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.

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.

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!