Captain’s log: November 21st 2018

Seems like forever since I’ve done anything but the most basic of watering. Some of that was due to having less plants that need less water- and some of that was due to the terrible smoke filled air which made it all but impossible to do anything outside without putting on a mask.

Well there won’t be a ton of watering this week- but for the best of reasons!

The rainy season has begun!

Just in time too- all the particulates are getting washed out of the air and the sweet sweet rain is cleaning up the streets and watering my plants. It was a good long rain from this morning until around 3pm, and we might get more tonight. And tomorrow. And next week!

Ah, slippery concrete!

Because I wanted to make a blog post, and because I like getting wet, I decided to take stock of the garden while it was raining.

My little box of Mitsuba continues to grow, and it’s well drained in that box so I’m not worried about it getting drowned. Besides it’s a woodland plant so sticking it in a shady spot and dumping water on it is sort of how it’s meant to live.

The tomato continues to grow like wildfire, though in order to not have it completely overgrown I’ve stopped fertilizing it, but the sudden flood of water won’t stop it growing that’s for sure. Lots of ripening tomatoes- and the half of the plant that wasn’t tied up has almost completely collapsed so once there’s a break in the rain I’m going to get out there with my soft ties and macgyver the plant into, you know, not falling over.

I just cannot grow a lettuce to save my life. The plants all got borked early on from the sudden late heat wave, so I’m fairly confident that I can pull the bad plants and grow some romaine from seed fairly easily now that it’s reliably cold. (Also best to grow romaine from scratch now that we’ve had yet another recall of it). Not to mention the continued bug problem which the cold should also take care of.

Pretty right? Well looks is about all the shishito peppers are good for. They’re undersized and tasteless. The bell pepper was infested with all the ripe peppers having holes in them and bugs inside.

Ick ick ick.

The hatch are also tasteless- and probably not even hatches, but I might be able to save that plant, because while a few are ripening early there are a few still gaining in size. The shishito plant may be salvageable- if I cut it back and just overwinter it by next summer it might produce. I’m not sure though. Sadly the infested dwarf bell peppers will probably have to be pulled- the pot is too short and the plants roots were all scrunched from the beginning- bugs or no bugs.

The mole pepper just keeps on trucking though and that plant is definitely a contender for perennial pepper.

The sudden downpour and chilly temps is definitely reinvigorating the spinach, and as long as I keep sowing I’ll have spinach all season long.

The arugula doesn’t give a crap about anything except being delicious. I’ll probably cut a bunch soon and then sow some more.

Damnit basil! Stop blooming!

I know I have to cut it back, but it’s too wet to really work in the back right now so it’ll have to wait.

It’s super healthy though- so I’ll have basil for cooking all winter long.

Ok. I am concerned.

We jokingly called our first sorrel plant Audrey II for a reason- darn thing was unkillable and gigantic. And now- before the rains… Audrey III here has already doubled in size. I’m just glad I put it in a pot.

The Plastic Owl Guardian will protect me.

Feed me Seymour

Troubleshooting in November

It’s been so long since I’ve gardened year round instead of just having a few summer plants and just keeping the herbs- that a few problems are popping up, some of which I’m familiar with, some of which are a little new to me.

The first is simple.

As you can see on my flat leaf parsley in a pot (which is being caressed by the lemon grass) and by the curly leaf parsley in the ground:

Some of the leaves are yellow. This is usually either due to a lack of nitrogen or a lack of water. As both plants are well watered, it’s most likely time to fertilize the herbs. No biggie.

More annoying is my spinach/Swiss chard issue.

This is bug damage right? Or is it heat damage? I’ve sprayed and left bait and I picked to worst of the leaves but the spinach keeps getting damaged. I grew spinach earlier this year and while one or two leaves got a little chewed it was nothing like this. I’m chalking this up to heat stress/bug stress from the heat and hoping by the time the new spinach/Swiss chard sprouts it’s consistently cooler.

The lettuce is crazy though.

The void is where I had to pull another romaine- because the stem had gone all soft and mushy. Is that a fungal problem? Is there like a grub issue? I’ve checked all the other stems and they seem to be fine, and the red lettuce isn’t bothered. Am I watering too much? Too little? I’m so confused.

As for the tomato:

Yes the tomato plant has little baby tomatoes- but it’s also got curling leaves and leaves with brown and yellow spots.

Basically it got hot enough for a growth spurt- but now it’s getting cold enough that I’m pretty sure the plant is shutting down. I think perennial tomato plant is a pipe dream in San Francisco climate conditions.

I just hope it lives long enough for the dozen or so baby tomatoes to ripen, so I am watering (not too much!) and fertilizing regularly like normal.

Didn’t want this post to be too much of a downer, so here’s a picture of some almost ripe baby bell peppers

And I checked these- no holes!

Fall maintenance

Today the temperature was much more November standard. So it was time for some garden work.

The bushy mess that is my tomato plant needed some trimming, as some of the more yellowed stalks were growing over some of the healthier parts of the plants. They also were kinda aphid breeding areas so I took care of those two. I counted about 7 total baby tomatoes so far, and I fertilized the plant. I also moved the pot a bit so that I wasn’t constantly running into it’s little side frond.

You’ll note there is a tomato cage in the middle of the pot. A completely useless tomato cage.

I also thinned my carrots. Took about half the plants out in what I think was an intelligent way, to give everyone space to grow.

The spinach thinning and cutting took some time. Had to get rid of the plants what were just too heat damaged, and cut off the damaged leaves from the healthy plants. There were also a ton of weeds under the plants, largely due to the fact that it’s been so crazy around here weeding has taken a back seat to life.

The romaine and the red lettuces needed some trimming of the worst outer leaves. Also weeding was needed, along with some snail bait and a good spray with neem oil.

I also cut back the damaged leaves on the Swiss chard and planted more seeds in the dead areas. Along with a light fertilize with fish emulsion- hopefully the temperature cooperates.

The arugula is perfect. I want to kiss it’s peppery leaves. Instead I just have a nibble every time I water. Yum!

Captain’s log: November 1st 2018

It’s always time for a captain’s log when the weather is unseasonable. Today it reached a high of 81 around 1 pm. It is November 1st. God bless San Francisco, never change.

Tomorrow when the weather isn’t quite so melting for a delicate hominid as myself, I have a few tasks. Chief among them is to thin the carrots. As you can see they’re really bushy- they’ve grown really quickly, proving everything I’ve read about growing carrots from seed is incorrect and it is in fact quite easy- if you do things correctly.

The other major task for tomorrow is to try to get a handle on the spinach. The erratic heat has really damaged it- I have to definitely remove the heat damaged leaves and harvest the rest, pull the weedy plants (and the outright weeds) and sow some more spinach plants in the bare areas.

Luckily I’ve gotten some more Japanese spinach to sow:

A different variety this time, but it looked nice and the Japanese varieties tend to be much more heat resistant. Just looking at what I’ve sowed- the monstrueux variety has done much worse than the alrite Japanese variety- when I did get a baby spinach harvest I got much more out of the alrite. I still have some alrite seeds, but they’re more of a baby variety and I wanted something that would grow a bigger plant for harvest, so when I was in Japantown I got this Okame variety for, well, variety! If I have any advice when it comes to plant variety it’s look outside the western paradigm. Humanity has been growing vegetables worldwide since the dawn of agriculture- and that means there are a lot more types of plants then you get in your typical American seed catalogue.

The lettuce is doing well- which is slightly surprising considering the heat wave. This is the advantage of starting from a plant rather than a seed- more heat resistance due to the more established nature of the plant.

While the Swiss chard is also heat damaged- I’ll have to re-sow a few of those- the arugula is just booming. Arugula is almost like a weed- there is no arugula season, as long as the sun is shining and there’s no ice on the ground, it’s arugula season! It’s become my garden snack, if I’m watering in the back- I’m eating some arugula. not sure I’ll have enough for the table- it’s all going in my mouth!

We had a pepper casualty. I was so happy! An all red baby bell pepper ready for harvest! And then I spotted the hole in the bottom… and something moving inside.

NOPE!

I picked it and threw it right into the compost ick ick ick. I also checked all the other almost ripe peppers, and luckily this was the only infested pepper, so I should at least get a few others.

Price of growing plants honestly! 10% of the harvest goes to the bugs! If you’re lucky of course, if you’re unlucky it will be more, but that’s what neem oil is for.

The weird warm weather is causing the basil to sprout flowers again, along with the hyssop. That’s another job for tomorrow- going to have to clip all the flowers so the leaves don’t get bitter.

I’m also going to have to cut back the mint thunderdome, as the top leaves are a little crunchy looking and not as fragrant as the other leaves. The tendril still abides.

The Mitsuba continues to grow, as do all of my pot herbs. We had either a scale insect or mold issue with the base of the lovage- or rather a scale insect issue that turned into a mold issue- either way, that’s what neem oil is for. The lemongrass is growing like a weed which is nice.

The owl guards the sorrel. The sorrel grows. All is good under the gaze of the owl.

Lastly- those are two baby tomatoes. I have counted 4 total, along with dozens of flowers waiting to turn into tomatoes. IT’S NOVEMBER FIRST!!!

I am staying on top of appropriate watering and tomato fertilization, along with both hand killing the red aphids, and using neem oil when appropriate.

This is nuts. I’m going to get late November early December tomatoes.

God damn I love San Francisco.

Captain’s log: October 5th 2018

It’s been a fun few days here- everything here is growing wonderfully, including the weeds.

The carrots are starting to sprout, early. Everything is starting to sprout, I have a lot of weeds to pull, probably tomorrow- and I think the fava experiment is a bust.

The ladybug swarm just isn’t enough. It’s not enough that I spray the aphids- most of them are dead, but still on the plant.

It’s a damn mess. I put on a pair of rubber gloves and was going to just… rub them off the plants but… I just don’t have the intestinal fortitude for that.

There are definitely fava beans though- so I will be picking them and eating them- and then I’ll pull the plants. It’s not a total bust however, because the whole point of these triffids was to fix some nitrogen to the soil for winter plantings. I never expected to get any beans at all, so whatever I do get is a win.

In other not so great news one of the romaine lettuces has bit the dust. It just sort of flopped over so I had to pull it. Pictured is the void. But I have some coir pots with romaine seeds in the greenhouse, so I’ll have a replacement in the ground before you know it.

It’s not just the carrots sprouting, the Swiss chard is growing nicely too. You can already see the red stems!

The spinach has grown to the point where I’m going to have to thin it, so I put some slug bait down to discourage the slugs.

The shishito peppers are growing nicely, I’ll probably pick one soon to test.

The hatch peppers should be bigger but a few are going red early and I guess I’ll pick a few soon and eat ’em! Peppers can vary wildly heat wise plant to plant and season to season- I don’t think anything I’m growing is habeñero hot (hopefully) but I’m hoping they’re at least a little hot.

Lastly, in confusing but wonderful news, the tomato has decided it really really likes October. I have no goddamn words. I can count like 5 flowers scattered around the plant, and while there definitely are a few scattered red aphids, not so many I can’t hand kill them unlike the disaster that is the fava beans. Also those are a different species called bean aphids and they’re like the platonic ideal of an agricultural pest. Red aphids can totally kill plants but they’re not nearly as crazy virulent. Basically as long as you’re vigilant red aphids are more of an icky nuisance.

I… don’t know if I’ll get any more tomatoes from the plant- I seriously doubt it, but I greatly enjoy watching this stupid plant go from a dying husk to a healthy bushy plant.

You just never know!

Bean beds are now the greens beds!

Some good work in the back planting those nice plants I bought a few days ago.

First I scraped all the old debris off the double bed- all the decayed bean leaves and old mulch. Then I topped off the beds with some fresh potting soil after I worked the soil a bit. Then it was just a matter transplanting the plants. The little gem romaine took some doing, some of the leaves were a little wonky and one of the plants was actually three plants so I sacrificed two for the least wonky one.

The red lettuce was real nice. One plant per pot- all well developed no spots or bugs. Gotta love it.

I also sowed the neighboring bed with seeds. Arugula and Swiss chard seeds, which I will thin as needed later.

Exciting!

Since the romaine sets are so dodgy I also got a small coir pot greenhouse and sowed some romaine seeds.

You start with this and add water, which turns into this:

And then you rip the tops off a little and press a seed into each little pot.

And then you put it in your waiting greenhouse!

Basically this way- even if the 6 romaine lettuces fail I’ll have something to transplant.

Which leads to the possibility that everything will succeed which means I’ll be scrambling to find a ton of pots to put lettuce in.

But hey- it’s romaine! It’s tasty and nutritious! And if you grow it yourself you aren’t risking salmonella or E. coli scares like when you buy it.

I mean- unless you have really unhygienic growing practices.

So to recap: grow your own romaine! But like, wash your hands first…

Winter garden haul

Or- getting my butt in gear for the rest of the year part 2: electric boogaloo.

First up- carrot seeds for the bed that won’t arrive for a week or so. Your basic orange long boys your basic orange fat boys and your fancy carnival boys. I mean sure I could give you their real names but where’s the fun in that!

Also- considering how terribly I failed at growing romaine from seeds in the greenhouse, I bought some romaine sets just in case the direct sowing doesn’t work. Also some red lettuce because yum- red lettuce.

I do still have some seeds- and I have a new seedling start system so that will be a post on its own. But just in case- some plants.

Also the next level in organic pesticides- neem oil. Because while the mild winters in San Francisco mean no frosts- that can mean less of a die off in pests then you get in other climates. Oh there won’t be nearly as much of a pest problem then there was in July- thank god. But without the frost to really kill off the bugs, there will definitely be some continuing issues, and I believe in being prepared! Lettuce in particular can attract slugs and snails which are much more active in winter. I still have Sluggo for them, I’m just going to have to be much more proactive in laying it down.

Also, drum roll please:

Ta-da! Pictured: what looks like overkill but actually isn’t. See the yet to arrive carrot bed will hold around three bags and I need to take the top layer of bean debris off the top of the double bed which means another bag split between them- AND there is the two empty and waiting pots that I’m going to… well do something with and they’ll need soil too. So yeah, this gives me enough soil within a reasonable margin or error.

Because there will be error. There is always error when gardening in San Francisco.

San Francisco is a lot like Westeros. Only it isn’t the cold we anticipate, it’s the rain!

The wet season is coming! God please we really need it!

And while the wet season means much less watering, it does come with some added challenges. Such as having to mow in between your raised beds and pots because suddenly the weeds return. Also what am I going to do with my nice succulent pots to prevent them from drowning?

So yeah. Winter is coming.

And I am ready!