Leggy Cilantro

The cilantro is basically harvestable now, which I’m happy about, but it’s rather floppy and leggy.

This photo was taken at the beginning of August. They’ve grown a bit more, but are still pretty floppy and spindly.

Additionally, the marigolds, which are planted next to the cilantro, have weak stems and small flowers.

These plants are in a garden box that my landlord built. He decided to put the box under this large honeysuckle shrub so as to shade it a bit. He was worried that the plants would bolt almost immediately if they got too much sun. I thought he was being excessively cautious about the sunlight, but I’m new to California, so if he says they need shade, I’ll take his word for it.

After seeing how these plants are performing, I wish I’d pushed harder for more sunlight.

Fortunately, the day after I mentioned to him that the cilantro and marigolds might need more sunlight, he moved the garden box!

Keith seems to think the cilantro is already looking better. I don’t notice that much of a difference so far, but hopefully they’ll put on more growth soon. The arugula on the other hand (planted right next to the cilantro), apparently, doesn’t like the extra sunlight…oops…can’t please everyone.

Powdery Mildew

How do I have powdery mildew already? In California?! This photo is from my squash plant. Both the zucchini and winter squash have it on a couple of leaves.

I thought powdery mildew was supposed to happen in humid environments, and the Bay Area is anything but humid… hmmm… I have some things to learn about powdery mildew…

Powdery mildew is a disease caused by several different types of fungi (437 different species within the order Erysiphales). The spores or conidia of the fungi are carried by the wind to a host plant. According to the Penn Extension, ideal conditions for powdery mildew are high humidity at night and low humidity during the day with daytime temps of 70-80 degrees. Additionally, the University of California Master Gardener’s website says that placing plants in full sun can help prevent or kill the fungus that is causing powdery mildew, since powdery mildew fungi don’t like really intense heat.

From the Ohio State Extension

Here in Palo Alto, we have low humidity during the day and 70-80 describes pretty much every summer day here. I occasionally water in the evening, after I get home from work and see that the garden looks a little dry, which may make for relatively humid local conditions during the night. The squash plants are in the most sunny spot we could find, but there are several trees in the area, so it is mostly shaded in the afternoon. Overall, not ideal for my squash plants, but pretty ideal for powdery mildew fungi.

Fortunately, it’s a very mild case at this point, so I’m not going to bother trying to treat it, but it’s a good lesson for me to water in the morning rather than at night. Ideally, I would have a drip system set up on a timer, but those are dreams for a garden a few years from now.

One other thing I learned about powdery mildew is that the fungi are obligate parasites, which means they need a living host to survive. Therefore, (apparently) it’s ok to throw powdery mildew-infested plants in the compost pile, since when the plant dies, so does the fungus. Huh. Is this really true?

The Fruit Trees of Stanford

Did you know that prior to becoming “Silicon Valley” the Bay Area used to be called “The Valley of Heart’s Delight?” Apparently, it got this name because of all of the fruit orchards in the area. In the 1930s, San Jose, which is just south of Palo Alto, was the world’s largest cannery and dried fruit packing center. El Camino Real (a major highway through Palo Alto that connects San Diego with San Francisco) used to a a dirt road line with orchard trees between Palo Alto and San Jose.

Although there aren’t many orchards left in the immediate area, fruit trees are not infrequently seen. The plum and peach season seems to have just ended, and we’re starting to get into pears and apples. Fall is coming! But some citrus (like lemons) are also ripe, which confuses me.

There’s a map of Stanford’s campus that identifies all of the fruit trees in the area. When Nate visited me, we tried to find as many as we could.

At firs we weren’t having much luck…the campus was pretty, but the first few fruit trees we tried to find weren’t where the map said they would be.

And then, we found our first citrus trees!

The photo above is of a citrus tree in a small cluster of them that were marked on the map. I believe this may have been an orange.

After that, we found tons of fruit trees! Mostly citrus trees, to be honest. Lots of lemons, limes, oranges, and pomelos.

But also some interesting ones, like kumquats

….and Buddha’s hand.

I also found some volunteer tomato plants that had sprung up next to a community garden. They didn’t seem to be well-cared for, so I decided to harvest the tomatoes. Yum yum!

Jade Plant Update

I started to propagate jade plants from jade plant leaves 46 days ago. I simply laid the leaves on soil and kept them moist.

Here’s how they look today:

Huh. They’re standing up. I guess this is a good sign – that they’ve rooted – but it’s not exactly what I was expecting. I thought they would produce baby succulents at the point where the leaf end meets the soil and the main mother leaf would involute or something like that…. I’m curious to see where this is going…

The First Flowers in the Palo Alto Garden

The garden in Palo Alto has made it to the stage of maturity wherein flowers are forming! Huge success!

The first flowers arrived this week.


Zucchini squash blossom:

So far, there have just been male zucchini blossoms, but the female blossoms should come soon, and that means zucchini squash are not far behind.

How exciting! I’m so proud 🙂

Pear Harvest

Last Sunday, I volunteered for Village Harvest again. This time we were harvesting pears, and it was in Los Gatos hills. The Los Gatos hills are about 40 minutes from me. I drove down some narrow and windy, but scenic roads to get there.

I took this photo while pulled off to the side of the road, trying to figure out directions.

The pear trees we were harvesting from were on four adjacent residential properties. My guess is that this area was once a large pear orchard, but over the years, the land was broken up and sold off. Here are some surreptitious photos I took during the harvest to give you a sense of the place.

We used “pickers” to harvest the pears

The pears were going to the San Jose food bank.

Starting to fill a bucket

We got to take home fruit that had fallen on the ground again (they can’t take them to the food bank, since they can’t verify that they will be washed before being consumed). It turned out to be quite a lot of pears! There was a huge thunderstorm the night before (very unusual for this area), so there was already a lot of pears on the ground when we got there. Then, as we’re picking the fruit, pears inevitable fall from the tree when you’re trying to pick from a cluster of pears, so those came home too.

I’m planning to make pear sauce with some of the pears, and freeze some pears for cooking in my oatmeal, but if anyone has other suggestions for what to do with an abundance of pears, let me know!

The Fall Garden Seeds Are Already Sprouting!

Watching plants grow never ceases to amaze me. Some of the plants in the fall garden that I planted last Sunday (August 9th) are already coming up! These photos below were from Thursday (August 13th).

Mustard greens

I definitely overseeded the mustard greens. The seed packets are from 2016 (or even earlier), and I was doubtful as to whether they would even germinate.

Yesterday, I came out to see this:



The carrots aren’t doing much. They’re the oldest seeds of the bunch, so we’ll see… don’t hold your breath.

It’s just so exciting to see these things grow!

Planting a Fall Garden

A couple of weeks ago, I dug up a 3×3 square of dirt in the backyard to plant zucchini and winter squash. The squash are doing well, which has increased my confidence in planting things in the dirt here.

I have some seeds that I brought down from Seattle, and there was a bit more space around where I planted the squash, so I decided to put it to good use.

My landlord/roommate had been talking about putting stepping stones around the “garden” (squash plot), and when I decided to expand the garden, we decided to use the stepping stones as a path through the garden.

I mapped out where the path would be.

Here’s the view looking away from the house. You can see where I’ve mapped out the path
And this view is looking back toward the house

Then I laid down my seed packets roughly where I though different plants would go. I planted carrots, beets, spring onions, beans, peas, kale, mustard greens, and spinach.

Beets and carrots
Kale, mustard greens, spinach
Beans and Peas

Most of these seeds are a few years old at least, so I think I’ll have so-so germination rates at best. But it’s worth a shot! The zucchini was old, and that still came up, so why not?

Here’s the finished product (without all the shadows from the sun).

Not much too look at right now, but hopefully we’ll get something soon!

The Stanford Gardens: Part I

Stanford Hospital puts a lot of effort into its landscaping. For example, on my first day at work, back in July, I ate lunch outside by the front entrance fountain. Here was my view:

And this was to my left:

Flowers galore

Almost like being on vacation at a resort, right?

Ha. That was the last time that I was able to eat lunch outside. Oh well.

There is also a nice roof deck on the new hospital, that, if I had time to take a break, I would enjoy.

They’ve planted it up with pretty mature plants, considering that the new hospital opened just a little over 6 months ago.

The photo below is a close-up of the leaves of my favorite plant in the roof garden (it’s also the dark tree/shrub on the left side of the photo above)

I can’t figure out what it is. Maybe a tri-color beech? I don’t think that’s right, but that’s the closest thing I could come up with. Does anyone know?

Plant Starts from Dr. Kong

One of my attendings gave me some plant starts — rooted cutting, and small seedlings. Her mother (who is in her 80s) does a lot of gardening. She plants everything from seed and always has a lot of extra seedlings.

She gave me rooted cuttings of pineapple sage, as well as seedlings of basil, mint, and a couple of small eggplant.

I planted the pineapple sage in a bed at the edge of the yard amongst other types of salvia.

The one of the left is doing well, but the one of the right looks pretty dead a few days after planting.

A close up of the one on the left

The eggplant is supposedly a Green Apple eggplant. I’ve never heard of this, but I’m excited to see if it will grow well here. She says it grows well in containers.

I planted it where the parsley had been planted but didn’t come up.

It’s always fun to get free plants!