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.


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.

Trimming the basil (finally!)

So ok- I let the basil get a little overgrown.

Yes yes basil gets bitter if you let it flower- but oh my god the bees. This may not have been the hottest of summers but damn did we get bees! Since peppers and tomatoes and fava beans and green beans need pollinators- I basically sacrificed the basil plant to the bee gods.

But it is nearly October- and I’d like basil this fall/winter. So I got my clips out…

And I got to work! It not the prettiest basil plant but hopefully now that I cut off the flowers I can hopefully get new green growth.

African Blue Basil is a sterile hybrid so it can last for years and years. This was basically it’s fall haircut.

So that this beautiful undergrowth can become tomorrow’s pesto!

Herb maintenance

Honestly in between planting seasons- in between life events- sometimes all you’re doing in your garden besides picking a few herbs and watering regularly is just maintenance.

These flowers are pretty on the oregano and hyssop. It’s attracting a very horrible cabbage moth, cursed be it’s name, but it also attracts bees. The problem with flowering herbs though is that all the energy of the plant starts going into the flowers, and out of the edible leaves.

So you got to give things a trim. I use the oregano regularly, so it’s important to me to keep the plant going as long as possible.

The hyssop I haven’t used yet, but considering cold and flu season has started, I want the plant to be in the best shape possible for the upcoming months in case I have to start using it as medicine.

I think I mentioned this in the first post I made about interesting herbs, but I am hella reactive to expectorants and cough syrups- like hallucinates reactive. I can take stuff like decongestants for a head cold, but as soon as a cold gets into my chest I’m up a creek as far as medicines go.

Hyssop is supposedly one of those herbal cough remedies that actually works, to the point that it still flavors cough drops and the like.

Hopefully I don’t need any medicine this cold season, but I like the idea of growing my own. So- maintenance!

You’ll notice I haven’t trimmed back the basil anymore than I already did- I probably should, but the sheer volume of bees is giving me pause. Maybe in a month, but I don’t want to disturb my buzzing friends.

Gotta be nice to your local bees!

Working hard or hardly working

It’s the first one, I swear!

It was time… to tear down the bean vines.

It really highlighted how weirdly crooked that double bed is but who cares. What was kinda nuts was how much the carrots were covered by a sort of natural compost made of fallen and rotting bean leaves. I filled a whole garbage bag full and then put it in the green compost can. As was expected I couldn’t save the netting the beans were growing on, but the stakes themselves were all ok, and are now living in the corner between the sheds. While I was cleaning out the mess I found three slugs! The only slugs I’d seen all season thanks to my judicious use of sluggo. They were dispatched along with what looked like a raft of eggs. (Not pictured because EW EW EW) considering that’s the bed the zucchini was in- I think I found what killed the zucchini. RIP zucchini- fuck slugs!

I did a ton of weeding today too. Around the raised beds and the pots there are always weeds because that’s the only place that gets any water.

But I also pulled the bug eaten lovage plant and trimmed the caterpillar nibbled leaves of the shiso and sage plants.

I love lovage.

But I’m not sad.

Because I ordered two more plants from my local garden center wheeee! They’ll call me when they are available. One will go in a pot- one will go where the marjoram was… we will see which does better. I love lovage- I can’t wait to have tons to cook with. Hopefully with less holes in them this time.

I also cut back my blue basil. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Gentle hominid gardener – that doesn’t look that much different than the last picture you posted of your African blue basil plant!”

Well that’s because I’m a coward. The plant was swarming with bees and I had to wait till the early evening just to be able to trim it without being stung. And it was more of a trim than a cut back because I didn’t want to disappoint my bee friends. (And incur their wrath). I cut the undergrowth and the parts that were hanging over the side or growing into the hyssop- but I largely left the top flowers intact. It’s just so pretty!

I can’t grow regular flowers for allergy reasons, so I do love the ones I can grow.

Even if I should be growing the plant for the leaves. Whoops what pesto? THE PESTO IS FOR THE BEES-!!!

Captain’s log: August 24th 2018

So today was gloomy as usual- though a little warmer, almost 70 in the early afternoon.

It’s heat more than sun that ripens tomatoes- so even with the gloom as long as the temperature continues to stay warm-ish, the new growth and a more cautious watering schedule means that I might get more than these 3 tomatoes.

The eastern peppers are doing great. So are the western peppers, for the most part- but that one hatch plant is just growing like mad. There are baby peppers growing, and most importantly it has been brought to my attention that pepper plants can live many years and produce every summer. I had been hoping to get rid of the shitty plastic planters but damn- perennial peppers…

Speaking of perennials- I really have to cut back the African blue basil. It’s just too wild, and I’m sure it’s hiding some nasty bugs. But it’s attracting so many bees…

I pulled out the marjoram plant- it had gone completely to seed.

I also have to cut back the shiso a bit, it’s being nibbled so I have to trim it back.

Same kinda holes as the sage.

Considering the amount of horrible cabbage moths that have been flying around I’m pretty sure it’s the moth caterpillars that’s causing the damage. Considering the gloom, slugs and snails could also be the culprit. So as a precaution I put down some Sluggo. It’s a bait type organic poison- I use the pet safe version. Once you wet the ground you shake the pellets around and the slugs eat it and die instead of your plants.

The carrots are growing nicely despite the off and on aphid load. I’d like them to get a little bigger before I pick them- but they’re very nice.

I’m still misting the seedlings everyday, it it will be a week or two before anything sprouts.

I love how well this greenhouse bench is working out.

For now the new bed is empty.

It waits… it hungers… for seeds!

I might sow some spinach direct into the bed on one side and wait for the new seedlings to fill the other.

My next big task this weekend is to tear down the bean vines and do a deep weeding. I have to get this done this weekend because starting Monday- the new semester starts. Might be too tired next week for big projects.

I’ll probably also do the trimming and pruning of the herbs.


Is that a wasp? Are my fava beans attracting wasps? It’s gorgeous but I do hope I don’t get stung…

Or that my silly bee eater becomes a silly wasp eater.

Captain’s log: August 19th 2018

In the distance is a palm tree. All the backyards on this block are connected, which is why we have such a feral cat problem. But it also means many years ago someone a few houses down planted a goddamn palm tree like it’s goddamn Los Angeles or something and now- in this foul freezing weather, it’s tropical-ness is taunting me.

I pulled the bolting giant flat leaf parsleys. Lesson learned. Curly leaf goes in the plot- flat leaf goes in a pot- never get giant anything, and if you do- don’t get two of them. As much parsley as I use, there is such a thing as too much parsley.

I’m going to have to cut back the blue basil eventually- but oh look at the beautiful bee. (and all her friends that were buzzing around too quick to be photographed!) There was also my favorite flying insect, those long black beneficial wasps that eat grubs. I haven’t seen one this season yet, very excited for them to get to business and eat grubs for me. I am 100% team buzzing insect.

I cut back the icky yellow zucchini leaves and was rewarded by vigorous new growth. There are three buds, which is good news, and the leaves don’t look cruddy and crusty which means I cut the nasty leaves off in time.

I had a little undignified panic attack about the tomato this morning. Made the mistake of reading my Pam Peirce book on gardening in San Francisco. Got convinced my tomato was diseased instead of just cold and wet. Mom snapped me out of it by reminding me that the neighbors plant isn’t doing great either, and even in the good old days her and dad didn’t always have the best luck with tomatoes. Growing tomatoes in San Francisco is a crap shoot under the best of conditions. I think tomorrow I’ll go to my local garden center and pass some photos around and get some expert opinions. Could be my current strategy of cutting off the worst of it and hoping for warmer weather is correct! Could be it *is* fungal and I need some copper fungicide or something to spray on it. Could be it’s one of the bad tomato diseases and I’ll have to throw out the plant, throw away the dirt, and sterilize the pot! (Please not this option). Nothing I can do about it today. But doesn’t it look like one of those baby tomatoes is starting to ripen? A Neanderthal can dream!

I got the last of the bean harvest today. I think in the next few days I’ll tear down the vines and the Gerry-rigged trellis. What a success the beans were! I still have bags in the fridge waiting to be pickled and cooked. It produced for almost two whole months. Imagine if I’d staggered the planting’s and had a second double bed! I’d be getting beans till September! I definitely have some planning to do.

I picked some tarragon and chives to make some cornichon style pickled beans tonight, along with the last two purple beans.

The carrots might have aphids on and off- but the roots themselves look fine, it’s just the stems and leaves. And since you don’t eat the leaves of a carrot- I’ve decided I officially DGAF. I’m spraying the darn things and it’s working- and in a month I should have some good carrots.

The peppers are somewhat of a disappointment. Only Two out of Six of the plants are fruiting… and…

Holy crap both of the sweet red bell pepper plants are fruiting!

Four out of Six!!!!! Four out of Six!!!!!

God bless peppers and their incredible resilience in the face of crummy weather.

Also want to apologize to all the birds in my apple tree that flew out in alarm after I shouted in joy upon discovering the baby peppers.

Four out of Six!!!!

Captain’s log: August 16th 2018

Well the sun came out!

Blue skies and 72 degrees. At least the bench is getting dried out. The bees and butterflies were out in full force. Not so thrilled with the later, as their caterpillars like to leave holes in my plants.

This beauty is a green sweat bee, native to California. Something in the genus Agapostemon. I really have to cut back my African blue basil- but… oh is it ever attracting nice local bees. It is kinda growing into the fennel. The fennel is having a bit of a moment- due to the minor aphid issues it was having. It looked kinda grody. But the carrots in the rectangle planter…

Look VERY grody.

I didn’t even bother spraying with mineral oil- I brought out the hose and power washed those assholes. I was going to turn the hose on the other carrot planter:

Mama ladybug is on the case.

I don’t even want to talk about the tomato. The three little green baby tomatoes are hanging on but who knows if they will ever ripen. It’s nice that it finally got warm but… I’m not filled with hope.

The bi-colored Shiso is flowering- and that’s just gorgeous. The triffids continue to attract their buzzing friends:

The fava beans are mostly aphid free and this point- a few of the runtier plants needed to be sprayed with mineral oil- largely to prevent the few aphids left from spreading to the healthier specimens.

Hey! Dog in the back! Can you be trained to eat aphids?

“No- but I can dig under the lemon tree for voles!”

At least she stopped eating bees. For a while, anything that buzzed in her face ended up in her stomach. This was hilarious- buzz buzz buzz *chomp*- until she got really sick and we had to rush her to the emergency vet because it turns out she’s allergic to bees.

So maybe it’s a good thing she wont eat aphids.

I have to fertilize today- the once a week tomato, twice a month pepper, and once a month carrots/sunny herbs schedule has converged on today.

I used to use fish emulsion but the smell is- so bad. Just… so bad. So I’m using the seaweed based stuff. Still the good good stuff from the sea- much less stinky.

Here’s one more picture of a silly bee-eater.