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!

Seeds for March/April came in, and a book recommendation

So there’s a great heirloom seed place that has lots of rare and not so rare seeds called Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. I know them as the people in the old Petaluma bank.

In Petaluma California, north of me, there is an old bank and the Baker Creek people bought it and turned it into a seed bank and garden store.

It’s pretty wild. Petaluma however is not right around the corner. It’s not super far, but absolutely no one in my house wanted to drive up for 10 dollars worth of seed packets, so to the Internet I went.

One of the reasons last year’s zucchini plant didn’t produce nearly as much zucchini should was that it was a transplant. Now I’ll still probably buy one or two zucchini plants from the garden center as a control- but I’m definitely planting direct into the ground for these bad boys.

I’m trying to be realistic about the prospects for heat this summer, so I chose your basic green Bush variety because… it’s zucchini!

But- I also chose this heirloom Nimba. It’s a variety from Poland of all places and supposedly does well in the cold climates and produces early. Just hedging my bets.

Now the reason I’m so serious about my squash is that it’s one of the few veggies my mom can eat, and I want to feed my mom the very best. Luckily squash is notoriously prolific when the conditions are right, so between the seed varieties and whatever control plant I get at Sloat- I’m seeing a lot of squash in my future.

These beautiful babies are for me and dad. He loves cucumbers and I love pickles. I’ll pickle just about anything mind you, green beans, onions, you name it- but cucumbers are the classic pickle vegetable for a reason.

The telegraph variety was recommended to me by a user on metafilter called purpleclover. She’d just interviewed someone from Baker Creek, and the interviewee recommended the telegraph variety for the cool summers in San Francisco. She very kindly passed this info on to me. (Thank you purpleclover!) It’s an English type which makes sense- it’s not like England is known for hot summers either. I like English cukes- and so does my dad, but I really like pickling types- so I got a packet of Bostons.

Now here’s my confession: I’ve never grown cucumbers before. I know the basics, but I’m boning up on the cucumber pages of my San Francisco gardening books and investigating trellising systems. Expect more posts on the theory of cucumber growing way before the seeds ever hit the soil.

I have time however. It is wet and cold, and absolutely no seeds of either vegetable are going into the ground until at least mid to late March. Now the cucumbers might have to be started in small pots- I’m still investigating.

And the thing is- we might get a hot May and July, that’s the thing about San Francisco weather, we tend to the mild, but it’s inherently unpredictable!

I remember a day in May quite a few years ago during a city college Paleontology class where we had a field trip to Ocean Beach and it was nearly 100 degrees. I got there early with a couple other students and we… frankly we went mad with heat stroke. Running from dogs and collecting pieces of dead crabs that we were convinced were going into a “collection” happened. We never found the teacher and ended up walking all the way to Fort Funston and beyond thinking the sea gulls were chasing us. The professor was not impressed.

(Also not joking about the heat stroke, when I finally got home mom was aghast at how red I was- it wasn’t sunburn it was even under my clothes. I was sick as a dog for days. As someone who does not do well in heat- Australia right now has my deepest sympathy).

Point is- we can sometimes get temps that are shockingly against the norm. So will the summer be hot or typical? Survey says… who the hell knows! Honestly if I had to guess with all the rain it could be a signal of some climate change affected weather which *could* signal a warmer summer… or not.

The point is- I’m hedging my bets, by getting some seeds that can survive a cooler summer.

However, the seed company threw in a special surprise to my order:

Lipstick peppers seeds! I’ve never heard of this type of pepper but looking it up it is indeed an oldish heirloom type sweet pepper that… performs well in the north!

Now seeing as this company is based in Missouri I’m pretty sure by north they mean Connecticut but hey- I’ll take it.

Problem is I’ve never started a pepper from seed before, only from plants. So now I’m doing research on what’s the best way to go about this- because I have 8 pepper and tomato sized pots now (thanks Lynn!) and only one of those has an extant pepper in it- my Chilhuacle negro aka the former mystery mole pepper. Now that’s a mildly hot pepper, and I wanted one really spicy and one sweet- so the lipstick can be my sweet pepper. The rest of the pots can be used for to-be-determined tomatoes.

But how to grow peppers right from seed is a problem for another month. Nothings going in the ground now during the downpour.

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This is the cute mailer Baker Creek sent their seeds in, which if I wanted to order onions, strawberries or watermelons with I could.

I don’t- with the exception of maybe onions, watermelon and strawberries have issues growing in San Francisco, but it’s super cute.

So this is a magnificent book, that just came in the mail. This dude, Nigel64 from New Zealand who runs the Growplan blog, recommended it to me in a comment a bit ago. It is THE BEST BOOK. It’s from the 90’s and a little outdated, but it is a comprehensive look at vegetables that grow in temperate climates. It’s a full color hardcover, that was surprisingly cheap online, considering how long it’s been out of print. This was a used copy I managed to snag all in all for less than ten bucks. It was shipped from England, where the book was originally published. NZ climate and UK climate and SF climate are all similar, so it’s not surprising that Nigel64 got a lot of use out of it, and so will I, I suspect.

Look at all that pretty spinach! The photography in this book is phenomenal! They even have some Asian veggies in the book, though not as much as I’m used too- that’s the outdated part. It’s a little more Euro- and western-centric than a book on vegetables published today would be, but considering the whole thrust of the book is veggies that grow in England, a part of the world which is similar in climate to where I am, this is a useful book regardless.

They do include a fair amount of American vegetable varieties, which is good for my purposes at least, and look at those pretty pumpkins! All the descriptions include the kinds of information about time to maturity and vine type that are useful to the gardener.

My favorite carrot variety, the Kuroda is not in this book, which isn’t surprising, it’s a Japanese type. But I’ve got my eye on that Nandrin as a potential type for my garden’s future, yes I do.

I haven’t even really begun to read this book in depth, I suspect it shall put all sorts of ideas in my head.

Thanks again to Nigel the landscape architect for putting this wonderful book on my radar- I never would have stumbled across it otherwise.

Now- I have research to do!

 

Surprise! It’s carrots!

My carrot bed still needs a month of growing, although the leafy tops are really spectacular to see; the roots are what we want.

That being said, I decided to see about taking some of the sneaky weeds that are growing with the carrots, (oxalis! *shakes fist at sky*) and I thought I’d thin slightly to give everything the best chance to grow.

Well.

That is a beautiful Kuroda carrot! I looked around the bed and found a few more that were likely eating candidates- gotta eat your thinnings!

I personally like Mr. fancy roots. Him along with the white and purple fellows were part of the “carnival blend” I planted for funsies.

I scrubbed them up- and ate them raw!

I have to say- if there is a verdict, the Kuroda carrots win. They grow so straight and are so tasty- they’re a winner both in the “ease to grow” category, and in the “tastes real nice” category. In the garden sometimes you have to choose between those- in the case of the Kuroda carrots you don’t.

I can’t stress this enough, if you have any small strip of land or a bed or even a pot that is deep enough, you too can grow carrots. From seed is easier than you think, and the taste of a home grown carrot is phenomenal.

You do have to be on top of weeds. Damn oxalis!

Captain’s log: December 8th 2018

There’s just not a ton to do in the garden with everything so wet and more rain coming soon- but it’s dried out enough that I can take stock of what needs to be done after the next does of wet.

Honestly there are a few things I should be doing *this* weekend but it’s the home stretch of my last semester at University so it’s study time first and garden time last.

First the good news- all the Pac Choi are doing great. Which is as expected, cabbages in general are good growers this time of year, and they’ve all been watered well!

And here’s the other great news- the first of the romaine seedlings have begun to sprout!

The green onions and leeks haven’t sprouted yet but that’s to be expected, lettuce comes up much quicker than onions.

What’s also coming up is weeds! Weeds everywhere, though none as spectacular as the oxalis I pulled last week.

As far as work I have to do in the next few weeks, some of it is wait and see.

The cut back dill plant is very green in the middle, though the other fronds look all mealy and gross- so it will either bounce back by the new year, or it won’t.

I’ve just had terrible luck with dill, which is annoying because I use so much of it when I cook, it would be really nice to have a reliable plant in the back.

Oh boy did I let the mint thunderdome get kinda overgrown. So I’ve got to cut back all the tendrils and twigs and maybe give it a dose of fish emulsion when I give some to the dill.

Then it should be fine, as mint is an undying force.

I’ve been procrastinating on pulling my moldy heat damaged lettuces so there’s a chore for later.

I think I’ll put some snap peas in the top patch. Perfect winter pea, good snacking potential, and most importantly- really easy to grow.

Unlike fucking lettuce apparently

The sorrel is getting gigantic, definitely ready to harvest after the next dose of rain.

Now the (maybe) hatch peppers are interesting. The shishito plant will have to be cut back heavily if I’m to get any peppers next year. The red bell pepper plant is really infested. But the hatch pepper, while weird, is yummy. So I’ll cut it back after I harvest the last of them, but unlike the bells which are getting pulled- I’m gonna keep the hatches.

Whoooo December tomatoes! I have so many growing December tomatoes! I don’t know if they’ll ever ripen but… December tomatoes!

It’s also looking like in a few months I’m going to be overrun by carrots.

This is not a bad thing.

And as expected- the ishkabibble parsley plant has really perked up now that it’s in a pot. It is kinda being caressed by the lemongrass but it’s just going to have to get used to that, I have only so much room on the shade herb table.

Which reminds me of the maintenance I have to do on this site- my map of the garden is wildly out of date- so this week I’m definitely going to draw a new one and post it.

It’ll probably be out of date again within a month- oh well.