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!

New plants, new bed, and bad news

So this was a good day, mostly. I got my new fabric bed in the mail a few days ago but I underestimated its size and realized I needed more soil than I actually had.

A trip to the garden center was in order.

I got some blue lake green beans sets along with a replacement for my ailing chervil, a basil gamble and one last squash plant.

First a note on the chervil.

That does not look healthy. It’s the fact that it’s in a bed. This area of the garden, the shade herb bed, is shady in fall and winter. It’s also shadier in spring and summer. But we’ve been having very bright and windy days and that’s just been murder on the chervil. Murder on the parsley too, but that’s solvable.

The thyme doesn’t give a shit it’s huge.

To solve the evaporation problem on the parsley side, the answer is, as always, more mulch.

Just got to lay it on. As for the chervil…

Sometimes you just got to get a new plant. Healthy plant in a pot which will help with water conservation, and on the shade herb table in the shadiest possible spot in the garden. It’s a nice delicate herb chervil, hope this one takes.

In the long shot category, we have basil.

I have completely given up on Italian basil, and if I were to un-give up on it, it would go into a pot. They didn’t have any blue bush basil which is a shame, but they had some very healthy looking Thai basil. Slightly different flavor, but a heartier plant, which as you can see I’ve mulched the absolute heck out of. It’s still a crazy gamble, but it’s been so sunny… well, all gardening is a gamble really.

The squash was fun though.

See I’ve been growing pretty much all plain green zucchini, largely because it’s easier and mom likes them. But it occurred to me that I had a space for one more plant, and dad likes grey squash, so I got a “Magda” zucchini for him. It was a really healthy looking plant, and it’s a cinch to grow so no skin off my nose to put in an extra plant.

The beans went in easy, as beans tend to, I still mulched the heck out of them of course.

I also put some stakes down for them, I also have some netting that I think I’m gonna use for the trionfo beans.

The main issue today was turnips. They’d been growing slow, and were starting to bolt, no surprise there. One of the reasons I got this fabric bed to stash in the shadiest part of my garden was so I could grow the more temperature sensitive crops like lettuces and arugula and turnips in a shaded area of the garden.

The problem was cabbage fly. I had eaten a lovely turnip a week ago, small but tender, and was all set to pick the biggest few for tonight’s dinner. Only to discover all but one eaten up by cabbage fly maggots.

The one survivor was added to dinner, the rest were added to the compost bin. This is not my first tangle with cabbage fly. Years ago I had a whole lot of really beautiful turnips ruined by them. They’d been scarce as of late, and I thought I could get away with it, but it looks like our really wet start to spring helped the damn flies get off to a good start. Of course, while the damage cabbage fly can do to turnips is the most dramatic due to them eating the roots all up, cabbage fly can damage the roots of any brassica. SO tomorrow’s big task is going to be checking the roots of all my cabbage family crops for maggots or eggs and hand destroying and spraying the lot of them. And sadly I have a lot of brassicas.

This is the new bed. There was clearly a sewing error as you can see it’s a little lopsided. As I got it fairly cheap I suppose it would be bad form to complain about a minor cosmetic error so who cares.

I have quite a few plants I’m putting into this bed, including a few types of fancier lettuce, but these are some of my favorite Japanese vegetables that I picked up from the ferry building a few days ago and can’t wait to grow. Of course both are cabbage family crops so now that I know the cabbage flies are out I’m going to have to be extra vigilant. Both of these plants are quick growers, so it should be only a month from sprouting to harvest and then I can sow again. In between most of the lettuces I sowed some extra french breakfast radishes. I had sowed some radishes in front of the peas, and due to the extreme wet only about three came up.

This guy was my first to eating size. I cleaned it up and gave it to dad and he ate the whole thing leaves and all.

God bless him.

Well soon I’ll have many more, radishes are one of those plants you can tuck anywhere and they’ll mostly grow no matter what you do. Of course they are cabbage adjacent so I will once again have to be a little diligent sweeping for fly eggs.

In other not so good news, the red aphids have returned to the sun gold, and in the course of hand picking them, I made a truly bone-headed error.

This is the rose tip of my watering can, and as you can see, the inner part that has the little holes in it is missing. That’s because I set the can down to remove the aphids from the sun gold (and they only were on the sun gold which was weird) and I stepped on it. I heard a *ping* as the inner part went flying somewhere and I have no idea where it went. So while I will scour the garden in the morning hoping to find my missing part, I have a good idea I’m going to have to replace my watering can tip, possibly my watering can.

In the meantime, I have this little fellow playing back up. So what if he doesn’t hold much water, he has the right tip and he doesn’t just barf water out like a plain spout does. I could blame the aphids for this latest clumsy mistake, but I think it’s just my complete inability to see where I’m stepping.

I will of course blame the aphids anyways.

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.

April planting part 2

It’s almost all in. I say almost because despite the fact that rain wasn’t forecast until tomorrow… it started today. So I got most of my plants in anyways.

The blackberry will have to wait until the rain stops- but at least the tomatoes and the mess of zucchini are in.

The zucchini was an adventure however.

For one thing the root ball was very stuck in.

Yeah, not gonna be able to separate that.

On top of that, the other problem is this bed that has the best room for the squash ball is fairly shallow. I tried to separate the roots so I could have a few plants in different areas- but that dog wouldn’t hunt. Faced with lots of roots… I improvised.

I took a bag of potting soil and mounded it up into a hill. Then I dug as deep a hole I could and put the sure start inside. And then I planted my squash ball and hoped for the best.

I still have to mulch the hill, but as mentioned, we’ve had a rain delay.

Mount squash. It’s gonna be real interesting to see how good a neighbor the zucchini monster is going to be to the romaine lettuce and the green onions. Not so worried about the scallions mind, as long as they have some vertical room they’ll grow. Hope the romaine don’t get squashed.

Heh. Squashed by squash.

I might have to find some sort of trellis system- but I have to do more research.

The tomatoes were much more straight forward.

The Roma mega pot went into the big green pot. Similar to the squash pot it’s three plants in one big root ball, which is also semi-crazy but the plants are super healthy and Roma tomatoes are like the gold standard paste types so I’m affectionately referring to the red pot as the sauce pot from now on.

I put all the soil around the pot while the pot was still on the plants, then removed the mega pot and put down my sure start and planted the big boy.

I mulched it and put some extra stakes in.

I’m gonna string some soft ties around the stakes to support the stalks. it’s a Gerry-rig but I’m known for that!

As for my other tomatoes, it was much easier.

I bought a sweet 100- your bog standard red cherry variety, and a funky heirloom called “black krim’. I chose the black krim because it’s a globe but not a beefsteak and it was developed in Russia. I.e., if we have a cool summer it should still produce since it was bred to perform in an even colder climate than ours.

Also the fruits look SUPER COOL. Like red with black streaks. I’ve also totally bought these at farmer’s markets before, and they are super delish.

I pulled the sassy salad from the green pot- it was going to seed anyways because of the increasing sunshine- and some sure start later- the black krim was in.

It’s a pretty runty plant so far- I have to figure out how I’m going to cage it- but it looks healthy.

The sweet 100 went into my new extra large terra-cotta pot, along with granular fertilizer, sure start and lots of potting soil. I think the old tomato cages will do for this one- on Wednesday when the rain breaks I’ll assess my options.

I’ve got my eye on you miss blackberry- and while I’m probably going to have to buy you a friend in a week- you’re getting planted soon enough- wait your turn!

God I’m so excited about putting in a blackberry.

Stupid rain delays!

April planting part 1

Well almost April, as it’s March 31st. But it’s basically April, and it’s time for some planting.

But I’m exhausted- so it’s part 1 and tomorrow I’ll finish it up.

First off before I planted anything, hell, before I even went to the garden center, I mulched.

Here’s some mulch around the baby green beans, and there’s also fresh mulch around the baby zucchini and purple peas. Water retention- weed suppression- mulch is good.

Unfortunately I made the executive decision to kill the mystery mole pepper. It’s just a mess. It was falling over and has looked like death for weeks.

RIP pepper plant. I’ll get another pepper (or peppers…) later this year- I have the little lipstick pepper seedlings growing, though those won’t be ready for transplant til May or so.

I really wanted a 6 pack of haricot vert seedlings- that’s what I got last year and they’re great green pole beans, but for whatever reason they did not have them today.

They had… a lot else.

I’ll discuss the gigantic squash plant(s) and tomatoes tomorrow, along with the belle of the ball, a Marion blackberry- but it was also herb time. That’s what I had the energy to plant today- tomorrow is vegetable and fruit time.

Here’s my new chamomile. I’m a confirmed insomniac, so I drink a fair amount of teas and tisanes. Might as well grow my own.

I also got a few new curly leaf parsley, as my current ones seem to be going the way of the dodo. What I love is that the parsley types have such grand names. The type I tried to grow from seed was just “green moss” but the two plants I put in were “green river” and “Aphrodite”.

Aphrodite!

There’s my new “Aphrodite” parsley. You can see the sort of meh plants next door- the “green river is farther to the left.

My final herb was one I’ve always wanted to grow, not for culinary use per se, but because it smells good and can attract bees- and for its long long history.

This beautiful mint is pennyroyal. Pennyroyal is an ancient medical herb that in the days before modern medicine would have been a major part of the herbalists toolkit. It is also somewhat toxic. Not as much as other herbs- if I really wanted to eat some I’d probably be ok- but it can damage the liver. I like it as a sort of botanical momento mori- a reminder of how important some of these herbs were to our ancestors. And it’s flowers attract bees! So more bee food- and a nice smell. That works.

I’ve marked out where the veggies and fruit are going in tomorrow, but I’m so tired so that will be tomorrow’s task.

Soon.