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.

Unexpected potato harvest

So I covered my six potato bags with more soil a bit back, and while five of those bags are going strong, the sixth decided to give up the ghost.

Pictured, five healthy potato bags and one goner.

But that doesn’t mean no potatoes- it just means less potatoes. The point of continually topping up your potato bags is that the covered leaves will turn into more potatoes- but the goner plant had already grown plenty of spuds in the bottom layer.

So I dug it up!

These are the Russian banana fingerling potatoes. And some scallions. This variety is meant to be eaten as new potatoes, so I had to cook them right away.

What was kind of neat was that the skins were so thin that they came off by the scrubbing with the vegetable brush- no peeler necessary!

I cut them up and boiled them with some salt. Put some scallions and olive oil on them and they were the perfect side.

These are amazing potatoes. They’re so creamy in texture even with no cream or butter. Like nothing at the supermarket. “Russian banana” potatoes are the perfect fingerling or new potato- and you can’t get them at the store and only rarely at the farmers market.

I took out the viable dirt and stored it in the empty pepper pot for later use, and folded up the potato bag to store it in the side shed.

Next potato bag I harvest I’ll save a couple of the better potatoes so I can start some new plants.

So not a ton of potatoes- but choice ones.

Yesterday’s breakfast harvest

The fabric bed under the lemon tree is a huge success. It looks like all the copy about fabric beds being good for roots has some merit. While it’s a risk growing yet more cabbage family plants this time of year with the cabbage fly- I’m hoping the quick harvest time on some of these will give me a reprieve from the maggots.

The French breakfast radishes are beautiful- and tasty.

Radishes are possibly the quickest growing vegetable available- at least the small guys- daikon is another delicious story. 20-30 days from seed to harvest. I scatter them in shady areas around the garden- as long as they aren’t in a bed with a legume they grow fast and fat.

My first green onions are ready to harvest as well. These are also good to scatter throughout the garden, for a few reasons. One- like a lot of alliums, they repel pests. Two- they need very little space. Because they grow vertically and thinly, you can really pack them into a bed. And three- unlike radishes and other root crops, you can total put them in a bed with a legume, and take advantage of all that sexy nitrogen.

Here’s my first fat scallion. These are also, much like radishes, a crop you can basically grow year round in my climate. Radishes will get a little iffy in the absolute hottest of weather- but even then they’ll grow in a shady spot. Nothing stops an green onion. Big onions have some restrictions, I’ve never grown them due to being a bit nervous about it- it scallions are like gardening on easy mode.

A few days before the great radish harvest- I pulled the horrible ugly dead potato bags and discovered they actually had given me potatoes.

Not a lot of potatoes- but I’ll take it.

Those are some nice thin skinned new potatoes. Of course the six remaining heathy bags will give me many more potatoes than this.

They wait- growing bushier by the second.

Fingerling potato heaven here I come!

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🎶

San Francisco perils: wind and sun

It’s been sunny and clear for several days thankfully, and it will continue to be clear for a while yet. (Fingers crossed!)

Unfortunately while it has stopped raining, it has not stopped wind-ing.

Ha ha oops. There goes the garlic chives! My fault for using that old plastic pot I guess- I had gambled that the weight of the soil would be enough but apparently it was not!

Well that’s the advantage of seed packets- I had plenty more. But I scooped the soil into a new heavy pottery pot and re-sowed.

Small- but heavy.

There’s a reason I prefer the larger terra-cotta and glazed clay pots, it’s partially an aesthetic thing of course but it’s also because the backyard can be really really windy. Weighty pots are safer.

Owl down! Owl down!

The other problem is that the clear sunny skies are drying out the soil really quick, despite the fact that a week ago it was practically flooding.

But there’s an easy solution for that- mulch!

There’s my leeks, all lovingly swaddled with redwood bark. I also mulched the romaine and the green onions in the 4×4 bed.

Now there are only a few green onions that sprouted largely because of how wet and cold it was, so I decided to put up a few more for later transplant.

If I just keep putting out more scallions in the seedling cells I’ll have plenty to transplant all over the garden.

It’s fairly easy to tuck scallions wherever you have space for them, they’re super skinny and you don’t even need to thin them as long as you space them right. Dad eats a lot of green onions so I’d really like to grow a ton of them. So I guess every week or so I’ll put 12 more seeds out. Accounting for a few dud seeds I should have plenty in the ground by late April.

Now it’s just a matter of waiting til Friday- soil day!

I’m so excited!

Captain’s log: February 21st 2019

Today was a busy day. Actually a busy couple of days, but that’s not important.

A lot of what I’ve been doing is watering now that we’ve had some clear weather- it’s sunny but cool. Heat evaporates water in the soil, but the chief evaporator is the sun- so even though it’s not even above 55 most days- I’ve had to water a fair amount last couple of days.

Part of that of course is the plants I’ve been putting in- new transplants need water no matter the weather. Both the mints and the chervil seems to be doing well- but so are the herbs I put in last month which is a sigh of relief.

Here’s my pretty Italian oregano which took pretty much immediately. All the herbs are growing well.

Today when I got outside to start work- I had a visitor.

He or she is a local kitty, I think one of the ones born last year, and this one and their siblings keep taking vacations into my garden. I’m pretty sure this is the one who put his paws in my arugula pot- and here you can see them hard at work looking at a vole hole. The minute he saw me he went “?!!!!” And sprang backwards over the fence in fear. Entertainingly he kept coming back to keep tabs on my work.

In local news outside of my garden- here’s the toll of the wind and rain, a tree got knocked over in my local park and crashed through the fence. Which illustrates how nutso the weather was, and will be. Its clear for now, but my wish of a longer spell of dry weather has not been answered- it looks like scattered showers or worse are in San Francisco’s future. Hopefully no more downed trees will follow.

I pulled the purple Bok Choy, which for whatever reason had totally passed from edible to stringy stalks- so the Joi Choi can survive until I can eat them. And I will be eating them- they are delicious. Into the compost bin with the non leafy Bok Choy’s!

And look at those lettuces! I am a total convert to the temple of raising lettuce from seed.

And speaking of seeds…

I started several seeds in little seedling pots. Specifically I started 6 sunflower seeds, 6 romanesco broccoli, 6 cucumbers, (3 telegraph 3 Boston pickle) 6 zucchini (3 Nimba 3 green bush) and 6 lipstick peppers. They are all living inside for the moment- as I don’t trust the wind and temperature outside. I used regular potting soil mixed with a little sure start, as I tried some seed starter mix and it was so damn light it wouldn’t take water. Potting soil is better.

Once these sprout it’s off to the greenhouse bench with them! But that will be several weeks from now.

The spinach bed has been overgrown and weedy for too long, so I pulled the spinach and amended the soil so I could plant by seed.

A back row of purple snap peas, a row of radishes, a zig zag row of mustard greens, and a final front row of green onions, since only a few of the green onions I planted in the big 4×4 bed have sprouted.

Now that’s some sexy dirt. We’ll see what takes in the temperature and upcoming wet, but that’s why I’m starting with peas that have a lot less stringent temperature requirements than beans.

Of course I was being spied on while I worked….

Spooky! Kitty kept coming back as I worked and then fleeing as soon as I turned to coo at it.

I wish no one in the house was allergic, otherwise I’d try to befriend the poor feral. But me and mom would need hospitalization after being close to a house cat so it is what it is. At least kitty and his siblings take care of the rats.

The turnips are starting to look really pretty in the evening sun. Turnips never fail me.

Speaking of the infallible, look at that thyme! Both plants, big leaf and French growing huge after all that rain. Thyme is like mint in that it should probably be in a pot- but it’s less of a wanderer than mint so you can take a chance on it. It’s definitely more thyme than I can eat, but it’s pretty and it smells good so who cares!

And look at that sage! It’s throwing up new leaves! Finally! It looks like it took a rainfall to finally wake up the herb but now it’s going to do nothing but grow. That’s a nice feeling.

Finally the arugula. It’s basically growing wild which is to be expected when you sow it as thickly as I did. The problem with that is the absolute thicket of oxalis growing underneath it. Pulling all that oxalis without seriously damaging the arugula would be almost impossible so I’ve just given up for now. In a month or less I have to pull up almost everything in this bed so I can plant the back with pole beans so IDK the weeds are going to get it- just not anytime soon.

The most amazing thing happened today- but I couldn’t get a photo of it, no matter how hard I tried. I saw the first bumble bee of 2019! It’s late February but as far as I’m concerned spring has sprung because traveling around the mowed weeds was the fattest little bumble butt. Fuzzy and black with yellow trim, buzzing around looking for flowers, I dropped everything to follow her around but I was sadly unsuccessful in snapping a pic. But she was here! The first bee of the year!

It’s gonna be a good year.

The bees have arrived!

Captain’s log: January 6th 2019

Rainy days make for an idle gardener.

Best to keep an eye on things though, especially since the last big rains caused some of my baby green onions to commit plant suicide. Not really sure how to stop that though.

They seem to be doing ok all things considered, even if they are a bit wonky.

The baby romaine lettuces are a bit wobbly too, too much rain probably effecting the roots a bit. Once they get bigger it’ll be less of a problem.

The ever-ripening tomato plant is showing its age but I did get some more tomatoes today.

Some of these are really only half-ripe, but the force of the rain had drove them off the plant so…

Sometimes nature picks your produce for you.

The leafy greens are all drinking it up, with the Swiss chard winning awards for beauty.

Of course so are the Pac Choi:

Cabbages and chard like the wet, unlike other plants which can get waterlogged. One of the advantages of growing cabbages in this sort of climate honestly, you don’t have to worry so much about potential disasters. Even plants that do well in our mild summers and don’t need too much heat can fail in our winters from just way too much rain.

The spinach bed still needs a good weeding, but at least the rain seems to be rejuvenating everything. If there’s a lull in the rain tomorrow I’m probably going to pick some.

Finally, the herbs seem to be doing ok, but I just love how the sage looks.

It was giving me some pause, but after a day’s soak it seems to have been revived.

Now, whether the basil or oregano will do well is a question mark, as is the fate of the tarragon.

The cilantro is thriving at least. And so is the sage.

I think the biggest chore I have to do soon is just spend several hours weeding the beds. I was on top of it, but rain doesn’t just grow your plants!

We’ll also see if the tomato plant survives this latest downpour. It looks… rough- and with over a weeks worth of rain to come, it could be that the tomato may finally have met its match.

Or I could put up the umbrella again.