Our 2021 garden: tending the old kitchen garden

As much as I love all the rain we’ve been having, I was happy to have a mild, sunny day to get some work done outside. I finally got around to tending the big L shaped beet bed in the old kitchen garden.

This bed has had almost no tending, since we put the floating row cover on it to keep the critters out. This is how the two sides looked before I started.

Here is how it looked after a good, solid weeding!

There actually wasn’t a lot of weeds in there. After fighting my way through all the beet greens, following strands of weeds to their bottoms so I could pull them out by the roots, I found that there wasn’t much to pull out. The beets were actually choking out the weeds! Most of them were long and leggy and spread out, trying to reach the light, so when I pulled something out by the roots, I found I was removing quite a lot more plant than expected. The exception were all the sprouting Chinese Elms. It’s remarkable how deep and solid the roots are for a sapling that’s just a couple of inches high.

The beets themselves did not need any thinning, though I did accidentally pull a few out with the weeds. I wasn’t seeing a lot of beet roots developing, though. Hopefully, all the rain we’ve been having will result in a growth spurt!

When it came time ot put the netting back on, I took advantage of the big package of tent pegs I found in the garage. The sides of the netting was pulled tight and snug to the ground, so nothing can casually push its way under the netting. No more rocks and bricks to try and keep it down. For the ends, I wrapped the netting around boards, then weighted those down. There is lots of slack in the netting for the leaves to grow, though I don’t expect them to get much taller than they are now.

That done, I worked on the carrot bed next. One of the inner hoops had come down, the doweling holding it in place breaking off completely. Another was well on its way down, too.

Which made for a good time to tend the carrots, too.

There are two types of carrots in this bed, and these ones have been going to seed. Carrots do to see in their second year, so it seems the grounhogs eating their greens has fooled the carrots into thinking they are in their second year.

Carrots gone to see do not produce much of a root!

These carrots got weeded, but did not need any thinning. The other variety did need thinning.

Check these out!!! This is a variety from Baker Creek called Lounge Rouge Sang.

The two orange ones at the top of from the other carrots that had gone to seed, but had enough root that I wanted to keep them.

I checked my records, and those are supposed to be the Deep Purple carrots, from Veseys!

Here you can see what the Longue Rouge Sang carrots should look like, when fully mature. I just love the colours in them, and am happy to see that even the little carrots that got thinned out are showing them.

I’m so excited to see carrots! After the groundhog devastation, I really didn’t know if they would recover enough for us to have any at all. It’s a shame we couldn’t cover the larger carrot bed in the main garden area, too!

Once the bed was cleaned up, and I found new sticks to use to hold the PVC pipe hoops in place, the sides were pegged down tighter to the ground. The only places I used rocks to weigh the netting down was at a couple of corners, where there was excess netting to gather.

I still don’t know what the big green thing in the middle of the bed is. I had hoped it was the White Vienna kohlrabi that was planted there, but I not longer think that’s what they are. I’ve seen them pop up in a few other places, too. They don’t look like a weed, is about all I can say! I’m leaving them, just to hopefully see what they are. I’ve also left quite a bit of the mint that has been making it’s way through. In time, I hope to transplant them somewhere contained. For now, I just try to keep it under control so it won’t take over the garden – and we will still have at least a bit of mint to harvest if we want! 🙂

There is still one more bed of beets by the retaining wall, covered in netting, that needs to be cleaned up, but that will have to wait for another day.

The Re-Farmer

Row cover modification

While in the city for our monthly shop, I picked up four short, slightly flexible, lengths of PVC pipe. Today, I finally made use of them.

Since we covered various beds with the mosquito netting as floating row covers, they have not been eaten by critters. In the old kitchen garden, that means our carrots are actually recovering. The bed they are in is wider than the nearby beet beds, though, so they don’t have as much slack in the netting. What I’m still not sure is kohlrabi or not is getting pretty big, and the leaves are being bent over. Even the carrot tops were showing yellow, where they touched the fabric along the edges, where it’s weighed down with rocks and whatever else we could find.

I got the pipe to hold the netting up, but was stuck on what to use to hold the pipe in place that could handle the tension caused by curving the pipe. We’d done something like this with the hula hoops, but those are a lot thinner than the PVC pipe.

Normally, I would have used something strong and inflexible, like steel rods or rebar. I went looking around in the garage for something, without luck.

What I did find, though, was a bag full of cheap tent pegs.

That would be useful!

I also found one of the small flags we had at the fence line near the gate. The flags are getting quite torn up and need to be replaced, but I haven’t found the same time of flag this year. The doweling the flag is attached to fits perfectly in the pipe. All the flags still on the fence are torn up by the wind and needed to come down, as did the strings of Christmas lights we had running along the fence. The strings of lights need to be replaced. So I headed out to take down the lights and the flags, then used the wooden doweling from the flags as supports for the pipe.

Metal would have been preferred; I couple of them cracked while I was bending the lengths of pipe to fit over them. Still, they are holding! And the pipe is strong enough to stay in place.

The mosquito netting just barely fits across the bed, but those tent pegs I found were put to good use, taking the edges down. Wood and rocks that were used to weight down the edges before we put back, so help hold down any gaps between the beds.

I’m really happy with how this turned out. It a lot more solid than our first experiment with this. And now my carrots have room to grow!

The Re-Farmer

Row cover adaption

When we planted for a fall harvest, we did as much as we could to make row covers to protect our seedlings. We had enough materials for only two chicken wire covers, then made do with other materials for the third bed.

We rigged what we could to protect the last bed, but the grasshoppers really did a number on the seedlings. I ended up using old water bottles with their bottoms cut off to protect the remaining bits of seedlings, hoping they would recover. As you can see by the green in some of the bottles, there has been growth!

They can’t stay under the bottles, though, as they need wind and air to be strong. However, if we just took off the bottles, they’d only get eaten by critters.

The bed nearby was pretty much wiped out by the grasshoppers.

Even though the ends of the covers were open, the critters didn’t seem to want to go under them, but there is no such barrier for the grasshoppers!

The third bed is doing a bit better. The radishes may have lots of damage to them, but they’re the biggest ones we’ve got right now. The only surviving chard is in this bed, too.

Since the middle bed was the most damaged, I decided to modify the cover and move it to another bed. In cleaning up the new part basement, we found a roll of window screen. I’d used some of it to make covers for the rain barrles, but there was still quite a bit left.

The cover is wider than the mesh. One length of it was enough to cover most of the chicken wire, but after cutting the remaining mesh in half and adding it, I was left with a small gap.

The edges of the screen were stapled to the wood frame, including enough to cover the ends. I tided down the mesh to the chicken wire just enough to keep it from moving.

A dear friend had sent us a couple of those mesh curtains that are meant to go over doors. The idea being, the mesh would keep the bugs out, but still allow wind in. They are tacked to the door frame, and the middle is held closed with magnets. The hope was that we could set them up in the old basement door, to keep the cats from going in there, but they could just push their way through the magnets. 😦

One of the panels was perfect to cover the gap.

The outer edge is stapled to the frame. The fabric is reinforced there, since it’s supposed to be tacked onto a door frame, so there is no damage there. Amazingly, the magnets are holding to the chicken wire enough to keep it one!

Once it was ready, it was time to set up the garden bed.

Even covered by water bottles, there was still grasshopper damage!! Some had never recovered from being eaten, at all. While removing the bottles, the soil wanted to stick to the them, too, and that quite nearly pulled up several of the plants. 😦

After making sure those that had been disturbed had soil pressed in for supper, it was time to add the new cover.

I’m quite happy with this.

It will be worthwhile to get more window screen mesh!

Since the ends are covered with window screen, it made it easier to add the shade cloth.

The surviving seedlings in the now-uncovered bed to things much bigger than little water bottles to protect them. The grasshoppers can still get in, but it’s still better than nothing.

Then all the beds got their shade cloths to protect them from the heat of the day.

When we make our permanent raised beds, they will be shorter. I actually like the length of these – they’re about 15 feet long – but it makes the protective covers awkward to handle, and we just didn’t have the materials to make them the same length. The covers are only about 13 feet long. I’m thinking 10 feet will work better, but we shall see when the time comes.

Until we can get the materials to build them, it’s a moot point, anyhow!

Whatever we end up with, having window screen mesh on a frame to keep the insects out seems to be more practical than the mosquito netting we’re using as floating row covers.

The Re-Farmer

Second row cover, a determined little bugger, and happy times!

Today, I was able to find a piece of wood of the right size to put end caps on the second chicken wire row cover. When I headed out to start working on it this evening, I discovered…

… that little woodchuck is a determined little bugger!

Over the next while, I made sure to make lots of noise as I went past the stairs to make sure that, if the woodchuck were in there, it would run off.

My daughters told me earlier that they’d seen the littlest woodchuck in the birth bath, drinking water. At least it was just the little one. The big one would have knocked the bird bath right off its pedestal!

One of the things I was thinking of while adding the end pieces to the row cover, was how to support the chicken wire. I no longer had any hula hoop pieces, like I used in the last one. I thought I might be able to use some old hose pieces, so I went to the pile of junk and odd bits and pieces by the old garden shed. I had left a damaged hose there, and used pieces of it to hold the mosquito netting onto the hula hoops when we had that rigged up as a cover over one of the spinach beds. When I looked at the hose, though, it was so floppy from the heat, that I could see it would never be able to hold up the wire mesh.

However…

… among the miscellaneous bits and pieces, I noticed some wire that looked pliable enough to bend into a curve, yet stiff enough to hold up the chicken wire. I was able to cut three lengths that I could weave through the chicken wire, and was able to push the ends in between the boards the chicken wire was held by. It did the job really well!

With the heatwave returning, I am thinking to sacrifice some old sheets to use as shade cloths, draped over these frames. The problem is, there is still one more newly planted bed, and I am out of the materials needed to made another row cover like these. We are going to have to figure something out! We finally have the radishes, kohlrabi and kale sprouting, along with the chard. I’d like for them to actually survive!

After this was done, I banged around the concrete steps for a while and, once sure that there was no critter under there, brought over some bigger rocks and broken pieces of bricks to fill the hole in again. Hopefully, these are big enough and heavy enough that it won’t be able to dig through again.

I was just about to head back inside while the girls were getting ready to do the evening watering, when I had a very happy surprise.

My husband actually felt well enough to walk around outside! He got a tour of most of the garden beds, and even felt well enough to walk to squash tunnel. He didn’t use his walker – it may be a heavy duty walker, but even it can’t handled the rough ground out there – and he didn’t even use a cane! Granted, it was slow going, and walking over those old plow furrows took extra care, but he did it! Gosh, I can’t remember the last time he felt well enough to go outside, without needing to go to a medical appointment or something. I’m so happy! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Re-Farmer