Tomato tear out

So a little context to the madness that was today.

August in San Francisco! First week of the month it rains, second week of the month it’s hotter than fucking Hades. Oh and I’m 90% sure it was actually hotter than this- as the home thermometer was higher- this is just what the weather app said.

WHEEEEEE.

Anyways, today I had a task to do. Besides the task of watering everything that disagreed with the heat- my task was to harvest all the viable tomatoes, and then rip out the plants in pots.

Because just look at them!

Just a mess. The constant damp that was not in evidence today had really messed with the health of the vines. Not so much the ones in the beds, but the ones in the pots were draining so poorly they were practically falling over. (And in some cases, literally falling over.)

First things first I had to pick the good ones.

Eh not bad. You’ll note how many of those were sungolds, I’ll get back to that.

So my first victim was the Black Krim, which gave me a handful of really nice tomatoes, before succumbing to the damp. Will grow next year for sure- but in a bed. I had to chip away at the soil in the root ball to try to save as much dirt as I could, as I intend to use these pots as soon as possible. (No wasted space in my garden!) Still, I encountered another problem.

That’s a very full compost bin. I realized at this point I only had room for two dead tomatoes in my green can. So the tomato tear out has become a multi-week affair.

So that’s a defunct Black Krim and a defunct sweet100 down, two to go.

I’ll have to rip out the Fog and the Roma either tomorrow or next week.

BUT!

I’m going to make one last attempt to save the sungold. It’s just such a nice tasting tomato- and even through everything, the aphids and the weather- it stayed producing. maybe if I try to tie it up better? Maybe if I aggressively trim it? I’m going to make at least an attempt. I watered it well in today’s heat, and I’ll try to hit it with a little fertilizer tomorrow. Where there’s life, there’s hope!

But it’s not all doom and gloom in tomato-land.

These tomatoes are doing great. On the left is my lemon boy, and on the right is my “dancing with smurfs”, and because they’re in a well draining bed with afternoon sun, they’re thriving where the pot tomatoes are not.

So it’s not that I’m cursed- it’s just that once again, San Francisco weather is inconsistent and capricious and can hurt you as much as it helps you.

And maybe if I’m a little dizzy today it’s because ripping out tomato plants in 85 degree weather at 11 am is just about the craziest thing I’ve done all year.

Time to drink my weight in water and pass out in front of mom’s air conditioner.

After I eat some tomatoes of course!

Fun with cuttings

So I like to take cuttings from my mint plants and grow more mint. Some of this is so I can finally ditch the mint thunderdome and put something else in that pot- but a lot of it is so I can give home grown mint plants as gifts to friends.

Like this lovely strawberry mint. It’s easy to grow mint from cuttings- but it’s never a one hundred percent success. In fact-

Those are my successful cuttings so far- minus the few I’ve given as gifts already.

Here’s a stack of all the failures! Cuttings are always a gamble- but mint in particular has a higher chance of success than most other plants.

It’s a fairly simple procedure. You just snip off some mint, right under some leaves, usually a piece a few inches long. Then you strip all but the top-most leaves off, and stick it in some dirt. I put a pinch of sure-start on the stem. Then you just keep it wet and wait!

Here’s my new hopefuls- 2 more pineapple mint, and 4 lovely ginger mints from the new plant I put in.

Hopefully I’ll have more mint to give soon!

Planting the spring herb beds

I had a great day today in the garden working my herb beds.

Here’s a previous shot of the shadier herb bed. As you can see the thyme is heavily overgrown. First task was cutting it back, along with the lemon balm, and weeding as best as I could.

Thyme is a great herb, I grow two types, big-leaf and French. Problem is, a little thyme goes a long way, even fresh, so the growth I had wasn’t helpful.

The thyme conquered- it was time to place the four new plants that go into this bed.

I have a few interesting survivors in this bed, some chives that refused to die, a lone parsley seedling that sprouted when all the others wouldn’t, and a shiso that refused to die.

That’s the bi-colored shiso that I ripped out last year. As you can see- it has returned. Oh well.

Next to the thyme is the culantro- next to the octopus is the anise hyssop- next to the lemon balm is the lemongrass, and up in the corner is the borage. I gave everything a deep watering, and then in the next couple of days I’ll put down some mulch.

The sunny herb bed was also overgrown. I trimmed the oregano, and hacked away at the hyssop and sage. Then it was just a matter of placing my plants.

I put the purple basil next to the Thai basil, and the lemon grass next to the oregano. Yes I have two lemongrasses. I like the taste, but it also has a way of repelling pests (not unlike the borage) and I hope by having one in each bed I can have less pest problems as it gets warmer.

There are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to basil in San Francisco I’m afraid. As you can see the Thai basil is a chewed up mess- but it’s alive so I’ll take it. The purple basil will also be a gamble- but much less of one then Italian or sweet basil which is iffy at the best of times. Sadly the local garden center is not stocking African blue bush basil this year- or at least not yet. That’s the only basil that I’ve had very good luck with.

I’m not screwing around with the shiso. In my garden at least it has a tendency to get really buggy, and I’d like to have more for eating so pots it is! And the pots can go on the new herb tables!

I have resown the mitsuba, I have two parsley’s- one of which is going to seed, so I have to work on that. The two shiso, the chervil, the tarragon, and the two chive pots. The other herb I had to wrestle with today was my dill.

As you can see, it was a mess. So I pulled it and sowed some more.

It’s a beautiful pot of dirt. Dill is a pain in the ass, as it doesn’t transplant well. So I can buy dill seedlings but unless I keep them in the original pot I won’t get much dill, as once transplanted it tends to swiftly die. Growing dill from seed isn’t difficult, but you have to tenderly press the seeds into the soil because they need light to germinate. Not to mention it tends to get really buggy, and it attracts scale insects and aphids. Like I said, a pain. But it will work, and I use a lot of dill when I pickle so I guess I’ll just have to keep re-seeding it.

I’m looking forward to the lovely blue flowers of the borage, bees love them, but other bugs don’t.

It can also get really gigantic and I’m looking forward to my dad making triffid jokes again.

I am a Neanderthal of simple pleasures.

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…

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.

April planting part 2

It’s almost all in. I say almost because despite the fact that rain wasn’t forecast until tomorrow… it started today. So I got most of my plants in anyways.

The blackberry will have to wait until the rain stops- but at least the tomatoes and the mess of zucchini are in.

The zucchini was an adventure however.

For one thing the root ball was very stuck in.

Yeah, not gonna be able to separate that.

On top of that, the other problem is this bed that has the best room for the squash ball is fairly shallow. I tried to separate the roots so I could have a few plants in different areas- but that dog wouldn’t hunt. Faced with lots of roots… I improvised.

I took a bag of potting soil and mounded it up into a hill. Then I dug as deep a hole I could and put the sure start inside. And then I planted my squash ball and hoped for the best.

I still have to mulch the hill, but as mentioned, we’ve had a rain delay.

Mount squash. It’s gonna be real interesting to see how good a neighbor the zucchini monster is going to be to the romaine lettuce and the green onions. Not so worried about the scallions mind, as long as they have some vertical room they’ll grow. Hope the romaine don’t get squashed.

Heh. Squashed by squash.

I might have to find some sort of trellis system- but I have to do more research.

The tomatoes were much more straight forward.

The Roma mega pot went into the big green pot. Similar to the squash pot it’s three plants in one big root ball, which is also semi-crazy but the plants are super healthy and Roma tomatoes are like the gold standard paste types so I’m affectionately referring to the red pot as the sauce pot from now on.

I put all the soil around the pot while the pot was still on the plants, then removed the mega pot and put down my sure start and planted the big boy.

I mulched it and put some extra stakes in.

I’m gonna string some soft ties around the stakes to support the stalks. it’s a Gerry-rig but I’m known for that!

As for my other tomatoes, it was much easier.

I bought a sweet 100- your bog standard red cherry variety, and a funky heirloom called “black krim’. I chose the black krim because it’s a globe but not a beefsteak and it was developed in Russia. I.e., if we have a cool summer it should still produce since it was bred to perform in an even colder climate than ours.

Also the fruits look SUPER COOL. Like red with black streaks. I’ve also totally bought these at farmer’s markets before, and they are super delish.

I pulled the sassy salad from the green pot- it was going to seed anyways because of the increasing sunshine- and some sure start later- the black krim was in.

It’s a pretty runty plant so far- I have to figure out how I’m going to cage it- but it looks healthy.

The sweet 100 went into my new extra large terra-cotta pot, along with granular fertilizer, sure start and lots of potting soil. I think the old tomato cages will do for this one- on Wednesday when the rain breaks I’ll assess my options.

I’ve got my eye on you miss blackberry- and while I’m probably going to have to buy you a friend in a week- you’re getting planted soon enough- wait your turn!

God I’m so excited about putting in a blackberry.

Stupid rain delays!