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.

Captain’s log: March 14th 2019

Well I had to push the grand soil haul til tomorrow, but that didn’t mean I could rest on my laurels.

The weather is beautiful out- and coupled with the return of daylight savings I have a ton more usable time out in the garden. It was around 70 degrees out in the hottest part of the day today, and while I know a week from now we are going to have some more rain, it truly feels like the beginnings of Spring.

See- a bumble bee! This is the third or fourth I’ve seen this year so far, which is exciting. Just because I don’t grow most flowers doesn’t mean I can’t have a bee friendly garden. Most of my herbs flower wonderfully, and I’m planting more.

The blue pot is the garlic chives 2.0 after the wind killed pot 1.0- the other pot on the stand is new, and houses some regular chive seeds.

What- I like chives ok? Why not have both? Besides all varieties of chives have wonderful edible flowers that make bees go crazy. And more bees means more tomatoes later and more green beans and more cucumbers… you get the idea.

I also wanted to pot up some cilantro. I keep getting cilantro and planting it in the shade herb bed and having it grow just plain weird. Well- turns out this was 100% my fault. Cilantro is like dill- transplanting cilantro tends to make the plant all screwy.

Ok so I’ll sow it by seed into a pot like I did with the dill, only the only pot the right size is the plastic pot that we all know the wind likes to knock over…

The solution is rocks. The solution is always rocks.

Those are a couple of big rocks I found that I plunked down in the pot before I filled it with soil and seeds. Made it good and heavy- try to knock that over wind!

(Just kidding wind please be cool)

I’ve also been pretty pleased with the seedlings so far, except for the one Boston pickle I started indoors during the deluge- it died in the night. I just sort of shrugged and put another Boston pickle cucumber seed in the pot- you can’t really plant cucumbers in their bed til around May so I have plenty of time to screw around with seeds and grow a few strong plants for transplant.

Rip Boston Pickle plant. As you can see the rest of the older seedlings are doing really great- as are some of the younger ones…

All 12 of the Joi Choi came up! Which… is problematic as at the moment I only have room for 8 of them! Luckily with the soil infusion I’m getting tomorrow I’ll have room for plenty more and it’ll be a while before these little guys are ready for transplant anyways.

I’ve also started some mustard greens and Japanese spinach as nothing but 2 radishes ever came up in the side bed and it’s good shady real estate for greens.

The warmth and sun has really reinvigorated some of the herbs. All the water plus now the warmth has made my sage plant very happy. It wasn’t looking so hot in January so I’m glad it seems to have rallied. I really like sage, which is why I’m a little sad I’ll probably have to pull the purple sage.

I mean- that’s just not right.

The other herbs in this bed are doing well- including the hyssop which I never even thought I wanted.

Truly magnificent. That should flower very nicely in June- a real treat for the bees.

Another win- the potted mints. The mint thunderdome is roaring back to life after its winter slumber- and my two individual mints are growing with real vigor. This is the pineapple mint which is a real pretty plant. Smells fantastic too.

Happily both of the potato bags are also going strong, I’ll have to put more soil in soon. I’ve made up my mind on the potato front- I’m definitely going to get a few more bags and some proper seed potatoes and grow a few more. That whole middle area has a fair amount of room and a medium amount of sun- and I’m the sort who could eat my weight in spuds. Not to mention my mother who’s diet is fairly limited- like the zucchinis I will be growing and the carrots I am growing, it makes sense to grow her some more potatoes, which are some of the few vegetables she can eat.

The first bean seeds are in- we’ll see if they take- it’s early but the soil is just warm enough.

I’ll leave you with lettuce.

Get it- *leave* you, sounds like leaf…

Aw forget the bad pun. It’s pretty lettuce.

Captain’s log: March 9th 2019

It sprinkled off and on, but it was warmer and clearer than I expected so I sprang into action. I was hoping to see a movie this weekend, but I can always see a movie in the rain- can’t effectively garden when it’s pouring so the silver screen can wait.

I have moved the mint thunderdome and succulent pots from the former home, and now they’re elsewhere in the garden. The thunderdome got a trim- hopefully that will promote more mint growth in spring.

There’s the new home of the terra-cotta succulent pot and the little purple pot. Eventually the succulent pots will go in front of the house but thats a while off.

Why am I moving everything around?

So I can place my new fabric bed where the other pots were of course!

I really have to update the map of the garden…

It took all the soil I had left to fill it, plus mulch on top. It will be a while before my Joi Choi seedlings are big enough to be transplanted outside, but I wanted to make sure the bed was there when I needed it. This is in a semi-shaded area of the garden which doesn’t make a ton of sense for mint but makes good sense for things like Bok Choy.

They wait.

In other seedling news the greenhouse seeds seem to be doing ok, but the stems are a bit spindly. I might have to transplant the sunflowers to larger plastic pots soon- but as I used up all my soil it will have to wait. I was planning on Wednesday being the soil day for the new beds- but it looks like I’m going to have to go tomorrow first for 2-3 bags for other garden use.

In really good news it looks like the potatoes are doing well. The one on the right had some scary damaged leaves which had me anxious about blight- but it seems to have rebounded. I’m quite happy with it.

The baby romaine lettuce look amazing…

The last remaining Bok Choy looks more than a little eaten. It’s going to get eaten either today or tomorrow- but I need to get some more soil to level off the area in preparation for zucchini.

The radishes in the mixed bed have come up- but the purple peas have not. It looks like once again the over-much rain has caused the baby peas to force themselves up too early and not develop good roots.

I really want my purple snap peas.

So I’m starting some indoors!

I’m not taking any chances, I want my peas!

I’ve already harvested most of the harvestable chard- and tonight I’ll do the same to the arugula. That’s because the soil temperature in the back has finally reached bean temperature. So these plants are going to get ripped out in favor of green beans soon enough.

Swiss chard!

Speaking of harvests, I’m starting to get some great carrots when I thin.

I over-sowed a bit when I planted the carrot bed- my bad. But it’s hard to regret it when the thinnings are so delicious. That middle one is a yellow carnival blend carrot, I’m surprised it got that big.

Finally, the rosemary has decided it’s spring. It’s flowering all over, and has begun to attract the first bees. I couldn’t get a picture but the whole time I was working in the garden today I was followed around by a big fat bumble bee. That’s really good news for tomatoes later on- bumble bees are the best pollinators for tomatoes.

Wednesday is the big soil day- but tomorrow looks like it’s going to my first opportunity to get pole bean sets if they’re available this early.

Spring is coming, and I am ready for it!