Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Too Hot!

Ai yi yi, we're experiencing a heat wave! When the kids and I went out the check on our new transplants yesterday evening, all of them were sad and droopy after just 24 hours. We watered everyone, and will no doubt need to do it again today. Unbelievable - normally we have a chilly fog cover but of course with new vulnerable plants, it's frying pan time!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Planting Time, Fun Time

I did nothing productive in the garden all weekend and was feeling uninspired, like it was just another errand, when I pulled up to OSH this morning. Then I caught sight of their garden displays and my blood started pumping. I got my
No wheelbarrow? Just grab one of the many dilapidated big wheels lying around.
baby in the cart and started piling stuff in, remembering about halfway through my un-funded shopping spree that oh yeah, I came with a list. $28  later I had a good start on my garden plan and a full slate for the afternoon.

When the kindergartener came home, I reviewed with him his mini-plan and let him pick out his marigold colors. After last year when not a single marigold seed I planted from an entire pack - and not from the dollar store, thank you very much! - sprouted, I'm taking no chances and bought a multicolor six-pack to guard the tomatoes. I verified at checkout that they still give a lifetime guarantee on plants. You might end up being sorry about that, OSH, by the time my family has a chance to kill all these.

Spring is Put Your Child to Work Season
Onto the hard work. I still have some lettuce, onions, and cilantro in the ground that I didn't feel ready to yank, although I did clear out some miniscule beets (terrible disappointment this past season), satellite cilantro, and radishes. Otherwise, I spread out some of the organic soil enrichment compound I bought today. Last year's manure worked fine except it wasn't organic and it reeked, so I thought I'd try something different. This may also be the sign of the real gardener - fixing what isn't broken in hopes of breaking it in a different way. Anyway... so I have more of a growing patch by patch thing going on since I'm leaving some areas alone that are currently planted. It also breaks up the work, and I'll take any excuse for that.

Then I had my son come and supervise/participate in the digging of holes in his area - as much as he likes digging in dirt, his holes are never deep enough. Plus he's kind of fastidious and doesn't like to get his hands dirty in dirt (boogies, melted crayons, and picking out interesting things from the trash can are no problem though). He got Sungold cherry tomatoes, as close to a sure thing as I could provide him, two marigolds, and Drunken Woman lettuce start. On a whim, we also threw in Cinderella's Coach pumpkin seeds since I had such success with it last year. He got bored and wandered off to decorate some craft sticks with planting labels.

Elsewhere, I planted the purple cherry from Flora Grubb with its guardian marigold, a basic zucchini, and another round of pumpkin seeds in the ground. I bought a Genovese basil at OSH and repotted it. Literally as I was in the middle of that, I noticed that my small pot in which I planted basil seeds months ago has begun sprouting. How about that. Pesto for Everyone!!! Ha, I say that now, as if nothing could ever happen between now and Pesto Time.
This gives a good sense of the scale of the cilantro. As my son said, "IT'S OUT OF CONTROL."

I still have much more to buy on my list, so I'll be hitting up my local independent nurseries by the weekend. I also need to figure out where I'm putting all these seeds, including the flowers (ugh) my daughter made me buy today because they were PINK (double ugh), and I need to consult with Mr. Undergardener about what he's willing to squeeze into his turf, the front yard. Spring planting season is busy but, dare I say, exciting.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Nursery Review: Flora Grubb Gardens

Many years ago I used to listen to KFOG religiously on my morning and evening commutes, and Flora Grubb used to do an occasional gardening interview with the morning show. This was when I was an apartment dweller and not the slightest bit interested in gardening, but she always sounded like a genuine, nice person. Nowadays, as the avid Sunset reader I am, I knew about Flora Grubb Gardens, her nursery in San Francisco, but had never been... until today.

It turns out that it is your gorgeous succulents-and-pots HQ. A very small - I'm sure they refer to it as "well-curated" - edibles section would not have tempted me by myself, but my kid made me buy a lettuce and a tomato start. I couldn't find an employee to ask if the tomato was good for my climate. There is one playhouse for kids (probably for sale, happily I did not notice a price on it), and lots of opportunities for them to break something expensive. Although if you have more of a looky-loo in tow, there's lots of funky displays for them to gawk at.

The bathroom was spacious and clean, no changing table but a long counter that could fit the bill in an emergency (and when is it ever anything else when you need a changing table?). The Ritual Coffee bar was jammed.

I'm glad I scratched my FGG itch, but it's not going to be worth a second special trip. In the neighborhood, SCRAP definitely is worth as many trips as I can squeeze in. Then maybe a stop by FGG for the bathroom?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Wherein Rain Buys Me Some Time, AKA Planning Your Garden Pt. 2

The elusive rain is falling as we speak, crushing my plans - I even had it written in my datebook! - for planting. That's okay; I can spend a little more time reviewing my plans and buying strategy.

This year, my garden plan started with the kindergartener requesting his "own little garden", probably based on the Milly-Molly-Mandy story in which she is gifted a surprise plant for her garden plot. I made him a land grant last fall and nothing came up, as so often is the case when I do ad hoc sowing, so I want to wrap his plot in with the bigger picture and hopefully facilitate some success... or at least a sprout or two.

Next, I had to soothe the three-year-old who was burning with injustice that she was not going to get her own little garden. "You'll be mommy's number one helper!" Uh-huh, she's heard that one before and it's starting to wear thin.

Then, I consulted my copy of Pam Peirce's Golden Gate Gardening, which points me to the edibles that should be planted April-May, allowing of course for microclimate-based margins of error. We live in the cooler, breezier band so generally I follow Peirce's recommendations for foggier areas although the fog cover actually varies quite a bit year to year here. From the long wish list of spring plants, I slotted spaces into a sketch of my vegetable garden (leaving space for my son's). This weeded out the lower priorities and plants that have a shot at midsummer or fall planting. There's also a short list that I may try in our front yard, always a problem because I forget to water out there... so lower priority plants get a chance to impress me with their drought resistance, ha.

My final aspirational list of plants and seeds to sow this spring - let's say between now and Mother's Day: 5 tomatoes (three cherry and two standard), zucchini, pumpkin, basil, lettuce, cilantro, beans, sugar snap peas, lemon verbena, and cucumber. Now I have to make it to the nursery/ies and fulfill this lengthy shopping list!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Yesterday the kids and I moved two of our indoor starts outside. (We garden on a small scale!) I put the strawberry into the ground nestled in our existing berry patch, and the basil into a larger pot. Due to a proposed project to replace the fence and address the neighbor's bamboo intrusion, I may be doing more container edibles overall this season, so I might as well get comfortable with it.

As usual, the kids went berserk with the watering component of garden-tending. The phrase "we are in a drought" has zero meaning to a three-year-old in case you were wondering, and only seems to mean something to the kindergartener when he's shouting it at his little sister - does not apply to his watering.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Flower Show Review

Why so high, "Hidden Gardens"? Good hiding place, I guess.
I am always on the lookout for special events and activities that demonstrate different facets of gardening to kids, so the idea of the Macy's Flower Show at the Union Square location caught my attention. I knew about it from its opening almost two weeks ago, but due to various illnesses and inclement weather, we didn't make it until yesterday, the day before it closed. The only available child was the toddler, so I took her - WITHOUT A STROLLER. I like to live dangerously!

Main aisle of elevated displays
Cut to the chase: I was disappointed. I had pictured something like a meandering pathway through garden vignettes. In retrospect, perhaps envisioning an indoors Butchart Gardens? Not what Macy's was dishing up. It was floral displays elevated above shopping areas, maybe

9 feet up, nothing at eye level. I had even had my girl bring her magnifying glass, thinking she could examine some exotic petals. Nope - I need to plan an excursion to the SF Botanical Gardens, I guess. At least now I know and it won't tempt me in future years!

Happily, the toddler was entertained by just wandering around Macy's.
The one display at eye level was very appealing, so well done there.
Let us all take a life tip from the toddler generation: Don't hold high expectations, take what you get as it comes, and enjoy the moment.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Starting Seeds Indoors

The indoors lineup. Batting first - radishes.
The kindergartener's teacher planted radishes, watermelon, and peas inside the classroom, in a clear fronted planter so the kids can watch the roots grow. They are loving it, and loving reporting on the seeds' progress to anyone who will listen who unwarily steps into the classroom. So I decided to do the same activity at home.

We planted radishes in one plastic cup, and parsley in the other on March 30. The radishes are already sprouting! Magic, I tell you. We also have a strawberry plant indoors, waiting for a dry enough spell to transplant, and my indoors basil which is looking good although still small. A great complementary activity would be journaling the pots' progress, but I didn't think of that in time! There's always next time (gardening motto #345).