Captain’s log: September 1st 2019

September is always a difficult time in the garden. Depending on the weather certain summer veggies are going strong- or failing. Certain herbs are thriving, or starting to die back. Somethings are unchanged, and somethings are just starting to fruit. And of course some bugs have gone away, and some are being a pain in my backside.

It’s a land of contrasts. Now I have to start thinking about fall planting.

I’ve got a lot on my plate.

This rather gorgeous herb is anise hyssop. It supposedly makes great tea, but I haven’t tried it. Honestly planted this one on a whim to see what the flowers looked like. Well now I can say the flowers look pretty great!

The big-leaf thyme flowers are wonderful as always. Also a great attraction for bees which sadly have been lacking in the garden this year. That’s been something of a disappointment, but the wild weather is out of my hands.

Speaking of wild weather yesterday it was 80, and today it drizzled and is foggy.

My poor plants don’t know if it’s coming or going.

Speaking of flowers, the zucchini continues to be very productive. I’m starting to get those wonderful late season baseball bats, that are a little on the tough side but are still delicious.

Time for some stuffed zucchini I guess!

Finally my large corn stalks are starting to flower. Hopefully I can get some full or full-ish sized corn from these stalks. These are flowering at just the right time because September and October are often our hottest months and corn needs to ripen when it’s warm.

This is the base of one of the small runty corn stalks, and as you can see… I’ve got tassels. Which means I have a baby corn and god knows how that will end up.

The blackberry is traveling far afield, which bodes well for next year’s pies.

In brassica news those damn grey cabbage aphids are back again. The foil ring stopped the cabbage fly, and the B.t. has been guarding against cabbage moths. I’ve been using neem for the aphids- but screw it. I’m going to buy an entire container of ladybugs and dump them all on my tree collard.

Nuke it from orbit- it’s the only way to be sure.

I finally planted my fancy oregano. You can see it’s slightly white fly damaged. One more plant to put ladybugs on I guess. I put it in the space the other blue basil was in, as it was dying. The one I have in a pot is also not doing great, but that one I’m going to try to save by hook or by crook.

This whole bed needs a makeover, but it will be a while til I can get to it.

Oops. I was shifting some pots around so I could wack the weeds and uh… whoopsie. I’m sad because I love this pot, I only got it because a wonderful family friend got me some gift cards, and I’m determined to save it. Some sort of epoxy maybe? I’m handy enough that I’m sure I could do it, I just have to figure out how.

This is a ripening lemon boy! Some of the fruits on this plant look really rough, so we’ll see how it does long term, but hey! I’ve got at least one silly yellow tomato.

I’ll take it!

That is less then ideal. I really wanted to get some fennel bulbs this year, and once again fennel is not being nice to me. Fennel might be just too much of a time and space investment for me. The extreme irony is that wild fennel grows, well wild, all around my neighborhood. Wouldn’t eat that stuff though.

And while my pole beans are withering, at least my new bush beans seem to be sprouting at top speed. Life’s just not worth living without beans!

Per usual my dill has sprouted well. I’m going to endeavor to use this dill more aggressively so it doesn’t get all seedy too soon. I have pickling to do!

So when I finally pulped the dying wilted ginger mint, I clipped a few root runners from the most vigorous plant and it looks like I’m going to be rewarded with more of my favorite mint. Seriously this stuff is so crazy vigorous it’s incredible.

And despite everything the sun gold keeps trucking. This has to be the best variety for San Francisco, you can throw everything and the kitchen sink at it weather wise and all it needs is a little TLC and it’ll keep going.

Looks like absolute hell, but it keeps going.

I finally ripped out my overgrown arugula only to find that it had reseeded itself into it’s neighboring beds.

Good thing I like arugula, looks like i’m getting a lot of it!

In intentional seed news, I let my cilantro go to seed entirely as an experiment. You see this is a fancy type of cilantro called “confetti” that has really cool leaves. I wanted to see if I sowed the coriander seed it made, if it would breed true and make the cool leafed cilantro again. Not always a given!

So I sowed it in a couple of pots and time will tell if I get fancy cilantro or the regular but still yummy stuff.

I leave you with the greatest creation of my garden, my very own pumpkin. I’m picking it tomorrow.

Ok, so maybe late summer as we turn into fall is a tough time in the garden. But damn.

That’s a fine pumpkin, so clearly I’m doing something right!

Captain’s log: Late July 2019

San Francisco’s weather continues to be horrifically typical, but regardless, I got a fair amount done the last couple of days, including clearing the horribly mildewed peas.

I’ll spare you the pictures as it was bad. Just gobs of white powder all over my hands and shirt as I wrestled yards of pea vines into the compost bin.

But hey! The color bed is otherwise well, and now I have a spot for the chayote to live. I really have to spend a day off laying down more sluggo, as all this damp weather is bringing back the slugs in force.

Sluggo and weeding.

The upper squash bed was not one of my more brilliant ideas. If we were having a warmer summer I might have gotten away with it, but being under the Apple tree has increased the mildew on the leaves by about a thousand percent. This is after I chopped off most of them and it’s still a mess.

Ok. I can make lemonade with these lemons. Onion bed? Onion bed.

The Swiss chard that has been delicately shaded by the beans is growing well, though it’s a tad buggy. You can see the edge of the ever encroaching pumpkin vine. Like a madman, I’m probably going to put my little scallop squash plants in front of the chard, just to see what happens. The okra seedlings I planted there never took so I have the space, even if they’re going to trail down over the front.

Yes yes yes green beans!

Also yes yes yes purple beans!

The bean vines might be a little wimpy this year but it looks like once again I’ll be drowning in haricot verts.

This pleases me.

As much as all the tomatoes look a mess- the San Francisco fog’s are plugging away. Dozens of fruit slowly growing and still more flowers. This plant was far enough away from nightmare aphid land that it seems to have escaped the horror that enveloped the sungold. So I might get my oceans of tomatoes after all!

For all that it’s runty- my Italian Bull Horn pepper has set a nice pepper. Like the fog it seems to be subscribing to the slow and steady mentality- and I’ll take it. These are meant to be picked red, so I’ll wait.

The hyssop continues to grow. Since adult ladybugs feed on pollen as well as aphids- I’m inclined to leave the hyssop to flower. It’ll encourage the ladybugs to stick around and eat the nasties.

I picked my first beet! And unlike the nightmare that was my turnips, the only critter eating this beet is me! And my dad. I think I’m just going to have a dedicated beet bed and keep re-sowing. This was pretty easy to grow and I am always here for an easy crop.

The tree collard had rebounded, but of course it’s still a brassica and that involves some issues. I noticed that one leaf had a few holes in it and when I went to inspect it- the underside had DOZENS of little squirming caterpillars munching away. After making a manly sound that could be heard from space, I clipped that leaf and smushed it, and sprayed the whole plant down with neem oil.

It seems to be otherwise fine, but oh god blech. Got to keep a close eye on this guy for sure.

I forgot how simple corn is at this stage. The tricky stuff is all in the pollination and ripening stages, but corn at this stage is easy-peasy. Water it well and you will be rewarded with astonishing vertical growth. I do occasionally have to spray out the interior with water where the new growth comes from to kill bugs, but that’s not overly difficult.

To replace my stolen jade plant I have planted a “sticks on fire” euphorbia. These can get quite vertical and showy, and have toxic sap to boot. I wore gloves to plant him. So if anyone wants to try to dig him up they are welcome to try.

In new crazy mint news, I got my new favorite mint, chocolate peppermint. Smells like a gourmet peppermint patty.

I leave you with the first bloom of my fancy sunflowers. Another bonus food source for the ladybugs and bees, and a welcome sight at the back of the garden. Summer is well and truly here.

Even if so is the fog.

Captain’s log: July 12th 2019

I went out this morning before work, expecting to have to water a few things.

Mother nature seems to have done that for me in the night. In July.

God I love San Francisco weather. Even when it screws me. I’ve got powdery mildew on nearly everything, and lord only knows what this will do to my tomatoes but hey, I got some nice pictures of water on my plants.

Here’s some raindrops on my corn. The corn is growing well, and corn can always use more water so I’m not very concerned at all.

My tree collard has rebounded, perhaps wrapping the roots in tin foil wasn’t so stupid, as it shows no sign of maggot infestation. It also looks pretty drenched.

It seems my succulent pot is hosting a spider convention, judging from the dewy spiderwebs. Oh well, they live in the back too.

The dill is growing well, and can use the water. So far this dill plant has been fairly successful, so my bad streak of failed dill plants has finally ended.

The sage has been a bit curious. That whole bed has been curious, as one of the newer Greek oregano’s beefed it, the blue basil in the bed isn’t doing as well as the one in the pot, and the sage is sprouting a ton of new growth from underneath, while having yellowing leaves up top.

The rain on top looks like snow, and well, maybe some extra water will be good for the bed.

It was time to water the potted tomatoes anyways so I’ll just hit them with some fertilizer tomorrow and call it a day. Too much water on the plant is only going to encourage the aphids, but if that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.

Cucumber’s are thirsty thirsty plants so while the dreaded powdery mildew might strike the leaves, the cucumbers themselves are probably thrilled. I see you little Boston pickle, you’ll get picked soon, wait your turn!

California poppies are the honey badger of flowers. They don’t give a fuck. Too much water? Fine. Not enough water? Fine. No worries here.

Alas the pea plant is a bit of a mess. The really wet fog, to say nothing of the rain, has impacted not only the leaves but the pods, with the latest harvest being covered in powdery mildew. I had to scrub it off the pods, and soak them in a slight vinegar solution before I rinsed and stored them. Still edible! But very ugly. Nothing I can do though, except take a very pretty picture of a wet pea flower.

AH San Francisco- never change.

Late June plantings

The real advantage of gardening in San Francisco is that planting season rules are a lot like the pirate code.

Guidelines.

Guidelines that I cheerfully ignore. Sure I might get a failure or two (or three or four) but due to the weird late fall hot weather I might get some wild successes.

There are a few tricks with corn, and I know them from my parent’s wild corn successes when I was a kid.

One- corn is wind pollinated. This means that corn needs to be fairly densely planted so that it can pollinate it’s neighbors when it’s windy out.

Two- once the corn has been pollinated, it needs to be as warm as possible for the ears of corn to grow to full size and ripen fully.

The invisible point three is that they need a fair amount of water. The reason my parents stopped growing corn was that when I was around 8 we went into a drought. But our winter this year was so abysmally wet we were still having rain earlier *THIS MONTH* so I think I can get away with corn this year.

I think the late planting might actually work heavily in my favor as to point two.

Traditionally in San Francisco our hottest month was around August or September. Used to be it was a week or two we’d call “Indian Summer”. We’d have a mild early summer, and a hot late summer/early fall.

Then the last few years have gotten hotter and hotter. And last year we had sustained heat with only a few foggy days from mid-August to goddamn early November.

So yeah, climate change is real, and San Francisco’s weather patterns have definitely been altered.

That’s… really not a good sign for the overall health of the planet- but I’m growing vegetables in the climate I have not the climate I wish I had.

I can take advantage of this. I’ve already rolled the dice on late season tomatoes-now it’s corns turn.

Gardening is gambling.

If the last two years are any indicator my corn will be ripening this year at the best time.

As for it getting pollinated- I clustered one type of corn in a clump and the other type of corn in a right angle around the edge of the bed. The wind will do the rest, and as my garden is so windy I have to put all my herbs in ceramic pots so they don’t fall over- I think Mother Nature has that one covered.

Pictured, my rapidly growing apple mint, transplanted from a cruddy plastic pot that I had to wedge in between other pots to prevent a spill, into a proper ceramic pot that laughs in the face of wind.

In other less technically fraught planting news, I transplanted my green onion starts into their new home. This is a former pepper pot that now houses the dirt I saved from the potato bag I harvested. Got to save your good dirt! I figured since I seem to be all in on tomatoes this year and not into peppers, I might as well put the scallions here. I’ll probably seed another few six-packs tomorrow so I can just have perpetual green onions. One of the best things about San Francisco weather is that things like scallions can basically be grown year round.

Another vegetable that has an elongated growing season is any squash. These little beauties are spaghetti squash- which oddly I’ve never grown before. I’ve been growing them from seed, and now they’re going in opposite the pumpkin. As long as it isn’t raining you can grow squash here- they don’t like their leaves getting wet.

And lastly I potted one of my Roman mints. This was taken as a cutting from the dying thunderdome, and lovingly grown in a series of plastic pots. It has now graduated to a ceramic pot of its own. This means the mint thunderdome no longer serves a purpose and I can compost the twigs and re-purpose the pot. The mint thunderdome was an interesting experiment, but the roots of the mint plants are basically suffocating each other and its time has come.

Speaking of pirates- I have some new feline invaders. This is a lovely tuxedo cat that comes around from time to time, and is apparently female, not a tom as previously assumed, as she’s toting around two fat little kittens that were too fast to photograph from my window. I nearly tripped over them today while watering, and they cartoonishly flung themselves over the fence to get away from me.

Kitten season. Oh joy. If I can impart any lesson to my readers it’s this. Please spay and neuter your outdoor cats!

I’d rather not spend my time outdoors sneezing my head off.

Captain’s log: June 23rd 2019

Well it’s been busy and it’s going to get busier.

That my friends, is a baby pumpkin! It looks like October pumpkins might be a thing. Or August pumpkins if I’m lucky.

The vine is… going the wrong way. But who am I to tell a pumpkin vine where it can or cannot go. I’m just going to have to accommodate the darn thing as it meanders around my garden.

I’m trying not to make the same mistake I made with my big pot tomatoes- and I’m diligently trimming off the bottom stems of the new guys.

The reason this is a problem is what’s happening with the Black Krim.

This is a beautiful baby tomato- and it’s on a sucker stem. So I am concerned that the weight of the growing fruit is going to knock off the whole branch and lose me a bunch of fruit and flowers. I might have to put a stake in the ground next to the pot and tie that branch to that for support. So it’s going to need a Neanderthal level Gerry-rig, but it is what it is.

Lastly- my one big Roma is ripening nicely. It’s been cool-ish, but on the warm side of cool-ish, and this baby tomato lived through the heat wave so it looks quite nice.

And more ladybug larvae are makes their little cocoons so I’m about to have more voracious aphid killers- which suits me just fine.

It turned out way more spaghetti squash germinated then I needed- so I hope some of my friends want some seedlings. Only a couple of the scallop squashes came up, but I only wanted a couple of them anyways.

This is some lovely oak leaf lettuce that has been patiently awaiting harvest.

Oak leaf is a good choice for warmer climes as it doesn’t get that bitter in warmer weather. The seed packet I got was a mix of red and green oak leaf- and the one that turned up red has not been growing as well as the green. But that’s sometimes the case- red varieties of any vegetable don’t photosynthesize as well as their green counterparts.

The blue lake beans are quite vigorous- here’s one that has escaped its trellis and is starting up the cucumber trellis. Which reminds me- my next day off I have a real project on my hands tying up the cucumbers- they’ve gotten real messy.

But they have lots of little flowers and baby cucumbers so I’ve got that going for me.

Speaking of trellis failures my purple peas are so vigorous- and so top heavy, that they’ve sort of half fallen over the color bed. They’re still producing- I keep bringing up snap peas for dad to munch on, it’s just very precarious. I expect I’ll get peas into August- the vine is just going to be a bit of a mess.

Still have some leeks growing. Also, as evidenced by the soil, still have some very frustrated gophers. Ha ha you rodent bastards- all my plants are in raised beds and pots! I’m an evolved hominid, I can outthink you furry jerks!

Sorry.

Not all my animal visitors are feral cats and hungry rodents. Some are quite welcome. This is a California Towhee. They’re prolific grub hunters. They were chased out of the garden by the cats- but I haven’t seen my feline friends lately, and the birds have returned.

I don’t believe my tree collard is going to make it. It could very well be that my “ingenious” solution to the cabbage maggot problem was the collard’s downfall. Surprise! Aluminum foil rings around the tops of roots probably don’t allow for good root growth. I’m going to try to cut out the foil and use some root growth fertilizer as a last attempt but I’m not too hopeful. Turns out you can’t collar a collard.

Oh god that pun was terrible I’m so sorry.

Here’s a bit of cock-eyed optimism to make up for that pun.

I bought some sweet corn.

Now my parents grew corn when I was a child- it can be done. I’m anticipating a hot summer and fall…

And there’s some room in the 4×4 bed…

If I sort of curl the stalks around the squash the wind *should* pollenated them…

And multiple indigenous groups in America grew squash and corn together so it’s a good soil pairing…

It’s a lot of shoulds.

But I’m gonna do it!

I told you it was going to get busier!