Sometimes you just want a potato

And I have potato bags ready to dig!

They are a mess, but potatoes are potatoes, even if the greens are icky looking.

I saved the dirt so I could sift it and reuse it. Probably not for more potatoes however, you can spread potato disease if you do that. I got a good pound of fingerlings.

Maybe not he highest of yields, but I’m learning!

In other nightshade news, the first Black Krim of the season was ready to pick. It was a little mealy- could have picked it yesterday, but the flavor was incredible. I wish I was more confident about the tomatoes in general, our late rain just messed everything up, between the actual water and the fact that the deluge stopped me from doing your basic tomato maintenance in time.

Oh well.

I just boiled the potatoes up and dressed them in olive oil and chives. Best dinner I’ve had in a while honestly.

Sometimes all you need is a pound of home grown carbs.

It’s hard to grow wheat in a backyard, but it’s easy to grow a potato!

Unexpected potato harvest

So I covered my six potato bags with more soil a bit back, and while five of those bags are going strong, the sixth decided to give up the ghost.

Pictured, five healthy potato bags and one goner.

But that doesn’t mean no potatoes- it just means less potatoes. The point of continually topping up your potato bags is that the covered leaves will turn into more potatoes- but the goner plant had already grown plenty of spuds in the bottom layer.

So I dug it up!

These are the Russian banana fingerling potatoes. And some scallions. This variety is meant to be eaten as new potatoes, so I had to cook them right away.

What was kind of neat was that the skins were so thin that they came off by the scrubbing with the vegetable brush- no peeler necessary!

I cut them up and boiled them with some salt. Put some scallions and olive oil on them and they were the perfect side.

These are amazing potatoes. They’re so creamy in texture even with no cream or butter. Like nothing at the supermarket. “Russian banana” potatoes are the perfect fingerling or new potato- and you can’t get them at the store and only rarely at the farmers market.

I took out the viable dirt and stored it in the empty pepper pot for later use, and folded up the potato bag to store it in the side shed.

Next potato bag I harvest I’ll save a couple of the better potatoes so I can start some new plants.

So not a ton of potatoes- but choice ones.

Taking care of your roots

Root vegetables that is!

Every other Tokyo market turnip is maggot eaten. But the two I’ve eaten so far have been safe. I’ve been tossing the duds. I suspect no matter how mild a San Francisco spring and summer are- turnips are a winter crop, if only because of the damn cabbage fly.

Lesson learned.

But happily cabbage fly ignores carrots and potatoes, my other root vegetable loves. (And beets, but that’s another post)

Anyways, I ripped out the last of the carrot bed today.

Most of the carrots left were certified messes, except for a few really nice Kuroda, that got a nice trip to the sink to clean them and are now living in the refrigerator til I eat them up.

Now the trick with growing carrots is that if you fertilize them too much or use anything with too much nitrogen, you’ll get great big bushy tops and not so great roots. And it’s carrots- the roots are the whole point. Enter- neem seed meal.

Specifically formulated as a fertilizer for root veggies, note the potatoes on the box, neem seed meal is great for helping your root veggies grow great without putting too much energy into the inedible parts.

Score one for my new job, I’d never heard of the stuff until I started working at Sloat.

And yes- it’s from the same plant that neem oil is from.

Kills bugs grows carrots, what can’t the neem tree do!

Also it smells amazing. Like- I should be putting this on steak before grilling it amazing.

Don’t eat this stuff.

But yeah it smells finger licking good.

ANYWAYS.

Kuroda carrots are wonderfully sweet, but their main advantage is that they handle hotter temps better than most carrots. Considering that these carrots will be maturing in late August, one of the hotter months in my fair city, I’ll take it.

I spaced my carrot seeds appropriately this time instead of willy-nilly.

Now it’s just a matter of keeping everything moist until they germinate.

Now onto the potatoes!

It is high time I filled up those bags with soil for maximum spud production.

I put a good fistful off the neem seed meal in each bag and then spent the better part of a half hour wrestling soil into bags that would rather not be filled. You have to cover as many of the lower leaves as possible because covered leaves equals more spuds.

And I love spuds.

Boom! Filled bags!

I watered the heck out of all of them, and hopefully the tops will grow more, and then I’ll fill the bags completely to the top and then by August/October I’ll have more potatoes then I know what to do with.

Here’s hoping!

Yesterday’s breakfast harvest

The fabric bed under the lemon tree is a huge success. It looks like all the copy about fabric beds being good for roots has some merit. While it’s a risk growing yet more cabbage family plants this time of year with the cabbage fly- I’m hoping the quick harvest time on some of these will give me a reprieve from the maggots.

The French breakfast radishes are beautiful- and tasty.

Radishes are possibly the quickest growing vegetable available- at least the small guys- daikon is another delicious story. 20-30 days from seed to harvest. I scatter them in shady areas around the garden- as long as they aren’t in a bed with a legume they grow fast and fat.

My first green onions are ready to harvest as well. These are also good to scatter throughout the garden, for a few reasons. One- like a lot of alliums, they repel pests. Two- they need very little space. Because they grow vertically and thinly, you can really pack them into a bed. And three- unlike radishes and other root crops, you can total put them in a bed with a legume, and take advantage of all that sexy nitrogen.

Here’s my first fat scallion. These are also, much like radishes, a crop you can basically grow year round in my climate. Radishes will get a little iffy in the absolute hottest of weather- but even then they’ll grow in a shady spot. Nothing stops an green onion. Big onions have some restrictions, I’ve never grown them due to being a bit nervous about it- it scallions are like gardening on easy mode.

A few days before the great radish harvest- I pulled the horrible ugly dead potato bags and discovered they actually had given me potatoes.

Not a lot of potatoes- but I’ll take it.

Those are some nice thin skinned new potatoes. Of course the six remaining heathy bags will give me many more potatoes than this.

They wait- growing bushier by the second.

Fingerling potato heaven here I come!

Captain’s log: April 28th 2019

It’s been a bit of a week. Bit of two weeks really, the increase in temperature and sun has been a boon for the tomatoes and maybe not a boon for some other things.

First the sun gold. It’s huge! And it’s still growing which is phenomenal! I’m not falling into last year’s trap of overwatering so by being sparing with water but unsparing with maxsea I seem to have hit upon the right formula for cherry tomato nirvana.

Of course unleashing ladybug larvae on the plant seems to have helped. I still find the occasional red aphid on the plant but it’s clearly a lone survivor easily snuffed out by a squish.

I’m spotting ladybug larvae all around the garden, including nestled in my sage.

Aphids generally don’t attack sage, but other pests can, so go and be hungry my larvae friend!

I’m not so great larvae news, the cabbage fly maggots have definitely attacked the roots of the cauliflower. I killed a bunch yesterday and thankfully today they were nowhere to be found. So either they’ve turned into pernicious flies- or between squishing and spraying I got them.

As you can see the cauliflower looks fairly healthy regardless- but some of the underleaves look very rough, and clearly the root nibbles were not good for the plant. I’m giving them a little extra fertilizer and hopefully they’ll rebound. Cabbage fly is an awful pest but much more deadly to root brassicas than leaf brassicas- especially a cauliflower of this size that’s well developed.

That being said I have baby romanesco all over the garden and I’m going to have to be very diligent in checking their roots for eggs. In a baby leaf brassica cabbage fly can be fatal.

Speaking of baby cabbages, the new shade fabric bed filled with brassicas and lettuce is starting to sprout. I sowed the bed in a frenzy and didn’t write down what was what… but I think I sowed tokyo market turnips and komatsuna closer to the fence along with radishes and mizuna- and then lettuces and arugula closer to the path. I think. The point is it looks like it’s all coming up so go shade bed!

My new potted chervil is doing well- it looks like chervil is more of a pot herb then a bed herb. You can see the little fronds on top, that’s fresh growth, a sign that the chervil likes its new moist shady spot.

Besides the issues I’m having with the parsley in the shade bed, the lemon balm has gotten quite tall. I’m attempting to try to grow a few new plants from cuttings but so far the lemon balm hasn’t taken. The pineapple mint has though, I have several growing from cuttings.

As you can see they’re quite vigorous. I’m also attempting to grow some thyme from cuttings, jury’s out on that one. Cuttings are a crapshoot- like 60% just don’t take. But with a little surestart and some love some will- and then you can multiply your plants. This is especially useful in plants like mint and thyme which can be used as borders or ground cover- expensive to buy all the plants you need to cover such a space- much cheaper to take care of a few vigorous specimens and over the course of a few months take cutting after cutting until you have enough for your needs.

I wish my chives were doing better. There’s a very un-chive like sprout in the garlic chive pot which makes me think weed, and the regular chives are barely growing. Are they getting too much sun? Should I have sowed more thickly? I just really want some dang garlic chives! Back to the drawing board I figure.

The monster squash is growing squash! We picked our first zucchini yesterday and there will be more in the coming days. I suspect much more.

And of course there’s my other zucchini plants in the back which are growing well when the feral cats aren’t sitting on them. I suspect they’ll be too spiky for cat butts soon anyways.

The beans sowed from seed in the back- Kentucky Wonders- are growing nice. They’re mulched and one or two of the Swiss chard seeds have sprouted in front, but they’re too small to mulch. Swiss chard can get huge when planted with beans, due to the nitrogen fixing so fingers crossed. In a week I’ll put up the trellis for these guys- have to check to see if I have enough stakes of the proper size though.

I have concerns about the blue lake pole bean starts though. Some have been just eaten up and are wilting badly, while others are vigorous and putting out new growth.

I had good luck with the haricot vert starts last year and I’m sad those weren’t available but I’ve staggered my pole beans well so I should get a good harvest. Not to mention if the trionfo violetto give harvest early enough I might be able to take advantage of our Indian summers in September/August and plant some late season harvest green beans. After all the soil temp requirements for germination are separate from the growing temperature requirements and as long as we don’t get any frosts I might get some winter beans.

My bigger potatoes are looking a little rough. Much like the spittle bugs on my parsley, earwigs are harmless unless they’re in great numbers. Sadly, much like the high level of spittle bugs on my parsley, the level of earwigs feasting on my potato stems is causing problems- so it’s sluggo time.

Luckily my younger potatoes are growing great- it’s gonna be time to put extra soil in those bags soon. This might be the crucial difference between proper seed potato and just chucking supermarket potatoes in a bag though. It could be the sulfur dip I put on my supermarket potatoes wasn’t enough and that’s why it’s acting up. We’ll see anyways.

I re-staked the San Francisco fog, as the v-shaped bean trellis was not right for this tomato the way it was right for the sun gold. It’s just a hoop and two free standing stake and I’ve used soft ties to lift some leaves off the soil. Not fancy but it works.

I’ll leave you with some magnificent chamomile ready for harvest. The ease with which I’ve grown this is pretty astonishing. Just put the plant in and away it went! I’m looking forward to tea.

Tea and less cabbage fly.

April bugs have returned

But not the bugs I want sadly. The bees have been showing up but as a trickle and not a roar. Nothing I can do about that- it was such a wet and cold winter that I suspect the big buzzers are still shaking it all off. Still- I have herbs flowering or about to flower- and soon I’ll have sunflowers and poppies.

The cabbage moths however, are back in force. Those little white butterflies are not the vegetable growers friend. Far from it. Luckily as far as turnips go- who cares. It’s not like I’m eating the leaves. I’ve already eaten one of the turnips, it was delicious, but before I pick more I’m waiting for them to get a little bigger.

Unfortunately I most certainly will be eating the Bok Choy leaves. I put down sluggo in case this is slug damage but as I was doing so I saw the white butterfly of doom flying around my head. Tried to kill it but it got away. I’m just trying to be diligent about checking the leaves for caterpillars but they’re little green things the same color as most plant’s leaves so it’s always hit or miss if you can actually find them.

There was some sort of cocoon on one of my carrots. I wasn’t so worried for my carrots, not much eats carrots except for carrot fly and it’s still too cold for them. Still I destroyed the cocoon to protect my other plants.

Some bugs are fairly harmless however. This lovely bit of froth conceals the spittlebug or frog hopper. Now if their numbers go crazy they can damage plants but they’re pretty harmless so I don’t go crazy killing them. I wish all the bugs in my garden were as harmless as these guys.

Speaking of harmless- sow bugs! Or rollypollies or pull bugs or wood louse. They’re isopods! They’re super cool! They don’t really do much and they aren’t mega creepy like earwigs so I don’t really care.

Also they make me smile so that’s nice.

Something has been nibbling on one of my potatoes which is fairly hilarious since I’m fairly sure potato leaves are mildly toxic. Probably something in the rodentia family so not much I can do about that.

What’s really annoying and I have no pictures of is the green aphids that keep getting up on my pepper seedlings. Aphids aren’t great but green aphids are like the easy mode of aphids so it’s easy enough to squish as many of them as you can and then just spray the plants down with neem oil. It’s more annoying then anything.

Of course the way the aphids are climbing the bench to get to the seedling are ants. Here’s a few on my first really spectacular squash blossom. I had to cut back some of the moldy leaves on the squash monster and mulch heavily but it seems to be taking well.

Here’s hoping to more bees and less pests.

And maybe some netting for my Bok Choy.

Damn cabbage moths.

Potatoes and cauliflowers planted

This was an early day for me- I wanted to get everything in so I’d have some time to see what took.

Not that I’ll know if the potatoes are duds in a day- more like several weeks to know if they’ll sprout or not.

The cauliflower are a different story.

These were the sets I bought yesterday- just your garden variety 6 pack, except that several of the cells held doubles. That’s always a problem as you have a choice- do you separate them to get more potential plants? Do you just kill the weakest and plant only 6? Or do you not separate them and get stunted plants?

I opted to separate them for maximum cauliflower. Which may not have worked out so great.

Some of them are really perky!

Some of them are runty and wilty. It’s only been half a day since I planted them- I won’t know for a few days who will live and who will die.

But I decided to take out an insurance policy.

A while ago I ordered these great terra-cotta watering spikes. The idea is that you put a bunch of water in a wine bottle and stick the spike on top. Then you invert it and stick it deep in the soil. As the soil dries out it draws the water from the bottle out of the permeable terra-cotta.

Since we’ve had so much sun and warmth the bed I just planted might get dry so I put the first wine-spike there first.

Maybe it will rejuvenate those wilting cauliflower.

Maybe I’ll need to buy more cauliflower sets next week.

Who knows.

Who by fire….

Sorry got morbid there for a minute. On to the potatoes!

These are fancy actual seed potatoes- as opposed to my home ripened store bought taters that I used in my last two bags. “Russian banana” is the type. Look. I really don’t care about type when it comes to spuds. Is it a potato? Great! I’ll eat it. But supposedly these are real tasty so I’ll give them a shot.

Whoever put the potatoes in the box made a mistake however as there were not 6 seed potatoes but 8!

My mother had to physically restrain me from ordering two more potato bags.

Apparently 10 total potato bags is too much.

Her very smart idea was to double up the seed potatoes in two of the bags to take advantage of their small size.

Like so.

Planting potatoes in bags is easy. You put a little dirt in your bag, that you roll down to a third of its complete height- put your seed potato in- then cover it with about an inch of more dirt.

Then you water.

Then you wait.

Bam! 6 more potato bags!

Here’s one of the old ones growing strong. Once this plant gets taller I’ll pour more dirt in to cover all but the top-most leaves. All the covered leaves will become potatoes!

God I love potatoes.