Analysing our 2022 garden: lettuce, spinach and chard

Okay, it’s that time! I’ll be working on a serious of posts, going over how our 2022 garden went, what worked, what didn’t, and what didn’t even happen at all. This is help give us an idea of what we want to do in the future, what we don’t want to do in the future, and what changes need to be made.

Growing greens this year was pretty touch and go.

We had three varieties of spinach seeds left over from the year before. Only one variety was a success.

The Results:

These were planted with the Tropeana Lunga onions in the high raised bed, and they did quite well. They were not as lush as the year before, but still quite good.

The other two varieties were planted in nearby low raised beds, together with other onions, and with peppers in one bed, and eggplants in another. The few that managed to germinate disappeared very quickly, with none growing beyond their seed leaves! I don’t know what went wrong with them this year. Last year, they were grown in the low raised beds and thrived.

After the high raised bed spinach was harvested, the space was replanted with chard.

We also had three varieties of lettuce seeds left over form the year before, and those were planted in the L shaped bed in the old kitchen garden, with netting to protect them from critters – whether those critters be groundhogs or playful kittens! The last of the seeds were scattered, all mixed together, over an open space by a nearby rose bush, since there weren’t many seeds left.

The Result:

The lettuces did pretty well, in general. Even in the area you see in the photo above, which kept getting overtaken by the nearby invasive flowers, managed to do well. I think the Buttercrunch lettuce did the best of the three varieties.

We eventually removed the netting, when it seemed the groundhogs had moved on, because the netting made it very hard to keep up on the weeding. Ultimately, though, we found we just didn’t eat a lot of lettuce, and they started to bolt. I left some plants to go to seed while harvesting the rest, and then the bed was reseeded with the last of our spinach seeds.

The Result:

The second sowing of spinach was a complete fail! The first section that got planted had started to germinate, but the kittens flattened the protective cover and rolled all over them. They never recovered.

We planted more in two other sections, and made the netting supports stronger – strong enough for the kittens to use it as hammocks, and not touch the ground!

It made no difference. The second sowing barely germinated at all, and never got past their seed leaves. They were a total fail, which really surprised us.

Then there was the chard.

*sigh*

The Result:

What you see in the above photo is all the chard we got. As soon as they started to germinate, their leaves became riddled with holes. Some insect was eating them, but we never saw the insects themselves! In the end, we simply left the chard alone. Most died off, but I figured whatever was left could act as a bait crop for whatever insect was eating them.

Conclusion:

There are expectations, and then there is reality!

With growing greens, we were picturing having plenty of salads, or having lettuce in our sandwiches, and basically just enjoying having access to leafy greens, any time we wanted. We figured they would be among those things we would eat more of, simply because they were there.

Well, that was more or less true of the spinach – what we got of it. But not so much with the lettuce. We found we just don’t eat lettuce all that much. Having them barricaded under netting didn’t help. None of us wanted lettuce enough to go through the bother of taking out pegs holding the netting to the ground (so nothing could crawl under it) to harvest leaves.

As for the plants we left to go to seeds, only one variety seemed to reach full maturity. The others were still blooming when I finally cleared the bed out.

With how well the lettuce did, I expected the second sowing of spinach to do well, so it was a real surprise for them to fail completely. Now that the L shaped bed has been built up to a low raised bed with wattle woven walls, anything we plant there should do better. There is new garden soil, as well as layers of organic matter trench compositing below.

As for the chard, we really didn’t know what to do with it, that we actually enjoyed eating.

For 2023, we will have just one variety of spinach. That, at least, is something we enjoy eating, sometimes even just picking leaves to snack on while doing other things.

We will probably not grow lettuce again next year. If we do grow chard again, it’ll be because we still have seeds left, and have space for it.

It turns out we just don’t like leafy greens all that much. It actually makes more sense for us to buy greens at the store every once in a while, rather than grow them ourselves.

I do still want to get chickens next year, if we can build a brooder and coop for them early enough. One of the things we plan to do is grow as much of their feed as possible, and I can see us growing greens more as chicken feed than for ourselves!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: fall planting, garden progress, and exciting news!

I’m just going to start with the exciting news.

The tree guys came today! They’ve been here all morning, and have just headed into town for a lunch break. They have finished the big pile in the outer yard. When they come back, they’ll do the small pile by the garage, then work on the piles in the maple grove.

Now, when the owner of the company came here for an estimate, we talked about getting as much done as possible for 3 hours, because that’s what my budget is.

When the guys came this morning and I was walking around with one of them, showing him where the piles were, and where they could dump the chips, he told me I’ve got them all day. He knew I had cash for them, and whatever else it cost, we can pay them as we are able.

!!!!

Which is good, because that big pile took about 4 hours to do.

Meanwhile…

Check out the sunflowers we have opening now! We did not plant any sunflowers this year, though it had been in the plans. There are a few things we didn’t plant, with how crazy this spring was. And yet, we have several sunflowers growing, all planted by the birds. And it looks like the extra bit of fertilizer they were in helped, too! 😉

The Little Finger eggplant in the black grow bag are blooming! It would be awesome if we actually got some eggplant before the first frost hits.

I finally got to working on the cleaning up the lettuce bed.

I kept at least two of each variety of lettuce to go to seed.

After working on pulling out as many weed roots as I could, I decided it was not worth trying to plant anything at the end closest to the house. There’s just too many things spreading into there.

On the left is the Bloomsdale spinach I already planted.

Between the kittens and the grasshoppers, I decided these needed to be covered. I had some longer plastic coated metal stakes I got last year. The metal was hollow tubes, and they bent and broke easily in our soil. I ended up breaking some of them in half, to have me a bunch of shorter rods. I finally got to use the PEX tubing I picked up for this purpose. They fit over the metal stakes perfectly.

The small space near the Bloomsdale spinach got more Bloomsdale in it, while the longer space got Hybrid Olympia spinach planted in it.

After lashing the last of my 6′ bamboo stakes to the middle of the hoops, I grabbed the shorter pieces of mosquito netting from the main garden and set them up here. They are not pegged to the ground. I’m hoping to not need to do that. As they are now, it would be a simple matter to slide the slips up the hoops to be able to reach under. The excess on the ends are rolled around boards, which can also be easily moved, if needed.

The netting does have holes in it, so insects could still get in, but not as much.

When cleaning up this bed in the fall, I’m hoping to start adding walls to build it up higher. I’m just not sure what I’ll have available to use for that. I don’t expect to make high raised beds here, but I do want to have something in between a high and a low raised bed. Partly to make it easier on the back, but also partly to get it up and away from all those invasive plants! That and working around the lilac is a pain. This bed will be a maximum of 2′ wide, so we’ll be able to each all of it from just one side.

Oh! I see the tree guys coming back on the garage cam. Yay!

I am just so excited by the fabulous job they are doing!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: new growth, surprise growth, fall planting and our biggest harvest yet.

There is some lovely growth happening in the garden right now.

While we have lots of Cup of Moldova and Sophie’s Choice tomatoes ripening on their vines, these Yellow Pear tomatoes are looking to have a good crop, too. They are actually turning out larger than I expected for this variety. It should be interesting when they finally start turning colour!

These Carminat bean pods are getting so very long! I love their gorgeous dark purple.

With the purple pole beans, we can see quite a few pods developing, though the vines are still trying to extend their reach, and blooming all the way. The green pole beans (sheychelles) have wispy little pods forming, too.

Then I started weeding and discovered a hidden surprise.

There are ripe pods hidden among the greens! It turns out these beans start developing right near the ground, unlike the Carminat, which have no flowers or pods at all near the ground.

Awesome!

After finding these, I made a point of looking more closely at the Blue Grey Speckled Tepary beans – the shelling beans – too. They’ve been blooming for a while, but are still such tiny and delicate plants.

Sure enough, I found time tiny pods starting to form. Since these beans are for shelling only, they’ll just get weeding and watering until the pods are all dried.

We actually have yellow zucchini this year! Last year, I was sure we had at least one germinated, but after transplanting, all we got were green zucchini. So I am happy to get some this year. Especially since we still don’t have any green zucchini developing! We did have female flowers, but there were no male flowers blooming at the same time to pollinate them.

We are finally getting more Sunburst patty pan squash, too. There was also one Magda squash ready to harvest.

All the squash are SO far behind. The squash patch, which is mostly winter squash, and the summer squash bed should be enveloped in plants. It’s unlikely we have enough growing season left for most of them, but we should still get something from the smaller varieties.

Here is this morning’s harvest!

Yes, the peas are still producing! There was only a handful to harvest from the second planting, but it’s the most I’ve been able to pick in one day, this year. We have both the yellow bush beans, and the green pole beans.

With the lettuce, we normally just go in and grab however many leaves we want. This time, I harvested the plants in one area of the L shaped bed in the old kitchen garden, so that the space can be used again.

I was planning to plant fall spinach elsewhere in the main garden area, but changed my mind.

It’s just a small area for now. As more of the bed gets cleared, I’ll plant more.

We got another harvest in this morning, too.

This is the garlic from the bed in the main garden. There isn’t a lot, but they are much larger than last year’s drought garlic!

The other garlic is quite behind, so it might be a while before we can harvest those.

The freshly picked garlic is now strung up under my daughter’s old market tent, where it can get plenty of air circulation as it cures, and we won’t have to worry about it being rained on.

I am quite thrilled by how well these garlic did!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: morning harvest

Though we have been grabbing lettuce and spinach leaves, as needed, this morning we our first harvest from the garden!

One bed with onion sets planted around it got a hair cut. They were trimmed down to about 6 inches, and that almost filled the colander. I did see one that was starting to form a bulbil, so I left that to go to seed. Onions are bi-annual, but with sets, their time in dormancy has them acting as if they are in their second year, instead of their first. With the onions we grew from seed, I would like to leave some to overwinter, so we can get seed next year, but I have to figure out how to do that and have them actually survive the winter.

I also gathered the very last of the scapes in the big garlic. The other garlic that is behind is not yet showing signs of scapes.

In the high raised bed, the first spinach we planted was starting to bolt, so I pulled them all up, before they could get too bitter.

After trimming off most of the leaves, the remains were laid along either side of a row of onions to act as a mulch. They are more on the wood chips than against the onions. These onions are from seed, and are looking like they could use a trim, too, though they are quite a bit smaller than the onions from sets.

The other row of spinach looks like we’ll be pulling it fairly soon, too.

Once those are out, we can plant something else. I still have radish and chard seeds that would work. Most likely, chard will be planted. We’re not big on radishes and, if the conditions had been better, they would have been planted much earlier to try their pods, rather than for their bulbs. It’s too late in the season to grow radishes for their pods, I think.

We’re nowhere near the stage where we can be harvesting something out of the garden every morning, so it was really nice to be able to have something like this now. What we don’t use fresh right away will be cleaned, trimmed, chopped and either frozen (at least the onions), or dehydrated (that worked really well for the spinach, last year).

If we do any dehydrating, though, we’ll be doing small batched in the oven, rather than using the screens. All the mint we had dehydrating, and by the time they were done, there was only enough left to barely fill a small jar. The cats wrecked the rest! At least with the mint, there is still lots in the garden.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: planning ahead with spinach

With company coming tonight, I headed out this morning to do a couple of errands.

I’m glad I was able to do at least a bit of mowing around the driveway yesterday, so our guests will have someplace to park. Even if the grass had not gone to hay, I couldn’t have mowed all of it, as there is still open water along one side of the driveway.

Definitely a place to dig a drainage ditch.

As it was, just mowing along the edges took quite a bit of going back and forth, even though I had the mower set higher than I usually do. The rest will have to be done with the scythe.

Since all the dandelions have seeded and died back, we could actually keep the hay we scythe for mulch in the garden, now. As long as we cut it before the seeds are fully developed. Otherwise, we’d just be planting lots of grass in our garden!

My errand of the morning was to head to our little hamlet’s general store/post office/gas station/liquor store to pick up some booze for our guests. We’re all out of our home made hard cider (looking forward to making more!).

They have a small seed display from Lindenberg Seeds Ltd, and I ended up picking up a couple of packets.

The spinach we planted in the high raised bed is doing well. The spinach we planted in the low raised beds, not so well. In fact, they’re barely there. I can’t tell if they’ve been eaten by insects, or if it was just too wet for them. I know they haven’t been eaten by critters, because the beds have onions planted around them, and if anything had gone through, the onions would be flattened in places. They care completely undisturbed.

We do have seeds from one variety of spinach left, if I remember correctly, but I decided to pick up two more. Bloomsdale and Hybrid Olympia. It’s getting too for spinach now, though. These will be planted at the end of July/early August for a fall harvest. Hopefully, we will have generous quantities like we had last year, that we can dehydrate for later use. It was very handy to be able to add a spoonful of dry spinach to dishes every now and then. We’ve been out for a while, though, and I miss it!

Spinach is definitely one of our favourite greens, for all of us.

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

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

Our 2021 garden: first harvest!

Today, we harvested all three spinach beds!

Looking at them this morning, I thought we could just harvest the plants that had started to go to seed and leave the smaller ones, but when we were ready to start, we realized that the smaller ones were going to seed, too!

We ended up using our three biggest baskets to hold it all.

Yes, these are our Easter baskets, and one of them still has its decorations. The flower garland is woven through the basket, so it doesn’t come off. 😀

Each of those baskets is filled with a different variety of spinach, though to be honest, I can’t tell any difference. They were even supposed to mature at different rates, but between the deer, the heat and the lack of rain, they all matured at the same time.

Nutmeg was hanging around while we were working, and my daughter noticed he was playing “cat and mouse” with something. It turned out to be a frog!

She rescued it.

We see frogs fairly regularly in the garden beds. That makes me happy. More frogs means less bugs eating our produce! 🙂

We used shears to cut the spinach, so all the roots, along with the plants that weren’t suitable to harvest (like the teeny ones the deer got to), are still there. The beds will get a thorough clean up, probably tomorrow, so we can plant lettuces, next.

We dragged out the screen “door” that fits at the top of the old basement stairs, and covered it with the mosquito netting we’d been using to protect one of the beds. We also brought out a couple of our largest bowls. The spinach got washed in the bowls in batches, which also gave us a chance to start taking out any weeds that came along for a ride, and removing some of the yellowing or damaged leaves. After being washed, they got dumped on the mesh and got another rinse with the hose.

Then it was time to start picking over the spinach and destemming them. I set up the wagon to hold the screens I’d washed earlier, to dry spinach on.

My daughter and I then started going over the whole pile, picking out the best ones for dehydrating or into bowls, and dropping the rejects with the snipped stems for composting. We worked for about an hour, hour and a half, before my daughter went in with a filled bowl, to start supper while I kept working on the rest of the spinach.

The filled screens were left on the roof of the kibble house to drain for a while. They went into the sun room when it started to rain a bit, though we never got more than a smattering.

After about three hours, here are two of the three bowls that were filled. They are all really big bowls. Big enough to mix a 6 loaf batch of bread dough.

I’m hoping to be able to set up more batches to dehydrate out of this, but it depends on how well it works in the sun room. I’ve got the light I used to keep transplant trays warm on for the night, plus the ceiling fan. Tomorrow we’re supposed to get really hot, which means the sun room will be even hotter. I’m hoping that means they will dehydrate fairly quickly, and I can set up at least one more batch.

As for the rest, we might blanch some for freezing if we can’t use it up fast enough, but mostly, we plan to just eat it. 😀 The girls have been looking of recipes for things like spinach soup to try, or maybe make another batch of their modified palak paneer sauce. We don’t have paneer, though.

I’m rather happy with our first garden harvest – and with being able to have one so early in the season!

While it may have taken a long time to clean it all, we were most entertained.

By skunks.

We had a whole parade of them, coming and going, including the mama and her babies.

All SIX of them!

I don’t know where she’s getting them all from! She started coming by with two. Then we saw her carrying a third. Today, she showed up with five – or so we thought. I took some video and, after I uploaded it and watched it, I realized there was six.

If you wish to see the video, click here. 🙂

Gosh, they are so adorable! They came back several times, including just to run around an play.

As for the other skunks that showed up, I did end up stopping to take a hose to them. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see them in the kibble house, but I could hear them, and they were not getting along. It turned out that only one of the containers had kibble left in it, and they were all trying to get at it. Then there was the one greedy guts that just wouldn’t stop eating.

Oh, and a question I had was answered. In the mornings, when I would go to refresh the cats’ water bowls, I would find one of them with kibble half dissolved in the water. It was always the bowl closest to the kibble house, but they’re far enough away that it couldn’t fall in by accident, as I had assumed was how it got into the heated water bowl, when we were still using that. The skunks, of course, use the water bowls, too. This evening, I saw one of the skunks come up to a water bowl, drink some water, then basically pick its teeth with its claws before drinking some more.

The reason it isn’t good for skunks to eat kibble is because of how their jaws are hinged. But they’ve got that figured out. The skunk was getting kibble stuck in its teeth, and was using water to get it out. The kibble would then fall into the bowl it was drinking from, for me to find in the morning.

They’re smart little buggers!

They also made what could have been a long and dreary job quite fun. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: today’s progress

It was a hot and windy day today, and my younger daughter and I ended up making a quick run into town, but we did get some decent progress in the garden.

summer squash, mulched and prepped

My older daughter braved the hottest part of the day and added more soil to the 15 summer squash mounds.

I waited until it was cooler.

I added a stake near each plant. The stakes are some of the smaller poplars we cleared our of the spruce grove, trimmed to about 3-4 feet in length. In the foreground of the photo, there is a metal bar stuck in the ground. It has a point at one end. I can’t remember at the moment, where we found it, but it was a happy find! I used it, and a mallet, to make holes in the ground. Then the stakes, skinny end down, were pushed in as far as I could, beyond what I managed with the steel bar, then the soil carefully stomped down to secure it. As close to the plants as they were, that meant mostly just on one side. Once those were in, the area was mulched with straw. The idea is to secure the stems of the squash to the stakes, as they grow, and pruning the bottom leaves, little by little. We shall see how that works!

Also, I really need to get this area mowed, before the next rains come!

I had found some trellis netting, so my daughter finished the last sections of pea trellis with that, along with adding soil to the summer squash. The peas are getting tall enough to start climbing! The peas I planted later, to fill the gaps left by those that did not germinate, are sprouting, too. I’m really looking forward to having fresh peas! I can’t remember the last time I had fresh-from-the-garden peas.

If you look to the left of the photo, you can see what is a problem in this area: all those tree seedlings! They are spreading through root systems, like quack grass. Usually, I would have mowed over them by now, but we’re going to have to cut them back by hand this year.

spinach beds

My younger daughter, meanwhile, went all out and thinned all three spinach beds.

Yes, this was taken after the beds were thinned!

The furthest one, under the netting, is the one that got the most deer damage, but parts of it are doing well. You can see at the end of the closer beds, the smaller spinach at the ends the deer got at.

With the spinach she gathered, I currently have two trays drying in the oven, and made myself a huge spinach salad for supper. The reason we went into town was to get ingredients to make spinach dips. Both cold and baked versions. 🙂 I’m really looking forward to that!

This last one is just to show how well the potatoes have been doing! At this rate, some of them are going to need topping up, soon! I’m very excited to see how productive these will be at the end of their season.

With today’s progress, my goal for tomorrow is to get working on that squash tunnel. The luffa needs something to climb! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Making things

Today has been another day of rain and high winds.

After today, we’re going to be back to high temperatures and sun. My Weather Network is forecasting 37C/99F on Wednesday! I think that must be some kind of typo, because I’m not seeing that anywhere else. The highest I’m finding is on my phone’s app, which is forecasting 27C/81F on the same day. Even so, it’s going to get hot again, and I am really, really glad we’re getting this rain right now!

In between rainfalls, we managed a trip into town, and I even got a bit of weeding done in the garden. We’re going to need to do a LOT of weeding once this rain passes. The weeds are loving the rain as much as the things we actually planted.

Speaking of which, while weeding among the corn earlier, I did find some radish sprouts. They are recent sprouts, not the ones that came up before the corn did, then disappeared. So we will have at least a couple of radishes. Unless these sprouts disappear, too!

Gosh, I’m just watching the trees outside my window as I write this. If a section of that big maple came down right now, it wouldn’t surprise me at all!

With this weather, our internet is seriously cutting out. It’s taken me more than an hour just to be able to start this post, and I still can’t get images to load. So this will be a quick one!

I wanted to share some of the new things we’re trying this year. The chives are blooming, and we decided to try making chive blossom vinegar.

I got a small bottle of white wine vinegar, and we’re simply putting clean, dry chive blossoms into it (after removing a bit of vinegar to make space. Some of the blossoms are left whole, while others had the bit at the bottom taken off, so all the individual flowerettes are loose. We’ve been adding to the bottle as more blossoms open up, then we’ll let it sit for a couple of weeks, in a cool, dark place, giving it a few turns every now and then. After that, the vinegar will be strained and re-bottled. I’m looking forward to seeing how this turns out!

I’ve also started to dehydrate spinach leaves.

I use our oven to dehydrate things, using the “warm” setting, reduced to it’s lowest temperature of 145F (default is 170F). For something as light and thin as spinach leaves, I shut it off and let the oven light on to stay warm. We can only fit two trays in the oven at a time, but after I went to turn the leaves and found they’d shrunk enough, I combined them into one pan and left it for the night. In the morning, I just crushed them lightly, and put them in an air tight canister. There’s maybe 1/3rd of a cup of dried, crushed leaves from the 2 trays. We’ll keep doing small batches like this and, eventually, we’ll reduce them to a powder instead of flakes. It kind of reminds me of dehydrating celery. You start off with what looks like so much, but by the time it’s completely dehydrated, it looks like there’s nothing there! 😀

Now it’s time to see if I have enough connection to publish this!

The Re-Farmer