Captain’s log: November 24th 2018 (getting ready for winter edition)

The rains have ceased- for now. Starting Tuesday we’re going to have some more storms so I thought it was time to get more soil and get to work.

I went to my local garden center to get my winter herbs and plants. Now that the wet season has begun its time to plan for the big 4×4 bed that used to have fava beans.

I’m thinking a multi-crop bed with Pac Choi in the middle and romaine on one end and scallions on the other. Romaine and scallions I’m going to grow by seed, as I think I know what has killed my lettuce on the top bed- but that’s another post.

Besides lovely plants the garden center had another attraction

He was a very good boy. As his owner informed me- he’s not fat, he’s fluffy.

Many bags of soil later, I returned home to less time than I’d hoped I’d have to get things in the ground. As romantic as gardening in the dark sounds, I think I’ll just be smart and finish up tomorrow.

The number one herb I use most in the kitchen but do not grow is dill, so I thought I’d remedy that.

Luckily the dill plants were beautiful and so was the pottery. See, dill is one of those herbs which doesn’t play too well with others, so it grows better in a pot. And if you want a lot of dill, it better be a big pot.

Dill likes sun, but cooler temps. I had a dill plant in summer, which was a huge mistake, got very buggy, this one should do well.

Into the full sun bed I put some winter savory

Savory is a really nice herb that most people don’t use regularly. Perfect for stews and winter dishes, also nice to pickle with.

I cleared the chives and dead tarragon, and replaced them with a little cilantro, a medium lemon balm, and a tarragon who’s been put in plant jail.

See- when I pulled the dead tarragon I found that the roots were almost as bad as mint, and had taken over half the bed. That was some backbreaking work, and I’m not doing that again so into plant jail with you!

(In retrospect I should have put the lemon balm in a pot too- but as I am growing it to make mosquito repellant, I don’t mind if it gets over grown.)

(Mark my words I am going to regret that decision it’s a mint)

My last bit of work before it gets dark was to replace some of the spinach and Swiss chard.

Now the voids have new plants.

The Swiss chard variety that looked the best in the store was called “pink lipstick” and had pink roots!

Pink roots!!!

I have more work for tomorrow- the Pac Choi awaits. Though I’ll wait to sow the seeds til after the deluge, so they don’t get washed away.

The 4×4 bed has laid fallow for too long!

Soon.

This was meant to be a funny post.

On Monday my dog had an increasingly common, historically rare midnight accident, that necessitated a trip to the yard at one in the morning.

While my ailing dog paced up and down in the dark, flashlight collar around her neck illuminating her way, I took pictures of my plants illuminated only by flashlight.

This was meant to be a funny post.

I had some trouble with the mitsuba, due to the weirdly hot weather. I managed to save it but I’m probably going to have to move it under more shade.

That’s an earwig. They’re harmless but a bit freaky. One time when I was a kid, mom took in some artichokes she’d grown to wash, and as she put them in the sink a ton of earwigs scuttled out all over the kitchen.

Mom and Dad didn’t grow artichokes the next year.

My dog was so well trained. She never had accidents, and now she was regularly having them.

This was meant to be a funny post.

The carrots in the carrot bed are starting to sprout, and encouraging sign of fresh life in the garden.

My silly bee-eater wouldn’t stop panting, even when it was cold. It was no longer a sign of exertion, it was constant. In dogs this is a sign of an enlarged heart.

This was meant to be a funny post.

The outer leaves of my romaine lettuce are getting nibbled, but between the slug bait and careful attention the inner leaves are fine. I think until the plants are taller I’m not going to pluck the outer leaves- this way the bugs will eat the outer leaves first.

My dog stopped wagging her tail months ago. She held it down- it never moved. She used to wag all the time.

This was meant to be a funny post.

That’s a ladybug larvae on my compost bin. Even with all the fava beans dead in the bin, the few larvae that were feasting on the aphids survived. I moved this little fellow on to the herbs.

A few weeks ago when I went to pet her on the rug, my dog snapped at me- and her teeth actually made contact, and she bit my chin. She seemed almost as shocked as I was, like she had no idea she was doing it. It was nothing some antibiotic ointment couldn’t fix.

This was meant to be a funny post.

I got this silly metal and stone ant in Petaluma. It lives among my herbs.

It wasn’t just the snapping, her overall cognition seemed to be declining. She’d stare at walls for long minutes- and ignore stimuli and toys.

This was meant to be a funny post.

There’s a spider that lives in these succulents. I sometimes clean up the webs but it always comes back. Can’t help but be fond of the dang thing.

We knew from an old x-ray that the silly bee-eater’s spine was growing together. It’s a condition known as ankylosing spondylitis. Happens in people too. Sometimes it has no symptoms. Sometimes it does. We could have gotten her an MRI to see if we could do anything, but she was big. She’d have to be knocked out- and the anesthesia would probably kill her. It wasn’t worth it- even as her hind legs started to fail. We gave her pain pills and muscle relaxants. They worked. For a while.

This was meant to be a funny post.

There are so many flowers in the tomato plant. With any luck I’ll have dozens of tomatoes. In October and November, but still- tomatoes are tomatoes.

She ate and ate. We didn’t have the heart to deny her anything this last month- when she was younger she’d been overweight so normally we kept her on a strict diet. But she was suddenly so hungry- so we indulged her. Even with all this food… the pounds were melting off of her. She was the thinnest she’d ever been.

This was meant to be a funny post.

This photo is old. Taken years ago before I had all the plants in the garden. Back when she was healthy. She enjoyed the backyard as much as I did- always interested and sniffing around what I was watering.

The day after her midnight walk, she started howling in pain. She never howled. She never cried. And now she was wailing.

We knew. And we knew what we had to do.

Last Tuesday we walked our dog up to our vet, and we did the right thing.

We put the silly bee-eater down last Tuesday.

This was meant to be a funny post.

Fava bean takedown

I am so over the triffids. So two days ago I put on my big hominid pants and got to work.

Despite me not watering for a few days (to ease removal) and despite spraying all the time- the vines were just black with aphids still.

Gross gross gross gross gross.

I harvested the few broad beans I got a while back- everything I pulled was destined for the compost bin.

But what about the ladybugs?

Well of course I saved them!

Some had interesting spot patterns.

Now they live on my really nice tomatoes!

So it took a while (and I had to stomp down in the green can to get it all in) but after all that work:

Silly bee eater for scale.

The worst part of this is: because of how screwed up the fava beans got I’m probably not going to be able to save the soil. The whole initial point of growing the fava beans as cover crop was to fix nitrogen to the soil for next season’s plants- and I’m not even going to get that!

And what few beans I got don’t look too great- and this was a variety meant as cover crop not for eating so they’ll probably taste not great.

*sigh*

At least the bed is freed up for other plants now- and the aphid breeding apparatus is gone.

The worst thing was having the spray down the compost bin because the aphids were trying to escape the bin. No pictures because I don’t want to be responsible for vomit covered keyboards or phones.

I need to buy more neem oil. I also need several long showers.

You win some- you lose some. True of life- true of gardening.

Lesson learned.

Captain’s log: September 18th 2018

There are still a few herbs that are flowering slightly, including now the rosemary. It makes for some nice decoration indoors.

Also a nice decoration, the Red Admiral Butterfly, a common sight in San Francisco gardens. It just decided to take a powder on the brick, and stayed there while I watered.

So it turns out one of the shishito peppers is ripening ahead of schedule, which is a funny sight to see. Probably got damaged by insect activity! It’s not big enough to pick, though I probably will have to. First red pepper of the bunch, which… isn’t really helpful considering its small size and the fact that you’re supposed to pick shishitos green!

The spinach is sprouting like crazy, in another week or so I’ll have to thin it out, but I’m pretty happy that spinach is so easy to grow.

Ah the lemon tree. Damn thing was here before my parents even bought the house, and it just wont die! It looks like we’re going to start getting our lemons. It’s a little early but it was very cold this summer so It’s not very surprising!

The triffids continue to exceed expectations. I keep having to prop them up with stakes as they get too tall, and douse everything in neem oil and insecticidal soap to kill the aphids but dang, they just don’t quit!

Bless the bean, the workhorse of the garden!

The tomato plant is just flush with fresh growth, which probably doesn’t help me get any tomatoes but meh. I’ll take it.

Despite the chilly temp, dad and dog decided to take a break outside. Dog inspected the garden, dad watched the dog on her rounds. Visible in the back is the apple tree, which is producing little hard (but tasty) apples this year, surprising everyone.

It’s been a hell of a year. But everything continues. It’s a comforting thing.

Captain’s log: September 12th 2018

So after a fun few weeks it’s good to get back into the rhythm of more than basic garden care and into fixing up the garden for the wintry future.

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The Herb corner is doing well. This reminds me, I have to update my layout page. Time to dust off the colored pencils. The moss growing on the mitsuba box is actually a good thing, its a woodland herb meant for damp shaded environments, so the fact that its damp enough, and shaded enough for some moss to grow is the best sign. The lemongrass is getting taller and taller, and the one ONE ONE small flat leaf parsley is beautiful and not taking over my garden because I made the mistake of buying TWO plants labeled “giant” and putting them into the ground…

Sorry, had a flashback there.

The large shaded herb patch is also doing well. Now that the giant flat leaf parsley is gone I have to thin things a bit, and I certainly need to weed- but the chive aphid horror of 2018 is well and truly over. (Thanks be to insecticidal soap.)

I am still somewhat… perplexed by the sheer height of my bi-colored shiso, as it started as a small potted herb that fit in my hand. Go team shiso I suppose.

The fennel is doing… something. Is it going to seed? Is this stalk edible? Does it contain more fronds? Was I a fool for growing fennel at all? I think I’m going to wait and see what’s going on. Again, like the chives, aphid issue is gone! SO THERE.

Both Lovage plants are doing very well in their nice pots, and nary a nasty bug in sight! I’ve been picking it for sauces and soups, and I’m thrilled at it’s versatility in the kitchen.

The spinach bed is sown! I have given up on the foolishness of seedlings in my greenhouse (for now…) and have direct sown my spinach seeds into this new bed. It’ll take a week and a half for the first sprouts. Expect gushing and photos when it starts coming up.

Yesterday I pulled out the borked carrots from the bean bed. Soon- this will be the combo lettuce and Swiss chard bed! I think? See I’m fairly sure that romaine doesn’t like all the sun it’s going to get up there so maybe I need a cover? Tomorrow or Friday I’ll pick apart the worst of the bed, add a little more fresh soil and direct sow… something. TBD.

As for the carrots, out of dozens of borked babies that just never grew from too much nitrogen- 6, yes 6, were edible. They were delicious of course, but ugh. Only 6?

I think I’m definitely going forward with a dedicated carrot bed.

The shishito peppers are growing well, tons of flowers, tons of baby peppers, tons of life. All the peppers are doing well, even the mole pepper plant which is a nice plant, just not producing like the others.

We had a minor fava flop. See, now that the favas are growing beans, some of the plants got a little heavy and flopped over. Also might be due to the continuing aphid load. I am spraying as fast as I can! So as needed I’ve been jamming old stakes in the ground and using the soft ties to gently guide the fava stalks to not, you know, fall on the goddamn ground.

Kudos to my mother who noticed the triffid’s listing to one side. Kudos to my dog who wouldn’t stop eating DIRT NEAR THE FAVA BEANS WHICH IS WHY MY MOTHER NOTICED THE FALLING OVER THING.

Dog. I’m begging you- stop eating dirt!

God help me it’s better than bees though!

RIP Hatch Pepper

This morning dad tripped while escorting our dog on her rounds and the two hatch peppers broke his fall. I’m glad he landed on the peppers honestly, because if he hadn’t it could have been much worse.

Our dog is one of those dogs who continuously gets underfoot. In a small or medium dog the greatest risk is to the animal- in our 80 pound behemoth the only one getting hurt is us. I once tripped over her going down the front stairs and ended up scraped and stunned flat on my back on the sidewalk. She’s an adorable menace. Dad is fine- scrapes and bruises only-

But sadly one of the peppers was killed outright- snapped stem. Better it than dad.

The larger more productive pepper with all its beautiful baby peppers got bent out of the pot and was looking very precarious, but I’m not going to give up yet!

Hence operation emergency transplant!

You can see the stupid plastic planter in the back which frankly was too short for 2 pepper plants anyways. I buried the stem as much as I could (the root ball was massive) and I had to tie it to a stake as the stem definitely got damaged, poor thing is listing to one side. I’m going to give it some early seaweed fertilizer tonight as a last ditch attempt to save it.

I really don’t know if this will work. 5 or so hours has passed since the transplant and it seems… alive? But I know from experience that the real test will be in a day or so how it looks.

Plants, especially peppers which are kinda weedy, can be resilient- I had a sorrel plant which kept getting torn up in winter that would mysteriously re-appear every spring despite our best efforts to kill it.

Fingers crossed. It looks nicer in this pot anyways.

This morning, sitting on the concrete path looking at how the stem was bending. I was thinking about what size stake to put in the pot and my hands were filthy with old and new dirt, and while I was trying to see what I could do, the whole garden was thrumming with life. Under where the plastic planter was pill bugs and centipedes crawled into new dark crevices. I wrestled the pepper pot into it’s new home and black beetles moved out of the way. The birds in the apple tree were chirping, happy to watch me work. Bees congregated around the basil bush.

Dad is ok. The dog is ok. The garden will be ok. Worst case- I’m down to 4 pepper plants. Best case I still have 5.

Everything will be ok.

Ladybugs on patrol

There definitely have been less aphids- and a lot of that is diligent killing and spraying, but nature is certainly giving me a helping hand.

What’s so nice is that all the ladybugs look different.

Some are redder- some are more orange,

Some have a few spots- some have many.

I love each and everyone of my ladybug friends.

Here’s just hoping my silly bee-eater doesn’t become a silly ladybug eater.

She looks so disgruntled in this picture because she isn’t loving the weather either.

But as long as the ladybugs are ok with the weather- I’ll adapt.