Biological warfare part 2

So my regular ladybugs weren’t working out. They were active, but not as numerous as I’d like, and the aphids keep trying to take over the Sun Gold.

There is a solution to this dilemma. And they’re native ladybugs to boot. Had to store them in the fridge for a while.

My insane employee discount has raised its head again. The procedure for releasing them is kinda involved, but it works.

You have to wait til it’s dusk. Or dawn, but dusk was more acceptable to me.

First things first you have to spray down the plants you’re releasing the ladybugs on. This gives them water to drink.

Oh boy. That’s a lot of bugs. I tipped in some ladybugs into each pot or bed with aphids. Then I sprayed them down with a little more water so they could drink.

In the morning I saw aphids- and their predators circling their prey.

Not all of the ladybugs made it- a few I tipped into the cauliflower were clearly dead, as a few I put on the herbs.

But they’re reproducing like mad, and I await the hungry larvae.

And while I’m sure a few are going to travel to the neighbors- quite a few of the ones flying around are just going to my other plants. So I have that going for me.

This was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done- but hey, fuck aphids.

Seriously.

Fuck aphids.

Cauliflower woes

I had to pull another cauliflower today- and yeah, maggots on the roots. The plant came up really quickly too- like it was barely alive.

And that’s not even the only bug on the plants.

Ah good old cabbage moth. Or cabbage moth caterpillar anyways. They’re hard to see most of the time- this was the first one I managed to kill this year.

It gets worse.

In the folds of the leaves were an absolute mountain of aphids. I smushed what I could- and I’ll spray some horticultural oil in the morning.

Honestly after pulling the weakest one, I thought I’d just pull them all, and just chalk it up, maybe sow some spaghetti squash.

Only… the largest cauliflowers weren’t so weak rooted. A light tug was all it took to uproot the dying ones, but the big boys are firmly rooted.

I’m not stupid, I know there has to be maggots on these roots too- but maybe the neem oil pours I did last week worked in reducing their numbers? One or two maggots don’t hurt the plant- a zillion do. I just pulled a few of the Bok Choy for tonight’s supper and there was one maggot between them. So they’re around but not causing too many problems, except what they did to my turnips and what they’re doing to my cauliflowers.

I’m hoping with all the other cabbage family crops in the garden that this is the worst of it.

But they remaining cauliflowers do look good- if buggy.

Now the problem is… it’s going to rain again. Which might bring out more flies and more maggots.

Ah San Francisco. Growing things here is so tricky sometimes.

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…

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.

April bugs have returned

But not the bugs I want sadly. The bees have been showing up but as a trickle and not a roar. Nothing I can do about that- it was such a wet and cold winter that I suspect the big buzzers are still shaking it all off. Still- I have herbs flowering or about to flower- and soon I’ll have sunflowers and poppies.

The cabbage moths however, are back in force. Those little white butterflies are not the vegetable growers friend. Far from it. Luckily as far as turnips go- who cares. It’s not like I’m eating the leaves. I’ve already eaten one of the turnips, it was delicious, but before I pick more I’m waiting for them to get a little bigger.

Unfortunately I most certainly will be eating the Bok Choy leaves. I put down sluggo in case this is slug damage but as I was doing so I saw the white butterfly of doom flying around my head. Tried to kill it but it got away. I’m just trying to be diligent about checking the leaves for caterpillars but they’re little green things the same color as most plant’s leaves so it’s always hit or miss if you can actually find them.

There was some sort of cocoon on one of my carrots. I wasn’t so worried for my carrots, not much eats carrots except for carrot fly and it’s still too cold for them. Still I destroyed the cocoon to protect my other plants.

Some bugs are fairly harmless however. This lovely bit of froth conceals the spittlebug or frog hopper. Now if their numbers go crazy they can damage plants but they’re pretty harmless so I don’t go crazy killing them. I wish all the bugs in my garden were as harmless as these guys.

Speaking of harmless- sow bugs! Or rollypollies or pull bugs or wood louse. They’re isopods! They’re super cool! They don’t really do much and they aren’t mega creepy like earwigs so I don’t really care.

Also they make me smile so that’s nice.

Something has been nibbling on one of my potatoes which is fairly hilarious since I’m fairly sure potato leaves are mildly toxic. Probably something in the rodentia family so not much I can do about that.

What’s really annoying and I have no pictures of is the green aphids that keep getting up on my pepper seedlings. Aphids aren’t great but green aphids are like the easy mode of aphids so it’s easy enough to squish as many of them as you can and then just spray the plants down with neem oil. It’s more annoying then anything.

Of course the way the aphids are climbing the bench to get to the seedling are ants. Here’s a few on my first really spectacular squash blossom. I had to cut back some of the moldy leaves on the squash monster and mulch heavily but it seems to be taking well.

Here’s hoping to more bees and less pests.

And maybe some netting for my Bok Choy.

Damn cabbage moths.

Not so idle Thursday

Today I got one clear day after some rain, with over a weeks worth of more rain to come. I was just gonna pull the dead basil, maybe weed a bit, water where the pea seeds have yet to sprout… and then I got carried away.

Rip Basil. I thought the added water would help it bounce back but it was basically a twiggy spider factory. Like most woody plants it was an absolute bear to pull.

I had two pairs of good work gloves that actually fit me, and one pair got a little funky and since they’re super cheap I threw out the messed-up pair. Only… I somehow threw out two lefts. Leaving me with two right gloves.

I’m a dingbat.

Once that task was taken care of I checked on the lovage pots.

Not great! But last time I rummaged through my seed box I found a packet of lovage seeds. Getting the nasty plants out of their pots was the hardest part. Lovage, for an herb, has some pretty tough roots, so I had to sort of slide the plants into the compost bin.

Then I got distracted.

Look! A mushroom!

I put some potting soil and some sure start in the pots, and once I was done lying on wet grass in order to get a good picture of a fungus, I sowed a few seeds per pot.

Absolutely no guarantee they’ll sprout in the cold- but it’s worth a shot.

I mean it’s chilly, but it’s San Francisco. So it’s not like we’re getting frosts.

There is a possibility however, depending on how much rain comes starting tomorrow, and how hard it comes down, that the lovage pots are going to be less “well watered” and more “soil soup”.

I still have to figure out exactly what I’m doing with the old bench. Wood chipper still an option. While I was again distracted by taking an arty picture of a weed in the sun, I decided to tackle the peppers.

Never got a good shishito. It was a mess from day one. It was put in too late, the ripened weird and too quick, and not a single one grew to full size. So it was time to yeet the dang thing into the compost.

They all got squishy to touch too, like every last one was rotting. Ick.

I uprooted a roly-poly so I wasted yet more time to get a glamour shot of the little dude.

These guys are super cool. They’re isopods- terrestrial crustaceans! Also they have the coolest scientific name: Armadillidiidae.

I’m always careful not to kill these guys. I’m pretty sure they are eating my plants a bit but I just love watching them move.

Unfortunately there are non-pill bug bugs in my garden too- and it seemed like half of them were living in my hatch peppers.

I did get a few that were intact and un-infested which should be good eating, but after I fumbled a few because someone was peeking out of their little homes and I didn’t want grubs climbing up my sleeves, I tossed the long suffering hatch plant into the compost too.

Of course now I have two empty pots filled with really well fertilized soil and I won’t need those two pots for tomatoes til tomato season, so I figured I’d throw a few Swiss chard seeds in the now empty pots and call it a day.

Ooh a centipede! Neat! Nearly crawled up my hand. Not neat! Centipedes are a pretty beneficial insect, garden wise- they eat a lot of the bad bugs. Depending on the species they can be a little venomous though, so definitely not a critter you want climbing on you, just in case.

There. Two new Swiss chard pots for the winter months then I can plant tomatoes or peppers come late March or April.

Of course- this means the new garden layout I drew and posted 4 days ago is now… out of date.

Goddamnit.

The risks of gardening

So, I had a fair amount of maintenance to do today, but not of the easily photographed kind.

Had to water the lettuce well and puzzle over why the outer leaves of one of the red lettuces appeared to be wilted.

The spinach doesn’t look any more eaten than usual, and the new seeds haven’t come up yet, so it was just watering there.

The peppers are looking nice, and I’m maybe only a few days away from picking the baby red bell peppers. (I’ve triple checked the growing peppers for holes after that last eaten one- so far so good.)

No more scale insects on the lovage which is nice- neem oil did the trick there.

Had to do a tie-up of my aging tomato plant. Several of the extra long stalks were falling over since my small tomato cage is now heavily dwarfed by the plant. No biggie- just used some soft ties to tie up the falling stalks and then tie up another stalk to the now tied up stalk… a bit of recursive tying.

Every day more baby tomatoes appear on that plant so I’m happy to baby it. It took some hand killing of nasty red aphids today, but a good days work after all.

The risk came later.

I’m sitting relaxing at my chair, my legs up on my bed- watching some reruns on my iPad. Pretty much the only TV I watch now.

And I feel something on my neck.

Probably just a zit- I get those, so I reach up to pick at it because smart or not that’s what I tend to do with zits…

And my hand comes away with the grossest insect that was chewing at my neck that I’ve ever seen!

It was segmented like an ant or a wasp but it was the size of a botfly!

Much yelling and squishing followed, along with a very hot shower.

I still don’t know what I tracked indoors somehow, but I have a huge welt on my neck from where it was chewing,

Don’t be me! Check yourself after a long time in the garden! Check yourself well!

BLEEEEEECCCCH!!!!!