Carrot bed finally sown

G-d the carrot bed was depressing.

Beautiful carrots all tasteless and dull.

Well that’s what happens when the bed is too depleted. Last year I had trouble with tiny little carrots and bushy tops- too much enrichment. This year it was the opposite.

How about we aim for perfect sweet carrots 2k20?

That means clearing the bed of weeds and *sob* baby carrots.

Rip tasteless carrots. May you at least make good compost.

Then it was time for your friend and mine, a big bag of compost. Compost is key here. Manure is too rich, basic granular fertilizers not rich enough. It’s not so much about fertilizing so much as amending… the distinction between the two could be it’s own post.

There is one true carrot in my mind, though people’s opinions may vary. Kuroda carrots are wonderfully sweet and straight and like to overwinter, which is perfect, because winter is coming.

My perfect little rows are perfect as always.

Yes. Grow and be sweet little seed, grow and be sweet!

Then it’s just a matter of covering everything up and hoping for the best.

It’s cold at night and cool during the day so there is a non-zero chance not everything or even most germinate. It also takes a while for carrots to germinate even under warmer conditions. So if in three weeks I have no sprouts I’ll start some carrots indoors to transplant.

Yes that is not ideal and you have to separate them and be careful not to bruise the growing root and all that but carrots are worth it.

Carrots are always worth it.

At long last, a home for the scallions

 I’ve had some scallions in 6-packs for a while now. I was going to replace the ones in the terra-cotta but then those got scale and I was busy.

As you can see they’ve been a little neglected.

But now I have a fancy new long and low talavera pot.

So I filled it with the good dirt and…

Shit some of the starts have scale too.

Luckily not all of them.

As for what I’ll replace them with, I’ve always wanted to try these.

But also some of the original.

Let’s hope they’ll sprout in the cold- but onions almost never disappoint.

And there’s room for all of them!

Minus the ones I had to compost because of the scale.

I really have to conquer this ant issue…

A joke goes horribly horribly wrong. Or horribly horribly right?

So dad really really loves the garden. After all, he and mom started it before I was born, and both of my parents are really glad I’ve picked it up again, now that they can’t do the sort of intensive labor that a vegetable garden needs.

Mom still helps out, G-d bless her, watering during heat waves when I’m at work for instance, checking on tender seedlings, and quite a few times I’ve come down to a very clean work table and a weeded garden just because she was bored and wanted to help me out. Mom’s the best.

Dad on the other hand is not as steady on his feet as he used to be, and after a few falls in the back, (he was ok- but it could have been much worse) dad doesn’t garden anymore. Trust me though- he wants to. I’ve definitely put in plants for him, he does get out and look around from time to time (with care) and he loves the blog so he can keep up- (Hi dad!) but he’s permanently off watering and weeding. (Which he probably doesn’t mind!) It’s my greatest joy to bring up produce for him, he’s a huge fan of the alpine strawberries and Bok Choy.

Now sometimes, since he knows I’ll put in plants for him, he likes to yank my chain. I tend to take things very literally, so it sometimes takes me a while to get that he’s kidding me about the orange tree he wants me to plant or the rare tropical fruit.

(Though I’m still looking for a banana that will fruit in San Francisco- stay tuned.)

But! A few weeks ago he made a joke about how I should grow a redwood. After patiently explaining to him that we didn’t have the room, and that I grow edibles not trees- It finally dawned on me that he was joking and my parents and I had a good laugh at my complete lack of joke-sense.

And then in Sausalito on one of my days off I found this:

I’M GONNA DO IT DAD, WHO’S LAUGHING NOW!

(All of us, all of us are laughing now.)

The idea is, we don’t own this redwood, we are fostering it. I’m going to grow it in increasingly bigger pots, and see how big I can get it. When it’s just big enough that any more growth means we can’t get it through the garage to the outside, I’ll find a permanent home for it.

Maybe Muir Woods could use a new redwood?

That’s a future problem.

The current problem is- how do I do it?

So after some research and a poll of my coworkers I determined that redwoods like acidic soil. Good thing I have some azalea mix left in the soil shed!

Ah, but redwoods also need superior drainage- so it’s also a good thing I have a lot of perlite left from potting the chayote.

The soil was mixed in one of my left-over gallon pots. Then I extracted the redwood plug from the weird plastic cylinder and cardboard surround. A mix of sure start in the hole and I potted it up!

Of course what redwood would be complete without shredded redwood mulch! Now, before you think that’s a tad cannibalistic, shredded redwood (gorilla hair) is usually taken from the outside of living redwood trees, and not from dead ones. So if you think about it, a naturally growing redwood seedling on the coast would be sprouting in soil covered in the fallen outer bark of its parents, so this is probably ideal.

I watered it well with a shot of tappin roots for extra oomph and now I’m just going to see what happens.

It’s weird that the best case scenario of this folly is a forest ranger taking my redwood away after 5 years to go live in a park, but I’m committed to this, and so is dad.

Dad and I should also be committed.

But I’ve¬†known that for a while.

Next bed done, now with bonus celery!

Today was a real San Francisco special, which is to say in the morning was so windy I had to wear two sweaters but by 2pm it was nearly 75.

Yay October!

Stupid weather tricks aside, I had work to do.

That bed is kinda a mess even with all the beans pulled out, so it was time for the loam builder.

That stuff reeks! It’s like 50% chicken manure though which is what you need for a depleted bed.

I also mixed in a box of kelp meal.

Largely because it was time the celery went into the bed. They’ve been struggling in their pots and they need more space for their roots. Celery are heavier feeders then brassicas so I’m not taking any chances.

Then it was a matter of filling in my army of kohlrabi and some more bok choy.

This isn’y my usual type, this is win-win not joi choi, so we’ll see how it performs. I also have way too many for this one bed…

But I did have some room where I’ve been picking the Joi’s…

Eh it’ll do.

Still have some left, but as I pick the big ones I’ll have the room to plant these.

Anyways, after a good mulch the bed is complete.

The weather is set to be kinda wild again this week, with tomorrow nearly 80 but possibly rain in a week. So I’m trying to get as much in the ground as possible before it starts reliably pouring.

You’re always working against the clock gardening out here.

Alpine strawberries have arrived!

I’m pretty excited about these guys.

They’re an everbearing alpine strawberry and I got two because I’ve had a free low bowl for a while since I moved the leeks to the former mint thunderdome.

The blue pot is a goner- huge crack down it’s side. So I’ve revived it as a pot stand, and set the low bowl into it!

Then I got real technical about soil.

These strawberries are much more likely to be a gardener’s snack rather then anything I make a pie with. That’s the issue with everbearing types rather then ones that fruit once a year- you’ll always have a strawberry to pop into your mouth, but you won’t have the volume to make a dish with.

I’m ok with that! So I’m being real particular with soil. The base layer is the remains of a bag of fox farm ocean forest, for drainage and nutrition.

Yes that’s the soil people grow pot with, but it’s really really good for a variety of veggies and fruits.

But I only had a small amount left of that, so the rest is that good old organic potting, which I mixed with a good heavy handful of perlite to increase drainage.

Great! Then it was a matter of actually planting the strawberries with a good handful of sure start in each hole.

But strawberries are heavy feeders…

So I top dressed them with some compost.

Yes this is clearly overkill.

I apologize for nothing.

Then all my pot in a pot needed was a deep watering and a nice mulch with some shredded redwood.

I’m looking forward to yummy alpine strawberries, and since these guys like to throw off runners like crazy, I’m also looking forward to having yet another plant I can take cuttings from to give as gifts.

Everybody is going to get a strawberry plant!

Many months from now.

They do have to grow.

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!

Taking care of your roots

Root vegetables that is!

Every other Tokyo market turnip is maggot eaten. But the two I’ve eaten so far have been safe. I’ve been tossing the duds. I suspect no matter how mild a San Francisco spring and summer are- turnips are a winter crop, if only because of the damn cabbage fly.

Lesson learned.

But happily cabbage fly ignores carrots and potatoes, my other root vegetable loves. (And beets, but that’s another post)

Anyways, I ripped out the last of the carrot bed today.

Most of the carrots left were certified messes, except for a few really nice Kuroda, that got a nice trip to the sink to clean them and are now living in the refrigerator til I eat them up.

Now the trick with growing carrots is that if you fertilize them too much or use anything with too much nitrogen, you’ll get great big bushy tops and not so great roots. And it’s carrots- the roots are the whole point. Enter- neem seed meal.

Specifically formulated as a fertilizer for root veggies, note the potatoes on the box, neem seed meal is great for helping your root veggies grow great without putting too much energy into the inedible parts.

Score one for my new job, I’d never heard of the stuff until I started working at Sloat.

And yes- it’s from the same plant that neem oil is from.

Kills bugs grows carrots, what can’t the neem tree do!

Also it smells amazing. Like- I should be putting this on steak before grilling it amazing.

Don’t eat this stuff.

But yeah it smells finger licking good.

ANYWAYS.

Kuroda carrots are wonderfully sweet, but their main advantage is that they handle hotter temps better than most carrots. Considering that these carrots will be maturing in late August, one of the hotter months in my fair city, I’ll take it.

I spaced my carrot seeds appropriately this time instead of willy-nilly.

Now it’s just a matter of keeping everything moist until they germinate.

Now onto the potatoes!

It is high time I filled up those bags with soil for maximum spud production.

I put a good fistful off the neem seed meal in each bag and then spent the better part of a half hour wrestling soil into bags that would rather not be filled. You have to cover as many of the lower leaves as possible because covered leaves equals more spuds.

And I love spuds.

Boom! Filled bags!

I watered the heck out of all of them, and hopefully the tops will grow more, and then I’ll fill the bags completely to the top and then by August/October I’ll have more potatoes then I know what to do with.

Here’s hoping!