Mixed beds and new plants

I had a lot of work to do yesterday, the carrots and potatoes weren’t even the half of it.

I had to wrestle the sun herb bed into shape for one.

That sage is super overgrown. And the chamomile is no longer viable. Well for me anyways. I had a few cups of chamomile tea from this plant. They were delicious. And I got super sick. Turns out chamomile doesn’t agree with me.

Out it goes!

After ripping out the poison flower and hacking away at the sage, it was time to plant.

I got a marjoram, and three types of oregano to add to my extant Italian variety. Mexican oregano, Greek oregano, and the exquisite smelling Syrian oregano.

I like oregano.

After planting I put down a top dressing of compost and dressed that with the mulch.

The most fun mixed bed is yet to come.

I got two late season tomatoes on a whim.

The first is a Lemon Boy,

Nice yellow guy- nothing wrong with that.

I’ll let the label of the second one speak for itself.

Dancing with smurfs!

A blue cherry tomato!

I had to try it.

They’re in the purple pea bed, and to help with the inevitable bugs I sowed a few borage seeds along with every last one of my chive seeds.

I’m gonna have to get tomato cages at work soon.

But this is nice.

What’s also nice is blueberries. But what about a pink blueberry?

(Of course this raises a few ontological questions on whether a pink blueberry could be considered a *blue*berry but I’m just going to think happy thoughts about berries)

To grow any kind of berry you need acidic soil, so I chucked a bag of azalea mix into a 10 gallon fabric pot and potted it up all pretty.

It should really be on a milk crate for better air circulation to the roots, but an old basket was all I could find.

The final job was to plant my tree collard.

This presented an issue. Collards, tree or otherwise, are brassicas. Aka cabbage maggot bait. I want perpetual collard greens, and I’m not about to let some silly flies get it my way.

So I decided to try out an old wives tale.

You wrap the roots in aluminum foil. They can grow out the base, but the sides and top are protected from flies.

Hopefully.

Anyways he’s a pretty tree-to-be and at least I’ve done my due diligence with regards to my eternal fly issue.

Don’t talk to me about cauliflower I will cry.

Planting the spring herb beds

I had a great day today in the garden working my herb beds.

Here’s a previous shot of the shadier herb bed. As you can see the thyme is heavily overgrown. First task was cutting it back, along with the lemon balm, and weeding as best as I could.

Thyme is a great herb, I grow two types, big-leaf and French. Problem is, a little thyme goes a long way, even fresh, so the growth I had wasn’t helpful.

The thyme conquered- it was time to place the four new plants that go into this bed.

I have a few interesting survivors in this bed, some chives that refused to die, a lone parsley seedling that sprouted when all the others wouldn’t, and a shiso that refused to die.

That’s the bi-colored shiso that I ripped out last year. As you can see- it has returned. Oh well.

Next to the thyme is the culantro- next to the octopus is the anise hyssop- next to the lemon balm is the lemongrass, and up in the corner is the borage. I gave everything a deep watering, and then in the next couple of days I’ll put down some mulch.

The sunny herb bed was also overgrown. I trimmed the oregano, and hacked away at the hyssop and sage. Then it was just a matter of placing my plants.

I put the purple basil next to the Thai basil, and the lemon grass next to the oregano. Yes I have two lemongrasses. I like the taste, but it also has a way of repelling pests (not unlike the borage) and I hope by having one in each bed I can have less pest problems as it gets warmer.

There are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to basil in San Francisco I’m afraid. As you can see the Thai basil is a chewed up mess- but it’s alive so I’ll take it. The purple basil will also be a gamble- but much less of one then Italian or sweet basil which is iffy at the best of times. Sadly the local garden center is not stocking African blue bush basil this year- or at least not yet. That’s the only basil that I’ve had very good luck with.

I’m not screwing around with the shiso. In my garden at least it has a tendency to get really buggy, and I’d like to have more for eating so pots it is! And the pots can go on the new herb tables!

I have resown the mitsuba, I have two parsley’s- one of which is going to seed, so I have to work on that. The two shiso, the chervil, the tarragon, and the two chive pots. The other herb I had to wrestle with today was my dill.

As you can see, it was a mess. So I pulled it and sowed some more.

It’s a beautiful pot of dirt. Dill is a pain in the ass, as it doesn’t transplant well. So I can buy dill seedlings but unless I keep them in the original pot I won’t get much dill, as once transplanted it tends to swiftly die. Growing dill from seed isn’t difficult, but you have to tenderly press the seeds into the soil because they need light to germinate. Not to mention it tends to get really buggy, and it attracts scale insects and aphids. Like I said, a pain. But it will work, and I use a lot of dill when I pickle so I guess I’ll just have to keep re-seeding it.

I’m looking forward to the lovely blue flowers of the borage, bees love them, but other bugs don’t.

It can also get really gigantic and I’m looking forward to my dad making triffid jokes again.

I am a Neanderthal of simple pleasures.

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 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!

April planting part 1

Well almost April, as it’s March 31st. But it’s basically April, and it’s time for some planting.

But I’m exhausted- so it’s part 1 and tomorrow I’ll finish it up.

First off before I planted anything, hell, before I even went to the garden center, I mulched.

Here’s some mulch around the baby green beans, and there’s also fresh mulch around the baby zucchini and purple peas. Water retention- weed suppression- mulch is good.

Unfortunately I made the executive decision to kill the mystery mole pepper. It’s just a mess. It was falling over and has looked like death for weeks.

RIP pepper plant. I’ll get another pepper (or peppers…) later this year- I have the little lipstick pepper seedlings growing, though those won’t be ready for transplant til May or so.

I really wanted a 6 pack of haricot vert seedlings- that’s what I got last year and they’re great green pole beans, but for whatever reason they did not have them today.

They had… a lot else.

I’ll discuss the gigantic squash plant(s) and tomatoes tomorrow, along with the belle of the ball, a Marion blackberry- but it was also herb time. That’s what I had the energy to plant today- tomorrow is vegetable and fruit time.

Here’s my new chamomile. I’m a confirmed insomniac, so I drink a fair amount of teas and tisanes. Might as well grow my own.

I also got a few new curly leaf parsley, as my current ones seem to be going the way of the dodo. What I love is that the parsley types have such grand names. The type I tried to grow from seed was just “green moss” but the two plants I put in were “green river” and “Aphrodite”.

Aphrodite!

There’s my new “Aphrodite” parsley. You can see the sort of meh plants next door- the “green river is farther to the left.

My final herb was one I’ve always wanted to grow, not for culinary use per se, but because it smells good and can attract bees- and for its long long history.

This beautiful mint is pennyroyal. Pennyroyal is an ancient medical herb that in the days before modern medicine would have been a major part of the herbalists toolkit. It is also somewhat toxic. Not as much as other herbs- if I really wanted to eat some I’d probably be ok- but it can damage the liver. I like it as a sort of botanical momento mori- a reminder of how important some of these herbs were to our ancestors. And it’s flowers attract bees! So more bee food- and a nice smell. That works.

I’ve marked out where the veggies and fruit are going in tomorrow, but I’m so tired so that will be tomorrow’s task.

Soon.