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.

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…

Captain’s log: vaguely late March

It’s really pouring again but in short bursts punctuated by bright sun. So spring is here but it’s also quite damp. That’s not stopping my neighborhood criminal from lounging in my pepper pot.

The nerve of some people! He also likes to sit on my leeks.

Which is always cute but I’m worried if he sits in my baby tomato pots he’ll crush them with his big cat butt.

Baby sun gold is growing nicely- fresh growth already. I’m hoping the deluge, as intermittent as it is, won’t damage them.

My seedling zucchinis are pretty much ready to put in a bed, but it’ll have to wait until it’s dryer.

Right now the zucchini and other seedlings are under the house’s overhang on the work table. During a worse downpour earlier they went indoors for a while.

This took up some space but better than having them get washed away.

Spring is really here- I’m seeing the first big fat ladybugs. I’ll have to put out my bee house soon.

The original potatoes are growing like crazy- the rain is helping them be their best potatoes.

This is my latest project- I’ve taken cuttings from my various mint plants and I’m attempting to grow some plants for friends. We’ll see if they take- but I have high hopes as mint is indestructible.

I’ll leave you with yet another of my plastic owl guardians- now hanging from the apple tree being judgmental.

Of course he’s not the most judgmental thing in my garden.

This cat is the most judgmental thing in my garden. He sits. He watches. He judges.

As long as this guy doesn’t stick his furry butt in my pots.

I don’t have high hopes.

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!

Care and feeding of your Chilhuacle negro pepper

Or at least what I’ve cobbled together from a few sources and an askme.

It helps now that I’ve identified what the plant actually is: note to self- use the printed plant tag that comes with the plant- don’t get all artsy and make your own, the ink will fade, and then you’ll have no idea what variety it is. Whoops.

The pepper, like the dude, abides- but I’d like the little baby peppers it has put out to get a little bigger, and I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to help it last til summer when hopefully it’ll put out flowers again.

The consensus was- top off the pot with soil, give it a little phosphorus, and leave it alone!

So I topped of the pot with a few fresh handfuls of soil, sprinkled a small amount of phosphorus fertilizer,

Topped off the pot with a fresh layer of mulch- and left it alone. While there are a few sucker stems, consensus is to not even bother with them until spring at the earliest.

I did replace it’s stake. See, when the downpours started, the pot got so saturated that the plant started listing a bit, so in a hurry I grabbed a stake and some ties and tied it up. Only in my haste (I did this all during a downpour) I grabbed one of my large bean stakes, not a stake the appropriate size for the pot. So I carefully removed the bean stake, and re-tied everything up, nice and sturdy.

Here’s looking at you, baby pepper, hope the phosphorus is to your liking!

More winter work

Wasn’t planning on doing anything today garden-wise, but we’ve had a break in the rain. It’ll be scattered showers the next few weeks, but today was clear and cold.

In bizarre news there was snow in the Bay Area last night and today Mt. Tam and Mt. Diablo got coated in the white stuff- and even more bizarre there were reports of light snow on twin peaks. You know- in San Francisco!

Ha ha ha holy crap.

No snow in my neck of the woods… yet.

Maybe is a good thing I refrained from putting in some early green beans.

So, the new pots are in their new home!

I have to weed around everything, but I think I’ll drag out the weed whacker for around the pots instead of moving everything for the mower.

In more organizational news I finally tackled the ugly pile of gloves and got rid of the old and torn work gloves, and put my new work gloves on top (thanks for the new gloves mom!)

In order to make sure I don’t throw out two lefts like last time…

Yeah. I’m labeling everything. Everything.

My last labeling failure was the mystery mole pepper, which was labeled without a proper weather-proof marker so it faded.

But my research has panned out!

The mystery mole pepper is in fact a “Chilhuacle Negro”.

I still have to do more digging on the proper care of this guy, but the good news is that the green peppers turning brown is normal for this variety.

The size probably isn’t, so since I already pruned him down a bit, I’m thinking I’m gonna have to cut the last sucker stems and pick the undersize peppers so that in a few months he can put out flowers again.

I’m proud of my resilient pepper, but I have to do more research on how to care for him.

I had some bench moving to do as well.

The bench which has so far survived wood chipper-ing is now living here-

Because it’s former spot will soon become another bed. Lugging the mower up there should be fun for sure, but that’s a problem for tomorrow’s Neanderthal.

Finally, I planted the oregano.

The hardest bit of this was ripping out the old one which had gotten really shabby and shrubby and woody and took gloves and tools for me to finally rip from the soil. But the new guy looks at home with new mulch and a zesty smell.

Tomorrow the new beds come in, we’ll see if I have the energy to set them up tomorrow or if tomorrow is just mowing day.

Nobody can say I’m not getting my exercise!

Not so idle Thursday

Today I got one clear day after some rain, with over a weeks worth of more rain to come. I was just gonna pull the dead basil, maybe weed a bit, water where the pea seeds have yet to sprout… and then I got carried away.

Rip Basil. I thought the added water would help it bounce back but it was basically a twiggy spider factory. Like most woody plants it was an absolute bear to pull.

I had two pairs of good work gloves that actually fit me, and one pair got a little funky and since they’re super cheap I threw out the messed-up pair. Only… I somehow threw out two lefts. Leaving me with two right gloves.

I’m a dingbat.

Once that task was taken care of I checked on the lovage pots.

Not great! But last time I rummaged through my seed box I found a packet of lovage seeds. Getting the nasty plants out of their pots was the hardest part. Lovage, for an herb, has some pretty tough roots, so I had to sort of slide the plants into the compost bin.

Then I got distracted.

Look! A mushroom!

I put some potting soil and some sure start in the pots, and once I was done lying on wet grass in order to get a good picture of a fungus, I sowed a few seeds per pot.

Absolutely no guarantee they’ll sprout in the cold- but it’s worth a shot.

I mean it’s chilly, but it’s San Francisco. So it’s not like we’re getting frosts.

There is a possibility however, depending on how much rain comes starting tomorrow, and how hard it comes down, that the lovage pots are going to be less “well watered” and more “soil soup”.

I still have to figure out exactly what I’m doing with the old bench. Wood chipper still an option. While I was again distracted by taking an arty picture of a weed in the sun, I decided to tackle the peppers.

Never got a good shishito. It was a mess from day one. It was put in too late, the ripened weird and too quick, and not a single one grew to full size. So it was time to yeet the dang thing into the compost.

They all got squishy to touch too, like every last one was rotting. Ick.

I uprooted a roly-poly so I wasted yet more time to get a glamour shot of the little dude.

These guys are super cool. They’re isopods- terrestrial crustaceans! Also they have the coolest scientific name: Armadillidiidae.

I’m always careful not to kill these guys. I’m pretty sure they are eating my plants a bit but I just love watching them move.

Unfortunately there are non-pill bug bugs in my garden too- and it seemed like half of them were living in my hatch peppers.

I did get a few that were intact and un-infested which should be good eating, but after I fumbled a few because someone was peeking out of their little homes and I didn’t want grubs climbing up my sleeves, I tossed the long suffering hatch plant into the compost too.

Of course now I have two empty pots filled with really well fertilized soil and I won’t need those two pots for tomatoes til tomato season, so I figured I’d throw a few Swiss chard seeds in the now empty pots and call it a day.

Ooh a centipede! Neat! Nearly crawled up my hand. Not neat! Centipedes are a pretty beneficial insect, garden wise- they eat a lot of the bad bugs. Depending on the species they can be a little venomous though, so definitely not a critter you want climbing on you, just in case.

There. Two new Swiss chard pots for the winter months then I can plant tomatoes or peppers come late March or April.

Of course- this means the new garden layout I drew and posted 4 days ago is now… out of date.

Goddamnit.