Captain’s log: September 18th 2018

There are still a few herbs that are flowering slightly, including now the rosemary. It makes for some nice decoration indoors.

Also a nice decoration, the Red Admiral Butterfly, a common sight in San Francisco gardens. It just decided to take a powder on the brick, and stayed there while I watered.

So it turns out one of the shishito peppers is ripening ahead of schedule, which is a funny sight to see. Probably got damaged by insect activity! It’s not big enough to pick, though I probably will have to. First red pepper of the bunch, which… isn’t really helpful considering its small size and the fact that you’re supposed to pick shishitos green!

The spinach is sprouting like crazy, in another week or so I’ll have to thin it out, but I’m pretty happy that spinach is so easy to grow.

Ah the lemon tree. Damn thing was here before my parents even bought the house, and it just wont die! It looks like we’re going to start getting our lemons. It’s a little early but it was very cold this summer so It’s not very surprising!

The triffids continue to exceed expectations. I keep having to prop them up with stakes as they get too tall, and douse everything in neem oil and insecticidal soap to kill the aphids but dang, they just don’t quit!

Bless the bean, the workhorse of the garden!

The tomato plant is just flush with fresh growth, which probably doesn’t help me get any tomatoes but meh. I’ll take it.

Despite the chilly temp, dad and dog decided to take a break outside. Dog inspected the garden, dad watched the dog on her rounds. Visible in the back is the apple tree, which is producing little hard (but tasty) apples this year, surprising everyone.

It’s been a hell of a year. But everything continues. It’s a comforting thing.

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Bean beds are now the greens beds!

Some good work in the back planting those nice plants I bought a few days ago.

First I scraped all the old debris off the double bed- all the decayed bean leaves and old mulch. Then I topped off the beds with some fresh potting soil after I worked the soil a bit. Then it was just a matter transplanting the plants. The little gem romaine took some doing, some of the leaves were a little wonky and one of the plants was actually three plants so I sacrificed two for the least wonky one.

The red lettuce was real nice. One plant per pot- all well developed no spots or bugs. Gotta love it.

I also sowed the neighboring bed with seeds. Arugula and Swiss chard seeds, which I will thin as needed later.

Exciting!

Since the romaine sets are so dodgy I also got a small coir pot greenhouse and sowed some romaine seeds.

You start with this and add water, which turns into this:

And then you rip the tops off a little and press a seed into each little pot.

And then you put it in your waiting greenhouse!

Basically this way- even if the 6 romaine lettuces fail I’ll have something to transplant.

Which leads to the possibility that everything will succeed which means I’ll be scrambling to find a ton of pots to put lettuce in.

But hey- it’s romaine! It’s tasty and nutritious! And if you grow it yourself you aren’t risking salmonella or E. coli scares like when you buy it.

I mean- unless you have really unhygienic growing practices.

So to recap: grow your own romaine! But like, wash your hands first…

Winter garden haul

Or- getting my butt in gear for the rest of the year part 2: electric boogaloo.

First up- carrot seeds for the bed that won’t arrive for a week or so. Your basic orange long boys your basic orange fat boys and your fancy carnival boys. I mean sure I could give you their real names but where’s the fun in that!

Also- considering how terribly I failed at growing romaine from seeds in the greenhouse, I bought some romaine sets just in case the direct sowing doesn’t work. Also some red lettuce because yum- red lettuce.

I do still have some seeds- and I have a new seedling start system so that will be a post on its own. But just in case- some plants.

Also the next level in organic pesticides- neem oil. Because while the mild winters in San Francisco mean no frosts- that can mean less of a die off in pests then you get in other climates. Oh there won’t be nearly as much of a pest problem then there was in July- thank god. But without the frost to really kill off the bugs, there will definitely be some continuing issues, and I believe in being prepared! Lettuce in particular can attract slugs and snails which are much more active in winter. I still have Sluggo for them, I’m just going to have to be much more proactive in laying it down.

Also, drum roll please:

Ta-da! Pictured: what looks like overkill but actually isn’t. See the yet to arrive carrot bed will hold around three bags and I need to take the top layer of bean debris off the top of the double bed which means another bag split between them- AND there is the two empty and waiting pots that I’m going to… well do something with and they’ll need soil too. So yeah, this gives me enough soil within a reasonable margin or error.

Because there will be error. There is always error when gardening in San Francisco.

San Francisco is a lot like Westeros. Only it isn’t the cold we anticipate, it’s the rain!

The wet season is coming! God please we really need it!

And while the wet season means much less watering, it does come with some added challenges. Such as having to mow in between your raised beds and pots because suddenly the weeds return. Also what am I going to do with my nice succulent pots to prevent them from drowning?

So yeah. Winter is coming.

And I am ready!

Captain’s log: September 12th 2018

So after a fun few weeks it’s good to get back into the rhythm of more than basic garden care and into fixing up the garden for the wintry future.

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The Herb corner is doing well. This reminds me, I have to update my layout page. Time to dust off the colored pencils. The moss growing on the mitsuba box is actually a good thing, its a woodland herb meant for damp shaded environments, so the fact that its damp enough, and shaded enough for some moss to grow is the best sign. The lemongrass is getting taller and taller, and the one ONE ONE small flat leaf parsley is beautiful and not taking over my garden because I made the mistake of buying TWO plants labeled “giant” and putting them into the ground…

Sorry, had a flashback there.

The large shaded herb patch is also doing well. Now that the giant flat leaf parsley is gone I have to thin things a bit, and I certainly need to weed- but the chive aphid horror of 2018 is well and truly over. (Thanks be to insecticidal soap.)

I am still somewhat… perplexed by the sheer height of my bi-colored shiso, as it started as a small potted herb that fit in my hand. Go team shiso I suppose.

The fennel is doing… something. Is it going to seed? Is this stalk edible? Does it contain more fronds? Was I a fool for growing fennel at all? I think I’m going to wait and see what’s going on. Again, like the chives, aphid issue is gone! SO THERE.

Both Lovage plants are doing very well in their nice pots, and nary a nasty bug in sight! I’ve been picking it for sauces and soups, and I’m thrilled at it’s versatility in the kitchen.

The spinach bed is sown! I have given up on the foolishness of seedlings in my greenhouse (for now…) and have direct sown my spinach seeds into this new bed. It’ll take a week and a half for the first sprouts. Expect gushing and photos when it starts coming up.

Yesterday I pulled out the borked carrots from the bean bed. Soon- this will be the combo lettuce and Swiss chard bed! I think? See I’m fairly sure that romaine doesn’t like all the sun it’s going to get up there so maybe I need a cover? Tomorrow or Friday I’ll pick apart the worst of the bed, add a little more fresh soil and direct sow… something. TBD.

As for the carrots, out of dozens of borked babies that just never grew from too much nitrogen- 6, yes 6, were edible. They were delicious of course, but ugh. Only 6?

I think I’m definitely going forward with a dedicated carrot bed.

The shishito peppers are growing well, tons of flowers, tons of baby peppers, tons of life. All the peppers are doing well, even the mole pepper plant which is a nice plant, just not producing like the others.

We had a minor fava flop. See, now that the favas are growing beans, some of the plants got a little heavy and flopped over. Also might be due to the continuing aphid load. I am spraying as fast as I can! So as needed I’ve been jamming old stakes in the ground and using the soft ties to gently guide the fava stalks to not, you know, fall on the goddamn ground.

Kudos to my mother who noticed the triffid’s listing to one side. Kudos to my dog who wouldn’t stop eating DIRT NEAR THE FAVA BEANS WHICH IS WHY MY MOTHER NOTICED THE FALLING OVER THING.

Dog. I’m begging you- stop eating dirt!

God help me it’s better than bees though!

Fava beans defying the odds, while still being a pain in the butt

So during this last week of suck, I watered the garden but I wasn’t on top of spraying the damn aphids and what do you get on your fava beans when you’re not on top of killing the bastards?

Yeah- aphid apocalypse. But you know what? It’s manageable. Fava beans (broad beans) are troopers and you just got to get back on the mineral oil/insecticidal soap spray and just hose those jerks down.

Because yeah- ok, my fava beans clearly have some sort of bean rust

And so maybe I got to start using the copper fungicide too. (Or… neem oil…) but I don’t care- I don’t! Because look at these cool beans!

Fava beans are like honey badgers- they don’t give a damn!

As long as the beans keep growing and the bees keep coming- I’m gonna have fava beans.

Really gotta start looking up recipes…

Spinach ahoy!

So I just straight up lost my patience yesterday. It’s been long enough for the seedlings in the greenhouse to have sprouted by now- and the one Swiss chard seedling that sprouted has died. Nope! Time for some direct sowing!

I will still need to start seedlings to replace the spinach that grows in two months or so- but I’m not using the seed starter mix or the coir pots- clearly they don’t hold onto enough moisture in a greenhouse environment. Basic cardboard pots and basic potting mix is good enough for seedlings. Lesson learned.

So I mixed the nice dank soil from the ex- pepper pot into the new spinach bed- and sowed some alrite seeds on the left, and the monstrueux de viroflay on the right.

No muss no fuss. Should have done this from the start. I’m still glad I set up the greenhouse bench- it’s definitely going to help down the road, but I’ve got to be smarter about starting seeds.

Carrot mystery solved!

So I have three areas with carrots.

The main green bean bed had two dozen carrot sets strewn in front- (because of the way carrots grow in a 6 pack of carrots from the gardening center there is a ton more than just 6 plants.)

Until the romaine and chard sprouts the carrots are all that’s in this bed.

While those were growing I thought- hey I should get some more! And threw more sets into a crappy plastic rectangle planter that was kinda deep- and some more sets into a round ceramic planter because… why not?

( I swear that last bit makes sense- see I don’t want fully grown huge carrots, I want half grown babies that are big enough to be sweet but still have a nice texture, so a slightly more constrained growing environment is ok for my purposes.)

Now while the two carrot pots have definitely had some aphid issues- as I care not at all about the greens and all about the roots, this causes me much less consternation than aphids on beans does. (Doesn’t mean I’m not killing all the aphids I can, because they can be spread to other, more delicate plants by ants)

Here’s the mystery- I planted the bean bed carrots before the potted carrots, and yet the bean bed carrots are tiny and not good tasting, while the potted carrots are bigger and delicious. What gives?

Because it’s the bean bed!

See you don’t want to over-fertilize carrots- or even fertilize them at all, because the nitrogen promotes leaf growth not root growth. Any root crop you don’t want to fertilize except with organic matter like light compost. Knowing that- I didn’t fertilize my carrots.

But they were in the same bed as beans!

Legumes fix nitrogen to the soil! That was the whole point behind indigenous Americans planting them with corn and squash- the three sisters would support each other, with the corn stalk providing support for the beans, the spiky squash leaves deterring pests, and the beans fixing nitrogen to the soil feeding the other plants!

So the carrots in the bean bed got too much nitrogen, and despite being a month older than the other two carrot pots- they’re just borked!

I’m not sure I can fix this- but lesson learned! What makes beans so great to plant with squash and other veggies, makes it death to carrots.

I’m thinking of making a dedicated carrot bed tucked away in a corner of the garden so I can have carrots year round. In our climate we can get away with carrots year round supposedly and I’d love to try that.

The carrots I picked and cooked were amazing- just buttery and smelling like a carrot times a thousand. There’s just no comparison to a supermarket carrot.

Mystery solved!