Seedling rescue

Well I messed up. The leggy seedlings definitely needed to be outside, but they certainly didn’t need to be in the way too hot greenhouse.

Those are some damaged seedlings. Problem is- it’s actually kinda warm out now. Warm and sunny. So in the greenhouse bench it wasn’t warm- it was hot! Luckily the raised temps and sunny weather means the greenhouse is unnecessary so I took the plastic off of it.

Then it was just a matter of repotting the survivors.

I managed to save three zucchini, one Boston pickle cucumber plant, two romanesco and two sunflowers.

And there is absolutely no guarantee any of them will survive their early transplant.

But they look ok, and by being in the sun but not in the greenhouse they should toughen up.

I took the opportunity to move the indoor seedlings outside- and to plant some more.

Another 6-pack of romanesco and sunflower, along with a 6-pack of the telegraph improved cucumbers and Swiss chard because you can never have enough of them.

So my greenhouse bench is now just a bench. It might sprinkle tomorrow which might mean I have to take the trays indoors or move them to the table, but it should be clear for at least a week and a half.

Of course I gave up trusting San Francisco weather forecasts a long time ago, so I’ll just have to be on top of things.

I am slightly concerned about wind knocking things over- so I put a bunch of rocks inside the drip trays to try and weigh things down. That also could fail. We’ll see.

At least hopefully I saved a few of them.

Seedling adventures

Well it’s still pouring. It’s gonna be a while before I can put out my new beds and buy new soil for those beds, and I’m still wondering if my poor pepper will survive all this wet.

But the seedlings I’m starting indoors are doing great!

This was 5 days ago. The sunflower seeds are the winner of the eager beaver award for sure. Beat even the romanesco which was a surprise considering how quick cabbages usually come up.

They were next of course, and then the cucumbers and zucchini started. Only a few of the seeds seems to have been viable however- there seems to have been a few duds which is unsurprising.

I’m disappointed none of the telegraph improved have come up yet- the front row is Boston pickle. But I have more seeds so I can always give it another try.

Never bet against squash of course. Once those back kids are a little more developed I’ll stash them in the greenhouse so they can get some sun.

The sunflowers are already in the sun box which is the only dry place in the garden. It’s warm in there so maybe that 6th seed will start- but as 5/6 isn’t bad, I’m not too worried.

I finally bought some Joi Choi seeds, but they’re not coming in for a few days, so I prepared the trays for seeds early. This way I won’t have to go outside in the pouring rain to plant a few seeds.

None of the pepper seeds have come up yet but that’s not surprising at all- peppers apparently can take up to 3 weeks to sprout, they’re a little finicky.

All in all it’s quite nice to have some greenery indoors while it’s a grey mess outside, so I’m glad I’m doing this.

Of course there’s the back bed I seeded directly… which probably won’t come up at all because of the pounding it’s getting. Oh well, you win some you lose some.

In fun weather news:

Having some ground integrity issues because of how saturated the ground is getting. That’s a very heavy terra-cotta pot filled with soil and it tipped over because the ground beneath it gave way. Fun. I’m going to have to figure out if I can lay some tile or pavers underneath the pots for security.

I’m looking forward to some sun.

Seeds for March/April came in, and a book recommendation

So there’s a great heirloom seed place that has lots of rare and not so rare seeds called Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. I know them as the people in the old Petaluma bank.

In Petaluma California, north of me, there is an old bank and the Baker Creek people bought it and turned it into a seed bank and garden store.

It’s pretty wild. Petaluma however is not right around the corner. It’s not super far, but absolutely no one in my house wanted to drive up for 10 dollars worth of seed packets, so to the Internet I went.

One of the reasons last year’s zucchini plant didn’t produce nearly as much zucchini should was that it was a transplant. Now I’ll still probably buy one or two zucchini plants from the garden center as a control- but I’m definitely planting direct into the ground for these bad boys.

I’m trying to be realistic about the prospects for heat this summer, so I chose your basic green Bush variety because… it’s zucchini!

But- I also chose this heirloom Nimba. It’s a variety from Poland of all places and supposedly does well in the cold climates and produces early. Just hedging my bets.

Now the reason I’m so serious about my squash is that it’s one of the few veggies my mom can eat, and I want to feed my mom the very best. Luckily squash is notoriously prolific when the conditions are right, so between the seed varieties and whatever control plant I get at Sloat- I’m seeing a lot of squash in my future.

These beautiful babies are for me and dad. He loves cucumbers and I love pickles. I’ll pickle just about anything mind you, green beans, onions, you name it- but cucumbers are the classic pickle vegetable for a reason.

The telegraph variety was recommended to me by a user on metafilter called purpleclover. She’d just interviewed someone from Baker Creek, and the interviewee recommended the telegraph variety for the cool summers in San Francisco. She very kindly passed this info on to me. (Thank you purpleclover!) It’s an English type which makes sense- it’s not like England is known for hot summers either. I like English cukes- and so does my dad, but I really like pickling types- so I got a packet of Bostons.

Now here’s my confession: I’ve never grown cucumbers before. I know the basics, but I’m boning up on the cucumber pages of my San Francisco gardening books and investigating trellising systems. Expect more posts on the theory of cucumber growing way before the seeds ever hit the soil.

I have time however. It is wet and cold, and absolutely no seeds of either vegetable are going into the ground until at least mid to late March. Now the cucumbers might have to be started in small pots- I’m still investigating.

And the thing is- we might get a hot May and July, that’s the thing about San Francisco weather, we tend to the mild, but it’s inherently unpredictable!

I remember a day in May quite a few years ago during a city college Paleontology class where we had a field trip to Ocean Beach and it was nearly 100 degrees. I got there early with a couple other students and we… frankly we went mad with heat stroke. Running from dogs and collecting pieces of dead crabs that we were convinced were going into a “collection” happened. We never found the teacher and ended up walking all the way to Fort Funston and beyond thinking the sea gulls were chasing us. The professor was not impressed.

(Also not joking about the heat stroke, when I finally got home mom was aghast at how red I was- it wasn’t sunburn it was even under my clothes. I was sick as a dog for days. As someone who does not do well in heat- Australia right now has my deepest sympathy).

Point is- we can sometimes get temps that are shockingly against the norm. So will the summer be hot or typical? Survey says… who the hell knows! Honestly if I had to guess with all the rain it could be a signal of some climate change affected weather which *could* signal a warmer summer… or not.

The point is- I’m hedging my bets, by getting some seeds that can survive a cooler summer.

However, the seed company threw in a special surprise to my order:

Lipstick peppers seeds! I’ve never heard of this type of pepper but looking it up it is indeed an oldish heirloom type sweet pepper that… performs well in the north!

Now seeing as this company is based in Missouri I’m pretty sure by north they mean Connecticut but hey- I’ll take it.

Problem is I’ve never started a pepper from seed before, only from plants. So now I’m doing research on what’s the best way to go about this- because I have 8 pepper and tomato sized pots now (thanks Lynn!) and only one of those has an extant pepper in it- my Chilhuacle negro aka the former mystery mole pepper. Now that’s a mildly hot pepper, and I wanted one really spicy and one sweet- so the lipstick can be my sweet pepper. The rest of the pots can be used for to-be-determined tomatoes.

But how to grow peppers right from seed is a problem for another month. Nothings going in the ground now during the downpour.

img_4274

This is the cute mailer Baker Creek sent their seeds in, which if I wanted to order onions, strawberries or watermelons with I could.

I don’t- with the exception of maybe onions, watermelon and strawberries have issues growing in San Francisco, but it’s super cute.

So this is a magnificent book, that just came in the mail. This dude, Nigel64 from New Zealand who runs theĀ Growplan blog, recommended it to me in a comment a bit ago. It is THE BEST BOOK. It’s from the 90’s and a little outdated, but it is a comprehensive look at vegetables that grow in temperate climates. It’s a full color hardcover, that was surprisingly cheap online, considering how long it’s been out of print. This was a used copy I managed to snag all in all for less than ten bucks. It was shipped from England, where the book was originally published. NZ climate and UK climate and SF climate are all similar, so it’s not surprising that Nigel64 got a lot of use out of it, and so will I, I suspect.

Look at all that pretty spinach! The photography in this book is phenomenal! They even have some Asian veggies in the book, though not as much as I’m used too- that’s the outdated part. It’s a little more Euro- and western-centric than a book on vegetables published today would be, but considering the whole thrust of the book is veggies that grow in England, a part of the world which is similar in climate to where I am, this is a useful book regardless.

They do include a fair amount of American vegetable varieties, which is good for my purposes at least, and look at those pretty pumpkins! All the descriptions include the kinds of information about time to maturity and vine type that are useful to the gardener.

My favorite carrot variety, the Kuroda is not in this book, which isn’t surprising, it’s a Japanese type. But I’ve got my eye on that Nandrin as a potential type for my garden’s future, yes I do.

I haven’t even really begun to read this book in depth, I suspect it shall put all sorts of ideas in my head.

Thanks again to Nigel the landscape architect for putting this wonderful book on my radar- I never would have stumbled across it otherwise.

Now- I have research to do!

 

RIP zucchini

No pictures- just pain. Was doing a check of the back after today’s haul (see next post XD) and the zucchini was on its side- it’s stem having been chewed through? or more likely have molded away in the wet.

My feelings on voles/gophers may change significantly depending on if this was cold related or pest related- but how would they even have gotten up there? The top leaves were growing somewhat, I thought I might get one more squash- but regardless it was not long for this world, as at postmortem I saw some kind of eggs at the roots- along with much more insect damage then I’d have thought. Between that and the damp- clearly cutting away the affected leaves wasn’t enough to save it.

I am sad.

RIP zucchini.šŸŒ¹

Captainā€™s log: August 19th 2018

In the distance is a palm tree. All the backyards on this block are connected, which is why we have such a feral cat problem. But it also means many years ago someone a few houses down planted a goddamn palm tree like it’s goddamn Los Angeles or something and now- in this foul freezing weather, it’s tropical-ness is taunting me.

I pulled the bolting giant flat leaf parsleys. Lesson learned. Curly leaf goes in the plot- flat leaf goes in a pot- never get giant anything, and if you do- don’t get two of them. As much parsley as I use, there is such a thing as too much parsley.

I’m going to have to cut back the blue basil eventually- but oh look at the beautiful bee. (and all her friends that were buzzing around too quick to be photographed!) There was also my favorite flying insect, those long black beneficial wasps that eat grubs. I haven’t seen one this season yet, very excited for them to get to business and eat grubs for me. I am 100% team buzzing insect.

I cut back the icky yellow zucchini leaves and was rewarded by vigorous new growth. There are three buds, which is good news, and the leaves don’t look cruddy and crusty which means I cut the nasty leaves off in time.

I had a little undignified panic attack about the tomato this morning. Made the mistake of reading my Pam Peirce book on gardening in San Francisco. Got convinced my tomato was diseased instead of just cold and wet. Mom snapped me out of it by reminding me that the neighbors plant isn’t doing great either, and even in the good old days her and dad didn’t always have the best luck with tomatoes. Growing tomatoes in San Francisco is a crap shoot under the best of conditions. I think tomorrow I’ll go to my local garden center and pass some photos around and get some expert opinions. Could be my current strategy of cutting off the worst of it and hoping for warmer weather is correct! Could be it *is* fungal and I need some copper fungicide or something to spray on it. Could be it’s one of the bad tomato diseases and I’ll have to throw out the plant, throw away the dirt, and sterilize the pot! (Please not this option). Nothing I can do about it today. But doesn’t it look like one of those baby tomatoes is starting to ripen? A Neanderthal can dream!

I got the last of the bean harvest today. I think in the next few days I’ll tear down the vines and the Gerry-rigged trellis. What a success the beans were! I still have bags in the fridge waiting to be pickled and cooked. It produced for almost two whole months. Imagine if I’d staggered the planting’s and had a second double bed! I’d be getting beans till September! I definitely have some planning to do.

I picked some tarragon and chives to make some cornichon style pickled beans tonight, along with the last two purple beans.

The carrots might have aphids on and off- but the roots themselves look fine, it’s just the stems and leaves. And since you don’t eat the leaves of a carrot- I’ve decided I officially DGAF. I’m spraying the darn things and it’s working- and in a month I should have some good carrots.

The peppers are somewhat of a disappointment. Only Two out of Six of the plants are fruiting… and…

Holy crap both of the sweet red bell pepper plants are fruiting!

Four out of Six!!!!! Four out of Six!!!!!

God bless peppers and their incredible resilience in the face of crummy weather.

Also want to apologize to all the birds in my apple tree that flew out in alarm after I shouted in joy upon discovering the baby peppers.

Four out of Six!!!!

Captains log: August 11th 2018

The gloom seems to be lifting! Today wasn’t the warmest, it barely cracked 69 degrees around 1pm, but it was sunny at least, and if it can only stay this way, maybe my tomato plant will at least ripen the little green tomatoes we have so far. (Not super optimistic about any more than that sadly.)

Mint thunderdome continues to cement mint’s reputation as the hardiest plant in any garden. The little one in front is the one I’m the most excited about- that’s strawberry mint! If I could eat dairy I’d make a mint panna cotta or something like that, but instead I’m just going to make tea.

My little fennel plant is also doing well. I don’t plan on using the bulb for a while, I’m just going to take the fronds for things like stocks and soup. But when investigating the part where the fronds join the bulb, I found a lot of ants. Which means- of course… aphids hiding in the plant. I sprayed into the holes with mineral oil, and i’ll have to do that for a few days, but the plant itself looks fine, so I don’t think its a heavy load. Unlike the load on the dill plant, which killed it. (RIP dill)

I cut the worst leaves off the zucchini plant, leaving three left for basic photosynthesis, but look! A new flower! and a new leaf! As soon as that new fresh green leaf is any big, I’ll be cutting off the other nasty yellow too-moist leaves and hope for the best. If this flower is an actual zucchini it will be squash #3 from the plant. *sigh* Mom keeps cheering me up by rightfully pointing out that this entire venture this year was an experiment, and the beans alone, along with the herbs have really justified the experiment- but c’mon! Its zucchini! It’s supposed to be taking over the garden, and due to the weather I can barely keep it alive!

Ughh.

However the shaded herb bed is loving the weather. And my runty little green shiso plant which almost died when I put it in- is bouncing back! Dad and I just used some- we went to Japan town yesterday (more on that later, I got some seeds) and got some fish for sashimi, and it was so cool plating it on a shiso leaf from the garden. It’s gotten a bit of damage from caterpillars and such, but its still plenty edible, it just needs good washing before eating.

The Hatch Peppers are totally un-bothered by the weather, though the sun today was very good for them. Peppers are related to tomatoes (and potatoes) but are a lot hardier than their nightshade cousins. I love hatch peppers, so I have something to look forward to next month.

The fava beans just don’t give a fuck. They just don’t. They went kind limp during a break in the cold snap from water lack, but once I bumped up the water they perked right up. They don’t even get a ton- like a gallon or a gallon and a half a day for a 4 foot by 4 foot square of densely packed fava beans- a little less when it’s cold, a little more when its hot- and it looks like I’m going to get a ton. I’m going to be using this bed for spinach in the winter, but you can plant fava beans year round, and I have a sneaking suspicion I’m going to have to put in a dedicated fava bed once this one is done. I just have to be aggressive with the mineral oil spray/insecticidal soap usage due to the bean aphids that like favas.

The greatest thing honestly has been the bees. The dang African Blue Basil along with the hyssop has been just drawing in the bees. Sure- I’m getting a lot of your basic European honey bees and fat bumble bees- but I’m also getting some beautifulĀ green sweat beesĀ and this guy. On my parsley. I think she’s a hoverfly? I don’t care she’s a beautiful pollinator and I love her.

Cause I got butterflies, but most of them are damn white cabbage moths and their caterpillars are eating the leaves of everything so…

Bees please.

Captain’s log: August 8th 2018

3 weeks post-surgery my weight bearing restrictions have been lifted. Sadly the general gloom that has invading San Francisco this August has not lifted, and the atmosphere is cold and moist.

While that means something good in terms of water-savings, it means the overall wetness of my plants is not going to stop anytime soon. This has led to a few distinct problems.

The Zucchini plant continues to throw up flowers and new growth. However all the outer leaves are yellow and moldy due to the pervasive damp. Once the new growth is more pronounced I’ll have to take my snips and cut off the ruined leaves in order to save the rest of the plant. This variety of Zucchini is not a known over-producer, which seemed prudent when I put it in- but now is very annoying, because it’s august and I’ve gotten two squashes. However, I have my doubts this is even the plant I supposedly put in. According to its long faded label, this is a Romanesco Zucchini- and heirloom Italian variety that puts up as many male flowers and female, so as to cut back on the over-abundance of Zucchinis one tends to get. But I’ve seen pictures of those, and based on the two I got- this is some other green summer squash variety that under-produces, because the two veggies I got look nothing like what it’s supposed to look like.

The other problem I am grappling with is the eternal battle with ants and aphids.

These are the stems of some of my carrot plants. The gray things are aphids. I thought I’d handled the carrot infestation with a combo of mineral oil and the hose, but a cluster of those bastard Argentine ants marching around the square carrot pot informed me the battle was not over. I used more oil, but considering the wet gloom, I don’t want to use the hose until it’s a little dryer out, lest I swamp my carrots. (over-watering carrots cracks them).

In better news, despite her terrible rolled up leaves, caused by both too much wet and too much wind- the sun gold cherry tomato plant has some new itty bitty baby tomatoes.

Just goes to show you can’t get a good cherry tomato down. Got to cross my fingers and toes we get something approaching sun soon though. The forecast isn’t optimistic however- next 7 days looks to be low 60s. The only hope is in the inherent unpredictability of forecasting in San Francisco. Conditions can turn on a dime. Hopefully.

In more hopeful news, the parsley that wasn’t looking so hot has rallied and is sitting pretty in it’s new pot.

As for the fava beans…

I am slightly concerned they’re going to climb into my window and kill me in my sleep. They seem to be luxuriating in the damp- which makes sense as favas can be grown year round, and in many conditions. There is a reason they were a staple in early old world agriculture. The horrible black aphids are also common to them, but they shrug them off as easily as they shrug off the mist. I am seriously impressed with their hardiness.

Now if only they could impart some of their hardiness to my tomato…