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: 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🎶

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.