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.

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.

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.

Captain’s log: March 14th 2019

Well I had to push the grand soil haul til tomorrow, but that didn’t mean I could rest on my laurels.

The weather is beautiful out- and coupled with the return of daylight savings I have a ton more usable time out in the garden. It was around 70 degrees out in the hottest part of the day today, and while I know a week from now we are going to have some more rain, it truly feels like the beginnings of Spring.

See- a bumble bee! This is the third or fourth I’ve seen this year so far, which is exciting. Just because I don’t grow most flowers doesn’t mean I can’t have a bee friendly garden. Most of my herbs flower wonderfully, and I’m planting more.

The blue pot is the garlic chives 2.0 after the wind killed pot 1.0- the other pot on the stand is new, and houses some regular chive seeds.

What- I like chives ok? Why not have both? Besides all varieties of chives have wonderful edible flowers that make bees go crazy. And more bees means more tomatoes later and more green beans and more cucumbers… you get the idea.

I also wanted to pot up some cilantro. I keep getting cilantro and planting it in the shade herb bed and having it grow just plain weird. Well- turns out this was 100% my fault. Cilantro is like dill- transplanting cilantro tends to make the plant all screwy.

Ok so I’ll sow it by seed into a pot like I did with the dill, only the only pot the right size is the plastic pot that we all know the wind likes to knock over…

The solution is rocks. The solution is always rocks.

Those are a couple of big rocks I found that I plunked down in the pot before I filled it with soil and seeds. Made it good and heavy- try to knock that over wind!

(Just kidding wind please be cool)

I’ve also been pretty pleased with the seedlings so far, except for the one Boston pickle I started indoors during the deluge- it died in the night. I just sort of shrugged and put another Boston pickle cucumber seed in the pot- you can’t really plant cucumbers in their bed til around May so I have plenty of time to screw around with seeds and grow a few strong plants for transplant.

Rip Boston Pickle plant. As you can see the rest of the older seedlings are doing really great- as are some of the younger ones…

All 12 of the Joi Choi came up! Which… is problematic as at the moment I only have room for 8 of them! Luckily with the soil infusion I’m getting tomorrow I’ll have room for plenty more and it’ll be a while before these little guys are ready for transplant anyways.

I’ve also started some mustard greens and Japanese spinach as nothing but 2 radishes ever came up in the side bed and it’s good shady real estate for greens.

The warmth and sun has really reinvigorated some of the herbs. All the water plus now the warmth has made my sage plant very happy. It wasn’t looking so hot in January so I’m glad it seems to have rallied. I really like sage, which is why I’m a little sad I’ll probably have to pull the purple sage.

I mean- that’s just not right.

The other herbs in this bed are doing well- including the hyssop which I never even thought I wanted.

Truly magnificent. That should flower very nicely in June- a real treat for the bees.

Another win- the potted mints. The mint thunderdome is roaring back to life after its winter slumber- and my two individual mints are growing with real vigor. This is the pineapple mint which is a real pretty plant. Smells fantastic too.

Happily both of the potato bags are also going strong, I’ll have to put more soil in soon. I’ve made up my mind on the potato front- I’m definitely going to get a few more bags and some proper seed potatoes and grow a few more. That whole middle area has a fair amount of room and a medium amount of sun- and I’m the sort who could eat my weight in spuds. Not to mention my mother who’s diet is fairly limited- like the zucchinis I will be growing and the carrots I am growing, it makes sense to grow her some more potatoes, which are some of the few vegetables she can eat.

The first bean seeds are in- we’ll see if they take- it’s early but the soil is just warm enough.

I’ll leave you with lettuce.

Get it- *leave* you, sounds like leaf…

Aw forget the bad pun. It’s pretty lettuce.

Captain’s log: February 10th 2019

Today was clear and cool. Very cool, under 50 degrees. One of those things that made me glad the only warm weather plant out back was my wonderful pepper, which will be the subject of another post.

Everything was so well watered from the heavens opening up I didn’t have to do anything except take pictures of beautiful plants.

The amazing surprise garlic is just thriving in the wet. Which is good data to have if I grow garlic this year intentionally- maybe time it in order to take advantage of the winter rains.

In other allium news- the baby leeks are growing well. I mean I assume as much, as I have zero experience growing leeks. It’s interesting how much the baby leeks look like the baby green onions and baby chives. The chives of course stayed little, the green onions will hopefully get bigger than chives, and the leeks will hopefully get even bigger than that.

Alliums!

There seems to be a distinct winner in the battle that is mint thunderdome. After a while where the mint plants were bare twigs the Roman mint has joyfully rebounded into leaf. There are some scattered growth from the orange and chocolate mints- but Roman mint is the clear winner of the thunderdome.

The hyssop has also responded well to the deluge- turning bushy and thick. Not sure if I’ll ever use this herb culinarily but it smells real nice and flowers are good for the bees in the summer.

I swear I could fill this blog to the brim with just glamor shots of turnips. They’re so lovely and green but with yellow touches- and I love their leaf pattern.

Arugula! So much arugula! I just picked some and it’s almost all grown back which is nice. It’s also super weedy. The plants grew together because I sowed the seed rather thickly- which with arugula you can totally get away with. But it is problematic when it comes time to weed. I have to get in there, but I only had a little time outside today, and we have another straight week of rain coming.

The dill is growing so well- which is wonderful considering how long it took me to realize that dill was a seed herb not a transplant herb. It’ll probably be another month before I can pick some for pickling though.

Why… why is the rosemary flowering in February? I’m not upset- just confused.

Might as well make lemonade with rosemary flower lemons!

That’s… a weird metaphor I apologize.

What I mean is that I picked some of the flowery rosemary and some Mitsuba and made a bouquet for my lemon pitcher. It’s a nice table decoration that won’t make me sneeze like real flowers will. It also, as my dad might say, stinks the house up real pretty.

Here’s to rainy days!

Captain’s log: November 1st 2018

It’s always time for a captain’s log when the weather is unseasonable. Today it reached a high of 81 around 1 pm. It is November 1st. God bless San Francisco, never change.

Tomorrow when the weather isn’t quite so melting for a delicate hominid as myself, I have a few tasks. Chief among them is to thin the carrots. As you can see they’re really bushy- they’ve grown really quickly, proving everything I’ve read about growing carrots from seed is incorrect and it is in fact quite easy- if you do things correctly.

The other major task for tomorrow is to try to get a handle on the spinach. The erratic heat has really damaged it- I have to definitely remove the heat damaged leaves and harvest the rest, pull the weedy plants (and the outright weeds) and sow some more spinach plants in the bare areas.

Luckily I’ve gotten some more Japanese spinach to sow:

A different variety this time, but it looked nice and the Japanese varieties tend to be much more heat resistant. Just looking at what I’ve sowed- the monstrueux variety has done much worse than the alrite Japanese variety- when I did get a baby spinach harvest I got much more out of the alrite. I still have some alrite seeds, but they’re more of a baby variety and I wanted something that would grow a bigger plant for harvest, so when I was in Japantown I got this Okame variety for, well, variety! If I have any advice when it comes to plant variety it’s look outside the western paradigm. Humanity has been growing vegetables worldwide since the dawn of agriculture- and that means there are a lot more types of plants then you get in your typical American seed catalogue.

The lettuce is doing well- which is slightly surprising considering the heat wave. This is the advantage of starting from a plant rather than a seed- more heat resistance due to the more established nature of the plant.

While the Swiss chard is also heat damaged- I’ll have to re-sow a few of those- the arugula is just booming. Arugula is almost like a weed- there is no arugula season, as long as the sun is shining and there’s no ice on the ground, it’s arugula season! It’s become my garden snack, if I’m watering in the back- I’m eating some arugula. not sure I’ll have enough for the table- it’s all going in my mouth!

We had a pepper casualty. I was so happy! An all red baby bell pepper ready for harvest! And then I spotted the hole in the bottom… and something moving inside.

NOPE!

I picked it and threw it right into the compost ick ick ick. I also checked all the other almost ripe peppers, and luckily this was the only infested pepper, so I should at least get a few others.

Price of growing plants honestly! 10% of the harvest goes to the bugs! If you’re lucky of course, if you’re unlucky it will be more, but that’s what neem oil is for.

The weird warm weather is causing the basil to sprout flowers again, along with the hyssop. That’s another job for tomorrow- going to have to clip all the flowers so the leaves don’t get bitter.

I’m also going to have to cut back the mint thunderdome, as the top leaves are a little crunchy looking and not as fragrant as the other leaves. The tendril still abides.

The Mitsuba continues to grow, as do all of my pot herbs. We had either a scale insect or mold issue with the base of the lovage- or rather a scale insect issue that turned into a mold issue- either way, that’s what neem oil is for. The lemongrass is growing like a weed which is nice.

The owl guards the sorrel. The sorrel grows. All is good under the gaze of the owl.

Lastly- those are two baby tomatoes. I have counted 4 total, along with dozens of flowers waiting to turn into tomatoes. IT’S NOVEMBER FIRST!!!

I am staying on top of appropriate watering and tomato fertilization, along with both hand killing the red aphids, and using neem oil when appropriate.

This is nuts. I’m going to get late November early December tomatoes.

God damn I love San Francisco.

More herb maintenance

As we get more into fall, my herbs have been looking a little ratty. I already trimmed my basil back, but a lot of my herbs have red or yellow leaves and are generally a little messy.

To say nothing of the dying shiso behemoth. Add to that a fennel going to seed, and I knew I had some work to do.

So I pulled the fennel and the shiso(s) and cut back all the flowery bits on all the other herbs along with any red or yellow leaves.

Then it was a matter of fertilizing, to prevent future discolored leaves. I use a pretty powerful kelp based fertilizer for my peppers and tomatoes- but frankly that’s horribly overpowered for herbs. For herbs I use fish emulsion.

Now there are a few problems with fish emulsion- chief of which is it smells horrific. Just… awful. But it really works and it wont burn your plants with too much nitrogen.

Think of fish emulsion as the scientific version of what a lot of grandmothers used to do when they’d bury a fish head under their roses.

Also what the Roman’s used to put on their food

The hyssop is growing well after I pinched it’s flowers:

Lots of new growth coming up. The thyme was bushy as always- I thought I was being clever putting in two plants and while I do use a lot of thyme, thyme is like mint in that it will always get overgrown.

The tarragon also needed to be pinched back, and the sage needed some undergrowth to be cleaned up.

The Oregano continues to grow mightily, which reminds me, I haven’t made tomato sauce in a while…

Anyways it’s the right time of year for this maintenance, and a good weekend to get it done.