Captain’s log: Early December 2019

The rains have begun in earnest!

Which means I have to delay my planting, hunker down any little plants, and focus on a big clean up. A clean up of what?

Apples. When I took this picture I was anticipating a not so fun job for my next day off, but when I came home that night the apples were gone, my mother having gone out and taken care of it during a break in the rain. Both to give me a break, and to hopefully deny any rodents a snack. She counted over 150 apples which is a sad waste. We just normally don’t have these sort of yields on this old tree, and it took us completely by surprise this fall. Not to mention the tree is tall and ungainly which means if we get these sort of yields next year I’m going to have to buy a picker so I can get the ones at the top. (and maybe rent a cider press… hmmm)

The other job I’m anticipating… is the interstitial weeds. Ah hello carpet of green. You’re pleasant now, but in a month when you’re kissing my ankles you wont be.

But hey! My idea of strawberry pots is still going strong! When I can run out and pick a nice juicy red guy like this everything is right with the world.

Of course the rains started just when I went to all that effort to try and save my squash vines for another month. They are toast! So are the bush beans in the pot and the bull horn pepper plant. Maybe next garbage night I’ll toss them into the compost.

Losing the squash is interesting as it means I now have a heavily amended free 4×4 bed and I am racking my brain on what I can plant here. Considering my wish for pumpkin supremacy next year I may just do a cover crop. But also I like brassicas and no one can stop me?

It’s a dilemma.

My last really pretty red lettuce is just about ready to pick.

I cut back the sage and… it’s sort-of re-sprouting? I have enough faith in the magic that is Berggarten sage to leave it be through the rains to see if it will come back. If it doesn’t? I’ll replace it. I got few years out of this one, and seven out of my first one from the before times. I’ll never grow another sage again!

Oof I have to pick those leeks. Also I need to weed that pot. All the more so because…

I still have these leeks to plant! And mitsuba and parsley and chervil. Not the baby green onions, they still need more time.

In the keeping of my new format of doing these logs, let’s have some good news. My Japanese bed is doing fantastic because the new rains have really reinvigorated the plants. I still need to weed, and I still need to pick up the dang broken garden gnome/spider factory behind the bed but ew it’s a spider factory you touch it first.

Alright now for some not so great news. The shade herb 4×4 bed is a MESS. All capital letters are needed. The thyme is all dry and bleh the parsley is bolted or already bolted, my garlic chives died in the heat wave and I don’t even like anise hyssop I just think it’s pretty. I have a feeling if there’s a break in the rains I’m going to take a good look at the available herbs at work and do some digging.

Not you Mr. lemongrass you’re perfect.

Hmm… I did get those shallot bulbs…

No that’s crazy talk.

Speaking of things I need to eat. Now that’s a kohlrabi! We’re at the “make Cole slaw with me” stage of this guy and I am here for it.

The only downside to free watering from Mother Nature is that the nutrients in the beds get washed out. So there are for sure a few yellow under leaves of my Bok Choy that I’m having to pull so they down attract slugs.

Time for some seaweed fertilizer!

Also time for some swear words. Arg I hate these cabbage aphids. Wet conditions and extra ants are really helping their population to boom.

I mean insecticidal soap exists for this very reason and I took care of it but it was still icky and gross.

And of course since I can’t be out there in the pouring rain it’s hard for me to hand pick them off. I think the Brussels will be ok but it’s still a pain.

Now that it’s December it’s officially time to take in the bath. I stuck the bee pebbles into the old pitcher and stuck my disassembled bird furniture out of the way. This is truly what a shed is for.

Now of course I have the rest of the month to rearrange the whole garden!

In the pouring rain.

Good think I have a good parka.

Planting the mystery brassica

Well it was time to pick the largest Bok Choy left in the ground, and that freed up space for my mystery veg.

It also gave me an excuse for a wide shot of my west beds.

I would have photos of my yummy Bok Choy only one had cabbage maggots *in the stems* fuck. And it turns out I’m pretty mad about that.

Anyways, mystery plants are in and they’re ready to grow!

I will have to treat these beds now that I know a handful of the cabbage flies are still flying around. Never wanted to bother with beneficial nematodes but I don’t have a choice at this point.

As for the identity of the mystery plant…

I did find one other plant in the store that had some similarities.

Portuguese cabbage or sea kale? This isn’t sea kale. Sea kale is its own thing.

But a fancy kale sounds nice I suppose.

If I can only protect it from maggots bleh.

Finally putting in my latest brassica bed

Holy moly this one took longer then I expected. Or is it Holy moley? (No. It has nothing to do with moles. It’s a bowdlerized version of “Holy Moses” and is only used today by kids who don’t want their parents to know they know the word “shit” and Billy Batson.*)

Anyways- the old tomato and bean bed has been missing it’s beans for some time, and after one last harvest of tomatoes it was time to pull them too.

RIP tomatoes- RIP a whole heck of a lot of weeds.

But I had more then one bed to fill.

Ah my beautiful Choy bed. (and peas). I’ve got Choy to pull this week, Choy to pull in a few weeks- but what about Choy for after that?

Boom. The answer to most of life’s problems is more brassicas.

Anyways, with the tomatoes pulled it was time to amend the bed, which meant lots of loam builder and digging. The loam builder is frankly 50% chicken manure, so that alone will solve most of your soil depletion issues for at least a season.

It doesn’t look like much yet, but on the left we have some Georgia collards, in the middle we have some winterbor kale, and on the right we have a six pack of kohlrabi. And will you look at that- there’s some space in front!

Clearly the answer to that conundrum is more kohlrabi.

Well, I know what I’m picking up tomorrow!

*Google it. 

Kohlrabi not rapa- but oleracea, still all Latin to me.

So for my 100th post I went all in on Bok Choy, Brassica rapa, a very easy to grow member of the brassica family that I consider one of my all time favorites.

Now it’s time for my 200th post (holy crap) and I thought I’d do a deeper dive into another of my favorite brassicas, kohlrabi. (Brassica oleracea)

This is one that isn’t as well known as bok choy, despite also being ubiquitous at Chinese and other Asian supermarkets.

It’s also very popular in German speaking countries, as it is sometimes called a German Turnip.

Here’s a nice pile of market kohlrabi at my local Chinese supermarket. These are grown much bigger then what stage I pick them at in the garden, largely because they’ll transport and store better at larger sizes. My garden books recommend picking them anywhere from golfball size to tennis ball size. If all you can get is the big guys,that’s fine! The big guys just need more cooking- but if you want little tender kohlrabi you can eat raw, growing them yourself is the best way.

They’re most often found in purple and green varieties, with some seed packets containing a mix of both. Like most Brassicas, growing from seed is fairly easy, but if you want more variety buying starts is a good idea.

To give you and idea of how fast they grow, here’s a photo of one of my earlier planted kohlrabi, taken around October 12th.

And here is the same plant on the 24th.

They may have been called the German Turnip in the past, but the true turnip is rapa, while the kohlrabi is oleracea, the same species as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, among many others.

The edible part is the swollen stem right above the root, so since it’s not the actual root you’ll be eating, cabbage fly, my eternal nemesis, is less of a problem.

I like them raw, but sautéd kohlrabi is tasty too. When they’re very young you can forgo peeling, but any larger then a tennis ball I’d recommend it.

I’m probably going to put in more as the season goes on, it’s a really nice winter crop.

I even have another 6 pack in my latest haul, but there’s been a complication. In true San Francisco fashion, the weather has been insane. After some chill and fog and wet, which is causing an absolute ton of mildew- we had two days of intense heat. Like nearly 100 in my neck of the woods. Which meant on the day off I had to plant these guys, they had to stay inside so they wouldn’t wilt.

And I had to water the absolute heck out of everything.

And now today, it’s foggy and cool and moist.

October in San Francisco is a special time.

I can’t believe this nothing blog has 200 posts! I can’t believe people read about an amateur vegetable gardener in the wildest weather place in the world! But I love you guys and I’m glad you’re here as I shout into the void about kohlrabi.

Though even if you weren’t here I’d still shout into the void about kohlrabi.

It’s a good vegetable.

Next bed done, now with bonus celery!

Today was a real San Francisco special, which is to say in the morning was so windy I had to wear two sweaters but by 2pm it was nearly 75.

Yay October!

Stupid weather tricks aside, I had work to do.

That bed is kinda a mess even with all the beans pulled out, so it was time for the loam builder.

That stuff reeks! It’s like 50% chicken manure though which is what you need for a depleted bed.

I also mixed in a box of kelp meal.

Largely because it was time the celery went into the bed. They’ve been struggling in their pots and they need more space for their roots. Celery are heavier feeders then brassicas so I’m not taking any chances.

Then it was a matter of filling in my army of kohlrabi and some more bok choy.

This isn’y my usual type, this is win-win not joi choi, so we’ll see how it performs. I also have way too many for this one bed…

But I did have some room where I’ve been picking the Joi’s…

Eh it’ll do.

Still have some left, but as I pick the big ones I’ll have the room to plant these.

Anyways, after a good mulch the bed is complete.

The weather is set to be kinda wild again this week, with tomorrow nearly 80 but possibly rain in a week. So I’m trying to get as much in the ground as possible before it starts reliably pouring.

You’re always working against the clock gardening out here.

Captain’s log: October 9th 2019

Been a while, and this one’s largely going to be a good news/bad news post because I have a lot of that going on right now.

October is a good month.

So good news first! The second brassica bed is doing great. Sprouts are sprouting, kohlrabi is rabi-ing- good news all around.

My next project isn’t really good news or bad news, it’s just an empty bed.

The bad news is…

Due to some delays the brassicas for that bed got a little wilty. We’ll see how many of them I can salvage.

It’s also time to put my celery into a bed, they’re both chafing at being in pots.

The whitefly traps are certainly killing the whitefly!

Chayote still looks rough though. Lots of damaged leaves at the bottom. The tops are pretty vigorous though so I’m cautious but not overly concerned.

The powdery mildew has returned to the zucchini, which is bad news but not unexpected news. It’s just what happens when the fall fog comes in.

The apple tree is producing like crazy which is nice. The apples are super tasty this year too, great for baking.

And the falling leaves make great mulch for the onion plot.

Back to bad news. The garden wide scale problem continues, and I’ll have to send my chocolate peppermint back to mint rehab.

Annoyingly my baby ginger mints are also damaged. I really have to get a handle on the ants out here, which are spreading the scale.

In good news, the Roman mint looks fantastic. Still some slight whitefly issues, but as mentioned previously, whitefly is more cosmetic than anything else, and only really bad when it’s everywhere.

My corn is sort of both good news and bad news. The ones I put on the edge of the bed were largely duds… But the big ones in the back…

Looks like I might get a couple of ears after all!

Back to bad news. This one really stings. The carrots look beautiful, nice sized roots, not to big, the right orange color… And they are bitter and tasteless. Looks like from a bed that was over-enriched which was the problem last year, I went to a bed that was very nutrient depleted and therefore the carrots are inedible.

I’ll have to pull everything, mix in compost and re-seed. What a pain.

It looks like my new Marjoram and Oregano are doing great though, maybe those humic acids are the key to nutrient uptake after all!

In good news that means a lot of prickly work, the blackberry vines are doing what blackberry vines do- grow like crazy.

I’ve got to strap on my gloves and tie up this sucker. I can already feel the wounds on my hands!

The arugula that reseeded itself is almost pickable. No such thing as too much arugula.

The thyme forest needs to be hacked back again, as it often does.

And finally in really really really good news, it turns out the confetti cilantro does breed true, and all that lovely coriander I got from the last plant is now two pots worth of more cilantro- and I still have seed left over!

I really have to get moving, the rains will come soon and then garden work will be very difficult. But October is a good month for planting, since there’s no frost or snow to worry about.

Just the possibility of a deluge!

More Brassicas, more problems, more heat.

Well it cracked 90 today here in the sunny Excelsior and I felt like I was going to melt out of my shoes.

Had to do some mid-day emergency watering, which is always fun at noon. Then once the sun wasn’t so high in the sky I did some planting and an even deeper watering that meant I was out until literal nightfall. At least a summer night is pleasant, even though the mid-day temps were brutal.

Kohlrabi! Now this, unlike the Brussels sprouts, is a veggie I’ve grown before. It’s actually pretty easy, and is one of the real fun brassicas. If you’ve never eaten one before give it a try at a farmers market or a really good supermarket, it’s weird looking but tasty.

Unlike the head of cabbage or broccoli, the edible part of a kohlrabi is it’s swollen stem and the leaves. Since it’s not a root veggie like a turnip, I shouldn’t have to worry about the horror that is cabbage maggots.

Easy peasy, just put my seven little plants in a row in front of the sprouts!

Unfortunately the sprouts themselves look a little rough. The heat has done a number on them, though the new growth in the center looks promising. Nothing some deep watering and good mulch can’t fix.

That and as we go into fall, cooler temps.

The caterpillars however, a being a pill.

See that white dot? That’s an egg! My sprouts were riddled with them. I picked off what I could see, and then it was time to spray.

I’m just not going to fool around this year.

I also moved my tree collard over by the other brassicas, and gave him a fresh coat of B.t. as well. I got my first harvest out of him, and boy are collard greens delicious.

I’m having to move a lot of things around, as the season starts to change. So of course my latest garden map is now out of date. Oh well.

I’ll leave you with my neighbor’s barking corgi, who serenaded me all evening long as I gardened. He apparently had something important to tell me as I worked, but as I don’t speak dog it was incomprehensible.

He’s quite cute though.