Captain’s log: March 9th 2019

It sprinkled off and on, but it was warmer and clearer than I expected so I sprang into action. I was hoping to see a movie this weekend, but I can always see a movie in the rain- can’t effectively garden when it’s pouring so the silver screen can wait.

I have moved the mint thunderdome and succulent pots from the former home, and now they’re elsewhere in the garden. The thunderdome got a trim- hopefully that will promote more mint growth in spring.

There’s the new home of the terra-cotta succulent pot and the little purple pot. Eventually the succulent pots will go in front of the house but thats a while off.

Why am I moving everything around?

So I can place my new fabric bed where the other pots were of course!

I really have to update the map of the garden…

It took all the soil I had left to fill it, plus mulch on top. It will be a while before my Joi Choi seedlings are big enough to be transplanted outside, but I wanted to make sure the bed was there when I needed it. This is in a semi-shaded area of the garden which doesn’t make a ton of sense for mint but makes good sense for things like Bok Choy.

They wait.

In other seedling news the greenhouse seeds seem to be doing ok, but the stems are a bit spindly. I might have to transplant the sunflowers to larger plastic pots soon- but as I used up all my soil it will have to wait. I was planning on Wednesday being the soil day for the new beds- but it looks like I’m going to have to go tomorrow first for 2-3 bags for other garden use.

In really good news it looks like the potatoes are doing well. The one on the right had some scary damaged leaves which had me anxious about blight- but it seems to have rebounded. I’m quite happy with it.

The baby romaine lettuce look amazing…

The last remaining Bok Choy looks more than a little eaten. It’s going to get eaten either today or tomorrow- but I need to get some more soil to level off the area in preparation for zucchini.

The radishes in the mixed bed have come up- but the purple peas have not. It looks like once again the over-much rain has caused the baby peas to force themselves up too early and not develop good roots.

I really want my purple snap peas.

So I’m starting some indoors!

I’m not taking any chances, I want my peas!

I’ve already harvested most of the harvestable chard- and tonight I’ll do the same to the arugula. That’s because the soil temperature in the back has finally reached bean temperature. So these plants are going to get ripped out in favor of green beans soon enough.

Swiss chard!

Speaking of harvests, I’m starting to get some great carrots when I thin.

I over-sowed a bit when I planted the carrot bed- my bad. But it’s hard to regret it when the thinnings are so delicious. That middle one is a yellow carnival blend carrot, I’m surprised it got that big.

Finally, the rosemary has decided it’s spring. It’s flowering all over, and has begun to attract the first bees. I couldn’t get a picture but the whole time I was working in the garden today I was followed around by a big fat bumble bee. That’s really good news for tomatoes later on- bumble bees are the best pollinators for tomatoes.

Wednesday is the big soil day- but tomorrow looks like it’s going to my first opportunity to get pole bean sets if they’re available this early.

Spring is coming, and I am ready for it!

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: December 8th 2018

There’s just not a ton to do in the garden with everything so wet and more rain coming soon- but it’s dried out enough that I can take stock of what needs to be done after the next does of wet.

Honestly there are a few things I should be doing *this* weekend but it’s the home stretch of my last semester at University so it’s study time first and garden time last.

First the good news- all the Pac Choi are doing great. Which is as expected, cabbages in general are good growers this time of year, and they’ve all been watered well!

And here’s the other great news- the first of the romaine seedlings have begun to sprout!

The green onions and leeks haven’t sprouted yet but that’s to be expected, lettuce comes up much quicker than onions.

What’s also coming up is weeds! Weeds everywhere, though none as spectacular as the oxalis I pulled last week.

As far as work I have to do in the next few weeks, some of it is wait and see.

The cut back dill plant is very green in the middle, though the other fronds look all mealy and gross- so it will either bounce back by the new year, or it won’t.

I’ve just had terrible luck with dill, which is annoying because I use so much of it when I cook, it would be really nice to have a reliable plant in the back.

Oh boy did I let the mint thunderdome get kinda overgrown. So I’ve got to cut back all the tendrils and twigs and maybe give it a dose of fish emulsion when I give some to the dill.

Then it should be fine, as mint is an undying force.

I’ve been procrastinating on pulling my moldy heat damaged lettuces so there’s a chore for later.

I think I’ll put some snap peas in the top patch. Perfect winter pea, good snacking potential, and most importantly- really easy to grow.

Unlike fucking lettuce apparently

The sorrel is getting gigantic, definitely ready to harvest after the next dose of rain.

Now the (maybe) hatch peppers are interesting. The shishito plant will have to be cut back heavily if I’m to get any peppers next year. The red bell pepper plant is really infested. But the hatch pepper, while weird, is yummy. So I’ll cut it back after I harvest the last of them, but unlike the bells which are getting pulled- I’m gonna keep the hatches.

Whoooo December tomatoes! I have so many growing December tomatoes! I don’t know if they’ll ever ripen but… December tomatoes!

It’s also looking like in a few months I’m going to be overrun by carrots.

This is not a bad thing.

And as expected- the ishkabibble parsley plant has really perked up now that it’s in a pot. It is kinda being caressed by the lemongrass but it’s just going to have to get used to that, I have only so much room on the shade herb table.

Which reminds me of the maintenance I have to do on this site- my map of the garden is wildly out of date- so this week I’m definitely going to draw a new one and post it.

It’ll probably be out of date again within a month- oh well.

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.

The little mint that could

Or the saga of mint thunderdome continued.

Remember the little tendril of mint that was attempting to escape?

It has reached the brick!

I should probably cut it back- but I’m dying to see if it will escape another few feet down to the actual dirt in front of the brick.

I think at that point I’d just let it grow.

It’s earned it!

This is the same orange mint that is escaping, it’s also sort of taken over the side of the pot and is growing in a very bushy manner. The other mints are much more scruffy- it would be tempting to call the winner of the mint thunderdome the orange mint… but…

Man the Roman mint is pretty. It’s less shrubby but it grows in such tall pretty stalks. It’s also probably the mint I eat the most- it grows in such a nice way and is very easy to harvest and use.

So winner in the grows-like-a-weed category: Orange mint!

Winner in mint I like to eat the most category: Roman mint!

The thunderdome continues!

Captains log: August 11th 2018

The gloom seems to be lifting! Today wasn’t the warmest, it barely cracked 69 degrees around 1pm, but it was sunny at least, and if it can only stay this way, maybe my tomato plant will at least ripen the little green tomatoes we have so far. (Not super optimistic about any more than that sadly.)

Mint thunderdome continues to cement mint’s reputation as the hardiest plant in any garden. The little one in front is the one I’m the most excited about- that’s strawberry mint! If I could eat dairy I’d make a mint panna cotta or something like that, but instead I’m just going to make tea.

My little fennel plant is also doing well. I don’t plan on using the bulb for a while, I’m just going to take the fronds for things like stocks and soup. But when investigating the part where the fronds join the bulb, I found a lot of ants. Which means- of course… aphids hiding in the plant. I sprayed into the holes with mineral oil, and i’ll have to do that for a few days, but the plant itself looks fine, so I don’t think its a heavy load. Unlike the load on the dill plant, which killed it. (RIP dill)

I cut the worst leaves off the zucchini plant, leaving three left for basic photosynthesis, but look! A new flower! and a new leaf! As soon as that new fresh green leaf is any big, I’ll be cutting off the other nasty yellow too-moist leaves and hope for the best. If this flower is an actual zucchini it will be squash #3 from the plant. *sigh* Mom keeps cheering me up by rightfully pointing out that this entire venture this year was an experiment, and the beans alone, along with the herbs have really justified the experiment- but c’mon! Its zucchini! It’s supposed to be taking over the garden, and due to the weather I can barely keep it alive!

Ughh.

However the shaded herb bed is loving the weather. And my runty little green shiso plant which almost died when I put it in- is bouncing back! Dad and I just used some- we went to Japan town yesterday (more on that later, I got some seeds) and got some fish for sashimi, and it was so cool plating it on a shiso leaf from the garden. It’s gotten a bit of damage from caterpillars and such, but its still plenty edible, it just needs good washing before eating.

The Hatch Peppers are totally un-bothered by the weather, though the sun today was very good for them. Peppers are related to tomatoes (and potatoes) but are a lot hardier than their nightshade cousins. I love hatch peppers, so I have something to look forward to next month.

The fava beans just don’t give a fuck. They just don’t. They went kind limp during a break in the cold snap from water lack, but once I bumped up the water they perked right up. They don’t even get a ton- like a gallon or a gallon and a half a day for a 4 foot by 4 foot square of densely packed fava beans- a little less when it’s cold, a little more when its hot- and it looks like I’m going to get a ton. I’m going to be using this bed for spinach in the winter, but you can plant fava beans year round, and I have a sneaking suspicion I’m going to have to put in a dedicated fava bed once this one is done. I just have to be aggressive with the mineral oil spray/insecticidal soap usage due to the bean aphids that like favas.

The greatest thing honestly has been the bees. The dang African Blue Basil along with the hyssop has been just drawing in the bees. Sure- I’m getting a lot of your basic European honey bees and fat bumble bees- but I’m also getting some beautiful green sweat bees and this guy. On my parsley. I think she’s a hoverfly? I don’t care she’s a beautiful pollinator and I love her.

Cause I got butterflies, but most of them are damn white cabbage moths and their caterpillars are eating the leaves of everything so…

Bees please.

Mint thunderdome- or why mint must always be contained

This is my mint thunderdome. It’s 5 interesting varieties of mint in a nice 18 inch diameter terra-cotta pot. The varieties are clockwise from the bottom left: strawberry mint, orange mint, chocolate mint, red stemmed peppermint; with the center being occupied by Roman mint. Basically I went to my local garden center and chose the most interesting and fragrant mints I could.

But why in a pot? Easy- mint (likes to spread. It doesn’t just grow up like most herbs, instead it also grows sideways and underground. It throws up these tendrils, both at the surface of the soil and burrowing deep underneath it, creating a network of roots and runners that are almost impossible to remove. In fact- despite being contained in mint thunderdome, the orange mint is trying to escape as seen in figure 2

See where the mint thunderdome is now was the spot of one of my original raised herb beds, a simple shallow circular affair that lasted for years until it just had to be replaced. I had a few mint plants in there which was a huge mistake, as the spearmint and apple mint was no longer growing just within the confines of the bed, but also around the bed and confusingly several feet away under the lemon tree- because mint never gives up. It also was choking out some nearby parsley, having grown in between the neighboring herb.

When I replaced the full sun herb bed with a much nicer and deeper cedar affair, the roots of the mint I had to remove were massive- many many yards long, and it took me almost as much time ripping up the mint as it did taking everything else out and putting together the new bed. I love mint, and I use it a lot for tea, but I had learned my lesson- mint belongs in a pot. Conceivably if you wanted a raised bed that was only mint- as mint will bully other plants, you could do it- but only if you put the bed on concrete or pavers so that it can’t burrow beneath and escape. But even after all that work- some apple mint still lives…

I give up.