The best laid plans of mice and Neanderthals often go awry 2019

Or “Neanderthal proposes, God disposes”

Or “🎶It’s raining, it’s pouring, the Neanderthal is swearing🎶”

Here’s a video of my nice clear day for planting.

Oh goody- the forecast was wrong.

Well at least I can clear the beds for planting next week.

Nope. See, we’ve had so many damn blown down rotten apples to put in the compost bin…

That there’s no room for the stuff I have to pull out to make room for the vegetables I have to plant, that I can’t plant today anyways.

I… have so much to do and I’m not really able to do any of it.

So after an endless psychic scream, I proceeded to do what I could. It was raining, but not a downpour. So I picked up the soil underneath the potting table and put it in a box that will keep it dry- put a half pallet under the table for my remedies and bucket, and cleared the table for a much needed cleaning.

That’s a really dirty table! Time to get to work under the eyes of my sausageman sign that I will never ever get rid of.

A little elbow grease later everything is all set up for work. I can’t clear the beds for the veggies- but I can pot the herbs under the protection of the house overhang that shelters the table.

It was time to get to business.

My first victims were the flat leaf and curly leaf parsley that I had bought almost a month ago. Mr. Flat leaf looked amazing- Mr. curly looked a little nitrogen deprived.

A side note on curly leaf parsley. I love all parsley but I find curly leaf parsley makes very nice chimichurri. Something about the texture of the leaves perhaps? So I found the text on the label for the curly leaved parsley hilarious. Known for garnishing deviled eggs and an ingredient in tabbouleh? I mean the tabbouleh makes sense but they couldn’t think of another parsley centered dish then “a garnish for deviled eggs”? I mean I make deviled eggs but I’ve never garnished them with parsley! You dust them with paprika duh.

I make some great damn chimichurri though.

Point is I like parsley, and it’s more then a garnish! Get it together plant nursery!

I like it so much I tried growing it from seed in a pot and that was not a success.

It has a really low germination rate even in perfect conditions, so it’s the perfect herb to buy as a plant, since seed sowing is always gonna drive you crazy.

It can be a heavy nitrogen feeder too especially in wet conditions that wash out the soil nutrients. The parsley in my ridiculous herb bed also needs some fertilizer- and a trim.

That bed is a mess, but its not all doom, gloom and crispy thyme in that bed, the native coyote mint (which isn’t even an edible) is doing great! As is the *real* mushroom growing underneath my octopus behind my fake mushroom.

Which is depressing and hilarious in equal measure. San Francisco, fungal nightmare.

ANYWAYS, back in herb land I put the flat leaf type into a larger pot, as it’s label called it parsley “gigante” and I’m not taking any chances. I also said screw it to any sort of fooling around and straight up sprinkled some loam builder into the potting soil. I did that for all my herbs today and I regret nothing. Yeah I know that stuff’s 50% chicken manure. I. don’t. care. The rain’s gonna wash out half the nutrients anyways and this way I don’t have to maxsea as much.

I was going to rip out my dead garlic chives (sob) and put the curly leaf into the pot I painted but there were a few problems.

Firstly I used acrylic paint to paint the damn thing and it was a peeling mess. Second I realized my boss was right about pots with lips- it’s all but impossible to take out a plant to re-pot it- or junk it, because the lip in the pot hold onto the root ball. I had to take a trowel to the root ball in the rain by the compost and… I’m gonna put this one under the greenhouse bench and just make it a problem for another day. I have plenty of cast off pots from things like gallon veggies that will make fine herb pots. I took one for the curly leaf that was once a tomato pot and got on with it.

I’m not really sure if I have viable tarragon or not. I keep clipping the green bits for eggs but the root stems look rough. In drier weather I’m gonna take a hard look at the survivability of both plants, but for now they go on the ground to make room for the other pots.

Onto the mitsuba. I wanted to use a pot that had an attached saucer as that retains more moisture. Not a problem in this weather currently but we will have dry spells- our weather is inherently unpredictable, so I found one of my indoor pots that last housed a satin pothos. Don’t worry, she’s fine, she just needed to go into a narrower pot so she got taken out of the big boy here.

Side note, I know these biodegradable pots are in now, and lord knows I like sustainability but sometimes the roots get so robust you have to crack the pots open and I always ALWAYS cut myself on them. C’mon there has to be a way to make a biodegradable pot that’s not a hazard to ham hands. I am choosing to look on the bright side- the plant is none the worse for wear for having been in a little pot for three weeks, very nice root development.

I just have to mutter “there’s a bright side” to myself enough and maybe I’ll believe it.

Now onto the chervil train. I got three plants when I got them, on account of the fact that chervil is sensitive in the best of conditions and I love it with all my heart. These pots are also former houseplant homes, but sadly housed houseplants that are no longer with us because I re-potted them too soon and you really shouldn’t do that.

RIP Felix and Tina the first. You will be missed.

There were a few problems with my plan however.

And here we have a literal round hole square peg situation. I probably could have shoved it in, but I also have a thousand other random pots I can grab instead.

I had hoped to put two in the one rectangle, but they fit so snugly I wouldn’t have been able to get the soil into the sides without potentially damaging the leaves- chervil is a delicate baby.

This of course was a little bit of a shanda as I’d already put sure start in and I didn’t want to waste it.

A dilemma indeed.

Well. I did have one more herb, that like chervil is a member of the fines herbs…

That’s a modern looking herb pot. Thanks, I hate it! At this point it was getting to late afternoon, which this time of year meant very close to sunset. I had to hurry.

I shoved my three chervil into three random pots under the “eh it’ll be fine” principle, and surveyed the mess I’d made.

Ah yes. The natural state of the potting table. Complete chaos.

But hey! The herb tables look great! Despite the inherent wrongness of the rectangle of chives just… rectangle-ing all over the place- it’s a viable herb area that’s easily picked for all my breakfast, lunch and dinner needs.

And on the floor the losers and potential future winners. I’m gonna pick out the viable stems from the mint messes for new plants, and I do have to see about the troubled tarragon- but the last batch of chives is a goner. I have new chives now… in a rectangle… man that pot bothers me on an existential level.

But no matter. The potting table is clean once more!

But I have Bok choy, broccolini, napa cabbage, kohlrabi and leeks to plant… in beds that I cannot clear, and in weather I cannot plant in. I also have old plants in pots to pull for next month and mint plants to take runners from and…

Hey. It’s better then a drought!


So much work to do before the rains return

Well as mentioned the deluge means the squash vines are toast. Also as mentioned, this is a semi good thing as it means the 4×4 bed that is newly amended is ready for planting.

Also in good news bad news, the chayote is toast (may post a postmortem on that one) as are the tomatoes in that bed- though that isn’t bad news so much as expected news- its December after all.

And on top of that- it’s raining some more tomorrow which means I have one day to do two days worth of work.

Lets get cracking.

This would be a half flat worth of brassicas- plus some chives.

And this would be the last half flat full of herbs and leeks.

Here they are together- ready for action.

Today’s gonna be fun!

‘Tis the season- for acidic mulch!

It’s wall to wall trees at work. I’m not a huge fan of dead plants unless I’m eating them, but the proliferation of pines (actually firs) means tree trimmings!

Here’s a bundle I took home on the bus, confounding and amazing my fellow travelers. Also maybe making the train smell better then it usually does because hoo boy Muni.

But why did I bring home all these pine pieces? (actually firs)

Because now that the comfrey has died back my blackberries are naked!

Pine needles (again, can’t stress this enough, actually fir needles,) are a great acidic mulch for the garden, good for your berries and other acid loving plants like azaleas and camellias.

(Hmmm need some more trimmings for my tea plant).

I could have chopped them up, but that would have meant fiddling with clippers in the rain so I decided to go lo-fi and just give the roots of my vines a nice blanket.

Of course now Ms. blueberry is jealous and also in need of a good soil acidifier so I will have to pick up some more pine trimmings from work.

Fir trimmings.

Eh conifers are all the same to me.

My new bucket.

Well I finally cracked and did it.

I bought a 5 gallon bucket.

Because really, who doesn’t need a bucket?

I had a bucket- but I tried to do bucket compost in it and then forgot about it for 5 years and when I opened it…

So I have a new bucket.

Why do I have a new bucket?

Beneficial nematodes baby! Gonna treat my Brassica beds with the good good stuff that kills nasty awful no good cabbage fly maggots!

Look. I have no pictures of it because my instinct was “kill it with fire” but I had what can only be described as the worst experience with my last big Joi Choi. I knew from my many times growing turnips that cabbage fly maggots like to eat the roots of brassicas- which is why I don’t plant root brassicas anymore. (Which is sad as I love turnips and radishes) Now cabbage flies can affect not just root brassicas, but all brassicas by nibbling at the roots and killing the seedlings. But as long as you time it right and you take care of your seedlings the plants will be healthy enough to withstand the onslaught.

Integrated pest management! It’s not about killing all the pests- it’s about managing them.

I thought I was safe. After all they die back in autumn, there will only be a few…

But then I picked my last beautiful Joi Choi- brought it upstairs, and when I cut into the stem- a maggot popped its little head out. It traveled up the stem! All the stems had maggots in them!


Nematode time!

There are some pretty detailed instructions- but my lack of a bucket was a challenge so I picked one up.

I did this right at dusk which is the right time apparently, though that wasn’t a sign of any pre-planning (pre-planning? What’s that?) on my part, it just happened to be when I was free.

Gross! And blurry!

You dump the contents of a container that’s within the main container into some water and then wait a bit for all the microscopic nematodes to get dissolved in the drink. What floats to the top is carrier.

You’re then supposed to water the beds with it. My problem was getting the carrier bits off the top. I do not have a mesh strainer that I was willing to dirty with nematodes. Also I was concerned about getting the bucket water into the watering can and not the ground.

Old pitcher and old Giants branded cardboard cups? Check.

Everything in this garden is Gerry-rigged and I’m ok with that.

After I skimmed off the carrier and filled the watering can with nematode water, I just… watered all the beds with brassicas!

I also watered my cut back squash vine because if it does fail that bed will most likely host brassicas of some type.

I could not take any pictures of this in the moment as it was no longer dusk- it was night.

Night-time gardening. It’s the Neanderthal way.

Here’s the view from the next morning.

While you skim off the carrier you also use it as it most likely still contains nematodes and you want to get your money’s worth.

So I just sprinkled it where needed.

The north beds should now be protected!

As should the West beds!

And my favorite- Mr. Tree collard.

All in all this wasn’t too difficult, doesn’t pollute the water table, won’t poison me or wildlife, and wasn’t stinky.

So 10/10 would nematode again!

This type of nematodes is really good at combating lawn grubs- that’s the really gross looking thing on the container. I don’t have a lawn, but nematodes eat a lot of things.

So here’s to integrated pest management.

And my new bucket.

It’s a nice bucket.

The Japanese vegetable bed is in!

Well, the “yet more Asian greens bed”. Besides the black summer Bok Choy, a vegetable that is eaten all over Asia, and today the world- I’ve planted two vegetables that are fairly particular to Japan, Komatsuna and Shungiku.

Komatsuna is of course a brassica- but Shungiku isn’t. More on that later.

Before I planted, but after I ripped out the spent sunflowers and tomato plants, I had a choice to make. This is an old Yerba Buena plant which despite inclement conditions in this bed- is still trucking along.

Yerba Buena likes lots of water and shade and in this bed it got neither. It’s still pretty good though- so I tucked it’s stems to the side and got to work clearing the weeds.

I had scattered some California poppy seeds around to add some color to the bed, but they never flowered. I didn’t pull them until now because I like the look of poppy foliage. What I don’t like about poppies is their damn taproots. It’s one of the reasons they’re such a successful flower/weed in drought prone California, a taproot is a much more water efficient root then surface roots. It does make clearing them from a bed a little difficult.

Once the bed was clear of old mulch and old poppies- it was time to amend it. A bag of compost should do the trick, but Komatsuna likes it’s nitrogen so I also mixed in a few good handfuls of biofish.

I anticipate this being a bed that will suck up a lot of maxsea, but I’m ok with that.

Of course before you plant anything you need to have a good idea of where everything is going to go.

Bok Choy needs some space in order for it to get full size, but how much space it needs really depends on the variety. Black summer is sort of a medium density and taller Bok Choy so you can go a little closer then you would with another type- or with an actual cabbage.

Komatsuna on the other hand is a more vertical grower- it’s often referred to as Japanese spinach. It’s not a spinach of course, it’s a Brassica rapa just like Bok Choy. But because of its more spinach like growing habit, it can be jammed closer together.

As for Shungiku- I actually don’t know! Shungiku is actually a type of edible chrysanthemum green and as I’ve never grown mums or any type of chrysanthemum flower… I’m just going to wing it.

“I’m just going to wing it” is probably my mother’s least favorite phrase to come out of my mouth, but in the vegetable garden at least winging it can work out fine.

Less so with childhood baking experiments sorry mom.

So everything was well placed and well watered- and then it was time to mulch.

My favorite time.

Not only did I mulch, as you can see I re-spread out my survivor of a Yerba Buena plant.

It hasn’t given up on me, so I’m not giving up on it.

As this bed is rather brassica heavy, there’s one more step to be done, but that’s another post.

Coming soon to a garden near you: beneficial nematodes!

Because fuck cabbage moths that’s why!

Powdery mildew, the bane of San Francisco or; how to save a squash vine maybe

Powdery mildew is a type of fungus that looks like flour dusted on a plant. It’s not harmful to people- just plants.

But it’s pretty harmful to plants.

Look, not to make a pun, but there are fungus among-us. They live in the soil, in the air, on our feet, and largely they’re harmless. Until they aren’t.

Our foggy weather and the general susceptibility of cucurbits mean this is inevitable.


As you can see, I’ve been letting this get out of hand. Honestly, it’s late in the season for squash I should probably just pull the plant.

But there are new flowers and baby squash on the vines…

So lets get to work!

I cut away all the awful mildewed leaves and yes- it’s time to say goodbye to the corn.

It never grew fully- the wind knocked it over- and I put it in too late. But this variety looks like it was doing ok regardless- so next year I’ll put it in on time and we’ll see how it does.

So the bed was cleared and the vines were trimmed. As you can see there is still a lot of healthy plant left.

Not loving some of those vines though.

Welp. Time for fungicides!

I dusted sulfur on the exposed vines and sprayed copper on the leaves.

These are considered “organic” which is ridiculous as neither solution contains carbon but whatever.

The point is they aren’t going to poison your waterways. The copper spray most certainly can poison you- just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it can’t kill you so let’s not breath this stuff in ok?

My next step was to enrich the bed and it just so happens I had some steer manure on hand.

When life gives you cow poop- make… the lemonade of healthier squash plants?

Sorry that got away from me.

At that point the bed just needed a top up of new soil and some fresh mulch.

Mmmm. Mulch.

So this was a lot of work! To try and save a zucchini vine- in freaking November. I’m crazy right?

Well here’s my logic. If this fails, oh no I have a heavily enriched 4×4 bed with nothing in it. I’ll just plant other stuff!

But if it succeeds I just got an extra month of summer squash.

Come on baby, you can do it!

Of course the complication is- it rained yesterday.

Which means… winter is coming.

And more powdery mildew.