Planting a fall bed, second best brassica edition

As the season turns, from summer into actual summer fall, it comes time to plant more cabbage family crops. I have my nice bok choy, which despite my best efforts of spraying them and setting slug bait, are becoming well nibbled.

*sigh*

One must pay the pest tax to garden.

ANYWAYS.

Look, I don’t have the room/time/patience to painstakingly make my own compost. So I buy, sue me. It’s good stuff! After sifting through the remains of the last bed, I added a bag of the good stuff and mixed it in. I kept some of the old shredded redwood, it helps the bed drain.

Then it was time to plant my little darlings.

And time to swaddle them in mulch as a hedge against the 80 degree temperatures we keep getting.

80 degree temps *and* rain in the morning whoo hoo San Francisco!

But what, you ask, are these little darlings?

Brussels’s sprouts!

My second favorite brassica, and one I’ve never grown before!

I’m terrified!

But they look nice, and with the exception of my cursed experience with turnips, I’m good with the brassicas.

I hear they look like spaceships when they get tall!

Oh and I planted some spinach.

In literally the shadiest part of the garden, and I still expect half of it will bolt by October.

Or fall prey to the pests.

Spinach keeps breaking my heart, but I keep answering it’s siren song.

Time to buy more sluggo!

Seeds for March/April came in, and a book recommendation

So there’s a great heirloom seed place that has lots of rare and not so rare seeds called Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. I know them as the people in the old Petaluma bank.

In Petaluma California, north of me, there is an old bank and the Baker Creek people bought it and turned it into a seed bank and garden store.

It’s pretty wild. Petaluma however is not right around the corner. It’s not super far, but absolutely no one in my house wanted to drive up for 10 dollars worth of seed packets, so to the Internet I went.

One of the reasons last year’s zucchini plant didn’t produce nearly as much zucchini should was that it was a transplant. Now I’ll still probably buy one or two zucchini plants from the garden center as a control- but I’m definitely planting direct into the ground for these bad boys.

I’m trying to be realistic about the prospects for heat this summer, so I chose your basic green Bush variety because… it’s zucchini!

But- I also chose this heirloom Nimba. It’s a variety from Poland of all places and supposedly does well in the cold climates and produces early. Just hedging my bets.

Now the reason I’m so serious about my squash is that it’s one of the few veggies my mom can eat, and I want to feed my mom the very best. Luckily squash is notoriously prolific when the conditions are right, so between the seed varieties and whatever control plant I get at Sloat- I’m seeing a lot of squash in my future.

These beautiful babies are for me and dad. He loves cucumbers and I love pickles. I’ll pickle just about anything mind you, green beans, onions, you name it- but cucumbers are the classic pickle vegetable for a reason.

The telegraph variety was recommended to me by a user on metafilter called purpleclover. She’d just interviewed someone from Baker Creek, and the interviewee recommended the telegraph variety for the cool summers in San Francisco. She very kindly passed this info on to me. (Thank you purpleclover!) It’s an English type which makes sense- it’s not like England is known for hot summers either. I like English cukes- and so does my dad, but I really like pickling types- so I got a packet of Bostons.

Now here’s my confession: I’ve never grown cucumbers before. I know the basics, but I’m boning up on the cucumber pages of my San Francisco gardening books and investigating trellising systems. Expect more posts on the theory of cucumber growing way before the seeds ever hit the soil.

I have time however. It is wet and cold, and absolutely no seeds of either vegetable are going into the ground until at least mid to late March. Now the cucumbers might have to be started in small pots- I’m still investigating.

And the thing is- we might get a hot May and July, that’s the thing about San Francisco weather, we tend to the mild, but it’s inherently unpredictable!

I remember a day in May quite a few years ago during a city college Paleontology class where we had a field trip to Ocean Beach and it was nearly 100 degrees. I got there early with a couple other students and we… frankly we went mad with heat stroke. Running from dogs and collecting pieces of dead crabs that we were convinced were going into a “collection” happened. We never found the teacher and ended up walking all the way to Fort Funston and beyond thinking the sea gulls were chasing us. The professor was not impressed.

(Also not joking about the heat stroke, when I finally got home mom was aghast at how red I was- it wasn’t sunburn it was even under my clothes. I was sick as a dog for days. As someone who does not do well in heat- Australia right now has my deepest sympathy).

Point is- we can sometimes get temps that are shockingly against the norm. So will the summer be hot or typical? Survey says… who the hell knows! Honestly if I had to guess with all the rain it could be a signal of some climate change affected weather which *could* signal a warmer summer… or not.

The point is- I’m hedging my bets, by getting some seeds that can survive a cooler summer.

However, the seed company threw in a special surprise to my order:

Lipstick peppers seeds! I’ve never heard of this type of pepper but looking it up it is indeed an oldish heirloom type sweet pepper that… performs well in the north!

Now seeing as this company is based in Missouri I’m pretty sure by north they mean Connecticut but hey- I’ll take it.

Problem is I’ve never started a pepper from seed before, only from plants. So now I’m doing research on what’s the best way to go about this- because I have 8 pepper and tomato sized pots now (thanks Lynn!) and only one of those has an extant pepper in it- my Chilhuacle negro aka the former mystery mole pepper. Now that’s a mildly hot pepper, and I wanted one really spicy and one sweet- so the lipstick can be my sweet pepper. The rest of the pots can be used for to-be-determined tomatoes.

But how to grow peppers right from seed is a problem for another month. Nothings going in the ground now during the downpour.

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This is the cute mailer Baker Creek sent their seeds in, which if I wanted to order onions, strawberries or watermelons with I could.

I don’t- with the exception of maybe onions, watermelon and strawberries have issues growing in San Francisco, but it’s super cute.

So this is a magnificent book, that just came in the mail. This dude, Nigel64 from New Zealand who runs the Growplan blog, recommended it to me in a comment a bit ago. It is THE BEST BOOK. It’s from the 90’s and a little outdated, but it is a comprehensive look at vegetables that grow in temperate climates. It’s a full color hardcover, that was surprisingly cheap online, considering how long it’s been out of print. This was a used copy I managed to snag all in all for less than ten bucks. It was shipped from England, where the book was originally published. NZ climate and UK climate and SF climate are all similar, so it’s not surprising that Nigel64 got a lot of use out of it, and so will I, I suspect.

Look at all that pretty spinach! The photography in this book is phenomenal! They even have some Asian veggies in the book, though not as much as I’m used too- that’s the outdated part. It’s a little more Euro- and western-centric than a book on vegetables published today would be, but considering the whole thrust of the book is veggies that grow in England, a part of the world which is similar in climate to where I am, this is a useful book regardless.

They do include a fair amount of American vegetable varieties, which is good for my purposes at least, and look at those pretty pumpkins! All the descriptions include the kinds of information about time to maturity and vine type that are useful to the gardener.

My favorite carrot variety, the Kuroda is not in this book, which isn’t surprising, it’s a Japanese type. But I’ve got my eye on that Nandrin as a potential type for my garden’s future, yes I do.

I haven’t even really begun to read this book in depth, I suspect it shall put all sorts of ideas in my head.

Thanks again to Nigel the landscape architect for putting this wonderful book on my radar- I never would have stumbled across it otherwise.

Now- I have research to do!

 

Captain’s log: January 6th 2019

Rainy days make for an idle gardener.

Best to keep an eye on things though, especially since the last big rains caused some of my baby green onions to commit plant suicide. Not really sure how to stop that though.

They seem to be doing ok all things considered, even if they are a bit wonky.

The baby romaine lettuces are a bit wobbly too, too much rain probably effecting the roots a bit. Once they get bigger it’ll be less of a problem.

The ever-ripening tomato plant is showing its age but I did get some more tomatoes today.

Some of these are really only half-ripe, but the force of the rain had drove them off the plant so…

Sometimes nature picks your produce for you.

The leafy greens are all drinking it up, with the Swiss chard winning awards for beauty.

Of course so are the Pac Choi:

Cabbages and chard like the wet, unlike other plants which can get waterlogged. One of the advantages of growing cabbages in this sort of climate honestly, you don’t have to worry so much about potential disasters. Even plants that do well in our mild summers and don’t need too much heat can fail in our winters from just way too much rain.

The spinach bed still needs a good weeding, but at least the rain seems to be rejuvenating everything. If there’s a lull in the rain tomorrow I’m probably going to pick some.

Finally, the herbs seem to be doing ok, but I just love how the sage looks.

It was giving me some pause, but after a day’s soak it seems to have been revived.

Now, whether the basil or oregano will do well is a question mark, as is the fate of the tarragon.

The cilantro is thriving at least. And so is the sage.

I think the biggest chore I have to do soon is just spend several hours weeding the beds. I was on top of it, but rain doesn’t just grow your plants!

We’ll also see if the tomato plant survives this latest downpour. It looks… rough- and with over a weeks worth of rain to come, it could be that the tomato may finally have met its match.

Or I could put up the umbrella again.

Captain’s log: December 21st 2018

I hope everyone is having a good solstice. This year certainly was… interesting. I have a few surprise additions for the garden coming up- but the timing isn’t right yet so it might be a week before I put them out.

But all the lovely seedlings are sprouting.

Those little green stalks are baby green onions. They took their time to sprout but I knew they’d come through. Funnily enough, either because of the torrents of rain or just the unbridled enthusiasm of onions- several of these little guys totally escaped the soil, as if they overshot in their vigor. Oh well. I sowed a ton of them, and in a month when it’s more clear who survived I can always sow more.

Now the pea seeds may in fact have been too old, as the have not sprouted which is a surprise because legumes are usually the first arrival- but the turnips have sprouted. It goes without saying I’ll have to thin them- but it’s nice to have a plant you can rely on, and you can always rely on a turnip.

Speaking of cabbages and reliability, every Pac Choi I’ve put in is thriving. Some are definitely bigger than others, but that just means I can stagger eating them. It’s always nice to have a cabbage in the back ready to pick- though if I had to guess it’ll probably be 3 weeks to a month before the largest of these is ready to harvest. Maybe a little longer.

The Swiss chard has gotten a second wind along with the spinach:

It’s amazing what a good drenching and cool weather will do for your leafy greens. Now I definitely have some work to do trimming and weeding (to say nothing of the pepper conundrum) but I think I’ll harvest some spinach this weekend and go from there.

I was worried that my various succulent pots would drown in the rain, but all seems to be well. This particular aeonium is loving it- it’s growing over the jade plant in its pot. Both are cuttings from larger plants that live in a tiny strip of dirt in front of my house- those mother plants are also loving the rain.

Reminds me I have to weed the front patch too.

Yet another of the tomatoes is becoming ripe which makes me very happy indeed.

What really makes me happy though…

Life has officially given me lemons. This tree in the back is ancient and wise and it just… is. We don’t do much with it- it needs a prune but I’m terrified I’d somehow hurt it so I just leave it alone. In return every winter and spring it gives us its bounty- oceans of lemons.

It’s officially green season in San Francisco!

Post downpour update

Well I say “post” downpour but there’s gonna be more rain on Tuesday- so post downpour for now?

The herbs are all pretty happy, but the mitsuba is putting up these lacy little flowers that are really lovely. Again- it’s a woodland herb so it’s well adapted to heavy rain in the shade.

In good but confusing news- the downpour seems to have knocked out the mold issues in the lovage pots. I’m still gonna scoop out the top level of soil and replace it- just in case.

All of the greens are doing well

There were no more criminal footprints in the 4×4 bed but with all the rain coming and going it’s now slug season so I laid down a little sluggo. Tis the season for Gastropoda eating all your greens.

The sorrel has almost reached the plastic owl guardian. Oh dear.

You can’t eat too much sorrel, oxalic acid in the plant means too much sorrel can hurt your kidneys. So I’m about to have way too much sorrel.

Speaking of oxalic acid…

These are oxalis, an invasive weed. They also have a lot of oxalic acid- hence the name. The leaves look like clovers and they have a pretty yellow flower. They also have a crazy taproot which means pulling them without breaking the plant is really difficult. These guys were in the side of the carrot bed. It looks like my newspaper layer had a hole and these fuckers were growing almost a foot up from the ground. Lucky for me the ground was wet enough that the root slid right up.

The wet season is weed season!

I may have had to ditch the umbrella but the tomato is doing well.

SOON.

Captain’s log: November 24th 2018 (getting ready for winter edition)

The rains have ceased- for now. Starting Tuesday we’re going to have some more storms so I thought it was time to get more soil and get to work.

I went to my local garden center to get my winter herbs and plants. Now that the wet season has begun its time to plan for the big 4×4 bed that used to have fava beans.

I’m thinking a multi-crop bed with Pac Choi in the middle and romaine on one end and scallions on the other. Romaine and scallions I’m going to grow by seed, as I think I know what has killed my lettuce on the top bed- but that’s another post.

Besides lovely plants the garden center had another attraction

He was a very good boy. As his owner informed me- he’s not fat, he’s fluffy.

Many bags of soil later, I returned home to less time than I’d hoped I’d have to get things in the ground. As romantic as gardening in the dark sounds, I think I’ll just be smart and finish up tomorrow.

The number one herb I use most in the kitchen but do not grow is dill, so I thought I’d remedy that.

Luckily the dill plants were beautiful and so was the pottery. See, dill is one of those herbs which doesn’t play too well with others, so it grows better in a pot. And if you want a lot of dill, it better be a big pot.

Dill likes sun, but cooler temps. I had a dill plant in summer, which was a huge mistake, got very buggy, this one should do well.

Into the full sun bed I put some winter savory

Savory is a really nice herb that most people don’t use regularly. Perfect for stews and winter dishes, also nice to pickle with.

I cleared the chives and dead tarragon, and replaced them with a little cilantro, a medium lemon balm, and a tarragon who’s been put in plant jail.

See- when I pulled the dead tarragon I found that the roots were almost as bad as mint, and had taken over half the bed. That was some backbreaking work, and I’m not doing that again so into plant jail with you!

(In retrospect I should have put the lemon balm in a pot too- but as I am growing it to make mosquito repellant, I don’t mind if it gets over grown.)

(Mark my words I am going to regret that decision it’s a mint)

My last bit of work before it gets dark was to replace some of the spinach and Swiss chard.

Now the voids have new plants.

The Swiss chard variety that looked the best in the store was called “pink lipstick” and had pink roots!

Pink roots!!!

I have more work for tomorrow- the Pac Choi awaits. Though I’ll wait to sow the seeds til after the deluge, so they don’t get washed away.

The 4×4 bed has laid fallow for too long!

Soon.

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