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.

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.

April has no more showers- but plenty of flowers

So the last couple of days were in the 80s. Today was much more sedate- but still warm for April. At least it was properly overcast. The main advantage of the extra unseasonal heat is that it’s triggering some early flowers- which is good for the bees I suppose.

Now I’m not 100% sure this is a bee- it might be one of those pollinating flies that mimics bees. Also could be one of the smaller native bees. I don’t know. I do know that it really likes my chamomile and it is adorable.

The insect activity is reaching June levels. This is of course both good and bad. Plenty of fat little bumble bees trundling through the garden, along with some truly lovely western tiger swallowtail butterflies. Yesterday I saw the most amazing dragonfly flitting too and fro the garden. It was moving much too fast for photography but it stayed darting around for almost an hour. The bad is that the “harmless” spittlebugs are reproducing at rates that make them harmful and I had to spray them on my parsley plants and there’s some sort of small scale insect on my dill weed. Not to mention the aphids- though it looks like operation ladybug has curbed the worse of it. Also the amount of earwigs in my potato bags has me worried.

But wow the flowers.

Despite being heavily laden with lemons- the lemon tree is flowering again for next year’s crop. I suspect this is due to the heavy rain it’s gotten this year. I’m not complaining- just racking my brain for lemon recipes.

The apple tree is also setting out flowers. For a few year later during the drought I thought we’d lose this tree so it’s continued existence and health is an absolute joy. It is frankly a gnarled mess that desperately needs pruning but I’ll handle that this winter. For now the fact that the tree planted by my parents still lives is a triumph.

The sauce pot is flowering like mad- as is the sun gold. If half these flowers turn into fruit I’m going to have a very productive year of tomatoes. That’s a ways off. The black krim however is giving me a bit of pause.

I have never seen a tomato flower look like that. It looks nothing like the other tomato flowers- almost as if it’s a related but different species. Maybe it’s a function of being an heirloom, but it’s slightly odd looking. The black krim was an experiment anyways so I’m not overly concerned.

Now this isn’t flowing yet- but it’s sprouted encouragingly. This is my poppy pot, ready to give me lovely multi-colored California poppies. Highly recommend them- especially if you want to sow them in the ground, they grow like absolute weeds. In San Francisco they grow wild in the cracks of transit lines and sidewalks- almost like their preferred growing medium is concrete.

The squash monster continues to flower rather magnificently, and it’s starting to set out little fruits-

In a couple of days I’ll have my first zucchini!

Now that’s a lovely surprise for April!

Biological warfare

So the reason I temporarily damaged the rose tip on my watering can was that I set it down to pick off the aphids on my sun gold.

Unfortunately they’re still there. I’m squishing them as quick as I can of course, and if needed I’ll spray the plant with some soap- but I had a brilliant idea.

See the dill plant is lousy with ladybugs. Heaving with them for some strange reason. Probably means there’s some scale insects at the roots, which would explain why it’s growing a bit odd.

I searched the roots of the dill until I found my quarry.

See those golden orbs? Ladybug eggs! Soon to hatch into ladybug larvae! And it’s the larvae that are the ultimate aphid eaters.

So I placed my biological weapon at the base of the tomato plant, and now I wait. The sun gold has a thick healthy stem and very bushy leaves, so I’m optimistic that it will be fine during the aphid onslaught.

But still… better safe then sorry, and might as well use nature to your advantage!

Because the sun gold is flowering well, and I want my cherry tomatoes!

Hatch little ladybugs hatch! Go forth and eat!

The excelsior bee hotel is open for business

And luckily the flowers are starting to bloom just in time to give the bees something to eat.

This lovely bee house was a gift from an online friend named elsietheeel who sent me this wonderful bee house out of the blue in winter. The edge was slightly damaged but it is perfectly usable. I slapped a little sugru on the rough edge, and on the split on top that was 100% my fault (dropped it oops).

The paint was 100% optional and 100% necessary.

It’s the excelsior bee hotel!

I found a spot for it on the back fence with enough sun for the bees to be comfortable.

I screwed a small screw into the fence to help keep it steady, and hopefully I’ll have plenty of bees soon to pollinate the tomatoes.

Because the tomatoes are ready for bees.

This is the sun gold and it’s in full bloom even though it’s not that big yet. The sauce pot is also obnoxiously flowered for April-but I shouldn’t complain!

My brand new chamomile plant is also ready for bees- you can really tell it’s a member of the extended daisy family when it’s in full bloom.

But what I’m really excited about is my larger blackberry vine.

Its flowering already! Look at it it’s so pretty! I’m super thrilled. I’m hoping this is a sign that all the effort I put into acidifying the soil and mulching so heavily did the trick.

Of course not all the food for bees was intentionally planted- this is the gorgeous scarlet pimpernel that showed up in front of one of my back beds. It’s just so nice to look at too.

Of course there’s also the neighbor’s flowers contributing to food resources. They do a wonderful job with their roses, and they’re also growing fava beans this year, very popular with our buzzing friends.

Anyways I’m just glad after a whole winter stuck inside it’s finally dry enough to be put outside. Got to support your local pollinators!

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!