Captain’s log: October 9th 2019

Been a while, and this one’s largely going to be a good news/bad news post because I have a lot of that going on right now.

October is a good month.

So good news first! The second brassica bed is doing great. Sprouts are sprouting, kohlrabi is rabi-ing- good news all around.

My next project isn’t really good news or bad news, it’s just an empty bed.

The bad news is…

Due to some delays the brassicas for that bed got a little wilty. We’ll see how many of them I can salvage.

It’s also time to put my celery into a bed, they’re both chafing at being in pots.

The whitefly traps are certainly killing the whitefly!

Chayote still looks rough though. Lots of damaged leaves at the bottom. The tops are pretty vigorous though so I’m cautious but not overly concerned.

The powdery mildew has returned to the zucchini, which is bad news but not unexpected news. It’s just what happens when the fall fog comes in.

The apple tree is producing like crazy which is nice. The apples are super tasty this year too, great for baking.

And the falling leaves make great mulch for the onion plot.

Back to bad news. The garden wide scale problem continues, and I’ll have to send my chocolate peppermint back to mint rehab.

Annoyingly my baby ginger mints are also damaged. I really have to get a handle on the ants out here, which are spreading the scale.

In good news, the Roman mint looks fantastic. Still some slight whitefly issues, but as mentioned previously, whitefly is more cosmetic than anything else, and only really bad when it’s everywhere.

My corn is sort of both good news and bad news. The ones I put on the edge of the bed were largely duds… But the big ones in the back…

Looks like I might get a couple of ears after all!

Back to bad news. This one really stings. The carrots look beautiful, nice sized roots, not to big, the right orange color… And they are bitter and tasteless. Looks like from a bed that was over-enriched which was the problem last year, I went to a bed that was very nutrient depleted and therefore the carrots are inedible.

I’ll have to pull everything, mix in compost and re-seed. What a pain.

It looks like my new Marjoram and Oregano are doing great though, maybe those humic acids are the key to nutrient uptake after all!

In good news that means a lot of prickly work, the blackberry vines are doing what blackberry vines do- grow like crazy.

I’ve got to strap on my gloves and tie up this sucker. I can already feel the wounds on my hands!

The arugula that reseeded itself is almost pickable. No such thing as too much arugula.

The thyme forest needs to be hacked back again, as it often does.

And finally in really really really good news, it turns out the confetti cilantro does breed true, and all that lovely coriander I got from the last plant is now two pots worth of more cilantro- and I still have seed left over!

I really have to get moving, the rains will come soon and then garden work will be very difficult. But October is a good month for planting, since there’s no frost or snow to worry about.

Just the possibility of a deluge!

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!

Flowers, fruit, and almost fruit.

Summer is almost here, but it feels like it’s already here, with a day this weekend that hit 100 degrees. Some absolutely frantic watering and mulching took place, and as today is a much more sedate 76, I think I managed to save most everything.

Well, except for the turnips- once again cabbage fly screws with my hopes and dreams.

Don’t talk to me about cauliflower.

But, as we move into the warmer months, quite a lot in the garden is beginning to flower.

Including my new borage plant. Borage is one of my favorite plants, such delicate flowers on such a robust plant.

I even got the rarer pink variation on one of the blooms. If the heat doesn’t chase off the bees, they’ll have a treat in my garden.

In other flower news, I put in new sunflowers.

There’s this great nursery company called Annie’s, that specializes in rarer and heirloom varieties of plants. Their flowers are always great, but for allergy reasons I can’t grow most of them.

But no one in my house is allergic to sunflowers!

I got a big bear, a claret, and a shock-o-lat. I put them next to my existing sunflowers in what used to be the cauliflower bed.

Still don’t want to talk about it.

I also sowed some of the multi-colored poppy seeds in front in the mulch, we’ll see if they come up.

The heat wave has just fried my last Bok Choy- and it’s throwing in the towel and bolting. Oh well. All the cabbage family flowers are really pretty and largely identical. It’s amazing how much this Bok Choy looks like a wild mustard.

Here’s a dark horse, my Yerba Buena is flowering! Just little trumpets hiding among the leaves. I cannot get over this mint, to the point where I bought a second. It just smells so good, and as a native it will thrive in our climate, and feed our local pollinators.

The French thyme has started flowering, which should be appreciated by the bees. Thyme flowers are also very pretty.

What’s this? A pumpkin flower peeking out behind some leaves?

Surprise! It’s *three* pumpkin flowers behind some leaves! I have visions of October pumpkins dancing in my head, and isn’t that exciting.

The tomato news is mixed. On the one hand the black krim looks great.

Now that’s a nice baby tomato.

On the other hand the sun gold looks like this.

At least the ladybugs are having a feast.

I did get one ripe sun gold today- which went right into my mouth. That’s where most of the purple peas have been going too. Between last year and this year the sun gold seems to be an aphid magnet more than the other tomatoes. I wonder if that’s a problem with the plant variety itself.

The fake romanesco saga drew to a close.

Judging by how it tastes once I cooked it- it wasn’t even a purple cauliflower, it was a purple broccoli. It was delicious of course- but hardly what was advertised on the seed packet.

Had to hose off all the cabbage aphids though, growing broccoli comes with some grossness.

I got my first cuke a few days ago too- a fine Boston pickle. The vines got a little scorched during the heatwave, so we’ll see how they perform later in the month.

I’ll leave you with some baby apples, growing precariously over my upper zucchini patch’s sunflower.

Nice.

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!

Planting the spring herb beds

I had a great day today in the garden working my herb beds.

Here’s a previous shot of the shadier herb bed. As you can see the thyme is heavily overgrown. First task was cutting it back, along with the lemon balm, and weeding as best as I could.

Thyme is a great herb, I grow two types, big-leaf and French. Problem is, a little thyme goes a long way, even fresh, so the growth I had wasn’t helpful.

The thyme conquered- it was time to place the four new plants that go into this bed.

I have a few interesting survivors in this bed, some chives that refused to die, a lone parsley seedling that sprouted when all the others wouldn’t, and a shiso that refused to die.

That’s the bi-colored shiso that I ripped out last year. As you can see- it has returned. Oh well.

Next to the thyme is the culantro- next to the octopus is the anise hyssop- next to the lemon balm is the lemongrass, and up in the corner is the borage. I gave everything a deep watering, and then in the next couple of days I’ll put down some mulch.

The sunny herb bed was also overgrown. I trimmed the oregano, and hacked away at the hyssop and sage. Then it was just a matter of placing my plants.

I put the purple basil next to the Thai basil, and the lemon grass next to the oregano. Yes I have two lemongrasses. I like the taste, but it also has a way of repelling pests (not unlike the borage) and I hope by having one in each bed I can have less pest problems as it gets warmer.

There are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to basil in San Francisco I’m afraid. As you can see the Thai basil is a chewed up mess- but it’s alive so I’ll take it. The purple basil will also be a gamble- but much less of one then Italian or sweet basil which is iffy at the best of times. Sadly the local garden center is not stocking African blue bush basil this year- or at least not yet. That’s the only basil that I’ve had very good luck with.

I’m not screwing around with the shiso. In my garden at least it has a tendency to get really buggy, and I’d like to have more for eating so pots it is! And the pots can go on the new herb tables!

I have resown the mitsuba, I have two parsley’s- one of which is going to seed, so I have to work on that. The two shiso, the chervil, the tarragon, and the two chive pots. The other herb I had to wrestle with today was my dill.

As you can see, it was a mess. So I pulled it and sowed some more.

It’s a beautiful pot of dirt. Dill is a pain in the ass, as it doesn’t transplant well. So I can buy dill seedlings but unless I keep them in the original pot I won’t get much dill, as once transplanted it tends to swiftly die. Growing dill from seed isn’t difficult, but you have to tenderly press the seeds into the soil because they need light to germinate. Not to mention it tends to get really buggy, and it attracts scale insects and aphids. Like I said, a pain. But it will work, and I use a lot of dill when I pickle so I guess I’ll just have to keep re-seeding it.

I’m looking forward to the lovely blue flowers of the borage, bees love them, but other bugs don’t.

It can also get really gigantic and I’m looking forward to my dad making triffid jokes again.

I am a Neanderthal of simple pleasures.

Captain’s log: April 28th 2019

It’s been a bit of a week. Bit of two weeks really, the increase in temperature and sun has been a boon for the tomatoes and maybe not a boon for some other things.

First the sun gold. It’s huge! And it’s still growing which is phenomenal! I’m not falling into last year’s trap of overwatering so by being sparing with water but unsparing with maxsea I seem to have hit upon the right formula for cherry tomato nirvana.

Of course unleashing ladybug larvae on the plant seems to have helped. I still find the occasional red aphid on the plant but it’s clearly a lone survivor easily snuffed out by a squish.

I’m spotting ladybug larvae all around the garden, including nestled in my sage.

Aphids generally don’t attack sage, but other pests can, so go and be hungry my larvae friend!

I’m not so great larvae news, the cabbage fly maggots have definitely attacked the roots of the cauliflower. I killed a bunch yesterday and thankfully today they were nowhere to be found. So either they’ve turned into pernicious flies- or between squishing and spraying I got them.

As you can see the cauliflower looks fairly healthy regardless- but some of the underleaves look very rough, and clearly the root nibbles were not good for the plant. I’m giving them a little extra fertilizer and hopefully they’ll rebound. Cabbage fly is an awful pest but much more deadly to root brassicas than leaf brassicas- especially a cauliflower of this size that’s well developed.

That being said I have baby romanesco all over the garden and I’m going to have to be very diligent in checking their roots for eggs. In a baby leaf brassica cabbage fly can be fatal.

Speaking of baby cabbages, the new shade fabric bed filled with brassicas and lettuce is starting to sprout. I sowed the bed in a frenzy and didn’t write down what was what… but I think I sowed tokyo market turnips and komatsuna closer to the fence along with radishes and mizuna- and then lettuces and arugula closer to the path. I think. The point is it looks like it’s all coming up so go shade bed!

My new potted chervil is doing well- it looks like chervil is more of a pot herb then a bed herb. You can see the little fronds on top, that’s fresh growth, a sign that the chervil likes its new moist shady spot.

Besides the issues I’m having with the parsley in the shade bed, the lemon balm has gotten quite tall. I’m attempting to try to grow a few new plants from cuttings but so far the lemon balm hasn’t taken. The pineapple mint has though, I have several growing from cuttings.

As you can see they’re quite vigorous. I’m also attempting to grow some thyme from cuttings, jury’s out on that one. Cuttings are a crapshoot- like 60% just don’t take. But with a little surestart and some love some will- and then you can multiply your plants. This is especially useful in plants like mint and thyme which can be used as borders or ground cover- expensive to buy all the plants you need to cover such a space- much cheaper to take care of a few vigorous specimens and over the course of a few months take cutting after cutting until you have enough for your needs.

I wish my chives were doing better. There’s a very un-chive like sprout in the garlic chive pot which makes me think weed, and the regular chives are barely growing. Are they getting too much sun? Should I have sowed more thickly? I just really want some dang garlic chives! Back to the drawing board I figure.

The monster squash is growing squash! We picked our first zucchini yesterday and there will be more in the coming days. I suspect much more.

And of course there’s my other zucchini plants in the back which are growing well when the feral cats aren’t sitting on them. I suspect they’ll be too spiky for cat butts soon anyways.

The beans sowed from seed in the back- Kentucky Wonders- are growing nice. They’re mulched and one or two of the Swiss chard seeds have sprouted in front, but they’re too small to mulch. Swiss chard can get huge when planted with beans, due to the nitrogen fixing so fingers crossed. In a week I’ll put up the trellis for these guys- have to check to see if I have enough stakes of the proper size though.

I have concerns about the blue lake pole bean starts though. Some have been just eaten up and are wilting badly, while others are vigorous and putting out new growth.

I had good luck with the haricot vert starts last year and I’m sad those weren’t available but I’ve staggered my pole beans well so I should get a good harvest. Not to mention if the trionfo violetto give harvest early enough I might be able to take advantage of our Indian summers in September/August and plant some late season harvest green beans. After all the soil temp requirements for germination are separate from the growing temperature requirements and as long as we don’t get any frosts I might get some winter beans.

My bigger potatoes are looking a little rough. Much like the spittle bugs on my parsley, earwigs are harmless unless they’re in great numbers. Sadly, much like the high level of spittle bugs on my parsley, the level of earwigs feasting on my potato stems is causing problems- so it’s sluggo time.

Luckily my younger potatoes are growing great- it’s gonna be time to put extra soil in those bags soon. This might be the crucial difference between proper seed potato and just chucking supermarket potatoes in a bag though. It could be the sulfur dip I put on my supermarket potatoes wasn’t enough and that’s why it’s acting up. We’ll see anyways.

I re-staked the San Francisco fog, as the v-shaped bean trellis was not right for this tomato the way it was right for the sun gold. It’s just a hoop and two free standing stake and I’ve used soft ties to lift some leaves off the soil. Not fancy but it works.

I’ll leave you with some magnificent chamomile ready for harvest. The ease with which I’ve grown this is pretty astonishing. Just put the plant in and away it went! I’m looking forward to tea.

Tea and less cabbage fly.

Captain’s log: February 21st 2019

Today was a busy day. Actually a busy couple of days, but that’s not important.

A lot of what I’ve been doing is watering now that we’ve had some clear weather- it’s sunny but cool. Heat evaporates water in the soil, but the chief evaporator is the sun- so even though it’s not even above 55 most days- I’ve had to water a fair amount last couple of days.

Part of that of course is the plants I’ve been putting in- new transplants need water no matter the weather. Both the mints and the chervil seems to be doing well- but so are the herbs I put in last month which is a sigh of relief.

Here’s my pretty Italian oregano which took pretty much immediately. All the herbs are growing well.

Today when I got outside to start work- I had a visitor.

He or she is a local kitty, I think one of the ones born last year, and this one and their siblings keep taking vacations into my garden. I’m pretty sure this is the one who put his paws in my arugula pot- and here you can see them hard at work looking at a vole hole. The minute he saw me he went “?!!!!” And sprang backwards over the fence in fear. Entertainingly he kept coming back to keep tabs on my work.

In local news outside of my garden- here’s the toll of the wind and rain, a tree got knocked over in my local park and crashed through the fence. Which illustrates how nutso the weather was, and will be. Its clear for now, but my wish of a longer spell of dry weather has not been answered- it looks like scattered showers or worse are in San Francisco’s future. Hopefully no more downed trees will follow.

I pulled the purple Bok Choy, which for whatever reason had totally passed from edible to stringy stalks- so the Joi Choi can survive until I can eat them. And I will be eating them- they are delicious. Into the compost bin with the non leafy Bok Choy’s!

And look at those lettuces! I am a total convert to the temple of raising lettuce from seed.

And speaking of seeds…

I started several seeds in little seedling pots. Specifically I started 6 sunflower seeds, 6 romanesco broccoli, 6 cucumbers, (3 telegraph 3 Boston pickle) 6 zucchini (3 Nimba 3 green bush) and 6 lipstick peppers. They are all living inside for the moment- as I don’t trust the wind and temperature outside. I used regular potting soil mixed with a little sure start, as I tried some seed starter mix and it was so damn light it wouldn’t take water. Potting soil is better.

Once these sprout it’s off to the greenhouse bench with them! But that will be several weeks from now.

The spinach bed has been overgrown and weedy for too long, so I pulled the spinach and amended the soil so I could plant by seed.

A back row of purple snap peas, a row of radishes, a zig zag row of mustard greens, and a final front row of green onions, since only a few of the green onions I planted in the big 4×4 bed have sprouted.

Now that’s some sexy dirt. We’ll see what takes in the temperature and upcoming wet, but that’s why I’m starting with peas that have a lot less stringent temperature requirements than beans.

Of course I was being spied on while I worked….

Spooky! Kitty kept coming back as I worked and then fleeing as soon as I turned to coo at it.

I wish no one in the house was allergic, otherwise I’d try to befriend the poor feral. But me and mom would need hospitalization after being close to a house cat so it is what it is. At least kitty and his siblings take care of the rats.

The turnips are starting to look really pretty in the evening sun. Turnips never fail me.

Speaking of the infallible, look at that thyme! Both plants, big leaf and French growing huge after all that rain. Thyme is like mint in that it should probably be in a pot- but it’s less of a wanderer than mint so you can take a chance on it. It’s definitely more thyme than I can eat, but it’s pretty and it smells good so who cares!

And look at that sage! It’s throwing up new leaves! Finally! It looks like it took a rainfall to finally wake up the herb but now it’s going to do nothing but grow. That’s a nice feeling.

Finally the arugula. It’s basically growing wild which is to be expected when you sow it as thickly as I did. The problem with that is the absolute thicket of oxalis growing underneath it. Pulling all that oxalis without seriously damaging the arugula would be almost impossible so I’ve just given up for now. In a month or less I have to pull up almost everything in this bed so I can plant the back with pole beans so IDK the weeds are going to get it- just not anytime soon.

The most amazing thing happened today- but I couldn’t get a photo of it, no matter how hard I tried. I saw the first bumble bee of 2019! It’s late February but as far as I’m concerned spring has sprung because traveling around the mowed weeds was the fattest little bumble butt. Fuzzy and black with yellow trim, buzzing around looking for flowers, I dropped everything to follow her around but I was sadly unsuccessful in snapping a pic. But she was here! The first bee of the year!

It’s gonna be a good year.

The bees have arrived!