A seasonal pause- or the rain delays have started 2k19

While I was smart enough to get the brassica beds all finished in time, I dithered on my new herb and leek haul.

Which now that it’s pouring is a bit of a problem.

I mean they’re perfectly happy, but as with the tea shrub I’m a little concerned about them blowing over.

I’m also going to have to drain and disassemble the bird bath- it’s clearly time to take it in.

There’s also now the conundrum of will the scallions germinate in the cold, but if you look closely a few are starting to pop up. Nothing stops an onion!

Taking a cue from the seedling setup I just put a big ol’ rock in the flat.

Anyways, I hope your late November is going well, and may the rain continue!

It saves me from having to water!

 

Camellia sinensis

Tea. Wars have been fought over it. It is the defining drink of multiple countries and cultures, and was arguably one of the foundational pillars of English colonialism and empire, the ramifications of which we still grapple with today.

It’s also a nice drink.

It’s also a plant.

I grow those.

Now at my local garden center we sell lots of Camellias this time of year. Those are mostly from the species sasanqua or japonica, and grown for their flowers. Now Camellia sasanqua can be used for tea as well- but *the* tea shrub that is the backbone of green and black tea worldwide- is Camellia sinensis.

And now I have one.

I am uninterested in the flowers and will most likely cut them off. I want a bush. I want a shrub. I want to make my own green tea!

This is most likely impossible in this climate and I am aware that the goal of “nice shrub that smells good” is probably my most attainable goal.

Don’t care- gonna go for it.

This little baby shrub had a bonus though.

Those would be tea seeds! It looks like some of the flowers had already borne fruit and in the soil were three precious tea seeds.

So to add to my lofty goals, I’m gonna try a germinate them.

Because this wasn’t going to be difficult enough.

Adding to my difficulties the plant, while healthy, is rather small in its little gallon grow pot. You can squeeze the pot to see how developed the roots are and my new friend is rather squishy.

This means re-potting her now would be very detrimental to her health.

Problem is it’s incredibly windy this time of year and the rains are going to start soon.

In fact, yesterday at work while the winds were blowing down all our outdoor stock I frantically texted my mother in worry.

Mom has my back.

Bricks and a heavy spider plant are now miss tea’s companions I till I can figure out how to anchor her better.

This will be a learning experience, one I am going to embrace with both hands.

And hopefully a soon to be full teapot.

Powdery mildew, the bane of San Francisco or; how to save a squash vine maybe

Powdery mildew is a type of fungus that looks like flour dusted on a plant. It’s not harmful to people- just plants.

But it’s pretty harmful to plants.

Look, not to make a pun, but there are fungus among-us. They live in the soil, in the air, on our feet, and largely they’re harmless. Until they aren’t.

Our foggy weather and the general susceptibility of cucurbits mean this is inevitable.

WOOF.

As you can see, I’ve been letting this get out of hand. Honestly, it’s late in the season for squash I should probably just pull the plant.

But there are new flowers and baby squash on the vines…

So lets get to work!

I cut away all the awful mildewed leaves and yes- it’s time to say goodbye to the corn.

It never grew fully- the wind knocked it over- and I put it in too late. But this variety looks like it was doing ok regardless- so next year I’ll put it in on time and we’ll see how it does.

So the bed was cleared and the vines were trimmed. As you can see there is still a lot of healthy plant left.

Not loving some of those vines though.

Welp. Time for fungicides!

I dusted sulfur on the exposed vines and sprayed copper on the leaves.

These are considered “organic” which is ridiculous as neither solution contains carbon but whatever.

The point is they aren’t going to poison your waterways. The copper spray most certainly can poison you- just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it can’t kill you so let’s not breath this stuff in ok?

My next step was to enrich the bed and it just so happens I had some steer manure on hand.

When life gives you cow poop- make… the lemonade of healthier squash plants?

Sorry that got away from me.

At that point the bed just needed a top up of new soil and some fresh mulch.

Mmmm. Mulch.

So this was a lot of work! To try and save a zucchini vine- in freaking November. I’m crazy right?

Well here’s my logic. If this fails, oh no I have a heavily enriched 4×4 bed with nothing in it. I’ll just plant other stuff!

But if it succeeds I just got an extra month of summer squash.

Come on baby, you can do it!

Of course the complication is- it rained yesterday.

Which means… winter is coming.

And more powdery mildew.

Fuck.

Yerba Buena is dead, long live Yerba Buena

Well the one two punch of a heat wave and 95 mile per hour wind gusts finally did in my Yerba Buena.

The terra-cotta most certainly did not help. Terra-cotta is a great pot material with one major downside/upside- it looses water to evaporation as the clay is porous. In a lot of cases this is great as it helps avoid overwatering. In the case of a mint it’s less great, and in the case of this mint with 95 mile per hour Santa Ana winds sapping the moisture from an already sun baked pot…

I think even if I doubled the water I was giving the thing it still would have bit it.

Luckily in San Francisco our namesake herb is not hard to come by.

But I’ll not make the terra-cotta mistake twice!

This lovely little glazed ceramic pot has a detached saucer to help keep the moisture in without contributing to root rot. Drainage is key!

I was using it for a houseplant which was a huge mistake- long story- so after fixing that mistake I now have a pot for my Yerba Buena.

Yerba Buena is a funny mint- it likes the shade rather then the full sun like most mints, but it’s surprisingly hardy like almost all mints and mint relatives.

Case in point.

This scraggly but healthy fellow is my other Yerba Buena- which I planted in front of some tomatoes and sunflowers, now dead in situ as I figure out what I’m going to do with the darn bed.

It is in almost full sun, and has been barely getting any water as I sometimes forget the bed full of dead sunflowers actually has one living occupant.

And yet it’s so vigorous despite all that it’s climbing to the back in search of new territory.

I’ll have to be careful when I pull the tomatoes and sunflowers. This brave little plant deserves praise for taking the worst this terrible gardener can throw at it.

And my new Mister Buena is settling into his new home.

Of course now I have to put up another white fly trap… as the winds knocked the one I had on off the pole.

Just another day gardening in San Francisco!

Weather damage in late October

Most of this post could be un-ending cursing just because I may have lost about 20-30% of the plants in my garden due to the absolute bull pucky that is fall in San Francisco, but I’m going to try and not go blue.

We’ll see if I can succeed.

So this was sort of a one-two-three punch. First, we had very very wet weather for a week and half or so- which was welcome even if it caused a few problems. One of the entertaining problems was the sudden cluster of mushrooms in the shade herb bed.

And before you even ask- no I am not eating random mystery mushrooms. I like to live my life on the edge but that is too far thank you very much.

The wet was the return of the fog, but also some morning rain, which was very welcome. It is making my zucchini look very sad though. Powdery mildew is basically the price of doing business in San Francisco. You will get it- it’s just a matter of controlling it. This actually isn’t so bad, I should be able to cut off the worst leaves and despite it being almost November, I should still get the occasional squash until real winter comes.

But then we had the two day heat wave.

Now- I watered well, but it was not enough. As you can see- my garlic chives bit the dust. Also my yerba buena, most of my tarragon and half my parsley plants.

And not to underplay this- when I say heat wave? It was nearly 100 degrees in my neck of the woods. Highs of 97.

Still trying not to swear, but you better believe the blackberry vines were covering their ears the days this happened.

And then- it got worse.

These are the seedlings I have yet to plant. They are inside. Why are they inside?

Because yesterday- oh god yesterday, the santa ana winds came back. 95 mile per hour wind gusts. I first heard them at 3:30 am on Sunday morning, when like all good little neanderthals I was asleep in my bed. Ooh I thought, how nice, the howling sounds make my bed feel extra cozy.

Then, as I snuggled in my warm bed, my eyes shot open in horror as I realized what was about to happen to my half flat of seedlings outside on nothing sturdier then two milk crates.

One half naked pitch black run outside later, my seedlings were living on top of the washing machine for the night and later day.

Judging my how the milk crates were strewn throughout the garden come dawn on Sunday, I’m really glad I took them inside.

Here’s a quick video I took before heading to work. At work pretty much half the tall plants were knocked over, and we didn’t bother righting them because they’d just get knocked over again. Also our internet was down because of the power outages in Marin, which turned the usually quick process of ringing people up into a molasses like slog.

It was a day.

There were causalities. The corn is basically toast. The ginger mint seedlings are gone. and as you can see, my chile de arbol got hammered.

Luckily it’s a pepper plant all it needed was a stake and some love.

I’m not sure love can save my blue basil though. The winds dried it out to the point that while I’ll make an attempt- coming on the heels of the heat wave makes me suspicious it can be saved.

My pot bush beans also got re-arranged but they’re the type of plant that doesn’t really care.

My tree collard needed re-staking and my parsnips fell over, but all in all it could have been much worse.

After all that, I still have a half-flat worth of plants to plant. And a giant clean-up project.

And I’m going to have to completely re-do the shade herb bed.

Shit.

Kohlrabi not rapa- but oleracea, still all Latin to me.

So for my 100th post I went all in on Bok Choy, Brassica rapa, a very easy to grow member of the brassica family that I consider one of my all time favorites.

Now it’s time for my 200th post (holy crap) and I thought I’d do a deeper dive into another of my favorite brassicas, kohlrabi. (Brassica oleracea)

This is one that isn’t as well known as bok choy, despite also being ubiquitous at Chinese and other Asian supermarkets.

It’s also very popular in German speaking countries, as it is sometimes called a German Turnip.

Here’s a nice pile of market kohlrabi at my local Chinese supermarket. These are grown much bigger then what stage I pick them at in the garden, largely because they’ll transport and store better at larger sizes. My garden books recommend picking them anywhere from golfball size to tennis ball size. If all you can get is the big guys,that’s fine! The big guys just need more cooking- but if you want little tender kohlrabi you can eat raw, growing them yourself is the best way.

They’re most often found in purple and green varieties, with some seed packets containing a mix of both. Like most Brassicas, growing from seed is fairly easy, but if you want more variety buying starts is a good idea.

To give you and idea of how fast they grow, here’s a photo of one of my earlier planted kohlrabi, taken around October 12th.

And here is the same plant on the 24th.

They may have been called the German Turnip in the past, but the true turnip is rapa, while the kohlrabi is oleracea, the same species as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, among many others.

The edible part is the swollen stem right above the root, so since it’s not the actual root you’ll be eating, cabbage fly, my eternal nemesis, is less of a problem.

I like them raw, but saut├ęd kohlrabi is tasty too. When they’re very young you can forgo peeling, but any larger then a tennis ball I’d recommend it.

I’m probably going to put in more as the season goes on, it’s a really nice winter crop.

I even have another 6 pack in my latest haul, but there’s been a complication. In true San Francisco fashion, the weather has been insane. After some chill and fog and wet, which is causing an absolute ton of mildew- we had two days of intense heat. Like nearly 100 in my neck of the woods. Which meant on the day off I had to plant these guys, they had to stay inside so they wouldn’t wilt.

And I had to water the absolute heck out of everything.

And now today, it’s foggy and cool and moist.

October in San Francisco is a special time.

I can’t believe this nothing blog has 200 posts! I can’t believe people read about an amateur vegetable gardener in the wildest weather place in the world! But I love you guys and I’m glad you’re here as I shout into the void about kohlrabi.

Though even if you weren’t here I’d still shout into the void about kohlrabi.

It’s a good vegetable.

Oh god this heat

Well after fog and rain and a lot of work, it’s officially summer I guess.

Arg my chard. Chard can grow well in the summer months but it’s really more of a fall veggie here, but I just had to have it and look what I’ve got. I managed to save it with just a ton of water- but still what a mess.

My one glorious pumpkin was also feeling the heat, as it’s leaves looked quite parched. The pumpkin itself looks marvelous though, it seems to be ripening nicely.

My lettuce also was going the way of the chard. It’s very close to the house and gets plenty of cover, but the heat and the morning sun was extremely hot. So more water in the fabric bed as well.

In good heat related news, my peppers are happy campers. They’ve been waiting for this heat, and it should mean that the peppers on the plant will ripen nicely.

Got to look on the bright side I guess.

The extraordinarily bright side of the evil hate star.

I can’t believe I’m saying this- I miss the fog!