I just had to have a blackberry…

Well I’d been putting it off and off and off and I can’t put it off anymore.

It’s time to tie up the blackberry.

The comfrey has served its purpose of being sort of a green compost so I pulled it and laid it down after some weeding, and pulling the brambles up.

The comfrey might regrow- it’s pretty much a weed.

Quite a lot of the vines had reached into the ground and started to root.

It’s really good I took care of this now and not a month from now!

As you can see it’s a bit of a mess all over.

Had to pull up these top roots as well. I just snipped off the root ball and tied it to the fence.

The result wasn’t that bad. I don’t really have a proper trellis, I’m just tying it to the fence like a yokel.

But at least it’s off the ground and properly weeded.

And I have plenty of space below the top vine to keep things going.

But man I have to ask myself- is all this worth it?

Pie is always worth it.

A joke goes horribly horribly wrong. Or horribly horribly right?

So dad really really loves the garden. After all, he and mom started it before I was born, and both of my parents are really glad I’ve picked it up again, now that they can’t do the sort of intensive labor that a vegetable garden needs.

Mom still helps out, G-d bless her, watering during heat waves when I’m at work for instance, checking on tender seedlings, and quite a few times I’ve come down to a very clean work table and a weeded garden just because she was bored and wanted to help me out. Mom’s the best.

Dad on the other hand is not as steady on his feet as he used to be, and after a few falls in the back, (he was ok- but it could have been much worse) dad doesn’t garden anymore. Trust me though- he wants to. I’ve definitely put in plants for him, he does get out and look around from time to time (with care) and he loves the blog so he can keep up- (Hi dad!) but he’s permanently off watering and weeding. (Which he probably doesn’t mind!) It’s my greatest joy to bring up produce for him, he’s a huge fan of the alpine strawberries and Bok Choy.

Now sometimes, since he knows I’ll put in plants for him, he likes to yank my chain. I tend to take things very literally, so it sometimes takes me a while to get that he’s kidding me about the orange tree he wants me to plant or the rare tropical fruit.

(Though I’m still looking for a banana that will fruit in San Francisco- stay tuned.)

But! A few weeks ago he made a joke about how I should grow a redwood. After patiently explaining to him that we didn’t have the room, and that I grow edibles not trees- It finally dawned on me that he was joking and my parents and I had a good laugh at my complete lack of joke-sense.

And then in Sausalito on one of my days off I found this:

I’M GONNA DO IT DAD, WHO’S LAUGHING NOW!

(All of us, all of us are laughing now.)

The idea is, we don’t own this redwood, we are fostering it. I’m going to grow it in increasingly bigger pots, and see how big I can get it. When it’s just big enough that any more growth means we can’t get it through the garage to the outside, I’ll find a permanent home for it.

Maybe Muir Woods could use a new redwood?

That’s a future problem.

The current problem is- how do I do it?

So after some research and a poll of my coworkers I determined that redwoods like acidic soil. Good thing I have some azalea mix left in the soil shed!

Ah, but redwoods also need superior drainage- so it’s also a good thing I have a lot of perlite left from potting the chayote.

The soil was mixed in one of my left-over gallon pots. Then I extracted the redwood plug from the weird plastic cylinder and cardboard surround. A mix of sure start in the hole and I potted it up!

Of course what redwood would be complete without shredded redwood mulch! Now, before you think that’s a tad cannibalistic, shredded redwood (gorilla hair) is usually taken from the outside of living redwood trees, and not from dead ones. So if you think about it, a naturally growing redwood seedling on the coast would be sprouting in soil covered in the fallen outer bark of its parents, so this is probably ideal.

I watered it well with a shot of tappin roots for extra oomph and now I’m just going to see what happens.

It’s weird that the best case scenario of this folly is a forest ranger taking my redwood away after 5 years to go live in a park, but I’m committed to this, and so is dad.

Dad and I should also be committed.

But I’ve known that for a while.

Weather damage in late October

Most of this post could be un-ending cursing just because I may have lost about 20-30% of the plants in my garden due to the absolute bull pucky that is fall in San Francisco, but I’m going to try and not go blue.

We’ll see if I can succeed.

So this was sort of a one-two-three punch. First, we had very very wet weather for a week and half or so- which was welcome even if it caused a few problems. One of the entertaining problems was the sudden cluster of mushrooms in the shade herb bed.

And before you even ask- no I am not eating random mystery mushrooms. I like to live my life on the edge but that is too far thank you very much.

The wet was the return of the fog, but also some morning rain, which was very welcome. It is making my zucchini look very sad though. Powdery mildew is basically the price of doing business in San Francisco. You will get it- it’s just a matter of controlling it. This actually isn’t so bad, I should be able to cut off the worst leaves and despite it being almost November, I should still get the occasional squash until real winter comes.

But then we had the two day heat wave.

Now- I watered well, but it was not enough. As you can see- my garlic chives bit the dust. Also my yerba buena, most of my tarragon and half my parsley plants.

And not to underplay this- when I say heat wave? It was nearly 100 degrees in my neck of the woods. Highs of 97.

Still trying not to swear, but you better believe the blackberry vines were covering their ears the days this happened.

And then- it got worse.

These are the seedlings I have yet to plant. They are inside. Why are they inside?

Because yesterday- oh god yesterday, the santa ana winds came back. 95 mile per hour wind gusts. I first heard them at 3:30 am on Sunday morning, when like all good little neanderthals I was asleep in my bed. Ooh I thought, how nice, the howling sounds make my bed feel extra cozy.

Then, as I snuggled in my warm bed, my eyes shot open in horror as I realized what was about to happen to my half flat of seedlings outside on nothing sturdier then two milk crates.

One half naked pitch black run outside later, my seedlings were living on top of the washing machine for the night and later day.

Judging my how the milk crates were strewn throughout the garden come dawn on Sunday, I’m really glad I took them inside.

Here’s a quick video I took before heading to work. At work pretty much half the tall plants were knocked over, and we didn’t bother righting them because they’d just get knocked over again. Also our internet was down because of the power outages in Marin, which turned the usually quick process of ringing people up into a molasses like slog.

It was a day.

There were causalities. The corn is basically toast. The ginger mint seedlings are gone. and as you can see, my chile de arbol got hammered.

Luckily it’s a pepper plant all it needed was a stake and some love.

I’m not sure love can save my blue basil though. The winds dried it out to the point that while I’ll make an attempt- coming on the heels of the heat wave makes me suspicious it can be saved.

My pot bush beans also got re-arranged but they’re the type of plant that doesn’t really care.

My tree collard needed re-staking and my parsnips fell over, but all in all it could have been much worse.

After all that, I still have a half-flat worth of plants to plant. And a giant clean-up project.

And I’m going to have to completely re-do the shade herb bed.

Shit.

Trying to fix the sun herb bed

The latest try to anyways.

It’s not draining great and paradoxically dries out too easy and in general the really established plants are doing great while any new ones are kinda meh.

Also the sage looks rough.

That empty spot on the end in particular is like where herbs go to die. I lost a blue basil there and two oreganos.

Time for a change.

Part of the problem seemed to be that nutrients were going nowhere, so I tried something a little interesting. Granular Humic Acids are a soil additive that (supposedly) helps with nutrient uptake. This is not even remotely settled science, but anecdotes support it, and it isn’t too expensive so why not.

I also dug out as much soil as I could and lightened it up.

Of course I planted my newest two sacrifices to the death corner, a nice marjoram and a fancy mountain oregano.

Fingers crossed!

Then I cut back the sage (still going strong underneath) and mulched like crazy.

Its… a work in progress.

Like all things.

Oh god monster zuke

So for a while all the zucchini I’ve been getting have been fairly runty, and if I try to let them grow to normal size, fairly rotty. Not terribly surprising as the vines are old at this point. Weirdly the leaves look very healthy for this time of year, so I started digging around the base to see if anything was off or not.

WHY HELLO THERE.

Um. Wow. Looks like my vines were putting all their energy into one monster zucchini which is why all the rest were on the runty side.

Good news is now that the monster has been slain picked, the rest of the squash should develop as normal, and I should be getting zucchini into at least October.

The bad news is what the hell am I going to do with this behemoth? It’s almost as hard as a pumpkin! This is a straight up marrow!

Stuffed and baked?

Stuffed and baked.

As far as ridiculous problems go, this is a good one to have.

Tomato tear out

So a little context to the madness that was today.

August in San Francisco! First week of the month it rains, second week of the month it’s hotter than fucking Hades. Oh and I’m 90% sure it was actually hotter than this- as the home thermometer was higher- this is just what the weather app said.

WHEEEEEE.

Anyways, today I had a task to do. Besides the task of watering everything that disagreed with the heat- my task was to harvest all the viable tomatoes, and then rip out the plants in pots.

Because just look at them!

Just a mess. The constant damp that was not in evidence today had really messed with the health of the vines. Not so much the ones in the beds, but the ones in the pots were draining so poorly they were practically falling over. (And in some cases, literally falling over.)

First things first I had to pick the good ones.

Eh not bad. You’ll note how many of those were sungolds, I’ll get back to that.

So my first victim was the Black Krim, which gave me a handful of really nice tomatoes, before succumbing to the damp. Will grow next year for sure- but in a bed. I had to chip away at the soil in the root ball to try to save as much dirt as I could, as I intend to use these pots as soon as possible. (No wasted space in my garden!) Still, I encountered another problem.

That’s a very full compost bin. I realized at this point I only had room for two dead tomatoes in my green can. So the tomato tear out has become a multi-week affair.

So that’s a defunct Black Krim and a defunct sweet100 down, two to go.

I’ll have to rip out the Fog and the Roma either tomorrow or next week.

BUT!

I’m going to make one last attempt to save the sungold. It’s just such a nice tasting tomato- and even through everything, the aphids and the weather- it stayed producing. maybe if I try to tie it up better? Maybe if I aggressively trim it? I’m going to make at least an attempt. I watered it well in today’s heat, and I’ll try to hit it with a little fertilizer tomorrow. Where there’s life, there’s hope!

But it’s not all doom and gloom in tomato-land.

These tomatoes are doing great. On the left is my lemon boy, and on the right is my “dancing with smurfs”, and because they’re in a well draining bed with afternoon sun, they’re thriving where the pot tomatoes are not.

So it’s not that I’m cursed- it’s just that once again, San Francisco weather is inconsistent and capricious and can hurt you as much as it helps you.

And maybe if I’m a little dizzy today it’s because ripping out tomato plants in 85 degree weather at 11 am is just about the craziest thing I’ve done all year.

Time to drink my weight in water and pass out in front of mom’s air conditioner.

After I eat some tomatoes of course!

August work part three: putting things in pots and looking ahead

The absolutely wild weather continues, but we had a break in the rain and fog so I could pot up a few plants and contemplate future actions.

I have no idea where the celery is going to end up in the end. Probably in its own larger pot but for now it’s in a one gallon grow pot with a good handful of bio fish fertilizer. Celery is a bit of a heavy feeder and you got to take care of it.

I HAD three fennel- now I have two, because when I looked at the forming bulbs, two were fine, and one (not pictured) had little bugs living inside the bulb. This one was ok though.

Now while the celery will probably have to graduate to a bigger pot, Mr and Mrs Fennel can probably stay here till I’m ready to eat them. Fennel is funny- put them in the same pot and they’ll go to seed instead of produce a bulb. You have to either space them a foot apart in a bed- not ideal for an urban garden- or give them their own little pot to live in. As tasty as their fronds are- I like to cook with the bulb!

Unfortunately the logistics of my oregano is getting complicated. It should go in the sun herb bed where the sun herbs live- but something is wrong with that bed. I think the soil has gotten really compacted because it’s draining really poorly. It, along with my 4×4 shade herb bed is the oldest bed in my garden, and I think it needs to be dug out. I don’t want to lose most of the herbs in it though, so it would be a real project- I’d have to dig out all the herbs I want to keep and keep the root balls wet while I heavily tilled and amended the dirt… anyways so the oregano is going to stay in it’s pot for a while while I contemplate matters.

I ripped out my gigantic flowering dill weed, and next week I’ll re-sow the dill. I’m trying to figure out if I have the right dill seeds for my needs however, so I’m also waiting til next week.

And of course I still have four cells worth of onion starts. Arg that is too many onions! Which is a nice problem to have.

This area which has only a lone romaine can house some of them. I’ll probably have to break out another fabric pot for the rest. I’m trying to tilt the garden into more perennials and longer growing root veggies anyways, so I suppose I’ll figure it out.

The dill isn’t the only thing that needs re-seeding- I have to go into the beet bed and the carrot bed and the leek pot and re-seed what I’ve picked and what never popped up in the case of the leek pot.

So while I have more work to do in the garden- I suppose August has gotten off to a great start.

Now I just have to figure out if I can save my potted tomatoes or not.

Many tears are going to be shed over that I’ll tell you.