June is bustin’ out all over!

June 13, 2009

So, I’ve been pretty lazy about posting anything about our garden over the past couple of months, but it’s going gangbusters at this point.

Ripe loquats, strawberries, and cherries: Not enough cherries to do much but snack on them, but this year we made some loquat jam (since I’m still at a loss as to what one is supposed to do with loquats, beyond just eating them fresh….last year we made loquat-infused vodka). The rest of the spring fruit is also well on its way to ripeness, so we’re excited to have Santa Rosa plums, blueberries, and several varieties of pluots later this month.



Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes! We planted several different kinds this year since last year’s plants did so abysmally—the idea was to experiment with different types and locations in the yard. So far, though, all of them seem to be flowering and setting fruit like crazy, so we may be drowning in tomatoes soon!

This year, we’re growing:

  • Taxi, an early determinate yellow tomato that is supposed to do well in containers;
  • Paul Robeson, a Russian determinate black heirloom that’s supposed to be especially good for both containers and the mild Bay Area;
  • Carmello, a French indeterminate red heirloom purported to be prolific;
  • Glacier, an early indeterminate [well, sold to us as a determinate, but has clearly shown itself to be otherwise!] red heirloom;
  • Yellow brandywine, an indeterminate heirloom that produces large yellow beekfsteak tomatoes; and
  • A mystery cherry tomato variety from a Forage Oakland gathering.

All but the cherry tomato and the Taxi plant came from Kassenhoff Growers, an Oakland-based grower that sells at both of our local farmer’s markets. We had good luck with a couple of their plants last year, so this year pretty much the entire garden (or at least what I didn’t grow from seed) came from there.

Tomato box

New tomato box

We’re growing tomatoes in both the beautiful new tomato box (for the indeterminate varieties, since it’s deep enough to accommodate their root systems) and in a small bed along the side of our patio that has a concrete bottom, and thus seemed most suitable for determinate types. (Interestingly, though, one of the tomatoes we planted was supposed to be determinate but has now outgrown just about every plant in the garden and is sprawling over itself—and is heavy with tomatoes, so clearly the depth of the bed wasn’t as a big an issue as we thought it would be!)

Squash, cucumbers, and eggplant. We’ve also got both summer and winter squash going strong. The only issue they’ve had this year has been that they’re easily double the size of last year’s plants, and are taking over their 18″ x 18″ garden squares and overshadowing the eggplant, which just can’t seem to get enough sun to grow. Next year I need to come up with a better plan for that.

Zucchini plants

Zucchini plants

We harvested our first funky-looking zucchini last week. The green ones are the creatively-named Dark Green zucchini, while the striped variety is Cocozelle. Both are having some blossom-end rot issues, so I’m trying to get that sorted out—but otherwise they’re tasty! (We made zucchini pancakes with these, complete with herbs from the herb garden and one of the last spring onions still growing from last winter.)



Greens. The lettuce bed is also growing like crazy, though we’ve been doing a terrible job keeping up with it since we keep getting fresh greens in our CSA box. Once we do finally eat through this, though, my new plan is to try some decorative edible greens in that bed, since the last edition of Sunset had some interesting ideas on how to grow greens a little more aesthetically than these (which look like gangly plants about to bolt—but are still a huge improvement over the arugula that used to be in this bed, which had bolted and had progressed from “bitter” to “inedible”!)

Lettuce bed

Lettuce bed

Asparagus! This little guy is one of two asparagus plants that a friend gave us last fall; I thought they’d died since they vanished for several months, but both have suddenly started sending up stalks and feathers. Asparagus takes a while, so we still have a few years before we can harvest it—but exciting nonetheless!

Baby asparagus

Baby asparagus

Everything else is truckin’ along, looking pretty good so far this year. We harvested a few of last winter’s baby carrots today, and will eat the last of the peas for dinner since I had to pull the plants to put in some pickling cucumbers this morning. The basil seedlings finally got big enough to transplant, so they’re settling into the herb garden too. The first powdery mildew of the season showed up on one of the squash plants this week, though, and the whiteflies are multiplying in spite of our best efforts to keep them off the plants. So we’ll see how things go—but off to a good start.


  1. Did you scatter some dolomitic lime to fix the blossom end rot problems?

  2. I haven’t yet—not entirely sure if the issue is actual calcium availability or just plain overwatering, which apparently can affect plants’ calcium intake—but after pulling off three more rotting squash this weekend, I may try it….thanks!

  3. If you suspect a calcium problem, the first thing you should do is a pH test (actually, this is true with any nutrient issues). Most Bay Area soils are calcium rich, particularly clay soils. However, if your pH is too low, exsting soil Calcium with be unavailable to plants. Overwatering increases pH to an extent, so that may be part of your problem, but probably not the whole issue. You don’t want to indiscriminately add liming materials without knowing the pH, because if you make things too alkaline other nutrients aren’t available. If your pH is between 6-7, you would want to avoid using dolomitic limestone, because it would raise the pH beyond ideal. In that case, add gypsum instead. However, it’s unlikely that any calcium added at this point will have time to break down and become available to the plants now. It’s got to be applied several months before. Because blossom end rot can often occur on the first set of fruit, but not the following, many people think their calcium has made a difference, when it’s actually a nitrogen/growth issue that can solve itself as root growth catches up to top growth.

    Excessive nitrogen, causes excess leaf growth and contributes to transpiration in leaves, which moves calcium through the plant, and makes it less available to fruit. Rot will often appear on the first set of fruits, but if you get rid of those crummy fruit ASAP, often root growth catches up with the top of the plant, and can deliver more calcium to later-forming fruits. 90% of calcium in fruit is in the fruit when it is very small, so consistent watering at that time is crucial. That is also usually the cause of blossom end rot in clay soils- inconsistent watering, not calcium availability.

  4. Thanks! We did do a pH test at the beginning of the season with normal results, but of course that may have changed….good thought to check again. We grow in raised beds, though, so it’s nursery soil v. our natural clay….for better and for worse. It does look like the problem has resolved itself on all but one of the plants, though, so I suspect it may have been a watering problem after all. Still waiting on the last plant to see what happens!

  5. any suggestions for dealing with hungry spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica. aka green ladybugs.

    my pole beans are thriving but leaves getting chewed all over.

    soap spray? oil spray? trying organic.

    -len raphael

  6. They’re all over our plants this year too…I’ve been spraying with neem oil and soap, but I’m not convinced it’s doing too much. I’d love other ideas too, though, if you come up with anything!

  7. just tried commercial soap spray. net impressed so far.

    next will try homemade chilli oil soap spray. http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com/organic-garden-pest-control.html

    if that fails, will spend ridiculous sum for some cucumber bug traps.

    my concern is not the beans, but my cukes

  8. apparently soap sprays only work on soft bodies insects like aphids and mites. not beetles.

    Kaolin clay might do the trick, but don’t have any on hand and sounds very messy. how do spray the underside of leaves?

    on a slippery slope. probably lost my wannebe organic urban farmer status in my first year.

    Today I applied a commercial synthetic pyrethroid .01% and cannola oil spray.

    Will report back.


    Source for commercia3l kaolin mix, and organic certified pyrethrum


    -len raphael
    4922 desmond

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