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

Fall garden update: the covered beds

In the main garden area, which will be a permanent garden, we’ve still got the two beds covered with mesh to protect them from the deer. Unfortunately, that leaves them pretty neglected, due to the difficulty in moving such long frames.

Of the radishes we planted, there are two French Breakfast radishes that survived the grasshoppers, and they are actually now looking stronger and healthier than ever! They were so eaten up, I did not expect them to.

And just look at the big mutant radish bulb. 😀

Will they get to the pod stage they were planted for? I have no idea. Normally, I’d say it’s way too late for that, but then I look at the long range forecast and think… maybe they will?

The surviving chard, on the other hand, are just thriving! The problem is, we’re not really using them much. It’s not that we dislike them or anything. It’s just a pain to get at them.

The lettuce is also doing really well – as is that one tomato plant that showed up on its own!!

If I were not sure that deer are still passing through the garden areas, I would take the covers off completely. Then they could be tended and harvested more easily. Which won’t be much use if I come out one morning and find it all gone. Mind you, from what I’ve seen on how big radish plants get when they start to develop pods, we’re going to have to take the cover off at least that bed. And what will we do about this very strong, very healthy tomato plant that started itself so late in the season? I don’t even know what kind of tomato it is. Can tomatoes be transplanted into pots and grown indoors over the winter? I have no idea.

At least the groundhogs are no longer a problem. For them to go into hibernation so early, I would be thinking we’re in for an early and bitterly cold winter, and yet it’s supposed to continue to be warm throughout October, for as far ahead as the long range forecasts go. Plus, The Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a milder, wet winter for our region.

Once protected from critters and insects, we can at least say that the chard, lettuce and radishes were – eventually – a success. When we have our permanent, high raised beds, which will be only nine feet long, we will be making sure the covers we make for them will be easy to move aside as needed!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden; fall planting, and shallot surprise

Now that it’s “cooled off” again to 32C/90F (feels like 34C/93F), I headed back to the garden to remove the shade clothes and get those photos I promised.

Our surviving (barely) French Breakfast radishes, and rainbow chard.

Now that one of the beds has a window screen mesh covering it, I decided to take a chance.

I planted lettuces.

On the far left are the surviving purple kohlrabi, and in the middle are radishes. I forget which variety at the moment.

I had our four varieties of lettuce together in a slide lock bag, and they spilled a bit, so I planted the mixed up seeds at the bottom of the bag. So we are going to have lettuce surprise when they start to sprout!

Moving the cover on and off is still a two person job. The length of the cover makes it a bit too wobbly. We definitely need to make the permanent beds shorter, just for that!

A nice thing about the window screen mesh is that it slows down and breaks up the water, so it lands more gently. We don’t have the hose nozzle set on anything high pressure, but these surviving seedlings are still spindly and weak from being under those water bottle covers to protect them from insects and critters. With the mesh covering the ends, I have at least some hope that these lettuces will have a chance to survive. At this point, it’s the grasshoppers, more than the critters, that are an issue.

Once this was done, I decided to harvest the shallots. I’d been weeding the bed while watering this morning and accidentally pulled one up. I didn’t think they were doing well; many of the green parts had withered away completely, and I could no longer see where they were, while others just looked like they were struggling. The one I accidentally pulled up looked surprisingly large, so I left it there, to collect with the others this evening.

I was very pleasantly surprised!

As I started digging them up, I found they were much larger than expected. The one way at the far end in the photo is almost as big as an onion!

Then I accidentally dug up a shallot there there was no sign of any growing there anymore, and it was far larger than I expected, too. So I went back over the row and dug into each spot I knew I’d planted a shallot, and found several more! They are the smaller ones with no, or almost no, stems.

For now, they sit on a window screen, raised up on bricks for air circulation, to cure for a while. I’m quite pleased with what we got. Our original shallots, started from seed, were destroyed by the cats, so these ones are from sets I bought at the grocery store. There was only a dozen sets per bag, so I got two bags. A far cry from how many we would have had, if the ones from seed had survived, but way better than nothing at all! This is just awesome!

Tomorrow morning, I think I will start harvesting some of the onions. They are not all ready, but some of them definitely are. We have quite a lot of them, so I don’t mind harvesting and curing them in batches!

Being able to harvest things already, and even plant things for a fall harvest, kinda makes up for all the problems we’ve been having with the drought, critters and insects! We may not have as much as we hoped to in the spring, but we will still have food to harvest, and that’s the important part!

The Re-Farmer

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

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

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

Thank God!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, we have the poppies.

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

We also found a couple of these.

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

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

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: new sprouts, and… I must not compare!

While the girls were doing the evening watering, I headed out to check some of the beds they hadn’t got to, yet. I thought I saw something this morning, and I wanted to check.

I did see something – and by evening, I saw more somethings!

The radishes are starting to sprout already!

Here’s hoping these ones don’t disappear, like the ones we interplanted with our sweet corn!

I have been keeping a close eye on our summer squash, too.

This sunburst squash is of a size I would normally pick, but there is only one this big, so I will leave it until there are others to pick with it. We also have more of the green zucchini that is almost big enough to pick.

While watering the beans, my daughter noticed this…

Some of the purple bean flowers are starting to open! When I checked, some of the green ones were also starting to open, but they’re harder to see than the purple beans, with their amazing, bright colours.

While I’m excited to see them starting to bloom, I have to remind myself not to compare. I’m on several gardening groups for cold climate gardening, zone 3 gardening, and local gardeners. Today, someone posted pictures of their huge pea plants, and the basket of peas they had picked, just today.

These are our peas.

The purple peas are doing a bit better than the green peas. They are flowering and growing pods. But they are also struggling. They started out doing well, but have basically just stopped growing. By this time, they should be well up the trellises, much larger, and much closer to having pods that can be harvested.

It’s similar with the bush beans. The purple ones are doing better than the others, as they have from pretty much the start, but they are all a lot smaller than they should be. The sweet corn is also a lot smaller than I am seeing in other people’s gardens, which have corn the size of our purple corn, that was started much earlier and transplanted, or the Dorinny corn, which was seeded before last frost. Even the renter’s corn in our field is about waist high now.

I have to admit; seeing how well other people’s gardens are doing, in spite of the heat we’ve been getting right now, is sometimes rather discouraging. These are gardens in the same climate zone we are in, and many of them planted even later than we did.

I have to remind myself that these are completely different gardens, many of them established years ago. Even the new gardens are in very different situations. There are many reasons why our peas, corn and beans are looking stunted. The heat, certainly. Perhaps we’re not watering them as much as they need under current conditions. Maybe it’s because their roots have made their way through the thin layer of nutrient rich soil and into the nutrient poor soil, below, and even our fertilizing them isn’t enough to make up for it. Maybe it’s all the weeds and plants that were there before we planted. We don’t have access to good compost, we ran out of mulch and can’t get more, etc. The critter damage adds to the problems, but that’s a different issue altogether.

Plus, of course, we’re gardening in temporary locations. Even the beds that are where we will be gardening permanently will have high raised beds built in them, so the current beds are going to be completely redone.

From the start, as we planned where to plant different things, we knew that if we got anything at all from the farthest beds in particular, that would be a win.

But, my goodness, it sure would be nice to have a big basket of freshly picked peas right now! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden; summer sowing

Finally! I got the summer sowing done, in all three empty beds. 🙂

Before I started on that, though, I made another attempt at trying to keep the woodchuck out of our carrot beds.

I’d read the Epsom salts are a thing they don’t like, while also being good for the garden. We didn’t have a lot left, so one of the beds was a bit sparser. We shall see if it helps, any.

Then I got to work on the first empty bed. This is the one that’s slightly wider, and that I’d already started to prep, and sized the mesh cover for.

I laid the board down as something to walk on, when we tend it later. The piece of scrap wood in the middle is a divider. In the foreground, I planted the Bright Lights Swiss Chard, and on the other side of the divider are French Breakfast radishes, with two short rows of each.

The tool you see in the middle is what I’m using as a hoe. The metal is quite thin, compared to most garden tools. If anyone knows what that is called, I’d love to know!

The second bed got three things planted in it.

Towards the middle of the bed is one long row of Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard.

You know, I hope we actually like Chard. 😀

The row on the outside has Cherry Belle radish in the foreground, and on the far side of the brick is the Russian Red kale.

In the last bed, the Early Purple Vienna kohlrabi are planted on the outside, and Champion radish is planted on this inside.

Later in the month, these beds will have spinach and lettuces planted in them. The kale is a frost hardy plant and I’ve read it tastes better after being hit with a frost. I planted the radishes sparsely, as they can get quite big when allowed to go to pod. We can start harvesting the chard in less than a month, and they should be done before first frost. By putting the taller plants that will be there for the rest of the growing season on the west side, I hope that they will help provide shade for the lettuces and spinach, and we can maybe plant them a bit earlier, as long as the soil doesn’t get too warm for germination.

We will have to monitor all our beds frequently. In the last little while, we’ve seen quite an increase in grasshoppers. Some people in the local gardening groups I’m on have had major problems with them, and they seem to be slowly making their way north.

I admit, this one was rather cute. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this sort of colour before!! I find myself wondering if this is grasshopper albinism, or a species that happens to be almost white in colour!

With the seeds sown, I worked on weeding around one of the onion beds for a while, then dragged my aching butt over to the water barrel at the furthest garden bed to fill it. The spray plastic coating we’d used to seal cracks had started to come loose on the inside, so I went to pull it off while I was filling the watering can. A huge chunk peeled off, and the barrel promptly started to leak at one of the cracks. We still have a bit of the silicon sealant left, so last night, I patched the crack. It should be cured by now, and I wanted to refill the barrel with water. That was when my daughter came out to let me know she needed to pick up a parcel in the mail and go to the grocery store in town, so I set that aside and headed in. Not before I got her to help me position the adapted wire mesh cover.

I had deliberately planted everything in shorter rows, leaving a lot of empty space at the ends of the beds, because of the length of these covers. We set the cover as far to one side as we could, and I was happy to find the row lengths worked out just right. They are completely covered, and the cross pieces at each end are beyond the ends of the rows, so no seedlings will be squished.

Then it was off to town with my daughter, with a quick stop at the post office along the way. I took advantage of the trip to pick up a few things at the grocery store and, as I was wandering down the aisles with the shopping cart, I suddenly realized I was getting the shakes and feeling dizzy. Usually I have to use the shopping cart as a walker because my knees will suddenly dislocate or a hip will give out, but this time, I was using it to not fall over. It took me a while to realize what was going on.

I’d forgotten to eat again.


I did have breakfast, but it was a small meal, and after I finished my last blog post, I headed straight out to work on the garden. It was well past lunch time by then. Had my daughter not come out to get me, I would have been out there for quite a while longer before noticing anything was wrong. Thankfully, I was able to grab something I could eat in the car while my daughter drove home.

Sometimes I’m an idiot, but I enjoy the work so much, I didn’t notice the time or how long it had been since I’d had anything to eat or drink.

I had been planning to go out again and do some weeding, or dig through some sheds to see what I can salvage to make another row cover, but I think that will have to wait until tomorrow.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: more firsts, and silly kitties!

Before I headed out to do my morning rounds, we had already hit 25C/77F. By the time I was done, it was already 30C/86F! Thankfully, there was still a breeze and some shade, so it didn’t feel too bad.

I made a couple of discoveries in the garden this morning, but before I get to those, I’ll back track to yesterday evening.

I used the cut off strip of mosquito netting left over from covering our lettuces and beets, some dollar store hula hoops, and lengths of old hose to cover part of the third spinach bed. This is just until we can make a wire mesh cover for it. I also took the trail cam from the tulips and moved it to overlook most of the garden. The only critter I saw in the files this morning was Nutmeg. 😀

After setting the netting up, I moved on to the far beds and blocks to water them. The water in the rain barrel is usually cool, but it was quite warm by the end of yesterday’s heat! On the plus side, it meant being able to use the watering can instead of the hose, and not shocking everything with cold well water, for almost everything. As the water level dropped below half, I started to refill it while still using the watering can, so it would be just cooler water instead of having to switch to the cold hose to finish watering.

I had company.

Rolando Moon has a thing about drinking from puddles! Once the water was absorbed by the soil, she decided to roll on the damp soil, then just hung out. I guess it’s nice and cool. At least she tended to stay in the middle, which is more of a trench for water, as the beans are planted on the sides. No beans are coming up yet.

Nutmeg was also hanging around. I caught him lying across some pea plants, chewing on the trellis twine! The little bugger! 😀

When I checked everything this morning, things were still damp and didn’t need to be watered, but I also spotted a whole lot of these…

The radishes are sprouting! The one in the photo is of the daikon type radishes, but I was seeing sprouts for the watermelon radishes in all the rows they were planted in, too. I was aware that radishes sprout quickly, but I’ve never grown them before, so this was a very pleasant surprise. They most certainly were not there when I was watering last night. 🙂

Then I found another lovely sight.

The first potato leaves have emerged through their mulch! There are the purple fingerling potatoes. Sifting around in the mulch in the grow bags, I found other shoots coming through the soil, but these are the first ones to break through and leaf out. 🙂 I really look forward to seeing how these do in their grow bags.

We have a whole lot of squash transplants ready to go out, but I’m starting to rethink what to do with the summer squash. The plan was to make more beds like with the beans and peas. However, we have that long arc where we’d planted the sunflowers last year. In removing some of the old grass clipping mulch to use under some new beds, I couldn’t help but notice how much better the soil is, underneath. It’s still rocky, but we basically have a long row of soft soil, bordered by concrete hard soil. I’m thinking we should take advantage of this. It will need far less amending than starting new beds. I’m also planning to try staking the summer squash this year, but with our without stakes, deer don’t like those prickly squash plants, so it could act as a sort of fence for the rest.

I sorted through our transplants while hardening them off, and we have a lot of nice, strong melons. Between those and the winter squash, and the two types of gourds that successfully germinated, we might not actually have room for it all on the squash tunnel. So I’m thinking we can plant as much as we can fit of each type at the squash tunnel, then whatever is left over can be planted in other areas. Without trellising, these should spread out quite a bit over the ground, and we’ll be able to give them lots of space, and we would just need to haul soil over to make hills, rather than beds. This would allow us to compare how well they do, between left to grow on the ground, or up a trellis.

What I might end up doing is getting the Montana Morado corn done, first. They are doing very well, but will start outgrowing their cups soon. Since the toilet paper tube pots didn’t work out, I’m really hoping they won’t suffer from transplant shock too badly. In zone 3 gardening groups. I’ve read from people who warn against transplanting corn completely, because they don’t handle it well, to people who say they do it all the time, every year, and have never had issues. I suspect type of corn can make a difference, and I seem to be the first person in all of these groups to try and grow purple corn in our zone!

I’m really excited to see how they do!

The Re-Farmer