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Slow sprouts

The weather has just gotten warmer, which in the sense of this being San Francisco, meant we were warmer than other wintry locales to begin with, yet trapped in what felt like a permanent autumn. Sprouting seeds in this environment, I have found, is difficult and prone to tragedy. It doesn't help how little backyard sun we get. It keeps my unit snug and chill in summer, and not too badly off in winter. But it also means my hardworking sprouts grow to little dwarf vegetables, not liable to seed unless they bolt. The tomatoes I grew last year went up to at least 6 ft., but didn't get enough sun to turn flowers into fruits.

I'm not giving up -- yet. Leek cuttings from my kitchen scraps are turning into real leeks. Leeks are pricey but delicious. I'm going to dig out a particularly splayed leek tonight for chicken. I want it to grow more, but the splayed leaves are hiding way too many slugs. Some mysterious sprouts have shown up in both boxes. They are mysterious and strong. Since my EarthBoxes double up compost bins, the most likely candidate for these sprouts are bell peppers. I don't harbour any illusions that bell peppers will fruit on my porch, but I am collecting ideas on delicious stir fries and poaches for pepper shoots.

The Parisien carrot seeds I got free from a seed supplier last year have produced nothing. The shoots come up, look pretty for about 4 months, then they die, with no rooty goodness underneath. I might sow the remaining seeds in a shallow dish and harvest them for salad or something. They're tasty greens. Kind of bummed about the roots. Maybe the next time I get a bunch of organic carrots with tops, I'll save the tops to try and root.

The mizuna, of which only one plant survived, is starting to bolt. I'm waiting for the flower head to mature a bit more before I pull it out, because flower heads on mustard greens are the tastiest bits. This will probably also be the fate of the snow vegetables in the other box. They've not grown beyond 4-inch by 2-inch clusters since December. That seems like enough time to determine they're stunted. Or maybe they're just slow. I know that last year, I had the same issue with these inexplicable dwarves.

I was perusing Nichols Garden Nursery's website the other day, and they have all these cool exotic things I want to grow. Wolfberries! Pepper leaf bushes! Amaranth! Quinoa! TEA! I'm guessing I have way not enough sun for quinoa (but...but...high yield Andes grain plant...), and I'm all wobbly about the amaranth, though there are spinaches that can grow under semi-cover. Anything bush-like requires more pottery than I have, as they will be somewhat permanent. Tea is plausible, given our cool, permanently shady weather (see pottery issues), but tempting (see pottery issues). Tea takes a while to grow though, unless I'm using fresh shoots as a salad dressing. I did get chicory (Madgeburg), which yields both an edible green and roots that add chocolatey-malt flavours to coffee. The roots may also be cooked like similar root veggies. I know my luck with carrots have been dismal, but I'm hoping chicory will provide some kind of tasty root bulb. I also got a purple mustard (you're probably noticing a theme in my desperation to grow interesting mustards - it is all about how much I like them pickled and saladed), and cat mint, for my cats, obviously, but it's still a mint, and will still be dishable to humans.

The real improvement to my gardening will be EarthBox struts, to lift the boxes 2 ft. off the ground. I'm hoping this will not only give the boxes more sun, but aerate the soil more thoroughly for composting purposes (though things do disintegrate really fast in there already), and keep away slugs. I'm summarily executing slugs with a good crush and toss, but there seems to be more than last year. Frequent cinnamon and diatomaceous earth dustings only help so much when it's rainy.

Finally, in a burst of self-sufficiency (hah!), I planted the last of my leftover shiso seeds from last year, shiso seeds the ever-wonderful [personal profile] countlibras sent me at Christmas, and random basil seeds both leftover and found in the basement (from some long-ago resident who lived in my unit). The leftover shiso were the first to sprout, tiny, helpless looking sprouts in my window box in the airwell. We shall see. Rubbing my paws while staring at shoots to grow faster doesn't actually work.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 11th, 2013 01:13 am (UTC)
A saucer of beer on the ground will attract and drown slugs, if that helps.
Apr. 11th, 2013 03:04 am (UTC)
My luck with that tactic has never been good, alas. The one time I recall a beer trap caught any bugs, it was pill bugs, not limpid lifeforms.
Apr. 11th, 2013 03:54 am (UTC)
Apr. 11th, 2013 03:56 am (UTC)
I *think* I know what's going in my garden this year. Cherry tomatoes and snowpeas. The herbs will be the usual herbs - shiso, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano. I will try dill. And I will make a greater effort to grow microgreens constantly.
Apr. 11th, 2013 05:35 pm (UTC)
Whoa. That's a very productive garden! How are you on the colder side of the map? My milder climate is not doing nearly as well! I am envious! You have a fresh bouquet garni waiting outside!
Apr. 11th, 2013 07:10 pm (UTC)
oh gosh! No, the tomatoes and the peas aren't planted yet. A lot of my herbs were overwintered indoors and they'll be put outside soon. :)
Apr. 11th, 2013 11:25 pm (UTC)
Oh! :) Did you know pea shoots are an expensive vegetable at Chinese grocerers? *hint hint nudge nudge* Especially the whiskery offshoots. They're called dragon's whiskers.

The 'shiso' shoots in the airwell might turn out to be Vietnamese mint, which I forgot I sowed in before the shiso. Since both took forever to come up, I just thought the seeds were broken or something.

Tiny basil shoots showed up today. So filled with glee. I'm growing your shiso and a dwarf basil in 2 styrofoam soup containers. This enables me to carry them outside for sun, and inside against slugs.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )