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.

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.

Captain’s log: April 8th 2019

There’s a real difference between winter rain and spring rain. All the rain we’ve been having has been winter rain- but today’s shower was a spring shower.

The view from my window was nice and green, and while I got a little wet while checking on things outside, it’s a gentle rain.

A few days ago I got my second blackberry plant. I have been reliably informed that since blackberries of all species and varieties grow practically feral all over San Francisco, you actually can get away with one vine, as the pollinators will no doubt have some blackberry pollen on them when they visit.

I like symmetry however. Also- this means I could have two Marionberry vines as I wouldn’t need to get a second of a different variety!

One problem. This was the only Marionberry left at the garden center.

Blackberries are an investment in the future anyways. I put some coffee grounds under the mulch to give the soil an extra acidic kick, and the mulch should help reduce how much I have to water and weed.

Of course this extra moistness is not so great for the squash monster. Wet leaves are not great for zucchini- but there’s not a damn thing I can do about it so we’ll just have to see how bad it gets.

Even the baby zucchini don’t look so hot, though they’re definitely growing. All I want is to be up to my eyeballs in squash! Is that too much to ask for?

I am up to my eyeballs in sage.

Delightful! Berggarten sage is such a grower in spring, it has that lovely silver green color and such nice wide leaves.

In other good herb news the lemon balm has rebounded. I might regret having put it into a bed- it is mint after all, but ha ha too late to fix that now!

The cilantro I sowed is starting to come up. This is the lightweight pot I made heavier with rocks and so far I can confirm- hasn’t gotten blown over again!

The sauce pot is starting to bloom like crazy. Again- there are only a handful of bees out this early, especially because of how winter dragged on, but sauce pots gonna sauce pot.

This is the first sungold flower. I have nothing bad to say about this, sungold can do no wrong. If it wants to flower early, clearly it knows best.

The new potato bags are starting to sprout nicely, and the old potato bags are almost all filled up with soil.

Super happy about the potatoes.

I’m also super happy about the cauliflower.

I’ve never grown these before and I’m glad they seem to be taking. The Bok Choy are taking of course- but that’s not a surprise.

They seem to really like their new bed, which is nice. Supposedly the fabric beds make for more aerated roots and less water-logging so hopefully that helps them grow well.

The peas are starting to climb well. I have a feeling these are going to end up trailing up the fence. I might have to get some eyelets and wire so there’s a good support on the fence.

Might have to do that with the blackberries too- once they crawl up the bamboo supports to the fence.

While I did have to sacrifice the sassy salad pot for the black krim tomato luckily I haven’t had to sacrifice the arugula pot yet. Which is great as I am going to have to sacrifice the upper arugula bed for beans and beets soon, and I love arugula.

I’ll leave you with the view of my blackberry patch. Which just makes me happy to look at. Even if will be a year or two before I get a berry.

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: February 21st 2019

Today was a busy day. Actually a busy couple of days, but that’s not important.

A lot of what I’ve been doing is watering now that we’ve had some clear weather- it’s sunny but cool. Heat evaporates water in the soil, but the chief evaporator is the sun- so even though it’s not even above 55 most days- I’ve had to water a fair amount last couple of days.

Part of that of course is the plants I’ve been putting in- new transplants need water no matter the weather. Both the mints and the chervil seems to be doing well- but so are the herbs I put in last month which is a sigh of relief.

Here’s my pretty Italian oregano which took pretty much immediately. All the herbs are growing well.

Today when I got outside to start work- I had a visitor.

He or she is a local kitty, I think one of the ones born last year, and this one and their siblings keep taking vacations into my garden. I’m pretty sure this is the one who put his paws in my arugula pot- and here you can see them hard at work looking at a vole hole. The minute he saw me he went “?!!!!” And sprang backwards over the fence in fear. Entertainingly he kept coming back to keep tabs on my work.

In local news outside of my garden- here’s the toll of the wind and rain, a tree got knocked over in my local park and crashed through the fence. Which illustrates how nutso the weather was, and will be. Its clear for now, but my wish of a longer spell of dry weather has not been answered- it looks like scattered showers or worse are in San Francisco’s future. Hopefully no more downed trees will follow.

I pulled the purple Bok Choy, which for whatever reason had totally passed from edible to stringy stalks- so the Joi Choi can survive until I can eat them. And I will be eating them- they are delicious. Into the compost bin with the non leafy Bok Choy’s!

And look at those lettuces! I am a total convert to the temple of raising lettuce from seed.

And speaking of seeds…

I started several seeds in little seedling pots. Specifically I started 6 sunflower seeds, 6 romanesco broccoli, 6 cucumbers, (3 telegraph 3 Boston pickle) 6 zucchini (3 Nimba 3 green bush) and 6 lipstick peppers. They are all living inside for the moment- as I don’t trust the wind and temperature outside. I used regular potting soil mixed with a little sure start, as I tried some seed starter mix and it was so damn light it wouldn’t take water. Potting soil is better.

Once these sprout it’s off to the greenhouse bench with them! But that will be several weeks from now.

The spinach bed has been overgrown and weedy for too long, so I pulled the spinach and amended the soil so I could plant by seed.

A back row of purple snap peas, a row of radishes, a zig zag row of mustard greens, and a final front row of green onions, since only a few of the green onions I planted in the big 4×4 bed have sprouted.

Now that’s some sexy dirt. We’ll see what takes in the temperature and upcoming wet, but that’s why I’m starting with peas that have a lot less stringent temperature requirements than beans.

Of course I was being spied on while I worked….

Spooky! Kitty kept coming back as I worked and then fleeing as soon as I turned to coo at it.

I wish no one in the house was allergic, otherwise I’d try to befriend the poor feral. But me and mom would need hospitalization after being close to a house cat so it is what it is. At least kitty and his siblings take care of the rats.

The turnips are starting to look really pretty in the evening sun. Turnips never fail me.

Speaking of the infallible, look at that thyme! Both plants, big leaf and French growing huge after all that rain. Thyme is like mint in that it should probably be in a pot- but it’s less of a wanderer than mint so you can take a chance on it. It’s definitely more thyme than I can eat, but it’s pretty and it smells good so who cares!

And look at that sage! It’s throwing up new leaves! Finally! It looks like it took a rainfall to finally wake up the herb but now it’s going to do nothing but grow. That’s a nice feeling.

Finally the arugula. It’s basically growing wild which is to be expected when you sow it as thickly as I did. The problem with that is the absolute thicket of oxalis growing underneath it. Pulling all that oxalis without seriously damaging the arugula would be almost impossible so I’ve just given up for now. In a month or less I have to pull up almost everything in this bed so I can plant the back with pole beans so IDK the weeds are going to get it- just not anytime soon.

The most amazing thing happened today- but I couldn’t get a photo of it, no matter how hard I tried. I saw the first bumble bee of 2019! It’s late February but as far as I’m concerned spring has sprung because traveling around the mowed weeds was the fattest little bumble butt. Fuzzy and black with yellow trim, buzzing around looking for flowers, I dropped everything to follow her around but I was sadly unsuccessful in snapping a pic. But she was here! The first bee of the year!

It’s gonna be a good year.

The bees have arrived!

More rain causalities

It’s just been absolutely storming. Wind, rain, we had a hail advisory but the actual hail never materialized- thankfully.

Unfortunately there have been some casualties.

As you can see, the tomato plant is not liking how wet it’s gotten. The mystery pepper plant is also dripping and unhappy, but I still think that plant is salvageable.

I just need a couple more days for the last tomatoes to ripen- but the plant is definitely on its last legs.

I mean look at the vines just moldering away. All the umbrellas in the world couldn’t stop this.

Something is eating my Pac Choi a little bit- so I put down some sluggo. Honestly any kind of leafy cabbage is going to be nibbled a bit so it really doesn’t bother me.

What does bother me is that two of my pea seeds seem to have commutes suicide in the heavy rain.

The force of the rain has driven the seeds out of the soil. Now these are only two of about 7 seeds I planted so hopefully the others will come up- but yeah, it’s a little upsetting. I was having problems with the green onions growing funny, and enough did come up that I’m not worried, but I’m going to wait til the rain is gone before I sow more green onion seeds.

Luckily all my leafy greens don’t give a shit about the rain, and I have more arugula then I know what to do with.

(That is a lie. I know exactly what to do with arugula- shove it into my mouth with great gusto. I fucking love arugula)

Overall the herbs are liking the rain, with the exception of the potted tarragon plant which was on its way out before the downpour anyways so there’s very little I could do about that.

The purple sage looks real rough though.

I don’t think it’s going to die- it’s just waterlogged. Sage is pretty resilient as far as herbs go, the berggarten sage is just soaking up the wet. But the berggarten sage was well established, and the purple sage was new- that’s the real difference.

Luckily for me, and the continued health of my plants, after Sunday the rains should stop for a month. Gives me time to plan for spring and undo some of the damage the rains have done.

So it’s going to be a while before I can do anything out back.

It’s nice to read inside and listen to the rain though. We’ve had such a history of bad drought in California these last few years that even though this amount of rain is not great for me personally, I’m really glad we’re having this amount of rain. It’s good for the health of the state.

Even if it’s not the greatest for the health of the garden.