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.

The herbs await…

I knew getting a job at my local garden center would be dangerous. Here are 8 new herbs for the herbs beds waiting to be planted tomorrow. Of course working means less blog time, so my apologies for the upcoming lessened frequency of posts- but it is my dream job so…

Yeah not sorry. Can’t wait to put that borage in! Soon!

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🎶

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.

New plants, new bed, and bad news

So this was a good day, mostly. I got my new fabric bed in the mail a few days ago but I underestimated its size and realized I needed more soil than I actually had.

A trip to the garden center was in order.

I got some blue lake green beans sets along with a replacement for my ailing chervil, a basil gamble and one last squash plant.

First a note on the chervil.

That does not look healthy. It’s the fact that it’s in a bed. This area of the garden, the shade herb bed, is shady in fall and winter. It’s also shadier in spring and summer. But we’ve been having very bright and windy days and that’s just been murder on the chervil. Murder on the parsley too, but that’s solvable.

The thyme doesn’t give a shit it’s huge.

To solve the evaporation problem on the parsley side, the answer is, as always, more mulch.

Just got to lay it on. As for the chervil…

Sometimes you just got to get a new plant. Healthy plant in a pot which will help with water conservation, and on the shade herb table in the shadiest possible spot in the garden. It’s a nice delicate herb chervil, hope this one takes.

In the long shot category, we have basil.

I have completely given up on Italian basil, and if I were to un-give up on it, it would go into a pot. They didn’t have any blue bush basil which is a shame, but they had some very healthy looking Thai basil. Slightly different flavor, but a heartier plant, which as you can see I’ve mulched the absolute heck out of. It’s still a crazy gamble, but it’s been so sunny… well, all gardening is a gamble really.

The squash was fun though.

See I’ve been growing pretty much all plain green zucchini, largely because it’s easier and mom likes them. But it occurred to me that I had a space for one more plant, and dad likes grey squash, so I got a “Magda” zucchini for him. It was a really healthy looking plant, and it’s a cinch to grow so no skin off my nose to put in an extra plant.

The beans went in easy, as beans tend to, I still mulched the heck out of them of course.

I also put some stakes down for them, I also have some netting that I think I’m gonna use for the trionfo beans.

The main issue today was turnips. They’d been growing slow, and were starting to bolt, no surprise there. One of the reasons I got this fabric bed to stash in the shadiest part of my garden was so I could grow the more temperature sensitive crops like lettuces and arugula and turnips in a shaded area of the garden.

The problem was cabbage fly. I had eaten a lovely turnip a week ago, small but tender, and was all set to pick the biggest few for tonight’s dinner. Only to discover all but one eaten up by cabbage fly maggots.

The one survivor was added to dinner, the rest were added to the compost bin. This is not my first tangle with cabbage fly. Years ago I had a whole lot of really beautiful turnips ruined by them. They’d been scarce as of late, and I thought I could get away with it, but it looks like our really wet start to spring helped the damn flies get off to a good start. Of course, while the damage cabbage fly can do to turnips is the most dramatic due to them eating the roots all up, cabbage fly can damage the roots of any brassica. SO tomorrow’s big task is going to be checking the roots of all my cabbage family crops for maggots or eggs and hand destroying and spraying the lot of them. And sadly I have a lot of brassicas.

This is the new bed. There was clearly a sewing error as you can see it’s a little lopsided. As I got it fairly cheap I suppose it would be bad form to complain about a minor cosmetic error so who cares.

I have quite a few plants I’m putting into this bed, including a few types of fancier lettuce, but these are some of my favorite Japanese vegetables that I picked up from the ferry building a few days ago and can’t wait to grow. Of course both are cabbage family crops so now that I know the cabbage flies are out I’m going to have to be extra vigilant. Both of these plants are quick growers, so it should be only a month from sprouting to harvest and then I can sow again. In between most of the lettuces I sowed some extra french breakfast radishes. I had sowed some radishes in front of the peas, and due to the extreme wet only about three came up.

This guy was my first to eating size. I cleaned it up and gave it to dad and he ate the whole thing leaves and all.

God bless him.

Well soon I’ll have many more, radishes are one of those plants you can tuck anywhere and they’ll mostly grow no matter what you do. Of course they are cabbage adjacent so I will once again have to be a little diligent sweeping for fly eggs.

In other not so good news, the red aphids have returned to the sun gold, and in the course of hand picking them, I made a truly bone-headed error.

This is the rose tip of my watering can, and as you can see, the inner part that has the little holes in it is missing. That’s because I set the can down to remove the aphids from the sun gold (and they only were on the sun gold which was weird) and I stepped on it. I heard a *ping* as the inner part went flying somewhere and I have no idea where it went. So while I will scour the garden in the morning hoping to find my missing part, I have a good idea I’m going to have to replace my watering can tip, possibly my watering can.

In the meantime, I have this little fellow playing back up. So what if he doesn’t hold much water, he has the right tip and he doesn’t just barf water out like a plain spout does. I could blame the aphids for this latest clumsy mistake, but I think it’s just my complete inability to see where I’m stepping.

I will of course blame the aphids anyways.

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.

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.