Re-organizing the garden and potting up the new plants

Well potting up the mint- the chervil goes into the herb bed.

It’s a happy little herb. It’s gonna be sunny, cold and (hopefully) dry for a while, so I’m mulching everything well to avoid moisture loss.

I’ve moved a lot of things, including the lovage that was against the east wall. It just never sprouted, so I folded up the tables and repurposed the lovage pots as the new mint pots.

Yes this completely invalidates my updated garden map.

This is strawberry mint, one of my favorites from the thunderdome. It’s living around my future tomato pots, as I want to intersperse my plants as much as possible to resist bugs.

This pretty kid is pineapple mint, one of the funny varieties. Smells fantastic though- I anticipate good tea from this guy.

I also moved the sorrel to a shadier spot. Now that the days are lengthening- the north part of my garden is getting more sun, too much for Audrey 3 here.

This was a good day’s work between the mowing and the planting- the garden’s only going to take more work as the days get longer. Here’s hoping the soil gets warm enough for bean seeds soon!

Mowing adventures

Between hefting a pot and plants on two buses yesterday and pushing a mower through thick weeds today- I’m definitely getting my exercise.

Besides the usual moving pots and bags and benches to get at the grass and weeds, there was also a lot of hand pulling to do, because certain weeds get really woody with time and rain, and the mower just can’t do it.

I did a pretty good job in most of the beds, moving things around and just getting on with it. There was one major problem though.

This- is mint. Growing completely feral behind the sunny herb patch. This is mint of a species I have not planted in 4 years.

Oh man you just cannot kill this stuff! I’m both mad and in awe!

I can’t kill it- but it can kill my mower.

The culprit: a clump of mint root.

The victim:

Man down!

Luckily my push mower is pretty basic and cleaning the blades was fairly simple. So crisis averted- but I’m not making the mistake of mowing mint again.

(Mint. Goes. In. Pots!!!)

All in all it was a good afternoon’s work.

Look, the greenhouse bench is no longer on a thicket!

I still have more work to do today- I have to plant the chervil and mint (in. Pots.) but I’m taking a break right now- I’m really tired!

Needed chervil, got a little excited

It was actually clear and sunny today! Clear, sunny, and FREEZING. So typical February weather for this neck of the woods. It looks like that’s the last of the rain for a bit, until maybe April.

Which for me meant it was time to take the bus to my local garden center! Well buses plural as you have to take two. Point is- it’s doable to hoof myself from my neck of the woods to their neck of the woods and pick up a chervil plant sans car.

I can’t get all the soil I need for the new beds yet- that’ll take the car. But it’s just a chervil plant! That’s not heavy!

Pictured: chervil. Chervil is a French herb, part of the group of herbs traditionally called “fines herbs” along with parsley, tarragon and chives. It’s ever so slightly anise-y and it’s a good time to plant it.

Of course the problem is… it’s never one plant.

It’s three plants! And three seed packets and… not pictured… one small pot.

It turns out I had a bunch of coupons from Sloat and it was a good time to use them. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

Yes I know I know I’m taking two buses home what was I thinking?

Well. Now that the mint thunderdome is over (Roman mint won) I wanted two good dedicated mint pots for my tea and for mint’s bug repelling qualities. So I got a lovely strawberry mint and a delightful pineapple mint.

So I managed to fit the seed packets inside the pot- and I balanced the plants in a cardboard box they gave me on top of the pot, all in my bag.

This was a fun ride home.

Eh exercise is good for you! Today was just an unexpected arm day.

Also there was a train dog.

Here he is- judging my life choices.

Don’t worry my fine canine friend- I’m doing that too.

Final haul which is living on my dryer until I can put things in the ground and in pots- it’s a really nice pot and it was really well priced and I needed something with a lip like that for sunflowers so I’m not apologizing at all.

The seeds were a surprise but a welcome one.

I’ve been thinking of putting in sunflowers for a while, mom tends to not be allergic to those and I’d like some color in the garden. What’s really nice about the packet I chose is they’re a pollen-less hybrid meant for florists. I don’t care too much about the need of florists, but no pollen means no sick mother! And while there’s no pollen there is nectar so the pollinators will be happy.

I also got a packet of that funny romanesco broccoli. It looks like a fractal and it tastes delicious and cabbages grow well here so eh why not.

And finally I got a packet of purple snap peas because I am a sucker for a purple vegetable.

I have absolutely no excuse for that one.

I apologize for nothing.

Now if you excuse me I have to put ice packs on my arms.

Ow.

Organization will set you free- or making the side shed of doom less doom-y

Against the east wall of my garden is a little half shed that holds soil and other things.

The problem is the other things really- including rusted tools, an old chimney starter, broken buckets and spiders.

So. Many. Spiders.

This morning was actually clear, as the latest rain storm won’t start til tonight, and I though maybe I could tackle the side shed.

Note to self: I have to eventually tackle the main shed too- but that’ll take a few days so I’ve tabled it for now.

Here’s how it looks now that it isn’t full to bursting with things I don’t need. I moved the old charcoal and grilling stuff to the main shed, and I recycled the old rusted tools. I actually found some good stuff that I’m totally gonna use- it just didn’t belong in this shed.

All the various pots and old vases I can use as pots are now living under the work table so they don’t fill up with water and become mosquito factories. I found three old plastic pots of a good size that mom bought years ago that were well preserved in the shed- I have plans for them!

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The stake graveyard next to the shed got a good weeding, and I’ve made an inventory of my stakes in preparation for April. Not pictured on the other side of the green bin is a few old rusted tomato cages that I’m gonna try to restore in time for them to be useful. I actually have a fair amount of stakes- the problem is what I need for my beans is trellises… I have some thinking to do.

Mind you the Gerry-rigged system I used last year with stakes and netting was good, just not very reusable.

On the left side of the shed is fertilizers and mulches now neatly arraigned in a shed that has been swept of cobwebs-

So. Many. Cobwebs.

And on the right side is my various soils, including a full bag of worm casings and seed starter I didn’t even know I had!

This is why I have to stay organized!

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I did a light weeding around the shade herbs next to the bench- but I don’t know why I bothered, it’s just going to pour for 4 days.

I have a crazy idea for this area though- I might grow blackberries against the fence!

Nice perennial plant that grows wild in my area, and the vertical growth will save me room. I’m eyeing my dad’s old scrap wood pile to see if I can cobble together a bed against the concrete with some elbow grease- but it’ll be a while before I can do anything like that. But still…

At least I know for a fact blackberries will grow here- walking home from school as a kid I’d pick and eat them as they grew on an outcropping a few streets down from me. I’m still pretty nervous about my future cucumbers and how they’ll do in this climate- but blackberries are a no brainer!

Gotta batten down the hatches now. Storm’s coming.

Care and feeding of your Chilhuacle negro pepper

Or at least what I’ve cobbled together from a few sources and an askme.

It helps now that I’ve identified what the plant actually is: note to self- use the printed plant tag that comes with the plant- don’t get all artsy and make your own, the ink will fade, and then you’ll have no idea what variety it is. Whoops.

The pepper, like the dude, abides- but I’d like the little baby peppers it has put out to get a little bigger, and I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to help it last til summer when hopefully it’ll put out flowers again.

The consensus was- top off the pot with soil, give it a little phosphorus, and leave it alone!

So I topped of the pot with a few fresh handfuls of soil, sprinkled a small amount of phosphorus fertilizer,

Topped off the pot with a fresh layer of mulch- and left it alone. While there are a few sucker stems, consensus is to not even bother with them until spring at the earliest.

I did replace it’s stake. See, when the downpours started, the pot got so saturated that the plant started listing a bit, so in a hurry I grabbed a stake and some ties and tied it up. Only in my haste (I did this all during a downpour) I grabbed one of my large bean stakes, not a stake the appropriate size for the pot. So I carefully removed the bean stake, and re-tied everything up, nice and sturdy.

Here’s looking at you, baby pepper, hope the phosphorus is to your liking!

Captain’s log: February 10th 2019

Today was clear and cool. Very cool, under 50 degrees. One of those things that made me glad the only warm weather plant out back was my wonderful pepper, which will be the subject of another post.

Everything was so well watered from the heavens opening up I didn’t have to do anything except take pictures of beautiful plants.

The amazing surprise garlic is just thriving in the wet. Which is good data to have if I grow garlic this year intentionally- maybe time it in order to take advantage of the winter rains.

In other allium news- the baby leeks are growing well. I mean I assume as much, as I have zero experience growing leeks. It’s interesting how much the baby leeks look like the baby green onions and baby chives. The chives of course stayed little, the green onions will hopefully get bigger than chives, and the leeks will hopefully get even bigger than that.

Alliums!

There seems to be a distinct winner in the battle that is mint thunderdome. After a while where the mint plants were bare twigs the Roman mint has joyfully rebounded into leaf. There are some scattered growth from the orange and chocolate mints- but Roman mint is the clear winner of the thunderdome.

The hyssop has also responded well to the deluge- turning bushy and thick. Not sure if I’ll ever use this herb culinarily but it smells real nice and flowers are good for the bees in the summer.

I swear I could fill this blog to the brim with just glamor shots of turnips. They’re so lovely and green but with yellow touches- and I love their leaf pattern.

Arugula! So much arugula! I just picked some and it’s almost all grown back which is nice. It’s also super weedy. The plants grew together because I sowed the seed rather thickly- which with arugula you can totally get away with. But it is problematic when it comes time to weed. I have to get in there, but I only had a little time outside today, and we have another straight week of rain coming.

The dill is growing so well- which is wonderful considering how long it took me to realize that dill was a seed herb not a transplant herb. It’ll probably be another month before I can pick some for pickling though.

Why… why is the rosemary flowering in February? I’m not upset- just confused.

Might as well make lemonade with rosemary flower lemons!

That’s… a weird metaphor I apologize.

What I mean is that I picked some of the flowery rosemary and some Mitsuba and made a bouquet for my lemon pitcher. It’s a nice table decoration that won’t make me sneeze like real flowers will. It also, as my dad might say, stinks the house up real pretty.

Here’s to rainy days!

Seeds for March/April came in, and a book recommendation

So there’s a great heirloom seed place that has lots of rare and not so rare seeds called Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. I know them as the people in the old Petaluma bank.

In Petaluma California, north of me, there is an old bank and the Baker Creek people bought it and turned it into a seed bank and garden store.

It’s pretty wild. Petaluma however is not right around the corner. It’s not super far, but absolutely no one in my house wanted to drive up for 10 dollars worth of seed packets, so to the Internet I went.

One of the reasons last year’s zucchini plant didn’t produce nearly as much zucchini should was that it was a transplant. Now I’ll still probably buy one or two zucchini plants from the garden center as a control- but I’m definitely planting direct into the ground for these bad boys.

I’m trying to be realistic about the prospects for heat this summer, so I chose your basic green Bush variety because… it’s zucchini!

But- I also chose this heirloom Nimba. It’s a variety from Poland of all places and supposedly does well in the cold climates and produces early. Just hedging my bets.

Now the reason I’m so serious about my squash is that it’s one of the few veggies my mom can eat, and I want to feed my mom the very best. Luckily squash is notoriously prolific when the conditions are right, so between the seed varieties and whatever control plant I get at Sloat- I’m seeing a lot of squash in my future.

These beautiful babies are for me and dad. He loves cucumbers and I love pickles. I’ll pickle just about anything mind you, green beans, onions, you name it- but cucumbers are the classic pickle vegetable for a reason.

The telegraph variety was recommended to me by a user on metafilter called purpleclover. She’d just interviewed someone from Baker Creek, and the interviewee recommended the telegraph variety for the cool summers in San Francisco. She very kindly passed this info on to me. (Thank you purpleclover!) It’s an English type which makes sense- it’s not like England is known for hot summers either. I like English cukes- and so does my dad, but I really like pickling types- so I got a packet of Bostons.

Now here’s my confession: I’ve never grown cucumbers before. I know the basics, but I’m boning up on the cucumber pages of my San Francisco gardening books and investigating trellising systems. Expect more posts on the theory of cucumber growing way before the seeds ever hit the soil.

I have time however. It is wet and cold, and absolutely no seeds of either vegetable are going into the ground until at least mid to late March. Now the cucumbers might have to be started in small pots- I’m still investigating.

And the thing is- we might get a hot May and July, that’s the thing about San Francisco weather, we tend to the mild, but it’s inherently unpredictable!

I remember a day in May quite a few years ago during a city college Paleontology class where we had a field trip to Ocean Beach and it was nearly 100 degrees. I got there early with a couple other students and we… frankly we went mad with heat stroke. Running from dogs and collecting pieces of dead crabs that we were convinced were going into a “collection” happened. We never found the teacher and ended up walking all the way to Fort Funston and beyond thinking the sea gulls were chasing us. The professor was not impressed.

(Also not joking about the heat stroke, when I finally got home mom was aghast at how red I was- it wasn’t sunburn it was even under my clothes. I was sick as a dog for days. As someone who does not do well in heat- Australia right now has my deepest sympathy).

Point is- we can sometimes get temps that are shockingly against the norm. So will the summer be hot or typical? Survey says… who the hell knows! Honestly if I had to guess with all the rain it could be a signal of some climate change affected weather which *could* signal a warmer summer… or not.

The point is- I’m hedging my bets, by getting some seeds that can survive a cooler summer.

However, the seed company threw in a special surprise to my order:

Lipstick peppers seeds! I’ve never heard of this type of pepper but looking it up it is indeed an oldish heirloom type sweet pepper that… performs well in the north!

Now seeing as this company is based in Missouri I’m pretty sure by north they mean Connecticut but hey- I’ll take it.

Problem is I’ve never started a pepper from seed before, only from plants. So now I’m doing research on what’s the best way to go about this- because I have 8 pepper and tomato sized pots now (thanks Lynn!) and only one of those has an extant pepper in it- my Chilhuacle negro aka the former mystery mole pepper. Now that’s a mildly hot pepper, and I wanted one really spicy and one sweet- so the lipstick can be my sweet pepper. The rest of the pots can be used for to-be-determined tomatoes.

But how to grow peppers right from seed is a problem for another month. Nothings going in the ground now during the downpour.

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This is the cute mailer Baker Creek sent their seeds in, which if I wanted to order onions, strawberries or watermelons with I could.

I don’t- with the exception of maybe onions, watermelon and strawberries have issues growing in San Francisco, but it’s super cute.

So this is a magnificent book, that just came in the mail. This dude, Nigel64 from New Zealand who runs the Growplan blog, recommended it to me in a comment a bit ago. It is THE BEST BOOK. It’s from the 90’s and a little outdated, but it is a comprehensive look at vegetables that grow in temperate climates. It’s a full color hardcover, that was surprisingly cheap online, considering how long it’s been out of print. This was a used copy I managed to snag all in all for less than ten bucks. It was shipped from England, where the book was originally published. NZ climate and UK climate and SF climate are all similar, so it’s not surprising that Nigel64 got a lot of use out of it, and so will I, I suspect.

Look at all that pretty spinach! The photography in this book is phenomenal! They even have some Asian veggies in the book, though not as much as I’m used too- that’s the outdated part. It’s a little more Euro- and western-centric than a book on vegetables published today would be, but considering the whole thrust of the book is veggies that grow in England, a part of the world which is similar in climate to where I am, this is a useful book regardless.

They do include a fair amount of American vegetable varieties, which is good for my purposes at least, and look at those pretty pumpkins! All the descriptions include the kinds of information about time to maturity and vine type that are useful to the gardener.

My favorite carrot variety, the Kuroda is not in this book, which isn’t surprising, it’s a Japanese type. But I’ve got my eye on that Nandrin as a potential type for my garden’s future, yes I do.

I haven’t even really begun to read this book in depth, I suspect it shall put all sorts of ideas in my head.

Thanks again to Nigel the landscape architect for putting this wonderful book on my radar- I never would have stumbled across it otherwise.

Now- I have research to do!