This year we decided to grow most items from seed. The only transplants we grew inside were tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and celery. The challenge last year was the celery took 12 weeks to grow so this year they were planted much earlier. Another challenge was avoiding fungus or moss that took over when the soil got too moist. There is a fine balance between too dry and too wet. I focused on keeping the top of the soil dry once the seedlings got their first set of leaves. It seemed to help.
The biggest challenge we face is hardening off the transplants before we plant them in the ground. The hardening off process is getting the transplants used to the harsh weather outside a little at a time, but the weather extremes where we live always results in transplant loss. It can be sunny 80 degrees one day and snowing the next. It’s not unusual. Professionals in our area repeatedly recommend not to plant until Mothers Day. Yet we have had storms after! Every time planting gets delayed due to weather the transplants get stressed from being potted for too long. It happened this year.
We lost a number of our transplants this year to something we never considered. One of the deer got very brave and walked right up the tomatoes against the house and bit the tops off! Note the above picture. Our neighbor’s puppy also found her way into the yard and pulled our basil out of the pots! We received a very nice letter from her a day later on top of some new basil ready to plant!
In the end we had enough transplants to fill the garden and get the job done!
Now that our new rows are built we are finding deer and coyote tracks through walking through them. It’s time to fence the new plot. Since it is an expansion of an existing plot we need to build it prior to opening it up to the old section. It needs to happen quickly, but after completing so much fencing since we moved onto the property it’s becoming second nature.
While our first fence posts were put in using a post hole digger, we now have a tractor with an auger to dig the holes for us. We use 10 foot wooden posts at the corners and 1 or 2 in between corners depending on the overall length. They are buried 3 feet down and with the clay soil there is no need to use concrete. The soil hardens enough to keep it steady and if we need to remove a post, it’s much easier to do. T-Posts are used between the wooden posts to keep the fence flat and steady. We use 6 foot field fence with 2×4 inch openings. This leaves 1 foot at the top of the posts to string wire if needed. Luckily the deer haven’t attempted to jump the fence so we haven’t had to add the wire, but if we did we would add pieces of orange nylon marking tape as visible flags to deter them.
Next we add 3 foot tall 1/2 inch wire cloth, AKA rabbit fence, to the bottom of fence on the outside. We use a very sharp bamboo shovel to dig a thin trench right at the base of the fence to bury it a couple inches down. Zip ties are used to attach it to the field fence. This also prevents most squirrels and rodents from getting in.
The wind is a problem on our property due to the small valley going through it. A small price to pay for the extra beauty of the land. Unfortunately that means we need to create a wind break. Shrubs and trees take years to grow so we need an immediate resolution. Bamboo screens are attached to the outside of the fence at the windiest points. It works like a charm.
The fence is finally done and the total area is now 2/3 bigger than it was. We have a lot of work to do!
Watch us using a tractor for post hole digging on the farm’s YouTube channel:
With the continuing spring snow, the deer are looking for better shelter. They are very comfortable around us since we removed the back yard fence and haven’t gotten dogs yet. A doe and a couple of young ones tucked themselves under the bush just outside our back door and spent the night there.
If it wasn’t for all the deer poop, eating the lilacs and low hanging apple tree leaves, I’d love to have them stay!
More snow! How long is this going to last? It’s supposed to continue for another few days. The apple blossoms are partially open. Let’s hope they don’t all freeze. If you look close, you can see the deer laying underneath the lilac bushes.
The growing season is rapidly shrinking. Less time means less harvest. We could regain time if the weather cooperates the rest of the season. Here is crossing fingers.
The cold weather transplants are getting too big for the trays. I may have to plant when it gets above freezing, using a row cover to protect them.
This is also effecting the building of the run and preparing the beehives for the bees coming in two weeks!
We will be so happy when the weather warms again, but then it will be a race to get things done!
I absolutely love having deer on the property. They are exciting to watch when the bucks are rutting and baby deer are so adorable. The herds found refuge in our backyard during the winter but now, as the snow melts, I’m facing piles and piles of deer poop! So much that I bought a dog poop scooper even though we don’t have a dog yet. Unfortunately, from everything I’ve read, it’s important to keep wildlife away from the farm not only because they will eat your profits, but because they carry diseases that could cause contamination or infect your farm animals. As I’m scooping and burying deer poop I’ve decided the new backyard fence can’t come up fast enough!
When our first spring came, I was so excited to start up the vegetable test plot. The bed was 30 X 50 feet and had not been managed in 4-5 years. The fence and gate were in desperate need of mending. There were a lot of deer and rabbit in the area so I made a point of adding the following:
Regular farm fence with 2×3 inch holes rather than large holes or chicken wire.
Built the fence 8 feet tall to prevent deer from jumping it.
Added a 3 feet of rabbit fence (1/2 inch wire cloth) at the bottom, burying it 4-6 inches underground.
Added bricks flush under the gate to prevent anything from sneaking underneath the gap.
Unfortunately that wasn’t good enough! A deer still made it in to the garden! It got stuck between the fence and an adjacent hedge, panicked and climbed over! It had a heck of a time getting back out, bouncing off the fence multiple times leaving it warped. Deer don’t see well and sometimes can’t see this type of fence. I’m adding random orange flags across the top to keep them from attempting to jump. Its high enough they usually don’t even try. There is easier food to get on the property.