Captain’s log: Late July 2019

San Francisco’s weather continues to be horrifically typical, but regardless, I got a fair amount done the last couple of days, including clearing the horribly mildewed peas.

I’ll spare you the pictures as it was bad. Just gobs of white powder all over my hands and shirt as I wrestled yards of pea vines into the compost bin.

But hey! The color bed is otherwise well, and now I have a spot for the chayote to live. I really have to spend a day off laying down more sluggo, as all this damp weather is bringing back the slugs in force.

Sluggo and weeding.

The upper squash bed was not one of my more brilliant ideas. If we were having a warmer summer I might have gotten away with it, but being under the Apple tree has increased the mildew on the leaves by about a thousand percent. This is after I chopped off most of them and it’s still a mess.

Ok. I can make lemonade with these lemons. Onion bed? Onion bed.

The Swiss chard that has been delicately shaded by the beans is growing well, though it’s a tad buggy. You can see the edge of the ever encroaching pumpkin vine. Like a madman, I’m probably going to put my little scallop squash plants in front of the chard, just to see what happens. The okra seedlings I planted there never took so I have the space, even if they’re going to trail down over the front.

Yes yes yes green beans!

Also yes yes yes purple beans!

The bean vines might be a little wimpy this year but it looks like once again I’ll be drowning in haricot verts.

This pleases me.

As much as all the tomatoes look a mess- the San Francisco fog’s are plugging away. Dozens of fruit slowly growing and still more flowers. This plant was far enough away from nightmare aphid land that it seems to have escaped the horror that enveloped the sungold. So I might get my oceans of tomatoes after all!

For all that it’s runty- my Italian Bull Horn pepper has set a nice pepper. Like the fog it seems to be subscribing to the slow and steady mentality- and I’ll take it. These are meant to be picked red, so I’ll wait.

The hyssop continues to grow. Since adult ladybugs feed on pollen as well as aphids- I’m inclined to leave the hyssop to flower. It’ll encourage the ladybugs to stick around and eat the nasties.

I picked my first beet! And unlike the nightmare that was my turnips, the only critter eating this beet is me! And my dad. I think I’m just going to have a dedicated beet bed and keep re-sowing. This was pretty easy to grow and I am always here for an easy crop.

The tree collard had rebounded, but of course it’s still a brassica and that involves some issues. I noticed that one leaf had a few holes in it and when I went to inspect it- the underside had DOZENS of little squirming caterpillars munching away. After making a manly sound that could be heard from space, I clipped that leaf and smushed it, and sprayed the whole plant down with neem oil.

It seems to be otherwise fine, but oh god blech. Got to keep a close eye on this guy for sure.

I forgot how simple corn is at this stage. The tricky stuff is all in the pollination and ripening stages, but corn at this stage is easy-peasy. Water it well and you will be rewarded with astonishing vertical growth. I do occasionally have to spray out the interior with water where the new growth comes from to kill bugs, but that’s not overly difficult.

To replace my stolen jade plant I have planted a “sticks on fire” euphorbia. These can get quite vertical and showy, and have toxic sap to boot. I wore gloves to plant him. So if anyone wants to try to dig him up they are welcome to try.

In new crazy mint news, I got my new favorite mint, chocolate peppermint. Smells like a gourmet peppermint patty.

I leave you with the first bloom of my fancy sunflowers. Another bonus food source for the ladybugs and bees, and a welcome sight at the back of the garden. Summer is well and truly here.

Even if so is the fog.

The dangerous damp

Well- dangerous is an exaggeration. In many ways the added moisture is good for most of my plants.

Not the tomatoes.

The tomatoes are a fucking mess. No pictures, but maybe a future post on what not to do.

The powdery mildew is becoming a real pain though.

It’s destroying my peas- gonna have to pull them early, but it’s not a death sentence for most plants.

That’s a squash leaf. One I’ll be cutting off soon. It’s annoying- but the squash I’m getting is great.

Just so much squash. Powdery mildew on a lot of plants is largely cosmetic. As long as you dutifully cut off the worst leaves, the fruit will be fine.

Same with the cucumbers.

Bushy leaves that are starting to look a bit rough.

But…

I’ve got so many damn cucumbers!

The telegraph improved in particular are the real winners here. The Boston pickles are good, but I made the mistake of letting them get too large and they became totally bitter to the point of being inedible. The telegraph can get huge and still be delicious. So now I have to be really on top of the Boston pickles and pick them young, but I can be a bit calmer about the telegraph.

I wish I knew what was wrong with the pumpkins. The vine is healthy. The leaves are only slightly mildewed, but the fruit that sets rots after a week. I’ve working in oyster shell in case it’s blossom end rot- and I’ve worked in good long term fertilizer and I’ve watered well- I’m mystified.

I’ve consulted with my boss and his suggestions is that it could be incomplete pollination or a lack of phosphorus. So I’ll work some phosphorus into the bed and next time I get a male and female flower at the same time I’ll hand pollenate just to see if it works.

We haven’t gotten too many bees this year due to the cold and damp so incomplete pollination seems likely. Guess I get to play bee this year.

The tops of my beets also look a bit weather beaten.

But the roots look fantastic.

The weather may be terrible- but you can’t beat beets!

I will never apologize for a pun!

Cuttings and seedings for the meet-up

So if you’re on metafilter and a local you know what I’m talking about- if not this might be a slightly confusing post.

I’m hosting a meet-up where I can hopefully offload some of the cuttings and seedlings I’ve been growing so I don’t have to compost viable plants.

This includes the 4 lipstick peppers that I didn’t plant, oodles of mint, and some other assorted veggies and herbs.

No telling who will survive until next week of course, transplanting is dangerous.

I went a little overboard in the dwarf sunflower department, but they’re a good plant for a balcony pot. I also have some borage, which is my new favorite herb, along with more mint, and a few squash plants because why not.

Some of the root systems were really encouraging though. This romaine looks like a real trooper.

Some of the larger mint plants roots were frankly a little scary. Look at those runners developing under the root ball! I put this one into a gallon pot- I suspect whoever gets this one will have to move it to something bigger within a month or so.

Here are my giant mints, an assortment of ginger mint, pineapple mint and one each of apple mint and a mystery mint.

What is the mint?

A mystery.

No seriously I can’t remember what it is.

Now I just have to figure out how to get these plants to the restaurant. Ah logistics, my eternal nemesis.

See some of you there!

Late June plantings

The real advantage of gardening in San Francisco is that planting season rules are a lot like the pirate code.

Guidelines.

Guidelines that I cheerfully ignore. Sure I might get a failure or two (or three or four) but due to the weird late fall hot weather I might get some wild successes.

There are a few tricks with corn, and I know them from my parent’s wild corn successes when I was a kid.

One- corn is wind pollinated. This means that corn needs to be fairly densely planted so that it can pollinate it’s neighbors when it’s windy out.

Two- once the corn has been pollinated, it needs to be as warm as possible for the ears of corn to grow to full size and ripen fully.

The invisible point three is that they need a fair amount of water. The reason my parents stopped growing corn was that when I was around 8 we went into a drought. But our winter this year was so abysmally wet we were still having rain earlier *THIS MONTH* so I think I can get away with corn this year.

I think the late planting might actually work heavily in my favor as to point two.

Traditionally in San Francisco our hottest month was around August or September. Used to be it was a week or two we’d call “Indian Summer”. We’d have a mild early summer, and a hot late summer/early fall.

Then the last few years have gotten hotter and hotter. And last year we had sustained heat with only a few foggy days from mid-August to goddamn early November.

So yeah, climate change is real, and San Francisco’s weather patterns have definitely been altered.

That’s… really not a good sign for the overall health of the planet- but I’m growing vegetables in the climate I have not the climate I wish I had.

I can take advantage of this. I’ve already rolled the dice on late season tomatoes-now it’s corns turn.

Gardening is gambling.

If the last two years are any indicator my corn will be ripening this year at the best time.

As for it getting pollinated- I clustered one type of corn in a clump and the other type of corn in a right angle around the edge of the bed. The wind will do the rest, and as my garden is so windy I have to put all my herbs in ceramic pots so they don’t fall over- I think Mother Nature has that one covered.

Pictured, my rapidly growing apple mint, transplanted from a cruddy plastic pot that I had to wedge in between other pots to prevent a spill, into a proper ceramic pot that laughs in the face of wind.

In other less technically fraught planting news, I transplanted my green onion starts into their new home. This is a former pepper pot that now houses the dirt I saved from the potato bag I harvested. Got to save your good dirt! I figured since I seem to be all in on tomatoes this year and not into peppers, I might as well put the scallions here. I’ll probably seed another few six-packs tomorrow so I can just have perpetual green onions. One of the best things about San Francisco weather is that things like scallions can basically be grown year round.

Another vegetable that has an elongated growing season is any squash. These little beauties are spaghetti squash- which oddly I’ve never grown before. I’ve been growing them from seed, and now they’re going in opposite the pumpkin. As long as it isn’t raining you can grow squash here- they don’t like their leaves getting wet.

And lastly I potted one of my Roman mints. This was taken as a cutting from the dying thunderdome, and lovingly grown in a series of plastic pots. It has now graduated to a ceramic pot of its own. This means the mint thunderdome no longer serves a purpose and I can compost the twigs and re-purpose the pot. The mint thunderdome was an interesting experiment, but the roots of the mint plants are basically suffocating each other and its time has come.

Speaking of pirates- I have some new feline invaders. This is a lovely tuxedo cat that comes around from time to time, and is apparently female, not a tom as previously assumed, as she’s toting around two fat little kittens that were too fast to photograph from my window. I nearly tripped over them today while watering, and they cartoonishly flung themselves over the fence to get away from me.

Kitten season. Oh joy. If I can impart any lesson to my readers it’s this. Please spay and neuter your outdoor cats!

I’d rather not spend my time outdoors sneezing my head off.

Captain’s log: sometime this week

I never have enough time these days, but now thanks to my job, I have plenty of thyme!

(BOOOOOOOOOOO)

Specifically lemon and English thyme, which I added to my French and big leaf thyme.

Soon they’ll be trying to take over the herb bed too. The other herbs I put in are doing well thanks to the wacko May downpour we’ve suddenly got.

More on that later.

The purple peas are vigorously trying to scale my neighbor’s fence, and they’re putting out gorgeous flowers.

Nice. Snap peas here I come.

In other flowering news- my biggest sunflower has gotten gigantic.

No closer to making a flower head- though it’s neighbor’s the zucchini’s look nice and bushy. And wet. Squash is prone to molds and mildews on the leaves- but if it’s going to keep raining I’m not sure what I can do to stop it.

The cucumbers are soaking it up though. They are obediently growing vertically and soon I can train them up the tripod.

I got more herbs then thyme however- a lemon verbena, a really fancy cilantro, and a lonely apple mint that I’ve seen languishing on the herb table at work for longer than I’ve actually been working there- getting bigger and bigger while nobody bought it.

I’ll buy you you beautiful gigantic apple mint.

But first I had to plant my lemon verbena. That meant getting rid of my sorrel.

Look- I like sorrel, but it’s toxic in large quantities and it was refusing to play nice in its pot- to the point where it was growing its roots through its drainage holes trying to take over the garden yet again. There’s a reason I call all my sorrels Audrey II.

So I put my Verbena in my newly empty rainy grey pot.

Lemon verbena is actually a small shrub or tree. Or it will be. That’s why I put it in a larger pot. It’s deciduous like an oak tree- and will be bare twigs in winter- but it will come back into lemon scented magnificence in spring.

I had more planting to do… but…

Sudden rain attack.

Come on San Francisco it’s May! And I planted your namesake! Give me a break!

I had to wait a bit to plant the rest.

Mister big mint had to go into a plastic pot that once held my blackberry- as I’ve run out of proper pots. Oh well my employee discount will be doing some work in June I suspect. Mister fancy cilantro went into the old pennyroyal pot. the reason my pennyroyal pot was empty was that it had become majorly pot-bound.

Oof. I saved it and put in in my next biggest pot- but it will soon need another repotting. Again… I have some shopping to do.

You may have noticed that I cut the apple mint down to size- And he wasn’t the only one.

My red-stemmed peppermint that I grew from a cutting has gotten gigantic- so I cut him down to size too. And then took the cuttings and put them into pots!

I’m just going to be drowning in mint soon and I’m loving every second of it.

I’m going to have to throw a meet-up in a month to give away plants. That’s a great problem to have.

I’ll leave you all with the poppy the birds sowed this year- blooming away with a bee in one of its flowers.

Wait I lied- I’ll leave you with the most beautiful image a gardener can have in May.

Hell yeah baby tomato!

Captain’s log: May 8th 2019

Ah the first captain’s log of May. I got a lot done today, and I am very tired. I still had the cucumber and pumpkin to plant but this morning I was downtown and…

This is a jalapeño plant I got at the civic center farmers market. I’ve been looking for at least one hot pepper and this seemed a likely candidate. Jalapeños are a little easier to grow than other larger hot peppers. Of course- sweet peppers are a better bet. But eventually my lipstick pepper will be large enough to transplant and the bulls horn is also a sweet pepper- so I’ll give a hot pepper a try. Of course it will go better if the weather is warmer, like it was in late April. Late April felt like summer- early May feels like winter.

Welcome to San Francisco I guess.

I cut off the red peppers for eating, and buried the newcomer up to its neck. Proper pepper planting protocol.

Say that 5 times fast!

The baby potatoes in bags are growing vigorously enough that it was time to put more dirt in the bags. I still don’t know what the hell is going on with the two older potatoes, and I suspect tomorrow I’ll be digging up one of the bags to make sure this isn’t a blight situation.

Here’s an incredibly annoying thing- the bare spot in this bed is where two bean sprouts once were. It looks like some creature just straight up ate the tops of two of my beans. Just- *monch* no more beans.

Of course the beans on the other side are still heavily slug eaten.

Anyways- I put down the sluggo all throughout the garden earlier this week, so hopefully that will be the end of that. This is the bed where I put the pumpkin today, since the Swiss chard never really came up- and if it does later it can just grow around the vines.

In the areas where the beans once were I put two new seeds down so I can have my late season Kentucky wonders. Growing squash and beans together is of course as old as indigenous America (all I’m missing is the corn) so I have high hopes for a few proper pumpkins come Halloween.

Oh god bless the radish. And all the other brassicas, lettuce and arugula in the large fabric bed. Everything is coming up really nice and it doesn’t need too much water.

I built a quick and dirty trellis to go with my other quick and dirty trellis in the cucumber bed. I might put another type of radish in the void under the trellis like I’ve put green onion in front of the other cucumbers. Co-planting is always good.

Here’s my pretty Persian cukes ready to climb up my stakes. As my other Boston pickle cucumbers starts get larger I’ll put them on the other sides.

In tomato news, the first Roma of the sauce pot is growing. It’s a little baby plum tomato! The wet weather isn’t wonderful for the tomatoes but they seem to be surviving just fine. The sun gold still has its fair share of aphids, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering the plant- it’s really bothering me though.

The blackberry vines are both growing well, and as you can see the base of the vine is throwing up some fresh growth. It’s good to know that all the effort I put into acidifying the soil and preparing it is paying off.

The upper zucchini bed is thriving- this is the Magda grey zucchini,

And here’s the greens. I’m worried the wet will cause some molding issues that are so common to squash- but so far it seems ok.

Here’s some fun. The purple peas have so outpaced their dinky stakes I screwed some eyelets into the fence and strung wire between them.

I hope my neighbor likes peas because I think there’s no way I can stop this plant from going right over the fence. The spinach in front is questionable of course, I’m concerned after the heat wave last month it might go straight to seed- but there’s nothing I can do about that.

Another thing I can do nothing about is the criminals. The entire time I was working in the garden I had the peculiar feeling of being watched. Well I *was* being watched by a pair of criminals who were lounging in the carrot bed and spying on me for hours. Here is a quick pic of criminal tortoiseshell fleeing while criminal grey tabby stares at me through the carrot tops.

I can spray for aphids but I can’t spray for cats. I’m just going to learn to live with a pair of criminal spies, sitting on my plants.

They’re really cute criminals though.

Some late additions and potential problems

I finally bit the bullet and grabbed myself a pepper, among other things. I am growing the lipsticks from seed but it’ll be a month til the largest is large enough for the pepper pot. In the meantime this sweet Italian bulls horn should do well.

It’s a little runty so it got a stake. I wish I could be optimistic but after weeks of warm weather San Francisco’s inherent unpredictability has reared it’s head and we’ve now had two days of wet drizzle.

I have no words. Well I have plenty of words but they’re not really fit to print.

I also got a tarragon- again. I’ve had such bad luck with tarragon that I thought it was time to just put it in a pot. Sometimes all your plans for a fancy herb bed run up against reality. Oh well, hopefully it will do better as a pot herb.

This is ginger mint. I am something of a mint fanatic, and I love growing mint from cuttings and giving them away as gifts. The more weird the mint the better. Ginger mint sounds tailor made for tea, but I’ll have to wait a little while before I take cuttings.

Some of my cuttings are taking really well- others are lost causes. But that’s what happens when you try to grow from cuttings, it’s always a gamble.

These are the ones that have taken. A good way of telling if they’re taking is if the plant still looks fresh and not wilted or brown, and to check the bottom for root growth.

Now that’s a successful cutting!

These are my last two plants, some Persian cucumbers for the cucumber patch and a lost little pumpkin. I wish I could say wow I don’t have room for a pumpkin! But unfortunately I most likely will have room for a pumpkin shortly.

That’s the remains of another cauliflower- and two of the back Bok choys went with it. And now that it’s drizzling again, the cabbage flies are going to be even more emboldened. Cabbage flies of course only eat cabbages- so my squashes will be perfectly safe.

The slugs of course, are in hyperdrive. Now you can totally go out at night with a flashlight and just kill all the slugs you see- and that is the most natural way to do it- but it is gross as hell, and I like sleeping at night.

So I took half a container of sluggo and went nuclear. I tossed those pellets around the garden like it was going out of style. Every bed, every green area, every pot.

There’s no kill quite like overkill, and I’m hoping the slugs get the message.

Smushing aphids might be gross but it’s the best way the control their numbers so smush I must. I try not to spray the sun gold with neem oil because the tomato flowers attract bees and the aphids are attracting ladybugs.

At least the local criminal is enjoying the rain and the work I’m doing. If only feral cats could be trained to eat cabbage fly…