Our 2023 garden: last seed starts!

First, something pretty!

There are quite a few crocus buds popping up, and we’re also seeing lots of grape hyacinth greens emerging! Too early for the flower stalks to start forming, but the leaves come up in distinct little clusters that are easy to identify, compared to the grass and weeds that are in the same area. I’m looking forward to when the crocuses and hyacinths spread enough to start choking out the weeds and grass where they’ve been planted!

Last night, I started hydrating the seed trays with the Jiffy pellets, then headed into town this morning to pick up some more seed starting mix for the other tray.

There wasn’t any.

I tried a few places and found lots of potting mix, but no seed starting mix. I wasn’t willing to drive to another town, so I ended up getting more of the small trays with Jiffy Pellets in them. I did pick up a few bags of manure, though. Two of composted cow’s manure with peat, and two more of composted sheep’s manure with compost. These will be good for top dressing some of the beds, and for the trees we’ll be transplanting when they come in next week.

When I got home, I first had to start new trays hydrating, then I could work on the ones that were ready.

I had 5 trays, each with 12 pellets in them. I decided to do two different seeds in each tray, for a total of 20 new seed starts. Hopefully, we’ll have a nice, high germination rate, since each pellet got only one seed each.

These are what I chose for the first batch.

For melons, I’ve got the Sarah’s Choice, a new variety, Halona and Pixie, which we’ve successfully grown two years ago, and Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon, also new. Our attempt to grow melons last year was a complete failure, due to flooding. There are the two types of cucumber; Lemon, which we got as a freebie, and Eureka, a dual purpose variety for both fresh eating and canning. Then there are the winter squash: Pink Banana, North Georgia Candy Roaster, Honeyboat Delicata and Little Gem (Red Kuri). We tried the Candy Roaster last year, but they got drowned out. This will be our third year growing the Red Kuri squash, which survived last year because we planted them in a completely different location. I thought I’d ordered a new packet of those, but couldn’t find it. I ended up finishing off the few seeds in this older packet, then used seeds we’d saved ourselves from the first year we grew them.

I rearranged things a bit in the sun room to make room for these on the makeshift table. Later on, I’ll move the mini-greenhouse frame to the sun room to have more space for the trays.

As for the second batch, it will have:

The three varieties of hulless pumpkins, Kakai, Lady Godiva and Styrian, that we also grew last year. We’ve been slowly going through the ones we harvested last year – yes, we still have some! – but I lost track of two varieties that looked alike, so I haven’t been able to keep track of which seeds we like best. There is more winter squash: Red Warty Thing is new, while Boston Marrow and Winter Sweet were among those that got drowned out last year, though the Boston Marrow did start to recover somewhat. I’ve got more gourds, too. We started the Canteen gourd too early last year, and they were starting to bloom before we could transplant them, so they are being started later this year. Hopefully, they will actually get a chance to produce fruit this year. The Yakteen gourd transplants got killed off along with the melons, during our terrible, no-good growing year last year, and I hope to be able to actually try some this year. The Ozark Nest Egg and Apple gourds seemed to do well last year. We still have some Ozark Nest Egg gourds curing. The Apple gourds actually recovered rather well from the terrible conditions the squash were all hit with last year, and were producing quite a lot of gourds, but it was too late in the season by then. We were hit by frost before they could fully mature. I’m hoping we’ll have a better year this year.

I was tempted, but decided against growing the Tennessee Dancing gourd again this year. They are fun and do well, but we just have too many things going – and that’s not even considering what needs to be direct sown!

The new trays are being hydrated now. I’ve got another 5 going, though I have a spare available to hydrate, just in case. Hopefully, I’ll be able to plant into them tonight, and things can be moved into the sun room right away.

Once the last seeds are started, it’s back to working outside! I’ve still got the one last bed to work on in the old kitchen garden, then we need to build at least one trellis tunnel, with the raised beds that will be part of it, and prepare existing beds for planting, as well as grow bags for the potatoes, and containers for things like the lemongrass, some of the peppers and probably the eggplant as well.

Lots to do, and just a few weeks left to do them!

I’m so happy being able to get outside and get work done again!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: herbs are sprouting!

I planted chamomile and the second variety of thyme just a few days ago.

Two mornings later, when turning the aquarium lights, I spotted sprouting chamomile! By the afternoon, some thyme was coming up, too!

They were so tiny, though, I didn’t even try to get a picture until this morning.

They are still quite miniscule, but I can see more thyme coming up, while every single peat pellet has chamomile coming up.

I’ve never seen anything germinate this quickly! Meanwhile, I still have just a single oregano (I’m thinking of reseeding those) and just a few spearmint, that were started near the beginning of the month, and they are still barely any bigger than the chamomile sprouts are now! It seems the peat pellet trays are doing much better than using seed starter mix in toilet paper tube pots.

This afternoon, I will be heading out to help my mother with grocery shopping. Depending on the timing of things, I hope to pick up some more potting soil before coming home, so I can finish potting up the tomatoes.

I’m still just blown away by how quickly these germinated!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: thyme, chamomile and seedling statuses

Today, I started a planted a small tray with herb seeds. After this, no other seeds need to be started for another 2 weeks or so, though I may want to start some of the larger squash or gourds a bit earlier. We shall see.

This is the state of things in the big aquarium greenhouse. The little one is now empty, as things don’t seem to do well in there. I have my theories, but I don’t know why, for sure.

At the top is the tray seeded half with chamomile, half with thyme. Neither packet specified what variety they were. The chamomile is from Heritage Harvest, which grows their seed in a location further North than we are, so I know they can grow there. The other is from McKenzie Seeds. The variety we started a few weeks ago is German Winter Thyme. We’ll see how they differ later.

Those chamomile seeds, though. Wow, are they ever tiny! Almost like dust. That’s where using the point of a bamboo skewer to plant them comes in very handy!

So those are now in the heat mat. The tray that was there before, with the tomatoes I potted up, and its remaining tomatoes and herbs, has been left out on the “table” we made with the saw horses. The oregano and spearmint are still just barely germinating, but I think they’ll be okay there.

In the middle of the above image is the one surviving luffa, now in a plastic pot because the peat pot was starting to fall apart. I didn’t have the soil to pot it up to something larger. I’ve given up on the other three pots I’d seeded. This one doesn’t seem to be doing well, so I thought it might benefit from being back on the warming mat. We did set up a heater in the living room, but we can’t leave it running all the time, and I think it’s just too cold in there for something like luffa.

At the bottom is the tray of Spoon tomatoes and four varieties of peppers that are still in the large aquarium greenhouse. I’m happy to see so many more peppers finally germinating. Some of them really took a long time! Once we have more potting soil, I want to get those Spoon tomatoes divided and potted up. There’s about 20-25 36 seedlings. They’re so tiny compared to the other tomato varieties! They seem to be doing well, though, and should be fine in here for a bit longer. That will give the peppers more time to grow before they get potted up, too. We don’t need a lot of each variety, since we’re in the process of discovering what we actually like. It would be nice if we had extras to share – though the last time I tried to do that, everyone turned down the offers, because they enough of their own stuff growing!

Well, we’ll see how it works out, once we start planting all these outside!

About two months from now. ๐Ÿคจ

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: so many sprouts!

I didn’t have time to post this before heading into the city. We had an excellent visit, and ended up leaving an hour or so later than we should have. It was dark by the time we left, and with all the reflections on the damp roads, it was extremely difficult to see where the lanes were. We also very quickly realized we needed to stop as soon as possible and clean our headlights! Thankfully, there is a gas station just outside the city on our route – and the prices were 5 cents cheaper than when we filled on the way out. Gas prices were really weird. In the town my mother lives in, where we usually stop for gas, the prices had gone up from 154.9 cents/liter to 160.9. Usually, the prices are cheaper in the city, but we were passing gas stations at 169.9! This one station outside the city is usually a penny or two higher than inside the city, so it was very strange to see it lower than everywhere else. My daughter was a sweetheart and cleaned all the headlights and windows while I got the gas, and my goodness, did it make a difference! It was still very cautious driving, though. Not because of road conditions – those were great. It was being on constant lookout for deer! Thankfully, we only saw one, running away from the road, but there are so many of the around this time of year, I consider that very lucky.

So what did I find that I would have posted about before leaving?

This lovely surprise!

When I turn the lights on in the morning, I would always lift the dome on this tray to check the pots while getting the condensation to drip into the tray a bit. There wasn’t a single sprout this morning. After making our second basket and putting it in the living room for safe keeping, I took the time to look at the tray that had been moved off the neat mat, to see if any more peppers had sprouts. None had, but I realized I was seeing green through the condensation of the dome on the new tray. I couldn’t believe how many tomatoes has sprouted in such a short time! I’m also surprised they sprouted earlier than the herbs. Those seeds are so tiny, they are practically surface sown, so I figured they would be visible first, for sure. Nope. Not a single herb seed has germinated yet.

With the tomatoes sprouting, though, the dome now stays off.

Now, if only more of those peppers – and any of the Classic eggplant – would start sprouting!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: starting herbs and tomatoes, potting up and will it work?

For a while outside, the wind picked up and I could see the snow coming down horizontally out the window! From what I’m hearing the roads are in terrible condition, and quite a few people posted online that they started to go somewhere, only to turn around immediately. Everyone is being told to stay home. A number of roads have been closed, particularly in the South. For our area, it looks like the worst of it has passed by, and things should be getting better from now on, though there is a second system on the radar that might make it as far as us later. Maybe.

A good day to be inside and doing garden stuff!

The first thing I needed to do was start some new seeds.

There were only three things that need to be started in the 6-8 week range; spearmint, oregano and the Roma tomatoes.

The oregano and spearmint seeds are so miniscule! We don’t need a lot of either, so there was more than enough for our needs. There weren’t a lot of seed in the tomato packet, so I actually counted them to work out how to use the tray. There turned out to be 67 seeds in the packet. Usually, for “pots” the size of these toilet paper rolls, I would plant two seeds per pot, but with so few seeds, only one got two seeds and the other 65 got a single seed each. Romas are a tomato I want to have a lot of, so we can do tomato paste and sauces again at the end of the year.

The herbs each gone one row in the tray. Here, the tray is on the heat mat, and it now has a dome over it, too.

This is the tray that had been on the heat mat. There are some cayenne, Dragonfly and Early Sensation peppers sprouting. And look at all those spoon tomatoes!

The strawberries and Classic eggplant got moved out entirely, and are now in the small aquarium greenhouse, still on the little bin to lift them closer to the light. The hardware cloth cover for the tank is no longer needed to keep the cats out, but it is still needed to hold the light fixture. We couple put the light back under the tank’s lid and use that, but this way, there is still plenty of air flow.

This done, I decided to do some potting up. First, I thinned by dividing the Crespo squash…

They are on the aluminum sheet in the photo. Of the two pots, one had all three seeds in it germinate, and they all have their own pot now. The second pot, I left for now. You can see a second seed did start to germinate, but it seems to have just stopped growing.

In the baking tray, you can see the Zucca melon, at the bottom right of the picture, are doing well! Those tendrils are reaching out to climb, and I’ve already had to unwrap the biggest one from the mini greenhouse frame. The drum gourds in the back are doing okay, but I think it’s just too cold for them to grow much right now.

I’d reseeded more Zuccz melon and drum gourd, but none have germinated yet. There was a drum gourd seedling that died after I’d put more seed in the empty pots, and I was considering adding more drum gourd seeds to it. Not anymore! That pot has now been “potted up” into the stronger, lighter coloured pot, and contains an experiment.

Last year, we had purchased seeds for Tulip trees and pawpaws. We had a single Tulip tree germinate, only to die soon after. Nothing else germinated. Their containers had been moved between the sun room and the shelf just outside the sun room. No surprise that cats would eventually knock them around, and that was it for any chance of germination. They were planted in a seed starting mix, which I ended up adding in to the big bowl I use to moisten the starting mix before putting it into pots to start new seeds. I ended up finding one of the pawpaw seeds that actually looked robust, so I stuck it into the available pot. Who knows? Maybe it’ll sprout!

Today, I had dumped our last bag of seed starting mix into the big bowl with what was left from before and was mixing water in with my hands when I found another pawpaw seed that looked like it was fresh out of the package we got them in. So I stuck that into the pot I’d put the first one in. The pot is damp, though, so it broke. I grabbed one of the new biodegradable pots I bought and the whole thing fit perfectly inside it. Cool! Now we have two pawpaw seeds to potentially sprout!

As I went back to mixing water into the seed starter mix, I found three more pawpaw seeds! None of them showed even the slighted bit of rot or damage!

They all went into the experiment pot.

I have no idea if they will germinate, but it would be awesome if they did!

Once the herbs and tomato seeds were planted and things were shifted around, I decided it was time to pot up the Black Beauty tomato seedlings. The germination rate for those was really high, and they were starting to get too big for the square potting cells they were in. I had a bag of potting soil ready for potting up, and went with Red Solo cups to transplant them up into.

I filled them about half way with soil, and buried the stems of the seedlings about half way when transplanting. As they get bigger, we can keep filling the cups with soil, allowing for more roots to develop along the stems. The baking tray holds 12 cups, while the bin can only hold 9, which left 5 more to go back into the tray they had been in before. The smaller Indigo Blue tomatoes don’t need potting up yet. Sadly, there are still only three Little Finger eggplants; the pots I reseeded show no signs of germination yet. Again, I think it might just be too cold by the window, even though the whole thing is over a heat vent.

Lower down, you can see the tray that has the first peppers we planted, in the red cups they were potted up into, next to the German thyme and lemon grass. The yellow plant pot below has one of the pots of German thyme transplanted into it, which we will be keeping indoors. In the blue mushroom tray is the luffa. We still have just one plant. The other 3 pots were reseeded, but still nothing.

And finally, here are the onions and shallots! It’s been a while since I showed how they were doing. I suppose we could give them hair cuts, but that may not be beneficial. Gardening in Canada did a video about it, and I trust what she says.

My daughter’s orchids got moved to the shelf beside the onions. I hope they do okay, there. They’re pretty far from the heat vent.

That is it for now! The next seeds we will need to start are the 4-6 week seeds, and I think I have only 1 or 2 things that needs to be started in that range. After that, it’s all stuff that needs 3-4 weeks before last frost date. There are a few seeds in that range that I plan to experiment with, starting some indoors and direct seeding others, to compare how they do.

Being able to work on gardening stuff while it’s snowing outside feels really good!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: Oops! starting classic eggplant

There’s a certain downside to ordering a lot of seeds. Namely, a tendency to forget what I already have, what I’ve ordered, or even what I wanted to order, but decided not to this time.

It helps to organize the packets at least a little. For me, the main thing is to have them divided into bins for what needs to be started indoors, and what can be started outdoors. I sort them more, within the bins, but those are my two most important distinctions.

As I worked on the seeds that needed to be started indoors the earliest, went through our garden plans, and even browsed the catalogs, online and off, every now and then I’d think… “huh. I thought I ordered another type of eggplant.” Specifically, the most common eggplant we see in the grocery stores. Then I figured I must have changed my mind and decided not to, this year.

Today, I got a shipping notification from Veseys, letting me know that my last packet of seeds, a purple bean variety, that was back ordered are on their way. After this, it’s just the live items that won’t be shipped until late May, before our last frost date.

Looking back at the original order confirmation to remind myself what would be coming in May, I noticed something else on the list.

Classic Eggplant.

I did order them.

They should have been started a week ago.

Where are they?

I went through all the Veseys packets in my “start indoors” bin. Nothing.

I got about half way through my “direct sowing” bin, when I found the packet, tucked in amongst the root vegetables.


So, I quickly got them going!

There aren’t a lot of seeds, but we don’t need a lot of plants, since this is a “lets find out how they grow and if we like them” year. I had some 10 cell square peat trays, but only used half of one. If I’d found the seed packet earlier, they would have done in with the peppers and Spoon tomatoes that I started earlier in the week, instead of having 2 rows of tomatoes. Ideally, though, they would have been planted at the same time as the Little Finger eggplant.

Here they are, in the large aquarium greenhouse. They really ought to be on the heat mat, but there’s no room, so I added a small bin to raise them closer to the warm lights, and set it up with the strawberry tray. No sign of those, yet, but when I checked under the dome over the large tray, I think I actually saw some tomatoes elbowing their way to the surface!

It’s a bit late, but these only need 75-80 days, so we should still have time. I planted two seeds per cell, and still have some seeds left. If we get only 50% germination, that’s still enough for our needs for this year. We like eggplant, but we don’t buy it often.

Here’s hoping these work out!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: starting peppers and Spoon tomatoes

Here is our next batch of seed starts!

The rest of the peppers got done today, along with the Spoon tomatoes. That bowl has all the Spoon tomato seeds left from last year, as well as the new seeds I got this year.

The tray has 6 long rows, and I considered also planting the remaining Purple Beauty pepper seeds from last year, but there weren’t enough seeds to fill a row, so I decided against it. There were not a lot of pepper seeds for any of the other varieties, but with just one seed per pellet, I still had some left over.

With the Spoon tomatoes, I used the last two rows, planting two seeds in each, and still had some seeds left over. (A wooden chopstick is really great for picking up individual seeds and planting them!) It’s potentially a lot more of these tomatoes than I was intending to plant of this variety, but they did go over very well the last time we planted them. If the germination rate is high and we have a lot of extras, I’m sure I can find someone who would like some transplants. ๐Ÿ˜‰

As for the peppers, we’re not after a lot of each type, so if the germination rate is low, as long as we have a few plants of each to try, I’m good. I want to have an idea of which ones do well here, and which ones my family enjoys eating, and that will decide what we will grow again in the future.

After this photo was taken, I put the dome over this tray, and then switched out the tray on the warming mat in the aquarium greenhouse. I had thought I might be able to leave this tray, with the dome, by the window, but when I touched the Jiffy pellets, they were cold! These are heat loving plants, so onto the warming tray then went.

This is the tray that got switched out. The Crespo squash on the right will be potted up once the true leaves are more fully developed. We still have just the two Caveman’s Club gourds in the middle; I’m considering soaking a couple more seeds to add to the one pot where nothing germinated, just to have more transplants. I don’t expect everything that gets transplanted to survive, so having more just increases our chances of having at least one plant survive.

The Black Beauty tomatoes (middle) and the Indigo Blue Chocolate (left) are doing quite well. The Little Finger Eggplant (far left) are not. Of the few seeds that germinated, only two are growing, and one… I’m not quite sure if it’s going to make it. So I reseeded the pots. Hopefully, we’ll have a few more to transplant by June.

Oh, it looks like I’ll be heading out soon. A very excited daughter just came in to let me know her glasses ordered from Zinni have arrived. She has been absolutely miserable without glasses for so many weeks. I just have to wait for the post office to reopen for the afternoon. I’m really looking forward to seeing how these are for quality.

The Re-Farmer

Well, that explains it

The snow on the driveway is pretty hard packed, but there are a few softer areas where tracks show up. This morning, I was seeing some unusual deer tracks.

Then I checked the gate cam files.

I watched at least 7 deer, over three videos, coming in. Later, the camera caught three of them running out again, at full speed!

That certainly explains what I was seeing in the snow this morning!

I have another slight change in plans today. I was going to meet a woman in a parking lot for a great deal… ๐Ÿ˜‰ The homesteader I buy most of our eggs from is going to be in the town closer to us with a load of eggs at a certain time and place, so I figured that would be a good time to get a couple more flats

Then I got a phone call from my mother. I had bought an extra dozen eggs for my mother as a surprise a while back, and she was wondering if I would be getting more eggs. She wanted to get another dozen for her Easter basket – eggs she wouldn’t need to colour!

So I contacted the egg lady, letting her know how many I was after. She’ll have enough, so I’ll be getting eggs for both ourselves and my mother. Though it’s a bit early for Easter!

The funny thing is, I’ll be going to the town closer to us, getting the eggs, then driving to my mother’s place, which is in a town between our place and the egg lady. So instead of saving some driving, I’m at least doubling it! ๐Ÿ˜„ I don’t mind, though. I’m glad my mother liked the eggs I got her! Last time, though, she ended up with all brown eggs. This time, I’ll make sure she gets a few in other colours.

With that in mind, I’ve slightly postponed starting seeds today. I was able to pick up more Jiffy pellets to refill a tray, which is now set up and hydrating. Tomorrow, the rest of our peppers – all early varieties – and some Spoon tomatoes will be started. Depending on how much room I have in the tray, I may even fit in some Purple Beauty bell pepper seeds from last year. That was all I have that need to be started indoors in the 8-10 week range. We’re currently at about 9 weeks before our last frost, so next week I hope to start the seeds that need 6-8 weeks.

I’m going to have to figure out how to raise the mini greenhouse frame higher, in a secure manner, because we’re eventually going to need the shelf space. Where the shelves and frame are sitting, they get excellent sun in the morning, but the bottom shelves of the mini greenhouse are in the shadow of the wall under the window. I know how I can get it higher. It’s that “secure manner” that’s a bit more of a challenge.

Looking at the newest seedlings in the large aquarium greenhouse, I could see roots making their way through the biodegradable pots the Crespo squash are in. They need to be potted up! Right now, there are three, big healthy seedlings in one pot, and a new one coming up in the other pot. I’ll see if I can thin by diving. I’d hoped to have larger biodegradable pots to pot up to, but I’m just not finding them. I suppose I could order online, but by the time they get here, it’ll be too late. So they will go into plastic transplant pots.

We did lose that one sickly drum gourd, but the others are doing well. The Zucca melon, however, is really thriving. Both still have pots that were reseeded, so we might get more of each.

The thyme is doing so well, I’m thinking of eventually potting up one of the bunches into a permanent pot for growing indoors, while the others get planted outdoors. We have a second variety of thyme to start, but not for a few more weeks. I’m curious to see the differences between the variety. As small as the current seedlings still are, they have SUCH a strong fragrance when the leaves are handled.

I am quite happy with the new, cat proof living room set up. It’s really making things much easier this year!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: newest sprouts!

I love it when seedlings suddenly burst out of the ground and grow so fast, things are different every time I check on them!

When I checked on them yesterday, I could just see one Crespo squash starting to shoulder its way through the soil. Near the end of the day, I could see two emerging and one more just visible. I also spotted one eggplant peaking through. By the time I shut down the lights for the night, the eggplant was up, with signs of more starting to emerge, plus signs of one Caveman’s club gourd.

This morning, two of the Crespo squash are fully up, with the third one almost there – and the soil in the other pot looks like something might be breaking through soon, too. There are still more tomatoes emerging, and more eggplant peeking through. Still just one Caveman’s club gourd visible, so far.

As for the older seedlings, it looks like all the ones that got potted up have survived, though one drum gourd that did not need potting up doesn’t look like it’s growing. There had been two in that pot and one died. I was hoping the second one would make it. We shall see. The other two that were thinned by division are growing, and the third pot was reseeded, so I hope there will be more to transplant once the garden is ready. The more there are to transplant, the better the chances that at least one will reach maturity!

I’m happy to see so many seedlings emerging now. Soon, these will be moved off the heat mat to make room for the next batch of seed starts.

So far, things are looking good!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: potting up, and trying again

Today, I potted up most of our seedlings, among other things.

For the larger seedlings, I thinned by dividing, so the zucca melon and a couple of drum gourds are now in their own larger pots. The pots where nothing germinated now have new seeds in them, including the luffa on the side.

The four cells of peppers are now in 7 red solo cups. The thyme and lemongrass did not get thinned, just transplanted into deeper biodegradable pots.

I also got the strawberry kit done, and that little tray is in the aquarium greenhouse with the other seed starts. Every time I look at in there, the Black Beauty seedlings are bigger, and I can spot more of them breaking through the soil. They are practically exploding in growth! I even spotted a couple of Indigo Blue tomatoes breaking through, too!

In about a week, we’ll need to start the next batch of seeds, which will include all the remaining short season peppers and the paste tomatoes. I’m quite glad we have the living room cat proofed, so we can shift things around more freely. Yesterday, my daughter was using the room and Fenrir teleported in, as she tends to do. My daughter thought it might be okay, since she was in there to supervise. She turned her head for perhaps 30 seconds, and suddenly Fenrir had a mouth full of onion greens!

Onions are toxic to cats.

My daughter was able to catch her and get the greens before she actually ate them. Thankfully, there is no apparent damage to the onion seedlings!

So much for even one cat being allowed in, with supervision!

The Re-Farmer