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. πŸ˜€

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! πŸ˜€

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 2022 garden: thinning and potting up

A lot of the squash in the big aquarium greenhouse were getting too big for their britches, so it was time to thin them out and pot them up!

The Giant Pumpkins were easy enough to do; there’s just one plant per biodegradable pot, so they just got put into bigger biodegradable pots with little issue.

With the others, we thinned by division. We had only a few of the larger biodegradable pots left, so the biggest ones were transplanted into those. After that, they went into the red Solo cups. Then they all went into the sun room.

Once those were done, we went through the mini-greenhouse and moved the remaining eggplants and peppers to the sun room as well. A couple of them got thinned by division, too.

These two bins are all winter squash, the giant pumpkins and hulless pumpkins, under the bright shop light.

The gourds that were already in the sun room joined more squash and Apple gourds in a bin.

The peppers that survived the Great Cat Crush, as well as replacement starts of peppers and eggplants, got moved into the window shelf.

Back in the big aquarium greenhouse, there is now more room to space things out. The melons were looking leggy, so I put something under the bin they’re in to raise them closer to the light. There’s still just one Zucca melon sprouted (the big one in the foreground).

There are still some smaller squash and gourds on the heat mat. The Yakteen gourds have not germinated yet. I tried to get a photo, but the camera decided to focus on the aquarium frame instead of the plants. LOL

In the mini-greenhouse, there are still the Chocolate Cherry and Yellow Pear tomatoes, and the ground cherries. With more space available, they’re now all spread out to get maximum light and air flow.

It’s always a risk to pot up things like squash. Once the new bins were in the sun room, water was added to the bottoms to let them absorb more moisture from below; particularly the biodegradable pots, so the pots themselves wouldn’t wick moisture out of the soil and away from the roots. I left the shop light on all night, to hopefully give them the energy they needed to handle the changes.

As of this morning, everything looked pretty much as I left them. Nothing was drooping or otherwise showing signs of stress from being divided and potted up. So far so good!

In about a week or two, we will start hardening off the transplants. By then, everything that’s in the aquarium greenhouse and the mini-greenhouse should be moved to the sun room, with the tomatoes divided and potted up.

If all goes well, we should have most, if not all, or cold tolerant seeds direct sown outside by the end of the month, too.

It feels so good to finally be able to move ahead with the gardening!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: starting seeds, three winter squash

Our next batch of seeds have been started!

I chose the ones that grow the largest and need the longest growing season. They are all new to us. Boston Marrow was chosen because it was described as making the best pumpkin pie the grower ever tasted, and because it was described as extremely rare. We plan to save seeds from these. I’ve heard many good things about Georgia Candy Roaster and, most importantly for us, it’s listed as having great storage quality. Winter Sweet was also described as an excellent storage squash, that tastes better after being stored for several months, and for being a reliable producer.

Because the seeds – especially the Boston Marrow seeds – were so large, we went with the Solo cups as pots, using the double cup method for watering from below. Each variety got three seeds in three cups (after being scarified and soaked a bit). We’ll see how many germinate. If we had the space for it, I would probably have planted more.

Speaking of space, the small aquarium greenhouse has been brought back into service. Once they germinated, we should be able to move them to a better spot, to avoid the issues we’ve been having with the space. Depending on how well they germinate and grow, we might be able to thin by dividing.

In the large aquarium greenhouse, I’m happy to say I’m now seeing more tomato seedlings starting to push their way through the soil. More amazingly, I spotted a hint of green in one of the giant pumpkin pots! That was much quicker than I expected.

The next batch of seeds to start indoors will be two more varieties of winter squash – the Red Kuri/Little Gem and Teddy squash that we grew last year, and managed to have squash to taste in spite of the drought – and cucumbers. Since we saved seeds from the few Red Kuri we got (the Teddy never got to fully mature), I might try some of our own seeds as well.

Then we have the summer squash. In the two years we’ve gardened here, we started them indoors. They did well, but they have a short enough growing season that we could direct seed them. For the sake of space, we may actually do that this year. Chatting with my mother on the phone today, she said the only things she started indoors were tomatoes and cabbages. She direct seeded everything else, including zucchini.

As we talked, she started telling me I should plant a big garden this year, because of how expensive food is getting. She was looking at the grocery store flyer and finally noticing. I’ve been saying this to her for months now! Then she started telling me what she would be doing if she were still living here – the first being, hiring the renter to plow the whole old garden area and then…

… planting trees.

Then she tried to offer me seeds she picked that fell from the trees lining the streets near her place. I declined! I told her that we were intending to plant trees, but these would be trees that feed us, and that we had a plan in mind. She planted most of the trees around the yard herself, or allowed trees that seeded themselves to grow. It’s taken a few years, but I think she’s starting to understand that this is now causing problems, as I try to explain that any trees we will be planting will be carefully chosen, and where we plant them will also be carefully decided. She was more interesting in things she got for free – or someone else paid for, like the shelterbelt trees my brother bought for my parents that were supposed to be planted in the outer yard, but that were instead crowded into the inner yard. I do find it funny that she gave me such a hard time for not immediately planting a garden our first summer here, and instantly having one just like she used to have, back when I was a kid, and now that we are going to be planting a large garden, she wants me to be planting trees!

Well, that’s part of our plans, too. Little by little, it’ll get done.

Today’s seed starts are one more little step in that direction.

The Re-Farmer

So many kitties, and a garden surprise

I may have missed the kitties when my husband fed them this morning, but I got to see them this afternoon, when my daughter topped up the kibble containers! πŸ™‚

Even Ghost Baby made an appearance!

My daughter was happy because, once they all came running to eat, she was able to pet a whole bunch of baby butts, and they didn’t run away! Too interested in the food to notice they were being pet. πŸ™‚

My daughter had come out to take care of something for me. I had earlier been working on the high raised bed and, since I was right next to it, decided to dig up some carrots from the abandoned bed.

I am totally amazed that after the greens being munched down to the ground at least three times, then getting overgrown with weeds, we STILL have decent sized carrots! Certainly not their full potential, but far better than what I expected. Which was nothing! These are the Napoli carrots we ordered from Veseys, and I must say, I’m impressed by their resilience! I picked maybe 1/3rd of the bed’s carrots. It’s hard to judge, with it being so overgrown.

Then one of my daughters came out to hose them off (and feed kitties!) while I did other stuff outside. My other daughter then used them with a roast vegetable dish she made to do with supper. I finished up outside while she was working on it, and we decided to include our tiny winter squash.

The tiny halves in the background are the little Teddy squash. By the time I took out the pulp in the seed cavity, there wasn’t much flesh left! Like the immature Kuri squash in the foreground, their seeds were not at all developed.

I have no idea how edible they are at this immature stage, but we’ll find out!

The Re-Farmer

First ice, last winter squash and melons

Thanks to my husband being up at ungodly hours and feeding the outside cats for me, I didn’t have to head out for my morning rounds until things had started to warm up a bit. Even so, I found ice!

We keep a storage bin with tools and various handy things at the far-flung garden beds. It’s in the shade of the rain barrel (which we no longer fill; it has only enough water to keep it from blowing away), and the rain water that had collected on its lid had a layer of ice on it!

The reason I needed to go into the bin was to get a knife. It was time to collect the few remaining winter squash and melons.

The mutant Red Kuri has probably been ripe for a while, and just the outer skin was getting more time to thicken. The smaller one hasn’t reached its mature colour yet. The larger melons are the Pixies. Their vines died off ages ago, but I still had to cut them free!

The two surviving Teddy squash are smaller than they would have been under more optimal conditions, but from what I’ve read about their mature size, not by much. I do think they actually did get a chance to ripen.

The last two Halona melons! They got to this size, and just stopped growing. They are probably not edible, but who knows?

I figure we’ll be cutting into these as soon as we can. I think the winter squash, at least, will be something we can eat, and we’ll want to do that right away. The Pixie melons should probably be fine. Those little Halonas, though… I suspect they will find their way into the compost!

We’re supposed to get a really warm day tomorrow – 18C/64F!! – then back to chilly, but still mild, temperatures. It should be at least a week before we potentially get rain again, then mild for the rest of October. That will give us plenty of time to do more wood chipping, pull of the spent plants, and work on the high raised bed some more. I plan to include garden material among the layers when filling the high raised bed. Every little bit will help!

Yesterday, I consulted with my brother about a job that needs to be done. The old chicken coop – a log building that was a summer kitchen when my parents first acquired the farm – has a corrugated metal roof that was laid over the original wood shingles. A tree had been allowed to grow next to it and, in high winds, the branches had torn away a section of the metal sheets. I cut away the tree last year, so at least there is no new damage from the branches.

This building is still salvageable, but the exposed wood roof needs to be covered, or it’ll end up collapsing like the others. The metal pieces that got torn off are pretty damaged, and I couldn’t even find all of them. There was another building next to the barn with the same type of corrugated metal roof. It collapsed long ago, so the remains of the roof are almost on the ground. It still has several pieces that are bent to fit over the peak of the roof, so I should be able to salvage those, as well as some other pieces, to cover the old chicken coop roof.

The problem is getting up there. I don’t think that roof can hold a person’s weight anymore. Plus, it would be pretty dangerous to try and use a ladder around there. The ideal thing would be to have scaffolding. My brother told me that there used to be scaffolding alongside the building my parents’ stuff is now stored in. I was pretty sure what I would find, but this morning I went to take another look, just to confirm.

No scaffolding.

Something else that disappeared before we moved out here.

*sigh*

My parents ran a fully equipped and functioning farm until their retirement. Sure, it was just two sticks ahead of the stone ages, but as my late brother prepared to take it over, he brought all sorts of supplies and equipment. I’d say it was more like three or four sticks ahead of the stone ages before he died. Now, it’s like I’m down to just one stick ahead of the stone ages. I have fewer tools and resources available now, than when I was a kid and we still didn’t have running water or an indoor bathroom.

It makes taking care of and improving this place, very frustrating!

Ah, well. We make do with what we have. Perhaps, with our vandal taking me to court over the remaining junk, a judge will see fit to order him to return what he took, or pay my mother and brother back for what can no longer be returned. One can dream!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: sleepy bee, a pretty harvest, and more rain to come?

While doing my rounds this morning, I was specifically looking to see how things held out after the colder than predicted overnight temperatures a couple of nights ago. Quite a few heads are at that drooping/maturing stage. Others are still in their early stages of blooming. It isn’t unusual, in these cooler mornings, for me to find a variety of small insects in the flowers, not moving much because of the cold.

This morning, I found this beautiful creature.

This beautiful bee wasn’t just sluggish. It was “sleeping”. We were at 10C/50F when I took this photo, and we’re only supposed to get a degree warmer, but I do hope the bee managed to make its way back to its hive!

That we have any pollinators out and about right now is pretty amazing to begin with. Mostly, I’m seeing yellow wasps, probably from that nest at the crack in the foundation under the old kitchen, or the nest in the big branch pile in the outer yard.

Having them around is appreciated, because even though the colder temperatures have resulted in drooping, cold damaged leaves on all our squash, they are still blooming! The flowers don’t seem to have been affected, and summer squash seem to have been protected by their own leaves.

I will be checking on the pattypans later, but I did pick these this morning.

This is actually the second Red Kuri/Little Gem squash we harvested. There is still the mutant, which I’m leaving because its vine is still looking so green still, and a smaller one that is still more yellow than orange. I’ve left our two little Teddy squash for now, as their vines seem to be doing all right, and I want to see if they will get any bigger.

The Tennessee Dancing Gourds were a bit of a surprise. They weren’t the largest ones, which were still firmly attached to their vines when I checked them. Then these ones just popped off their vines when I handled them! We’ve got more than a dozen of these picked, and the vines still have so many more, and more flowers! Even the luffa is still blooming.

How long this will last, I can’t even begin to guess. It’s been such mild fall, and these are plants that are not typically grown in our zone. Our mild fall has extended our growing season by at least a month, already.

It does not look like we will be able to do any chipping today, nor for the next couple of days. We are supposed to be getting more rain. Our own area looks like it will just get the edges of the weather system, but my weather app was sending out warnings for possible flash flooding in some areas. From the looks of the weather radar, the south end of our province is already getting heavy rains. The same system looks like it’s been dropping snow as it passed through the US before reaching us! Since we moved back here, we’ve seen snow, and even blizzards, before now, so I am incredibly thankful for the mild temperatures and rain. Every drop will help in recovering from this summer’s drought conditions.

Oh, my goodness! I just have to share this!

I got interrupted by a phone call while writing the above. When I answered, someone asked for my late father, by his first name only. Without saying he was my father, I told the guy my dad had passed away several years ago. He expressed sorrow, but then another male voice came on, this one with a strong accent, so it was clearly a second person on the line, asking if Mrs. ________ (mispronounced, but that’s not unusual) – my mother – was there. I said no, she no longer lives here. I was then asked if the man or woman of the house was available. I said that would be me. Which is when the first guy started talking again, saying he was from CARP, and how was I doing this morning? I told him that I was very confused right now, so he said he would call back again at a better time.

!!!

I just looked up CARP and, aside from lots of websites about fish, I found this.

C.A.R.P.β€”A New Vision of Aging is Canada’s largest advocacy association for older Canadians promoting equitable access to health care, financial security, and freedom from ageism. Backed by more than 320,000 members, C.A.R.P. is a non-partisan association committed to working with all parties in government to advocate for older Canadians. Our mission is to advocate for better healthcare, financial security, and freedom from ageism. C.A.R.P. members engage in polls and petitions, email their elected representatives, connect with local chapters and share stories and opinions on urgent issues.

C.A.R.P. membership support creates major changes in government policies and protects the dignity of Canadians as we age. Members are also rewarded with discounts on over 100 everyday products and services they know and love from C.A.R.P.’s trusted partners.

https://www.carp.ca/about/#about

So… I don’t quite fit into their demographic, yet. πŸ˜€

Also, they really need to update their phone lists! My mother hasn’t had this number for at least 7 years, and my dad passed away more than 5 years ago.

Oy vey!

Anyhow. Back to topic!

After a few days of rain, we are actually supposed to get sunny and warmer again. Hopefully, that will be a good time to get more chipping done. For now, while the rain holds off, I’ll see what progress I can get on the high raised bed. I want to at least get one high raised bed completed in time for when the garlic comes in, since they will need to be planted right away. I also just got word back about getting another round bale of straw, so we should be getting that delivered soon, too.

There is so much work to get done before the snow flies!

The Re-Farmer

Fall garden update: winter squash and melons

While going through the garden beds this morning, I was just blown away by how much is still growing – and still getting a chance to grow, if the forecasts for October stay true!

The last time I had so many photos to share, I put them together into a video, but it only ever got one view. Clearly that’s not something people are interested in. So today, I will instead make a series of short posts, instead, starting with our winter squash and melons.

This is the very first Red Kuri/Little Gem squash that matures. As you can see in the photo, the vine is completely died back – except for the few inches on either side of the stem!

The vine with the next biggest one still has some green leaves on it. There had been another small squash that started to develop, but it withered away and fell off.

The other one, however, is still getting bigger, and just starting to deepen in colour. The vine it’s on has a lot of cold damaged leaves, but is still mostly green and growing, so this one may actually get a chance to fully mature.

The vine the mutant is on is also still growing, with fresh new leaves showing up even as the older ones get killed off by colder overnight temperatures. We still have not had a frost, which is the only reason we still have hope for our garden!

We are back down to the two Teddy squash, one on each plant. The others that had started to form, withered and fell off, likely due to lack of pollination. I don’t know how much bigger this well get, as they are a very small variety to begin with.

If you notice the white on the squash and leaves, no, that is not powdery mildew, or any other sort of fungal disease. That’s road dust. Even with the lilac hedge nearby, dust from the nearby road still gets through and coats things. Even the summer squash, which is furthest away, has road dust on them. Another reason we want to complete the hedge with dense bushes, and also plant taller trees. They will serve as more than wind breaks and privacy screens, in this area!

Here, you can see that the melon vines have all completely died back. All of them. And yet…

… the remaining melons are very firmly attached to their vines! Of course, they can’t grow any bigger, but I’m hoping as long as they stay out here, they will continue to ripen.

Under the conditions we’ve had, I’m really impressed with all of these. The melons managed to be quite prolific. The winter squash were not as prolific as they normally would have been, but we will at least have a few squash to try, and to see if we like them enough to want to grow these varieties again. We certainly would be willing to grow the Halona and Pixie melons again, though I think that we will try new varieties next year, to see what other varieties we enjoy eating.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: still growing!

Today is likely to be the last hot day of the year. As I write this, we are currently at 26C/79F, with the humidex at 30C/86F. We are expected to reach 28C/83F with the humidex making it feel like 31C/88F. We are supposed to get a couple more days in the mid to low 20’s before the highs start dropping to the mid to high teens. So far, overnight temperatures are also still supposed to remain high enough that there are no frost warnings.

I headed out to do my rounds later than usual this morning, and we had already reached 22C/73F.

There has to be something wrong with the squash tunnel thermometer. It may have felt warmer than the 22C it was when I took this photo, but there is no way it was feeling like 42C/108F! Not even being in full sun, like it is, should result in that extreme of a difference. I suspect the dial is stuck. I haven’t been looking at it since the temperatures finally cooled down, so it may well have been sitting at this reading since our last heat wave.

In checking the sunflowers, there was only one little pollinator that I saw! I think the heat waves we had over the summer killed off a lot of our pollinators. There just wasn’t enough food to sustain them. The mild temperatures we are having means more of our sunflowers are actually budding and opening their seed heads, but I don’t know that they’ll have a chance to be well pollinated.

Some of the Mongolian Giants are finally taller than me. Hopefully, the opening sunflowers will lure any remaining pollinators to them. They may not have time to fully mature, even with our predicted mild temperatures, but they will at least provide some food for our surviving pollinators.

These are the Hopi Black Dye transplants that got chomped by a deer. They have all recovered surprisingly well, and are budding and blooming. They don’t need as long of a growing season as the Mongolian Giants, so it should be interesting to see if any of these get a chance to mature.

The green peas are enjoying the cooler temperatures we’ve been having, and I’m seeing more pods developing. This photo is of one of the pea plants growing among the Dorinny corn, the remains of which are being left to go to seed. The three blocks of sweet corn are still green, but they aren’t really growing. At this point, I don’t expect anything from them, really. They’re just there for the peas to have something to climb. Any pea pods we get is just gravy, as their main purpose is to fix nitrogen into the depleted soil in this area.

The winter squash and melons are the ones I am monitoring the most right now.

Remarkably, even as the plants are dying back, we are still getting fresh blooms, and the newer Red Kuri squash are getting noticeably bigger.

The mutant seems to have stopped getting bigger, and is now deepening in colour and developing a harder skin.

As this other, larger Red Kuri is still doing.

I did a nail test on the oldest of the developing Red Kuri, and you can see the mark left behind. Still not ready.

The Teddy squash are also still managing as well.

If we do end up getting frost before any of these larger squash can fully mature, we will still be able to harvest them and eat them. We just won’t be able to store them for long.

The melon vines are dying back faster than the winter squash vines, but their fruit are still hanging in there! I was able to pick this Pixie melon, only because the vine it was attached to had died back completely. I suspect it isn’t quite ripe.

My daughters discovered something about these little melons. After they are cut in half and the seeds scooped out, they make perfect ice cream bowls! I’m not big on ice cream, but I finally had some last night, in half of a Halona melon. It was quite excellent! πŸ˜€

I am glad we found these little, short season melons. They have been among the most enjoyed producers this year. I think we will try different short season varieties next year, but the Pixie and Halona are definitely varieties we would grow again. I’ve also saved seeds from some grocery store melons that I plan to try. They are larger varieties, but if we start them indoors early enough, and we don’t have another drought, we should be able to grow them. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜€ 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. πŸ™‚

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: some pruning and cleanup – and we are forewarned!

While doing my rounds this morning, I decided it was time to do some pruning and clean up around the squash and melons.

With the summer squash, I cut away a lot of the bottom leaves, and anything dead or dying. The zucchini didn’t really need it, but the sunburst squash needed quite a bit.

Noting for next year: while I am happy with training the summer squash to grow vertically, and will probably do it again next year, I now know to make extra certain the support poles are more secure. I thought they were, but as you can see in about the middle of the squash bed, one of them has fallen right over under the weight of the squash attached to it – and I’d already added a second support pole with it! The zucchini on the far right of the photo is also tippy.

We are in a strange sort of state right now, where the squash and melons are continuing to bloom and produce, recovering for the extreme heat and dryness over the summer, but also dying off as they reach the end of their growing season. A couple of Halona melon plants were completely died off and got taken out. The single melon on the ground ground had come loose from one of those.

The three biggest Red Kuri squash are coming along nicely. The mottled green one is quite noticeably bigger. With the colours and slightly different shape, I find myself wondering if it got cross pollinated with one of the nearby Teddy squash.

Speaking of which…

There’s a new one! Of the two plants, one of them now has four squash developing on it. πŸ™‚

After I finished pruning the squash and melons, I went through the other beds, doing a bit of cleanup, and found this.

We’ve somehow lost a sunflower!

It doesn’t even look like it was bitten – there is no sign of critter damage anywhere. It looks almost as if it were cut! It’s also in the middle of a row, in the middle of a sunflower block.

Very strange.

I took the seed head inside and put it in a very small bowl, shallow enough for the barely-there stem to reach the water. πŸ™‚

As I was finishing up in the garden, the grader went by on the road, and the driver stopped to talk to me. He let me know that he’d seen a black bear – a big male – on our quarter section, and he thought it was heading for the newly dug out gravel pit for water. He’d actually seen 7 bears, just today! The most he’d ever seen in one day – and it wasn’t even 11:00 yet, at the time I talked to him. He suggested we might want to pick up an air horn to carry with us, so if we see a bear, we can use the noise to scare it off.

One of our neighbours, about a mile away, has been posting photos of a bear that’s been raiding – and destroying – his bird feeders. I would not be expecting any to come to our feeding station, though. With both bird feeders broken, I’ve just been tossing a scoop of seeds directly on the ground, so there’s not a lot to tempt them. Especially since we have zero saskatoons and chokecherries this year, and almost no crab apples, thanks to that one cold night in May. Even the ornamental apples in the old kitchen garden, which would normally be full of tiny bunches of apples, and birds eating them, have nothing. No hawthorn berries, either. Between the drought and the wildfires, this loss of berries would be quite widespread, and the bears are starving at a time they should be building up their fat reserves for the winter.

I really appreciated the grader driver stopping to let me know. I have never seen a bear in our yard, but this is not a normal year, so we will have to keep our eyes open!

The Re-Farmer