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.

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!

Planting the spring herb beds

I had a great day today in the garden working my herb beds.

Here’s a previous shot of the shadier herb bed. As you can see the thyme is heavily overgrown. First task was cutting it back, along with the lemon balm, and weeding as best as I could.

Thyme is a great herb, I grow two types, big-leaf and French. Problem is, a little thyme goes a long way, even fresh, so the growth I had wasn’t helpful.

The thyme conquered- it was time to place the four new plants that go into this bed.

I have a few interesting survivors in this bed, some chives that refused to die, a lone parsley seedling that sprouted when all the others wouldn’t, and a shiso that refused to die.

That’s the bi-colored shiso that I ripped out last year. As you can see- it has returned. Oh well.

Next to the thyme is the culantro- next to the octopus is the anise hyssop- next to the lemon balm is the lemongrass, and up in the corner is the borage. I gave everything a deep watering, and then in the next couple of days I’ll put down some mulch.

The sunny herb bed was also overgrown. I trimmed the oregano, and hacked away at the hyssop and sage. Then it was just a matter of placing my plants.

I put the purple basil next to the Thai basil, and the lemon grass next to the oregano. Yes I have two lemongrasses. I like the taste, but it also has a way of repelling pests (not unlike the borage) and I hope by having one in each bed I can have less pest problems as it gets warmer.

There are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to basil in San Francisco I’m afraid. As you can see the Thai basil is a chewed up mess- but it’s alive so I’ll take it. The purple basil will also be a gamble- but much less of one then Italian or sweet basil which is iffy at the best of times. Sadly the local garden center is not stocking African blue bush basil this year- or at least not yet. That’s the only basil that I’ve had very good luck with.

I’m not screwing around with the shiso. In my garden at least it has a tendency to get really buggy, and I’d like to have more for eating so pots it is! And the pots can go on the new herb tables!

I have resown the mitsuba, I have two parsley’s- one of which is going to seed, so I have to work on that. The two shiso, the chervil, the tarragon, and the two chive pots. The other herb I had to wrestle with today was my dill.

As you can see, it was a mess. So I pulled it and sowed some more.

It’s a beautiful pot of dirt. Dill is a pain in the ass, as it doesn’t transplant well. So I can buy dill seedlings but unless I keep them in the original pot I won’t get much dill, as once transplanted it tends to swiftly die. Growing dill from seed isn’t difficult, but you have to tenderly press the seeds into the soil because they need light to germinate. Not to mention it tends to get really buggy, and it attracts scale insects and aphids. Like I said, a pain. But it will work, and I use a lot of dill when I pickle so I guess I’ll just have to keep re-seeding it.

I’m looking forward to the lovely blue flowers of the borage, bees love them, but other bugs don’t.

It can also get really gigantic and I’m looking forward to my dad making triffid jokes again.

I am a Neanderthal of simple pleasures.

New plants, new bed, and bad news

So this was a good day, mostly. I got my new fabric bed in the mail a few days ago but I underestimated its size and realized I needed more soil than I actually had.

A trip to the garden center was in order.

I got some blue lake green beans sets along with a replacement for my ailing chervil, a basil gamble and one last squash plant.

First a note on the chervil.

That does not look healthy. It’s the fact that it’s in a bed. This area of the garden, the shade herb bed, is shady in fall and winter. It’s also shadier in spring and summer. But we’ve been having very bright and windy days and that’s just been murder on the chervil. Murder on the parsley too, but that’s solvable.

The thyme doesn’t give a shit it’s huge.

To solve the evaporation problem on the parsley side, the answer is, as always, more mulch.

Just got to lay it on. As for the chervil…

Sometimes you just got to get a new plant. Healthy plant in a pot which will help with water conservation, and on the shade herb table in the shadiest possible spot in the garden. It’s a nice delicate herb chervil, hope this one takes.

In the long shot category, we have basil.

I have completely given up on Italian basil, and if I were to un-give up on it, it would go into a pot. They didn’t have any blue bush basil which is a shame, but they had some very healthy looking Thai basil. Slightly different flavor, but a heartier plant, which as you can see I’ve mulched the absolute heck out of. It’s still a crazy gamble, but it’s been so sunny… well, all gardening is a gamble really.

The squash was fun though.

See I’ve been growing pretty much all plain green zucchini, largely because it’s easier and mom likes them. But it occurred to me that I had a space for one more plant, and dad likes grey squash, so I got a “Magda” zucchini for him. It was a really healthy looking plant, and it’s a cinch to grow so no skin off my nose to put in an extra plant.

The beans went in easy, as beans tend to, I still mulched the heck out of them of course.

I also put some stakes down for them, I also have some netting that I think I’m gonna use for the trionfo beans.

The main issue today was turnips. They’d been growing slow, and were starting to bolt, no surprise there. One of the reasons I got this fabric bed to stash in the shadiest part of my garden was so I could grow the more temperature sensitive crops like lettuces and arugula and turnips in a shaded area of the garden.

The problem was cabbage fly. I had eaten a lovely turnip a week ago, small but tender, and was all set to pick the biggest few for tonight’s dinner. Only to discover all but one eaten up by cabbage fly maggots.

The one survivor was added to dinner, the rest were added to the compost bin. This is not my first tangle with cabbage fly. Years ago I had a whole lot of really beautiful turnips ruined by them. They’d been scarce as of late, and I thought I could get away with it, but it looks like our really wet start to spring helped the damn flies get off to a good start. Of course, while the damage cabbage fly can do to turnips is the most dramatic due to them eating the roots all up, cabbage fly can damage the roots of any brassica. SO tomorrow’s big task is going to be checking the roots of all my cabbage family crops for maggots or eggs and hand destroying and spraying the lot of them. And sadly I have a lot of brassicas.

This is the new bed. There was clearly a sewing error as you can see it’s a little lopsided. As I got it fairly cheap I suppose it would be bad form to complain about a minor cosmetic error so who cares.

I have quite a few plants I’m putting into this bed, including a few types of fancier lettuce, but these are some of my favorite Japanese vegetables that I picked up from the ferry building a few days ago and can’t wait to grow. Of course both are cabbage family crops so now that I know the cabbage flies are out I’m going to have to be extra vigilant. Both of these plants are quick growers, so it should be only a month from sprouting to harvest and then I can sow again. In between most of the lettuces I sowed some extra french breakfast radishes. I had sowed some radishes in front of the peas, and due to the extreme wet only about three came up.

This guy was my first to eating size. I cleaned it up and gave it to dad and he ate the whole thing leaves and all.

God bless him.

Well soon I’ll have many more, radishes are one of those plants you can tuck anywhere and they’ll mostly grow no matter what you do. Of course they are cabbage adjacent so I will once again have to be a little diligent sweeping for fly eggs.

In other not so good news, the red aphids have returned to the sun gold, and in the course of hand picking them, I made a truly bone-headed error.

This is the rose tip of my watering can, and as you can see, the inner part that has the little holes in it is missing. That’s because I set the can down to remove the aphids from the sun gold (and they only were on the sun gold which was weird) and I stepped on it. I heard a *ping* as the inner part went flying somewhere and I have no idea where it went. So while I will scour the garden in the morning hoping to find my missing part, I have a good idea I’m going to have to replace my watering can tip, possibly my watering can.

In the meantime, I have this little fellow playing back up. So what if he doesn’t hold much water, he has the right tip and he doesn’t just barf water out like a plain spout does. I could blame the aphids for this latest clumsy mistake, but I think it’s just my complete inability to see where I’m stepping.

I will of course blame the aphids anyways.

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 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.

More herb maintenance

As we get more into fall, my herbs have been looking a little ratty. I already trimmed my basil back, but a lot of my herbs have red or yellow leaves and are generally a little messy.

To say nothing of the dying shiso behemoth. Add to that a fennel going to seed, and I knew I had some work to do.

So I pulled the fennel and the shiso(s) and cut back all the flowery bits on all the other herbs along with any red or yellow leaves.

Then it was a matter of fertilizing, to prevent future discolored leaves. I use a pretty powerful kelp based fertilizer for my peppers and tomatoes- but frankly that’s horribly overpowered for herbs. For herbs I use fish emulsion.

Now there are a few problems with fish emulsion- chief of which is it smells horrific. Just… awful. But it really works and it wont burn your plants with too much nitrogen.

Think of fish emulsion as the scientific version of what a lot of grandmothers used to do when they’d bury a fish head under their roses.

Also what the Roman’s used to put on their food

The hyssop is growing well after I pinched it’s flowers:

Lots of new growth coming up. The thyme was bushy as always- I thought I was being clever putting in two plants and while I do use a lot of thyme, thyme is like mint in that it will always get overgrown.

The tarragon also needed to be pinched back, and the sage needed some undergrowth to be cleaned up.

The Oregano continues to grow mightily, which reminds me, I haven’t made tomato sauce in a while…

Anyways it’s the right time of year for this maintenance, and a good weekend to get it done.