Herbal indulgences

Now get your minds out of the gutter I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about basil though.

Everyone knows my favorite basil is the incomparable African blue bush basil.

Both of my bush basils are growing great. So great I think I’m going to try and root cuttings from them.

But African blue bush basil has a more camphor flavor then the Genovese basil and that’s not to everyone’s taste. I like it- but sometimes you just want a more classic basil flavor.

Problem is, green basils just do not grow well in San Francisco.

Well… there’s this one.

This is Greek basil. It smells and tastes (to me at least) just about the same as the Italian stuff, but it’s a hell of a lot heartier than the really picky Italian basil.

So I put the basil in front of the tomatoes in the color bed.

Got to love a mixed bed!

In other herb news all the oregano I put in a bit back has done alright- except for the Greek oregano which beefed it.

So I replaced that.

Now I forget which nursery the first Greek oregano came from, but it was not my favorite. This one came from sweetwater and I think their herbs are pretty high quality.

The borage is just going hog wild, doubled in size already and flowering everyday. And look at all those buds! I keep getting the pink variation too which is nice to look at.

The other herb (well kind of an herb more like a small tree…) that is doing well is my lemon verbena.

It likes it’s home in a pot and stinks real pretty. I’m not even sure I’ll ever use this- though I’m pretty sure you can. I just like the idea of a small herb tree in a pot. Hopefully in a few months it will be a medium herb tree in a pot!

Herbs are nice.

Captain’s log: June 3rd 2019

I had a very busy day today and only a few scant morning hours to work in the garden. But I got a lot done.

I didn’t have to do much in the way of watering, as one can see from the rain water on my Tokyo market turnips.

It rained in the night which is… really stressing my tomatoes.

What I did today was rip out most of the plants that had gone to seed, and fertilize.

And weed. So. Much. Weeding.

The pea plants are completely taking over the fence- and they’re starting to bear peas.

I probably should have put in a proper trellis instead of relying on stakes and the fence and the eyelets and wire I put on the fence. Either way the purple peas are a huge success.

Speaking of purple produce- in a few days it will be time to pick my not-a-romanesco.

I’ve had quite a bit of harvests lately- All the viable romaine were eaten, as well as the Bok Choy from the fabric bed.

In the place of the Bok Choy I sowed some beets, which are starting to come up. Beets are interesting- the seeds you get are actually like a little ball of seeds- so you always have to thin them, no matter how far apart you sow them.

I made a start on ripping out the carrot bed. I definitely sowed it too thickly, lots of big woody inedible carrots mixed with little squashed babies.

I got one last viable one though.

The stem hadn’t gone to seed so it’s probably a good one.

I’m gonna re seed the carrot bed once I pick some neem seed fertilizer from work, along with some more soil.

And I’m going to re seed a little thinner so I don’t end up with dodgy carrots.

In other fantastic news- looks like I’m getting a blackberry! Not only are the blackberry plants growing like mad- I looks like the first flower I got is turning into an actual fruit! The smaller vine will probably not bear fruit until next year but it looks like the larger vine is going to bear this year.

The plants in between the two blackberries are comfrey. I put them in a week ago or so. They’re an old style herb that like a lot of the herbs grown by our ancestors for medicine, are super duper toxic. But! It’s a documented if odd fact that comfrey salves used topically can help heal bruises. I… could use that. Not to mention supposedly comfrey can be used as a green compost- it has a lot of nitrogen in its leaves and when steeped you can water other plants with the comfrey tea to help them grow.

Sounds good to me.

The sun gold is looking more than a little rough. The ladybugs definitely are going to help- but it looks like the infestation in the sun gold tomato particularly was so heavy I’m going to have to move the few ladybugs that remain in the plant and spray the crap out of the sun gold with neem oil.

It’s got so many baby tomatoes- I’m just waiting for summer and the heat that will hopefully ripen them into beautiful gold goodness.

As much as I’m loving the ladybugs in the garden…

As you can see on my baby basil- they’ve brought quite a few flies. The problem is- out of 1,500 ladybugs- yeah a few were dead. Maybe more than a few. Dead bugs equal flies.

So. Many. Flies.

Ugh.

My cucumber seedlings were absolutely gasping to be planted so I obliged.

Just around the stake trellis. This picture was taken before I mulched it. As you can see the radishes in the center are almost ready to pick.

Speaking of radishes-

So this is where the romaine was. There’s one left as you can see- but the rest were eaten either eaten or pulled as icky. In its place I sowed some extra big radishes. Crimson giants to be precise. They’ll grow quick enough so that in a month I can put something else there- maybe some more green or bunching onions.

The borage is starting to flower. This is nothing- borage flowers are some of the most beautiful herb flowers you can grow. Honestly they’re one of the most beautiful flowers period.

Of course- also a contender for best flower…

Yay! It’s the most perfect little sunflower! The best part is it faces my window. Summer is coming!

The sunflowers demand it!

June planting and construction

Well the jury’s out on the ladybug’s overall effectiveness, but that didn’t mean I could rest on my laurels.

Again the siren call of my discount…

The Kentucky wonder beans I’ve been growing from seed look awful. Not surprising after all, they were planted during a sluggy season and they all got nibbled to death.

I re-sowed them but they still look rough. Anyways it doesn’t matter, because the haricot vert starts came in!

So I planted them and built a trellis.

4 six-foot stakes, some netting and 16 soft ties is all you need for one season’s trellis. The stakes and soft ties are reusable, the netting not so much. Hopefully the new beans take as well as the blue lake I got earlier.

As you can see those are positively bushy.

Speaking of terrible segues, the African blue bush basil has come in, and I have a plan to make at least one of them perennial.

The trick was to buy two. One goes where it always goes, replacing my Thai and purple basil that never really got anywhere, and the other goes in a large pot.

The idea is- if we have a mild winter both should survive just fine outside. But if it’s a cold windy rainy mess like this year, I can leave the bedded basil to its own devices- but the potted basil can be taking indoors at night.

Now that’s using your noodle.

I also finally ripped out the bolting chervil and replaced it with my favorite herb, lovage!

I’m not taking out the bolting parsley as it has bugs and ladybugs so I’m leaving it alone. I’m looking forward to having lovage to cook with again.

I’m also still taking cuttings in an attempt to corner the mint market. I got a specialty fancy soil I’m going to use for cuttings from now on- in an attempt to give them a boost.

It’s one of the foxfarm ones, this one’s called ocean forest and it’s filled with goodies.

I’m trying my hand at propagating the Yerba Buena for gifts. Since it’s so rare it would be really cool if I could grow them from cuttings, so I’m trying the ocean forest to maximize my chances.

It’s already starting to get on the sunny side when it’s not cloudy. I think summer is coming!

Finally!

Not so idle Thursday

Today I got one clear day after some rain, with over a weeks worth of more rain to come. I was just gonna pull the dead basil, maybe weed a bit, water where the pea seeds have yet to sprout… and then I got carried away.

Rip Basil. I thought the added water would help it bounce back but it was basically a twiggy spider factory. Like most woody plants it was an absolute bear to pull.

I had two pairs of good work gloves that actually fit me, and one pair got a little funky and since they’re super cheap I threw out the messed-up pair. Only… I somehow threw out two lefts. Leaving me with two right gloves.

I’m a dingbat.

Once that task was taken care of I checked on the lovage pots.

Not great! But last time I rummaged through my seed box I found a packet of lovage seeds. Getting the nasty plants out of their pots was the hardest part. Lovage, for an herb, has some pretty tough roots, so I had to sort of slide the plants into the compost bin.

Then I got distracted.

Look! A mushroom!

I put some potting soil and some sure start in the pots, and once I was done lying on wet grass in order to get a good picture of a fungus, I sowed a few seeds per pot.

Absolutely no guarantee they’ll sprout in the cold- but it’s worth a shot.

I mean it’s chilly, but it’s San Francisco. So it’s not like we’re getting frosts.

There is a possibility however, depending on how much rain comes starting tomorrow, and how hard it comes down, that the lovage pots are going to be less “well watered” and more “soil soup”.

I still have to figure out exactly what I’m doing with the old bench. Wood chipper still an option. While I was again distracted by taking an arty picture of a weed in the sun, I decided to tackle the peppers.

Never got a good shishito. It was a mess from day one. It was put in too late, the ripened weird and too quick, and not a single one grew to full size. So it was time to yeet the dang thing into the compost.

They all got squishy to touch too, like every last one was rotting. Ick.

I uprooted a roly-poly so I wasted yet more time to get a glamour shot of the little dude.

These guys are super cool. They’re isopods- terrestrial crustaceans! Also they have the coolest scientific name: Armadillidiidae.

I’m always careful not to kill these guys. I’m pretty sure they are eating my plants a bit but I just love watching them move.

Unfortunately there are non-pill bug bugs in my garden too- and it seemed like half of them were living in my hatch peppers.

I did get a few that were intact and un-infested which should be good eating, but after I fumbled a few because someone was peeking out of their little homes and I didn’t want grubs climbing up my sleeves, I tossed the long suffering hatch plant into the compost too.

Of course now I have two empty pots filled with really well fertilized soil and I won’t need those two pots for tomatoes til tomato season, so I figured I’d throw a few Swiss chard seeds in the now empty pots and call it a day.

Ooh a centipede! Neat! Nearly crawled up my hand. Not neat! Centipedes are a pretty beneficial insect, garden wise- they eat a lot of the bad bugs. Depending on the species they can be a little venomous though, so definitely not a critter you want climbing on you, just in case.

There. Two new Swiss chard pots for the winter months then I can plant tomatoes or peppers come late March or April.

Of course- this means the new garden layout I drew and posted 4 days ago is now… out of date.

Goddamnit.

Captain’s log: December 31st 2018

Well. Last captain’s log of 2018. That’s something.

The weather here in not-so-sunny California is dry, bright and windy.

So. SO. Windy.

The back trash can got blown about 20 feet away from where it’s supposed to be, and separated itself from it’s lid.

It’s kinda hard impossible to photograph wind, but sad trash can comes close.

This happened last night, and boy trying to sleep last night was hard, the wind was howling and howling and howling.

Luckily the only thing knocked over was a trash can.

I was slightly worried my Gerry-rigged tomato setup would get blown over, but it’s hanging in there, and the little tomatoes are continuing to ripen.

The Mystery Mole peppers are continuing to grow, which is nice, even if I have no idea what they are supposed to look or taste like.

The seed packet I ordered came in, so I planted some peas that are (hopefully) not dead.

And the turnips in front of the peas are doing nicely.

Snow peas are the perfect winter veggie, they love the cold, and they’re a legume so they grow super easy and with little extra work.

I’m not sure the basil is going to survive the winter sadly. African Blue Bush Basil can become a perennial in this area, but it’s a coin toss. Basically it just has to survive one winter and then you’ll have it for 7-8 years if you’re lucky. It’s looking like I’m not lucky.

This entire herb bed has been weird. The Hyssop and savory are gold, the oregano is acting all weird, and the purple sage looks perpetually sad, but alive. The regular sage seems to have rebounded though, so there’s that.

In far better news, the dill has sprouted! Was worried about it, but hopefully dill from seed is heartier than dill from plant.

The lemon balm I perhaps foolishly planted in the main herb patch is doing it’s minty thing, which means I’m expecting a takeover. This herb bed is where the tarragon pot lives, and that plant is doing kinda not great. Maybe I should have bit the bullet and just put the plant in the ground, root takeover be damned. Oh well.

The Pac Choi look fantastic though.

Happy New Year to all, and here’s to all your gardens growing well in 2019, both actual and metaphorical.

See you next year!

Captain’s log: November 21st 2018

Seems like forever since I’ve done anything but the most basic of watering. Some of that was due to having less plants that need less water- and some of that was due to the terrible smoke filled air which made it all but impossible to do anything outside without putting on a mask.

Well there won’t be a ton of watering this week- but for the best of reasons!

The rainy season has begun!

Just in time too- all the particulates are getting washed out of the air and the sweet sweet rain is cleaning up the streets and watering my plants. It was a good long rain from this morning until around 3pm, and we might get more tonight. And tomorrow. And next week!

Ah, slippery concrete!

Because I wanted to make a blog post, and because I like getting wet, I decided to take stock of the garden while it was raining.

My little box of Mitsuba continues to grow, and it’s well drained in that box so I’m not worried about it getting drowned. Besides it’s a woodland plant so sticking it in a shady spot and dumping water on it is sort of how it’s meant to live.

The tomato continues to grow like wildfire, though in order to not have it completely overgrown I’ve stopped fertilizing it, but the sudden flood of water won’t stop it growing that’s for sure. Lots of ripening tomatoes- and the half of the plant that wasn’t tied up has almost completely collapsed so once there’s a break in the rain I’m going to get out there with my soft ties and macgyver the plant into, you know, not falling over.

I just cannot grow a lettuce to save my life. The plants all got borked early on from the sudden late heat wave, so I’m fairly confident that I can pull the bad plants and grow some romaine from seed fairly easily now that it’s reliably cold. (Also best to grow romaine from scratch now that we’ve had yet another recall of it). Not to mention the continued bug problem which the cold should also take care of.

Pretty right? Well looks is about all the shishito peppers are good for. They’re undersized and tasteless. The bell pepper was infested with all the ripe peppers having holes in them and bugs inside.

Ick ick ick.

The hatch are also tasteless- and probably not even hatches, but I might be able to save that plant, because while a few are ripening early there are a few still gaining in size. The shishito plant may be salvageable- if I cut it back and just overwinter it by next summer it might produce. I’m not sure though. Sadly the infested dwarf bell peppers will probably have to be pulled- the pot is too short and the plants roots were all scrunched from the beginning- bugs or no bugs.

The mole pepper just keeps on trucking though and that plant is definitely a contender for perennial pepper.

The sudden downpour and chilly temps is definitely reinvigorating the spinach, and as long as I keep sowing I’ll have spinach all season long.

The arugula doesn’t give a crap about anything except being delicious. I’ll probably cut a bunch soon and then sow some more.

Damnit basil! Stop blooming!

I know I have to cut it back, but it’s too wet to really work in the back right now so it’ll have to wait.

It’s super healthy though- so I’ll have basil for cooking all winter long.

Ok. I am concerned.

We jokingly called our first sorrel plant Audrey II for a reason- darn thing was unkillable and gigantic. And now- before the rains… Audrey III here has already doubled in size. I’m just glad I put it in a pot.

The Plastic Owl Guardian will protect me.

Feed me Seymour

Captain’s log: November 1st 2018

It’s always time for a captain’s log when the weather is unseasonable. Today it reached a high of 81 around 1 pm. It is November 1st. God bless San Francisco, never change.

Tomorrow when the weather isn’t quite so melting for a delicate hominid as myself, I have a few tasks. Chief among them is to thin the carrots. As you can see they’re really bushy- they’ve grown really quickly, proving everything I’ve read about growing carrots from seed is incorrect and it is in fact quite easy- if you do things correctly.

The other major task for tomorrow is to try to get a handle on the spinach. The erratic heat has really damaged it- I have to definitely remove the heat damaged leaves and harvest the rest, pull the weedy plants (and the outright weeds) and sow some more spinach plants in the bare areas.

Luckily I’ve gotten some more Japanese spinach to sow:

A different variety this time, but it looked nice and the Japanese varieties tend to be much more heat resistant. Just looking at what I’ve sowed- the monstrueux variety has done much worse than the alrite Japanese variety- when I did get a baby spinach harvest I got much more out of the alrite. I still have some alrite seeds, but they’re more of a baby variety and I wanted something that would grow a bigger plant for harvest, so when I was in Japantown I got this Okame variety for, well, variety! If I have any advice when it comes to plant variety it’s look outside the western paradigm. Humanity has been growing vegetables worldwide since the dawn of agriculture- and that means there are a lot more types of plants then you get in your typical American seed catalogue.

The lettuce is doing well- which is slightly surprising considering the heat wave. This is the advantage of starting from a plant rather than a seed- more heat resistance due to the more established nature of the plant.

While the Swiss chard is also heat damaged- I’ll have to re-sow a few of those- the arugula is just booming. Arugula is almost like a weed- there is no arugula season, as long as the sun is shining and there’s no ice on the ground, it’s arugula season! It’s become my garden snack, if I’m watering in the back- I’m eating some arugula. not sure I’ll have enough for the table- it’s all going in my mouth!

We had a pepper casualty. I was so happy! An all red baby bell pepper ready for harvest! And then I spotted the hole in the bottom… and something moving inside.

NOPE!

I picked it and threw it right into the compost ick ick ick. I also checked all the other almost ripe peppers, and luckily this was the only infested pepper, so I should at least get a few others.

Price of growing plants honestly! 10% of the harvest goes to the bugs! If you’re lucky of course, if you’re unlucky it will be more, but that’s what neem oil is for.

The weird warm weather is causing the basil to sprout flowers again, along with the hyssop. That’s another job for tomorrow- going to have to clip all the flowers so the leaves don’t get bitter.

I’m also going to have to cut back the mint thunderdome, as the top leaves are a little crunchy looking and not as fragrant as the other leaves. The tendril still abides.

The Mitsuba continues to grow, as do all of my pot herbs. We had either a scale insect or mold issue with the base of the lovage- or rather a scale insect issue that turned into a mold issue- either way, that’s what neem oil is for. The lemongrass is growing like a weed which is nice.

The owl guards the sorrel. The sorrel grows. All is good under the gaze of the owl.

Lastly- those are two baby tomatoes. I have counted 4 total, along with dozens of flowers waiting to turn into tomatoes. IT’S NOVEMBER FIRST!!!

I am staying on top of appropriate watering and tomato fertilization, along with both hand killing the red aphids, and using neem oil when appropriate.

This is nuts. I’m going to get late November early December tomatoes.

God damn I love San Francisco.