Captain’s log: June 23rd 2019

Well it’s been busy and it’s going to get busier.

That my friends, is a baby pumpkin! It looks like October pumpkins might be a thing. Or August pumpkins if I’m lucky.

The vine is… going the wrong way. But who am I to tell a pumpkin vine where it can or cannot go. I’m just going to have to accommodate the darn thing as it meanders around my garden.

I’m trying not to make the same mistake I made with my big pot tomatoes- and I’m diligently trimming off the bottom stems of the new guys.

The reason this is a problem is what’s happening with the Black Krim.

This is a beautiful baby tomato- and it’s on a sucker stem. So I am concerned that the weight of the growing fruit is going to knock off the whole branch and lose me a bunch of fruit and flowers. I might have to put a stake in the ground next to the pot and tie that branch to that for support. So it’s going to need a Neanderthal level Gerry-rig, but it is what it is.

Lastly- my one big Roma is ripening nicely. It’s been cool-ish, but on the warm side of cool-ish, and this baby tomato lived through the heat wave so it looks quite nice.

And more ladybug larvae are makes their little cocoons so I’m about to have more voracious aphid killers- which suits me just fine.

It turned out way more spaghetti squash germinated then I needed- so I hope some of my friends want some seedlings. Only a couple of the scallop squashes came up, but I only wanted a couple of them anyways.

This is some lovely oak leaf lettuce that has been patiently awaiting harvest.

Oak leaf is a good choice for warmer climes as it doesn’t get that bitter in warmer weather. The seed packet I got was a mix of red and green oak leaf- and the one that turned up red has not been growing as well as the green. But that’s sometimes the case- red varieties of any vegetable don’t photosynthesize as well as their green counterparts.

The blue lake beans are quite vigorous- here’s one that has escaped its trellis and is starting up the cucumber trellis. Which reminds me- my next day off I have a real project on my hands tying up the cucumbers- they’ve gotten real messy.

But they have lots of little flowers and baby cucumbers so I’ve got that going for me.

Speaking of trellis failures my purple peas are so vigorous- and so top heavy, that they’ve sort of half fallen over the color bed. They’re still producing- I keep bringing up snap peas for dad to munch on, it’s just very precarious. I expect I’ll get peas into August- the vine is just going to be a bit of a mess.

Still have some leeks growing. Also, as evidenced by the soil, still have some very frustrated gophers. Ha ha you rodent bastards- all my plants are in raised beds and pots! I’m an evolved hominid, I can outthink you furry jerks!

Sorry.

Not all my animal visitors are feral cats and hungry rodents. Some are quite welcome. This is a California Towhee. They’re prolific grub hunters. They were chased out of the garden by the cats- but I haven’t seen my feline friends lately, and the birds have returned.

I don’t believe my tree collard is going to make it. It could very well be that my “ingenious” solution to the cabbage maggot problem was the collard’s downfall. Surprise! Aluminum foil rings around the tops of roots probably don’t allow for good root growth. I’m going to try to cut out the foil and use some root growth fertilizer as a last attempt but I’m not too hopeful. Turns out you can’t collar a collard.

Oh god that pun was terrible I’m so sorry.

Here’s a bit of cock-eyed optimism to make up for that pun.

I bought some sweet corn.

Now my parents grew corn when I was a child- it can be done. I’m anticipating a hot summer and fall…

And there’s some room in the 4×4 bed…

If I sort of curl the stalks around the squash the wind *should* pollenated them…

And multiple indigenous groups in America grew squash and corn together so it’s a good soil pairing…

It’s a lot of shoulds.

But I’m gonna do it!

I told you it was going to get busier!

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!

Captain’s log: May 8th 2019

Ah the first captain’s log of May. I got a lot done today, and I am very tired. I still had the cucumber and pumpkin to plant but this morning I was downtown and…

This is a jalapeño plant I got at the civic center farmers market. I’ve been looking for at least one hot pepper and this seemed a likely candidate. Jalapeños are a little easier to grow than other larger hot peppers. Of course- sweet peppers are a better bet. But eventually my lipstick pepper will be large enough to transplant and the bulls horn is also a sweet pepper- so I’ll give a hot pepper a try. Of course it will go better if the weather is warmer, like it was in late April. Late April felt like summer- early May feels like winter.

Welcome to San Francisco I guess.

I cut off the red peppers for eating, and buried the newcomer up to its neck. Proper pepper planting protocol.

Say that 5 times fast!

The baby potatoes in bags are growing vigorously enough that it was time to put more dirt in the bags. I still don’t know what the hell is going on with the two older potatoes, and I suspect tomorrow I’ll be digging up one of the bags to make sure this isn’t a blight situation.

Here’s an incredibly annoying thing- the bare spot in this bed is where two bean sprouts once were. It looks like some creature just straight up ate the tops of two of my beans. Just- *monch* no more beans.

Of course the beans on the other side are still heavily slug eaten.

Anyways- I put down the sluggo all throughout the garden earlier this week, so hopefully that will be the end of that. This is the bed where I put the pumpkin today, since the Swiss chard never really came up- and if it does later it can just grow around the vines.

In the areas where the beans once were I put two new seeds down so I can have my late season Kentucky wonders. Growing squash and beans together is of course as old as indigenous America (all I’m missing is the corn) so I have high hopes for a few proper pumpkins come Halloween.

Oh god bless the radish. And all the other brassicas, lettuce and arugula in the large fabric bed. Everything is coming up really nice and it doesn’t need too much water.

I built a quick and dirty trellis to go with my other quick and dirty trellis in the cucumber bed. I might put another type of radish in the void under the trellis like I’ve put green onion in front of the other cucumbers. Co-planting is always good.

Here’s my pretty Persian cukes ready to climb up my stakes. As my other Boston pickle cucumbers starts get larger I’ll put them on the other sides.

In tomato news, the first Roma of the sauce pot is growing. It’s a little baby plum tomato! The wet weather isn’t wonderful for the tomatoes but they seem to be surviving just fine. The sun gold still has its fair share of aphids, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering the plant- it’s really bothering me though.

The blackberry vines are both growing well, and as you can see the base of the vine is throwing up some fresh growth. It’s good to know that all the effort I put into acidifying the soil and preparing it is paying off.

The upper zucchini bed is thriving- this is the Magda grey zucchini,

And here’s the greens. I’m worried the wet will cause some molding issues that are so common to squash- but so far it seems ok.

Here’s some fun. The purple peas have so outpaced their dinky stakes I screwed some eyelets into the fence and strung wire between them.

I hope my neighbor likes peas because I think there’s no way I can stop this plant from going right over the fence. The spinach in front is questionable of course, I’m concerned after the heat wave last month it might go straight to seed- but there’s nothing I can do about that.

Another thing I can do nothing about is the criminals. The entire time I was working in the garden I had the peculiar feeling of being watched. Well I *was* being watched by a pair of criminals who were lounging in the carrot bed and spying on me for hours. Here is a quick pic of criminal tortoiseshell fleeing while criminal grey tabby stares at me through the carrot tops.

I can spray for aphids but I can’t spray for cats. I’m just going to learn to live with a pair of criminal spies, sitting on my plants.

They’re really cute criminals though.

Some late additions and potential problems

I finally bit the bullet and grabbed myself a pepper, among other things. I am growing the lipsticks from seed but it’ll be a month til the largest is large enough for the pepper pot. In the meantime this sweet Italian bulls horn should do well.

It’s a little runty so it got a stake. I wish I could be optimistic but after weeks of warm weather San Francisco’s inherent unpredictability has reared it’s head and we’ve now had two days of wet drizzle.

I have no words. Well I have plenty of words but they’re not really fit to print.

I also got a tarragon- again. I’ve had such bad luck with tarragon that I thought it was time to just put it in a pot. Sometimes all your plans for a fancy herb bed run up against reality. Oh well, hopefully it will do better as a pot herb.

This is ginger mint. I am something of a mint fanatic, and I love growing mint from cuttings and giving them away as gifts. The more weird the mint the better. Ginger mint sounds tailor made for tea, but I’ll have to wait a little while before I take cuttings.

Some of my cuttings are taking really well- others are lost causes. But that’s what happens when you try to grow from cuttings, it’s always a gamble.

These are the ones that have taken. A good way of telling if they’re taking is if the plant still looks fresh and not wilted or brown, and to check the bottom for root growth.

Now that’s a successful cutting!

These are my last two plants, some Persian cucumbers for the cucumber patch and a lost little pumpkin. I wish I could say wow I don’t have room for a pumpkin! But unfortunately I most likely will have room for a pumpkin shortly.

That’s the remains of another cauliflower- and two of the back Bok choys went with it. And now that it’s drizzling again, the cabbage flies are going to be even more emboldened. Cabbage flies of course only eat cabbages- so my squashes will be perfectly safe.

The slugs of course, are in hyperdrive. Now you can totally go out at night with a flashlight and just kill all the slugs you see- and that is the most natural way to do it- but it is gross as hell, and I like sleeping at night.

So I took half a container of sluggo and went nuclear. I tossed those pellets around the garden like it was going out of style. Every bed, every green area, every pot.

There’s no kill quite like overkill, and I’m hoping the slugs get the message.

Smushing aphids might be gross but it’s the best way the control their numbers so smush I must. I try not to spray the sun gold with neem oil because the tomato flowers attract bees and the aphids are attracting ladybugs.

At least the local criminal is enjoying the rain and the work I’m doing. If only feral cats could be trained to eat cabbage fly…

A Buggy start to May

Yesterday I was fed up with how runty and withered my two smallest cauliflowers were, so I pulled the weakest. Low and behold, the roots were crawling with cabbage fly maggots. I pulled the other one too- same story. The problem was, as you can see from one of the healthier ones-

The roots actually go fairly deep, the cauliflower had a good chance to grow before it got infested. This meant two things, one at this point whatever grubs are there can’t really be tweezed off, I’d have to uncover so much of the root system I’d harm the plant, and two, I’m going to have to rely on the fact that the root systems are so deep and healthy the larger cauliflowers are probably going to make it. As insurance I uncovered as much of each root as I could a poured neem oil over it. Hopefully that can seep into the soil and maybe kill off any other maggots. For now I just have to be vigilant while checking the other brassicas for fly eggs.

What’s really annoying is that some of those nasty green aphid types have been attacking my seedlings. This is a fairly healthy red stemmed peppermint I’ve been growing from a cutting from the mint thunderdome. Seemingly overnight it got those feeding crusts and eggs under the lower leaves, with the little green aphids feeding up top. Annoying but solvable. For one this is mint. Mint is unkillable. The plant was getting too big for its little transplant pot anyways so I just potted it up in its forever home. Of course I sprayed it down several times with insecticidal soap and hand killed every bug I could see first.

Here it is in its new pot. I’ll just keep coming back to it with the spray and eventually the vigor of mint will solve my problem for me. The real problem is the weeds. They’re a reservoir for the aphids so I’m going to have to use the edger and really knock them down. maybe hand pull whatever’s left. Soon since it’s stopped raining they’ll all die back- but that could take til August and I have to kill the aphid reservoirs now.

While this baby romanesco’s roots seem to be undisturbed as you can see it’s leaves are a tad nibbled. Not much I can do about that except keep checking for caterpillars and lay down more sluggo.

The local pest patrol was out in force this morning which is always a good sign. Maybe this extra wet winter we just had was good for the flies- but it seems to have been good for the ladybugs too.

The five surviving pepper seedlings, including one very runty one, have been put into their own pots. This was largely in response to the fact that as they get bigger I keep finding those damn little green aphids on them, and this will give them a chance to grow big roots and be easier to clean off.

At this point all the beans have this sort of lacy chewing damage which makes me think earwigs. The big potatoes are the same way.

That’s just a mess. I’ve laid down the sluggo but my hope in these older potatoes is not great. Potatoes can totally resprout after their leaves sustain damage though- so maybe with enough care they’ll be ok. This could also be evidence of something much worse than aphids so… eh fingers crossed.

The red aphids meanwhile are almost all gone, with a few stragglers remaining. Biological warfare works!

Here’s a picture of one of my beautiful aphid killers- it’s the same ladybug larvae I photographed earlier in the week, but as you can see the lovely lady is in the process of turning herself into an adult! The green aphids along with some kind of scale insect have been attacking my dill something fierce, which is why I keep finding ladybug eggs on the dill stalks- they know where their bread is buttered.

Now there are a lot of ways to try and prevent bugs from eating your crops- checking roots and stems for eggs and spraying when it’s too late is part of it- but there are a lot of plants that can repel bugs. Marigolds are one of the more famous ones, but allergies prevent me from planting them. One other good bug repeller is anything from the onion family. I want to make sure my baby cucumbers have the best start in life so I’ve taken some of the green onion sets I’ve been growing in seedling town and I’ve put them along the edge of the bed. They won’t grow into the cukes- as they grow straight up- and hopefully that wonderful oniony goodness will repel any bugs that want to make a snack out of my baby cucumber vines.

I leave you all with another lady on patrol, this time taking a tour of my carrot tops. There are always gnats around the carrots but as they don’t damage the roots it’s just the price of doing business. Anyways, it feeds the ladybugs!

🎶It’s the circle of life🎶

Captain’s log: April 28th 2019

It’s been a bit of a week. Bit of two weeks really, the increase in temperature and sun has been a boon for the tomatoes and maybe not a boon for some other things.

First the sun gold. It’s huge! And it’s still growing which is phenomenal! I’m not falling into last year’s trap of overwatering so by being sparing with water but unsparing with maxsea I seem to have hit upon the right formula for cherry tomato nirvana.

Of course unleashing ladybug larvae on the plant seems to have helped. I still find the occasional red aphid on the plant but it’s clearly a lone survivor easily snuffed out by a squish.

I’m spotting ladybug larvae all around the garden, including nestled in my sage.

Aphids generally don’t attack sage, but other pests can, so go and be hungry my larvae friend!

I’m not so great larvae news, the cabbage fly maggots have definitely attacked the roots of the cauliflower. I killed a bunch yesterday and thankfully today they were nowhere to be found. So either they’ve turned into pernicious flies- or between squishing and spraying I got them.

As you can see the cauliflower looks fairly healthy regardless- but some of the underleaves look very rough, and clearly the root nibbles were not good for the plant. I’m giving them a little extra fertilizer and hopefully they’ll rebound. Cabbage fly is an awful pest but much more deadly to root brassicas than leaf brassicas- especially a cauliflower of this size that’s well developed.

That being said I have baby romanesco all over the garden and I’m going to have to be very diligent in checking their roots for eggs. In a baby leaf brassica cabbage fly can be fatal.

Speaking of baby cabbages, the new shade fabric bed filled with brassicas and lettuce is starting to sprout. I sowed the bed in a frenzy and didn’t write down what was what… but I think I sowed tokyo market turnips and komatsuna closer to the fence along with radishes and mizuna- and then lettuces and arugula closer to the path. I think. The point is it looks like it’s all coming up so go shade bed!

My new potted chervil is doing well- it looks like chervil is more of a pot herb then a bed herb. You can see the little fronds on top, that’s fresh growth, a sign that the chervil likes its new moist shady spot.

Besides the issues I’m having with the parsley in the shade bed, the lemon balm has gotten quite tall. I’m attempting to try to grow a few new plants from cuttings but so far the lemon balm hasn’t taken. The pineapple mint has though, I have several growing from cuttings.

As you can see they’re quite vigorous. I’m also attempting to grow some thyme from cuttings, jury’s out on that one. Cuttings are a crapshoot- like 60% just don’t take. But with a little surestart and some love some will- and then you can multiply your plants. This is especially useful in plants like mint and thyme which can be used as borders or ground cover- expensive to buy all the plants you need to cover such a space- much cheaper to take care of a few vigorous specimens and over the course of a few months take cutting after cutting until you have enough for your needs.

I wish my chives were doing better. There’s a very un-chive like sprout in the garlic chive pot which makes me think weed, and the regular chives are barely growing. Are they getting too much sun? Should I have sowed more thickly? I just really want some dang garlic chives! Back to the drawing board I figure.

The monster squash is growing squash! We picked our first zucchini yesterday and there will be more in the coming days. I suspect much more.

And of course there’s my other zucchini plants in the back which are growing well when the feral cats aren’t sitting on them. I suspect they’ll be too spiky for cat butts soon anyways.

The beans sowed from seed in the back- Kentucky Wonders- are growing nice. They’re mulched and one or two of the Swiss chard seeds have sprouted in front, but they’re too small to mulch. Swiss chard can get huge when planted with beans, due to the nitrogen fixing so fingers crossed. In a week I’ll put up the trellis for these guys- have to check to see if I have enough stakes of the proper size though.

I have concerns about the blue lake pole bean starts though. Some have been just eaten up and are wilting badly, while others are vigorous and putting out new growth.

I had good luck with the haricot vert starts last year and I’m sad those weren’t available but I’ve staggered my pole beans well so I should get a good harvest. Not to mention if the trionfo violetto give harvest early enough I might be able to take advantage of our Indian summers in September/August and plant some late season harvest green beans. After all the soil temp requirements for germination are separate from the growing temperature requirements and as long as we don’t get any frosts I might get some winter beans.

My bigger potatoes are looking a little rough. Much like the spittle bugs on my parsley, earwigs are harmless unless they’re in great numbers. Sadly, much like the high level of spittle bugs on my parsley, the level of earwigs feasting on my potato stems is causing problems- so it’s sluggo time.

Luckily my younger potatoes are growing great- it’s gonna be time to put extra soil in those bags soon. This might be the crucial difference between proper seed potato and just chucking supermarket potatoes in a bag though. It could be the sulfur dip I put on my supermarket potatoes wasn’t enough and that’s why it’s acting up. We’ll see anyways.

I re-staked the San Francisco fog, as the v-shaped bean trellis was not right for this tomato the way it was right for the sun gold. It’s just a hoop and two free standing stake and I’ve used soft ties to lift some leaves off the soil. Not fancy but it works.

I’ll leave you with some magnificent chamomile ready for harvest. The ease with which I’ve grown this is pretty astonishing. Just put the plant in and away it went! I’m looking forward to tea.

Tea and less cabbage fly.

Beans glorious beans and how to stake them.

Well trellis them really. At first I thought I’d just use 6 of the tall stakes and that would be it- but I recalled how last years beans did well on a net and how the peas are quickly outgrowing their stakes… so I broke out the netting.

I used soft ties to anchor the netting to 4 of the really tall stakes. These are the trionfo violetto beans, and they’re growing fairly well. The turnips in front of them might be gone, now replaced with the last of the romanesco seedlings but at least the trellis is up.

Also- growing turnips and beans in the same bed was as stupid as growing carrots with beans last year. Legumes fix nitrogen to the soil- too much nitrogen with a root crop means lush leaves- stunted roots. I have to at some point learn from my mistakes.

I also set up another trellis with the new blue lake bean starts.

Pretty much an identical set up. I am slightly concerned about these new beans though- they look a little eh.

They’ve been immediately set upon by some nibbling pest, and some of them are almost wilting. Now that’s the weather’s fault- yesterday it was 80 and today it was 75. I am in awe at how hot it’s getting, and while it was nice to wear shorts yesterday my tender bean plants would like it to be a little cooler please and thank you.

The Kentucky wonder beans I sowed from seed however are all sprouting on queue. These little guys won’t need a trellis for a while though.

The peas are quickly climbing up their stakes, I have a sneaking suspicion I’m going to have to use eyelets and wire to secure them to the fence soon.

As you can see I’ve put the spinach seedlings in front of the peas- sowed the bare area with some mizuna mustard greens because god knows I love a brassica. I’ve been super diligent about checking the roots of all my cabbage family crops- so far no more cabbage fly- looks like they were just devouring my turnips.

This trionfo violetto is already reaching for its trellis-

Aren’t beans grand!