Our 2023 garden: wildflower seeds are in, and there’s four!

We got more seeds from Veseys in the mail today!

Cheddar is checking them out, too.

I got two packs each of the Western Mix, which will be planted in a location to attract pollinators to the garden, and Alternative Lawn Mix, which will be used to reseed the bare spots under the branch piles in the maple grove that got chipped.

I also got a notification that the storage variety of Delicata squash seeds we ordered has been shipped. They were on back order. We still have some purple beans on back order. Once those come in, the only things left that we ordered from Veseys will be shipped in the spring.

After shifting things around in the aquarium greenhouse yesterday, and noticing that there seemed to be luffa seedlings starting to push their way through the soil in a couple of them, I made sure to look closely this morning. Sure enough, I could just see green starting to show through the soil! So of course, after being out most of the day, I had to check them again when I got home.

There is four of them!

Once they start breaking soil, they really seem to grow fast! Each pot has two seeds planted in it. So far, there is no evidence of the second seeds pushing their way through. They would be thinned down to one eventually, anyhow. I’m just happy to see one in each pot! That heat mat seems to be giving them the boost they needed.

I can’t wait to see how much they’ll grow overnight. 😁

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: shifting spaces, and you can do it, little luffa!

A little bit of garden therapy on this cold, cold day. According to one of my phone weather apps, we’ve reach -25C/-13F, with a wind chill of -33C/-27F. Hopefully, things will keep warming up for another hour or two because it takes the predicted deep dive overnight!

Our onion seedlings are getting tall enough that it was time to move them away from the light. Which, for our aquarium greenhouse, means rearranging things inside the tank.

The onions are going to need a hair cut soon!

The tray holding the onions is on the heat mat, which was unplugged when the seedlings started showing. Onions prefer cooler soil, anyhow. The luffa, however, have not germinated yet, and need warmer soil. They were raised up higher on a box, to get some of the warmth from the lights, but the heat mat would be beneficial for them – assuming these 3 yr old seeds are still viable at all. Shifting the two, and removing the box the luffa were on, would give the onions the space from the lights they needed, and the heat mat should make up for the slightly reduced height for the luffa pots.

Since they are in a plastic drain tray, I added the aluminum oven liner sheet to protect the plastic from getting over heated and diffuse the heat a bit, even though the warming mat doesn’t get very hot.

As I was doing this, I noticed what appeared to be disturbed soil, where that arrow is pointing.

So I took a peak.

Yes!!!!

There is a baby luffa sprout, starting to push its way up through the soil! One of the other pots seems to have a new soil hill, too, but I didn’t peak under that one, and just gently covered the first one up again.

Hopefully, the extra warmth will encourage more germination!

When it comes time to transplant these, I want to find a way to have them in the very sheltered microclimate on the south side of the house that we will be growing the lemongrass in. They can be grown in pots, if the pots are large enough. A 5 gallon bucket would be the right size for one plant. Not that I’d waste a bucket by drilling drainage holes in it. I think we have other containers we can use that are large enough. The challenge will be in how to also include a trellis for them to climb.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s see how many germinate and survive, first!

You can do it, baby luffa!!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: onions update

Not a lot of garden related stuff going on, but I thought it was time to post another picture of how our onion seedlings are going.

They are really coming up well! So many, they’re actually lifting up the surface soil on one of the trays.

If anyone is wondering why I’m starting onions so densely like this, it’s based on how MI Gardener now does it.

We did this last year, and they did just fine!

I’m looking at the trays, though, and thinking…

We don’t have enough onions! 😄

As for the luffa, no sign of germination, yet. It might be a while for those, still.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: That was fast!!! and planning ahead

We had a light snowfall last night, making everything all white and fluffy this morning.

The outside cats didn’t mind it at all!

I counted 21 this morning.

Meanwhile, indoors, we have our first signs of spring.

When I checked the trays this morning, three out of four of them had onions sprouting. When I came back about an hour later, there were sprouts in the fourth tray!

I’m absolutely amazed by two things. One is, how quickly they started to germinate.

The other is, how much cat hair there is, all over the soil surface. These trays had lids on them. Where did all that cat hair come from? I mean, Beep Beep practically lives on top of the lights. She naps on them, rolls around on them, and even hugs them, so yeah… I can see some of her fur drifting down… but getting under the lids?

Yesterday, I marked on our communal calendar, two sets of dates. One was the number of weeks counted back from our last average frost date, June 2. This way, we can see at a glance that something that needs to be started 10 weeks before last frost, needs to be started around March 24, while something that needs only 4 weeks can wait until May 5th.

The other dates I marked was number of days counted back from our average first frost date, which is Sept. 10. We have exactly 100 days between our average last spring and first fall frosts. That’s the growing season we can mostly count on for frost sensitive plants.

For things that have really long days to maturity, it’s that “days before first frost” that we need to consider. If, for example, I have a gourd that requires 110 days to maturity, that’s May 23. If it needs 7-10 days to germinate, I would start them at least a week before that.

If I have something than need 90 days to maturity, that falls on June 12 and, by then, I could get away with direct sowing, instead.

One of the really useful tools I’ve found is the Farmer’s Almanac planting calendar. Most planting calendars just give number of weeks before first frost, because they’re meant to be generic. I can get that information from the seed packet. Farmer’s Almanac, however, lets you input your area code (or zip code, if you’re in the US). You can even put in your city (ha!) and province/state. It will find the climate station nearest you, then give you the calendar dates for starting indoors and transplanting, or seeding outdoors. It even gives you the choice of dates based on frost date, or on moon dates. Oh, and I discovered something very handy when I hit the print button on the web page. It allows you to remove things from the list that you aren’t growing, which greatly reduced the number of pages that got printed out!

It’s still a bit generic, of course, but the date range is pretty wide. For example, it tells me bell peppers should be started between March 24 and April 7. We have five varieties of bell peppers, and four of them are early varieties, so we could use the information on the seed packet to figure out which ones need to be started in March, and which can wait until April.

Of course, they can’t cover everything, so we still need to make adjustments. For example, their calendar says to start winter squash outdoors between June 16 and July 14. With some varieties, we could do that, but we’ve got some large varieties of winter squash that need more time to fully mature, so we would be better off starting them indoors. If we use the biodegradable pots that can be buried, that would reduce transplant shock.

We have always started summer squash indoors. I think, this year, we might direct seed them. The calendar says zucchini can be planted anywhere between June 16 and July 14, which is when we can expect the soil to finally be warm enough.

As for the things we’ll need to start the earliest, the herbs (except dill, which is direct sown) will need to be started at the same time as bell peppers; in March. The eggplants and tomatoes can be started in early April, melons can be started in early May, while pumpkins and watermelon can be started in mid May.

The direct sowing dates are pretty interesting for some things. If we decide to try growing radishes again, they can be direct seeded in early April – at the same time we’d be starting eggplant and tomatoes indoors. Carrots can be planted in late April, early May, which would be about the same time we’d be starting melons indoors.

All of which needs to be taken with a grain of salt. For example, the calendar says to start onion seeds outdoors in early May. Sets, sure, but seeds? Nope. There’s a reason people out here start their onion seeds indoors in January! Also, it has dates to start lettuce and chard indoors, but none for direct seeding. Who starts lettuce and chard indoors? I mean, sure, you can grow them indoors, but for transplant?

As it stands now, though, we won’t need to start anything else indoors until March 24, at the earliest.

That gives us February and most of March to get the materials we need and build a removeable door and frame, to keep the cats out of the living room, and out of the seedlings!

We’ll also need to build a barrier to block an opening in the shelf to the left of the door in the image.

Our 2023 garden: first order in, with Veseys

We haven’t even done a thorough assessment of our 2022 garden, nor fully decided what we plan to grow next year, but I’ve gone ahead and made our first order for next year’s garden, today.

The main reason is, there are things I wanted to order before they have a chance to be out of stock. Particularly with trees for the food forest we are slowly developing. These will be shipped in the spring, and we won’t be billed until they are shipped. I ordered seeds as well, because I used a sponsor promo code from Maritime Gardening, which gives free shipping if there is at least one package of seeds in the order.

This is what I ordered today. All images belong to Veseys, and links will open in new tabs, so you don’t lose your place. 😊

The new Trader Everbearing Mulberry is the main reason I wanted to place an order right away. We tried a different variety before, that promptly got killed by an unusually cold night shortly after it was planted. Cold enough that even if we had this variety, it likely would not have survived, so soon after being planted.

Here is the description from the site (in case you’re reading this years later, and the link is dead).

Morus alba x rubra. There are so many things to love about ‘Trader’ Everbearing Mulberry! First, the tree itself is absolutely beautiful and can be grown as a single trunk or multi-stemmed shrub. Big, glossy black fruit are present throughout the summer and are an irresistible blend of sweet and tart. Even the leaves are starting to be considered a super-food and can be made into a powerfully healing tea. ‘Trader’ is winter hardy (Zone 3-4), vigorous, long-lived and disease and pest resistant.  We ship 8-12″ non-grafted tree.

Please note: Due to a crop shortage, we are not able to supply the Mulberry in a 3.5″ pot. We can supply in a 2.5″ pot. Since these are smaller, we will send 2 of the smaller size for spring 2023.

That last bit about pot sizes is another reason we wanted to order the mulberry right away. They may be smaller, but we’ll be getting two trees for the price of one. Which means chances are better for at least one of them to survive!

The other tree we ordered was Liberty Apple. From the website:

Malus. Superlative variety resistant to a host of diseases. This apple has outstanding flavour and is aromatic and juicy. The conical red fruit is among the very best and as an added bonus is excellent for cider. Crispy, juicy apples right in your back yard. Good Scab resistance, making them much easier to look after. For best results, two varieties should be planted. We are offering 1 yr. whips. approximately 18-24″ in height which have been grafted onto hardy rootstock. They should mature to about 15-18 ft. Hardy to zone 4.

Yes, it says zone 4 and we are zone 3, but we will just have to take extra care in where it’s planted, and to protect it while it’s small. We have crab apple trees, but no regular apples. One apple tree should be enough to provide for our needs, and the crab apples will be the second variety pollinator.

Then there are the seeds.

While we didn’t have much to show for peppers this past summer, that had more to do with our horrible growing year in general. My pepper loving daughter had thought we would be ordering several varieties for this past year, but I’d only ordered the one type. I think we learned enough about growing them to order more varieties, so I ordered a sweet bell pepper combo.

This is Vesey’s Sweet Pepper collection, and here is their description:

A few of our favourite sweet peppers! This collection contains 3 pkgs, 1 each of Early SunsationEarly Summer and Dragonfly sweet peppers.

Early Sunsation: Bright yellow and big. Very heavy yielding with thick, juicy walls. This variety stays nice and crisp even when fully yellow. 3 lobed fruit. Resistant to Bacterial Leaf Spot races 1-3. 65 days to green; 80 days to yellow from transplanting.

Early Summer: Elite, early and extra large! Early summer is an early maturing, yellow bell pepper. The fruit are large at 5″ and an elite disease resistance package gives Early Summer a winning combination.

Dragonfly: Sweet and colourful. Dragonfly’s early production was a standout for our trial staff. Fruit emerges green and turns deep purple when mature. Dragonfly continues to produce fruit into the fall even after temperatures have dropped.

The Early Summer is new to Veseys for the 2023 growing season.

There was another new for 2023 item I just had to order.

The Caveman’s Club Gourd! This is definitely something for the “just for fun” list. 😁

Truly different! This 12-16″ gourd produces a dark green, ridged, alien-like, bulbous fruit that are not like anything we have seen before! Growing them on a trellis ensures a straight neck. Plant early for best results. Matures in 120 days. Approx. 15 seeds/pkg.

I just couldn’t resist. This will be an ideal thing to try growing on the new trellis tunnels we will be building in the spring.

After we’ve taken the time to assess things from our 2022 garden, then gone through what seeds we still have, we’ll start making final decisions about what else we want to order for the 2023 growing season. One thing we will almost certainly be ordering are different raspberry bushes, that mature at different times. Any raspberries we order won’t start producing until their second year, so what we order to plant in 2023 will be to have raspberries in 2024. As we add to our perennial food producers, while still staying in budget, it’s a balancing act between ordering things that will take years before they start producing, like the apple and mulberry trees, and things that will start producing more quickly, like the raspberries.

Little by little, though, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: first spinach sown, and onions transplanted

It was a bit cooler and overcast this morning, but still pleasant enough to get the plants outside for a couple of hours.

I am really happy with the newest seedlings. This tray has the cucumbers in the left half, with the Teddy and Red Kuri winter squash on the right. It took so long for the winter squash to germinate, I wasn’t sure they’d make it, but we have 100% gemination!

The purple peas in this tray are getting nice and big. The summer squash in the other cells took a long time to germinate, too, but they seemed to get a boost after I put the warming mat under them. It’s hard to see, but even the green zucchini is finally germinating, next to the peas. I thought the Magda squash had started to germinate, but not quite yet. We had less success with those the last 2 years we planted them, too. Our first year, we had only 2 surviving plants. Last year, there was just the one. Magda squash just seems to have a harder time of it.

So far, only 2 of the yellow zucchini have germinated. Last year, we had some germinate, but when they started producing fruit, they were green, and we no yellow zucchini at all. I’m hoping that won’t happen again, this year!

The transplants seem to be quite liking their time outdoors, and even the newest little tomatoes in the foreground are looking generally robust.

We have 3 Crespo squash – and they are budding! Would you look at that!

I considered pinching them off, but these first flowers would be all male flowers. The next batch of buds should be both male and female. So I’m thinking to just leave them? I don’t know. There is very little information out there on how to grow Crespo squash. They do seem to be very enthusiastic growers!

While moving the blooming Wonderberry in and out of the sun room, we have been brushing the 3 plants against each other, in hopes to pollinate them, just in case. I don’t know how if they are self pollinating or not. Nowhere I’ve looked about them even mentions pollinating.

The transplants were left out for 2 hours today, which gave me time to work on our very first direct sowing – and transplanting – in the high raised bed.

The first thing to do was dig trenches through the wood chip mulch, so that things could be seeded/planted into the soil beneath. We have three varieties of spinach seeds from last year, and for this bed, I chose Lakeside, which is the fastest maturing variety of the three. The tray of onions I grabbed are the red onions, Tropeana Lunga, which should look like this when they mature…

This image belongs to Heritage Harvest Seed. You can see what else we ordered with these, here.

By planting the onions around the spinach, they should help with keeping away harmful insects, and maybe even keep hungry critters away. The high raised bed is buffet height for deer, though, so we will be covering them later.

There is space to do a second planting of spinach in two weeks, which will also finish off the seeds we’ve got left of this variety.

The largest Tropeana Lunga seedlings filled the two outside rows, but there were still a few tiny seedlings left. The size that would be considered not worth planting. I hate to just toss seedlings, though, so I ended up sticking them in the soil at the base of the raised bed on the north end. When this was a low raised bed, it was quite a bit longer, so the soil is softer on that end. If they take, great. If not, that’s okay, too. We don’t have a lot of this variety, so I’m hoping to be able to overwinter a couple of bulbs to go to seed next year.

I was left with nice, soft potting soil in the tray the onions seedlings were growing in, so I used that to gently top the spinach seeds, and put just a little around each onion plant, more to keep the wood chips from falling onto them than anything else.

I have to say, I LOVE the high raised bed to plant in! It was completely pain free, with no strain on my joints. Well. I suppose that doesn’t include my arthritic fingers, but I didn’t even notice pain in my hands, either. It took me less than half an hour to plant into this bed

I didn’t bother watering these, since it was already starting to rain by the time I was finishing up. It’s been raining off an on, ever since. My daughter and I got a bit damp when we headed out later on, to figure out exactly where to plant our tree order when it comes in. With 30 silver bison berry to plant, those were the ones we need to figure out the most. They should be planted 3-4 ft apart. Since we are doing these as a privacy hedge, we will planting them 3 feet apart, with most of them along the east end of the garden area, leaving a lane just wide enough to drive through, if necessary, between them and the fence line. Taking into account where the phone line is buried, we’ll be able to plant two staggered rows of 10, though as we get closer to the spruce grove, we many need to jump the rows closer to the fence itself, to keep that driving lane open. There is a branch pile that will be in the way of any lane we leave open, but we’ll still be able to plant around it.

We’ve got 5 sea buckthorn that will be planted nearer the north fence line, to close a gap in the lilac hedge. Any remaining bison berry can also be planted along the lilac hedge, and still keep the lane over the telephone wire clear. This will leave a gap in the privacy hedge, once they’ve grown to full size, that will need fencing or a gate to close it off from deer.

The Korean pine are a whole other issue. Originally, I wanted to plant them in the space between the north side of the spruce grove, and the crab apple trees. These, however, have an 18 foot spread. At their mature size, they would completely fill that space, and we need at least some of it to be kept open to drive through. The alternative was along the north side, which would make an excellent wind break, but with that 18 foot spread and the lilac hedge, we’d be planting them on top of the phone line. Not going to happen.

Which means we’ll have to plant them in the outer yard.

Just past the fence on west side, which has a gate that leads into the garden, there is a space where we can plant 2 of them. Then there is the gate to the secondary driveway – our “emergency exit”, if you will. It was through here that one of our truck loads of garden soil was delivered.

The remaining 7 seedlings will need to be planted on the other side of that back gate, along where there is already a couple of rows of spruces, with some willows at the south end. If we plant them 18 feet apart (we might go with 16 feet), we will have a row of seedlings matching the length of the existing shelter belt trees.

The only problem with this is that the south end is currently under water.

Still, knowing that this is a low spot will help. We can make sure to basically build things up a bit, so that the seedlings will stay above water during spring melt.

Then we’ll have to make sure to put something over them to protect them from being eaten. I don’t know that deer would eat Korean pine, but they could certainly damage them, just by walking over them.

We have not yet received a shipping notice for the trees, but with so many holes to dig, the earlier we get started, the better. Hopefully, by the time they do arrive, we’ll be ready and can plant them right away.

Oh, I just double checked my order! We’re not getting 9 Korean pine. We’re getting 6.

Which means we won’t be digging holes in water, after all. 😀

It’s going to feel weird getting our little 2 yr old plugs and planting them so far apart. Especially since they will grow very slowly for the next 3 years. Which is exactly how my mother ended up planting so many trees way too close together! 😀

Oh, my goodness. I just checked the short range weather forecast, and it’s changed yet again. We’re supposed to get more rain over the next couple of days, then for the two days after that, we’re supposed to get a mix of rain and snow!

What I planted in the high raised bed should be cold hardy enough to handle that, but we might cover it anywhere, just in case, at least for the night.

Last year, May was a very warm month. On this exact day last year, we had a new record high of 30C/86F. The record low for today, -4C/24F, was set in 2002.

After a long, cold winter, it seems we’re getting a wet cold spring.

Still, there are things we can plant. I just hope things warm up decently in June, so we can get the warm weather transplants in!

The Re-Farmer

Road status, and first cucumbers!

What a difference a few hours makes!

It’s been a beautifully warm day. At 19C/66F, even the relatively high winds aren’t cooling things down much. The standing water in and around the yard has reduced significantly since this morning.

I decided to take the walk over to where the road is washed out to the south of us, and see what the status was – this time without Rolando Moon following me!

The waters have gone down a LOT, but the two washed out areas are not in good shape. The flow of water going across is very fast, aided by the wind coming from the northwest.

The wider, shallower area has eroded across even more. Where you can see a darker line is a ridge of clay that hasn’t been washed out yet; everything to the left of that would be very soft. As you can see by the rut on the far left, it’s not going to support the weight of a vehicle much. Still, if we had to, I think we could drive through this part.

The other part, however…

I wasn’t wearing my rubber boots, so I wasn’t going to cross to take a closer look. That further area looks quite a bit deeper than the last time I checked it out. This is where the road was already washed out down to the foundation rocks. There is no why our van can handle driving over that.

I haven’t checked out any of the other washed out areas. If this is still flowing as fast as it is, the others wouldn’t be much different.

Which means we still aren’t going anywhere for a while. :-/

While I was out, I checked a few other areas, including the tulip patch. I swear, they great at least 2 inches since I saw them this morning.

Something new that wasn’t there this morning, though, were these…

The very first cucumbers are sprouting! Seeing these, I took the “dome” off the tray. The transplants we’ve got in the sun room are doing quite well. Even the tomato that was broken at the stem, which got buried back into the pot, looks like it’s recovering.

I think that tomorrow will be the day to move the mini-greenhouse into the sun room, along with most, if not all, the seedlings still in the living room. The Chocolate Cherry and Yellow Pear tomatoes are still tiny, but they can be divided and potted up before being moved to the sun room. The Yakteen gourd have not sprouted yet, but at this point, the sun room is warmer than the living room. Even with them being on the warming mat now, they would probably do better in the sun room. Everything will do better in than in the enclosed spaces they are in right now, I think. We’ll also be able to move the second LED shop light and set it up in the sun room, too, if necessary.

It’ll be good to not have to worry about the cats getting at the seedlings anymore!

The Re-Farmer

Things that make us smile

I had a few pleasant surprises this morning. Such as some new crocuses that exploded into bloom overnight!

When I checked them this morning, there was only this one cluster of purple crocuses. I just got back from walking around the yard with my daughters, and a second cluster was blooming, next to it!

There may be only a couple of clusters of purple crocuses, but the yellow ones burst into bloom all through the area we planted them – and there are more spikes of leaves that we can see that haven’t developed flower buds yet. It’s going to be so beautiful, once they all start blooming!

There was another wonderful surprise this morning, in the sun room.

The very first Tulip tree has emerged! I was really wondering how these would do, as there is so much mold on the soil and pots.

Meanwhile, in the big aquarium greenhouse, there are now 4 out of 8 watermelons germinated, and another Apple gourd is breaking through.

Oh, and I have to make a correction about those peppers in the sun room.

I really out to read my labels. They’re eggplant. The peppers are still in the mini-greenhouse in the living room! 😀

I’m seeing a lot fewer cats around when I put the food out in the morning.

Only 3 came to the kibble house.

The Distinguished Guest is still limping, but he is putting weight on that injured leg again. He’s pretty skittish right now and I wasn’t able to come near him.

Speaking of skittish, there were 4 at the tray under the shrine, and I had to zoom in from quite a distance to not scare them off from the food.

After doing my morning rounds, I headed into the city to finally do our second shop that we normally would have done a week ago. We’re able to pull the van into the yard to unload now, which is much nicer!

After things were put away, the I joined the girls to look at things outside. They wanted to see the new seedlings (there are SO many Kulli corn coming up, too!), and we found a potato.

Or should I say, a Potato Beetle.

This is partly why I wanted to put a platform for the transplants above the swing bench. Last year, we had bins right on the bench. The platform is high enough that any cats in the sun room can still use the swing bench as a bed.

He’s really liking that roll of mosquito netting!

It’s 20C/68F right now, and tomorrow is supposed to hit 22C/72F. The sun room gets warm enough, we leave the inner door open with the screen window in the outer door open all the way, the ceiling fan on, and even the inner door of the old kitchen open, and the screen window of the outer door open, too. It’s a lot cooler in the the old kitchen, so it should help cool the sun room down, while the sun room should help warm the old kitchen up a bit. We wouldn’t want things to get too hot in the sun room for the plants – or for Potato Beetle!

Gosh, he’s adorable.

While checking things out, the girls and I went into the main garden area, where there is another garlic bed mulched with straw. They helped me remove the straw just over to the bale nearby, and we had a very pleasant surprise.

Almost all the garlic is coming up already! They’re mostly yellow from lack of light, and uncovering them will help with that. This bed warmed up much faster than the other ones. These are the Porcelain Music garlic.

We checked the other beds and, with their straw mulch gone, they are no longer frozen in the middle. We should be seeing garlic coming up there soon, too.

Before heading inside, I checked one more thing – the cat’s house! I’ve looked through the windows a few times today, and usually saw two adult faces looking back at me. The adults happened to be out this time, though.

It is very hard to see through the smudged up window, but I am positive there are now two litters in here.

That tuxedo in the back is one of the first kittens I saw. The grey tabby and the grey and white it’s using as a pillow are its siblings. I could never tell how many more there were, but thought there could be 4, or even as many as 6, but we just couldn’t see them well enough. I was pretty sure there was at least one more dark, possibly black, kitten.

Looking at the photo above, it looks like there are two much smaller kittens! And possibly that 4th dark, possibly black, kitten I can never be sure I’m seeing.

If it wouldn’t result in the mamas moving the kittens and hiding them somewhere else, I’d be popping up the roof to check on them, and start socializing them.

And clean the inside of the windows, so we can see them better! 😀

At it is, I’m concerned just looking through the windows might scare the mamas away with their babies. After I checked in them, I started heading to the sun room and found a matched set of cats – Junk Pile and the ‘iccus that’s been hanging out with her – coming around the corner of the cat house. They froze in matched poses, with matching expressions of alarm, staring at me. Even when they finally moved, it was like they were synchronized! Too funny.

I quickly headed in so they could go in to the babies. If my guess is right, these two mamas are taking care of both litters together, as we would sometimes see Butterscotch and Beep Beep do. Well. Mostly Beep Beep. Butterscotch spent as little time with her kittens as she could!

So many things to make us smile today!

The Re-Farmer

Garden prep – getting work done outside

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.

*sigh*

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.

Maybe here?

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.

Oh, dear.

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!

I’m having so much fun right now… 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: sun room mods, and old kitchen garden prep

I am really loving the longer days. I was able to get all sorts done this evening, while it was still light out!

The first job was to make some changes in the sun room.

A few things needed to be reorganized, which I worked on while the girls got the new metal sawhorses out of their packaging and set them up. There was no place to move the table saw, so one of them sticks out further than is convenient, but we can still get around it.

I suppose we could have laid out the closet door with the hinges down, but that happened to be the way my daughter and I grabbed it and laid it out. I don’t expect it to be a problem.

That done, I wanted to get those tall tomato plants out of the shelf, where they just barely fit.

Oh, oh.

Looks like Potato Beetle tried to jump into the bin that was in his favourite spot!

I do wish I’d caught this earlier. It’s pretty wilted. Still, tomatoes being how they are, I tried to salvage it.

I just buried the stem on the soil. Hopefully, those hair roots on the stem will do their job, and it will recover. If it doesn’t, we still have quite a lot of Cup of Moldova tomatoes.

That done, I brought the onions out of the shelf to give them a “haircut”, then switched them around when putting them back on the shelf.

The new set up is the perfect height to work at!

Next, I brought out the tallest plants that were in the mini-greenhouse.

I moved the two Canteen gourds out of the bin in the shelf and in with the larger tomatoes, then added laughably large poles for them to climb on. The poles look too big now, only in relation to the size of the plants, but those plants are going to get much, much larger!

More tomatoes went into the bin the gourds were removed from, another gourd that had still been in the mini-greenhouse joined the other two in the larger bin. The small bin of kulli corn got moved over. Hopefully, this will be a better spot for them. I also brought over a couple of pepper pots. They each had a pair of peppers in them, so I thinned out the smaller ones and repotted them. We’ll see if they will survive. Two more tomato plants joined them, as there wasn’t room for them in any of the bins in the window shelf. With the changes, though, there is now more room on the shelf for a couple more bins of seedlings, once we’re ready to move them over.

That done, I took advantage of the daylight, grabbed a hoe and went into the old kitchen garden.

I was able to prep three beds, including the one alongside the retaining wall blocks. There’s another bed on the left, in between where you can see stone and brick stepping stones. I won’t be touching that, as it was fall seeded with the bread seed poppies that grew there last year. We still have some of the seed pods, and I’ll be adding more seeds to that bed later on, just to make sure we get at least something. We did get another variety of bread seed poppies, but those will be planted in a completely different area, to avoid cross pollination.

The soil in these beds is not at all frozen – what a difference location makes! We’ll look through the seeds for direct sowing and make some decisions on what to plant here. We already sort of mapped things out, but things are flexible. This is a good location for root crops, be we already grew carrots and beets here last year.

Whatever we do, we’ll have to be prepared to cover the beds, so we don’t get a repeat of last year’s critter damage!

There are still the retaining wall blocks at the end. I transplanted mint that was growing where the log framed bed is, into alternating blocks. We’ll soon find out of they survived the winter. They’re mint, though, so it’s highly likely they did. We haven’t decided what to plant in the empty blocks. Perhaps some of the herb seeds we have.

There is another bed that should be quite workable now; the bed along the chain link fence where we planted tomatoes last year. We’re actually intending to put tomatoes there again this year, as they did so well in that location. The soil was very thoroughly reworked when a border of bricks was placed around it, so using it for the same type of plant again shouldn’t be a problem. Since it’s going to have things transplanted into it, and got well mulched in the fall with leaves, it’ll be left alone until planting time.

Gosh, it felt so good to be working in the dirt again! Though it was funny when I got my hands muddy, pulling out roots and weeds as I found them, and was able to go “wash” them off in snow.

😀

The Re-Farmer