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.

Captain’s log: April 8th 2019

There’s a real difference between winter rain and spring rain. All the rain we’ve been having has been winter rain- but today’s shower was a spring shower.

The view from my window was nice and green, and while I got a little wet while checking on things outside, it’s a gentle rain.

A few days ago I got my second blackberry plant. I have been reliably informed that since blackberries of all species and varieties grow practically feral all over San Francisco, you actually can get away with one vine, as the pollinators will no doubt have some blackberry pollen on them when they visit.

I like symmetry however. Also- this means I could have two Marionberry vines as I wouldn’t need to get a second of a different variety!

One problem. This was the only Marionberry left at the garden center.

Blackberries are an investment in the future anyways. I put some coffee grounds under the mulch to give the soil an extra acidic kick, and the mulch should help reduce how much I have to water and weed.

Of course this extra moistness is not so great for the squash monster. Wet leaves are not great for zucchini- but there’s not a damn thing I can do about it so we’ll just have to see how bad it gets.

Even the baby zucchini don’t look so hot, though they’re definitely growing. All I want is to be up to my eyeballs in squash! Is that too much to ask for?

I am up to my eyeballs in sage.

Delightful! Berggarten sage is such a grower in spring, it has that lovely silver green color and such nice wide leaves.

In other good herb news the lemon balm has rebounded. I might regret having put it into a bed- it is mint after all, but ha ha too late to fix that now!

The cilantro I sowed is starting to come up. This is the lightweight pot I made heavier with rocks and so far I can confirm- hasn’t gotten blown over again!

The sauce pot is starting to bloom like crazy. Again- there are only a handful of bees out this early, especially because of how winter dragged on, but sauce pots gonna sauce pot.

This is the first sungold flower. I have nothing bad to say about this, sungold can do no wrong. If it wants to flower early, clearly it knows best.

The new potato bags are starting to sprout nicely, and the old potato bags are almost all filled up with soil.

Super happy about the potatoes.

I’m also super happy about the cauliflower.

I’ve never grown these before and I’m glad they seem to be taking. The Bok Choy are taking of course- but that’s not a surprise.

They seem to really like their new bed, which is nice. Supposedly the fabric beds make for more aerated roots and less water-logging so hopefully that helps them grow well.

The peas are starting to climb well. I have a feeling these are going to end up trailing up the fence. I might have to get some eyelets and wire so there’s a good support on the fence.

Might have to do that with the blackberries too- once they crawl up the bamboo supports to the fence.

While I did have to sacrifice the sassy salad pot for the black krim tomato luckily I haven’t had to sacrifice the arugula pot yet. Which is great as I am going to have to sacrifice the upper arugula bed for beans and beets soon, and I love arugula.

I’ll leave you with the view of my blackberry patch. Which just makes me happy to look at. Even if will be a year or two before I get a berry.

Too much rain!

I hesitate to even say that. It’s too close to a jinx. After years and years of dry or barely wet winters, drought after drought, it seems… unseemly to complain about rain.

But oh god I am sick of it. It’s clear today, but it’ll start up again tomorrow, and my poor plants are getting hammered.

I’ve never grown a lemon grass plant before so I don’t know for sure- but I’m pretty sure this is not the best sign. The plant is too tall to stash in the mini-greenhouse so out it sits- getting overwatered.

The Mitsuba is yellowing a bit- which will become a recurring theme. As a woodland plant, it doesn’t mind the rain- but like a lot of the plants in the back- it needs some fertilizer. All the rain is washing away the nitrogen from the soil. So yellow plants.

Even the hardy parsley looks a little wilted. Luckily fixing a parsley plant on the fritz is pretty easy- light fertilize, cut away the yellow leaves, harvest the good leaves so new growth can form. Not sure how to do that with the lemon grass.

Honestly though? The lemon grass was planted for one reason and one reason only: it repels mosquitoes. So since I’m not really using it culinarily, if this one is just dead from rain I’ll just plant another one to ward off the wee bloodsuckers.

And maybe I’ll look up how to harvest and use fresh lemon grass because I do like the flavor.

Lemon balm is also supposed to ward off mosquitoes, and it also makes very nice tea. It seems to have developed spots on its top leaves, though the bottom growth is coming on fine. It’s a mint so my strategy is to leave it alone. Mint will figure itself out!

Mint always wins.

Ah cilantro. Also getting spotty- but the spots seems to be a cosmetic blemish as the leaves taste as good as they always do. It also needs a light fertilize like the parsley, but the center growth is pretty good so I’m not going to fiddle with it much.

The poor pepper plant looks positively pathetic. What it needs is some sun and time to dry out- what it’s getting is a deluge. The wind keeps knocking it out of its ties, so I keep having to go out and re-tie it. I was really hoping my pepper would last til summer and start growing again, but I’ll be surprised if it survives the month.

Oh well.

In better news, the bees are starting to appear! This is a bumble bee who got caught out in the rain a few days ago, poor girl, and wisely decided to take a load off under the sheltering leaf of my sorrel plant. Smart bee! Wet bee!

It’s not the first bee of 2019 but it’s the first bee I’ve been able to photograph. Gonna have to start fixing the bee house for little miss bumble’s mason cousins.

Squarely in the “loving it” category are both my new potted mints. I was worried about transplant shock but they clearly weren’t. New growth already and they smell fantastic. If only all my plants were as water loving as mint.

Finally- the last Bok Choy’s are in line to get eaten this coming week and they look amazing. A little slug eaten ok, but with this much rain it was inevitable. I have a small fabric bed coming in which I think I shall plant solely with Joi Choi- it’s a really good producer that doesn’t bolt in the heat like the purple type did. I finally figured that out- we had like two hot days in January that messed up the plants. Considering how variable San Francisco weather is, I’m not going to plant any variety that’s that sensitive to changes in temperature. But how can you learn these things except by experimenting? Lesson learned.

Here’s to March!

Captain’s log: December 31st 2018

Well. Last captain’s log of 2018. That’s something.

The weather here in not-so-sunny California is dry, bright and windy.

So. SO. Windy.

The back trash can got blown about 20 feet away from where it’s supposed to be, and separated itself from it’s lid.

It’s kinda hard impossible to photograph wind, but sad trash can comes close.

This happened last night, and boy trying to sleep last night was hard, the wind was howling and howling and howling.

Luckily the only thing knocked over was a trash can.

I was slightly worried my Gerry-rigged tomato setup would get blown over, but it’s hanging in there, and the little tomatoes are continuing to ripen.

The Mystery Mole peppers are continuing to grow, which is nice, even if I have no idea what they are supposed to look or taste like.

The seed packet I ordered came in, so I planted some peas that are (hopefully) not dead.

And the turnips in front of the peas are doing nicely.

Snow peas are the perfect winter veggie, they love the cold, and they’re a legume so they grow super easy and with little extra work.

I’m not sure the basil is going to survive the winter sadly. African Blue Bush Basil can become a perennial in this area, but it’s a coin toss. Basically it just has to survive one winter and then you’ll have it for 7-8 years if you’re lucky. It’s looking like I’m not lucky.

This entire herb bed has been weird. The Hyssop and savory are gold, the oregano is acting all weird, and the purple sage looks perpetually sad, but alive. The regular sage seems to have rebounded though, so there’s that.

In far better news, the dill has sprouted! Was worried about it, but hopefully dill from seed is heartier than dill from plant.

The lemon balm I perhaps foolishly planted in the main herb patch is doing it’s minty thing, which means I’m expecting a takeover. This herb bed is where the tarragon pot lives, and that plant is doing kinda not great. Maybe I should have bit the bullet and just put the plant in the ground, root takeover be damned. Oh well.

The Pac Choi look fantastic though.

Happy New Year to all, and here’s to all your gardens growing well in 2019, both actual and metaphorical.

See you next year!

Captain’s log: November 24th 2018 (getting ready for winter edition)

The rains have ceased- for now. Starting Tuesday we’re going to have some more storms so I thought it was time to get more soil and get to work.

I went to my local garden center to get my winter herbs and plants. Now that the wet season has begun its time to plan for the big 4×4 bed that used to have fava beans.

I’m thinking a multi-crop bed with Pac Choi in the middle and romaine on one end and scallions on the other. Romaine and scallions I’m going to grow by seed, as I think I know what has killed my lettuce on the top bed- but that’s another post.

Besides lovely plants the garden center had another attraction

He was a very good boy. As his owner informed me- he’s not fat, he’s fluffy.

Many bags of soil later, I returned home to less time than I’d hoped I’d have to get things in the ground. As romantic as gardening in the dark sounds, I think I’ll just be smart and finish up tomorrow.

The number one herb I use most in the kitchen but do not grow is dill, so I thought I’d remedy that.

Luckily the dill plants were beautiful and so was the pottery. See, dill is one of those herbs which doesn’t play too well with others, so it grows better in a pot. And if you want a lot of dill, it better be a big pot.

Dill likes sun, but cooler temps. I had a dill plant in summer, which was a huge mistake, got very buggy, this one should do well.

Into the full sun bed I put some winter savory

Savory is a really nice herb that most people don’t use regularly. Perfect for stews and winter dishes, also nice to pickle with.

I cleared the chives and dead tarragon, and replaced them with a little cilantro, a medium lemon balm, and a tarragon who’s been put in plant jail.

See- when I pulled the dead tarragon I found that the roots were almost as bad as mint, and had taken over half the bed. That was some backbreaking work, and I’m not doing that again so into plant jail with you!

(In retrospect I should have put the lemon balm in a pot too- but as I am growing it to make mosquito repellant, I don’t mind if it gets over grown.)

(Mark my words I am going to regret that decision it’s a mint)

My last bit of work before it gets dark was to replace some of the spinach and Swiss chard.

Now the voids have new plants.

The Swiss chard variety that looked the best in the store was called “pink lipstick” and had pink roots!

Pink roots!!!

I have more work for tomorrow- the Pac Choi awaits. Though I’ll wait to sow the seeds til after the deluge, so they don’t get washed away.

The 4×4 bed has laid fallow for too long!

Soon.