The Japanese vegetable bed is in!

Well, the “yet more Asian greens bed”. Besides the black summer Bok Choy, a vegetable that is eaten all over Asia, and today the world- I’ve planted two vegetables that are fairly particular to Japan, Komatsuna and Shungiku.

Komatsuna is of course a brassica- but Shungiku isn’t. More on that later.

Before I planted, but after I ripped out the spent sunflowers and tomato plants, I had a choice to make. This is an old Yerba Buena plant which despite inclement conditions in this bed- is still trucking along.

Yerba Buena likes lots of water and shade and in this bed it got neither. It’s still pretty good though- so I tucked it’s stems to the side and got to work clearing the weeds.

I had scattered some California poppy seeds around to add some color to the bed, but they never flowered. I didn’t pull them until now because I like the look of poppy foliage. What I don’t like about poppies is their damn taproots. It’s one of the reasons they’re such a successful flower/weed in drought prone California, a taproot is a much more water efficient root then surface roots. It does make clearing them from a bed a little difficult.

Once the bed was clear of old mulch and old poppies- it was time to amend it. A bag of compost should do the trick, but Komatsuna likes it’s nitrogen so I also mixed in a few good handfuls of biofish.

I anticipate this being a bed that will suck up a lot of maxsea, but I’m ok with that.

Of course before you plant anything you need to have a good idea of where everything is going to go.

Bok Choy needs some space in order for it to get full size, but how much space it needs really depends on the variety. Black summer is sort of a medium density and taller Bok Choy so you can go a little closer then you would with another type- or with an actual cabbage.

Komatsuna on the other hand is a more vertical grower- it’s often referred to as Japanese spinach. It’s not a spinach of course, it’s a Brassica rapa just like Bok Choy. But because of its more spinach like growing habit, it can be jammed closer together.

As for Shungiku- I actually don’t know! Shungiku is actually a type of edible chrysanthemum green and as I’ve never grown mums or any type of chrysanthemum flower… I’m just going to wing it.

“I’m just going to wing it” is probably my mother’s least favorite phrase to come out of my mouth, but in the vegetable garden at least winging it can work out fine.

Less so with childhood baking experiments sorry mom.

So everything was well placed and well watered- and then it was time to mulch.

My favorite time.

Not only did I mulch, as you can see I re-spread out my survivor of a Yerba Buena plant.

It hasn’t given up on me, so I’m not giving up on it.

As this bed is rather brassica heavy, there’s one more step to be done, but that’s another post.

Coming soon to a garden near you: beneficial nematodes!

Because fuck cabbage moths that’s why!

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!

Mid-June planting and sowing

I got a few interesting herbs at work a few days ago, but due to the heat wave I had to wait to plant them. They just sat on my work table which is slightly under the overhang of the back of the house so they didn’t get scorched.

You will note the second tarragon. My original tarragon is doing great, but it’s very low and shrubby. I like big twigs of tarragon for throwing into sauces and stews and soups, so I got a second one that was growing a tad taller.

I eat enough tarragon that it makes sense to have multiple plants.

I also got one of the best smelling mints I’ve ever had- Moroccan mint.

It’s s type of spearmint but it has a really deep and complicated scent. They make tea of it fairly commonly, I used to drink a lot of Moroccan mint tea, now I can make my own.

And yes, I bought a second Yerba Buena. I put her in the corner of the sunflower patch, so she can dramatically drape over the corner.

My most interesting purchase by far was the coyote mint.

Coyote mint isn’t a true mint, and isn’t really even a culinary herb at all. It’s a California native plant that smells like mint. It’s so native to me, it grows wild around the Russian River! It’s flowers should help feed the local bees too- I haven’t seen a sweat bee yet this year and I do worry.

I finally picked the cream of the lipstick pepper seedlings and put it in its forever home. I pulled the underperforming jalapeƱo to make room. Hot peppers are just not great out here, but lipstick peppers are sweet peppers so hopefully…

I used some microryzae in the pepper pot, maybe that means the roots will grow quicker.

I also took stock of my shade bed and sowed those nice black lettuce seeds that a pen pal sent me in the mail from Ohio.

And also some red scallions and some parsnips.

Now there’s some fancy dirt. I also don’t have to worry about keeping it moist, because in true San Francisco fashion, after our ridiculous heat wave… it rained this morning.

In June.

I give up.

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.

June planting and construction

Well the jury’s out on the ladybug’s overall effectiveness, but that didn’t mean I could rest on my laurels.

Again the siren call of my discount…

The Kentucky wonder beans I’ve been growing from seed look awful. Not surprising after all, they were planted during a sluggy season and they all got nibbled to death.

I re-sowed them but they still look rough. Anyways it doesn’t matter, because the haricot vert starts came in!

So I planted them and built a trellis.

4 six-foot stakes, some netting and 16 soft ties is all you need for one season’s trellis. The stakes and soft ties are reusable, the netting not so much. Hopefully the new beans take as well as the blue lake I got earlier.

As you can see those are positively bushy.

Speaking of terrible segues, the African blue bush basil has come in, and I have a plan to make at least one of them perennial.

The trick was to buy two. One goes where it always goes, replacing my Thai and purple basil that never really got anywhere, and the other goes in a large pot.

The idea is- if we have a mild winter both should survive just fine outside. But if it’s a cold windy rainy mess like this year, I can leave the bedded basil to its own devices- but the potted basil can be taking indoors at night.

Now that’s using your noodle.

I also finally ripped out the bolting chervil and replaced it with my favorite herb, lovage!

I’m not taking out the bolting parsley as it has bugs and ladybugs so I’m leaving it alone. I’m looking forward to having lovage to cook with again.

I’m also still taking cuttings in an attempt to corner the mint market. I got a specialty fancy soil I’m going to use for cuttings from now on- in an attempt to give them a boost.

It’s one of the foxfarm ones, this one’s called ocean forest and it’s filled with goodies.

I’m trying my hand at propagating the Yerba Buena for gifts. Since it’s so rare it would be really cool if I could grow them from cuttings, so I’m trying the ocean forest to maximize my chances.

It’s already starting to get on the sunny side when it’s not cloudy. I think summer is coming!

Finally!

Yerba Buena

So one of the perks of my job is getting to see all sorts of really interesting plants the days they come in. Because before I was only really at my local garden center every so often for soils and plants- I’m sure I missed plenty of really interesting things just because they’d all sold out before I could get to see them.

Here’s a good example.

This beautiful trailing mint is Yerba Buena. If you know anything about the history of my hometown, you’ll probably know that during the years of Spanish occupation- San Francisco’s name *was* Yerba Buena. The name only became San Francisco after the Mexican-American war.

Literally translated, Yerba Buena (there’s some real nomenclature confusion with this one, the scientific names are many- some say it’s in genus Satureja, others say Micromeria or Clinopodium. My plant label says Satureja but apparently molecular evidence says otherwise.) means “good herb”. When the Spanish missionaries first stumbled upon the area of land that would become San Francisco, they found this plant in abundance, a creeping perennial that grows all over Northern California.

To add to the nomenclature confusion- it is sometimes referred to as “Indian mint” which is a common name that can refer to many different plants. It was used as food and medicine by the indigenous Ohlone, and to this day makes a really nice tea that various herbal medicine types claim will cure your ills.

I don’t need a cure all- but I love mint and mint relatives, especially this glorious specimen. The smell is incredibly pleasant- minty but not like a sharp minty smell, more soft and… honestly it defies description. This is a plant which odds are will just not be available to you unless you live in Northern California, but I highly recommend it if you can find it. It likes shade and is a real creeper- cascading over a pot so delicately.

Can’t wait to try to make tea from it, can’t wait to see if I can propagate it from cuttings.

I love my new job!