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!

Sometimes you just want a potato

And I have potato bags ready to dig!

They are a mess, but potatoes are potatoes, even if the greens are icky looking.

I saved the dirt so I could sift it and reuse it. Probably not for more potatoes however, you can spread potato disease if you do that. I got a good pound of fingerlings.

Maybe not he highest of yields, but I’m learning!

In other nightshade news, the first Black Krim of the season was ready to pick. It was a little mealy- could have picked it yesterday, but the flavor was incredible. I wish I was more confident about the tomatoes in general, our late rain just messed everything up, between the actual water and the fact that the deluge stopped me from doing your basic tomato maintenance in time.

Oh well.

I just boiled the potatoes up and dressed them in olive oil and chives. Best dinner I’ve had in a while honestly.

Sometimes all you need is a pound of home grown carbs.

It’s hard to grow wheat in a backyard, but it’s easy to grow a potato!

Trying tomatoes

So by not trimming the sucker stems on my Black Krim I now have a rather gorgeous fruit growing on a very unstable branch.

The solution is a stake.

Of course, this is one of the two pots I used the old rusty tomato cages in, so now this pot has an old rusty tomato cage and a stake.

It’s kinda like that all around tomato land.

The sun gold actually lost several fruit laden branches which was a tragedy, so to support the remaining sucker stems I have not one but two stakes in this pot.

It’s not ideal.

The San Francisco fog is just starting to set out fruit and it was always a gerry-rigged system. It’s got two stakes and a hoop which have proven inadequate so now it has a diagonal stake trying to help matters.

The sauce pot has no problems.

My incredibly awkward system of four stakes and vinyl tape encircling said stakes is maybe not the prettiest thing in the world but I’ve done something right- as I’ve gotten my first ripe tomato that wasn’t a sun gold.

The sauce pot is a mess, don’t get me wrong- it was three Roma plants in one that I should have separated but I was afraid of damaging them… anyways three tomatoes in one pot is less than ideal but so far it seems to be ok.

This is very ok.

It looks like my impulse to get the two visitacion valleys was a correct one as well, seeing as the fruit that was already on the plant is starting to ripen.

I’ve got to clean up those bottom stems though- I’ve learned my lesson.

I’ve also got to add a few more stakes to the color bed. My lemon boy is growing great- and I don’t want the problems that the pots have at the moment.

The only tomato that seems to have been fully ok with its initial staking system is the sweet 100- which has obediently grown inside it’s rusty old tomato cage.

Thank you sweet 100, at least one of you had to obey me.

Captain’s log: June 23rd 2019

Well it’s been busy and it’s going to get busier.

That my friends, is a baby pumpkin! It looks like October pumpkins might be a thing. Or August pumpkins if I’m lucky.

The vine is… going the wrong way. But who am I to tell a pumpkin vine where it can or cannot go. I’m just going to have to accommodate the darn thing as it meanders around my garden.

I’m trying not to make the same mistake I made with my big pot tomatoes- and I’m diligently trimming off the bottom stems of the new guys.

The reason this is a problem is what’s happening with the Black Krim.

This is a beautiful baby tomato- and it’s on a sucker stem. So I am concerned that the weight of the growing fruit is going to knock off the whole branch and lose me a bunch of fruit and flowers. I might have to put a stake in the ground next to the pot and tie that branch to that for support. So it’s going to need a Neanderthal level Gerry-rig, but it is what it is.

Lastly- my one big Roma is ripening nicely. It’s been cool-ish, but on the warm side of cool-ish, and this baby tomato lived through the heat wave so it looks quite nice.

And more ladybug larvae are makes their little cocoons so I’m about to have more voracious aphid killers- which suits me just fine.

It turned out way more spaghetti squash germinated then I needed- so I hope some of my friends want some seedlings. Only a couple of the scallop squashes came up, but I only wanted a couple of them anyways.

This is some lovely oak leaf lettuce that has been patiently awaiting harvest.

Oak leaf is a good choice for warmer climes as it doesn’t get that bitter in warmer weather. The seed packet I got was a mix of red and green oak leaf- and the one that turned up red has not been growing as well as the green. But that’s sometimes the case- red varieties of any vegetable don’t photosynthesize as well as their green counterparts.

The blue lake beans are quite vigorous- here’s one that has escaped its trellis and is starting up the cucumber trellis. Which reminds me- my next day off I have a real project on my hands tying up the cucumbers- they’ve gotten real messy.

But they have lots of little flowers and baby cucumbers so I’ve got that going for me.

Speaking of trellis failures my purple peas are so vigorous- and so top heavy, that they’ve sort of half fallen over the color bed. They’re still producing- I keep bringing up snap peas for dad to munch on, it’s just very precarious. I expect I’ll get peas into August- the vine is just going to be a bit of a mess.

Still have some leeks growing. Also, as evidenced by the soil, still have some very frustrated gophers. Ha ha you rodent bastards- all my plants are in raised beds and pots! I’m an evolved hominid, I can outthink you furry jerks!

Sorry.

Not all my animal visitors are feral cats and hungry rodents. Some are quite welcome. This is a California Towhee. They’re prolific grub hunters. They were chased out of the garden by the cats- but I haven’t seen my feline friends lately, and the birds have returned.

I don’t believe my tree collard is going to make it. It could very well be that my “ingenious” solution to the cabbage maggot problem was the collard’s downfall. Surprise! Aluminum foil rings around the tops of roots probably don’t allow for good root growth. I’m going to try to cut out the foil and use some root growth fertilizer as a last attempt but I’m not too hopeful. Turns out you can’t collar a collard.

Oh god that pun was terrible I’m so sorry.

Here’s a bit of cock-eyed optimism to make up for that pun.

I bought some sweet corn.

Now my parents grew corn when I was a child- it can be done. I’m anticipating a hot summer and fall…

And there’s some room in the 4×4 bed…

If I sort of curl the stalks around the squash the wind *should* pollenated them…

And multiple indigenous groups in America grew squash and corn together so it’s a good soil pairing…

It’s a lot of shoulds.

But I’m gonna do it!

I told you it was going to get busier!

Gripped by the tomato madness

So I bought a few late season gallon size tomato plants. By few I mean four.

Yeah yeah I know it’s June. Yeah yeah I know it’s cheating to buy tomato plants that already have baby tomatoes on them.

Guess what? I don’t care- I just want to maximize my chances of absolute tons of tomatoes.

I marked out where they were to go before I planted them- the two visitacion valley tomatoes in front of the sunflowers, and the better boy and the second black krim in front of the trionfo violetto.

Look, my sun gold has given me *some* tomatoes. A handful so far, and the whole plant looks like it’s going to fall over from aphids. I’m working on it. The sauce pot was a silly experiment with a three in one 2 gallon tomato pot that seems to be doing well, but it’s clearly caterpillar eaten. The San Francisco fog is doing ok, but it hasn’t set out fruit yet, the sweet 100 is an unknowable mystery, and my black krim is starting to produce nicely.

Also dad really wants beefsteaks. Beefsteaks do not do well here- these are the biggest tomatoes I can get that might actually produce good fruit.

So I am indulging a few whims.

I planted them well, and staked them up, and now we wait. The beds should stop the too much water problem the pots have- beds drain better.

In fact next year… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here are the baby visitacion valleys- like the San Francisco fog it was bred for us so it should do well- why I bought two.

The better boy is just your garden variety good producer, a sure bet if you will, and since my extant black krim is doing great-

I figure this black krim should do good too.

This is absolute madness, but there is a method to it. See, last year my terrible but wonderful sun gold lived until January of this year. That’s nuts.

And that one, like my current one was kind of a buggy mess (I suspect something wrong with the variety) and if the buggy mess could produce into January… what about a healthier more robust plant? So yeah- I put in the lemon boy and the smurf tomato- and now four more.

Not to mention that our hottest months tend to be August through October (and weirdly last year November), so… maybe I’m not so crazy after all!

Ha ha just kidding, I’m totally nuts!

But I’ll be a crazy person eating tomatoes, so I’ve got that going for me.

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.