Captain’s log: September 1st 2019

September is always a difficult time in the garden. Depending on the weather certain summer veggies are going strong- or failing. Certain herbs are thriving, or starting to die back. Somethings are unchanged, and somethings are just starting to fruit. And of course some bugs have gone away, and some are being a pain in my backside.

It’s a land of contrasts. Now I have to start thinking about fall planting.

I’ve got a lot on my plate.

This rather gorgeous herb is anise hyssop. It supposedly makes great tea, but I haven’t tried it. Honestly planted this one on a whim to see what the flowers looked like. Well now I can say the flowers look pretty great!

The big-leaf thyme flowers are wonderful as always. Also a great attraction for bees which sadly have been lacking in the garden this year. That’s been something of a disappointment, but the wild weather is out of my hands.

Speaking of wild weather yesterday it was 80, and today it drizzled and is foggy.

My poor plants don’t know if it’s coming or going.

Speaking of flowers, the zucchini continues to be very productive. I’m starting to get those wonderful late season baseball bats, that are a little on the tough side but are still delicious.

Time for some stuffed zucchini I guess!

Finally my large corn stalks are starting to flower. Hopefully I can get some full or full-ish sized corn from these stalks. These are flowering at just the right time because September and October are often our hottest months and corn needs to ripen when it’s warm.

This is the base of one of the small runty corn stalks, and as you can see… I’ve got tassels. Which means I have a baby corn and god knows how that will end up.

The blackberry is traveling far afield, which bodes well for next year’s pies.

In brassica news those damn grey cabbage aphids are back again. The foil ring stopped the cabbage fly, and the B.t. has been guarding against cabbage moths. I’ve been using neem for the aphids- but screw it. I’m going to buy an entire container of ladybugs and dump them all on my tree collard.

Nuke it from orbit- it’s the only way to be sure.

I finally planted my fancy oregano. You can see it’s slightly white fly damaged. One more plant to put ladybugs on I guess. I put it in the space the other blue basil was in, as it was dying. The one I have in a pot is also not doing great, but that one I’m going to try to save by hook or by crook.

This whole bed needs a makeover, but it will be a while til I can get to it.

Oops. I was shifting some pots around so I could wack the weeds and uh… whoopsie. I’m sad because I love this pot, I only got it because a wonderful family friend got me some gift cards, and I’m determined to save it. Some sort of epoxy maybe? I’m handy enough that I’m sure I could do it, I just have to figure out how.

This is a ripening lemon boy! Some of the fruits on this plant look really rough, so we’ll see how it does long term, but hey! I’ve got at least one silly yellow tomato.

I’ll take it!

That is less then ideal. I really wanted to get some fennel bulbs this year, and once again fennel is not being nice to me. Fennel might be just too much of a time and space investment for me. The extreme irony is that wild fennel grows, well wild, all around my neighborhood. Wouldn’t eat that stuff though.

And while my pole beans are withering, at least my new bush beans seem to be sprouting at top speed. Life’s just not worth living without beans!

Per usual my dill has sprouted well. I’m going to endeavor to use this dill more aggressively so it doesn’t get all seedy too soon. I have pickling to do!

So when I finally pulped the dying wilted ginger mint, I clipped a few root runners from the most vigorous plant and it looks like I’m going to be rewarded with more of my favorite mint. Seriously this stuff is so crazy vigorous it’s incredible.

And despite everything the sun gold keeps trucking. This has to be the best variety for San Francisco, you can throw everything and the kitchen sink at it weather wise and all it needs is a little TLC and it’ll keep going.

Looks like absolute hell, but it keeps going.

I finally ripped out my overgrown arugula only to find that it had reseeded itself into it’s neighboring beds.

Good thing I like arugula, looks like i’m getting a lot of it!

In intentional seed news, I let my cilantro go to seed entirely as an experiment. You see this is a fancy type of cilantro called “confetti” that has really cool leaves. I wanted to see if I sowed the coriander seed it made, if it would breed true and make the cool leafed cilantro again. Not always a given!

So I sowed it in a couple of pots and time will tell if I get fancy cilantro or the regular but still yummy stuff.

I leave you with the greatest creation of my garden, my very own pumpkin. I’m picking it tomorrow.

Ok, so maybe late summer as we turn into fall is a tough time in the garden. But damn.

That’s a fine pumpkin, so clearly I’m doing something right!

Oh god this heat

Well after fog and rain and a lot of work, it’s officially summer I guess.

Arg my chard. Chard can grow well in the summer months but it’s really more of a fall veggie here, but I just had to have it and look what I’ve got. I managed to save it with just a ton of water- but still what a mess.

My one glorious pumpkin was also feeling the heat, as it’s leaves looked quite parched. The pumpkin itself looks marvelous though, it seems to be ripening nicely.

My lettuce also was going the way of the chard. It’s very close to the house and gets plenty of cover, but the heat and the morning sun was extremely hot. So more water in the fabric bed as well.

In good heat related news, my peppers are happy campers. They’ve been waiting for this heat, and it should mean that the peppers on the plant will ripen nicely.

Got to look on the bright side I guess.

The extraordinarily bright side of the evil hate star.

I can’t believe I’m saying this- I miss the fog!

August work part one

Well I got a fair amount done, even if I have more to do.

The chayote is in! And more importantly it’s staked to it’s new trellis. This nice mixed bed is coming along nicely. These tomatoes of all my tomatoes are the best looking. This bed may end up being the tomato bed with all it’s afternoon sunshine. I don’t think the chayote and the basil mind sharing.

Here’s my mystery plant, a mystery no more! It’s an Ugni, or Chilean Guava. Also known as a strawberry myrtle, it’s a south american relative of the guava that has tiny little tasty fruits. Apocryphally, it’s fruits were the favorite of Queen Victoria.

I don’t know about that, but it likes acid soil and can tolerate some foggy weather, so I’m all for it.

It can grow up to six feet if you baby it, and I intend to baby it.

I want some little fruits!

And here is my beautiful bird bee bath. The rocks are there to give the bees something to sit on while they sip. They’re not really swimmers.

Why do I want to keep the bees happy?

Well, because they haven’t been doing their job! The reason the pumpkins were shriveling off the vine was that the plant was aborting them due to incomplete fertilization. (H/T to my manager at work who figured that out) So I had to play the bee!

Pictured, one beautiful baby pumpkin that I hand fertilized, next to a shriveled up one that I did not.

So clearly the bees need some incentive, and I hope the bee bath provides it for them.

Joking aside, it’s just been so wet. As I type this we had rain this morning, and the day before. In August!

So I think I know why the bees are under-performing.

Oh well, more work to do!

The dangerous damp

Well- dangerous is an exaggeration. In many ways the added moisture is good for most of my plants.

Not the tomatoes.

The tomatoes are a fucking mess. No pictures, but maybe a future post on what not to do.

The powdery mildew is becoming a real pain though.

It’s destroying my peas- gonna have to pull them early, but it’s not a death sentence for most plants.

That’s a squash leaf. One I’ll be cutting off soon. It’s annoying- but the squash I’m getting is great.

Just so much squash. Powdery mildew on a lot of plants is largely cosmetic. As long as you dutifully cut off the worst leaves, the fruit will be fine.

Same with the cucumbers.

Bushy leaves that are starting to look a bit rough.

But…

I’ve got so many damn cucumbers!

The telegraph improved in particular are the real winners here. The Boston pickles are good, but I made the mistake of letting them get too large and they became totally bitter to the point of being inedible. The telegraph can get huge and still be delicious. So now I have to be really on top of the Boston pickles and pick them young, but I can be a bit calmer about the telegraph.

I wish I knew what was wrong with the pumpkins. The vine is healthy. The leaves are only slightly mildewed, but the fruit that sets rots after a week. I’ve working in oyster shell in case it’s blossom end rot- and I’ve worked in good long term fertilizer and I’ve watered well- I’m mystified.

I’ve consulted with my boss and his suggestions is that it could be incomplete pollination or a lack of phosphorus. So I’ll work some phosphorus into the bed and next time I get a male and female flower at the same time I’ll hand pollenate just to see if it works.

We haven’t gotten too many bees this year due to the cold and damp so incomplete pollination seems likely. Guess I get to play bee this year.

The tops of my beets also look a bit weather beaten.

But the roots look fantastic.

The weather may be terrible- but you can’t beat beets!

I will never apologize for a pun!

Captain’s log: June 23rd 2019

Well it’s been busy and it’s going to get busier.

That my friends, is a baby pumpkin! It looks like October pumpkins might be a thing. Or August pumpkins if I’m lucky.

The vine is… going the wrong way. But who am I to tell a pumpkin vine where it can or cannot go. I’m just going to have to accommodate the darn thing as it meanders around my garden.

I’m trying not to make the same mistake I made with my big pot tomatoes- and I’m diligently trimming off the bottom stems of the new guys.

The reason this is a problem is what’s happening with the Black Krim.

This is a beautiful baby tomato- and it’s on a sucker stem. So I am concerned that the weight of the growing fruit is going to knock off the whole branch and lose me a bunch of fruit and flowers. I might have to put a stake in the ground next to the pot and tie that branch to that for support. So it’s going to need a Neanderthal level Gerry-rig, but it is what it is.

Lastly- my one big Roma is ripening nicely. It’s been cool-ish, but on the warm side of cool-ish, and this baby tomato lived through the heat wave so it looks quite nice.

And more ladybug larvae are makes their little cocoons so I’m about to have more voracious aphid killers- which suits me just fine.

It turned out way more spaghetti squash germinated then I needed- so I hope some of my friends want some seedlings. Only a couple of the scallop squashes came up, but I only wanted a couple of them anyways.

This is some lovely oak leaf lettuce that has been patiently awaiting harvest.

Oak leaf is a good choice for warmer climes as it doesn’t get that bitter in warmer weather. The seed packet I got was a mix of red and green oak leaf- and the one that turned up red has not been growing as well as the green. But that’s sometimes the case- red varieties of any vegetable don’t photosynthesize as well as their green counterparts.

The blue lake beans are quite vigorous- here’s one that has escaped its trellis and is starting up the cucumber trellis. Which reminds me- my next day off I have a real project on my hands tying up the cucumbers- they’ve gotten real messy.

But they have lots of little flowers and baby cucumbers so I’ve got that going for me.

Speaking of trellis failures my purple peas are so vigorous- and so top heavy, that they’ve sort of half fallen over the color bed. They’re still producing- I keep bringing up snap peas for dad to munch on, it’s just very precarious. I expect I’ll get peas into August- the vine is just going to be a bit of a mess.

Still have some leeks growing. Also, as evidenced by the soil, still have some very frustrated gophers. Ha ha you rodent bastards- all my plants are in raised beds and pots! I’m an evolved hominid, I can outthink you furry jerks!

Sorry.

Not all my animal visitors are feral cats and hungry rodents. Some are quite welcome. This is a California Towhee. They’re prolific grub hunters. They were chased out of the garden by the cats- but I haven’t seen my feline friends lately, and the birds have returned.

I don’t believe my tree collard is going to make it. It could very well be that my “ingenious” solution to the cabbage maggot problem was the collard’s downfall. Surprise! Aluminum foil rings around the tops of roots probably don’t allow for good root growth. I’m going to try to cut out the foil and use some root growth fertilizer as a last attempt but I’m not too hopeful. Turns out you can’t collar a collard.

Oh god that pun was terrible I’m so sorry.

Here’s a bit of cock-eyed optimism to make up for that pun.

I bought some sweet corn.

Now my parents grew corn when I was a child- it can be done. I’m anticipating a hot summer and fall…

And there’s some room in the 4×4 bed…

If I sort of curl the stalks around the squash the wind *should* pollenated them…

And multiple indigenous groups in America grew squash and corn together so it’s a good soil pairing…

It’s a lot of shoulds.

But I’m gonna do it!

I told you it was going to get busier!

Flowers, fruit, and almost fruit.

Summer is almost here, but it feels like it’s already here, with a day this weekend that hit 100 degrees. Some absolutely frantic watering and mulching took place, and as today is a much more sedate 76, I think I managed to save most everything.

Well, except for the turnips- once again cabbage fly screws with my hopes and dreams.

Don’t talk to me about cauliflower.

But, as we move into the warmer months, quite a lot in the garden is beginning to flower.

Including my new borage plant. Borage is one of my favorite plants, such delicate flowers on such a robust plant.

I even got the rarer pink variation on one of the blooms. If the heat doesn’t chase off the bees, they’ll have a treat in my garden.

In other flower news, I put in new sunflowers.

There’s this great nursery company called Annie’s, that specializes in rarer and heirloom varieties of plants. Their flowers are always great, but for allergy reasons I can’t grow most of them.

But no one in my house is allergic to sunflowers!

I got a big bear, a claret, and a shock-o-lat. I put them next to my existing sunflowers in what used to be the cauliflower bed.

Still don’t want to talk about it.

I also sowed some of the multi-colored poppy seeds in front in the mulch, we’ll see if they come up.

The heat wave has just fried my last Bok Choy- and it’s throwing in the towel and bolting. Oh well. All the cabbage family flowers are really pretty and largely identical. It’s amazing how much this Bok Choy looks like a wild mustard.

Here’s a dark horse, my Yerba Buena is flowering! Just little trumpets hiding among the leaves. I cannot get over this mint, to the point where I bought a second. It just smells so good, and as a native it will thrive in our climate, and feed our local pollinators.

The French thyme has started flowering, which should be appreciated by the bees. Thyme flowers are also very pretty.

What’s this? A pumpkin flower peeking out behind some leaves?

Surprise! It’s *three* pumpkin flowers behind some leaves! I have visions of October pumpkins dancing in my head, and isn’t that exciting.

The tomato news is mixed. On the one hand the black krim looks great.

Now that’s a nice baby tomato.

On the other hand the sun gold looks like this.

At least the ladybugs are having a feast.

I did get one ripe sun gold today- which went right into my mouth. That’s where most of the purple peas have been going too. Between last year and this year the sun gold seems to be an aphid magnet more than the other tomatoes. I wonder if that’s a problem with the plant variety itself.

The fake romanesco saga drew to a close.

Judging by how it tastes once I cooked it- it wasn’t even a purple cauliflower, it was a purple broccoli. It was delicious of course- but hardly what was advertised on the seed packet.

Had to hose off all the cabbage aphids though, growing broccoli comes with some grossness.

I got my first cuke a few days ago too- a fine Boston pickle. The vines got a little scorched during the heatwave, so we’ll see how they perform later in the month.

I’ll leave you with some baby apples, growing precariously over my upper zucchini patch’s sunflower.

Nice.

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.