April has no more showers- but plenty of flowers

So the last couple of days were in the 80s. Today was much more sedate- but still warm for April. At least it was properly overcast. The main advantage of the extra unseasonal heat is that it’s triggering some early flowers- which is good for the bees I suppose.

Now I’m not 100% sure this is a bee- it might be one of those pollinating flies that mimics bees. Also could be one of the smaller native bees. I don’t know. I do know that it really likes my chamomile and it is adorable.

The insect activity is reaching June levels. This is of course both good and bad. Plenty of fat little bumble bees trundling through the garden, along with some truly lovely western tiger swallowtail butterflies. Yesterday I saw the most amazing dragonfly flitting too and fro the garden. It was moving much too fast for photography but it stayed darting around for almost an hour. The bad is that the “harmless” spittlebugs are reproducing at rates that make them harmful and I had to spray them on my parsley plants and there’s some sort of small scale insect on my dill weed. Not to mention the aphids- though it looks like operation ladybug has curbed the worse of it. Also the amount of earwigs in my potato bags has me worried.

But wow the flowers.

Despite being heavily laden with lemons- the lemon tree is flowering again for next year’s crop. I suspect this is due to the heavy rain it’s gotten this year. I’m not complaining- just racking my brain for lemon recipes.

The apple tree is also setting out flowers. For a few year later during the drought I thought we’d lose this tree so it’s continued existence and health is an absolute joy. It is frankly a gnarled mess that desperately needs pruning but I’ll handle that this winter. For now the fact that the tree planted by my parents still lives is a triumph.

The sauce pot is flowering like mad- as is the sun gold. If half these flowers turn into fruit I’m going to have a very productive year of tomatoes. That’s a ways off. The black krim however is giving me a bit of pause.

I have never seen a tomato flower look like that. It looks nothing like the other tomato flowers- almost as if it’s a related but different species. Maybe it’s a function of being an heirloom, but it’s slightly odd looking. The black krim was an experiment anyways so I’m not overly concerned.

Now this isn’t flowing yet- but it’s sprouted encouragingly. This is my poppy pot, ready to give me lovely multi-colored California poppies. Highly recommend them- especially if you want to sow them in the ground, they grow like absolute weeds. In San Francisco they grow wild in the cracks of transit lines and sidewalks- almost like their preferred growing medium is concrete.

The squash monster continues to flower rather magnificently, and it’s starting to set out little fruits-

In a couple of days I’ll have my first zucchini!

Now that’s a lovely surprise for April!

The excelsior bee hotel is open for business

And luckily the flowers are starting to bloom just in time to give the bees something to eat.

This lovely bee house was a gift from an online friend named elsietheeel who sent me this wonderful bee house out of the blue in winter. The edge was slightly damaged but it is perfectly usable. I slapped a little sugru on the rough edge, and on the split on top that was 100% my fault (dropped it oops).

The paint was 100% optional and 100% necessary.

It’s the excelsior bee hotel!

I found a spot for it on the back fence with enough sun for the bees to be comfortable.

I screwed a small screw into the fence to help keep it steady, and hopefully I’ll have plenty of bees soon to pollinate the tomatoes.

Because the tomatoes are ready for bees.

This is the sun gold and it’s in full bloom even though it’s not that big yet. The sauce pot is also obnoxiously flowered for April-but I shouldn’t complain!

My brand new chamomile plant is also ready for bees- you can really tell it’s a member of the extended daisy family when it’s in full bloom.

But what I’m really excited about is my larger blackberry vine.

Its flowering already! Look at it it’s so pretty! I’m super thrilled. I’m hoping this is a sign that all the effort I put into acidifying the soil and mulching so heavily did the trick.

Of course not all the food for bees was intentionally planted- this is the gorgeous scarlet pimpernel that showed up in front of one of my back beds. It’s just so nice to look at too.

Of course there’s also the neighbor’s flowers contributing to food resources. They do a wonderful job with their roses, and they’re also growing fava beans this year, very popular with our buzzing friends.

Anyways I’m just glad after a whole winter stuck inside it’s finally dry enough to be put outside. Got to support your local pollinators!

Captain’s log: March 14th 2019

Well I had to push the grand soil haul til tomorrow, but that didn’t mean I could rest on my laurels.

The weather is beautiful out- and coupled with the return of daylight savings I have a ton more usable time out in the garden. It was around 70 degrees out in the hottest part of the day today, and while I know a week from now we are going to have some more rain, it truly feels like the beginnings of Spring.

See- a bumble bee! This is the third or fourth I’ve seen this year so far, which is exciting. Just because I don’t grow most flowers doesn’t mean I can’t have a bee friendly garden. Most of my herbs flower wonderfully, and I’m planting more.

The blue pot is the garlic chives 2.0 after the wind killed pot 1.0- the other pot on the stand is new, and houses some regular chive seeds.

What- I like chives ok? Why not have both? Besides all varieties of chives have wonderful edible flowers that make bees go crazy. And more bees means more tomatoes later and more green beans and more cucumbers… you get the idea.

I also wanted to pot up some cilantro. I keep getting cilantro and planting it in the shade herb bed and having it grow just plain weird. Well- turns out this was 100% my fault. Cilantro is like dill- transplanting cilantro tends to make the plant all screwy.

Ok so I’ll sow it by seed into a pot like I did with the dill, only the only pot the right size is the plastic pot that we all know the wind likes to knock over…

The solution is rocks. The solution is always rocks.

Those are a couple of big rocks I found that I plunked down in the pot before I filled it with soil and seeds. Made it good and heavy- try to knock that over wind!

(Just kidding wind please be cool)

I’ve also been pretty pleased with the seedlings so far, except for the one Boston pickle I started indoors during the deluge- it died in the night. I just sort of shrugged and put another Boston pickle cucumber seed in the pot- you can’t really plant cucumbers in their bed til around May so I have plenty of time to screw around with seeds and grow a few strong plants for transplant.

Rip Boston Pickle plant. As you can see the rest of the older seedlings are doing really great- as are some of the younger ones…

All 12 of the Joi Choi came up! Which… is problematic as at the moment I only have room for 8 of them! Luckily with the soil infusion I’m getting tomorrow I’ll have room for plenty more and it’ll be a while before these little guys are ready for transplant anyways.

I’ve also started some mustard greens and Japanese spinach as nothing but 2 radishes ever came up in the side bed and it’s good shady real estate for greens.

The warmth and sun has really reinvigorated some of the herbs. All the water plus now the warmth has made my sage plant very happy. It wasn’t looking so hot in January so I’m glad it seems to have rallied. I really like sage, which is why I’m a little sad I’ll probably have to pull the purple sage.

I mean- that’s just not right.

The other herbs in this bed are doing well- including the hyssop which I never even thought I wanted.

Truly magnificent. That should flower very nicely in June- a real treat for the bees.

Another win- the potted mints. The mint thunderdome is roaring back to life after its winter slumber- and my two individual mints are growing with real vigor. This is the pineapple mint which is a real pretty plant. Smells fantastic too.

Happily both of the potato bags are also going strong, I’ll have to put more soil in soon. I’ve made up my mind on the potato front- I’m definitely going to get a few more bags and some proper seed potatoes and grow a few more. That whole middle area has a fair amount of room and a medium amount of sun- and I’m the sort who could eat my weight in spuds. Not to mention my mother who’s diet is fairly limited- like the zucchinis I will be growing and the carrots I am growing, it makes sense to grow her some more potatoes, which are some of the few vegetables she can eat.

The first bean seeds are in- we’ll see if they take- it’s early but the soil is just warm enough.

I’ll leave you with lettuce.

Get it- *leave* you, sounds like leaf…

Aw forget the bad pun. It’s pretty lettuce.

Too much rain!

I hesitate to even say that. It’s too close to a jinx. After years and years of dry or barely wet winters, drought after drought, it seems… unseemly to complain about rain.

But oh god I am sick of it. It’s clear today, but it’ll start up again tomorrow, and my poor plants are getting hammered.

I’ve never grown a lemon grass plant before so I don’t know for sure- but I’m pretty sure this is not the best sign. The plant is too tall to stash in the mini-greenhouse so out it sits- getting overwatered.

The Mitsuba is yellowing a bit- which will become a recurring theme. As a woodland plant, it doesn’t mind the rain- but like a lot of the plants in the back- it needs some fertilizer. All the rain is washing away the nitrogen from the soil. So yellow plants.

Even the hardy parsley looks a little wilted. Luckily fixing a parsley plant on the fritz is pretty easy- light fertilize, cut away the yellow leaves, harvest the good leaves so new growth can form. Not sure how to do that with the lemon grass.

Honestly though? The lemon grass was planted for one reason and one reason only: it repels mosquitoes. So since I’m not really using it culinarily, if this one is just dead from rain I’ll just plant another one to ward off the wee bloodsuckers.

And maybe I’ll look up how to harvest and use fresh lemon grass because I do like the flavor.

Lemon balm is also supposed to ward off mosquitoes, and it also makes very nice tea. It seems to have developed spots on its top leaves, though the bottom growth is coming on fine. It’s a mint so my strategy is to leave it alone. Mint will figure itself out!

Mint always wins.

Ah cilantro. Also getting spotty- but the spots seems to be a cosmetic blemish as the leaves taste as good as they always do. It also needs a light fertilize like the parsley, but the center growth is pretty good so I’m not going to fiddle with it much.

The poor pepper plant looks positively pathetic. What it needs is some sun and time to dry out- what it’s getting is a deluge. The wind keeps knocking it out of its ties, so I keep having to go out and re-tie it. I was really hoping my pepper would last til summer and start growing again, but I’ll be surprised if it survives the month.

Oh well.

In better news, the bees are starting to appear! This is a bumble bee who got caught out in the rain a few days ago, poor girl, and wisely decided to take a load off under the sheltering leaf of my sorrel plant. Smart bee! Wet bee!

It’s not the first bee of 2019 but it’s the first bee I’ve been able to photograph. Gonna have to start fixing the bee house for little miss bumble’s mason cousins.

Squarely in the “loving it” category are both my new potted mints. I was worried about transplant shock but they clearly weren’t. New growth already and they smell fantastic. If only all my plants were as water loving as mint.

Finally- the last Bok Choy’s are in line to get eaten this coming week and they look amazing. A little slug eaten ok, but with this much rain it was inevitable. I have a small fabric bed coming in which I think I shall plant solely with Joi Choi- it’s a really good producer that doesn’t bolt in the heat like the purple type did. I finally figured that out- we had like two hot days in January that messed up the plants. Considering how variable San Francisco weather is, I’m not going to plant any variety that’s that sensitive to changes in temperature. But how can you learn these things except by experimenting? Lesson learned.

Here’s to March!

Captain’s log: February 21st 2019

Today was a busy day. Actually a busy couple of days, but that’s not important.

A lot of what I’ve been doing is watering now that we’ve had some clear weather- it’s sunny but cool. Heat evaporates water in the soil, but the chief evaporator is the sun- so even though it’s not even above 55 most days- I’ve had to water a fair amount last couple of days.

Part of that of course is the plants I’ve been putting in- new transplants need water no matter the weather. Both the mints and the chervil seems to be doing well- but so are the herbs I put in last month which is a sigh of relief.

Here’s my pretty Italian oregano which took pretty much immediately. All the herbs are growing well.

Today when I got outside to start work- I had a visitor.

He or she is a local kitty, I think one of the ones born last year, and this one and their siblings keep taking vacations into my garden. I’m pretty sure this is the one who put his paws in my arugula pot- and here you can see them hard at work looking at a vole hole. The minute he saw me he went “?!!!!” And sprang backwards over the fence in fear. Entertainingly he kept coming back to keep tabs on my work.

In local news outside of my garden- here’s the toll of the wind and rain, a tree got knocked over in my local park and crashed through the fence. Which illustrates how nutso the weather was, and will be. Its clear for now, but my wish of a longer spell of dry weather has not been answered- it looks like scattered showers or worse are in San Francisco’s future. Hopefully no more downed trees will follow.

I pulled the purple Bok Choy, which for whatever reason had totally passed from edible to stringy stalks- so the Joi Choi can survive until I can eat them. And I will be eating them- they are delicious. Into the compost bin with the non leafy Bok Choy’s!

And look at those lettuces! I am a total convert to the temple of raising lettuce from seed.

And speaking of seeds…

I started several seeds in little seedling pots. Specifically I started 6 sunflower seeds, 6 romanesco broccoli, 6 cucumbers, (3 telegraph 3 Boston pickle) 6 zucchini (3 Nimba 3 green bush) and 6 lipstick peppers. They are all living inside for the moment- as I don’t trust the wind and temperature outside. I used regular potting soil mixed with a little sure start, as I tried some seed starter mix and it was so damn light it wouldn’t take water. Potting soil is better.

Once these sprout it’s off to the greenhouse bench with them! But that will be several weeks from now.

The spinach bed has been overgrown and weedy for too long, so I pulled the spinach and amended the soil so I could plant by seed.

A back row of purple snap peas, a row of radishes, a zig zag row of mustard greens, and a final front row of green onions, since only a few of the green onions I planted in the big 4×4 bed have sprouted.

Now that’s some sexy dirt. We’ll see what takes in the temperature and upcoming wet, but that’s why I’m starting with peas that have a lot less stringent temperature requirements than beans.

Of course I was being spied on while I worked….

Spooky! Kitty kept coming back as I worked and then fleeing as soon as I turned to coo at it.

I wish no one in the house was allergic, otherwise I’d try to befriend the poor feral. But me and mom would need hospitalization after being close to a house cat so it is what it is. At least kitty and his siblings take care of the rats.

The turnips are starting to look really pretty in the evening sun. Turnips never fail me.

Speaking of the infallible, look at that thyme! Both plants, big leaf and French growing huge after all that rain. Thyme is like mint in that it should probably be in a pot- but it’s less of a wanderer than mint so you can take a chance on it. It’s definitely more thyme than I can eat, but it’s pretty and it smells good so who cares!

And look at that sage! It’s throwing up new leaves! Finally! It looks like it took a rainfall to finally wake up the herb but now it’s going to do nothing but grow. That’s a nice feeling.

Finally the arugula. It’s basically growing wild which is to be expected when you sow it as thickly as I did. The problem with that is the absolute thicket of oxalis growing underneath it. Pulling all that oxalis without seriously damaging the arugula would be almost impossible so I’ve just given up for now. In a month or less I have to pull up almost everything in this bed so I can plant the back with pole beans so IDK the weeds are going to get it- just not anytime soon.

The most amazing thing happened today- but I couldn’t get a photo of it, no matter how hard I tried. I saw the first bumble bee of 2019! It’s late February but as far as I’m concerned spring has sprung because traveling around the mowed weeds was the fattest little bumble butt. Fuzzy and black with yellow trim, buzzing around looking for flowers, I dropped everything to follow her around but I was sadly unsuccessful in snapping a pic. But she was here! The first bee of the year!

It’s gonna be a good year.

The bees have arrived!

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!

Captain’s log: August 29th 2018

Oh boy. So much is going on! Besides returning to university for my last semester, it’s been busy busy busy! But as I transition into a fall/winter garden I’m still happily plugging away in the garden.

We had an aphid scare on the chives a few days ago.

I went to pick a few herbs for dad, who was cooking a delightful recipe we refer to as a “meat cake”. (Meat loaf cooked in a cast iron pan in the oven). I picked everything else and when I picked a few chives my hands came back crawling with aphids. After a good manly yell to the heavens- I got to work on mineral oil spraying the damn things, and I’m happy to say that today, there were only one or two of the bastards left.

Wish I could say the same with the fava beans. The bees keep coming to pollinate, even though as these are cover crop, I’m not sure they’ll ever give me beans. But around the back several stalks were covered in aphids. Just a few- but considering the bean rust crawling up the stalks, I’m not sure if I’m getting a crop from these. I sprayed of course, and I’ll have to do it again tomorrow, but such is the gardener’s life!

In slightly bizarre but not unexpected news some of the formerly infested carrots are going to seed. Which is my fault entirely. See carrots don’t like summer and generally should be grown through the winter. But a bunch of my favorite purple and red carrots were being sold at my local garden center, and they’re one of the few veggies my mother can eat… SO I took a risk. I’ll probably cut back the tops of the carrots and see if they’ll keep growing roots.

And now for the good news!

Ah the most beautiful sight in the world. A seedling pushing its way up and out of the soil. The mitsuba is sprouting!

In even better news…

The tomato has rebounded! Fresh green growth above and below! It’s going to make it!

It’s not dead Jim!

It’s just so nice to have good news for once. The seedlings in the greenhouse are still waiting to sprout- and it will be a while before the new bed and pots are filled with glorious plants- but the lovage is in its new pot(s), the tomato isn’t going to die, and I’ve beaten back the aphids on the chives.

Also I potted a new succulent for the indoors.

It’s your basic echeveria in a basic blue pot. It lives in the dining room under the skylight.

It’s been a good day.