Category Archives: Growing and gardening

Garden Plan

The garden looks a little bit like a graveyard, one total blanket of white with all the beds smooth bumps.  There are perennials, and enduring kale, under that blanket, and a million organisms living and waiting for reemergence.

It’s time to plan!  Very soon comes seed starting.   Garden planning is a big day’s work, because I’m new at it, still working out the timing and quantities and integrating conclusions made from learning experiences.

This year I’ll have a much bigger area to plant too.  Moving the greenhouse one step to the side means that 720 sq ft of premium, weed free, amended soil must be covered deliberately, by me, or else Mother Nature will cover it with maybe not my first choice of plants, just as deliberately.

 

Greenhouse, moved.

It was miserable, it was hard.  We almost lost it.  It’s over.  It’s been a rough week.

The verdict is in: it takes just as long to move it as it does to put it up in the first place; the few places where time is saved, particularly that holes are already drilled and not everything needs to come apart, are cancelled out by the places where it takes more time to undo and redo, like wrestling ribs onto pins that have been twice-pounded.  A nightmare.

In theory, a simple series of steps:

Undo all the wiggle wire, drop the skin off to one side.

Detach end walls and lay them down inside.

There’s the pile of associated crap- gutters, gutter mounting lumber, baseboards, doors, screen doors, etc etcPull up one side of mounting pins, and drive them again one greenhouse width to the side.“Walk” the greenhouse over like a 26 legged spider, dragging the endwalls along with.  Remount on pins.Reskin.  Stand up the endwalls.Do all the wiggle wire, reattach baseboards, doors, etc.

A simple series of steps…

In my head.

Hahaha!  Each step beset by setbacks, unforeseen time-consumers, irritations, and risk of injury.  Miserable.

In the space vacated by the greenhouse, the chickens moved right in for a good dirt bath. Least they’re having fun.

Then came the wind….

 

 

 

Melons and hens

I got a few watermelons this year, that was exciting.  Yellow flesh and pink flesh melons. Watermelons before:

And after:And a little later:The chickens love their melons.

Speaking of melons – a bucket of cucamelons.  Weird little things, supposed gourmet items, exTREMEly productive. They are starting to fall off in the GH, raining like hail.  To the pigs, as usual.

A rubber egg, almost perfectly intact.That won’t last long

What?

The hens are enthusiastically emptying out the bucket of greens.  Chard and green cabbage yes, celery and red cabbage, no thanks. They have to reach down a bit farther. 

tiptoes

This little beast, the Deputy, lower right, thinks he’s the big king now.Look at all those ladies he’s managing.  This is the second in command Silkie rooster, who has recently decided to organize the house hens – the layer hens who hang around our house, mooching and sunning in the paths.  Now he thinks he’s a big boss.  Some of them even let him mate them, which is truly awkward.  He’s so small, sometimes he tips over and falls off of them.  If hens could roll their eyes.

The Colonel concerns himself with his own breed, and the young Ameracuana roos that are coming up haven’t come into their oats yet and are still meek.

 

Cold nights

Proper frost.  Not the first.  We got a squash-killing frost Sep 30.

Chicken water

The outdoor sunflowers are finished.  They didn’t tip over like the GH sunnies, growing strong stems from living outside.  I spread them out on top of the wood stove (hmm, it’s cold and I could stand to start a fire but now I can’t), because if I spread them out on the floor again, then…Dum dum dadum. Here come(s) the mice!(bride).I experimented with ripping the backs off the heads, since there’s kind of a hollow stem and air pocket.  My theory is that less organic matter to get soft and mouldy means faster drying seeds. My entire take of homegrown sunflower seeds this year will be approximately one day’s wild bird ration.  I feed the birds 7 bags of black oil seeds in the winter.  That’s a fair chunk of Saskatchewan sunflower field.  I want to get good at growing them – lots of them, but so far am bad at it.  I love the fractal quality of the seed heads.  Magical.

OMG, peanuts!  They look like real little peanuts.  I couldn’t wait to open them.  Inside they’re jammed in like peas, the pod is soft and wet, and they taste not much like a peanut.  They taste like a raw bean.  Fun preliminary success with the experiment of the year.  I think they’ll be much happier in the greenhouse next year.

I think this cold spell might have put paid to the fruit flies too (calloo, callay!).

Blissfall days

I had the best day today not building stairs.

I did all kinds of other things that needed doing, but not The Thing.  And those tend to be the best days.  A friend visit, sitting companionably with pet birds, and doing frost prep in the garden that’s going to sleep now under a thick blanket of mulch.

Two perfect fall days, crisp and bugless and sunny, and instead of the harvest pressure overwhelm, holding a sense of ease and “enough”-ness.

I may also be getting more sleep due to the shortening days – that may have something to do with the bliss.  It’s almost the “it’s either done or it’s not done, full stop” time, when you walk away regardless of “done”.

When I create any sawdust, the chickens are like “For me?! Don’t mind if I do!”

I could be all-seasoning my garden, but instead I’m putting it to bed.  Getting more out of the year will come later.  As I take in the late beans, etc, I’m thinking about all the things I’ll do different next year (More watermelons.  And orange and yellow tomatoes), the mistakes I’ll correct (plant melons later, they don’t like it cold) .  There’s always next year. It’s easy, and pleasant, to look forward to what will be bigger and better with the lately earned experience and knowledge, and it likely will.  But it’s nice to look back and recognize for a moment that it is better, now, than it was.

I’ve learned to garden some.  I grew cabbages.  I have a garden shed now.  My beds are really getting in order.  I’ve experienced the joy of sweeping a mulch blanket off a bed and finding it ready to plant.  No-till is awesome.  “No-work” is a crock of….  There’s a great deal of work, mostly upfront, and then the quality, weedless bed must be maintained – kept covered when not in use like a jar of milk, lest it grow unwanted things.

The Silkie chicks are at it too. Pepper perch!

Maybe it’s coming with age (or the decline of energy that, once boundless, must now be budgeted) .  I’m getting better at rationing my ambition.  It won’t all get done at once, or nearly as soon as I’d like to.  Given enough time, it will.  And it will be better along the way if I aim low.  Instead of how much can I fit in, I’m starting to think more like how little can I get away with planning to do?  (Oh, the tyranny of a plan!) I’d love to paint the house.  It needs it, blah blah, but hell, it can wait!  It will be great when it gets done, but not worth the weight of grimly determining to do it.  I’m not going to put that on a mental list yet, because it will be heavy there.  I’m choosing the lightness of unscheduled, and any time unscheduled is a win.  The time gets filled, with good and productive things, even things I might have planned, but it’s sweeter when it’s not on a list.  (I’ve known this forever.  It’s still elusive prey).

I’m thinking about my successes and gifts of the year, what I want to tweak: how I can spend more time with my friends?, hoping I can share out part of my greenhouse, how to ration out my time? (half a day seems to be the best maximum for focusing on any one project), will this be the year I finally get potatoes in the ground at fall?

How can I escape the September crush?  Because it’s bad.  Bad for me.  I want to never feel like that again, and it has been part of the annual routine since moving here.  And that, I think, is part of the adjustment that comes with diving into the farming life (along with, you’re going to suck at everything at first and make big mistakes).  I’ve got to find a new rhythm.  But I grew brussel sprouts, so I can learn to adjust my rhythm.  Give me time.

Nuts and more nuts

We’re real birds!  The Blondies in a rare moment of repose:It’s funny; all the birds that grew up here, and then some,  are into perching.  They love the tangled alder brush. There’s the baby guineas.  Nice to get a sighting.  All mixed up in the flock of young adults.Time to groom like everyone else! Surprise!  The second, smaller walnut tree is bearing.  They come later, and they are a different kind of walnut.  This kind is nice.  The husks are round and super easy to shuck off the shell (on the right), and the nut is round, exactly like ye old familiar walnut.On the left, the pear shaped walnuts (from the big tree) have flat, pointy shells, and stubborn husks.I’m starting to get a respectable haul, for the first walnut harvest ever.  Nice.

Hemlock Wooly Adelgid

I thought – super cool insect discovery!  Weird weird!  These little grey lumps – clearly insects, that shrink away from being poked, all grouped up on a branch, with abundant hairy frosting all over them with a kind of fungus texture.

Different!  Never seen anything like it.

That’s because it’s a dire invasive species recently arrived in Nova Scotia and destroying hemlock stands.

Just great.  Another invasive species.

This little clump was about 8′ from our door, and also, it was on a small alder.  If it’s happy on alder, then it will have no shortage of hosts.

Apple flow

The apples are superabundant this year.  Far more than last year.

“They say” that a good apple year means a hard winter.  We shall see.  It seemed true in 2014.Tree #5 has huge fruits on it that would rival any store bought Honeycrisp.  So would the taste.  Delicious.

Tree #23

These trees, while some have been released or had a little pruning, are for the most part still as wild as when we got here.  Overgrown, diseased, crowded.  Poor things.  There’s too many.  They don’t get plenty of attention.   This tree, #47, is glorious!  Huge, I can’t even get it all in a picture.  The trunk has a mean lean and it looks like it’s nearly dead, but every year, it’s a wonder.  Despite a 45˚ list it’s still tall, and crazy heavy with apples. It also has large fruit. I like this little tree.  Not so little, but it has little pink-yellow fruit and in the two summers since it got released it has been rejuvenating itself.  New low branches, and the fruit is coming in thicker and larger.  I also don’t know what any of these heritage apples are.  I get conflicting IDs.

The pigs are the chief beneficiaries of these riches.  They get a bucket of windfalls every day.  And the birds, and chickens,  and squirrels, and chipmunks, and wasps.  I have too much applesauce left over, so I’m not canning it this year, but hopefully, there will be cider:)

Tomato abundance

It’s probably time to can tomatoes.

Some are rotting on the vine in the greenhouse.  Many are hollowed out by the resident chicks, and still, the tomatoes are cascading down the vines.

My favorite way to can cherry and grape tomatoes is to jam them all in a jar whole, and pack them with water with a bit of vinegar and salt (proper canning procedures, blah blah).  They come out cool as refreshing as when they were picked, softened, with a hint of tang.  I can eat a pint of them straight. 

Walnuts

The walnuts are dripping off the big tree, indicating they’re ripe!  Hopefully none of the chickens get beaned by the windfalls.

I haven’t even picked any off the tree, but the number that I’ve picked off the ground already exceeds the amount the squirrels have ever allowed me to get before.

I’ll have to look up how to treat walnuts; how to get them out of the green wrapper.

Cosmic cloud

I have a cloud of cosmos.  It’s truly the best feature of my garden.  It almost distracts from the untamed  strawberries disrespectfully sprawling, and the weeds I haven’t got to yet, and the aisles that used to be woodchips now growing up in weeds.  Almost.

The bees love them!  They seem more pretty than substantial, but the bees are crowded on them, so they must offer some abundant nutrition.

Sunflowers

When the sunflowers all tipped over what seemed like the same day a few weeks ago –

Timber!

I thought it was annoying, and that maybe their heads finally got too big for their roots.  I intended to tie them back upright with string.  It didn’t occur to me that they were mature.

And since I’ve been sadly neglecting my greenhouse, and never did get around to re-erecting them, by the time I hacked my way in there, now on a salvage mission since the stalks were dead and yellowing, the heads were on their way to mold (!).

Totally mature, fat seeds and plump kernels inside.  So there I go.  The birds will enjoy this year (only a couple heads were lost).

Sunflowers mature extremely quickly in the greenhouse, it appears, and I suppose I planted these early (beg May).  The ones I have outside are far from finished.

I feel like I need to explain giving good GH space to sunflowers: for some reason I have very little luck growing them outside.  They are very attractive fodder for various munchers for far too long- until they’re some feet high, I think.  And then, the wild birds empty the heads before the kernels even ripen.  I have more room in the GH than I know what to do with, so why not stick some squash and sunnies in there?

Fabulous discovery

I was cutting down glossy leaf buckthorn (GLB is a terrible, horrible invasive species resembling an alder crossed with a T-rex, but that´s another story), slash moving the pigs today.  I have a combination campaign in progress against the GLB.

I have to clear buckthorn just to make a path to put the electric pig fence through “the woods”, so the pigs have ample shade.  The old growth buckthorn provides shade, and the piglets root up all the GLB sprouts.  Then when we move the pigs along, we can cut down the big stuff, and seed the lumpy, pig tilled ground.

It´s slow, but it´s better than nothing, and the pigs´needs force me to at least do a little bit, regularly.  There´s quite a difference already in the field the pigs have worked all year.

So I was toppling and wrestling buckthorn, and after the pigpen, I drifted a little away from the pigs with my snipping, and ran right into a high-bush blueberry laden with big blue berries.  WOW! 

Right next to it, another, 7´tall, entwined in the branches of an alder.  Surprise, surprise, Mom and the Oreos were lounging beneath said alder. 

Awesome!  I looked around for others in the vicinity, but no luck.  This must be twenty years old.  It´s nice to find survivors from the ambitious planting efforts of the previous owners; so much did not survive the nearly 15 years of vacancy between their occupancy here and ours.  I didn´t think there was anything left to find here!

The pigs have been especially talented at unearthing the glass bottles that they used to mark the fruit and nut trees they planted.  Most of the lids have rusted through so the paper has been wet, but a few survive intact, artifacts of hopeful ambition, although the trees they once marked haven´t.  Survivors to date: walnut trees (magnificently), one hazelnut, two blueberries!, mint, comfrey, oregano, garlic (!), a lilac, some apple grafts.

I got this big bowl of berries off of it, and there´s more to ripen.  Now I have to make jam.

Blueberries!?

I was so pleased and surprised to find actual blueberries!  We have a fair number of blueberry plants, that are besieged by field weeds, but besides that, I’ve never beaten a chicken to a blueberry.  They clean any intrepid berry off long before they reach blue.

These berries are on the chicken-less far side of the former pasture, but the wild bird population is very strong too, so it’s a pleasant surprise to find a few ripe berries of my own!  There were three whole plants with blue berries!

I was at a friend’s this week picking berries in a lush, abundant field.  He doesn’t have chickens.

Putting gutter on the Greenhouse

This has got to be a crazy people idea:  Cover a whole bunch of plants with a plastic roof, that keeps the rain out, and then, pump water in to them.  Or in my case, carry water.  When you think about that, it just doesn´t make sense.

Last year I emptied a well into my greenhouse, by hand (off-grid), and it could have happily absorbed two more wells worth.

This can´t go on, I thought (dreading another summer of schlepping water).

So, I figured out how to put eavestrough on a greenhouse, to catch the water, to put it back into the greenhouse.  Slightly less crazy.  Easier than taking the skin off every time it rains, which honestly would be my first choice, if it were practical. Until they invent one-way 5 mil plastic.

I doubt I´m the first to think this up , but I didn´t google it because I preferred to figure it out for myself (go ahead and google it now).  I didn´t want to know how other people´ve done it.   Much as that might have made it easier or faster. This is how I did.

First unsecure the bottom of the long side of plastic and undo the wiggle wire up the side.

In my case I redid all the wiggle wire on the side/gables in order to take a layer of plastic off.  In my style of off-grid, I´ve got no business having an inflated greenhouse.  Although I made it work, it just never made sense.  Most of the time it wasn´t inflated.  Now I´m saving the second layer of plastic for when my greenhouse needs its next skin. 

Essentially I installed a lip part way up the wall, creating a drip edge to catch the water from.

I ripped 2x4s (all rough cut for me) with a bevel and screwed them on to the top of a 1×6.  2″ screws, from the 1×6 side into the beveled strip. I did this in advance- measuring the overall length, so that I could lift each piece into place.

I cut through the exposed wiggle wire track on the side- only had to remove one screw, and cut out a four inch gap.

It´s four inches because the top track comes down over the 2×2

That bottom piece of track gets screwed into the rib again

When I measured each end, I made a four-inch overall drop.  35″ inches from the base on one end, 39″ at the other end.

So I lifted my prepared 1×6 piece into place, propped it up to attach the end, and then secured it, and its mates, to the ribs of the greenhouse with plumbing strap, eyeballing for  a nice straight line.

Plumbing strap is a bit hokey; I´ll get some of the proper brackets next time one of us in the area is ordering greenhouse parts.

My three pieces of 1×6 (36´overall greenhouse) were set up to overlap, so that on install, I could attach them.  Then I didn´t have to think about where the ribs landed.

How it looks from the inside.

That´s the bulk of the work- the wood.

Back to the outside, I put 1×4 strapping under the drip ledge and screwed that down.  I chose 1×4 to have 4″ of surface to mount the gutter on, and to have some room to play with the slope. Hence 1×6 behind the plastic.

This tightened up the skin quite nicely.  The wiggle wire goes back in now too.

Then the base securing goes back in:

The addition for gutter uses up about 2″ more of the plastic, but if you have less than 2″ of plastic at the base, you´ve got bigger problems (unless you trimmed it, oh well).

When I built this, I dug a shallow ditch and buried a strip of hardware cloth against the base.  Some squirrels and chipmunks have dug around my barrier, but it´s holding up very well.  I haven´t seen that since I built it.

Install the gutter, and voila!

I used vinyl gutter with brackets that you can lift off of their little mounting hook.  I´ll definitely be removing the gutter before any snow comes!

The greenhouse has never looked so good, now the plastic is more taut.

I´ve got two downspouts (with two elbows each side), to direct water into a stock tank, with has a threaded plug, which with a pipe-hose adapter I can put a garden hose on, and then put the water back into the greenhouse.  The guineas are inspecting.

Doesn´t that look good?  I thought so too.

I felt good and smug for about two hours until the rain came.  I´d been racing the forecast, determined to catch all the mm that were on the way.

I got up in the night to go check on everything.

The water was running the wrong way!  That is, what little water it was catching.  Slope could be fixed (I do need the 4″ of the 1×4  to play with), but there was a bigger problem- the water coming down the plastic wall was turning the corner of the lip, following back (as water does) and soaking into the 1×4, not falling in the gutter.  I should have seen that coming.  I should have seen that coming.

I stayed awake for at least an hour until I could figure out how to fix it.  Not simple, but it should work.

The only way was to take off that ripped 2×2 and change the angle on it.

This time the base didn´t have to come off, just the gutter, and the 1×4, and the wiggle wire on the ends.

Significant wrinkle- on the inside, I was using 2″ screws for the plumbing strap, through the 1×6 into the 2×2, for strength.  But now the 2×2 had to come off.  All 13 ribs!

Clamps came in handy, I backed out the screws, and I marked the wood against each rib.  I took the opportunity to adjust it all for more slope while I was reinstalling.

Also because I didn´t undo the bottom (the better to keep curious chickens out), once I got all the 2x2s detached, I had to pass them out the end.  And back in.

I put them all through the table saw again and put a bevel on the second side, creating an acute angle for the drip edge.

Slid them back under the plastic and reinstalled.

Now the business edge is sharp and angled down.

Waited for rain, now with less confidence.  Still didn´t work.

These pictures don´t quite show it.  There is a full inch of overhang on that lip, and then the gutter mounting holds the gutter out 1/4″, so there is 3/4″ of lip hanging over the gutter.  Not enough.

The water comes down, turns the corner and travels for about 1/2″, now neatly dripping on the back edge of the eavestrough, or  right behind it. Don´t underestimate the power of surface tension.

One more tackle.  I thought about cutting ditches in the wood to recess the gutter mounting into, to suck the gutter right against the wood, but opted instead to screw on a strip of aluminum flat flashing, to kick the water farther out into the middle of the gutter.

Success!

Totally works.

Adding the flashing was the easiest part of all; took, like a blink.  I got a roll of 6″ flat stock, cut it in half lengthwise (to 3″ wide), and I meant to put a bend in it and screw it into the 1×4, but instead I left it flat, and in one length, and tucked it between the plastic lip and the top of the 1×4, and put in just a few screws, pointed up, into the twice-ripped 2×2 component.

My conclusion is that this is pretty ideal, and despite having made it up along the way, I wouldn´t do it over differently (except putting two angles on the 2×2 on the first pass- definitely do that).  It´s usually much more straightforward to cut the wood right in the first place.

With the wood alone, it would be next to impossible to get enough lip protruding to shed water well – wood is heavy and that would get too bulky to hang off the greenhouse ribs.  The flashing is essential, and the 2×2 is perfect for adding it to.

Cost of about $400CA for gutter, wood, and flashing.

I approve.

 

 

 

 

The green mist

I´ve been waiting for this.  Our wonderful neighbour came back and gave the field another pass with the tiller, and brought his hand seeder too (which I loved!).

Now the green mist has appeared on the ground.  In this case the early spears are oats, which were supposed to be planted sparsely, for a shade cover.

If you look directly at it, there´s hardly any green to be seen. 

The before picture.

I knew, any day, there would be a dust of green across it, and indeed, it came nearly overnight.

I was casting seed by hand too, and it appears I have a heavy one.  One might notice in the top photo there is a distinct strip of thicker oats.  It´s almost strangely straight edged.   Oh well.

Planting in the greenhouse

This is from a month ago, May 1, but I  was so demoralized by how the day ended that I didn’t finish posting.  Until now.

The chickens no longer live in the greenhouse, and it’s time for the green things to go in.  I got in there with the broadfork, breaking up the rows.  Tomatoes first, against the north wall.

After having all the birds wintering in the “chicken dome”, the soil looks, well, awful.  It looks compacted and desiccated.  It would have fooled me.  But that´s not the case. 

The top quarter inch or so is dry, and compacted.  When I crack it with the broadfork, that top crust breaks up in scales, and right underneath, the ground is wet as anything, no harder than anywhere outside where chickens haven´t been trampling, and so very full of worms.

Worms everywhere.

Really big worms.

 

So the hens got very excited.  They were following right on my fork, poking their heads down into the holes to fish out worms, and vigorously scratching up the flakes of crust.  They were feasting.

Until I decided they were being a little too hard on the worms, who didn´t have a fair chance, and I evicted the chickens.

I hung up a sheet of row cover (if there´s anything else around I use for so many things it wasn´t intended for, I don´t know) the length of the greenhouse to wall off the side I was working on from the side I wasn´t going to get to today.  The birds can play on that side.

I let one chicken stay with me – my favorite low chicken. 

She can use some extra worms.  She was actually perturbed at being alone with the others on the other side of the cloth (they could see each other through it), but she was consoled by the worms.

You see, it was a rainy day.  A drizzly morning, forecasted to be a thundering downpour day, so I didn´t have the heart to shut my birds out of the greenhouse to crowd, disgruntled and soggy, under their coops.

The guinea´s thinking about it  Looks drier in there.

As it got wetter, the birds steadily found their way into the vast shelter of the greenhouse. 

Inside, I kept working, attended by low chicken, while the rain drummed on the plastic and the birds all trickled in, chirruping and shaking off, pleased to be let back into the greenhouse.

 

 

 

It was really very cool to spend all day with my birds.  It´s nice to listen to them chat, complain, brag;  I could peek over and see what they´re up to.

They´re always doing something funny: piling up on the hay sacks, trying to have a bath in the roots of the fig tree (naughty!)

Planting the tomatoes out is a big day.

From past experience, I just break up the ground a bit with the broadfork, and plant directly into the ground as is. No turning! After I drew the rows with the broadfork, it was time to plug tomatoes.

Here´s where I found out how well my newspaper pots made out: the answer- excellently.

I tore off the top ring where I had written in Sharpie the kind of tomato, and left that by or around the plant as a marker.  Then I tore off the rest of the paper and was left holding a tall root ball.

On the other side of the wall, the chickens had the time of their life shredding all that scrap newspaper that I´d put in a box, and littering it all over the room, the scamps.

Chickens, I´ve observed, spend a lot of time lounging.  Most of the afternoon is devoted to sunbathing, dirt bathing, combing their feathers, or napping.  On this rain day, they were piled up, murmuring, dropping their heads for a nap or settling right down into sleep pancakes.  Others would be active, picking at something – they never all fall asleep at once, but it seems like someone´s always contentedly napping in the afternoon.

 

At the end of the day, tired, with 70 tomatoes and a few pepper plants planted, I turned in.  It was still pouring rain and the chickens were awake, so I just them in the greenhouse.  There´d been no attempts on the wall, or breaches, so I was confident.

I was working on this post, before going out to close them up.  There had also been a surge in squawking I was wondering about. …

Disaster!  Carnage!

The wall was breached- one end down, and every single tomato plant was defoliated- not a leaf left!  Just a roomful of puny green stems.  A couple of hens not gone to bed yet, finishing off the devastation.  Next time you can get wet, you ingrates!

Before I went to bed I planted some more tomato seeds, but to say it was a major loss is a major understatement.  I had some spare plants, but not an entire spare crop.  I was NOT HAPPY.  Completely defeated, more like.

As it turned out, despite the significant trauma of being beheaded, the same day as transplanted, almost all the tomatoes survived.  Only five were broken off by the hens and therefore terminated.

It was a definite setback, but in the next couple weeks they regrew some awkward leaves, and then left that early bad memory behind.  Now you wouldn´t know it had ever happened, although they might be a week or two behind where they might have been.

Tomatoes today:

 

 

 

 

Peak Seedlings

My garden starts are taking over our tiny house.  A few have gone out, but more are still inside, and have just been potted up.  This is the maximum volume of starts in the house – peak seedlings.   The bulk of them are due now to go out to the greenhouse, and then the starts will steadily be on their way out the door.

This is just the downstairs windowsills

Some of the fastest-growing tomato varieties have grown legs in just a couple days (you know who you are, Ropreco).  It seems I just can´t avoid getting leggy tomatoes, unless I adjust seeding dates by variety – not sure I´m that dedicated.

I can now announce the newspaper pots a success.  They hold up just fine. I´m totally going to do this every year.  However, it´s the slightly stiffer (or more impregnated with coloured printing ink)  advertising paper that comes in the middle of the paper that works best- I made a couple with normal newspaper and they sort of melted.

Future pasture

Our neighbour surprised me by showing up in his tractor to till some of our pasture.

Our “pasture” is more a memory of a field.  Abandoned for a decade, there´s very little actual grass left in the former field.  It´s choked with goldenrod, berry canes, scrubby bushes I don´t know, and the local invading species scourge – glossy leaf buckthorn.  Plus the incursion of poplars from the edges.  If we hadn’t cut down 100’s of seedlings the last few years, the former field would be entirely closed.

As it is, we have about one third of the total former field cleared. The other two thirds are worse off.  Two summers ago, we moved the pigs around on this part, they dutifully rooted, and I followed with seed.  I got some clover established but that was about all.  So, our neighbor came and tilled for us.  He says that he will till once more to smooth it out some, I´ll seed, and then we´ll see how much of the “unwanted”s grow back from the roots.

 It always amazes me how much work can be accomplished with petroleum energy.  Massive change to the surface of the earth in a matter of hours. Now, the field is transformed.  For one thing, the view across it is uninterrupted by a bunch of twigs growing.  I look forward to the green mist of germination over it.

Eventually, we’ll get this pasture back to graze-able.

Newspaper “pots” for tomatoes.

Another experiment.

I hate plastic; I might not have enough plastic pots anyway; they wouldn´t be deep cylinders.  So I tried making some pots out of newspaper to pot up my tomatoes into.

I rolled them around a bottle (half-sheet each), crunched in the paper on the bottom, slid the cylinder off the bottle,  and then turned over the half inch at the “brim” to the outside.  That´s what keeps them rolled.  Takes about 20 seconds each.  They kind of try to unroll anyway, but they hold together great once a little soil goes in them.

It remains to be seen how well they hold together once they have a plant in them and get watered.  But if all goes well, I can write the variety right on the paper with a Sharpie, and I suppose I can put them directly in the ground as is (that´s a lot of newspaer ink, though).

Ready to accept transplants.  We shall see.

So far, so good

First Real Garden Day

I´m going to be so sore!

We were attacking the garden today, replacing fence posts; the old ones were rotten and broken (“these should last for a year” – three years ago!).  Shaping garden beds out of the remaining areas of our fenced space.  These spots have been covered with waste silage plastic (as seen in background) for a year or more, and the earth is awesomely root-free.

In other words, digging shallow trenches.  Which immediately filled with water.  Digging that is like wet concrete, clumping and dragging on the boots and shovel and resisting being dumped out of the wheelbarrow.  Especially since I´m digging to the clay layer, which will be filled in with wood chips.  Getting that topsoil off to pile on the beds, instead of supporting weeds in the aisles.

This…
…will look like this after an infusion of wood chips

But the bugs aren’t out yet!  So it´s all glorious.  Any day now, the bugs, the peepers, and the tree buds will all pop out at once, so it´s time to enjoy the peaceful working conditions.

Can you tell I´m really into mulch?  So nice, though, to just peel off the mulch blanket and sow.

My first planting!  Spinach, two weeks late, according to my planting calendar. I felt like I should start gardening like I mean it, so I put some brain work in in the winter planning the planting schedule for starts and direct sowing, and it sure feels good now to have a simple schedule to follow.

I mapped the garden in seven areas, for crop rotation, estimated how much of X thing I want to grow, and then calc’ed back/forward from frost date and made a calendar.  Now all I have to do is follow it.  Far less thinking.  It´s nice to not be mapping each little bed for “what was in here last year/previous two?”  Tedium.

Provided my last frost date projection (guess) of May 21 is not wildly off (actual date fluctuates between Apr 30 and Jun 1 in the last five years), the planting calendar will be a wild success.

Inside, the starts are thriving.  Again with the calendar, I shouldn’t have too-leggy tomatoes and too-late celery when it´s time to transplant out, thanks to my planned and staggered starting.  Yes, I´m just now figuring this out. 

Atlas melon sprout is pushing up a huge chunk of dirt on that tiny stem
All of them like to lift up a little dirt, but not that much!

Seedy Saturday!

I got all the seeds I needed for the year (including tobacco!) at Seedy Saturday, hosted by Helping Nature Heal, in Bridgewater.

Nova Scotia’s  “big” organic seed companies were all there vending seeds – Hope Seeds, Annapolis Seed, Cochrane Family Seeds, plus more – Twisted Brook,  Yonder Hill, Storm Cast, and the South Shore Public Library’s Seed Library.

Then there was the free seed table, where attendees dropped off their surplus saved seeds for others to take- lots of flower seeds!

Since I was saving so much on shipping costs, I came home with a few “flights of fancy” seeds (peanuts?!) that will make this year’s experiments.

I met Nikki Jabbour, local celebrity author and year-round gardener, who gave the morning lecture, and there was a delicious soup or chili lunch with bread and popcorn, donations accepted for the food bank.

This was Helping Nature Heal‘s 11th Seedy Saturday, but the first time I made it.  It was packed, unsurprisingly.