Chayote adventures

Pretty plant right? This is a chayote- a type of squash very commonly grown out here, but not very commonly seen at my local garden center. In fact the three we got in last week are the first three I’ve ever seen there.

I’ve not eaten a ton of chayote outside of a few restaurants- but I do like it. More importantly it’s a bland squash which is just perfect for mom.

And supposedly it’s an absolute breeze to grow- like most squashes the problem is too many fruits not too few. On top of that, it’s fruiting season is November/December, so it will be bearing when the other squashes have stopped!

Sounds perfect right? Not to mention I know exactly where I can put it.

One problem.

There are still peas in the perfect spot. And I’m not about to pull the peas early- they’re still giving me tons of wonderful pods.

Which reminds me I have to harvest some of these tonight.

I’ve probably got another month of good peas coming from this plant.

So what to do about the chayote?

Well the other day at work a customer came in, laden with plastic pots. He was apparently laboring under the belief that we wanted him to bring back the plastic pots from the plants he bought from us. We can of course recycle them but we generally assume our customers will do that at home.

Well they were just going to be recycled anyways- so my manager okayed me bringing them home. So now I have a ton of plastic pots for repotting things!

Well that takes care of the pot for the chayote- but what about the soil.

I have plenty of my usual organic potting soil, but there is a problem with that. The organic potting soil is a pretty rich mix, and chayote, while easy, doesn’t like getting overwatered. The organic potting holds water well- perhaps too well for the chayote.

The solution is perlite. A couple of cups added to the soil while potting up the chayote will loosen up the soil and ensure good drainage.

Now my chayote is in her temporary home for a month or so until the peas die back and I have the space for her in the color bed behind the tomatoes. Of course chayote are perennials so she’ll be in that bed for quite a long time.

Now I have to think up a good trellis- but I have the time to plan that out.

Hope to see some of you at the meet-up! My plants are begging for new homes.

Fixing up the front

So the front patch was looking more than a little weedy and overgrown, with the jade plants kinda taking over the place.

The solution was a little weeding- and more jade plants.

See? It needed some work. Clearing out the weeds was no problem, and then I planted my two new specimens.

I nestled my silver dollar jade next to the paddle plant against the wall.

This funny guy is supposedly a vigorous grower, so I put him closer to the curb so he can get more light. Then I just watered them with a little tappin roots and hopefully they’ll take. Maybe I’ll spring for some cactus fertilizer in a week or two to give them a boost.

Then It was just a matter of hacking back the jade plants. Poor little Aeonium, he’s not in the best of shape sandwiched between two jades. I might get some rocks to fill in the gaps. Still, it’s a better front patch then it was yesterday, so that’s nice.

Not everything has to be edible you know.

July planting and experiments

My garlic chive madness has abated- now that I have one in a pot and three in the shade bed.

Garlic chives are like cowbells. The answer is always more cowbell- and more garlic chives.

But I had more to plant today then the garlic chives, and I got a fair amount done on my day off.

First, an experiment. These are some okra seedlings. I have five in total, and they have not been doing well in their seedling 6-pack. So despite being runty I’ve transplanted them, and hopefully if I water them with tappin roots tomorrow they won’t die. This makes this bed a very mixed bed of blue lake green beans, Swiss chard, and now okra. I mixed some extra bio-fish into the soil to give everything a boost, and we’ll see how it does.

Komatsuna is no experiment- it grows great here but tends to bolt in the summer. And it’s summer now. I’ve been growing some as seedlings and now that I’ve filled up the fabric bed I thought maybe under the canopy of cucumbers might be a good place for it. The growing cucumbers will shade it- so hopefully it will get big enough to eat before it inevitably bolts.

It’s something of a risk of course, as a brassica it could fall prey to the dreaded cabbage fly that has deviled me all year, but I haven’t seen too many maggots- and I’ve killed what I’ve seen- so maybe it’s safe to plant it.

I’m still crossing my fingers for Brussels sprouts soon and I will move heaven and earth to grow those successfully.

Here’s my little mess of Greek oregano. It seems the one I wrote off as dead has rebounded so while I did go ahead and pull my Italian oregano- I will have no shortage of the Greek stuff. Which serves me just fine. This is the real flavorful oregano- similar to the dried stuff you put on pizza.

Funnily enough a lot of the “oregano” that’s in dried oregano is marjoram… but that’s a post in itself.

Herbs are weird.

Taking absolutely no chances with my garlic chives I used my customary sure-start *and* dressed the bed with some bagged compost. My new garlic chive ambassadors are going to love their new home- by hook or by crook!

I also put one in a pot.

Because it’s a pretty pot I painted.

And because I wanted to.

Egg drop soup with garlic chives is in my future.

I can already taste it!

More cowbell!

Late June plantings

The real advantage of gardening in San Francisco is that planting season rules are a lot like the pirate code.

Guidelines.

Guidelines that I cheerfully ignore. Sure I might get a failure or two (or three or four) but due to the weird late fall hot weather I might get some wild successes.

There are a few tricks with corn, and I know them from my parent’s wild corn successes when I was a kid.

One- corn is wind pollinated. This means that corn needs to be fairly densely planted so that it can pollinate it’s neighbors when it’s windy out.

Two- once the corn has been pollinated, it needs to be as warm as possible for the ears of corn to grow to full size and ripen fully.

The invisible point three is that they need a fair amount of water. The reason my parents stopped growing corn was that when I was around 8 we went into a drought. But our winter this year was so abysmally wet we were still having rain earlier *THIS MONTH* so I think I can get away with corn this year.

I think the late planting might actually work heavily in my favor as to point two.

Traditionally in San Francisco our hottest month was around August or September. Used to be it was a week or two we’d call “Indian Summer”. We’d have a mild early summer, and a hot late summer/early fall.

Then the last few years have gotten hotter and hotter. And last year we had sustained heat with only a few foggy days from mid-August to goddamn early November.

So yeah, climate change is real, and San Francisco’s weather patterns have definitely been altered.

That’s… really not a good sign for the overall health of the planet- but I’m growing vegetables in the climate I have not the climate I wish I had.

I can take advantage of this. I’ve already rolled the dice on late season tomatoes-now it’s corns turn.

Gardening is gambling.

If the last two years are any indicator my corn will be ripening this year at the best time.

As for it getting pollinated- I clustered one type of corn in a clump and the other type of corn in a right angle around the edge of the bed. The wind will do the rest, and as my garden is so windy I have to put all my herbs in ceramic pots so they don’t fall over- I think Mother Nature has that one covered.

Pictured, my rapidly growing apple mint, transplanted from a cruddy plastic pot that I had to wedge in between other pots to prevent a spill, into a proper ceramic pot that laughs in the face of wind.

In other less technically fraught planting news, I transplanted my green onion starts into their new home. This is a former pepper pot that now houses the dirt I saved from the potato bag I harvested. Got to save your good dirt! I figured since I seem to be all in on tomatoes this year and not into peppers, I might as well put the scallions here. I’ll probably seed another few six-packs tomorrow so I can just have perpetual green onions. One of the best things about San Francisco weather is that things like scallions can basically be grown year round.

Another vegetable that has an elongated growing season is any squash. These little beauties are spaghetti squash- which oddly I’ve never grown before. I’ve been growing them from seed, and now they’re going in opposite the pumpkin. As long as it isn’t raining you can grow squash here- they don’t like their leaves getting wet.

And lastly I potted one of my Roman mints. This was taken as a cutting from the dying thunderdome, and lovingly grown in a series of plastic pots. It has now graduated to a ceramic pot of its own. This means the mint thunderdome no longer serves a purpose and I can compost the twigs and re-purpose the pot. The mint thunderdome was an interesting experiment, but the roots of the mint plants are basically suffocating each other and its time has come.

Speaking of pirates- I have some new feline invaders. This is a lovely tuxedo cat that comes around from time to time, and is apparently female, not a tom as previously assumed, as she’s toting around two fat little kittens that were too fast to photograph from my window. I nearly tripped over them today while watering, and they cartoonishly flung themselves over the fence to get away from me.

Kitten season. Oh joy. If I can impart any lesson to my readers it’s this. Please spay and neuter your outdoor cats!

I’d rather not spend my time outdoors sneezing my head off.

Gripped by the tomato madness

So I bought a few late season gallon size tomato plants. By few I mean four.

Yeah yeah I know it’s June. Yeah yeah I know it’s cheating to buy tomato plants that already have baby tomatoes on them.

Guess what? I don’t care- I just want to maximize my chances of absolute tons of tomatoes.

I marked out where they were to go before I planted them- the two visitacion valley tomatoes in front of the sunflowers, and the better boy and the second black krim in front of the trionfo violetto.

Look, my sun gold has given me *some* tomatoes. A handful so far, and the whole plant looks like it’s going to fall over from aphids. I’m working on it. The sauce pot was a silly experiment with a three in one 2 gallon tomato pot that seems to be doing well, but it’s clearly caterpillar eaten. The San Francisco fog is doing ok, but it hasn’t set out fruit yet, the sweet 100 is an unknowable mystery, and my black krim is starting to produce nicely.

Also dad really wants beefsteaks. Beefsteaks do not do well here- these are the biggest tomatoes I can get that might actually produce good fruit.

So I am indulging a few whims.

I planted them well, and staked them up, and now we wait. The beds should stop the too much water problem the pots have- beds drain better.

In fact next year… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here are the baby visitacion valleys- like the San Francisco fog it was bred for us so it should do well- why I bought two.

The better boy is just your garden variety good producer, a sure bet if you will, and since my extant black krim is doing great-

I figure this black krim should do good too.

This is absolute madness, but there is a method to it. See, last year my terrible but wonderful sun gold lived until January of this year. That’s nuts.

And that one, like my current one was kind of a buggy mess (I suspect something wrong with the variety) and if the buggy mess could produce into January… what about a healthier more robust plant? So yeah- I put in the lemon boy and the smurf tomato- and now four more.

Not to mention that our hottest months tend to be August through October (and weirdly last year November), so… maybe I’m not so crazy after all!

Ha ha just kidding, I’m totally nuts!

But I’ll be a crazy person eating tomatoes, so I’ve got that going for me.

Mid-June planting and sowing

I got a few interesting herbs at work a few days ago, but due to the heat wave I had to wait to plant them. They just sat on my work table which is slightly under the overhang of the back of the house so they didn’t get scorched.

You will note the second tarragon. My original tarragon is doing great, but it’s very low and shrubby. I like big twigs of tarragon for throwing into sauces and stews and soups, so I got a second one that was growing a tad taller.

I eat enough tarragon that it makes sense to have multiple plants.

I also got one of the best smelling mints I’ve ever had- Moroccan mint.

It’s s type of spearmint but it has a really deep and complicated scent. They make tea of it fairly commonly, I used to drink a lot of Moroccan mint tea, now I can make my own.

And yes, I bought a second Yerba Buena. I put her in the corner of the sunflower patch, so she can dramatically drape over the corner.

My most interesting purchase by far was the coyote mint.

Coyote mint isn’t a true mint, and isn’t really even a culinary herb at all. It’s a California native plant that smells like mint. It’s so native to me, it grows wild around the Russian River! It’s flowers should help feed the local bees too- I haven’t seen a sweat bee yet this year and I do worry.

I finally picked the cream of the lipstick pepper seedlings and put it in its forever home. I pulled the underperforming jalapeƱo to make room. Hot peppers are just not great out here, but lipstick peppers are sweet peppers so hopefully…

I used some microryzae in the pepper pot, maybe that means the roots will grow quicker.

I also took stock of my shade bed and sowed those nice black lettuce seeds that a pen pal sent me in the mail from Ohio.

And also some red scallions and some parsnips.

Now there’s some fancy dirt. I also don’t have to worry about keeping it moist, because in true San Francisco fashion, after our ridiculous heat wave… it rained this morning.

In June.

I give up.

Flowers, fruit, and almost fruit.

Summer is almost here, but it feels like it’s already here, with a day this weekend that hit 100 degrees. Some absolutely frantic watering and mulching took place, and as today is a much more sedate 76, I think I managed to save most everything.

Well, except for the turnips- once again cabbage fly screws with my hopes and dreams.

Don’t talk to me about cauliflower.

But, as we move into the warmer months, quite a lot in the garden is beginning to flower.

Including my new borage plant. Borage is one of my favorite plants, such delicate flowers on such a robust plant.

I even got the rarer pink variation on one of the blooms. If the heat doesn’t chase off the bees, they’ll have a treat in my garden.

In other flower news, I put in new sunflowers.

There’s this great nursery company called Annie’s, that specializes in rarer and heirloom varieties of plants. Their flowers are always great, but for allergy reasons I can’t grow most of them.

But no one in my house is allergic to sunflowers!

I got a big bear, a claret, and a shock-o-lat. I put them next to my existing sunflowers in what used to be the cauliflower bed.

Still don’t want to talk about it.

I also sowed some of the multi-colored poppy seeds in front in the mulch, we’ll see if they come up.

The heat wave has just fried my last Bok Choy- and it’s throwing in the towel and bolting. Oh well. All the cabbage family flowers are really pretty and largely identical. It’s amazing how much this Bok Choy looks like a wild mustard.

Here’s a dark horse, my Yerba Buena is flowering! Just little trumpets hiding among the leaves. I cannot get over this mint, to the point where I bought a second. It just smells so good, and as a native it will thrive in our climate, and feed our local pollinators.

The French thyme has started flowering, which should be appreciated by the bees. Thyme flowers are also very pretty.

What’s this? A pumpkin flower peeking out behind some leaves?

Surprise! It’s *three* pumpkin flowers behind some leaves! I have visions of October pumpkins dancing in my head, and isn’t that exciting.

The tomato news is mixed. On the one hand the black krim looks great.

Now that’s a nice baby tomato.

On the other hand the sun gold looks like this.

At least the ladybugs are having a feast.

I did get one ripe sun gold today- which went right into my mouth. That’s where most of the purple peas have been going too. Between last year and this year the sun gold seems to be an aphid magnet more than the other tomatoes. I wonder if that’s a problem with the plant variety itself.

The fake romanesco saga drew to a close.

Judging by how it tastes once I cooked it- it wasn’t even a purple cauliflower, it was a purple broccoli. It was delicious of course- but hardly what was advertised on the seed packet.

Had to hose off all the cabbage aphids though, growing broccoli comes with some grossness.

I got my first cuke a few days ago too- a fine Boston pickle. The vines got a little scorched during the heatwave, so we’ll see how they perform later in the month.

I’ll leave you with some baby apples, growing precariously over my upper zucchini patch’s sunflower.

Nice.