Taking care of your roots

Root vegetables that is!

Every other Tokyo market turnip is maggot eaten. But the two I’ve eaten so far have been safe. I’ve been tossing the duds. I suspect no matter how mild a San Francisco spring and summer are- turnips are a winter crop, if only because of the damn cabbage fly.

Lesson learned.

But happily cabbage fly ignores carrots and potatoes, my other root vegetable loves. (And beets, but that’s another post)

Anyways, I ripped out the last of the carrot bed today.

Most of the carrots left were certified messes, except for a few really nice Kuroda, that got a nice trip to the sink to clean them and are now living in the refrigerator til I eat them up.

Now the trick with growing carrots is that if you fertilize them too much or use anything with too much nitrogen, you’ll get great big bushy tops and not so great roots. And it’s carrots- the roots are the whole point. Enter- neem seed meal.

Specifically formulated as a fertilizer for root veggies, note the potatoes on the box, neem seed meal is great for helping your root veggies grow great without putting too much energy into the inedible parts.

Score one for my new job, I’d never heard of the stuff until I started working at Sloat.

And yes- it’s from the same plant that neem oil is from.

Kills bugs grows carrots, what can’t the neem tree do!

Also it smells amazing. Like- I should be putting this on steak before grilling it amazing.

Don’t eat this stuff.

But yeah it smells finger licking good.

ANYWAYS.

Kuroda carrots are wonderfully sweet, but their main advantage is that they handle hotter temps better than most carrots. Considering that these carrots will be maturing in late August, one of the hotter months in my fair city, I’ll take it.

I spaced my carrot seeds appropriately this time instead of willy-nilly.

Now it’s just a matter of keeping everything moist until they germinate.

Now onto the potatoes!

It is high time I filled up those bags with soil for maximum spud production.

I put a good fistful off the neem seed meal in each bag and then spent the better part of a half hour wrestling soil into bags that would rather not be filled. You have to cover as many of the lower leaves as possible because covered leaves equals more spuds.

And I love spuds.

Boom! Filled bags!

I watered the heck out of all of them, and hopefully the tops will grow more, and then I’ll fill the bags completely to the top and then by August/October I’ll have more potatoes then I know what to do with.

Here’s hoping!

Captain’s log: June 3rd 2019

I had a very busy day today and only a few scant morning hours to work in the garden. But I got a lot done.

I didn’t have to do much in the way of watering, as one can see from the rain water on my Tokyo market turnips.

It rained in the night which is… really stressing my tomatoes.

What I did today was rip out most of the plants that had gone to seed, and fertilize.

And weed. So. Much. Weeding.

The pea plants are completely taking over the fence- and they’re starting to bear peas.

I probably should have put in a proper trellis instead of relying on stakes and the fence and the eyelets and wire I put on the fence. Either way the purple peas are a huge success.

Speaking of purple produce- in a few days it will be time to pick my not-a-romanesco.

I’ve had quite a bit of harvests lately- All the viable romaine were eaten, as well as the Bok Choy from the fabric bed.

In the place of the Bok Choy I sowed some beets, which are starting to come up. Beets are interesting- the seeds you get are actually like a little ball of seeds- so you always have to thin them, no matter how far apart you sow them.

I made a start on ripping out the carrot bed. I definitely sowed it too thickly, lots of big woody inedible carrots mixed with little squashed babies.

I got one last viable one though.

The stem hadn’t gone to seed so it’s probably a good one.

I’m gonna re seed the carrot bed once I pick some neem seed fertilizer from work, along with some more soil.

And I’m going to re seed a little thinner so I don’t end up with dodgy carrots.

In other fantastic news- looks like I’m getting a blackberry! Not only are the blackberry plants growing like mad- I looks like the first flower I got is turning into an actual fruit! The smaller vine will probably not bear fruit until next year but it looks like the larger vine is going to bear this year.

The plants in between the two blackberries are comfrey. I put them in a week ago or so. They’re an old style herb that like a lot of the herbs grown by our ancestors for medicine, are super duper toxic. But! It’s a documented if odd fact that comfrey salves used topically can help heal bruises. I… could use that. Not to mention supposedly comfrey can be used as a green compost- it has a lot of nitrogen in its leaves and when steeped you can water other plants with the comfrey tea to help them grow.

Sounds good to me.

The sun gold is looking more than a little rough. The ladybugs definitely are going to help- but it looks like the infestation in the sun gold tomato particularly was so heavy I’m going to have to move the few ladybugs that remain in the plant and spray the crap out of the sun gold with neem oil.

It’s got so many baby tomatoes- I’m just waiting for summer and the heat that will hopefully ripen them into beautiful gold goodness.

As much as I’m loving the ladybugs in the garden…

As you can see on my baby basil- they’ve brought quite a few flies. The problem is- out of 1,500 ladybugs- yeah a few were dead. Maybe more than a few. Dead bugs equal flies.

So. Many. Flies.

Ugh.

My cucumber seedlings were absolutely gasping to be planted so I obliged.

Just around the stake trellis. This picture was taken before I mulched it. As you can see the radishes in the center are almost ready to pick.

Speaking of radishes-

So this is where the romaine was. There’s one left as you can see- but the rest were eaten either eaten or pulled as icky. In its place I sowed some extra big radishes. Crimson giants to be precise. They’ll grow quick enough so that in a month I can put something else there- maybe some more green or bunching onions.

The borage is starting to flower. This is nothing- borage flowers are some of the most beautiful herb flowers you can grow. Honestly they’re one of the most beautiful flowers period.

Of course- also a contender for best flower…

Yay! It’s the most perfect little sunflower! The best part is it faces my window. Summer is coming!

The sunflowers demand it!

A bolt from the blue

Well quite a bit is going to seed. I gave up on the spinach altogether- tiny plants all growing flower heads. It’s too late for spinach anyways.

As for the old curly leaf parsley-

Parsley is a biennial anyways and these plants are- you guessed it, 2 years old.

The older flat leaf is also bolting, which is annoying as it most certainly isn’t 2 years old.

The big stalks in the back are the bolting flat leaf- the mess in front is the bolting chervil. That’s not a surprise it’s a very tender herb that doesn’t like heat and we had just a few too many sunny days. I wouldn’t even replace it until November or so. Which sucks because I love chervil and you can’t really buy it in stores.

If we end up with a radically cold summer I’ll buy another plant… I also might have seeds… well I have some thinking to do re: chervil.

These beauties are my carrots. Once they start flowering they’re basically no longer edible. Woody cores, lack of flavor… on Friday I’m going to dig up the lot and see if there are a few small edible carrots hiding in the thicket. But yeah, it’s time to re-seed the carrot bed anyways.

That was always this month’s task anyways.

I would find the parsley ending it’s lifespan annoying if it wasn’t for one thing.

So a month ago or so I went through a whole song and dance trying to grow curly parsley from seed. It’s kinda tricky- you have to soak the seeds overnight and sow them a certain way. I waited and waited and waited… bupkis. Until now! It looks like parsley just takes a really long time to germinate. I had planted quite a few herbs along my parsley row when it didn’t come up, and now the parsley is growing up in-between everything.

Best laid plans of mice and Neanderthals I suppose.

But at least I’ll have more parsley.

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.

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🎶

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.

Captain’s log: March 9th 2019

It sprinkled off and on, but it was warmer and clearer than I expected so I sprang into action. I was hoping to see a movie this weekend, but I can always see a movie in the rain- can’t effectively garden when it’s pouring so the silver screen can wait.

I have moved the mint thunderdome and succulent pots from the former home, and now they’re elsewhere in the garden. The thunderdome got a trim- hopefully that will promote more mint growth in spring.

There’s the new home of the terra-cotta succulent pot and the little purple pot. Eventually the succulent pots will go in front of the house but thats a while off.

Why am I moving everything around?

So I can place my new fabric bed where the other pots were of course!

I really have to update the map of the garden…

It took all the soil I had left to fill it, plus mulch on top. It will be a while before my Joi Choi seedlings are big enough to be transplanted outside, but I wanted to make sure the bed was there when I needed it. This is in a semi-shaded area of the garden which doesn’t make a ton of sense for mint but makes good sense for things like Bok Choy.

They wait.

In other seedling news the greenhouse seeds seem to be doing ok, but the stems are a bit spindly. I might have to transplant the sunflowers to larger plastic pots soon- but as I used up all my soil it will have to wait. I was planning on Wednesday being the soil day for the new beds- but it looks like I’m going to have to go tomorrow first for 2-3 bags for other garden use.

In really good news it looks like the potatoes are doing well. The one on the right had some scary damaged leaves which had me anxious about blight- but it seems to have rebounded. I’m quite happy with it.

The baby romaine lettuce look amazing…

The last remaining Bok Choy looks more than a little eaten. It’s going to get eaten either today or tomorrow- but I need to get some more soil to level off the area in preparation for zucchini.

The radishes in the mixed bed have come up- but the purple peas have not. It looks like once again the over-much rain has caused the baby peas to force themselves up too early and not develop good roots.

I really want my purple snap peas.

So I’m starting some indoors!

I’m not taking any chances, I want my peas!

I’ve already harvested most of the harvestable chard- and tonight I’ll do the same to the arugula. That’s because the soil temperature in the back has finally reached bean temperature. So these plants are going to get ripped out in favor of green beans soon enough.

Swiss chard!

Speaking of harvests, I’m starting to get some great carrots when I thin.

I over-sowed a bit when I planted the carrot bed- my bad. But it’s hard to regret it when the thinnings are so delicious. That middle one is a yellow carnival blend carrot, I’m surprised it got that big.

Finally, the rosemary has decided it’s spring. It’s flowering all over, and has begun to attract the first bees. I couldn’t get a picture but the whole time I was working in the garden today I was followed around by a big fat bumble bee. That’s really good news for tomatoes later on- bumble bees are the best pollinators for tomatoes.

Wednesday is the big soil day- but tomorrow looks like it’s going to my first opportunity to get pole bean sets if they’re available this early.

Spring is coming, and I am ready for it!