Our 2022 garden: survivor, and filling the gaps

Ever since I found that one giant pumpkin plant with a broken stem, I come out in my morning rounds, expecting it to be yellow and withering away.

Which is most certainly NOT happening! Even with an ant hill almost right up against it, that pumpkin is still green and growing!

How remarkably resilient!

This morning, I decided to fill in gaps by the sweet corn. There is no sign at all of the green bush beans that were planted along one side.

These are the beans I picked up to replace them; Stringless Green Pod. Odd to have a description instead of a variety name, but this brand does that a lot. At only 50-55 days to maturity, there is no issue at all with direct sowing this late. With the other beans we’ve planted, we’re still in the window of successive sowing for our area. There were also enough seeds to plant them on both sides of the sweet corn rows, which is what I’d intended with the seeds from last year we’d planted. There just wasn’t enough of them left to do both sides.

With all the water that got into this area, I’m actually a bit surprised we got as much corn sprouting as we did, but both the Latte and the Tom Thumb corn have plenty of seedlings. While planting the new beans, however, I could see the soil was crusting at the top.

Time for mulch.

I used roughly half of a 40 pound bag of stove pellets. The Tom Thumb corn got a slightly thicker layer of pellets, since there is nothing else planted with them. After the beans start coming up, we’ll see if more needs to be added there or not. The beans themselves are intended to act as a mulch for the corn, so it may not be needed.

Normally, after soaking down a layer of pellets, I’d use the back of a fan rake to spread the sawdust evenly. Not an option when added around seedlings like this. I gave them a good soak, then came back later and used different pressures of water to break up the pellet shapes and spread the sawdust out more. This should both help keep the soil from drying out and crusting on the surface, but also absorb and hold water if we get another deluge.

My next goal of the day is to do some mowing in parts of the outer yard. The area I did with the scythe can now be done with the push mower, and I want to at least clear along the sides of the driveway and in front of the chain link fence. My BIL and his family are coming out tomorrow evening, and it would be nice for them to have somewhere to park. 😀

I get to break in my new boots in the process. Not that they seem to need breaking in! My steel toed shoes have been falling apart for a while, but I have the hardest time finding footwear that fit my wide, messed up feet. I usually get a men’s size 9, triple wide, just to be able to get my feet in, but a lot of styles rub or pinch in the wrong places, because they’re made for the average man’s foot. My feet are shorter and wider than average. Just like the rest of me. 😉 The end result is that even if I find a pair that fits, the shoes bend with my feet in places they were not designed to bend. With the stress in the wrong parts of the shoe, they always end up cracking and splitting in the same places.

I wreck shoes rather quickly.

My husband, darling that he is, ordered a pair of work boots for me online. He chose a men’s size 9 1/2, triple wide, lace up boots with zippers on the inside, so they can be removed without undoing the laces.

They came in yesterday.

I was really not expecting much. I figured they would be too big, but there is no consistency in sizing at the best of times. Online shopping is much, much worse.

Much to my shock, not only did they fit, but they seem to fit perfectly! It actually feels bizarre to wear them. I’m just not used to this. Not only are they wide enough for my feet, but they’re not too long; there isn’t a huge empty space in front of my toes, like there usually is. They are even bending in the right spots as I walk!

There are only a couple of issues. The first is that I can’t lace them up all the way to the top, because of my over developed calves. Which is fine. I can’t even lace up my snow boots all the way, so I’m used to that.

The second issue involves the zipper area. There is a gusset under the zipper, and the top of it rubs against the skin of my leg. More on the left leg than the right, and to the point of considerable pain. I ended up stuffing my pantlegs into the top of the boot to stop it.

The solution to that is, I have to wear them with tall socks.

I never wear tall socks.

Usually I wear ankle socks. If I wear sport socks, I fold them down to the ankles, like Bobby socks. If they don’t get folded down, they fall down, anyhow. It’s those overdeveloped calves again.

Not much choice, though. If I don’t wear them, I’ll ended up bleeding.

So far, I’ve just been wearing them for normal walking around. We’ll see how they do with the constant walking while mowing the lawn. So far, the boots seem to be keeping the socks from falling down like they usually do.

Time to give them a real test!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: kulli corn, yellow beans and garlic

Yes! Finally! Major transplanting was started today. 🙂

The first thing I needed to finish was topping up the low raised bed they were going into.

Since the snow melted away, we’ve been adding our kitchen compost in the trench, which already had some straw in it, and I even tossed in the soil from various pots we had, from house plants that died, to seed starts from last year that didn’t germinate. The last layer before adding the soil was some fresh grass clippings.

This is the first time this pile of garden soil has been uncovered since last year.

So. Many. Thistles!

And those roots go all the way though the pile.

Which meant I had to bring the makeshift soil sifter into service, so get as many of the roots as possible out. It was long and tedious, but at least it was made a bit easier by scavenging a couple of scrap boards out of a pile to support the steel mesh, rather than the found branches I was using before. Sifting the soil had to be a gentle process, because there were SO many worms.

I kept the worms for the new bed. 😀

After the soil was added, stove pellets were scattered across the top and hydrated so act as a thin mulch. It won’t stop any weeds, but it will help keep the soil surface from compacting. After several soakings, the sawdust was spread evenly with the back of a fan rake.

It took a couple of hours, but I could finally transplant the kulli corn!

They had a major root system going! It made it difficult to get them out of the bins, then pull apart the tubes. The toilet paper really wanted to come apart!

With the larger bin, it was even more difficult to get them out, and the whole thing ended up falling out and apart. I think only one corn plant actually got broken, though. We’ll see if it makes it.

I counted the seedlings, then marked three rows of 20 evenly spaced spots for the corn. The actual total was 58, including some smaller ones that may or may not make it. We ordered 100 seeds, and there were extras, so we’re looking at roughly 50% germination rate. Which I don’t mind. We would have had trouble finding space for more. They are quite closely planted, as it is. Which should be good for improving pollination.

Of the remaining rolls, I broke apart the cardboard and rifled through it. No sign of the remaining seeds that did not germinate. The carboard went into the compost pile, while the remaining soil was used to top dress any seedlings that looked like they could use it.

I had also grabbed a bag of bush beans from last year, picking the one that looked like it had fewer seeds. That was the yellow “Golden Rod” variety. We still have some green bush beans left, too.

I counted the bean seeds and there was 38 – which was perfect! I could plant two rows of 19 beans, in between the corn.

As they are “old” seeds, I don’t expect 100% germination. This bed is very densely planted, but they should be complimentary.

The corn, however, needed to be protected. The question was, how?

I made a trip to the barn and dug out the T posts I spotted in one corner, a while back. There turned out to be 6 of them, all different lengths. :-/

I had to dig holes to be able to set them, using a garden trowel, since a spade would have been just too big. Within inches, I was hitting water, then rocks and gravel. After placing the posts and trying to push the soil back against them, there was literally water, shooting out from the ground, as I stomped on the soil!

We have no post pounder, so I found a heavy hammer to try and drive them deeper. Especially the longest one, but I think that one ended up hitting a rock. Being the short person that I am, for the taller once, I had to stand on the corners of the bed to reach. Even with a board across the corner to stand on, I was wobbling all over the place! LOL

Once they were in, I strung some twine around to further support the net, once it was added. That was a job that had to wait for when the girls were available.

In the two garlic beds, the nearer one had only 6 remaining garlic coming up – and one of those was barely there. I could find no sign of the few others that had emerged, as well.

I decided to transplant those 6 garlic into the other bed. That one has a lot more garlic trying to grow, but there was still plenty of space at one end to transplant the remaining 6 of the other variety.

The left a bed available for planting into, which we did end up doing.

The main challenge was, how do we cover the bed with netting, yet still be able to access the plants, easily, for weeding and eventual harvesting of yellow beans.

Piece of pool noodles were added to the tops of the posts, so they wouldn’t tear apart the net. When the one on the tallest post fell off, I left it. If it tears, it’ll only go down to the twine, and will actually line up better with the rest.

When I brought the T posts out of the barn, I also grabbed a stack of narrow pipes. I have no idea what they were for, or why they were stored there, but I figured the might make good supports. The short ends of the net are wrapped around those pipes and zip tied into place. For the long sides, we zip tied narrow fence posts we found… somewhere, to weigh down the netting. Any gaps were further secured with ground staples. If we want to tend the bed, we can remove the ground staples and lift the poles to get under the netting.

Hopefully, that will work out.

The corn can potentially grow to 8 ft tall, which is higher than the netting, but if they do get that tall, we’ll deal with it, then.

That was my big job for today, but it wasn’t the only one we got accomplished! I’ll write about that, in my next post. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: peas, carrots, turnips, onions

We got some gardening done! There was a break in the rain and we quickly headed out.

My daughter had the bigger job to get the peas in. We’ll be using the pea trellis we used for the purple peas last year, as we still need to do some work on the other trellis frames. The ground was prepped in the fall, but she had to work through it to pull weeds that were trying to reclaim the space, first.

Now it just needs to have some of the wood shavings, or maybe the stove pellets, added to protect the soil surface from crusting. It’s a light enough mulch that the seedlings won’t have trouble pushing through.

The edible pod pea packet turned out to have very few peas in it. Those are between the two labels on the front left side of the trellis. The rest has pod peas in sown. There are still some seeds left of those, which will probably be planted in with the corn.

This should be the last year this trellis, and the nearby beds, will likely be used for gardening. If all goes to plan, next spring, we’ll be planting food trees here. 🙂

While she worked on that, I seeded the bed that was already prepped and mulched with the stove pellet sawdust.

My priority was to get more carrots planted, as they should have been started a while ago. I marked out short rows (making things more like square food gardening), as well as a perimeter line. I started with the Black Nebula carrots. The packet had a nice amount of seeds, and it filled about half the bed, which is about 14-15 ft long. Next, I planted the Uzbek Golden Carrots, which came as a freebie from Baker Creek. There were very few seeds in the freebie packet, and I was only able to plant 4 short rows. For the rest, I planted the Gold Ball turnip, which we got as a freebie from Heritage Harvest seeds, and the Purple Prince turnip at the far end of the bed. I still have some Purple Prince seeds left, but the others in the bed got used up.

We planted the last of our onions started from seed already, so for this bed I used the onion sets I picked up at the grocery store as back ups. I got two boxes of yellow onions – no variety name is on the box – and it took almost all of them to fill the perimeter at 3-4 inches apart. The bed got hosed down to settle the soil over the seeds and onion sets, then support posts were hammered into the ground to hold the netting, after cord is strung through the holes in the posts, and crisscrossed over the middle. This bed will not be getting anything else added to it, so it can be covered sooner rather than later. The other beds have room for transplants in their middles, so they will get their net covering once that is done.

In planting the onions, I naturally was able to grab the biggest sets, since they tended to be on top, so when the bed was completely surrounded by onion, I had a pile of tiny onion sets left behind.

Well, we can’t let those go to waste!

They went into the retaining wall blocks. Two already have shallots in them. After pulling weeds and roots from the empty blocks (the others that look empty had mint transplanted into them in the fall) and adding the wood shavings, I had 6 blocks ready. I was able to fill 5 of them; 4 with 4 onions each, and one with only 3. That one block at the side is still empty. There is a matching block at the other end that doesn’t have anything planted in it, but it looks like it has chives coming through!

We have one box of red union sets left. Depending on where they end up being planted, if we have any left over, I’ll be finding space of them here, too.

The bunching onions planted in the bed along the retaining wall are still looking wimpy after transplanting. Hopefully, all these onions will make things too stinky for the grogs to want to go after the lettuce and beets. A groundhog could easily tear through the net, if it really wanted to. It’s going to be the big garden area that will be the most difficult to protect, however.

~~~pause for real world interruption~~~

My older daughter and I just finished bringing the transplants in. We have so many strong, healthy tomatoes! It’s going to be a challenge to plant them all, since they’ll mostly be going into new beds. Maybe that’s where those grow bags and fabric raised beds will be the most useful!

We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do tomorrow, as I’ll be heading to my mother’s to help her run errands. She is suddenly taking her back no longer hurts – I guess it took that long for the meds to have their effect, but she still says that when she takes them, they do nothing. She feels up to going out for her errands, though. She has her telephone doctor’s appointment, so I will probably go over there early enough to be there for her appointment, in case she needs things explained to her.

The question for me will be, can her car make it through that one muddy spot on the road? I might have to take the van, even if my mother will need a stool to get in and out!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: beds prepped, spinach, onions and turnips sown

With a steady rain all night, we’ve got a lot of standing water and mud in the yard again. The straw mulch where we will be planting our 5kg bags of potatoes got well soaked, though, so I don’t mind.

This afternoon, I finally had a chance to work on the garden again, and I’ve got some thing figured out, too.

The spinach sown in the high raised bed has started to sprout. There was room for one more row of spinach, so that got planted today.

Then it was time to work on the low raised beds.

We are well behind on direct sowing our cool weather crops, so I focused on the 2 1/2 low raised beds that my daughter and I had gone through, pulling out as many roots and rhizomes as we could. A few that we missed started growing again (there will always be some of those!), so I pulled out some more, before leveling the beds out. I decided to use the stove pellets as mulch for these beds. After leveling the soil in one bed (the back of a fan rake is great for leveling the soil), I’d scatter some pellets as evenly as I could over the bed, soak them with the hose, then work on the next bed. It generally took about 3 soaks before the pellets had expanded and broken up enough to be spread evenly with the back of the rake.

It always surprises me just how much sawdust is packed into those tiny pellets!

Once those were done, I gave them one last spray with the hose, then moved on to what will be a deep mulch bed for the 1kg package of potatoes. We had considered planting those in the low raised bed by the compost heap, but have decided the kulli corn will go in there. It’ll be easier for us to put a barrier around the wooden frame to keep the critters out. Potatoes need no such barrier.

In our second summer here, we started preparing an area for future gardening by mulching the area heavily with straw, and trying to kill off as many weeds as possible. You can read about those preparations here, here, here, and here.

Yeah. It was a big job, spread over months.

The next summer, we had our first garden, and all along the north side, we planted a row of birdhouse gourds. We’d started them indoors, but I thought our last frost date was May 28, the same as a town to the east of us, only for us to get hit with a frost on June 2 – which was the last frost date for a town to the north of us (our own little hamlet is too small to be on any of the frost date lists). The gourds didn’t really survive, and since then, this particular area has not been planted in.

The straw you see raked aside in the above photo has been there for 4 years.

The area was still mostly clear of crab grass, though I spent some time pulling those out. With the straw layer, the rhizomes tended to be running across the surface of the soil, so that made it easier to get them.

I knew we had a few moving boxes left in the basement. I thought there was three left, so I cleared an area to roughly match how much I thought those three boxes, opened flat in a single layer, would cover.

I was wrong.

There was 5 boxes left, so I laid them down folded in half, to get a double thick layer. This should be more than enough for the smaller amount of potatoes.

After soaking the cardboard, I put most of the old, wet straw back, then topped it with some newer straw to get a good, thick later.

This bed is now ready for potato planting.

While I was working on this, the girls got the fire pit going, and I finished just in time for a wiener roast. 😀

We’ve used that fire pit in the past month, almost than we’ve been able to in the past 4 years. No fire bans, this spring!

After the girls made sure I was fueled up, it was back to the low raised beds. Time to do some planting!

Look how big that garlic is!! They are just thriving, here.

For this half-bed, I marked out a grid, but planted in rectangular boxes. I started with some spinach – a variety called Space – planted around the middle of the bed. There are still some seeds of this spinach variety left, if we want to sow some for a fall harvest.

One those were in, the outer perimeter, I planted some onions. These are Red of Florence; the last of the onions we started from seed.

The centre of the bed was left empty. Later on, we’ll put in plants that we won’t be harvesting leaves from, or harvesting many times. Perhaps we’ll put some eggplants or peppers in the middle. There’s room for only a few plants in this half-bed.

There will be more room in the next bed.

The centre row was marked, but nothing is planted in it. On one side of the centre line, a third variety of spinach, Lakeside, was sown. On the other side, Tokyo Silky Sweet turnips were planted. Then, all around the perimeter the last of the Red of Florence onions were planted.

The onions being planted around the perimeter like this is to dissuade critters at least a bit. That is not our first defense, though.

These will be covered with netting. I’m not sure the bamboo stakes will hold those hoops very well, though. Trying to push them into the ground, I kept hitting rocks. In one spot, right at a corner, I just couldn’t get around a rock, so that one is more shallow than I would prefer. A couple of stakes broke while I was trying to push them into the ground. Since I couldn’t get them very deep, I ended up having to break the tops off of the rest, to be able to put the hoops on them.

Later, bamboo poles will be tied to the centre of the hoops to hold them steady and hold up the netting when it’s added on. Not until after something has been transplanted in the middle.

For the long bed, I grabbed pieces from the canopy tent that was dismantled. Those were easier to pound into the soil. Literally. I had a piece of would I could use as a mallet, and got them in pretty deep.

With the logs bordering the bed, the supports aren’t spaced very well. For the ones in the middle, most had to be squeezed into the spaces between logs. Which is fine. After something is transplanted in the middle, cord will be strung through the holes in the supports around the perimeter, then criss crossing across the middle to support the netting. With them so oddly spaced, it’ll be wonky, but it’ll work.

The ground staples will be used to tack the net down , but we still want to be able to easily life the sides, to harvest greens as needed.

The third bed was left for tomorrow. We have 2 more varieties of turnips to plant, or I might do carrots, first. They should have been sown about a week or more ago!

Beds will continue to be bordered by onions from sets. I’ve got 2 boxes of yellow onions and one of red onions, so there is plenty to go! 🙂

The other thing that really needs to get done are the two varieties of peas. Hopefully, it won’t get too hot for peas over the next while! Meanwhile, we need to get those potatoes into the ground.

The next few weeks are going to be very busy in the garden! Lots to go in, in a very short time.

The Re-Farmer