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.

Herbal indulgences

Now get your minds out of the gutter I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about basil though.

Everyone knows my favorite basil is the incomparable African blue bush basil.

Both of my bush basils are growing great. So great I think I’m going to try and root cuttings from them.

But African blue bush basil has a more camphor flavor then the Genovese basil and that’s not to everyone’s taste. I like it- but sometimes you just want a more classic basil flavor.

Problem is, green basils just do not grow well in San Francisco.

Well… there’s this one.

This is Greek basil. It smells and tastes (to me at least) just about the same as the Italian stuff, but it’s a hell of a lot heartier than the really picky Italian basil.

So I put the basil in front of the tomatoes in the color bed.

Got to love a mixed bed!

In other herb news all the oregano I put in a bit back has done alright- except for the Greek oregano which beefed it.

So I replaced that.

Now I forget which nursery the first Greek oregano came from, but it was not my favorite. This one came from sweetwater and I think their herbs are pretty high quality.

The borage is just going hog wild, doubled in size already and flowering everyday. And look at all those buds! I keep getting the pink variation too which is nice to look at.

The other herb (well kind of an herb more like a small tree…) that is doing well is my lemon verbena.

It likes it’s home in a pot and stinks real pretty. I’m not even sure I’ll ever use this- though I’m pretty sure you can. I just like the idea of a small herb tree in a pot. Hopefully in a few months it will be a medium herb tree in a pot!

Herbs are nice.

A bolt from the blue

Well quite a bit is going to seed. I gave up on the spinach altogether- tiny plants all growing flower heads. It’s too late for spinach anyways.

As for the old curly leaf parsley-

Parsley is a biennial anyways and these plants are- you guessed it, 2 years old.

The older flat leaf is also bolting, which is annoying as it most certainly isn’t 2 years old.

The big stalks in the back are the bolting flat leaf- the mess in front is the bolting chervil. That’s not a surprise it’s a very tender herb that doesn’t like heat and we had just a few too many sunny days. I wouldn’t even replace it until November or so. Which sucks because I love chervil and you can’t really buy it in stores.

If we end up with a radically cold summer I’ll buy another plant… I also might have seeds… well I have some thinking to do re: chervil.

These beauties are my carrots. Once they start flowering they’re basically no longer edible. Woody cores, lack of flavor… on Friday I’m going to dig up the lot and see if there are a few small edible carrots hiding in the thicket. But yeah, it’s time to re-seed the carrot bed anyways.

That was always this month’s task anyways.

I would find the parsley ending it’s lifespan annoying if it wasn’t for one thing.

So a month ago or so I went through a whole song and dance trying to grow curly parsley from seed. It’s kinda tricky- you have to soak the seeds overnight and sow them a certain way. I waited and waited and waited… bupkis. Until now! It looks like parsley just takes a really long time to germinate. I had planted quite a few herbs along my parsley row when it didn’t come up, and now the parsley is growing up in-between everything.

Best laid plans of mice and Neanderthals I suppose.

But at least I’ll have more parsley.

Some late additions and potential problems

I finally bit the bullet and grabbed myself a pepper, among other things. I am growing the lipsticks from seed but it’ll be a month til the largest is large enough for the pepper pot. In the meantime this sweet Italian bulls horn should do well.

It’s a little runty so it got a stake. I wish I could be optimistic but after weeks of warm weather San Francisco’s inherent unpredictability has reared it’s head and we’ve now had two days of wet drizzle.

I have no words. Well I have plenty of words but they’re not really fit to print.

I also got a tarragon- again. I’ve had such bad luck with tarragon that I thought it was time to just put it in a pot. Sometimes all your plans for a fancy herb bed run up against reality. Oh well, hopefully it will do better as a pot herb.

This is ginger mint. I am something of a mint fanatic, and I love growing mint from cuttings and giving them away as gifts. The more weird the mint the better. Ginger mint sounds tailor made for tea, but I’ll have to wait a little while before I take cuttings.

Some of my cuttings are taking really well- others are lost causes. But that’s what happens when you try to grow from cuttings, it’s always a gamble.

These are the ones that have taken. A good way of telling if they’re taking is if the plant still looks fresh and not wilted or brown, and to check the bottom for root growth.

Now that’s a successful cutting!

These are my last two plants, some Persian cucumbers for the cucumber patch and a lost little pumpkin. I wish I could say wow I don’t have room for a pumpkin! But unfortunately I most likely will have room for a pumpkin shortly.

That’s the remains of another cauliflower- and two of the back Bok choys went with it. And now that it’s drizzling again, the cabbage flies are going to be even more emboldened. Cabbage flies of course only eat cabbages- so my squashes will be perfectly safe.

The slugs of course, are in hyperdrive. Now you can totally go out at night with a flashlight and just kill all the slugs you see- and that is the most natural way to do it- but it is gross as hell, and I like sleeping at night.

So I took half a container of sluggo and went nuclear. I tossed those pellets around the garden like it was going out of style. Every bed, every green area, every pot.

There’s no kill quite like overkill, and I’m hoping the slugs get the message.

Smushing aphids might be gross but it’s the best way the control their numbers so smush I must. I try not to spray the sun gold with neem oil because the tomato flowers attract bees and the aphids are attracting ladybugs.

At least the local criminal is enjoying the rain and the work I’m doing. If only feral cats could be trained to eat cabbage fly…

A Buggy start to May

Yesterday I was fed up with how runty and withered my two smallest cauliflowers were, so I pulled the weakest. Low and behold, the roots were crawling with cabbage fly maggots. I pulled the other one too- same story. The problem was, as you can see from one of the healthier ones-

The roots actually go fairly deep, the cauliflower had a good chance to grow before it got infested. This meant two things, one at this point whatever grubs are there can’t really be tweezed off, I’d have to uncover so much of the root system I’d harm the plant, and two, I’m going to have to rely on the fact that the root systems are so deep and healthy the larger cauliflowers are probably going to make it. As insurance I uncovered as much of each root as I could a poured neem oil over it. Hopefully that can seep into the soil and maybe kill off any other maggots. For now I just have to be vigilant while checking the other brassicas for fly eggs.

What’s really annoying is that some of those nasty green aphid types have been attacking my seedlings. This is a fairly healthy red stemmed peppermint I’ve been growing from a cutting from the mint thunderdome. Seemingly overnight it got those feeding crusts and eggs under the lower leaves, with the little green aphids feeding up top. Annoying but solvable. For one this is mint. Mint is unkillable. The plant was getting too big for its little transplant pot anyways so I just potted it up in its forever home. Of course I sprayed it down several times with insecticidal soap and hand killed every bug I could see first.

Here it is in its new pot. I’ll just keep coming back to it with the spray and eventually the vigor of mint will solve my problem for me. The real problem is the weeds. They’re a reservoir for the aphids so I’m going to have to use the edger and really knock them down. maybe hand pull whatever’s left. Soon since it’s stopped raining they’ll all die back- but that could take til August and I have to kill the aphid reservoirs now.

While this baby romanesco’s roots seem to be undisturbed as you can see it’s leaves are a tad nibbled. Not much I can do about that except keep checking for caterpillars and lay down more sluggo.

The local pest patrol was out in force this morning which is always a good sign. Maybe this extra wet winter we just had was good for the flies- but it seems to have been good for the ladybugs too.

The five surviving pepper seedlings, including one very runty one, have been put into their own pots. This was largely in response to the fact that as they get bigger I keep finding those damn little green aphids on them, and this will give them a chance to grow big roots and be easier to clean off.

At this point all the beans have this sort of lacy chewing damage which makes me think earwigs. The big potatoes are the same way.

That’s just a mess. I’ve laid down the sluggo but my hope in these older potatoes is not great. Potatoes can totally resprout after their leaves sustain damage though- so maybe with enough care they’ll be ok. This could also be evidence of something much worse than aphids so… eh fingers crossed.

The red aphids meanwhile are almost all gone, with a few stragglers remaining. Biological warfare works!

Here’s a picture of one of my beautiful aphid killers- it’s the same ladybug larvae I photographed earlier in the week, but as you can see the lovely lady is in the process of turning herself into an adult! The green aphids along with some kind of scale insect have been attacking my dill something fierce, which is why I keep finding ladybug eggs on the dill stalks- they know where their bread is buttered.

Now there are a lot of ways to try and prevent bugs from eating your crops- checking roots and stems for eggs and spraying when it’s too late is part of it- but there are a lot of plants that can repel bugs. Marigolds are one of the more famous ones, but allergies prevent me from planting them. One other good bug repeller is anything from the onion family. I want to make sure my baby cucumbers have the best start in life so I’ve taken some of the green onion sets I’ve been growing in seedling town and I’ve put them along the edge of the bed. They won’t grow into the cukes- as they grow straight up- and hopefully that wonderful oniony goodness will repel any bugs that want to make a snack out of my baby cucumber vines.

I leave you all with another lady on patrol, this time taking a tour of my carrot tops. There are always gnats around the carrots but as they don’t damage the roots it’s just the price of doing business. Anyways, it feeds the ladybugs!

🎶It’s the circle of life🎶

April has no more showers- but plenty of flowers

So the last couple of days were in the 80s. Today was much more sedate- but still warm for April. At least it was properly overcast. The main advantage of the extra unseasonal heat is that it’s triggering some early flowers- which is good for the bees I suppose.

Now I’m not 100% sure this is a bee- it might be one of those pollinating flies that mimics bees. Also could be one of the smaller native bees. I don’t know. I do know that it really likes my chamomile and it is adorable.

The insect activity is reaching June levels. This is of course both good and bad. Plenty of fat little bumble bees trundling through the garden, along with some truly lovely western tiger swallowtail butterflies. Yesterday I saw the most amazing dragonfly flitting too and fro the garden. It was moving much too fast for photography but it stayed darting around for almost an hour. The bad is that the “harmless” spittlebugs are reproducing at rates that make them harmful and I had to spray them on my parsley plants and there’s some sort of small scale insect on my dill weed. Not to mention the aphids- though it looks like operation ladybug has curbed the worse of it. Also the amount of earwigs in my potato bags has me worried.

But wow the flowers.

Despite being heavily laden with lemons- the lemon tree is flowering again for next year’s crop. I suspect this is due to the heavy rain it’s gotten this year. I’m not complaining- just racking my brain for lemon recipes.

The apple tree is also setting out flowers. For a few year later during the drought I thought we’d lose this tree so it’s continued existence and health is an absolute joy. It is frankly a gnarled mess that desperately needs pruning but I’ll handle that this winter. For now the fact that the tree planted by my parents still lives is a triumph.

The sauce pot is flowering like mad- as is the sun gold. If half these flowers turn into fruit I’m going to have a very productive year of tomatoes. That’s a ways off. The black krim however is giving me a bit of pause.

I have never seen a tomato flower look like that. It looks nothing like the other tomato flowers- almost as if it’s a related but different species. Maybe it’s a function of being an heirloom, but it’s slightly odd looking. The black krim was an experiment anyways so I’m not overly concerned.

Now this isn’t flowing yet- but it’s sprouted encouragingly. This is my poppy pot, ready to give me lovely multi-colored California poppies. Highly recommend them- especially if you want to sow them in the ground, they grow like absolute weeds. In San Francisco they grow wild in the cracks of transit lines and sidewalks- almost like their preferred growing medium is concrete.

The squash monster continues to flower rather magnificently, and it’s starting to set out little fruits-

In a couple of days I’ll have my first zucchini!

Now that’s a lovely surprise for April!

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!