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.

Mid-June planting and sowing

I got a few interesting herbs at work a few days ago, but due to the heat wave I had to wait to plant them. They just sat on my work table which is slightly under the overhang of the back of the house so they didn’t get scorched.

You will note the second tarragon. My original tarragon is doing great, but it’s very low and shrubby. I like big twigs of tarragon for throwing into sauces and stews and soups, so I got a second one that was growing a tad taller.

I eat enough tarragon that it makes sense to have multiple plants.

I also got one of the best smelling mints I’ve ever had- Moroccan mint.

It’s s type of spearmint but it has a really deep and complicated scent. They make tea of it fairly commonly, I used to drink a lot of Moroccan mint tea, now I can make my own.

And yes, I bought a second Yerba Buena. I put her in the corner of the sunflower patch, so she can dramatically drape over the corner.

My most interesting purchase by far was the coyote mint.

Coyote mint isn’t a true mint, and isn’t really even a culinary herb at all. It’s a California native plant that smells like mint. It’s so native to me, it grows wild around the Russian River! It’s flowers should help feed the local bees too- I haven’t seen a sweat bee yet this year and I do worry.

I finally picked the cream of the lipstick pepper seedlings and put it in its forever home. I pulled the underperforming jalapeño to make room. Hot peppers are just not great out here, but lipstick peppers are sweet peppers so hopefully…

I used some microryzae in the pepper pot, maybe that means the roots will grow quicker.

I also took stock of my shade bed and sowed those nice black lettuce seeds that a pen pal sent me in the mail from Ohio.

And also some red scallions and some parsnips.

Now there’s some fancy dirt. I also don’t have to worry about keeping it moist, because in true San Francisco fashion, after our ridiculous heat wave… it rained this morning.

In June.

I give up.

Captain’s log: sometime this week

I never have enough time these days, but now thanks to my job, I have plenty of thyme!

(BOOOOOOOOOOO)

Specifically lemon and English thyme, which I added to my French and big leaf thyme.

Soon they’ll be trying to take over the herb bed too. The other herbs I put in are doing well thanks to the wacko May downpour we’ve suddenly got.

More on that later.

The purple peas are vigorously trying to scale my neighbor’s fence, and they’re putting out gorgeous flowers.

Nice. Snap peas here I come.

In other flowering news- my biggest sunflower has gotten gigantic.

No closer to making a flower head- though it’s neighbor’s the zucchini’s look nice and bushy. And wet. Squash is prone to molds and mildews on the leaves- but if it’s going to keep raining I’m not sure what I can do to stop it.

The cucumbers are soaking it up though. They are obediently growing vertically and soon I can train them up the tripod.

I got more herbs then thyme however- a lemon verbena, a really fancy cilantro, and a lonely apple mint that I’ve seen languishing on the herb table at work for longer than I’ve actually been working there- getting bigger and bigger while nobody bought it.

I’ll buy you you beautiful gigantic apple mint.

But first I had to plant my lemon verbena. That meant getting rid of my sorrel.

Look- I like sorrel, but it’s toxic in large quantities and it was refusing to play nice in its pot- to the point where it was growing its roots through its drainage holes trying to take over the garden yet again. There’s a reason I call all my sorrels Audrey II.

So I put my Verbena in my newly empty rainy grey pot.

Lemon verbena is actually a small shrub or tree. Or it will be. That’s why I put it in a larger pot. It’s deciduous like an oak tree- and will be bare twigs in winter- but it will come back into lemon scented magnificence in spring.

I had more planting to do… but…

Sudden rain attack.

Come on San Francisco it’s May! And I planted your namesake! Give me a break!

I had to wait a bit to plant the rest.

Mister big mint had to go into a plastic pot that once held my blackberry- as I’ve run out of proper pots. Oh well my employee discount will be doing some work in June I suspect. Mister fancy cilantro went into the old pennyroyal pot. the reason my pennyroyal pot was empty was that it had become majorly pot-bound.

Oof. I saved it and put in in my next biggest pot- but it will soon need another repotting. Again… I have some shopping to do.

You may have noticed that I cut the apple mint down to size- And he wasn’t the only one.

My red-stemmed peppermint that I grew from a cutting has gotten gigantic- so I cut him down to size too. And then took the cuttings and put them into pots!

I’m just going to be drowning in mint soon and I’m loving every second of it.

I’m going to have to throw a meet-up in a month to give away plants. That’s a great problem to have.

I’ll leave you all with the poppy the birds sowed this year- blooming away with a bee in one of its flowers.

Wait I lied- I’ll leave you with the most beautiful image a gardener can have in May.

Hell yeah baby tomato!

Fun with cuttings

So I like to take cuttings from my mint plants and grow more mint. Some of this is so I can finally ditch the mint thunderdome and put something else in that pot- but a lot of it is so I can give home grown mint plants as gifts to friends.

Like this lovely strawberry mint. It’s easy to grow mint from cuttings- but it’s never a one hundred percent success. In fact-

Those are my successful cuttings so far- minus the few I’ve given as gifts already.

Here’s a stack of all the failures! Cuttings are always a gamble- but mint in particular has a higher chance of success than most other plants.

It’s a fairly simple procedure. You just snip off some mint, right under some leaves, usually a piece a few inches long. Then you strip all but the top-most leaves off, and stick it in some dirt. I put a pinch of sure-start on the stem. Then you just keep it wet and wait!

Here’s my new hopefuls- 2 more pineapple mint, and 4 lovely ginger mints from the new plant I put in.

Hopefully I’ll have more mint to give soon!

Some late additions and potential problems

I finally bit the bullet and grabbed myself a pepper, among other things. I am growing the lipsticks from seed but it’ll be a month til the largest is large enough for the pepper pot. In the meantime this sweet Italian bulls horn should do well.

It’s a little runty so it got a stake. I wish I could be optimistic but after weeks of warm weather San Francisco’s inherent unpredictability has reared it’s head and we’ve now had two days of wet drizzle.

I have no words. Well I have plenty of words but they’re not really fit to print.

I also got a tarragon- again. I’ve had such bad luck with tarragon that I thought it was time to just put it in a pot. Sometimes all your plans for a fancy herb bed run up against reality. Oh well, hopefully it will do better as a pot herb.

This is ginger mint. I am something of a mint fanatic, and I love growing mint from cuttings and giving them away as gifts. The more weird the mint the better. Ginger mint sounds tailor made for tea, but I’ll have to wait a little while before I take cuttings.

Some of my cuttings are taking really well- others are lost causes. But that’s what happens when you try to grow from cuttings, it’s always a gamble.

These are the ones that have taken. A good way of telling if they’re taking is if the plant still looks fresh and not wilted or brown, and to check the bottom for root growth.

Now that’s a successful cutting!

These are my last two plants, some Persian cucumbers for the cucumber patch and a lost little pumpkin. I wish I could say wow I don’t have room for a pumpkin! But unfortunately I most likely will have room for a pumpkin shortly.

That’s the remains of another cauliflower- and two of the back Bok choys went with it. And now that it’s drizzling again, the cabbage flies are going to be even more emboldened. Cabbage flies of course only eat cabbages- so my squashes will be perfectly safe.

The slugs of course, are in hyperdrive. Now you can totally go out at night with a flashlight and just kill all the slugs you see- and that is the most natural way to do it- but it is gross as hell, and I like sleeping at night.

So I took half a container of sluggo and went nuclear. I tossed those pellets around the garden like it was going out of style. Every bed, every green area, every pot.

There’s no kill quite like overkill, and I’m hoping the slugs get the message.

Smushing aphids might be gross but it’s the best way the control their numbers so smush I must. I try not to spray the sun gold with neem oil because the tomato flowers attract bees and the aphids are attracting ladybugs.

At least the local criminal is enjoying the rain and the work I’m doing. If only feral cats could be trained to eat cabbage fly…

A Buggy start to May

Yesterday I was fed up with how runty and withered my two smallest cauliflowers were, so I pulled the weakest. Low and behold, the roots were crawling with cabbage fly maggots. I pulled the other one too- same story. The problem was, as you can see from one of the healthier ones-

The roots actually go fairly deep, the cauliflower had a good chance to grow before it got infested. This meant two things, one at this point whatever grubs are there can’t really be tweezed off, I’d have to uncover so much of the root system I’d harm the plant, and two, I’m going to have to rely on the fact that the root systems are so deep and healthy the larger cauliflowers are probably going to make it. As insurance I uncovered as much of each root as I could a poured neem oil over it. Hopefully that can seep into the soil and maybe kill off any other maggots. For now I just have to be vigilant while checking the other brassicas for fly eggs.

What’s really annoying is that some of those nasty green aphid types have been attacking my seedlings. This is a fairly healthy red stemmed peppermint I’ve been growing from a cutting from the mint thunderdome. Seemingly overnight it got those feeding crusts and eggs under the lower leaves, with the little green aphids feeding up top. Annoying but solvable. For one this is mint. Mint is unkillable. The plant was getting too big for its little transplant pot anyways so I just potted it up in its forever home. Of course I sprayed it down several times with insecticidal soap and hand killed every bug I could see first.

Here it is in its new pot. I’ll just keep coming back to it with the spray and eventually the vigor of mint will solve my problem for me. The real problem is the weeds. They’re a reservoir for the aphids so I’m going to have to use the edger and really knock them down. maybe hand pull whatever’s left. Soon since it’s stopped raining they’ll all die back- but that could take til August and I have to kill the aphid reservoirs now.

While this baby romanesco’s roots seem to be undisturbed as you can see it’s leaves are a tad nibbled. Not much I can do about that except keep checking for caterpillars and lay down more sluggo.

The local pest patrol was out in force this morning which is always a good sign. Maybe this extra wet winter we just had was good for the flies- but it seems to have been good for the ladybugs too.

The five surviving pepper seedlings, including one very runty one, have been put into their own pots. This was largely in response to the fact that as they get bigger I keep finding those damn little green aphids on them, and this will give them a chance to grow big roots and be easier to clean off.

At this point all the beans have this sort of lacy chewing damage which makes me think earwigs. The big potatoes are the same way.

That’s just a mess. I’ve laid down the sluggo but my hope in these older potatoes is not great. Potatoes can totally resprout after their leaves sustain damage though- so maybe with enough care they’ll be ok. This could also be evidence of something much worse than aphids so… eh fingers crossed.

The red aphids meanwhile are almost all gone, with a few stragglers remaining. Biological warfare works!

Here’s a picture of one of my beautiful aphid killers- it’s the same ladybug larvae I photographed earlier in the week, but as you can see the lovely lady is in the process of turning herself into an adult! The green aphids along with some kind of scale insect have been attacking my dill something fierce, which is why I keep finding ladybug eggs on the dill stalks- they know where their bread is buttered.

Now there are a lot of ways to try and prevent bugs from eating your crops- checking roots and stems for eggs and spraying when it’s too late is part of it- but there are a lot of plants that can repel bugs. Marigolds are one of the more famous ones, but allergies prevent me from planting them. One other good bug repeller is anything from the onion family. I want to make sure my baby cucumbers have the best start in life so I’ve taken some of the green onion sets I’ve been growing in seedling town and I’ve put them along the edge of the bed. They won’t grow into the cukes- as they grow straight up- and hopefully that wonderful oniony goodness will repel any bugs that want to make a snack out of my baby cucumber vines.

I leave you all with another lady on patrol, this time taking a tour of my carrot tops. There are always gnats around the carrots but as they don’t damage the roots it’s just the price of doing business. Anyways, it feeds the ladybugs!

🎶It’s the circle of life🎶