Captain’s log: Early December 2019

The rains have begun in earnest!

Which means I have to delay my planting, hunker down any little plants, and focus on a big clean up. A clean up of what?

Apples. When I took this picture I was anticipating a not so fun job for my next day off, but when I came home that night the apples were gone, my mother having gone out and taken care of it during a break in the rain. Both to give me a break, and to hopefully deny any rodents a snack. She counted over 150 apples which is a sad waste. We just normally don’t have these sort of yields on this old tree, and it took us completely by surprise this fall. Not to mention the tree is tall and ungainly which means if we get these sort of yields next year I’m going to have to buy a picker so I can get the ones at the top. (and maybe rent a cider press… hmmm)

The other job I’m anticipating… is the interstitial weeds. Ah hello carpet of green. You’re pleasant now, but in a month when you’re kissing my ankles you wont be.

But hey! My idea of strawberry pots is still going strong! When I can run out and pick a nice juicy red guy like this everything is right with the world.

Of course the rains started just when I went to all that effort to try and save my squash vines for another month. They are toast! So are the bush beans in the pot and the bull horn pepper plant. Maybe next garbage night I’ll toss them into the compost.

Losing the squash is interesting as it means I now have a heavily amended free 4×4 bed and I am racking my brain on what I can plant here. Considering my wish for pumpkin supremacy next year I may just do a cover crop. But also I like brassicas and no one can stop me?

It’s a dilemma.

My last really pretty red lettuce is just about ready to pick.

I cut back the sage and… it’s sort-of re-sprouting? I have enough faith in the magic that is Berggarten sage to leave it be through the rains to see if it will come back. If it doesn’t? I’ll replace it. I got few years out of this one, and seven out of my first one from the before times. I’ll never grow another sage again!

Oof I have to pick those leeks. Also I need to weed that pot. All the more so because…

I still have these leeks to plant! And mitsuba and parsley and chervil. Not the baby green onions, they still need more time.

In the keeping of my new format of doing these logs, let’s have some good news. My Japanese bed is doing fantastic because the new rains have really reinvigorated the plants. I still need to weed, and I still need to pick up the dang broken garden gnome/spider factory behind the bed but ew it’s a spider factory you touch it first.

Alright now for some not so great news. The shade herb 4×4 bed is a MESS. All capital letters are needed. The thyme is all dry and bleh the parsley is bolted or already bolted, my garlic chives died in the heat wave and I don’t even like anise hyssop I just think it’s pretty. I have a feeling if there’s a break in the rains I’m going to take a good look at the available herbs at work and do some digging.

Not you Mr. lemongrass you’re perfect.

Hmm… I did get those shallot bulbs…

No that’s crazy talk.

Speaking of things I need to eat. Now that’s a kohlrabi! We’re at the “make Cole slaw with me” stage of this guy and I am here for it.

The only downside to free watering from Mother Nature is that the nutrients in the beds get washed out. So there are for sure a few yellow under leaves of my Bok Choy that I’m having to pull so they down attract slugs.

Time for some seaweed fertilizer!

Also time for some swear words. Arg I hate these cabbage aphids. Wet conditions and extra ants are really helping their population to boom.

I mean insecticidal soap exists for this very reason and I took care of it but it was still icky and gross.

And of course since I can’t be out there in the pouring rain it’s hard for me to hand pick them off. I think the Brussels will be ok but it’s still a pain.

Now that it’s December it’s officially time to take in the bath. I stuck the bee pebbles into the old pitcher and stuck my disassembled bird furniture out of the way. This is truly what a shed is for.

Now of course I have the rest of the month to rearrange the whole garden!

In the pouring rain.

Good think I have a good parka.

My new bucket.

Well I finally cracked and did it.

I bought a 5 gallon bucket.

Because really, who doesn’t need a bucket?

I had a bucket- but I tried to do bucket compost in it and then forgot about it for 5 years and when I opened it…

So I have a new bucket.

Why do I have a new bucket?

Beneficial nematodes baby! Gonna treat my Brassica beds with the good good stuff that kills nasty awful no good cabbage fly maggots!

Look. I have no pictures of it because my instinct was “kill it with fire” but I had what can only be described as the worst experience with my last big Joi Choi. I knew from my many times growing turnips that cabbage fly maggots like to eat the roots of brassicas- which is why I don’t plant root brassicas anymore. (Which is sad as I love turnips and radishes) Now cabbage flies can affect not just root brassicas, but all brassicas by nibbling at the roots and killing the seedlings. But as long as you time it right and you take care of your seedlings the plants will be healthy enough to withstand the onslaught.

Integrated pest management! It’s not about killing all the pests- it’s about managing them.

I thought I was safe. After all they die back in autumn, there will only be a few…

But then I picked my last beautiful Joi Choi- brought it upstairs, and when I cut into the stem- a maggot popped its little head out. It traveled up the stem! All the stems had maggots in them!

NOPE.

Nematode time!

There are some pretty detailed instructions- but my lack of a bucket was a challenge so I picked one up.

I did this right at dusk which is the right time apparently, though that wasn’t a sign of any pre-planning (pre-planning? What’s that?) on my part, it just happened to be when I was free.

Gross! And blurry!

You dump the contents of a container that’s within the main container into some water and then wait a bit for all the microscopic nematodes to get dissolved in the drink. What floats to the top is carrier.

You’re then supposed to water the beds with it. My problem was getting the carrier bits off the top. I do not have a mesh strainer that I was willing to dirty with nematodes. Also I was concerned about getting the bucket water into the watering can and not the ground.

Old pitcher and old Giants branded cardboard cups? Check.

Everything in this garden is Gerry-rigged and I’m ok with that.

After I skimmed off the carrier and filled the watering can with nematode water, I just… watered all the beds with brassicas!

I also watered my cut back squash vine because if it does fail that bed will most likely host brassicas of some type.

I could not take any pictures of this in the moment as it was no longer dusk- it was night.

Night-time gardening. It’s the Neanderthal way.

Here’s the view from the next morning.

While you skim off the carrier you also use it as it most likely still contains nematodes and you want to get your money’s worth.

So I just sprinkled it where needed.

The north beds should now be protected!

As should the West beds!

And my favorite- Mr. Tree collard.

All in all this wasn’t too difficult, doesn’t pollute the water table, won’t poison me or wildlife, and wasn’t stinky.

So 10/10 would nematode again!

This type of nematodes is really good at combating lawn grubs- that’s the really gross looking thing on the container. I don’t have a lawn, but nematodes eat a lot of things.

So here’s to integrated pest management.

And my new bucket.

It’s a nice bucket.

The Japanese vegetable bed is in!

Well, the “yet more Asian greens bed”. Besides the black summer Bok Choy, a vegetable that is eaten all over Asia, and today the world- I’ve planted two vegetables that are fairly particular to Japan, Komatsuna and Shungiku.

Komatsuna is of course a brassica- but Shungiku isn’t. More on that later.

Before I planted, but after I ripped out the spent sunflowers and tomato plants, I had a choice to make. This is an old Yerba Buena plant which despite inclement conditions in this bed- is still trucking along.

Yerba Buena likes lots of water and shade and in this bed it got neither. It’s still pretty good though- so I tucked it’s stems to the side and got to work clearing the weeds.

I had scattered some California poppy seeds around to add some color to the bed, but they never flowered. I didn’t pull them until now because I like the look of poppy foliage. What I don’t like about poppies is their damn taproots. It’s one of the reasons they’re such a successful flower/weed in drought prone California, a taproot is a much more water efficient root then surface roots. It does make clearing them from a bed a little difficult.

Once the bed was clear of old mulch and old poppies- it was time to amend it. A bag of compost should do the trick, but Komatsuna likes it’s nitrogen so I also mixed in a few good handfuls of biofish.

I anticipate this being a bed that will suck up a lot of maxsea, but I’m ok with that.

Of course before you plant anything you need to have a good idea of where everything is going to go.

Bok Choy needs some space in order for it to get full size, but how much space it needs really depends on the variety. Black summer is sort of a medium density and taller Bok Choy so you can go a little closer then you would with another type- or with an actual cabbage.

Komatsuna on the other hand is a more vertical grower- it’s often referred to as Japanese spinach. It’s not a spinach of course, it’s a Brassica rapa just like Bok Choy. But because of its more spinach like growing habit, it can be jammed closer together.

As for Shungiku- I actually don’t know! Shungiku is actually a type of edible chrysanthemum green and as I’ve never grown mums or any type of chrysanthemum flower… I’m just going to wing it.

“I’m just going to wing it” is probably my mother’s least favorite phrase to come out of my mouth, but in the vegetable garden at least winging it can work out fine.

Less so with childhood baking experiments sorry mom.

So everything was well placed and well watered- and then it was time to mulch.

My favorite time.

Not only did I mulch, as you can see I re-spread out my survivor of a Yerba Buena plant.

It hasn’t given up on me, so I’m not giving up on it.

As this bed is rather brassica heavy, there’s one more step to be done, but that’s another post.

Coming soon to a garden near you: beneficial nematodes!

Because fuck cabbage moths that’s why!

Vegetable haul November 2019

Well I do have a bed to fill- and it’s time for winter herbs.

I may have gone a tad overboard but a substantial employee discount will do that to you.

I got something I’ve never grown- edible chrysanthemum greens- also known as shungiku. Along with the komatsuna, I’m looking forward to some winter hot pot.

It’s finally time.

I’m gonna eat well this winter!

Planting the mystery brassica

Well it was time to pick the largest Bok Choy left in the ground, and that freed up space for my mystery veg.

It also gave me an excuse for a wide shot of my west beds.

I would have photos of my yummy Bok Choy only one had cabbage maggots *in the stems* fuck. And it turns out I’m pretty mad about that.

Anyways, mystery plants are in and they’re ready to grow!

I will have to treat these beds now that I know a handful of the cabbage flies are still flying around. Never wanted to bother with beneficial nematodes but I don’t have a choice at this point.

As for the identity of the mystery plant…

I did find one other plant in the store that had some similarities.

Portuguese cabbage or sea kale? This isn’t sea kale. Sea kale is its own thing.

But a fancy kale sounds nice I suppose.

If I can only protect it from maggots bleh.

Mystery brassica

Well sometimes things get mixed up. A six pack of veggies can get misplaced by a customer who decides they want something else- and wind or misadventure can misplace a tag.

Then you end up with something like this.

It’s… a brassica!

Probably Brassica oleracea judging by the shape of it.

But it’s a little strange…

Purple stems and green leaves…

The stems don’t seem to be swollen so probably not a kohlrabi…

Could be a collard or a kale?

Growth comes from the inside… but that’s common for almost all brassicas.

Brussels? Cauliflower? Broccoli? A straight up cabbage?

Well. I suppose I’ll just have to grow it and find out!

The leaves aren’t too damaged from the ubiquitous cabbage moth- I did give it a spray down with B.t. regardless.

Anyways…

🎶mystery plant, it’s a mystery plant🎶

🎶gonna put it in the ground and see what comes up🎶

Of course the space requirements of a Brussels versus a cabbage are very different so…

Stay tuned.

A new green enters the story. Spoiler alert! It’s a Brassica.

Cupid’s arrow struck me with a deep abiding love of brassicas a long time ago, and my affection has never dimmed.

From my childhood obsession with broccoli to my modern love of komatsuna, both oleracea and rapa are the loves of my life.

Which is why when a seldom eaten but much loved member of the species Brassica rapa enters my local garden center- I go wild.

This lovely specimen came in on a Sunday. She was sultry and lush and by the way she walked into the store I knew she’d be trouble.

This- is Koji. Also known as Tatsoi also known as Yukina savoy. She’s a woman of many aliases.

It’s basically a sort of Brassica you harvest as spinach or Swiss chard. Tasty and easy. 

She is trouble though- those lovely crinkled leaves can hide bugs if you’re not careful. I anticipate many inspections of her undercarriage unless I want those grey cabbage aphids.

Annoyingly when I took this beauty on the bus home I lost her nametag, so I have no close up on the tag like I like to give you. Dames like her always like to be anonymous.

Doesn’t matter- I know how to treat a brassica right.

Those six pretty little plants are right at home in the front part of my new bed, and I’ll stop the hard-boiled detective cliches now.

I’m actually pretty excited about this one, as I’ve eaten it sporadically but never grown it.

Ah Brassica rapa- you never disappoint.