit of leaf sprouted, but not at all green. I suspect we may have lost a lot of cloves to the cold, even though they were heavily mulched.
The remaining three beds need to be worked on, but we’ll have to do the pea trellises, first. Those should be planted already, and the purple peas the sprouted from seeds we saved need to be transplanted. They are frost hardy, so we don’t have to wait until past our last frost date, and they’re getting too big for their pots.
Today, however, I was expecting our potatoes to come in, so I really wanted to get that second bed deep mulched. I was very happy to be able to pick up some more cardboard from my new homesteading friend this morning – and get to visit her chickens, guinea hens and ducks! I was very inspired. We so need to get a coop built, so we can have chickens!!
They didn’t have as much carboard as list time, but I was also offered stacks of egg trays, so I went ahead and took those, too. The one downside of this program: it may keep a lot of food waste out of the landfills, but the farmers and homesteaders are left will all sorts of packaging, and not all of it can be reused. Even some of the cardboard has a wax coating on it, can can’t be used as mulch. Stuff is still going to end up in the landfills.
But not the cardboard I got today! 🙂
This is the area that needed to be worked on. This had two layers of black tarp over it!
We are dry enough that I could break out the weed trimmer (and three extension cords!) and use that, first.
I trimmed right into the ground as much as I could, which tended to reveal plenty of surface rocks. I stopped frequently to pick the bigger ones. I’m not sure how much of a difference it will make, but better to remove them while the chance was there!
After this was done, I dug some hoses out of the garden shed and set up. It was very hot (we hit at least 22C/72F, which is higher than forecast) and windy, so I wanted to be able to wet down the cardboard as I worked, to make sure it wouldn’t blow away.
By this time, the post office was open again, so I headed out to pick up the potatoes, only to discover they weren’t in yet! I suppose I should have checked the tracking number first. Ah, well. I needed to get more milk at the store, anyhow! The tracking number now says they should arrive tomorrow by end of day, but the store is open only half a day tomorrow. Hopefully, it’ll be in, in the morning. We’ll see.
Once home, it was back to work!
This is when I ran out of cardboard, including what was left over from last time!
This is where I ran out of egg trays, including some of our own that we’d been saving. They’re laid in interlocking layers, so each row is at least two layers deep.
What to do next?? This is a large area to cover.
I scrounged around the house and found some boxes I could break down. Then I remembered we still had some moving boxes in the basement. We’d been saving them for something – I can’t even remember what, anymore – but the new basement now gets wet where a rain barrel had been allowed to overflow, before we moved here, and the boxes have been water damaged.
Which is just perfect for here.
I used up almost all of the old moving boxes! I think there’s three left, now.
I kept having to pause and use the hose, because they were drying so quickly in the sun. The egg trays, at least, hung on to their moisture a lot more.
Then it was time to start laying out the straw.
This took up a lot of that big straw bale!
Since I had the hose handy, I took the time to wet down the straw every now and then – and the cardboard, so it would still be wet as I laid the straw down. It took quite a while to get it done, but I think it worked out better that way. I hosed down the other bed as well, but it takes a lot to get straw really wet. We’re expecting showers and thundershowers, on and off over the next couple of weeks, but it won’t be enough to really get it soak, so we’ll be hosing it down daily. I plan to chit the potatoes, so we should have a few days to get it really good and wet.
The high raised bed, with its onion transplants and sown spinach, also got thoroughly watered.
While I was working on this, a daughter was back out digging holes for when the trees come in, until the heat became too much for such heavy manual labour. It was bad enough that she had to break out the loppers to cut roots she was hitting, not to mention all the rocks she had to clear out, too! Including both the bison berry and the highbush cranberry, she’s digging two rows of 16, three feet apart. Then there’s just the holes along the lilac hedge for the 5 sea buckthorn, and those will be ready for when the trees arrive. The shipping date for those is scheduled for May 30, with an expected arrival of June 2. Once they arrive, we need to get them in the ground as quickly as possible – and have a way to protect the saplings from being eaten by deer!
For now, we are ready for potatoes. Now that we finally have a break in the weather, the next few weeks are going to see a lot of garden activity! I’m eyeballing the long range forecast, on three different apps, and while they are all slightly different, none of them are suggesting we’ll be getting frost, and overnight lows are looking pretty good. I might have to chance it with some of our transplants. The kulli corn is outgrowing their toilet paper tube pots and need to be in the ground! I’m still not even sure where I’ll be planting them. They can grow up to 8 feet tall, so I’m thinking of putting them along the back of the main garden area, where we’d tried growing gourds our first year of gardening. They’ll be protected by trees from the north, while getting full sunlight all day. They would be planted in two or three long rows, closer together, rather than a block, but I think it will still work out.
This is going to be a very interesting gardening year!
Oh, what a lovely, lovely day! I was able to get things done that have been waiting for a day like today.
Before I get to that, though, take a look and who I found.
Possibly the same grog (groundhog) I saw this morning. It was at a space under the fence critters use to get through the chain link, but there’s water there right now. Because I was so close, it wanted to run through, but didn’t want to go through the water! It ended up running down the fence towards the junk pile, and I didn’t see it again until I was back in the house. The girls told me it was at the feeding station outside our living room window! I could tell it was the same one because it’s got burrs or something it its fur.
Then, as I sat down at my computer to upload photos, I saw two grogs running across the driveway towards the inner yard.
We’re going to have our work cut out for us!
Anyhow. Back to business!
The first thing I wanted to get done was lay out the salvaged black tarps (or whatever they are) in the main garden area.
Click on the images to see them larger.
In the background, you can see sticks coming out of the ground where a groundhog’s den used to be. It took shoving those sticks into the hole and burying them to finally get it out of there. They will be trimmed, later.
The black plastic should help warm up the soil, while also killing off the grass and weeds. We will be growing potatoes here, using the Ruth Stout deep mulching method, to start reclaiming this area.
When we’ve used these tarps before, we’d weigh the edges down with rocks, bricks, fence posts – whatever we could find. Since then, I found a big bag of cheap metal tent pegs, so I used some of those to pin the tarps down. The ground is thawed enough that I had no problem pushing them through – except for the rocks.
So. Many. Rocks.
I think only one tent peg actually made it through with minimal problems, and even then, I could feel it pushing past more rocks.
We have three types of potatoes on the way. Two at 5kg/11 pounds and one at 1kg/2.2 pounds. We will likely break the spaces covered by the tarps into 4 beds with paths, if only to make things easier to reach. We may plant the two 5kg types of potatoes here, and find somewhere else of the 1kg of potatoes. Maybe use one of the two grow bags I picked up on sale, for such a small amount.
The next area I wanted to work on was the chimney block bed along the chain link fence. The last 4 blocks had been brought over and were waiting to be placed.
At this point, all I wanted to do was level off the soil with a hoe, then line the blocks up along the fence. The ground slopes downward along this area, and the gap under the chain link increases along the way. When we built the bed here last year, we had to add boards along the fence to keep the soil from washing away when we watered things. It didn’t work as well as in the other bed (the one now bordered with bricks, in the background) because of all that space under the fence. Having these blocks will solve the erosion problem.
The blocks won’t be filled quite yet. I want to put some more organic material at the bottoms before returning the soil, and adding more, if needed. The ones we filled last year look like they could use some topping up, too.
Next, it was the garlic and asparagus beds.
I’ve been reading up and watching videos about growing asparagus – which is not yet showing – and it seems they do well with deep mulching (as well as being planted together with strawberries, which we might do). The garlic beds have mulch on them that I have decided to take off, and move to the asparagus.
First, the garlic beds.
Click on the images to see them in a larger size.
Pulling back the mulch, I can feel that the soil has thawed around the edges, but the closer to the middle, the more frozen it is. In the photo on the right, you can see some of the ice crystals exposed as the mulch was pulled back.
Also, this is oat straw, and quite a lot of seeds got caught up with the straw. I was seeing quite few sprouting grains, like the one in that second photo! (click to enlarge)
Both beds are now uncovered. The bed that’s in the back was more frozen than the one in the foreground. I couldn’t pull off some of the mulch because it was stuck in ice.
Now that there is no longer mulch insulating the ice, it should be melted by the end of the day. We’re at 18C/64F as I write this, so it won’t take long for the beds to thaw, and the garlic can start growing again.
As for the straw mulch…
The red lines mark there the asparagus is, plus there is a narrow band around it, where we shoved in some tiny onions that were really too small for transplanting, but we didn’t want to just toss. They didn’t do well, which is not a surprise, but what is a surprise is that the bulbs survived the winter and are starting to grow! So when the mulch from both garlic beds was added over the asparagus, I made sure it was not really covering where the onions are.
Who knows. We might ended up being able to collect Norstar onion seeds this year!
The asparagus planted here is a purple variety, and this is its second year. Two years from now, we should be able to start harvesting them. We also plan to get green asparagus crowns, but we’ve got so many things to plant this year, it sort of went by the wayside. I’m still not sure where we’d want to plant them, since it would be permanent.
When we first cleaned out there area, there was a tire planter that was a car tire cut in half around the circumference, the tire flipped inside out, and still attached to the rim, which raised it up a bit. I had dug it out and tipped the soil onto the ground, discovering it was covering the stumps of a maple – which promptly started to send up suckers! Then we discovered that the planter had been for a type of flower that spreads through rhizomes. Which means I inadvertently spread a weed.
When we built the bed here last spring, we used carboard to try and kill things off first, then layered straw and soil on top of the carboard, to make the new bed. We planted strawberry spinach. If any of them sprouted, we had no way to tell, and they didn’t last long. Instead, the bed was filled with all sorts of other things we didn’t want in it.
So today, I took my nice, new garden fork to it, broke it up and pulled out as many roots and rhizomes as I could find. I then scrounged in the garage and found a couple of pieces of panelling, which I placed on top of the space between the two beds, for something to stand on, and also to smother out more of those flowers!
The little stumps are something we’re going to need to get rid of, too.
I’m not sure what we’ll be planting here. Maybe some squash or gourds, which can be heavily mulched and has large leaves to further shade and kill off anything we don’t want to be growing here.
That was it for outside garden prep. I also adjusted some things in the sun room.
The bright LED shop light that had been used on the inside of the plant shelf got rigged to light the new growing platform over the swing bench. This may be a “sun” room, but it’s not a greenhouse, and this far back from the window doesn’t get much direct sunlight at all.
Also, I’m happy to say that it looks like the two little peppers I thinned out of the other pots have perked up and may actually survive!
Once these were all taken care of, I started to dismantle the broken canopy tent frame. I could only do part of it, because I only brought a Phillip’s screwdriver with me, and the rest of them need a hex tip. Which I have, but I’ll continue it another time.
I still can’t get that one leg out of the soil. I can move it around, and the ground is thawed out for at least a couple of feed, but I just can’t pull it out. We’ll have to dig it out! The amount of force from that falling piece of tree must have been amazing to push that leg, with the flat plate on the bottom, through frozen ground must have been something else! So glad it didn’t land on the BBQ, or it would have been destroyed!
While working on the frame, I noticed the window in the back of the storage house had its cover knocked off, so I went over to put it back. Before I did, though, I could see it was wet under there, so I put my phone on flash, stuck it through the window and took some blind shots.
With how the water had formed a moat around the storage house, not coming up to the house itself, I thought it might have been pretty dry. Talk about wrong! It’s a lake under there! The kitties have lost their largest shelter.
This is also the brightest I’ve ever seen it under there. I’m not usually there and taking pictures, this time of day!
Well, no surprise that the entire storage house has been slowly sinking if it gets like this during wet years!
In the 14 day forecast, there are a couple of days where we are expecting light showers, but beyond that, we’ve got all warm and sunny, or mostly sunny, days for a while. That is going to be a huge help in giving the soil a chance to absorb more water, and the high water levels to drop or drain away. That means more chances to prepare garden beds for planting!