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.

The herbs await…

I knew getting a job at my local garden center would be dangerous. Here are 8 new herbs for the herbs beds waiting to be planted tomorrow. Of course working means less blog time, so my apologies for the upcoming lessened frequency of posts- but it is my dream job so…

Yeah not sorry. Can’t wait to put that borage in! Soon!

Captain’s log: September 12th 2018

So after a fun few weeks it’s good to get back into the rhythm of more than basic garden care and into fixing up the garden for the wintry future.

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The Herb corner is doing well. This reminds me, I have to update my layout page. Time to dust off the colored pencils. The moss growing on the mitsuba box is actually a good thing, its a woodland herb meant for damp shaded environments, so the fact that its damp enough, and shaded enough for some moss to grow is the best sign. The lemongrass is getting taller and taller, and the one ONE ONE small flat leaf parsley is beautiful and not taking over my garden because I made the mistake of buying TWO plants labeled “giant” and putting them into the ground…

Sorry, had a flashback there.

The large shaded herb patch is also doing well. Now that the giant flat leaf parsley is gone I have to thin things a bit, and I certainly need to weed- but the chive aphid horror of 2018 is well and truly over. (Thanks be to insecticidal soap.)

I am still somewhat… perplexed by the sheer height of my bi-colored shiso, as it started as a small potted herb that fit in my hand. Go team shiso I suppose.

The fennel is doing… something. Is it going to seed? Is this stalk edible? Does it contain more fronds? Was I a fool for growing fennel at all? I think I’m going to wait and see what’s going on. Again, like the chives, aphid issue is gone! SO THERE.

Both Lovage plants are doing very well in their nice pots, and nary a nasty bug in sight! I’ve been picking it for sauces and soups, and I’m thrilled at it’s versatility in the kitchen.

The spinach bed is sown! I have given up on the foolishness of seedlings in my greenhouse (for now…) and have direct sown my spinach seeds into this new bed. It’ll take a week and a half for the first sprouts. Expect gushing and photos when it starts coming up.

Yesterday I pulled out the borked carrots from the bean bed. Soon- this will be the combo lettuce and Swiss chard bed! I think? See I’m fairly sure that romaine doesn’t like all the sun it’s going to get up there so maybe I need a cover? Tomorrow or Friday I’ll pick apart the worst of the bed, add a little more fresh soil and direct sow… something. TBD.

As for the carrots, out of dozens of borked babies that just never grew from too much nitrogen- 6, yes 6, were edible. They were delicious of course, but ugh. Only 6?

I think I’m definitely going forward with a dedicated carrot bed.

The shishito peppers are growing well, tons of flowers, tons of baby peppers, tons of life. All the peppers are doing well, even the mole pepper plant which is a nice plant, just not producing like the others.

We had a minor fava flop. See, now that the favas are growing beans, some of the plants got a little heavy and flopped over. Also might be due to the continuing aphid load. I am spraying as fast as I can! So as needed I’ve been jamming old stakes in the ground and using the soft ties to gently guide the fava stalks to not, you know, fall on the goddamn ground.

Kudos to my mother who noticed the triffid’s listing to one side. Kudos to my dog who wouldn’t stop eating DIRT NEAR THE FAVA BEANS WHICH IS WHY MY MOTHER NOTICED THE FALLING OVER THING.

Dog. I’m begging you- stop eating dirt!

God help me it’s better than bees though!

Working hard or hardly working

It’s the first one, I swear!

It was time… to tear down the bean vines.

It really highlighted how weirdly crooked that double bed is but who cares. What was kinda nuts was how much the carrots were covered by a sort of natural compost made of fallen and rotting bean leaves. I filled a whole garbage bag full and then put it in the green compost can. As was expected I couldn’t save the netting the beans were growing on, but the stakes themselves were all ok, and are now living in the corner between the sheds. While I was cleaning out the mess I found three slugs! The only slugs I’d seen all season thanks to my judicious use of sluggo. They were dispatched along with what looked like a raft of eggs. (Not pictured because EW EW EW) considering that’s the bed the zucchini was in- I think I found what killed the zucchini. RIP zucchini- fuck slugs!

I did a ton of weeding today too. Around the raised beds and the pots there are always weeds because that’s the only place that gets any water.

But I also pulled the bug eaten lovage plant and trimmed the caterpillar nibbled leaves of the shiso and sage plants.

I love lovage.

But I’m not sad.

Because I ordered two more plants from my local garden center wheeee! They’ll call me when they are available. One will go in a pot- one will go where the marjoram was… we will see which does better. I love lovage- I can’t wait to have tons to cook with. Hopefully with less holes in them this time.

I also cut back my blue basil. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Gentle hominid gardener – that doesn’t look that much different than the last picture you posted of your African blue basil plant!”

Well that’s because I’m a coward. The plant was swarming with bees and I had to wait till the early evening just to be able to trim it without being stung. And it was more of a trim than a cut back because I didn’t want to disappoint my bee friends. (And incur their wrath). I cut the undergrowth and the parts that were hanging over the side or growing into the hyssop- but I largely left the top flowers intact. It’s just so pretty!

I can’t grow regular flowers for allergy reasons, so I do love the ones I can grow.

Even if I should be growing the plant for the leaves. Whoops what pesto? THE PESTO IS FOR THE BEES-!!!

Captain’s log: August 24th 2018

So today was gloomy as usual- though a little warmer, almost 70 in the early afternoon.

It’s heat more than sun that ripens tomatoes- so even with the gloom as long as the temperature continues to stay warm-ish, the new growth and a more cautious watering schedule means that I might get more than these 3 tomatoes.

The eastern peppers are doing great. So are the western peppers, for the most part- but that one hatch plant is just growing like mad. There are baby peppers growing, and most importantly it has been brought to my attention that pepper plants can live many years and produce every summer. I had been hoping to get rid of the shitty plastic planters but damn- perennial peppers…

Speaking of perennials- I really have to cut back the African blue basil. It’s just too wild, and I’m sure it’s hiding some nasty bugs. But it’s attracting so many bees…

I pulled out the marjoram plant- it had gone completely to seed.

I also have to cut back the shiso a bit, it’s being nibbled so I have to trim it back.

Same kinda holes as the sage.

Considering the amount of horrible cabbage moths that have been flying around I’m pretty sure it’s the moth caterpillars that’s causing the damage. Considering the gloom, slugs and snails could also be the culprit. So as a precaution I put down some Sluggo. It’s a bait type organic poison- I use the pet safe version. Once you wet the ground you shake the pellets around and the slugs eat it and die instead of your plants.

The carrots are growing nicely despite the off and on aphid load. I’d like them to get a little bigger before I pick them- but they’re very nice.

I’m still misting the seedlings everyday, it it will be a week or two before anything sprouts.

I love how well this greenhouse bench is working out.

For now the new bed is empty.

It waits… it hungers… for seeds!

I might sow some spinach direct into the bed on one side and wait for the new seedlings to fill the other.

My next big task this weekend is to tear down the bean vines and do a deep weeding. I have to get this done this weekend because starting Monday- the new semester starts. Might be too tired next week for big projects.

I’ll probably also do the trimming and pruning of the herbs.

Also:

Is that a wasp? Are my fava beans attracting wasps? It’s gorgeous but I do hope I don’t get stung…

Or that my silly bee eater becomes a silly wasp eater.

Captain’s log: August 16th 2018

Well the sun came out!

Blue skies and 72 degrees. At least the bench is getting dried out. The bees and butterflies were out in full force. Not so thrilled with the later, as their caterpillars like to leave holes in my plants.

This beauty is a green sweat bee, native to California. Something in the genus Agapostemon. I really have to cut back my African blue basil- but… oh is it ever attracting nice local bees. It is kinda growing into the fennel. The fennel is having a bit of a moment- due to the minor aphid issues it was having. It looked kinda grody. But the carrots in the rectangle planter…

Look VERY grody.

I didn’t even bother spraying with mineral oil- I brought out the hose and power washed those assholes. I was going to turn the hose on the other carrot planter:

Mama ladybug is on the case.

I don’t even want to talk about the tomato. The three little green baby tomatoes are hanging on but who knows if they will ever ripen. It’s nice that it finally got warm but… I’m not filled with hope.

The bi-colored Shiso is flowering- and that’s just gorgeous. The triffids continue to attract their buzzing friends:

The fava beans are mostly aphid free and this point- a few of the runtier plants needed to be sprayed with mineral oil- largely to prevent the few aphids left from spreading to the healthier specimens.

Hey! Dog in the back! Can you be trained to eat aphids?

“No- but I can dig under the lemon tree for voles!”

At least she stopped eating bees. For a while, anything that buzzed in her face ended up in her stomach. This was hilarious- buzz buzz buzz *chomp*- until she got really sick and we had to rush her to the emergency vet because it turns out she’s allergic to bees.

So maybe it’s a good thing she wont eat aphids.

I have to fertilize today- the once a week tomato, twice a month pepper, and once a month carrots/sunny herbs schedule has converged on today.

I used to use fish emulsion but the smell is- so bad. Just… so bad. So I’m using the seaweed based stuff. Still the good good stuff from the sea- much less stinky.

Here’s one more picture of a silly bee-eater.

Captains log: August 11th 2018

The gloom seems to be lifting! Today wasn’t the warmest, it barely cracked 69 degrees around 1pm, but it was sunny at least, and if it can only stay this way, maybe my tomato plant will at least ripen the little green tomatoes we have so far. (Not super optimistic about any more than that sadly.)

Mint thunderdome continues to cement mint’s reputation as the hardiest plant in any garden. The little one in front is the one I’m the most excited about- that’s strawberry mint! If I could eat dairy I’d make a mint panna cotta or something like that, but instead I’m just going to make tea.

My little fennel plant is also doing well. I don’t plan on using the bulb for a while, I’m just going to take the fronds for things like stocks and soup. But when investigating the part where the fronds join the bulb, I found a lot of ants. Which means- of course… aphids hiding in the plant. I sprayed into the holes with mineral oil, and i’ll have to do that for a few days, but the plant itself looks fine, so I don’t think its a heavy load. Unlike the load on the dill plant, which killed it. (RIP dill)

I cut the worst leaves off the zucchini plant, leaving three left for basic photosynthesis, but look! A new flower! and a new leaf! As soon as that new fresh green leaf is any big, I’ll be cutting off the other nasty yellow too-moist leaves and hope for the best. If this flower is an actual zucchini it will be squash #3 from the plant. *sigh* Mom keeps cheering me up by rightfully pointing out that this entire venture this year was an experiment, and the beans alone, along with the herbs have really justified the experiment- but c’mon! Its zucchini! It’s supposed to be taking over the garden, and due to the weather I can barely keep it alive!

Ughh.

However the shaded herb bed is loving the weather. And my runty little green shiso plant which almost died when I put it in- is bouncing back! Dad and I just used some- we went to Japan town yesterday (more on that later, I got some seeds) and got some fish for sashimi, and it was so cool plating it on a shiso leaf from the garden. It’s gotten a bit of damage from caterpillars and such, but its still plenty edible, it just needs good washing before eating.

The Hatch Peppers are totally un-bothered by the weather, though the sun today was very good for them. Peppers are related to tomatoes (and potatoes) but are a lot hardier than their nightshade cousins. I love hatch peppers, so I have something to look forward to next month.

The fava beans just don’t give a fuck. They just don’t. They went kind limp during a break in the cold snap from water lack, but once I bumped up the water they perked right up. They don’t even get a ton- like a gallon or a gallon and a half a day for a 4 foot by 4 foot square of densely packed fava beans- a little less when it’s cold, a little more when its hot- and it looks like I’m going to get a ton. I’m going to be using this bed for spinach in the winter, but you can plant fava beans year round, and I have a sneaking suspicion I’m going to have to put in a dedicated fava bed once this one is done. I just have to be aggressive with the mineral oil spray/insecticidal soap usage due to the bean aphids that like favas.

The greatest thing honestly has been the bees. The dang African Blue Basil along with the hyssop has been just drawing in the bees. Sure- I’m getting a lot of your basic European honey bees and fat bumble bees- but I’m also getting some beautiful green sweat bees and this guy. On my parsley. I think she’s a hoverfly? I don’t care she’s a beautiful pollinator and I love her.

Cause I got butterflies, but most of them are damn white cabbage moths and their caterpillars are eating the leaves of everything so…

Bees please.