Nuking it from orbit

The it of course being my tree collard. The nuke of course…

It’s not like I love the usual red and green aphids, they’re the worst. It’s just that grey and black aphids are the extra worst.

And those damn grey aphids are on the tree collard, and I killed a few black ones on my new baby celery.

So, in the dead of night, my weapon of many little beetles was deployed.

And in the morning at least a few remained!

Some migrated a little off course…

But the few I tipped into the baby celery were still there. In ripping out the awful potted tomatoes I kinda decimated my ladybug colonies. So in order to make sure I have enough eggs in late fall to overwinter, I’m probably going to have to keep topping up the ranks every month or two months until we stop selling them around November.

It’s always better to use a natural method of pest control, even over organics like neem and insecticidal soap.

You’ll pry my B.t. out of my cold dead hands though, as it’s the only thing I’ve ever done against caterpillars that actually works.

I’m a land of contrasts.

Captain’s log: September 1st 2019

September is always a difficult time in the garden. Depending on the weather certain summer veggies are going strong- or failing. Certain herbs are thriving, or starting to die back. Somethings are unchanged, and somethings are just starting to fruit. And of course some bugs have gone away, and some are being a pain in my backside.

It’s a land of contrasts. Now I have to start thinking about fall planting.

I’ve got a lot on my plate.

This rather gorgeous herb is anise hyssop. It supposedly makes great tea, but I haven’t tried it. Honestly planted this one on a whim to see what the flowers looked like. Well now I can say the flowers look pretty great!

The big-leaf thyme flowers are wonderful as always. Also a great attraction for bees which sadly have been lacking in the garden this year. That’s been something of a disappointment, but the wild weather is out of my hands.

Speaking of wild weather yesterday it was 80, and today it drizzled and is foggy.

My poor plants don’t know if it’s coming or going.

Speaking of flowers, the zucchini continues to be very productive. I’m starting to get those wonderful late season baseball bats, that are a little on the tough side but are still delicious.

Time for some stuffed zucchini I guess!

Finally my large corn stalks are starting to flower. Hopefully I can get some full or full-ish sized corn from these stalks. These are flowering at just the right time because September and October are often our hottest months and corn needs to ripen when it’s warm.

This is the base of one of the small runty corn stalks, and as you can see… I’ve got tassels. Which means I have a baby corn and god knows how that will end up.

The blackberry is traveling far afield, which bodes well for next year’s pies.

In brassica news those damn grey cabbage aphids are back again. The foil ring stopped the cabbage fly, and the B.t. has been guarding against cabbage moths. I’ve been using neem for the aphids- but screw it. I’m going to buy an entire container of ladybugs and dump them all on my tree collard.

Nuke it from orbit- it’s the only way to be sure.

I finally planted my fancy oregano. You can see it’s slightly white fly damaged. One more plant to put ladybugs on I guess. I put it in the space the other blue basil was in, as it was dying. The one I have in a pot is also not doing great, but that one I’m going to try to save by hook or by crook.

This whole bed needs a makeover, but it will be a while til I can get to it.

Oops. I was shifting some pots around so I could wack the weeds and uh… whoopsie. I’m sad because I love this pot, I only got it because a wonderful family friend got me some gift cards, and I’m determined to save it. Some sort of epoxy maybe? I’m handy enough that I’m sure I could do it, I just have to figure out how.

This is a ripening lemon boy! Some of the fruits on this plant look really rough, so we’ll see how it does long term, but hey! I’ve got at least one silly yellow tomato.

I’ll take it!

That is less then ideal. I really wanted to get some fennel bulbs this year, and once again fennel is not being nice to me. Fennel might be just too much of a time and space investment for me. The extreme irony is that wild fennel grows, well wild, all around my neighborhood. Wouldn’t eat that stuff though.

And while my pole beans are withering, at least my new bush beans seem to be sprouting at top speed. Life’s just not worth living without beans!

Per usual my dill has sprouted well. I’m going to endeavor to use this dill more aggressively so it doesn’t get all seedy too soon. I have pickling to do!

So when I finally pulped the dying wilted ginger mint, I clipped a few root runners from the most vigorous plant and it looks like I’m going to be rewarded with more of my favorite mint. Seriously this stuff is so crazy vigorous it’s incredible.

And despite everything the sun gold keeps trucking. This has to be the best variety for San Francisco, you can throw everything and the kitchen sink at it weather wise and all it needs is a little TLC and it’ll keep going.

Looks like absolute hell, but it keeps going.

I finally ripped out my overgrown arugula only to find that it had reseeded itself into it’s neighboring beds.

Good thing I like arugula, looks like i’m getting a lot of it!

In intentional seed news, I let my cilantro go to seed entirely as an experiment. You see this is a fancy type of cilantro called “confetti” that has really cool leaves. I wanted to see if I sowed the coriander seed it made, if it would breed true and make the cool leafed cilantro again. Not always a given!

So I sowed it in a couple of pots and time will tell if I get fancy cilantro or the regular but still yummy stuff.

I leave you with the greatest creation of my garden, my very own pumpkin. I’m picking it tomorrow.

Ok, so maybe late summer as we turn into fall is a tough time in the garden. But damn.

That’s a fine pumpkin, so clearly I’m doing something right!

Mint rehab

It’s time for an intervention.

A mint-ervention, if you will.

Look. The Moroccan mint is just a mess, and it’s all my fault. It’s just not mint tea weather, so I haven’t been picking as much as I should. (Never got the hang of iced tea I’m afraid)

The Chocolate peppermint’s problems are not my fault.

Oh boy it’s scale! One of my least favorite pests.

The only solution is to cut it back, and drench it in horticultural oil. And then keep doing that until it springs back.

The Moroccan mint got a drench too, and I’m fertilizing it and babying it and hopefully it will have some new growth I can take cuttings from so I can refresh the plant.

The constabulary is over-interested in my roman mint. This is a sign of white-fly. The other sign of white fly is, all the white flies. Ick. I’m loath to spray it down while the ladies are visiting though, so I’m hoping they’ll take care of business so I don’t have to.

I think my pineapple mint has gone past needing rehab into needing a hearse. Well. It served me well and gave me many cuttings and much tea, so I suppose it was bound to happen.

Luckily I still have one of it’s clones. And this guy is super duper robust and healthy.

Tada, meet pineapple mint, son of pineapple mint!

They grow up so fast.

Now my strawberry mint looks like it needs an exorcist, but it’s fairly healthy, just needs a trim. It’s interesting which mints tend towards the buggy and which tend to repel them. Peppermints seem more vulnerable than spearmints and pineapple mint (a sub variety of apple mint) seems to be the most resistant of all.

Anyways, the mint-ervention is ongoing, and I have high hopes for them all.

I will never apologize for a pun.

A new plant stand

That only took a little bit of work.

I bought a nice plant stand at work, but there was a problem- it’s an indoor plant stand. Not the most water resistant of metal.

But there’s a technical solution to everything.

And it involves teal spray paint!

It’ll protect the stand from rust, and it’s my mom’s favorite color.

Win win!

The first step to any painting project is a tarp of course. Don’t spray paint the grass! Or your plants or your pots or your fence or your bench.

Or yourself. Oops.

Anyways most of the paint ended up on the plant stand, and only some on the now even bluer tarp.

I even had a buddy come by and inspect my work. Luckily they landed after the paint was mostly dry.

And here’s the final result. It’s nice and elegant, but more importantly, it’s very practical. Should help with keeping the outside neat, as well as making it easier to keep pots off the ground and out of the reach of scale which keeps bothering my mint plants. The Roman mint in all its overgrown glory looks particularly nice cascading over its pot.

Not bad for a sunny days work last week, and I might get a second one so the bench can be flanked.

Of course there’s what needs to be done to the bench.

Firewood.

So maybe the metal parts of the bench will be teal soon too.

We will see!

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.

Cuttings and seedings for the meet-up

So if you’re on metafilter and a local you know what I’m talking about- if not this might be a slightly confusing post.

I’m hosting a meet-up where I can hopefully offload some of the cuttings and seedlings I’ve been growing so I don’t have to compost viable plants.

This includes the 4 lipstick peppers that I didn’t plant, oodles of mint, and some other assorted veggies and herbs.

No telling who will survive until next week of course, transplanting is dangerous.

I went a little overboard in the dwarf sunflower department, but they’re a good plant for a balcony pot. I also have some borage, which is my new favorite herb, along with more mint, and a few squash plants because why not.

Some of the root systems were really encouraging though. This romaine looks like a real trooper.

Some of the larger mint plants roots were frankly a little scary. Look at those runners developing under the root ball! I put this one into a gallon pot- I suspect whoever gets this one will have to move it to something bigger within a month or so.

Here are my giant mints, an assortment of ginger mint, pineapple mint and one each of apple mint and a mystery mint.

What is the mint?

A mystery.

No seriously I can’t remember what it is.

Now I just have to figure out how to get these plants to the restaurant. Ah logistics, my eternal nemesis.

See some of you there!

Late June plantings

The real advantage of gardening in San Francisco is that planting season rules are a lot like the pirate code.

Guidelines.

Guidelines that I cheerfully ignore. Sure I might get a failure or two (or three or four) but due to the weird late fall hot weather I might get some wild successes.

There are a few tricks with corn, and I know them from my parent’s wild corn successes when I was a kid.

One- corn is wind pollinated. This means that corn needs to be fairly densely planted so that it can pollinate it’s neighbors when it’s windy out.

Two- once the corn has been pollinated, it needs to be as warm as possible for the ears of corn to grow to full size and ripen fully.

The invisible point three is that they need a fair amount of water. The reason my parents stopped growing corn was that when I was around 8 we went into a drought. But our winter this year was so abysmally wet we were still having rain earlier *THIS MONTH* so I think I can get away with corn this year.

I think the late planting might actually work heavily in my favor as to point two.

Traditionally in San Francisco our hottest month was around August or September. Used to be it was a week or two we’d call “Indian Summer”. We’d have a mild early summer, and a hot late summer/early fall.

Then the last few years have gotten hotter and hotter. And last year we had sustained heat with only a few foggy days from mid-August to goddamn early November.

So yeah, climate change is real, and San Francisco’s weather patterns have definitely been altered.

That’s… really not a good sign for the overall health of the planet- but I’m growing vegetables in the climate I have not the climate I wish I had.

I can take advantage of this. I’ve already rolled the dice on late season tomatoes-now it’s corns turn.

Gardening is gambling.

If the last two years are any indicator my corn will be ripening this year at the best time.

As for it getting pollinated- I clustered one type of corn in a clump and the other type of corn in a right angle around the edge of the bed. The wind will do the rest, and as my garden is so windy I have to put all my herbs in ceramic pots so they don’t fall over- I think Mother Nature has that one covered.

Pictured, my rapidly growing apple mint, transplanted from a cruddy plastic pot that I had to wedge in between other pots to prevent a spill, into a proper ceramic pot that laughs in the face of wind.

In other less technically fraught planting news, I transplanted my green onion starts into their new home. This is a former pepper pot that now houses the dirt I saved from the potato bag I harvested. Got to save your good dirt! I figured since I seem to be all in on tomatoes this year and not into peppers, I might as well put the scallions here. I’ll probably seed another few six-packs tomorrow so I can just have perpetual green onions. One of the best things about San Francisco weather is that things like scallions can basically be grown year round.

Another vegetable that has an elongated growing season is any squash. These little beauties are spaghetti squash- which oddly I’ve never grown before. I’ve been growing them from seed, and now they’re going in opposite the pumpkin. As long as it isn’t raining you can grow squash here- they don’t like their leaves getting wet.

And lastly I potted one of my Roman mints. This was taken as a cutting from the dying thunderdome, and lovingly grown in a series of plastic pots. It has now graduated to a ceramic pot of its own. This means the mint thunderdome no longer serves a purpose and I can compost the twigs and re-purpose the pot. The mint thunderdome was an interesting experiment, but the roots of the mint plants are basically suffocating each other and its time has come.

Speaking of pirates- I have some new feline invaders. This is a lovely tuxedo cat that comes around from time to time, and is apparently female, not a tom as previously assumed, as she’s toting around two fat little kittens that were too fast to photograph from my window. I nearly tripped over them today while watering, and they cartoonishly flung themselves over the fence to get away from me.

Kitten season. Oh joy. If I can impart any lesson to my readers it’s this. Please spay and neuter your outdoor cats!

I’d rather not spend my time outdoors sneezing my head off.