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.

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🎶

New plants, new bed, and bad news

So this was a good day, mostly. I got my new fabric bed in the mail a few days ago but I underestimated its size and realized I needed more soil than I actually had.

A trip to the garden center was in order.

I got some blue lake green beans sets along with a replacement for my ailing chervil, a basil gamble and one last squash plant.

First a note on the chervil.

That does not look healthy. It’s the fact that it’s in a bed. This area of the garden, the shade herb bed, is shady in fall and winter. It’s also shadier in spring and summer. But we’ve been having very bright and windy days and that’s just been murder on the chervil. Murder on the parsley too, but that’s solvable.

The thyme doesn’t give a shit it’s huge.

To solve the evaporation problem on the parsley side, the answer is, as always, more mulch.

Just got to lay it on. As for the chervil…

Sometimes you just got to get a new plant. Healthy plant in a pot which will help with water conservation, and on the shade herb table in the shadiest possible spot in the garden. It’s a nice delicate herb chervil, hope this one takes.

In the long shot category, we have basil.

I have completely given up on Italian basil, and if I were to un-give up on it, it would go into a pot. They didn’t have any blue bush basil which is a shame, but they had some very healthy looking Thai basil. Slightly different flavor, but a heartier plant, which as you can see I’ve mulched the absolute heck out of. It’s still a crazy gamble, but it’s been so sunny… well, all gardening is a gamble really.

The squash was fun though.

See I’ve been growing pretty much all plain green zucchini, largely because it’s easier and mom likes them. But it occurred to me that I had a space for one more plant, and dad likes grey squash, so I got a “Magda” zucchini for him. It was a really healthy looking plant, and it’s a cinch to grow so no skin off my nose to put in an extra plant.

The beans went in easy, as beans tend to, I still mulched the heck out of them of course.

I also put some stakes down for them, I also have some netting that I think I’m gonna use for the trionfo beans.

The main issue today was turnips. They’d been growing slow, and were starting to bolt, no surprise there. One of the reasons I got this fabric bed to stash in the shadiest part of my garden was so I could grow the more temperature sensitive crops like lettuces and arugula and turnips in a shaded area of the garden.

The problem was cabbage fly. I had eaten a lovely turnip a week ago, small but tender, and was all set to pick the biggest few for tonight’s dinner. Only to discover all but one eaten up by cabbage fly maggots.

The one survivor was added to dinner, the rest were added to the compost bin. This is not my first tangle with cabbage fly. Years ago I had a whole lot of really beautiful turnips ruined by them. They’d been scarce as of late, and I thought I could get away with it, but it looks like our really wet start to spring helped the damn flies get off to a good start. Of course, while the damage cabbage fly can do to turnips is the most dramatic due to them eating the roots all up, cabbage fly can damage the roots of any brassica. SO tomorrow’s big task is going to be checking the roots of all my cabbage family crops for maggots or eggs and hand destroying and spraying the lot of them. And sadly I have a lot of brassicas.

This is the new bed. There was clearly a sewing error as you can see it’s a little lopsided. As I got it fairly cheap I suppose it would be bad form to complain about a minor cosmetic error so who cares.

I have quite a few plants I’m putting into this bed, including a few types of fancier lettuce, but these are some of my favorite Japanese vegetables that I picked up from the ferry building a few days ago and can’t wait to grow. Of course both are cabbage family crops so now that I know the cabbage flies are out I’m going to have to be extra vigilant. Both of these plants are quick growers, so it should be only a month from sprouting to harvest and then I can sow again. In between most of the lettuces I sowed some extra french breakfast radishes. I had sowed some radishes in front of the peas, and due to the extreme wet only about three came up.

This guy was my first to eating size. I cleaned it up and gave it to dad and he ate the whole thing leaves and all.

God bless him.

Well soon I’ll have many more, radishes are one of those plants you can tuck anywhere and they’ll mostly grow no matter what you do. Of course they are cabbage adjacent so I will once again have to be a little diligent sweeping for fly eggs.

In other not so good news, the red aphids have returned to the sun gold, and in the course of hand picking them, I made a truly bone-headed error.

This is the rose tip of my watering can, and as you can see, the inner part that has the little holes in it is missing. That’s because I set the can down to remove the aphids from the sun gold (and they only were on the sun gold which was weird) and I stepped on it. I heard a *ping* as the inner part went flying somewhere and I have no idea where it went. So while I will scour the garden in the morning hoping to find my missing part, I have a good idea I’m going to have to replace my watering can tip, possibly my watering can.

In the meantime, I have this little fellow playing back up. So what if he doesn’t hold much water, he has the right tip and he doesn’t just barf water out like a plain spout does. I could blame the aphids for this latest clumsy mistake, but I think it’s just my complete inability to see where I’m stepping.

I will of course blame the aphids anyways.

The magnificence and risk of early tomatoes

I had only two things to get beside the soil today. Seed potatoes and two extra potato bags.

I got tomatoes.

I also got a six-pack of cauliflower sets which is a much saner purchase than March tomatoes.

In my defense- they were on sale.

In not my defense it’s going to rain in a week and that’s probably not the greatest for baby tomato plants.

But back in my defense- the smaller the plant the more water they need so a week of rain might be just what they want.

Gardening is a land of contrasts.

I got a sun gold because I love a sun gold and they’re a proven winner in my garden and a San Francisco Fog tomato because my dad remembers growing them decades ago very fondly and he swears they’re delicious and grow well.

I am aware other people have opinions on San Francisco Fog tomatoes but I do not want to hear it- these tomatoes are for dad.

I put the sun gold in the large urn and mulched it well- it’s in position to get a ton of sun and as long as it’s well watered it should take.

Mr. Fog is in the big blue pot also well mulched and hopefully it takes as well.

This early is a huge gamble. But as I have room for 5-6 tomatoes this year putting a few in early is harmless and might give me early yields so why not?

Besides while I’m not sure about the longevity of Mr. Fog, sun gold tomatoes are the belle of the ball out here- they love this part of the city and perform well.

Of course if the rain next week is too hard…

I was planning on planting my seed potatoes today. I had absolutely no energy left after the new beds and the tomatoes- so that’s tomorrow.

Here’s a parting picture of copulating ladybugs.

First ladybugs of 2019 and they’re screwing.

That’s a good omen right?

Part two of new raised bed adventures

The day has arrived!

Soil has come!

Holy crap I am tired.

That is a huddle of twelve bags of soil. Boy howdy was that a trip. Never been happier my dad has a Subaru. Not sure how I’d have gotten it home otherwise. I got some… other things at the local garden center but they’re another post.

First step was lining the already cardboard lined beds with newspaper…

Second step was dirt. So much dirt. I added some worm casings in to help it absorb water- important since some of these beds will in a few weeks hold cucumbers and zucchini.

There are the other two new beds- being watched over by the plastic owl guardian.

I have so many seedlings growing so it’s nice that the space is finally here for growing.

I’ll grow more beans in the backs of two of these beds, zucchini in one, and cucumbers in another. It’s all a matter of staggering my growing so that I’ll have harvests all through summer and fall though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of these beds are empty for a few months. At least I’ve gotten it done.

I am so tired.

San Francisco perils: wind and sun

It’s been sunny and clear for several days thankfully, and it will continue to be clear for a while yet. (Fingers crossed!)

Unfortunately while it has stopped raining, it has not stopped wind-ing.

Ha ha oops. There goes the garlic chives! My fault for using that old plastic pot I guess- I had gambled that the weight of the soil would be enough but apparently it was not!

Well that’s the advantage of seed packets- I had plenty more. But I scooped the soil into a new heavy pottery pot and re-sowed.

Small- but heavy.

There’s a reason I prefer the larger terra-cotta and glazed clay pots, it’s partially an aesthetic thing of course but it’s also because the backyard can be really really windy. Weighty pots are safer.

Owl down! Owl down!

The other problem is that the clear sunny skies are drying out the soil really quick, despite the fact that a week ago it was practically flooding.

But there’s an easy solution for that- mulch!

There’s my leeks, all lovingly swaddled with redwood bark. I also mulched the romaine and the green onions in the 4×4 bed.

Now there are only a few green onions that sprouted largely because of how wet and cold it was, so I decided to put up a few more for later transplant.

If I just keep putting out more scallions in the seedling cells I’ll have plenty to transplant all over the garden.

It’s fairly easy to tuck scallions wherever you have space for them, they’re super skinny and you don’t even need to thin them as long as you space them right. Dad eats a lot of green onions so I’d really like to grow a ton of them. So I guess every week or so I’ll put 12 more seeds out. Accounting for a few dud seeds I should have plenty in the ground by late April.

Now it’s just a matter of waiting til Friday- soil day!

I’m so excited!

Seedling rescue

Well I messed up. The leggy seedlings definitely needed to be outside, but they certainly didn’t need to be in the way too hot greenhouse.

Those are some damaged seedlings. Problem is- it’s actually kinda warm out now. Warm and sunny. So in the greenhouse bench it wasn’t warm- it was hot! Luckily the raised temps and sunny weather means the greenhouse is unnecessary so I took the plastic off of it.

Then it was just a matter of repotting the survivors.

I managed to save three zucchini, one Boston pickle cucumber plant, two romanesco and two sunflowers.

And there is absolutely no guarantee any of them will survive their early transplant.

But they look ok, and by being in the sun but not in the greenhouse they should toughen up.

I took the opportunity to move the indoor seedlings outside- and to plant some more.

Another 6-pack of romanesco and sunflower, along with a 6-pack of the telegraph improved cucumbers and Swiss chard because you can never have enough of them.

So my greenhouse bench is now just a bench. It might sprinkle tomorrow which might mean I have to take the trays indoors or move them to the table, but it should be clear for at least a week and a half.

Of course I gave up trusting San Francisco weather forecasts a long time ago, so I’ll just have to be on top of things.

I am slightly concerned about wind knocking things over- so I put a bunch of rocks inside the drip trays to try and weigh things down. That also could fail. We’ll see.

At least hopefully I saved a few of them.