Captain’s log: July 12th 2019

I went out this morning before work, expecting to have to water a few things.

Mother nature seems to have done that for me in the night. In July.

God I love San Francisco weather. Even when it screws me. I’ve got powdery mildew on nearly everything, and lord only knows what this will do to my tomatoes but hey, I got some nice pictures of water on my plants.

Here’s some raindrops on my corn. The corn is growing well, and corn can always use more water so I’m not very concerned at all.

My tree collard has rebounded, perhaps wrapping the roots in tin foil wasn’t so stupid, as it shows no sign of maggot infestation. It also looks pretty drenched.

It seems my succulent pot is hosting a spider convention, judging from the dewy spiderwebs. Oh well, they live in the back too.

The dill is growing well, and can use the water. So far this dill plant has been fairly successful, so my bad streak of failed dill plants has finally ended.

The sage has been a bit curious. That whole bed has been curious, as one of the newer Greek oregano’s beefed it, the blue basil in the bed isn’t doing as well as the one in the pot, and the sage is sprouting a ton of new growth from underneath, while having yellowing leaves up top.

The rain on top looks like snow, and well, maybe some extra water will be good for the bed.

It was time to water the potted tomatoes anyways so I’ll just hit them with some fertilizer tomorrow and call it a day. Too much water on the plant is only going to encourage the aphids, but if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.

Cucumber’s are thirsty thirsty plants so while the dreaded powdery mildew might strike the leaves, the cucumbers themselves are probably thrilled. I see you little Boston pickle, you’ll get picked soon, wait your turn!

California poppies are the honey badger of flowers. They don’t give a fuck. Too much water? Fine. Not enough water? Fine. No worries here.

Alas the pea plant is a bit of a mess. The really wet fog, to say nothing of the rain, has impacted not only the leaves but the pods, with the latest harvest being covered in powdery mildew. I had to scrub it off the pods, and soak them in a slight vinegar solution before I rinsed and stored them. Still edible! But very ugly. Nothing I can do though, except take a very pretty picture of a wet pea flower.

AH San Francisco- never change.

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.

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.

Cauliflower woes

I had to pull another cauliflower today- and yeah, maggots on the roots. The plant came up really quickly too- like it was barely alive.

And that’s not even the only bug on the plants.

Ah good old cabbage moth. Or cabbage moth caterpillar anyways. They’re hard to see most of the time- this was the first one I managed to kill this year.

It gets worse.

In the folds of the leaves were an absolute mountain of aphids. I smushed what I could- and I’ll spray some horticultural oil in the morning.

Honestly after pulling the weakest one, I thought I’d just pull them all, and just chalk it up, maybe sow some spaghetti squash.

Only… the largest cauliflowers weren’t so weak rooted. A light tug was all it took to uproot the dying ones, but the big boys are firmly rooted.

I’m not stupid, I know there has to be maggots on these roots too- but maybe the neem oil pours I did last week worked in reducing their numbers? One or two maggots don’t hurt the plant- a zillion do. I just pulled a few of the Bok Choy for tonight’s supper and there was one maggot between them. So they’re around but not causing too many problems, except what they did to my turnips and what they’re doing to my cauliflowers.

I’m hoping with all the other cabbage family crops in the garden that this is the worst of it.

But they remaining cauliflowers do look good- if buggy.

Now the problem is… it’s going to rain again. Which might bring out more flies and more maggots.

Ah San Francisco. Growing things here is so tricky sometimes.

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…

April planting part 2

It’s almost all in. I say almost because despite the fact that rain wasn’t forecast until tomorrow… it started today. So I got most of my plants in anyways.

The blackberry will have to wait until the rain stops- but at least the tomatoes and the mess of zucchini are in.

The zucchini was an adventure however.

For one thing the root ball was very stuck in.

Yeah, not gonna be able to separate that.

On top of that, the other problem is this bed that has the best room for the squash ball is fairly shallow. I tried to separate the roots so I could have a few plants in different areas- but that dog wouldn’t hunt. Faced with lots of roots… I improvised.

I took a bag of potting soil and mounded it up into a hill. Then I dug as deep a hole I could and put the sure start inside. And then I planted my squash ball and hoped for the best.

I still have to mulch the hill, but as mentioned, we’ve had a rain delay.

Mount squash. It’s gonna be real interesting to see how good a neighbor the zucchini monster is going to be to the romaine lettuce and the green onions. Not so worried about the scallions mind, as long as they have some vertical room they’ll grow. Hope the romaine don’t get squashed.

Heh. Squashed by squash.

I might have to find some sort of trellis system- but I have to do more research.

The tomatoes were much more straight forward.

The Roma mega pot went into the big green pot. Similar to the squash pot it’s three plants in one big root ball, which is also semi-crazy but the plants are super healthy and Roma tomatoes are like the gold standard paste types so I’m affectionately referring to the red pot as the sauce pot from now on.

I put all the soil around the pot while the pot was still on the plants, then removed the mega pot and put down my sure start and planted the big boy.

I mulched it and put some extra stakes in.

I’m gonna string some soft ties around the stakes to support the stalks. it’s a Gerry-rig but I’m known for that!

As for my other tomatoes, it was much easier.

I bought a sweet 100- your bog standard red cherry variety, and a funky heirloom called “black krim’. I chose the black krim because it’s a globe but not a beefsteak and it was developed in Russia. I.e., if we have a cool summer it should still produce since it was bred to perform in an even colder climate than ours.

Also the fruits look SUPER COOL. Like red with black streaks. I’ve also totally bought these at farmer’s markets before, and they are super delish.

I pulled the sassy salad from the green pot- it was going to seed anyways because of the increasing sunshine- and some sure start later- the black krim was in.

It’s a pretty runty plant so far- I have to figure out how I’m going to cage it- but it looks healthy.

The sweet 100 went into my new extra large terra-cotta pot, along with granular fertilizer, sure start and lots of potting soil. I think the old tomato cages will do for this one- on Wednesday when the rain breaks I’ll assess my options.

I’ve got my eye on you miss blackberry- and while I’m probably going to have to buy you a friend in a week- you’re getting planted soon enough- wait your turn!

God I’m so excited about putting in a blackberry.

Stupid rain delays!