My new bucket.

Well I finally cracked and did it.

I bought a 5 gallon bucket.

Because really, who doesn’t need a bucket?

I had a bucket- but I tried to do bucket compost in it and then forgot about it for 5 years and when I opened it…

So I have a new bucket.

Why do I have a new bucket?

Beneficial nematodes baby! Gonna treat my Brassica beds with the good good stuff that kills nasty awful no good cabbage fly maggots!

Look. I have no pictures of it because my instinct was “kill it with fire” but I had what can only be described as the worst experience with my last big Joi Choi. I knew from my many times growing turnips that cabbage fly maggots like to eat the roots of brassicas- which is why I don’t plant root brassicas anymore. (Which is sad as I love turnips and radishes) Now cabbage flies can affect not just root brassicas, but all brassicas by nibbling at the roots and killing the seedlings. But as long as you time it right and you take care of your seedlings the plants will be healthy enough to withstand the onslaught.

Integrated pest management! It’s not about killing all the pests- it’s about managing them.

I thought I was safe. After all they die back in autumn, there will only be a few…

But then I picked my last beautiful Joi Choi- brought it upstairs, and when I cut into the stem- a maggot popped its little head out. It traveled up the stem! All the stems had maggots in them!

NOPE.

Nematode time!

There are some pretty detailed instructions- but my lack of a bucket was a challenge so I picked one up.

I did this right at dusk which is the right time apparently, though that wasn’t a sign of any pre-planning (pre-planning? What’s that?) on my part, it just happened to be when I was free.

Gross! And blurry!

You dump the contents of a container that’s within the main container into some water and then wait a bit for all the microscopic nematodes to get dissolved in the drink. What floats to the top is carrier.

You’re then supposed to water the beds with it. My problem was getting the carrier bits off the top. I do not have a mesh strainer that I was willing to dirty with nematodes. Also I was concerned about getting the bucket water into the watering can and not the ground.

Old pitcher and old Giants branded cardboard cups? Check.

Everything in this garden is Gerry-rigged and I’m ok with that.

After I skimmed off the carrier and filled the watering can with nematode water, I just… watered all the beds with brassicas!

I also watered my cut back squash vine because if it does fail that bed will most likely host brassicas of some type.

I could not take any pictures of this in the moment as it was no longer dusk- it was night.

Night-time gardening. It’s the Neanderthal way.

Here’s the view from the next morning.

While you skim off the carrier you also use it as it most likely still contains nematodes and you want to get your money’s worth.

So I just sprinkled it where needed.

The north beds should now be protected!

As should the West beds!

And my favorite- Mr. Tree collard.

All in all this wasn’t too difficult, doesn’t pollute the water table, won’t poison me or wildlife, and wasn’t stinky.

So 10/10 would nematode again!

This type of nematodes is really good at combating lawn grubs- that’s the really gross looking thing on the container. I don’t have a lawn, but nematodes eat a lot of things.

So here’s to integrated pest management.

And my new bucket.

It’s a nice bucket.

The Japanese vegetable bed is in!

Well, the “yet more Asian greens bed”. Besides the black summer Bok Choy, a vegetable that is eaten all over Asia, and today the world- I’ve planted two vegetables that are fairly particular to Japan, Komatsuna and Shungiku.

Komatsuna is of course a brassica- but Shungiku isn’t. More on that later.

Before I planted, but after I ripped out the spent sunflowers and tomato plants, I had a choice to make. This is an old Yerba Buena plant which despite inclement conditions in this bed- is still trucking along.

Yerba Buena likes lots of water and shade and in this bed it got neither. It’s still pretty good though- so I tucked it’s stems to the side and got to work clearing the weeds.

I had scattered some California poppy seeds around to add some color to the bed, but they never flowered. I didn’t pull them until now because I like the look of poppy foliage. What I don’t like about poppies is their damn taproots. It’s one of the reasons they’re such a successful flower/weed in drought prone California, a taproot is a much more water efficient root then surface roots. It does make clearing them from a bed a little difficult.

Once the bed was clear of old mulch and old poppies- it was time to amend it. A bag of compost should do the trick, but Komatsuna likes it’s nitrogen so I also mixed in a few good handfuls of biofish.

I anticipate this being a bed that will suck up a lot of maxsea, but I’m ok with that.

Of course before you plant anything you need to have a good idea of where everything is going to go.

Bok Choy needs some space in order for it to get full size, but how much space it needs really depends on the variety. Black summer is sort of a medium density and taller Bok Choy so you can go a little closer then you would with another type- or with an actual cabbage.

Komatsuna on the other hand is a more vertical grower- it’s often referred to as Japanese spinach. It’s not a spinach of course, it’s a Brassica rapa just like Bok Choy. But because of its more spinach like growing habit, it can be jammed closer together.

As for Shungiku- I actually don’t know! Shungiku is actually a type of edible chrysanthemum green and as I’ve never grown mums or any type of chrysanthemum flower… I’m just going to wing it.

“I’m just going to wing it” is probably my mother’s least favorite phrase to come out of my mouth, but in the vegetable garden at least winging it can work out fine.

Less so with childhood baking experiments sorry mom.

So everything was well placed and well watered- and then it was time to mulch.

My favorite time.

Not only did I mulch, as you can see I re-spread out my survivor of a Yerba Buena plant.

It hasn’t given up on me, so I’m not giving up on it.

As this bed is rather brassica heavy, there’s one more step to be done, but that’s another post.

Coming soon to a garden near you: beneficial nematodes!

Because fuck cabbage moths that’s why!

Planting the mystery brassica

Well it was time to pick the largest Bok Choy left in the ground, and that freed up space for my mystery veg.

It also gave me an excuse for a wide shot of my west beds.

I would have photos of my yummy Bok Choy only one had cabbage maggots *in the stems* fuck. And it turns out I’m pretty mad about that.

Anyways, mystery plants are in and they’re ready to grow!

I will have to treat these beds now that I know a handful of the cabbage flies are still flying around. Never wanted to bother with beneficial nematodes but I don’t have a choice at this point.

As for the identity of the mystery plant…

I did find one other plant in the store that had some similarities.

Portuguese cabbage or sea kale? This isn’t sea kale. Sea kale is its own thing.

But a fancy kale sounds nice I suppose.

If I can only protect it from maggots bleh.

Mystery brassica

Well sometimes things get mixed up. A six pack of veggies can get misplaced by a customer who decides they want something else- and wind or misadventure can misplace a tag.

Then you end up with something like this.

It’s… a brassica!

Probably Brassica oleracea judging by the shape of it.

But it’s a little strange…

Purple stems and green leaves…

The stems don’t seem to be swollen so probably not a kohlrabi…

Could be a collard or a kale?

Growth comes from the inside… but that’s common for almost all brassicas.

Brussels? Cauliflower? Broccoli? A straight up cabbage?

Well. I suppose I’ll just have to grow it and find out!

The leaves aren’t too damaged from the ubiquitous cabbage moth- I did give it a spray down with B.t. regardless.

Anyways…

🎶mystery plant, it’s a mystery plant🎶

🎶gonna put it in the ground and see what comes up🎶

Of course the space requirements of a Brussels versus a cabbage are very different so…

Stay tuned.

A new green enters the story. Spoiler alert! It’s a Brassica.

Cupid’s arrow struck me with a deep abiding love of brassicas a long time ago, and my affection has never dimmed.

From my childhood obsession with broccoli to my modern love of komatsuna, both oleracea and rapa are the loves of my life.

Which is why when a seldom eaten but much loved member of the species Brassica rapa enters my local garden center- I go wild.

This lovely specimen came in on a Sunday. She was sultry and lush and by the way she walked into the store I knew she’d be trouble.

This- is Koji. Also known as Tatsoi also known as Yukina savoy. She’s a woman of many aliases.

It’s basically a sort of Brassica you harvest as spinach or Swiss chard. Tasty and easy. 

She is trouble though- those lovely crinkled leaves can hide bugs if you’re not careful. I anticipate many inspections of her undercarriage unless I want those grey cabbage aphids.

Annoyingly when I took this beauty on the bus home I lost her nametag, so I have no close up on the tag like I like to give you. Dames like her always like to be anonymous.

Doesn’t matter- I know how to treat a brassica right.

Those six pretty little plants are right at home in the front part of my new bed, and I’ll stop the hard-boiled detective cliches now.

I’m actually pretty excited about this one, as I’ve eaten it sporadically but never grown it.

Ah Brassica rapa- you never disappoint.

Kohlrabi not rapa- but oleracea, still all Latin to me.

So for my 100th post I went all in on Bok Choy, Brassica rapa, a very easy to grow member of the brassica family that I consider one of my all time favorites.

Now it’s time for my 200th post (holy crap) and I thought I’d do a deeper dive into another of my favorite brassicas, kohlrabi. (Brassica oleracea)

This is one that isn’t as well known as bok choy, despite also being ubiquitous at Chinese and other Asian supermarkets.

It’s also very popular in German speaking countries, as it is sometimes called a German Turnip.

Here’s a nice pile of market kohlrabi at my local Chinese supermarket. These are grown much bigger then what stage I pick them at in the garden, largely because they’ll transport and store better at larger sizes. My garden books recommend picking them anywhere from golfball size to tennis ball size. If all you can get is the big guys,that’s fine! The big guys just need more cooking- but if you want little tender kohlrabi you can eat raw, growing them yourself is the best way.

They’re most often found in purple and green varieties, with some seed packets containing a mix of both. Like most Brassicas, growing from seed is fairly easy, but if you want more variety buying starts is a good idea.

To give you and idea of how fast they grow, here’s a photo of one of my earlier planted kohlrabi, taken around October 12th.

And here is the same plant on the 24th.

They may have been called the German Turnip in the past, but the true turnip is rapa, while the kohlrabi is oleracea, the same species as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, among many others.

The edible part is the swollen stem right above the root, so since it’s not the actual root you’ll be eating, cabbage fly, my eternal nemesis, is less of a problem.

I like them raw, but sautéd kohlrabi is tasty too. When they’re very young you can forgo peeling, but any larger then a tennis ball I’d recommend it.

I’m probably going to put in more as the season goes on, it’s a really nice winter crop.

I even have another 6 pack in my latest haul, but there’s been a complication. In true San Francisco fashion, the weather has been insane. After some chill and fog and wet, which is causing an absolute ton of mildew- we had two days of intense heat. Like nearly 100 in my neck of the woods. Which meant on the day off I had to plant these guys, they had to stay inside so they wouldn’t wilt.

And I had to water the absolute heck out of everything.

And now today, it’s foggy and cool and moist.

October in San Francisco is a special time.

I can’t believe this nothing blog has 200 posts! I can’t believe people read about an amateur vegetable gardener in the wildest weather place in the world! But I love you guys and I’m glad you’re here as I shout into the void about kohlrabi.

Though even if you weren’t here I’d still shout into the void about kohlrabi.

It’s a good vegetable.

Next bed done, now with bonus celery!

Today was a real San Francisco special, which is to say in the morning was so windy I had to wear two sweaters but by 2pm it was nearly 75.

Yay October!

Stupid weather tricks aside, I had work to do.

That bed is kinda a mess even with all the beans pulled out, so it was time for the loam builder.

That stuff reeks! It’s like 50% chicken manure though which is what you need for a depleted bed.

I also mixed in a box of kelp meal.

Largely because it was time the celery went into the bed. They’ve been struggling in their pots and they need more space for their roots. Celery are heavier feeders then brassicas so I’m not taking any chances.

Then it was a matter of filling in my army of kohlrabi and some more bok choy.

This isn’y my usual type, this is win-win not joi choi, so we’ll see how it performs. I also have way too many for this one bed…

But I did have some room where I’ve been picking the Joi’s…

Eh it’ll do.

Still have some left, but as I pick the big ones I’ll have the room to plant these.

Anyways, after a good mulch the bed is complete.

The weather is set to be kinda wild again this week, with tomorrow nearly 80 but possibly rain in a week. So I’m trying to get as much in the ground as possible before it starts reliably pouring.

You’re always working against the clock gardening out here.