The bad and the good before the new year

Well I thought I’d get a few bell peppers, but I got bupkis. I’ve not had much to do in the garden, on account of the rain- but as today was the first clear day, I thought I’d at least do something out back, for exercise if nothing else.

So I thought I’d harvest what bell peppers were viable and then finally compost the plants and throw out that old ugly plastic container.

Well the first pepper I clipped off was basically rotten mush- which was a bad sign. The second pepper I clipped off I dropped, because a spider crawled out- from inside the pepper. It was like that for all of them.

Man just… so many spiders. I’m not arachnophobic I’m really not but… there is a thing as too many spiders.

See I fucked up when I got these plants and put them into a shallow pot. I didn’t know that in order to grow peppers in pots, you need to have a sufficiently deep pot.

This was not a sufficiently deep pot.

The result was a plant that never grew properly, even though it did put out peppers. But the peppers themselves were as runty as the plant. One or two were ok- but possibly due to the ill health of the plant so so many were infested and well. That was that.

This whole situation I’m chalking up to a lesson learned. I’m still unsure about the other two failing plants, the shishito might be salvageable if I prune it properly, but frankly it’s never grown right and the peppers I’ve gotten were just not right.

The “hatch” also. It was originally in a too small pot too, and then it got flattened and transplanted. It gave me a good half dozen peppers, but dad and I agreed, they weren’t the right level of heat, though the texture was quite nice. So I might pull them out too.

The only pepper I’m definitely keeping for next year is my mole pepper whose real name has been lost to time and the fact that the name was written on a plastic label with a sharpie which has faded. “Chi” or “cua” something? It was a long name in Nahuatl. It’s a Mexican mole pepper- and it’s grown really well. I do have baby peppers on it- which has only shown up in the last month or so- and it was in the right pot from the start and has just grown very well from the beginning.

The problem was I had two surgeries this summer and so I put the peppers in very late in the season. If they’d been in by late March… but they weren’t. I’m lucky that the Mole pepper seems to have done so well, even if I haven’t gotten any peppers from it yet.

So all I have from my red bell pepper plant is an empty plastic planter ready for recycling, some crap for my compost bin, and a bunch of dirt all down my grey sweater.

But on the bright side…

May these sun golds be the first of many!

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

Troubleshooting in November

It’s been so long since I’ve gardened year round instead of just having a few summer plants and just keeping the herbs- that a few problems are popping up, some of which I’m familiar with, some of which are a little new to me.

The first is simple.

As you can see on my flat leaf parsley in a pot (which is being caressed by the lemon grass) and by the curly leaf parsley in the ground:

Some of the leaves are yellow. This is usually either due to a lack of nitrogen or a lack of water. As both plants are well watered, it’s most likely time to fertilize the herbs. No biggie.

More annoying is my spinach/Swiss chard issue.

This is bug damage right? Or is it heat damage? I’ve sprayed and left bait and I picked to worst of the leaves but the spinach keeps getting damaged. I grew spinach earlier this year and while one or two leaves got a little chewed it was nothing like this. I’m chalking this up to heat stress/bug stress from the heat and hoping by the time the new spinach/Swiss chard sprouts it’s consistently cooler.

The lettuce is crazy though.

The void is where I had to pull another romaine- because the stem had gone all soft and mushy. Is that a fungal problem? Is there like a grub issue? I’ve checked all the other stems and they seem to be fine, and the red lettuce isn’t bothered. Am I watering too much? Too little? I’m so confused.

As for the tomato:

Yes the tomato plant has little baby tomatoes- but it’s also got curling leaves and leaves with brown and yellow spots.

Basically it got hot enough for a growth spurt- but now it’s getting cold enough that I’m pretty sure the plant is shutting down. I think perennial tomato plant is a pipe dream in San Francisco climate conditions.

I just hope it lives long enough for the dozen or so baby tomatoes to ripen, so I am watering (not too much!) and fertilizing regularly like normal.

Didn’t want this post to be too much of a downer, so here’s a picture of some almost ripe baby bell peppers

And I checked these- no holes!

Captain’s log: November 1st 2018

It’s always time for a captain’s log when the weather is unseasonable. Today it reached a high of 81 around 1 pm. It is November 1st. God bless San Francisco, never change.

Tomorrow when the weather isn’t quite so melting for a delicate hominid as myself, I have a few tasks. Chief among them is to thin the carrots. As you can see they’re really bushy- they’ve grown really quickly, proving everything I’ve read about growing carrots from seed is incorrect and it is in fact quite easy- if you do things correctly.

The other major task for tomorrow is to try to get a handle on the spinach. The erratic heat has really damaged it- I have to definitely remove the heat damaged leaves and harvest the rest, pull the weedy plants (and the outright weeds) and sow some more spinach plants in the bare areas.

Luckily I’ve gotten some more Japanese spinach to sow:

A different variety this time, but it looked nice and the Japanese varieties tend to be much more heat resistant. Just looking at what I’ve sowed- the monstrueux variety has done much worse than the alrite Japanese variety- when I did get a baby spinach harvest I got much more out of the alrite. I still have some alrite seeds, but they’re more of a baby variety and I wanted something that would grow a bigger plant for harvest, so when I was in Japantown I got this Okame variety for, well, variety! If I have any advice when it comes to plant variety it’s look outside the western paradigm. Humanity has been growing vegetables worldwide since the dawn of agriculture- and that means there are a lot more types of plants then you get in your typical American seed catalogue.

The lettuce is doing well- which is slightly surprising considering the heat wave. This is the advantage of starting from a plant rather than a seed- more heat resistance due to the more established nature of the plant.

While the Swiss chard is also heat damaged- I’ll have to re-sow a few of those- the arugula is just booming. Arugula is almost like a weed- there is no arugula season, as long as the sun is shining and there’s no ice on the ground, it’s arugula season! It’s become my garden snack, if I’m watering in the back- I’m eating some arugula. not sure I’ll have enough for the table- it’s all going in my mouth!

We had a pepper casualty. I was so happy! An all red baby bell pepper ready for harvest! And then I spotted the hole in the bottom… and something moving inside.

NOPE!

I picked it and threw it right into the compost ick ick ick. I also checked all the other almost ripe peppers, and luckily this was the only infested pepper, so I should at least get a few others.

Price of growing plants honestly! 10% of the harvest goes to the bugs! If you’re lucky of course, if you’re unlucky it will be more, but that’s what neem oil is for.

The weird warm weather is causing the basil to sprout flowers again, along with the hyssop. That’s another job for tomorrow- going to have to clip all the flowers so the leaves don’t get bitter.

I’m also going to have to cut back the mint thunderdome, as the top leaves are a little crunchy looking and not as fragrant as the other leaves. The tendril still abides.

The Mitsuba continues to grow, as do all of my pot herbs. We had either a scale insect or mold issue with the base of the lovage- or rather a scale insect issue that turned into a mold issue- either way, that’s what neem oil is for. The lemongrass is growing like a weed which is nice.

The owl guards the sorrel. The sorrel grows. All is good under the gaze of the owl.

Lastly- those are two baby tomatoes. I have counted 4 total, along with dozens of flowers waiting to turn into tomatoes. IT’S NOVEMBER FIRST!!!

I am staying on top of appropriate watering and tomato fertilization, along with both hand killing the red aphids, and using neem oil when appropriate.

This is nuts. I’m going to get late November early December tomatoes.

God damn I love San Francisco.

Peppers continue to pep

Besides the great smushing that killed one plant and led to the emergency transplant of the surviving Hatch pepper- the pepper plants have been doing great.

The hatch pepper might not even be a hatch pepper, they’re all too small- but that plus the early ripening of some small ones makes me think it *is* a hatch, but the emergency transplant might have damaged the plant somehow.

But oh man the red bell peppers are looking great!

Slowly but surely the red bell peppers are ripening. The plants themselves are clearly not the biggest, due to the too small container, but they’re doing well regardless. I’m going to have to look into getting these guys into a bigger pot, but that can wait.

This is the one bigger hatch. Unlike the other ones that are going red too early and too small, this one is getting bigger, and most importantly, is still green. God bless it- it survived a smushing and it still grows.

The shishito never say die. They aren’t ripe yet- but by November I should have a few. I hope. Peppers will ripen in November right? If it’s a San Francisco November they probably will.

The Mole pepper abides.

Odds are my job is going to be keeping this guy alive til next summer- but it’s trying darn it!

Keep on trucking little mole pepper. Keep on trucking.

Captain’s log: August 19th 2018

In the distance is a palm tree. All the backyards on this block are connected, which is why we have such a feral cat problem. But it also means many years ago someone a few houses down planted a goddamn palm tree like it’s goddamn Los Angeles or something and now- in this foul freezing weather, it’s tropical-ness is taunting me.

I pulled the bolting giant flat leaf parsleys. Lesson learned. Curly leaf goes in the plot- flat leaf goes in a pot- never get giant anything, and if you do- don’t get two of them. As much parsley as I use, there is such a thing as too much parsley.

I’m going to have to cut back the blue basil eventually- but oh look at the beautiful bee. (and all her friends that were buzzing around too quick to be photographed!) There was also my favorite flying insect, those long black beneficial wasps that eat grubs. I haven’t seen one this season yet, very excited for them to get to business and eat grubs for me. I am 100% team buzzing insect.

I cut back the icky yellow zucchini leaves and was rewarded by vigorous new growth. There are three buds, which is good news, and the leaves don’t look cruddy and crusty which means I cut the nasty leaves off in time.

I had a little undignified panic attack about the tomato this morning. Made the mistake of reading my Pam Peirce book on gardening in San Francisco. Got convinced my tomato was diseased instead of just cold and wet. Mom snapped me out of it by reminding me that the neighbors plant isn’t doing great either, and even in the good old days her and dad didn’t always have the best luck with tomatoes. Growing tomatoes in San Francisco is a crap shoot under the best of conditions. I think tomorrow I’ll go to my local garden center and pass some photos around and get some expert opinions. Could be my current strategy of cutting off the worst of it and hoping for warmer weather is correct! Could be it *is* fungal and I need some copper fungicide or something to spray on it. Could be it’s one of the bad tomato diseases and I’ll have to throw out the plant, throw away the dirt, and sterilize the pot! (Please not this option). Nothing I can do about it today. But doesn’t it look like one of those baby tomatoes is starting to ripen? A Neanderthal can dream!

I got the last of the bean harvest today. I think in the next few days I’ll tear down the vines and the Gerry-rigged trellis. What a success the beans were! I still have bags in the fridge waiting to be pickled and cooked. It produced for almost two whole months. Imagine if I’d staggered the planting’s and had a second double bed! I’d be getting beans till September! I definitely have some planning to do.

I picked some tarragon and chives to make some cornichon style pickled beans tonight, along with the last two purple beans.

The carrots might have aphids on and off- but the roots themselves look fine, it’s just the stems and leaves. And since you don’t eat the leaves of a carrot- I’ve decided I officially DGAF. I’m spraying the darn things and it’s working- and in a month I should have some good carrots.

The peppers are somewhat of a disappointment. Only Two out of Six of the plants are fruiting… and…

Holy crap both of the sweet red bell pepper plants are fruiting!

Four out of Six!!!!! Four out of Six!!!!!

God bless peppers and their incredible resilience in the face of crummy weather.

Also want to apologize to all the birds in my apple tree that flew out in alarm after I shouted in joy upon discovering the baby peppers.

Four out of Six!!!!