Weather damage in late October

Most of this post could be un-ending cursing just because I may have lost about 20-30% of the plants in my garden due to the absolute bull pucky that is fall in San Francisco, but I’m going to try and not go blue.

We’ll see if I can succeed.

So this was sort of a one-two-three punch. First, we had very very wet weather for a week and half or so- which was welcome even if it caused a few problems. One of the entertaining problems was the sudden cluster of mushrooms in the shade herb bed.

And before you even ask- no I am not eating random mystery mushrooms. I like to live my life on the edge but that is too far thank you very much.

The wet was the return of the fog, but also some morning rain, which was very welcome. It is making my zucchini look very sad though. Powdery mildew is basically the price of doing business in San Francisco. You will get it- it’s just a matter of controlling it. This actually isn’t so bad, I should be able to cut off the worst leaves and despite it being almost November, I should still get the occasional squash until real winter comes.

But then we had the two day heat wave.

Now- I watered well, but it was not enough. As you can see- my garlic chives bit the dust. Also my yerba buena, most of my tarragon and half my parsley plants.

And not to underplay this- when I say heat wave? It was nearly 100 degrees in my neck of the woods. Highs of 97.

Still trying not to swear, but you better believe the blackberry vines were covering their ears the days this happened.

And then- it got worse.

These are the seedlings I have yet to plant. They are inside. Why are they inside?

Because yesterday- oh god yesterday, the santa ana winds came back. 95 mile per hour wind gusts. I first heard them at 3:30 am on Sunday morning, when like all good little neanderthals I was asleep in my bed. Ooh I thought, how nice, the howling sounds make my bed feel extra cozy.

Then, as I snuggled in my warm bed, my eyes shot open in horror as I realized what was about to happen to my half flat of seedlings outside on nothing sturdier then two milk crates.

One half naked pitch black run outside later, my seedlings were living on top of the washing machine for the night and later day.

Judging my how the milk crates were strewn throughout the garden come dawn on Sunday, I’m really glad I took them inside.

Here’s a quick video I took before heading to work. At work pretty much half the tall plants were knocked over, and we didn’t bother righting them because they’d just get knocked over again. Also our internet was down because of the power outages in Marin, which turned the usually quick process of ringing people up into a molasses like slog.

It was a day.

There were causalities. The corn is basically toast. The ginger mint seedlings are gone. and as you can see, my chile de arbol got hammered.

Luckily it’s a pepper plant all it needed was a stake and some love.

I’m not sure love can save my blue basil though. The winds dried it out to the point that while I’ll make an attempt- coming on the heels of the heat wave makes me suspicious it can be saved.

My pot bush beans also got re-arranged but they’re the type of plant that doesn’t really care.

My tree collard needed re-staking and my parsnips fell over, but all in all it could have been much worse.

After all that, I still have a half-flat worth of plants to plant. And a giant clean-up project.

And I’m going to have to completely re-do the shade herb bed.

Shit.

Trying to fix the sun herb bed

The latest try to anyways.

It’s not draining great and paradoxically dries out too easy and in general the really established plants are doing great while any new ones are kinda meh.

Also the sage looks rough.

That empty spot on the end in particular is like where herbs go to die. I lost a blue basil there and two oreganos.

Time for a change.

Part of the problem seemed to be that nutrients were going nowhere, so I tried something a little interesting. Granular Humic Acids are a soil additive that (supposedly) helps with nutrient uptake. This is not even remotely settled science, but anecdotes support it, and it isn’t too expensive so why not.

I also dug out as much soil as I could and lightened it up.

Of course I planted my newest two sacrifices to the death corner, a nice marjoram and a fancy mountain oregano.

Fingers crossed!

Then I cut back the sage (still going strong underneath) and mulched like crazy.

Its… a work in progress.

Like all things.

White fly abatement, hopefully

So whitefly is an issue this time of year as the aphids start to go away, out come the whitefly.

So I got some traps.

They’re sticky traps that smell like new leaves, which is what those bastards go for. The mint seems to be one of the big pulls for the little buggy jerks.

It’s just a matter of peeling the paper off and sticking it close to the plants.

The glory of the new plant stand is that it’s very easy to tie sticky traps too.

The real problem is the chayote. With the whitefly and scale infestations on the mints I’ve just been cutting back the afflicted parts and letting the plants grow back, I can’t do that with my chayote.

And here you can see one of the little bastards.

Those white specks are what the damage looks like.

Anyways the trap is up and hopefully it takes a good chunk out of the whitefly population.

The chayote is very vigorous, to the point where after I put up the trap I had to disentangle it from the apple tree. So I’m not worried too much about it, but it’s better to get ahead of these things.

I have a fair amount of work to do this week, including figuring out what to do with my sun herb bed, which keeps killing oreganos. At least whitefly wont be so much of a problem going forward.

 

Late summer planting and re-seeding

The wilting lettuce was good for something- clearing the worst of it gave me space for the rest of my walla walla onions.

Some of them will have to share space with one of my romaines, but otherwise it’s nice I found room for them.

And I have a new pepper. Just in time to take advantage of the ridiculous heatwave I got a chili de arbol just for the heck of it. It’s my favorite chili and for some reason we got a late shipment of them at work and there were only a few left and god knows I like a long shot. I have the two free pots now that I’ve pulled two of my under-performing tomatoes, and I, like nature, abhor a vacuum.

As for free pot number two I’ve decided to mix things up.

My pole beans are doing ok, but not as great as they were doing last year. To supplement the pole beans, I bought some bush bean seeds, and I planted a few in the pot. They shouldn’t need support, and should give me some more lovely tender green beans into fall.

Also as is becoming a habit, I reseeded the dill. It looks like in order to get good fronds reseeding every quarter or so is necessary. I might need to get two dill pots going at once so I always have dill on hand, it’s an herb I use a lot of and waiting for it to sprout again is tedious. It is growable by start, but I have such ham hands that I always disturb the roots too much and it dies on me. SO growing from seeds it is!

In other new seed news, I’ve decided to try these beets. I was going to re-sow my beet patch anyways, but I thought maybe some white beets would be nice to try. It would be nice to have beets without staining every surface in the kitchen.

I actually have to pick more soon.

That’s a golden beet, just waiting for me.

Last but not least, I’ve finally planted my summer savory in the herb bed. This is the annual form of winter savory, a plant that’s in my other herb bed. It’s a nice herb.

I have to figure out my herb beds as things are both thriving and dying in equal measure, same with the pots, and I have a lot of experimental herbs that frankly, I’m not eating and I’m probably never going to eat and that’s just a waste of space. So I have to get planning. Fall is coming, and depending on the heat it may or may not be brassica season soon. Of course brassica season means cabbage fly season, and I have to be pro-active this year about combating that.

Work never ends. But the results are pretty tasty.

 

Herbal indulgences

Now get your minds out of the gutter I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about basil though.

Everyone knows my favorite basil is the incomparable African blue bush basil.

Both of my bush basils are growing great. So great I think I’m going to try and root cuttings from them.

But African blue bush basil has a more camphor flavor then the Genovese basil and that’s not to everyone’s taste. I like it- but sometimes you just want a more classic basil flavor.

Problem is, green basils just do not grow well in San Francisco.

Well… there’s this one.

This is Greek basil. It smells and tastes (to me at least) just about the same as the Italian stuff, but it’s a hell of a lot heartier than the really picky Italian basil.

So I put the basil in front of the tomatoes in the color bed.

Got to love a mixed bed!

In other herb news all the oregano I put in a bit back has done alright- except for the Greek oregano which beefed it.

So I replaced that.

Now I forget which nursery the first Greek oregano came from, but it was not my favorite. This one came from sweetwater and I think their herbs are pretty high quality.

The borage is just going hog wild, doubled in size already and flowering everyday. And look at all those buds! I keep getting the pink variation too which is nice to look at.

The other herb (well kind of an herb more like a small tree…) that is doing well is my lemon verbena.

It likes it’s home in a pot and stinks real pretty. I’m not even sure I’ll ever use this- though I’m pretty sure you can. I just like the idea of a small herb tree in a pot. Hopefully in a few months it will be a medium herb tree in a pot!

Herbs are nice.

Flowers, fruit, and almost fruit.

Summer is almost here, but it feels like it’s already here, with a day this weekend that hit 100 degrees. Some absolutely frantic watering and mulching took place, and as today is a much more sedate 76, I think I managed to save most everything.

Well, except for the turnips- once again cabbage fly screws with my hopes and dreams.

Don’t talk to me about cauliflower.

But, as we move into the warmer months, quite a lot in the garden is beginning to flower.

Including my new borage plant. Borage is one of my favorite plants, such delicate flowers on such a robust plant.

I even got the rarer pink variation on one of the blooms. If the heat doesn’t chase off the bees, they’ll have a treat in my garden.

In other flower news, I put in new sunflowers.

There’s this great nursery company called Annie’s, that specializes in rarer and heirloom varieties of plants. Their flowers are always great, but for allergy reasons I can’t grow most of them.

But no one in my house is allergic to sunflowers!

I got a big bear, a claret, and a shock-o-lat. I put them next to my existing sunflowers in what used to be the cauliflower bed.

Still don’t want to talk about it.

I also sowed some of the multi-colored poppy seeds in front in the mulch, we’ll see if they come up.

The heat wave has just fried my last Bok Choy- and it’s throwing in the towel and bolting. Oh well. All the cabbage family flowers are really pretty and largely identical. It’s amazing how much this Bok Choy looks like a wild mustard.

Here’s a dark horse, my Yerba Buena is flowering! Just little trumpets hiding among the leaves. I cannot get over this mint, to the point where I bought a second. It just smells so good, and as a native it will thrive in our climate, and feed our local pollinators.

The French thyme has started flowering, which should be appreciated by the bees. Thyme flowers are also very pretty.

What’s this? A pumpkin flower peeking out behind some leaves?

Surprise! It’s *three* pumpkin flowers behind some leaves! I have visions of October pumpkins dancing in my head, and isn’t that exciting.

The tomato news is mixed. On the one hand the black krim looks great.

Now that’s a nice baby tomato.

On the other hand the sun gold looks like this.

At least the ladybugs are having a feast.

I did get one ripe sun gold today- which went right into my mouth. That’s where most of the purple peas have been going too. Between last year and this year the sun gold seems to be an aphid magnet more than the other tomatoes. I wonder if that’s a problem with the plant variety itself.

The fake romanesco saga drew to a close.

Judging by how it tastes once I cooked it- it wasn’t even a purple cauliflower, it was a purple broccoli. It was delicious of course- but hardly what was advertised on the seed packet.

Had to hose off all the cabbage aphids though, growing broccoli comes with some grossness.

I got my first cuke a few days ago too- a fine Boston pickle. The vines got a little scorched during the heatwave, so we’ll see how they perform later in the month.

I’ll leave you with some baby apples, growing precariously over my upper zucchini patch’s sunflower.

Nice.

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.