Surprise! It’s carrots!

My carrot bed still needs a month of growing, although the leafy tops are really spectacular to see; the roots are what we want.

That being said, I decided to see about taking some of the sneaky weeds that are growing with the carrots, (oxalis! *shakes fist at sky*) and I thought I’d thin slightly to give everything the best chance to grow.

Well.

That is a beautiful Kuroda carrot! I looked around the bed and found a few more that were likely eating candidates- gotta eat your thinnings!

I personally like Mr. fancy roots. Him along with the white and purple fellows were part of the “carnival blend” I planted for funsies.

I scrubbed them up- and ate them raw!

I have to say- if there is a verdict, the Kuroda carrots win. They grow so straight and are so tasty- they’re a winner both in the “ease to grow” category, and in the “tastes real nice” category. In the garden sometimes you have to choose between those- in the case of the Kuroda carrots you don’t.

I can’t stress this enough, if you have any small strip of land or a bed or even a pot that is deep enough, you too can grow carrots. From seed is easier than you think, and the taste of a home grown carrot is phenomenal.

You do have to be on top of weeds. Damn oxalis!

More winter work

Wasn’t planning on doing anything today garden-wise, but we’ve had a break in the rain. It’ll be scattered showers the next few weeks, but today was clear and cold.

In bizarre news there was snow in the Bay Area last night and today Mt. Tam and Mt. Diablo got coated in the white stuff- and even more bizarre there were reports of light snow on twin peaks. You know- in San Francisco!

Ha ha ha holy crap.

No snow in my neck of the woods… yet.

Maybe is a good thing I refrained from putting in some early green beans.

So, the new pots are in their new home!

I have to weed around everything, but I think I’ll drag out the weed whacker for around the pots instead of moving everything for the mower.

In more organizational news I finally tackled the ugly pile of gloves and got rid of the old and torn work gloves, and put my new work gloves on top (thanks for the new gloves mom!)

In order to make sure I don’t throw out two lefts like last time…

Yeah. I’m labeling everything. Everything.

My last labeling failure was the mystery mole pepper, which was labeled without a proper weather-proof marker so it faded.

But my research has panned out!

The mystery mole pepper is in fact a “Chilhuacle Negro”.

I still have to do more digging on the proper care of this guy, but the good news is that the green peppers turning brown is normal for this variety.

The size probably isn’t, so since I already pruned him down a bit, I’m thinking I’m gonna have to cut the last sucker stems and pick the undersize peppers so that in a few months he can put out flowers again.

I’m proud of my resilient pepper, but I have to do more research on how to care for him.

I had some bench moving to do as well.

The bench which has so far survived wood chipper-ing is now living here-

Because it’s former spot will soon become another bed. Lugging the mower up there should be fun for sure, but that’s a problem for tomorrow’s Neanderthal.

Finally, I planted the oregano.

The hardest bit of this was ripping out the old one which had gotten really shabby and shrubby and woody and took gloves and tools for me to finally rip from the soil. But the new guy looks at home with new mulch and a zesty smell.

Tomorrow the new beds come in, we’ll see if I have the energy to set them up tomorrow or if tomorrow is just mowing day.

Nobody can say I’m not getting my exercise!

Slow month in the garden doesn’t mean doing nothing…

The weather is wonderfully dreary. Personally my favorite, grey skies and gloom reveal my inner Addams. *snap snap*

Does mean it’s slow going in the garden however. But it means it’s the perfect time to pick up some supplies for the spring.

Specifically pots!

A very wonderful family friend has been giving me gift cards to my local garden center all last year, and I cashed them in on three new tomato pots!

Nice and deep- heavy, should drain well… gift cards well spent!

I mean, it’s gonna be a few months before any pot sees a tomato, but it’s good to get your proverbial ducks in a row. Stuff gonna get real busy come April, so I’m getting my beds and pots and seeds now.

I also got a new Oregano.

The old oregano looks terrible so it’s time for it to be replaced. This is one of the garden herbs I tend to use a lot of, so I always have to be on top of the plant. I’m not putting it in until tomorrow however, when it’s a little drier.

In other news I picked some of the weird stemmy Bok Choy for dinner tonight.

Weird looking- but yummy.

It’s still soaking in some water, like all greens it needs a good wash. Definitely lost a few leaves to the bugs, but the weird stalks are perfectly edible, I just cut them into chunks and halved them lengthwise so they would cook better. I’m still on the fence between just sautéing them as usual or maybe trying to make a Cole slaw.

Maybe I’ll save the slaw idea for one of the Joi Choi’s. But it’s nice to know as weird as these Rosy Choi’s look, they’re tasty!

Captain’s log: February 1st 2019

Man it’s just been a week of nothing. Between the rain and just waiting for things to sprout I’ve been left twiddling my thumbs.

But despite that it’s been an exciting Friday.

First things first- the weird purple Rosy Bok Choy is… being a weirdo.

It’s growing a stalk and flowers. All edible of course- that’s the glory of the Brassica family of vegetables, after all Broccoli and Cauliflower are just edible flowers. It’s still really weird though! You can see in front of the Bok Choy my baby romaine lettuces are growing nice.

The leeks in a pot and green onions (the ones that came up anyways) are growing well. Even more excitingly…

Baby potatoes have begun to sprout! Only one bag so far- but we’re getting so much rain the other one will sprout soon, potatoes are a long project, I probably won’t get a single spud til at least August.

The turnips are doing great, though I noticed some yellow old leaves. I think the constant rain is washing some nutrients into the ground water, so what I did do today was give everything a very light fertilize.

The turnips are super pretty though. A few days ago I put a few more turnip seeds in the gaps, for maximum turnip. The peas never sprouted behind them. Which is ok at this point, since as soon as we have a warm spell I’m putting in the first of my pole beans.

But we had a visitor in the night!

That’s some cat prints in my arugula pot. Since there was no cat poop in the arugula pot- I don’t care if a local kitty decided to patrol. Keeps the rodents down. But there were more exciting activities in this pot:

Itty bitty baby arugula sprouts! The sassy salad mix in the pot next door has also sprouted which is grand. Weirdly the two Swiss chard pots have not sprouted yet.

Eh whenever they sprout they sprout.

I’ve got a lot of weeding ahead of me. Both mowing and hand pulling. Nothing for it!

I also have some work up here.

I’ve ordered two new 8×2 beds, for up here and over here.

Both areas need to be mowed, and the bench has to be moved. I have other work too- but this is the most pressing. All in all I have work to do.

But hey- the dill is growing spectacularly! And that’s worth enduring a deluge.

Bok Choy, Pac Choi, Brassica rapa, it’s all Latin to me.

Or in the case of the first two names, Cantonese.

It’s my 100th post! So since I harvested my first Bok Choy of the year, I thought I’d do a deep dive into one of my favorite cabbages!

Bok Choy, also know as Pac Choi, which is how my garden center spells it- is a member of the cabbage family of plants. Specifically, Bok Choy is Brassica rapa. Now the really really cool thing about cabbages is that we’ve been breeding them for so long that even members of the same species of cabbage can have wildly different forms based on the specific cultivar or variety.

Bok Choy, is one of two cabbages sometimes referred to as “Chinese Cabbage” the other of course being napa cabbage. Both are members of the same species, but if you’ve ever put a napa cabbage and a bok choy together, you’ve probably noticed they look quite different.

Here’s where it gets crazier. The “rapa” in the scientific name is Latin for turnip.

That’s right! The turnip is also Brassica rapa! in other words, the Bok Choy I’m growing in one part of my garden, and the turnips I’m growing in another, are the same species of plant!

Bok Choy and Pac Choi are just different ways of transliterating the Cantonese word for the plant into English, traditionally the first is American English while the second is British English. Which raises a few questions as to why a plant nursery in California is using the British transliteration? Who knows.

Even varieties within a specific cultivar can look and grow quite different. This is the Rosy cultivar I’ve been growing along with the green and white type, which is called “Joi Choi”. The Joi Choi is growing really well and big, while the purple type is… growing. As you can see in the picture, the interior is flowering, which makes no sense- that’s usually something that gets triggered by heat, and it’s January. Now the flowering part is most likely totally edible, that’s what Cauliflower and Broccoli are after all, a cabbage that was bred for it’s edible flowers. (That however is Brassica oleracea, the species that includes cabbages proper, kale, Brussels sprouts and the aforementioned cauliflower and broccoli). So even if it is growing weirdly- I’ll still eat it.

I’m hoping that as I harvest the Joi Choi, the added space will cause the Rosy cultivar to grow a bit better. Or it might not, and I’ll just harvest all the purple ones all together for baby bok choy. Either way, I win. Such is the way of cabbages.

Bok Choy is like a lot of cabbage species and cultivars in that it needs a good wash. It’s not as bad as something like a leek, or god forbid, artichokes- which will never grace my garden kill them with fire they are bug hotels. But you still need to cut off the root end and give everything a good rinse. Depending on how you’re cooking them (or if you plan to eat them raw) you might not even use a salad spinner or towels to dry them off. I don’t.

General cooking advice is to cook them like chard or kale, separate the leaves from the stems, cut both up, saute the stems first in a little oil and salt, and once those are starting to soften, throw in the leaves and finish it up with a good grind of pepper. Bok Choy are also good in stir fry, just add the stems first and the leaves at the end along side whatever other veggies and proteins are in your fry.

This bad boy was actually destined for some braised steaks, added into the braising liquid along with some carrots and onions, steaks nestled inside, and slow cooked in the oven for two hours. It was delicious.

Now I use starts to save time, but much as growing turnips from seed is super easy peasy, so is growing bok choy. Brassica rapa is just one of the easier vegetables to grow, and I’ve done it year round. They might not love the hottest of summers, but as long as you grow them in the shade they should be fine. Similarly, while there is not a real danger of frost out here, in places where it does snow, you can grow Bok Choy easily in cold frames. Like most cabbages, they’re resilient and easy to grow, a testament to the fact that they are the modern descendants of one of the first vegetable species domesticated by humans.

One caveat. Like all cabbages they will attract some bugs. One of the reasons I prefer raised beds and growing my cabbages in the colder months is because of a nasty but pretty little white moth called a cabbage moth or cabbage butterfly. Two species of this winged foe exist, Pieris brassicae and Pieris rapae. The fact that their species name translates into cabbage and turnip respectively should tell you everything about their preferred food. But they’re not the only ones. The last time I grew turnips in the ground instead of in a raised bed, I lost 90 percent of my crop to an unknown grub, that I only discovered while cutting into my turnips. (EW.) But the various grubs and the cabbage moths are much more active in the summer. What is active this time of year is slugs and snails, especially after all this rain. That’s most likely the culprit behind the few scattered holes on the bok choy. I put down the slug bait, but honestly? A few holes in your cabbages won’t spoil your dinner. (Grubs in your turnips on the other hand…)

So give growing Bok Choy (or Pac Choi) a try! It’s easier than you think, and the rewards are delicious.

I can’t believe I’ve managed to crank out 100 posts in less than a year. I still feel slightly like I’m shouting into the void, but it’s a nice hobby, and I hope I’m brightening someone’s day. Thanks to everyone who reads this- here’s to my garden, and yours!

Not so idle Tuesday

I don’t know what’s giving me so much energy but it’s a shame to waste it.

Now that the rains are done for a while- it was time to mow!

I’ll still have to hand pull the weeds in the corners and such, but the push mower is more than good enough for most of the work.

Moving all the pots to one side to mow under them was a lot of work, but weeds and grass can be bug reservoirs so it’s important to keep everything trim.

They can also be vole reservoirs, especially if everything’s so overgrown the mice and other little backyard friends can run wild.

I even moved the greenhouse to mow underneath it- but that wasn’t too difficult.

Then I turned my attention to the barbecue pot.

That’s what this style of pottery glaze is called. I can dig it.

It’s eventual fate is to house a tomato plant- but it’s gonna be while before I can put one in. Conversely- I can’t plant anything with too long of a time to harvest, because come April it’s tomato time.

The solution is always greens.

In this case the Rocket Salad arugula. I love arugula and I’ll have to pull out some of the back arugula for green beans come March, so why not more!

I had a brief thought for some micro greens.

If I let them get huge, would they be macro micro greens?

A possibility (and philosophical question) for another time.

Ah the happiest of sights (and smells) fresh dirt!

As you can see there needs to be some hand pulling of weeds- but that’s another day’s work- I’m pooped!

Captain’s log: January 21st 2019

Got a fair amount of work done today in the sparkling sun. It’s always nice after the rain passes to just take stock of all the new growth. Or lack of growth in the case of the snow peas.

Of course it’s not all fun and games.

Yeah the tomato has grown it’s last.

Its time to pull it. Which was fun considering my lack of proper gloves. I managed to find a pair that fit me in the glove pile, but they were almost more like thin winter gloves than work gloves.

Whatever, they fit (mostly) and they worked (mostly).

Goodbye tomato plant, you will be missed!

I really need to buy a new pair of work gloves.

Onto the next project!

The weeds in the front yard were really satisfying, they all came out in one pull. There was a lot of trash underneath which was less than great- and the underlying succulents were well watered but not super healthy.

Except for this beautiful echeveria. I’m really proud of this little guy, I found it in the wreckage of the last front yard patch, the remains of a plant I put in over 5 years ago. When I discovered it, this time last year or so- it was a thick stem with one tiny centimeter diameter echeveria sticking out. I replanted it and put some cactus fertilizer and soil down, and it rewarded me by getting huge!

I’m definitely adding one more big guy to the edge to discourage littering and dog activity, but mom has vetoed my idea of a gigantic cactus.

Something about it not being “neighborly”.

Thanks mom for being all… sensible!

Pfft.

Has to prune the mystery mole pepper, the sucker stems were really taking too much out of the plant.

I should have done this months ago- but better late than never.

Pruned and re-tied the plant is a lot more handsome.

Interestingly the few baby peppers that were on the stalks I cut were not healthy, so it’s a good thing I pruned it now so the remaining peppers can grow. It’ll also mean than once the weather gets warmer more flowers will set, the plant will get taller, and hopefully I’ll get my mole peppers to eat!

The local sheriffs were in town to inspect my newly pruned pepper. That’s a good sign!

But what about the newly empty tomato pot?

I can’t plant anything that’ll take too much time to grow- new tomatoes go in late March/early April…

Sassy salad mix to the rescue!

I mean any salad mix will do. But I like this one.

There’s my pot of sexy dirt!

I might have to put some soil in my barbecue patterned pot and plant another batch of sassy salad, or maybe another area of arugula.

Speaking of arugula…

Picked some for dinner tonight!

There’s still a ton left in the ground, but maybe putting some more in a pot is a good idea, because as soon as the ground gets warm I need the back part of that patch for green beans.

It was a good day’s work!

Next job- MOWING!

Kill me now