Captain’s log: September 1st 2019

September is always a difficult time in the garden. Depending on the weather certain summer veggies are going strong- or failing. Certain herbs are thriving, or starting to die back. Somethings are unchanged, and somethings are just starting to fruit. And of course some bugs have gone away, and some are being a pain in my backside.

It’s a land of contrasts. Now I have to start thinking about fall planting.

I’ve got a lot on my plate.

This rather gorgeous herb is anise hyssop. It supposedly makes great tea, but I haven’t tried it. Honestly planted this one on a whim to see what the flowers looked like. Well now I can say the flowers look pretty great!

The big-leaf thyme flowers are wonderful as always. Also a great attraction for bees which sadly have been lacking in the garden this year. That’s been something of a disappointment, but the wild weather is out of my hands.

Speaking of wild weather yesterday it was 80, and today it drizzled and is foggy.

My poor plants don’t know if it’s coming or going.

Speaking of flowers, the zucchini continues to be very productive. I’m starting to get those wonderful late season baseball bats, that are a little on the tough side but are still delicious.

Time for some stuffed zucchini I guess!

Finally my large corn stalks are starting to flower. Hopefully I can get some full or full-ish sized corn from these stalks. These are flowering at just the right time because September and October are often our hottest months and corn needs to ripen when it’s warm.

This is the base of one of the small runty corn stalks, and as you can see… I’ve got tassels. Which means I have a baby corn and god knows how that will end up.

The blackberry is traveling far afield, which bodes well for next year’s pies.

In brassica news those damn grey cabbage aphids are back again. The foil ring stopped the cabbage fly, and the B.t. has been guarding against cabbage moths. I’ve been using neem for the aphids- but screw it. I’m going to buy an entire container of ladybugs and dump them all on my tree collard.

Nuke it from orbit- it’s the only way to be sure.

I finally planted my fancy oregano. You can see it’s slightly white fly damaged. One more plant to put ladybugs on I guess. I put it in the space the other blue basil was in, as it was dying. The one I have in a pot is also not doing great, but that one I’m going to try to save by hook or by crook.

This whole bed needs a makeover, but it will be a while til I can get to it.

Oops. I was shifting some pots around so I could wack the weeds and uh… whoopsie. I’m sad because I love this pot, I only got it because a wonderful family friend got me some gift cards, and I’m determined to save it. Some sort of epoxy maybe? I’m handy enough that I’m sure I could do it, I just have to figure out how.

This is a ripening lemon boy! Some of the fruits on this plant look really rough, so we’ll see how it does long term, but hey! I’ve got at least one silly yellow tomato.

I’ll take it!

That is less then ideal. I really wanted to get some fennel bulbs this year, and once again fennel is not being nice to me. Fennel might be just too much of a time and space investment for me. The extreme irony is that wild fennel grows, well wild, all around my neighborhood. Wouldn’t eat that stuff though.

And while my pole beans are withering, at least my new bush beans seem to be sprouting at top speed. Life’s just not worth living without beans!

Per usual my dill has sprouted well. I’m going to endeavor to use this dill more aggressively so it doesn’t get all seedy too soon. I have pickling to do!

So when I finally pulped the dying wilted ginger mint, I clipped a few root runners from the most vigorous plant and it looks like I’m going to be rewarded with more of my favorite mint. Seriously this stuff is so crazy vigorous it’s incredible.

And despite everything the sun gold keeps trucking. This has to be the best variety for San Francisco, you can throw everything and the kitchen sink at it weather wise and all it needs is a little TLC and it’ll keep going.

Looks like absolute hell, but it keeps going.

I finally ripped out my overgrown arugula only to find that it had reseeded itself into it’s neighboring beds.

Good thing I like arugula, looks like i’m getting a lot of it!

In intentional seed news, I let my cilantro go to seed entirely as an experiment. You see this is a fancy type of cilantro called “confetti” that has really cool leaves. I wanted to see if I sowed the coriander seed it made, if it would breed true and make the cool leafed cilantro again. Not always a given!

So I sowed it in a couple of pots and time will tell if I get fancy cilantro or the regular but still yummy stuff.

I leave you with the greatest creation of my garden, my very own pumpkin. I’m picking it tomorrow.

Ok, so maybe late summer as we turn into fall is a tough time in the garden. But damn.

That’s a fine pumpkin, so clearly I’m doing something right!

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!

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.

Imprisoning my tomatoes

Tomatoes are difficult plants. They attract many pests, can also develop nasty fungal diseases, if your summers are too cool they may never set fruit, and while to a degree they can self-pollenate without bees you will get a bad yield- but on top of all that they need a lot of support. They can absolutely collapse under their own weight, and that’s before they set heavy fruit.

So you have to send your tomatoes to jail.

Those are two very old and very rusted old tomato cages that I’m fairly sure l date back to my parent’s garden. For whatever reason they were never recycled and are quite past their use-by date… but they fit into the two wider pots so…

It did take a bit of bending to fit them in- and the plants are so small compared to the cages, But eh hopefully the sweet 100 and Black Krim will grow into their support.

The sungold is growing well, and it has a v-shaped bean support as a backbone.

The sungold is the, pardon the pun, gold standard San Francisco cherry tomato for a reason, and despite the awkward fit I’m sure it’ll take to its support well.

The San Francisco fog also got a bean support and it too seems to be fine with some unorthodox trellising. It’s not as vigorous a plant as the sungold but considering the gloom and rain it’s chugging along marvelously. Besides in April/May what you really want from your tomatoes is steady growth so it can put out flowers by June. Any early flowers or fruits is a bonus, but not expected.

The sauce pot was a difficult criminal however.

So the three Romas came with three small stakes barely holding the plants up, which was enough for the small pot they were sold in. Once moved to the sauce pot however there was just no way those small three stakes were sufficient. At first I put three bamboo stakes in, but today I put in a forth, and I’ve strung soft-ties all around the four outer stakes to suspend the leaves over it.

It’s a mess! It’s an absolute mess! But it’s too big for a tomato cage- even if I had a third, which I do not- and the one remaining v-shaped bean support is just not up to the task of the Romas.

So once again, I Gerry-rigged something. I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to be a process and there’s a good chance I’ll have to change it up a few times.

The really good news about the sauce pot, despite everything is that it’s three vigorous plants, and one of them is already flowering.

I mean- there’s barely any bees out yet, too wet by half- but it’s telling that the plant has the health to flower early despite what could have been a traumatic transplant. So despite the fact that the odds are this flower will never turn into a tomato- it’s a good sign.

Viva la sauce pot!