More garden surprises

If you’re on Facebook, you know how they pop things into your news feed that you posted, X number of years ago today?

Yesterday, I saw one of those, with a photo I posted, three years ago.

After a snowfall.

Not only have we blown past our average first frost date of Sept. 10, but we are at a point where it is not at all unusual to have snow on the ground. Nothing that lasts, really, but usually at least one storm.

I am so loving our extended summer. Especially with how it’s giving our garden so much more time to recover from the extreme heat and drought conditions of the summer.

This morning, I found new Ozark Nest Egg flowers, both male and female! I hand pollinated some other ones, but it’s too early to tell if it works. I went ahead and hand pollinated the female flower here, too.

While looking through the Ozark Nest Egg plants, I found a single flower from the Thai Bottle Gourd that has made its way up the fence, mixed in with the Nest Egg gourds! I’ve only seen male flowers on this one, though.

Remember that carrot bed the groundhogs kept decimating, over and over? The one we finally gave up on, other than watering it now and again? Half of it, where the Kyoto Reds are planted, has carrots gone to see, pushing their way up through the weeds. The other variety, Napoli, have fronds visible among the weeds, but none are going to seed.

I watered the gardens this morning and, out of curiosity, pulled up some Napoli carrots. I was really surprised by how big they were! After having their greens eaten away several times, It’s amazing that there are any at all, never mind anything of a decent size! That had me looking around among the Kyoto Reds for carrots that had not gone to seed, and I found a surprisingly large one there, too!

The squash tunnel thermometer is definitely whack. We might be at 30C/86F as I write this, but it was only about 22C/72F at the time I took this photo.

While watering the peas among the corn, I couldn’t help but notice the corn block that is the furthest south.

We actually have corn. This block as lots of cobs developing!

They are very small – the husks make them look like there is more than there really is – and poorly pollinated, but we actually have corn. I went ahead and ate the one I picked, right after taking this photo, and it was tender, sweet and delicious. I will have to go back later today, with a container of some kind, and pick more!

I didn’t get a photo, but I picked 4 more of the largest Tennessee Dancing Gourds, too.

Once back inside, I started up a big chili in the crock pot. It’s got our own onions, garlic, carrots and bush beans in it, as well as both ground beef and the ground pork we got from our neighbour. Oh, and I also tossed in some Spoon tomatoes we’d tucked into the freezer. In the future, I plan to grow beans for drying, so some day we will be making chili with our own dry beans, too, along with the paste tomatoes we plant to grow and can. 🙂

With a goal of being as self sufficient as possible when it comes to growing our own food, this year has shown just how touch and go that can be. We had a very warm May that had all sorts of things starting to bloom, only to get a single cold night that killed all the flowers off. Because of that one night, we have no crab apples, no saskatoons, no chokecherries, and it killed off the (expensive!) mulberry bush we’d transplanted. Even the lilacs and roses got damaged by that one night. Then we had the drought conditions that had us watering every day, twice a day, for so long. And now we’ve got an extended summer, and instead of frost and snow, parts of our garden are able to recover and start or continue producing! It’s been a crazy gardening year, but as much as I shake my head over how extreme conditions have been, the reality is, this isn’t actually all that unusual. As every farmer, gardener or homesteader knows, you could have the best year of all, only to have all your hard work wiped out by a single storm, or one unusually cold night. Or you could get a terrible spring and summer, but then get a great fall and winter. Some years, you might not get any real summer at all, and in others, the winter will be as mild as any fall or spring. As fantastic as it can be, to be able to grow your own food and preserve it for use in the off season, I’m just as thankful that we have grocery stores and imported food. I think both are good! As my brother and his wife have both said, if they had to rely on their garden, they’d starve!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: morning in the garden

Well, it is getting decidedly cooler when I do my morning rounds! Fall is just around the corner, but things are still holding out in the garden.

Here are the gourds growing on the south facing chain link fence. The yellow flowers that you see are the Ozark Nest Egg flowers.

If you look at the bottom right, you’ll see a white flower!

This is a Thai Bottle Gourd flower. The Ozark Nest Egg plants are going so well, they sort of hide that there is another type of gourd growing here. The Thai Bottle Gourd has leaves that are more rounded, while the Ozark Nest Egg leaves have points on them.

These gourds are not the only thing bursting into bloom.

This is the Crespo squash, recovered from critter damage and growing enthusiastically! I was not able to get all of it in this photo. All those arrows are pointing to flower buds, some of which are starting to open this morning. There are probably another dozen or so on the rest of the plant off the left side of the photo.

Hidden away in the middle, I found the first female flower!

I couldn’t get any closer because of the critter barriers, but that flower bud the arrow is pointing to has a baby squash at its base. Hopefully, it will get pollinated and not die off. Under the current conditions, I would hand pollinate, but that would require moving the critter barriers. Mind you, there’s no way any fruit that develop will reach maturity.

More on that, later.

There are only a few Halona melons left on the vines, but there are probably a dozen Pixie melons that have not yet ripened.

This is the largest of them. Since it has a hammock, I check it in the mornings by lifting it at the stem, to see if it is starting to separate, but it’s still hanging on tight!

The rest are more like these two.

I’ll have to double check, but I thought the Pixies had a shorter growing season than the Halonas. They are taking much longer than the Halona to fully ripen. I’m sure the drought conditions over the summer have something to do with that, but since we’ve started having rain fairly regularly now, I would have expected them to mature faster. Ah, well. We’ll see how they do!

This is the largest of the developing Teddy winter squash. This is roughly half of what it’s mature size is supposed to be, so they may still have time.

Our weird mutant Red Kuri is noticeably bigger! It makes me smile, every time I see it.

We’ve got a couple more that are getting bigger, too. This is what the mottled green one should be looking like, which is why I suspect it was cross pollinated with the Teddy squash.

Here’s something that is NOT getting bigger!

The one luffa gourd is just… stalled. The plants are still blooming, but also starting to die off for the season. I started these quite a bit earlier, indoors, and they should have had enough time to develop gourds and reach maturity, but this summer was so rough on everything, I think we’re lucky to have even this.

We even had something to harvest! Not every morning, but at least every few days. We even still had a few beans left to pick. In the photo, I’m holding one of the mutant green sunburst squash. 😀 I’ve been trying to let the sunburst squash have more time for the fruit to get bigger, but they seem to be developing more slowly than they did last year.

I just had to get a picture of the sunflower in the old kitchen garden. We can see it from the bathroom window, through the sun room, and it makes me smile, every time. 🙂

As the season winds down, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the long term forecasts. Yesterday was our first frost date for the area, but it continues to look like we are not going to have any frost here, for a while. Of course, the forecast constantly fluctuates, and different sources have different forecasts. My Weather Network app has a 14 day forecast, and with today being the 11th, that puts the 14 day trend between the 12th and the 25th. The lowest overnight temperatures I’m seeing is for the 25th, at 6C/43F, with variable cloudiness.

My Accuweather app, however, is very different. The long range forecast on that one goes up to October 5. Up until this morning, all the overnight lows were above freezing, but this morning, there is now a single night – the 25th – where it says we will hit -2C/28F. It is also predicting thunder showers scattered about the province in that day.

If that is accurate, we have only two weeks before frost hits (which is 2 weeks longer than average, so I’m not complaining!). If we do get a frost, that will be it for the tomatoes, squash, gourds and melons. We have no way to cover any of these beds, so if we get any frost warnings, we’ll just have to pick as much as we can the day before. We should get plenty of sunburst squash, but I’m really hoping the Pixie melons and winter squash ripen before then. The gourd and Crespo squash just don’t have enough time left. Except the Tennessee Dancing gourds. They are so small, we should have quite a few to gather before the frost hits. We may be lucky, though. Aside from that one night that one app is predicting will go below freezing, overnight temperatures are supposed to stay mild into October.

The sunflowers will be a lost cause, though. There is no way the seed heads will be able to mature in so short a time. So many haven’t even opened, yet. Starting some of them indoors would have made the difference (well… except for being eaten by deer), had they been under better conditions. Not just with the weather, but the soil quality where they are growing. Had our only reason for planting them been for the seeds, they would be a failure, but they were planted there partly for a privacy screen, partly for wind break, and mostly as part of our long term plans to prepare the area for when we plant food trees there. Which means we had a success with 3 out of the 4 reasons we planted them. I do want to get more of these seeds to try them again, elsewhere.

For now, every night we have without frost is a help.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: corn, melons and new critter damage

We have been very excited by how well the Montana Morado corn has been doing. However, as some of the stalks have gotten taller, they have started to fall over. The soil around the plants seems to be washing away as we water them. So, this evening, I added more garden soil to the bases of each one.

While watering these, my daughter has been focusing on giving a deep watering into the paths in between them, then using a finer spray to water the entire bed, so as to prevent more erosion. A couple of the stalks are also supported by stakes.

We are very curious about what the cobs will look like. Some of the stalks, silks and tassels are very purple, while others are varying shades of green. These are all supposed to give us corn so dark a purple, it looks black. But is that what we will get? We shall find out! It does look like several cobs are filling out nicely. 🙂 I’ve taken to hand pollinating every now and then, just to be on the safe side.

Meanwhile, while watering the squash tunnel, my daughter found another little melon!

At first, she thought one of the ones she’d found before had fallen to the ground, but then she saw they were both still there, so she lifted the third melon onto the structure. This had me looking around for more, and I was very excited to see two of these.

Tiny little melons, juuuust starting to form!

This is awesome!

I checked the other melons, squash and gourds. The summer squash is getting nice and big, and I might even have a couple of squash to pick tomorrow. The other melons and the winter squash have flowers and/or buds, but no fruit forming. Same with the Crespo squash. The luffa isn’t even showing flower buds, but it is climbing the trellis.

Then we went looking at the tomatoes (so many fruits are forming!), and they are doing great. The tiny little onions we planted under them are still tiny and little. 😀 I noticed this morning, however, that a couple of self seeded (likely from the bird feeder) sunflowers seemed to be gone. This evening, I looked again and found their stems, leaves all eaten away. *sigh* More of the flowers in the bed nearby have not only had their heads eaten away, but in one area, even the stems are being eaten. We will not be getting many blooms out of that bed this year!

That reminds me: it looks like a lot of our French Breakfast radishes have been eaten, too. Possibly grasshoppers.

When checking the cucamelons, it looked like some of them had lost a few leaves and vine ends, too! They’re such small, fine plants, though, it’s almost hard to tell.

Then I saw this. 😦

This is the Thai Bottle Gourd. We had the one transplant, and a second seed germinated next to it. Now, the little one has lost most of its leaves, and the big one has lost a couple, plus a couple more leaves are partially eaten.

No damage to the Ozark Nest Egg gourds. Which is good, but we have more of those!

Very frustrating.

This year’s garden has been such a mixed bag of stuff going well, and stuff going badly, due to critter damage!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: one last bed, and transplants

Today, I built what should be the last garden bed for the year. This one is for the climbers.

Here is what the space looked like when I started.

New garden bed location.

The original plan was to use the remaining chimney blocks, like the one in the photo, as planters along the chain link fence, but they remain in the basement until we can figure some thing out, and it is not a priority.

cardboard layer

We’ve been saving up our cardboard, and had just enough to create a barrier layer, which got a thorough soaking.

straw layer

The next layer was the straw, which is also the mulch to cover the path between the new bed and the flower bed beside it. I was able to get some of the straw at the bottom of the bale that has had time to start breaking down, too, which was great! This layer, like all the layers, got a thorough soaking – after I beat it flat with the back of a fan rake.

kitchen compost layer

Then, because we had some, I emptied our kitchen compost along the fence line, which got tromped on before a soak.

There wasn’t much. We don’t get a chance to accumulate much for the compost pile. It tends to get used right away!

grass clippings layer

We still have grass clippings, so a thick layer of it got laid down.

shredded paper layer

We’ve been keeping our compost-safe paper for shredding, and I had a bag full to add for another layer. After giving it a soaking, my daughter tromped it down for me, while I went to get a load of soil. This was from the nearby tarp covered pile in the outer yard. When I pulled back the tarp, I just had to call the girls over to take a look!

finding weeds

The white tarp allowed enough light through for the weeds to start growing, and grow they did!! They were huge!

These are mostly lambsquarter, which are supposed to be edible and very healthy. Better than spinach!!! At least that’s what the breathless Pinterest images that have started to show up in my feed are all exclaiming. Maybe some day we’ll try them, but for now, they are growing in places we want other things to be growing (or, in the case of our soil pile, nothing to be growing!), so we’re pulling them. Still, it was something else to see how big they got under that tarp! It actually is encouraging, since we plan to build polytunnels and high raised beds in the outer yard, eventually.

soil layer

Finally, a thick layer of garden soil was added to the new bed, with a trench down the middle to hold water. My daughter did catch me before I made the new bed too wide. With the one we made for the tomatoes, we’re finding it a bit hard to reach, even though we ended up narrowing it down when we added more soil for the transplants. We’ve noticed the same issue with the beds of spinach, carrots and onions. They’re only about 3-4′ wide, but they are low beds right now, and we’re short. It’s hard to reach the middle while bending down so far; our balance goes off kilter. Especially for my daughters who, unlike me, have not had their generous proportions surgically reduced. That really affects center of balance! It would not be an issue with the tall raised beds we plan to build, but we need to remember that, for low beds, they need to be narrower. Especially if we can reach from only one side, like these along the fence.

One thing that was an unexpected issue is that the chain link fence on this side is higher above the ground at the bottom than on the other side of the gate.

soil spill

Which means that the damp cardboard flaps against the fence couldn’t quite hold the soil in some places! Which is fine. We’ll work around it.


After filling the trench in the soil with water to soak it, I brought over the cucamelons that have sprouted (most did not, but that’s okay; we planted way more than needed!), as well as the gourds. The bucket and plant pot have the cucamelon tubers in peat that I dug up from last year, to see if they would grow this year. Time to dump them out and find out if they survived!

peat in a wheelbarrow

They did not.

Aside from a few wispy root clumps and what may have been the dried outer skin of a tuber, I found nothing. They had completely decomposed.

Well, that just left me with some peat I could make use of.

peat trench

So I widened the trench I’d made before, added some peat to it, and watered it again.

Then it was time to do the transplanting.

transplanted cucamelons and gourds

The cucamelons were all in their own Jiffy pellets, so they were easy to space out. I planted even the tiny ones. If they make it, great. If not, at least they had a fighting chance! Our cucamelons from last year were quite prolific, even in less than ideal conditions. This location gets much more light, so I expect them to do even better, here. If all grows well, this fence will be completely covered with climbing vines!

Of the gourds, the pot that had 2 Ozark Nest Egg seedlings had sprouted a third! I’d forgotten I’d planted 3 seeds in the cups. The pot that first sprouted still had only one, plus there is the one Thai Edible Bottle gourd. These are in Jiffy pots, so the ones with just one seedling in them got planted whole. The one that had three in them, I gently broke it open along one side and sort of unrolled the contents to separate the seedlings. One of them just sprouted today, so it’s unlikely to survive, but who knows? It might do even better than the others. 🙂 I believe in you, little sproot!

That done, I had some more transplanting to do. I’d put the last of our Norstar onion seeds into a Solo cup, and they not only sprouted, but are starting to form bulbs!

The girls and I had talked about where to put them, and the border of the asparagus bed seemed the best place.

bulb onion transplants

The onions are shallow growers, and there’s plenty of space between them and where the asparagus are, so this should be fine. At this stage, I doubt they will reach full maturity, but they will help deter critters and insects. There were more seedlings than would fit here, so I added the last of them in front of the Mosaic Mix tomatoes. There had been some bunching onions transplanted there before, but they were the tiniest, wimpiest ones that we probably shouldn’t have bothered with, and only 3 were still alive. Which is fine. There are more bunching onions in front of the Spoon tomatoes. We’ll see how these ones do!

That’s pretty much it for the transplanting. We should probably plant the one Hopi Black Dye sunflower that finally sprouted. Since there’s just the one, I’m thinking of planting it somewhere else, like in the old kitchen garden. The pink celery will go into a pot that we can move in and out of the sun room, as needed, but they are way too tiny to do anything with, yet.

Which means that tomorrow, it’s back to the other garden beds. The pea trellises need to be finished, the squash tunnel needs to be worked on, and the summer squash needs a garden soil top up, before getting mulched with straw. Somewhere in there, I need to actually mow around the main garden beds. It’s getting pretty out of control around there! For the old garden area, I’m seriously considering using the weed trimmer, instead. It’ll take longer, but I won’t have to worry about hitting rocks or lumps of soil with the lawnmower. Also, of course, weeding. Especially in the corn and sunflower blocks. All the stuff that barely grew there before have had the most moisture and inadvertent tending since… ever, and they’re really liking it! 😀

The main thing is that, aside from the pink celery and that one sunflower, we’re done the transplanting! Anything else that didn’t germinate by now, isn’t going to. We won’t be tending those pots anymore.


It was getting late, so I paused and took the pink celery seedlings indoors, then went ahead and transplanted the one Hopi Black Dye sunflower in the old kitchen garden, in the bed we planted the poppies in. So that’s done now, too!

Today was a good day of progress! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

I almost forgot…

Just before heading inside to get out of the heat, I made sure to mist the transplants waiting for their new homes, and I found a surprise.

My apologies for the out of focus photo.

There is a new gourd seedling! A Thai Bottle Edible gourd sprouted! It wasn’t there when I took the trays out this morning. Not only that, but you can just see another Ozark Nest Egg sprout, pushing its way through the soil.

With their very long days to maturity, we can’t expect anything, but they will get transplanted out, anyhow.

We planted very few seeds from these, so we can try again next year. If we do, I intend to invest in a warming mat for seed trays – and start the seeds earlier! Clearly, we just couldn’t get it warm enough in the aquarium greenhouses for them to sprout, but this heat way seems to be waking them up!

Ah, well. Live and learn!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: all gourds now started

Oh, my goodness, but our internet connection has been bad tonight! It’s taken me forever to finally be able to load the editor to start this post! It’s not done giving me grief yet, either!

Still, I wanted to get this posted before calling it a day, since I’m basically using this blog as a journal that I can reference later on, if I need to.

The last 4 varieties of gourds have been started!

The luffa are the three pots together on the right. The one sprout at the top got visibly bigger, just today! You can see a second one coming up at the bottom. The pot inside the red solo cup is the Tennessee Dancing gourd. On the left are the Ozark Nest Egg, Thai Edible and Birdhouse varieties. The light fixture inside the tank is, as before, just there for its warmth.

Next on the list to start indoors are the summer and winter squash.



starting too…



The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 Garden: progress and next batch started

While tending the seedlings last night, I finally remembered to take one of the tomato pots out, so I could actually get a picture.

These are the Spoon tomatoes (from Baker Creek). I planted three seeds in each of four cups, and so far there is one that has not shown any growth at all, while all the seeds have sprouted in the others, for a 75% germination rate – though it’s still possible something might show up in the fourth cup. The Mosaic Medley seeds (a mix of cherry and grape tomatoes from Veseys) were also planted with three seeds in each cup. Three of them all sprouted at close to the same time as the Spoon tomatoes, and all look pretty much identical in size and health. In the last cup, two finally did sprout, though they are looking much weaker than any of the others.

I would be happy with only 3 plants from each seed pack, since only half of us actually like tomatoes. We’ll see how they look when it’s time to transplant. In the future, we plan to grow varieties suitable for making tomato paste or maybe for drying, but not so much for fresh eating or even canning. A lot of gardeners in groups or channels I follow get so excited about growing massive amounts of tomatoes. I don’t see us ever going that far with tomatoes! We hardly even use them as an ingredient.

Last night, we broke out the rest of the gourd seeds.

We had seven of the Jiffy pots left, and four types of gourds. We decided we will do the Tennessee Dancing Gourd in just one cup (each cup will get three seeds). Someone on the Baker Creek website had left a review stating that their one plant had at least 250 tiny gourds on it. If they’re that prolific, I think we’re good with fewer plants! 😀

We’ll be planting two cups of three seeds of the other varieties. I had to do some searches to find the maturity information for them, as there’s nothing on the seed packets (they’re all from Baker Creek). It’s different with the Thai Bottle Gourd, as they are meant to be eaten like zucchini, while very young, though some will be left to fully mature. I’m sure the other varieties could be eaten while very young, too, but those are all intended to be dried out and used for crafting purposes.

The peat was saturated with water already, and added to the Jiffy pots at the same time as we set the seeds to soak, so the pots themselves would absorb excess water. After finding how much the cardboard egg cartons sucked the moisture out of the growing medium with our bunching onions and shallots, we don’t want any chance of that repeating, and I want to make sure these pots are in trays or containers to allow watering from below. We’ll be wanting to keep those pots damp.

So these will be planted later today. Until then, they are inside an under-bed storage container with a lid, to protect them from cats.


… when the girls went out for a walk last night, they managed to extricate this old wooden ladder from where it was sitting by the storage shed. It was a bit difficult to get to, and it’s been there for so long, I was sure it would fall apart if we tried to move it. It turns out to be surprisingly not-rotten!

It’s interesting to see how each step is supported by steel wire!

The girls are thinking it could be used as a trellis. I’d like to find some way to preserve it, if we can, so it doesn’t degrade too much. At the very least, find a way to protect where it will be coming in contact with soil. I’m sure the only reason this thing didn’t rot away is because it was sitting on top of other things, well above the ground.

I think the girls are pretty excited about gardening this year. 😀

The Re-Farmer