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!

Captain’s log: May 8th 2019

Ah the first captain’s log of May. I got a lot done today, and I am very tired. I still had the cucumber and pumpkin to plant but this morning I was downtown and…

This is a jalapeño plant I got at the civic center farmers market. I’ve been looking for at least one hot pepper and this seemed a likely candidate. Jalapeños are a little easier to grow than other larger hot peppers. Of course- sweet peppers are a better bet. But eventually my lipstick pepper will be large enough to transplant and the bulls horn is also a sweet pepper- so I’ll give a hot pepper a try. Of course it will go better if the weather is warmer, like it was in late April. Late April felt like summer- early May feels like winter.

Welcome to San Francisco I guess.

I cut off the red peppers for eating, and buried the newcomer up to its neck. Proper pepper planting protocol.

Say that 5 times fast!

The baby potatoes in bags are growing vigorously enough that it was time to put more dirt in the bags. I still don’t know what the hell is going on with the two older potatoes, and I suspect tomorrow I’ll be digging up one of the bags to make sure this isn’t a blight situation.

Here’s an incredibly annoying thing- the bare spot in this bed is where two bean sprouts once were. It looks like some creature just straight up ate the tops of two of my beans. Just- *monch* no more beans.

Of course the beans on the other side are still heavily slug eaten.

Anyways- I put down the sluggo all throughout the garden earlier this week, so hopefully that will be the end of that. This is the bed where I put the pumpkin today, since the Swiss chard never really came up- and if it does later it can just grow around the vines.

In the areas where the beans once were I put two new seeds down so I can have my late season Kentucky wonders. Growing squash and beans together is of course as old as indigenous America (all I’m missing is the corn) so I have high hopes for a few proper pumpkins come Halloween.

Oh god bless the radish. And all the other brassicas, lettuce and arugula in the large fabric bed. Everything is coming up really nice and it doesn’t need too much water.

I built a quick and dirty trellis to go with my other quick and dirty trellis in the cucumber bed. I might put another type of radish in the void under the trellis like I’ve put green onion in front of the other cucumbers. Co-planting is always good.

Here’s my pretty Persian cukes ready to climb up my stakes. As my other Boston pickle cucumbers starts get larger I’ll put them on the other sides.

In tomato news, the first Roma of the sauce pot is growing. It’s a little baby plum tomato! The wet weather isn’t wonderful for the tomatoes but they seem to be surviving just fine. The sun gold still has its fair share of aphids, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering the plant- it’s really bothering me though.

The blackberry vines are both growing well, and as you can see the base of the vine is throwing up some fresh growth. It’s good to know that all the effort I put into acidifying the soil and preparing it is paying off.

The upper zucchini bed is thriving- this is the Magda grey zucchini,

And here’s the greens. I’m worried the wet will cause some molding issues that are so common to squash- but so far it seems ok.

Here’s some fun. The purple peas have so outpaced their dinky stakes I screwed some eyelets into the fence and strung wire between them.

I hope my neighbor likes peas because I think there’s no way I can stop this plant from going right over the fence. The spinach in front is questionable of course, I’m concerned after the heat wave last month it might go straight to seed- but there’s nothing I can do about that.

Another thing I can do nothing about is the criminals. The entire time I was working in the garden I had the peculiar feeling of being watched. Well I *was* being watched by a pair of criminals who were lounging in the carrot bed and spying on me for hours. Here is a quick pic of criminal tortoiseshell fleeing while criminal grey tabby stares at me through the carrot tops.

I can spray for aphids but I can’t spray for cats. I’m just going to learn to live with a pair of criminal spies, sitting on my plants.

They’re really cute criminals though.

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🎶

Seedling adventures

Well it’s still pouring. It’s gonna be a while before I can put out my new beds and buy new soil for those beds, and I’m still wondering if my poor pepper will survive all this wet.

But the seedlings I’m starting indoors are doing great!

This was 5 days ago. The sunflower seeds are the winner of the eager beaver award for sure. Beat even the romanesco which was a surprise considering how quick cabbages usually come up.

They were next of course, and then the cucumbers and zucchini started. Only a few of the seeds seems to have been viable however- there seems to have been a few duds which is unsurprising.

I’m disappointed none of the telegraph improved have come up yet- the front row is Boston pickle. But I have more seeds so I can always give it another try.

Never bet against squash of course. Once those back kids are a little more developed I’ll stash them in the greenhouse so they can get some sun.

The sunflowers are already in the sun box which is the only dry place in the garden. It’s warm in there so maybe that 6th seed will start- but as 5/6 isn’t bad, I’m not too worried.

I finally bought some Joi Choi seeds, but they’re not coming in for a few days, so I prepared the trays for seeds early. This way I won’t have to go outside in the pouring rain to plant a few seeds.

None of the pepper seeds have come up yet but that’s not surprising at all- peppers apparently can take up to 3 weeks to sprout, they’re a little finicky.

All in all it’s quite nice to have some greenery indoors while it’s a grey mess outside, so I’m glad I’m doing this.

Of course there’s the back bed I seeded directly… which probably won’t come up at all because of the pounding it’s getting. Oh well, you win some you lose some.

In fun weather news:

Having some ground integrity issues because of how saturated the ground is getting. That’s a very heavy terra-cotta pot filled with soil and it tipped over because the ground beneath it gave way. Fun. I’m going to have to figure out if I can lay some tile or pavers underneath the pots for security.

I’m looking forward to some sun.

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!

Seeds for March/April came in, and a book recommendation

So there’s a great heirloom seed place that has lots of rare and not so rare seeds called Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. I know them as the people in the old Petaluma bank.

In Petaluma California, north of me, there is an old bank and the Baker Creek people bought it and turned it into a seed bank and garden store.

It’s pretty wild. Petaluma however is not right around the corner. It’s not super far, but absolutely no one in my house wanted to drive up for 10 dollars worth of seed packets, so to the Internet I went.

One of the reasons last year’s zucchini plant didn’t produce nearly as much zucchini should was that it was a transplant. Now I’ll still probably buy one or two zucchini plants from the garden center as a control- but I’m definitely planting direct into the ground for these bad boys.

I’m trying to be realistic about the prospects for heat this summer, so I chose your basic green Bush variety because… it’s zucchini!

But- I also chose this heirloom Nimba. It’s a variety from Poland of all places and supposedly does well in the cold climates and produces early. Just hedging my bets.

Now the reason I’m so serious about my squash is that it’s one of the few veggies my mom can eat, and I want to feed my mom the very best. Luckily squash is notoriously prolific when the conditions are right, so between the seed varieties and whatever control plant I get at Sloat- I’m seeing a lot of squash in my future.

These beautiful babies are for me and dad. He loves cucumbers and I love pickles. I’ll pickle just about anything mind you, green beans, onions, you name it- but cucumbers are the classic pickle vegetable for a reason.

The telegraph variety was recommended to me by a user on metafilter called purpleclover. She’d just interviewed someone from Baker Creek, and the interviewee recommended the telegraph variety for the cool summers in San Francisco. She very kindly passed this info on to me. (Thank you purpleclover!) It’s an English type which makes sense- it’s not like England is known for hot summers either. I like English cukes- and so does my dad, but I really like pickling types- so I got a packet of Bostons.

Now here’s my confession: I’ve never grown cucumbers before. I know the basics, but I’m boning up on the cucumber pages of my San Francisco gardening books and investigating trellising systems. Expect more posts on the theory of cucumber growing way before the seeds ever hit the soil.

I have time however. It is wet and cold, and absolutely no seeds of either vegetable are going into the ground until at least mid to late March. Now the cucumbers might have to be started in small pots- I’m still investigating.

And the thing is- we might get a hot May and July, that’s the thing about San Francisco weather, we tend to the mild, but it’s inherently unpredictable!

I remember a day in May quite a few years ago during a city college Paleontology class where we had a field trip to Ocean Beach and it was nearly 100 degrees. I got there early with a couple other students and we… frankly we went mad with heat stroke. Running from dogs and collecting pieces of dead crabs that we were convinced were going into a “collection” happened. We never found the teacher and ended up walking all the way to Fort Funston and beyond thinking the sea gulls were chasing us. The professor was not impressed.

(Also not joking about the heat stroke, when I finally got home mom was aghast at how red I was- it wasn’t sunburn it was even under my clothes. I was sick as a dog for days. As someone who does not do well in heat- Australia right now has my deepest sympathy).

Point is- we can sometimes get temps that are shockingly against the norm. So will the summer be hot or typical? Survey says… who the hell knows! Honestly if I had to guess with all the rain it could be a signal of some climate change affected weather which *could* signal a warmer summer… or not.

The point is- I’m hedging my bets, by getting some seeds that can survive a cooler summer.

However, the seed company threw in a special surprise to my order:

Lipstick peppers seeds! I’ve never heard of this type of pepper but looking it up it is indeed an oldish heirloom type sweet pepper that… performs well in the north!

Now seeing as this company is based in Missouri I’m pretty sure by north they mean Connecticut but hey- I’ll take it.

Problem is I’ve never started a pepper from seed before, only from plants. So now I’m doing research on what’s the best way to go about this- because I have 8 pepper and tomato sized pots now (thanks Lynn!) and only one of those has an extant pepper in it- my Chilhuacle negro aka the former mystery mole pepper. Now that’s a mildly hot pepper, and I wanted one really spicy and one sweet- so the lipstick can be my sweet pepper. The rest of the pots can be used for to-be-determined tomatoes.

But how to grow peppers right from seed is a problem for another month. Nothings going in the ground now during the downpour.

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This is the cute mailer Baker Creek sent their seeds in, which if I wanted to order onions, strawberries or watermelons with I could.

I don’t- with the exception of maybe onions, watermelon and strawberries have issues growing in San Francisco, but it’s super cute.

So this is a magnificent book, that just came in the mail. This dude, Nigel64 from New Zealand who runs the Growplan blog, recommended it to me in a comment a bit ago. It is THE BEST BOOK. It’s from the 90’s and a little outdated, but it is a comprehensive look at vegetables that grow in temperate climates. It’s a full color hardcover, that was surprisingly cheap online, considering how long it’s been out of print. This was a used copy I managed to snag all in all for less than ten bucks. It was shipped from England, where the book was originally published. NZ climate and UK climate and SF climate are all similar, so it’s not surprising that Nigel64 got a lot of use out of it, and so will I, I suspect.

Look at all that pretty spinach! The photography in this book is phenomenal! They even have some Asian veggies in the book, though not as much as I’m used too- that’s the outdated part. It’s a little more Euro- and western-centric than a book on vegetables published today would be, but considering the whole thrust of the book is veggies that grow in England, a part of the world which is similar in climate to where I am, this is a useful book regardless.

They do include a fair amount of American vegetable varieties, which is good for my purposes at least, and look at those pretty pumpkins! All the descriptions include the kinds of information about time to maturity and vine type that are useful to the gardener.

My favorite carrot variety, the Kuroda is not in this book, which isn’t surprising, it’s a Japanese type. But I’ve got my eye on that Nandrin as a potential type for my garden’s future, yes I do.

I haven’t even really begun to read this book in depth, I suspect it shall put all sorts of ideas in my head.

Thanks again to Nigel the landscape architect for putting this wonderful book on my radar- I never would have stumbled across it otherwise.

Now- I have research to do!

 

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.