A new plant stand

That only took a little bit of work.

I bought a nice plant stand at work, but there was a problem- it’s an indoor plant stand. Not the most water resistant of metal.

But there’s a technical solution to everything.

And it involves teal spray paint!

It’ll protect the stand from rust, and it’s my mom’s favorite color.

Win win!

The first step to any painting project is a tarp of course. Don’t spray paint the grass! Or your plants or your pots or your fence or your bench.

Or yourself. Oops.

Anyways most of the paint ended up on the plant stand, and only some on the now even bluer tarp.

I even had a buddy come by and inspect my work. Luckily they landed after the paint was mostly dry.

And here’s the final result. It’s nice and elegant, but more importantly, it’s very practical. Should help with keeping the outside neat, as well as making it easier to keep pots off the ground and out of the reach of scale which keeps bothering my mint plants. The Roman mint in all its overgrown glory looks particularly nice cascading over its pot.

Not bad for a sunny days work last week, and I might get a second one so the bench can be flanked.

Of course there’s what needs to be done to the bench.

Firewood.

So maybe the metal parts of the bench will be teal soon too.

We will see!

August work part one

Well I got a fair amount done, even if I have more to do.

The chayote is in! And more importantly it’s staked to it’s new trellis. This nice mixed bed is coming along nicely. These tomatoes of all my tomatoes are the best looking. This bed may end up being the tomato bed with all it’s afternoon sunshine. I don’t think the chayote and the basil mind sharing.

Here’s my mystery plant, a mystery no more! It’s an Ugni, or Chilean Guava. Also known as a strawberry myrtle, it’s a south american relative of the guava that has tiny little tasty fruits. Apocryphally, it’s fruits were the favorite of Queen Victoria.

I don’t know about that, but it likes acid soil and can tolerate some foggy weather, so I’m all for it.

It can grow up to six feet if you baby it, and I intend to baby it.

I want some little fruits!

And here is my beautiful bird bee bath. The rocks are there to give the bees something to sit on while they sip. They’re not really swimmers.

Why do I want to keep the bees happy?

Well, because they haven’t been doing their job! The reason the pumpkins were shriveling off the vine was that the plant was aborting them due to incomplete fertilization. (H/T to my manager at work who figured that out) So I had to play the bee!

Pictured, one beautiful baby pumpkin that I hand fertilized, next to a shriveled up one that I did not.

So clearly the bees need some incentive, and I hope the bee bath provides it for them.

Joking aside, it’s just been so wet. As I type this we had rain this morning, and the day before. In August!

So I think I know why the bees are under-performing.

Oh well, more work to do!

June planting and construction

Well the jury’s out on the ladybug’s overall effectiveness, but that didn’t mean I could rest on my laurels.

Again the siren call of my discount…

The Kentucky wonder beans I’ve been growing from seed look awful. Not surprising after all, they were planted during a sluggy season and they all got nibbled to death.

I re-sowed them but they still look rough. Anyways it doesn’t matter, because the haricot vert starts came in!

So I planted them and built a trellis.

4 six-foot stakes, some netting and 16 soft ties is all you need for one season’s trellis. The stakes and soft ties are reusable, the netting not so much. Hopefully the new beans take as well as the blue lake I got earlier.

As you can see those are positively bushy.

Speaking of terrible segues, the African blue bush basil has come in, and I have a plan to make at least one of them perennial.

The trick was to buy two. One goes where it always goes, replacing my Thai and purple basil that never really got anywhere, and the other goes in a large pot.

The idea is- if we have a mild winter both should survive just fine outside. But if it’s a cold windy rainy mess like this year, I can leave the bedded basil to its own devices- but the potted basil can be taking indoors at night.

Now that’s using your noodle.

I also finally ripped out the bolting chervil and replaced it with my favorite herb, lovage!

I’m not taking out the bolting parsley as it has bugs and ladybugs so I’m leaving it alone. I’m looking forward to having lovage to cook with again.

I’m also still taking cuttings in an attempt to corner the mint market. I got a specialty fancy soil I’m going to use for cuttings from now on- in an attempt to give them a boost.

It’s one of the foxfarm ones, this one’s called ocean forest and it’s filled with goodies.

I’m trying my hand at propagating the Yerba Buena for gifts. Since it’s so rare it would be really cool if I could grow them from cuttings, so I’m trying the ocean forest to maximize my chances.

It’s already starting to get on the sunny side when it’s not cloudy. I think summer is coming!

Finally!

Beans glorious beans and how to stake them.

Well trellis them really. At first I thought I’d just use 6 of the tall stakes and that would be it- but I recalled how last years beans did well on a net and how the peas are quickly outgrowing their stakes… so I broke out the netting.

I used soft ties to anchor the netting to 4 of the really tall stakes. These are the trionfo violetto beans, and they’re growing fairly well. The turnips in front of them might be gone, now replaced with the last of the romanesco seedlings but at least the trellis is up.

Also- growing turnips and beans in the same bed was as stupid as growing carrots with beans last year. Legumes fix nitrogen to the soil- too much nitrogen with a root crop means lush leaves- stunted roots. I have to at some point learn from my mistakes.

I also set up another trellis with the new blue lake bean starts.

Pretty much an identical set up. I am slightly concerned about these new beans though- they look a little eh.

They’ve been immediately set upon by some nibbling pest, and some of them are almost wilting. Now that’s the weather’s fault- yesterday it was 80 and today it was 75. I am in awe at how hot it’s getting, and while it was nice to wear shorts yesterday my tender bean plants would like it to be a little cooler please and thank you.

The Kentucky wonder beans I sowed from seed however are all sprouting on queue. These little guys won’t need a trellis for a while though.

The peas are quickly climbing up their stakes, I have a sneaking suspicion I’m going to have to use eyelets and wire to secure them to the fence soon.

As you can see I’ve put the spinach seedlings in front of the peas- sowed the bare area with some mizuna mustard greens because god knows I love a brassica. I’ve been super diligent about checking the roots of all my cabbage family crops- so far no more cabbage fly- looks like they were just devouring my turnips.

This trionfo violetto is already reaching for its trellis-

Aren’t beans grand!

The excelsior bee hotel is open for business

And luckily the flowers are starting to bloom just in time to give the bees something to eat.

This lovely bee house was a gift from an online friend named elsietheeel who sent me this wonderful bee house out of the blue in winter. The edge was slightly damaged but it is perfectly usable. I slapped a little sugru on the rough edge, and on the split on top that was 100% my fault (dropped it oops).

The paint was 100% optional and 100% necessary.

It’s the excelsior bee hotel!

I found a spot for it on the back fence with enough sun for the bees to be comfortable.

I screwed a small screw into the fence to help keep it steady, and hopefully I’ll have plenty of bees soon to pollinate the tomatoes.

Because the tomatoes are ready for bees.

This is the sun gold and it’s in full bloom even though it’s not that big yet. The sauce pot is also obnoxiously flowered for April-but I shouldn’t complain!

My brand new chamomile plant is also ready for bees- you can really tell it’s a member of the extended daisy family when it’s in full bloom.

But what I’m really excited about is my larger blackberry vine.

Its flowering already! Look at it it’s so pretty! I’m super thrilled. I’m hoping this is a sign that all the effort I put into acidifying the soil and mulching so heavily did the trick.

Of course not all the food for bees was intentionally planted- this is the gorgeous scarlet pimpernel that showed up in front of one of my back beds. It’s just so nice to look at too.

Of course there’s also the neighbor’s flowers contributing to food resources. They do a wonderful job with their roses, and they’re also growing fava beans this year, very popular with our buzzing friends.

Anyways I’m just glad after a whole winter stuck inside it’s finally dry enough to be put outside. Got to support your local pollinators!

Imprisoning my tomatoes

Tomatoes are difficult plants. They attract many pests, can also develop nasty fungal diseases, if your summers are too cool they may never set fruit, and while to a degree they can self-pollenate without bees you will get a bad yield- but on top of all that they need a lot of support. They can absolutely collapse under their own weight, and that’s before they set heavy fruit.

So you have to send your tomatoes to jail.

Those are two very old and very rusted old tomato cages that I’m fairly sure l date back to my parent’s garden. For whatever reason they were never recycled and are quite past their use-by date… but they fit into the two wider pots so…

It did take a bit of bending to fit them in- and the plants are so small compared to the cages, But eh hopefully the sweet 100 and Black Krim will grow into their support.

The sungold is growing well, and it has a v-shaped bean support as a backbone.

The sungold is the, pardon the pun, gold standard San Francisco cherry tomato for a reason, and despite the awkward fit I’m sure it’ll take to its support well.

The San Francisco fog also got a bean support and it too seems to be fine with some unorthodox trellising. It’s not as vigorous a plant as the sungold but considering the gloom and rain it’s chugging along marvelously. Besides in April/May what you really want from your tomatoes is steady growth so it can put out flowers by June. Any early flowers or fruits is a bonus, but not expected.

The sauce pot was a difficult criminal however.

So the three Romas came with three small stakes barely holding the plants up, which was enough for the small pot they were sold in. Once moved to the sauce pot however there was just no way those small three stakes were sufficient. At first I put three bamboo stakes in, but today I put in a forth, and I’ve strung soft-ties all around the four outer stakes to suspend the leaves over it.

It’s a mess! It’s an absolute mess! But it’s too big for a tomato cage- even if I had a third, which I do not- and the one remaining v-shaped bean support is just not up to the task of the Romas.

So once again, I Gerry-rigged something. I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to be a process and there’s a good chance I’ll have to change it up a few times.

The really good news about the sauce pot, despite everything is that it’s three vigorous plants, and one of them is already flowering.

I mean- there’s barely any bees out yet, too wet by half- but it’s telling that the plant has the health to flower early despite what could have been a traumatic transplant. So despite the fact that the odds are this flower will never turn into a tomato- it’s a good sign.

Viva la sauce pot!

Potatoes and cauliflowers planted

This was an early day for me- I wanted to get everything in so I’d have some time to see what took.

Not that I’ll know if the potatoes are duds in a day- more like several weeks to know if they’ll sprout or not.

The cauliflower are a different story.

These were the sets I bought yesterday- just your garden variety 6 pack, except that several of the cells held doubles. That’s always a problem as you have a choice- do you separate them to get more potential plants? Do you just kill the weakest and plant only 6? Or do you not separate them and get stunted plants?

I opted to separate them for maximum cauliflower. Which may not have worked out so great.

Some of them are really perky!

Some of them are runty and wilty. It’s only been half a day since I planted them- I won’t know for a few days who will live and who will die.

But I decided to take out an insurance policy.

A while ago I ordered these great terra-cotta watering spikes. The idea is that you put a bunch of water in a wine bottle and stick the spike on top. Then you invert it and stick it deep in the soil. As the soil dries out it draws the water from the bottle out of the permeable terra-cotta.

Since we’ve had so much sun and warmth the bed I just planted might get dry so I put the first wine-spike there first.

Maybe it will rejuvenate those wilting cauliflower.

Maybe I’ll need to buy more cauliflower sets next week.

Who knows.

Who by fire….

Sorry got morbid there for a minute. On to the potatoes!

These are fancy actual seed potatoes- as opposed to my home ripened store bought taters that I used in my last two bags. “Russian banana” is the type. Look. I really don’t care about type when it comes to spuds. Is it a potato? Great! I’ll eat it. But supposedly these are real tasty so I’ll give them a shot.

Whoever put the potatoes in the box made a mistake however as there were not 6 seed potatoes but 8!

My mother had to physically restrain me from ordering two more potato bags.

Apparently 10 total potato bags is too much.

Her very smart idea was to double up the seed potatoes in two of the bags to take advantage of their small size.

Like so.

Planting potatoes in bags is easy. You put a little dirt in your bag, that you roll down to a third of its complete height- put your seed potato in- then cover it with about an inch of more dirt.

Then you water.

Then you wait.

Bam! 6 more potato bags!

Here’s one of the old ones growing strong. Once this plant gets taller I’ll pour more dirt in to cover all but the top-most leaves. All the covered leaves will become potatoes!

God I love potatoes.