An End of September Garden Tour

It’s the end of September, and although some parts of the country are facing their first frost, we are still having 90 degree heatwaves. I’ve been in Palo Alto for a quarter of a year, so I thought it would be a good time to give you a general update of how my “garden” is looking so far:

Kinda pathetic. On the left are the squash. Behind them are a couple of beans on a trellis and a small patch of tiny mustard greens and kale. On the right side is a failed beet and carrot bed. The carrots didn’t come up at all, and a tiny critter ate most of the beet leaves.

The squash have powdery mildew pretty bad (I should try Eliza‘s suggestion of a baking soda and non-detergent soap spray).

Here’s the one squash that the winter squash plant managed to produce.

The kale are being eaten too!

But at least the beans are starting to produce flowers!

The pineapple sage is still alive as well.

As for the containers….

The marigolds are decent, but they’re crowding out the eggplant. My mistake for planting them so close together. Is it too late to move the eggplant?

The cilantro next to the eggplant is doing well, and starting to produce flowers, which I will happily let it because I want coriander seeds.

Lastly, are these four pots:

The left two pots are geraniums (one grown from a cutting at the end of June, the other grown from a cutting at the end of August). The top right pot is the parsley pot. There’s one tiny seedling that you can’t see in this photo, which might be a weed seed that blew into the pot. The bottom left is mint, which always grows well no matter what and is a good confidence booster.

A Hazelnut Update

The hazelnut trees that we planted in April are miraculously still alive at the end of their first summer in Portland. When I saw them this past week, it seemed to me like they had put on a lot of growth over the summer. Fortunately, thanks to this blog, I have photographic documentation of the trees from when I did an update back in June. Here’s what the trees look like between June and September:

Jefferson: June 2020
Jefferson: September 2020
Eta: June 2020
Eta: September 2020
Dorris: June 2020
Dorris: September 2020

Meh. Not so impressive after all, I suppose. That’s ok. They’re alive and that’s what matters. As they say, the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap. Be sure to check back in 2022 for some exciting updates!

What’s more exciting, however, is the hazelnut seeds that were planted: they’re growing!

These are Jefferson Yamhill seeds. They were planted at the end of April, and there was no sign of growth at the update in June. We figured they were likely duds, but finally, a small handful sprouted. Of the 40 or so hazelnut seeds my dad planted, we have four small hazelnut trees.

Since we’ve never grown hazelnut trees from seed before, we’re not entirely sure what to do at this point. When should we transplant them? Should we stake them? Prune them? Any advice is welcome.

Foliage Friday: Knotweed

This week’s plant is knotweed, a.k.a. Polygonum bohemicum (Bohemian knotweed) or Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed).

Knotweed is a flowering perennial with bamboo-like stalks, broad leaves, and clusters of tiny white-to pink flowers plant. It’s often found along roadways or near streams and grows 4-13 feet tall. Knotweed is not native to the U.S, and in Seattle, it is a Class B Noxious Weed. It grows thickly and vigorously, and outcompetes other plants from growing. There are no known biological controls of knotweed, although this is an area of active research. I recommend reading this article from Slate, which is a brief fascinating history of knotweed and the biological impacts it is having.

(Side note: I don’t see horsetail on Washington’s Noxious Weed List….)

Knotweed came to my attention via the Community Garden in Seattle. There is a stream near the Community Garden that is lined by knotweed. The city has partnered with a land conservation non-profit company in Washington State, called Forterra, to deal with the knotweed. Forterra has decided to use the synthetic herbicide, Imazapyr, to kill the knotweed. You can bet that the Community Garden group was not too pleased to hear that this chemical would be sprayed near the garden.

There was a flurry emails back and forth between the people at Forterra and the Community Gardeners. Forterra said they would be using a low dose of Imazapyr, that they wouldn’t be spraying when the winds are above 10 mph or if it is raining, and claimed that the herbicide wouldn’t “drift” more than 10 feet away. They also claimed that they wait until after the plants stop flowering so as not to disturb pollinators…..

….There are definitely still flowers and pollinators there. This point was brought up in the emails, with an indirect non-response from Forterra. Hmmm… while I trust that Forterra’s mission of conservation is noble, and I also believe that there is a time and a place for certain synthetic herbicides, and that knotweed might necessitate it’s use, you would think they could wait a week or two more for the blooms to die, right?

The Compost Is Still Going Strong!

While visiting Nate, I made sure to check in the compost we started back in March. I gave you an update in June, when the weather in Seattle was still chilly. Well, it’s now the end of September, and….

…it’s doing so well! There was no smell and no issues with pests or bugs all summer. Not even fruit flies. There is no discernible food bits anymore (that white blob on top is suet from the bird feeder that Nate recently added). The worms that we saw in June have multiplied (I think they’re red wigglers). They seem very happy. You can see a couple of the worms peaking out of the compost in the photo below:

Nate is now using the compost to top dress a couple of his potted plants. We also made sure to feed the worms with some more plant scraps. I guess you could say we’re vermicomposting.

A Visit To The Seattle Community Garden

I was able to take a short trip back to visit Seattle, and of course the first place I went was…you guessed it….the Communtiy Garden!

It’s the official end of summer, everything is still looking good in the garden right now. Here are some gratuitous garden photos for your enjoyment!

The everbearing raspberries still have plenty of fruit
There are also some blueberries still on the bushes. This photo is looking up at the zinnia hedge from inside the blueberry cage. The zinnia hedge is just so spectacular this year.
This is a photo of the long beds. In the center is the asparagus bed with bush beans planted under the tall asparagus ferns. On the left is a tomato and cucumber bed.
All kinds of lettuce!
There are three full beds of basil – it’s all doing so well.
Up in the orchard, the medlars are looking like full-grown medlars, but aren’t ripe yet.
The quince are a week or two shy of being fully ripe as well.
This is one of the chestnut trees, loaded with chestnuts. I’m sad to be missing the harvest of these this year, but I’m glad I got to visit the garden once more this season.

Thinning Mustard Greens

I waaay overseeded my mustard seeds when I planted them in the garden, because the seeds were a few years old and I wasn’t sure what was going to come up.

They desperately need thinning now, but I hate to thin seedlings, because it feels like I’m killing perfectly good plants, and what if I thin one that would have made delicious greens and leave one that turns out to be a dud! I know, I know, it’s completely irrational. If I don’t thin, they won’t be able to grow and I might as well kill all of them.

So, I thinned them. A bit.


The seedlings are so spindly. I was having the same problem with the cilantro. They’re just not getting enough sunlight, I think.

Weak, anemic, floppy stems

Foliage Friday: Salvia Amistad

The next plant I’m learning about on Foliage Friday is Salvia ‘Amistad,’ also known as Friendship Sage. (Amistad means friendship in Spanish.)

Salvia Amistad at Gamble Gardens.

It is a relatively new member of the very large Salvia genus. I haven’t been able to find out how it got it’s name, but it is a hybrid, discovered in Argentina, and thought to be a cross between S. guaranitica and S. gesneriiflora. It’s winter hardy in zones 8-10 (I’m in zone 9), and has vibrant dark purple blooms that are unidirectional.

I’m not the only one that has taken notice of Salvia Amistad. I often see bees and hummingbirds buzzing around the flowers, but they move too quickly for me to get a good photo of them. Additionally, the Royal Horticultural Society gave it the Award of Garden Merit (there are 7,500 other plants that also have that award, though, so it’s not that special). People seem to love it because it is super easy to care for, and it produces dark, vibrant flowers from June until October or even November.

There are tons of plants in the Salvia genus. What makes a plant a Salvia? Well, the answer is complicated. Salvias were originally lumped together because they have a unique pollination mechanism (something having to do with two stamens acting as levers…I don’t really understand it). It was thought that all plants that have this mechanism probably evolved from the same ancestor, but that turns out not to be true. Molecular studies (phylogenetics) have demonstrated that there were probably actually three unique ancestors that developed the lever mechanism – this is an example of convergent evolution. In order for plants to be classified together in the same genus, they should all have evolved from the same ancestor. Therefore, one could argue the Salvia genus should actually be three different genera. However, there are so many Salvias (Salviae?) that if we broke up the Salvia genus, we would have to rename a lot of plants, so people decided to just leave it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The kitchen herb, sage, is one of the more familiar members of the group (Salvia officianalis), but did you know that rosemary is also a Salvia? Salvia rosmarinus. Rosemary used be separately classified as Romarinus officianalis, but it was discovered/decided recently that Rosemary was actually just another salvia. Sigh. (The linked paper also goes more in depth into the morphologic vs molecular or phylogenetic classification schemes of Salvia if you’re curious.)

Another large Salvia Amistad towering over a boxwood hedge.

Saving Zinnia Seeds

In addition to tomato seeds, I’m also trying my hand at saving zinnia seeds this year.

See those dead flower heads? I read that if you pull the dead petals out, you’ll see the seeds at the ends, which you can plant next year.

Like so:

Here’s the handful I collected – from all different color zinnias.

Yet another version of “I have no idea if this will work, but sounds fun to try!”

When Should I Sow Tomato Seeds?

Since I saved some tomato seeds a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about what I want to plant next year in the garden….and when to plant what.

I moved here in July, and just started putting things in the ground as soon as I could get around to it, without any real rhyme or reason, just to see what I could get to grow. This was my practice year. Next summer is a chance to do it right!

I don’t have a full list of what I want to grow next year, but I know tomatoes will be on the list. In Seattle, we didn’t sow tomato seeds in the greenhouse until late February, and we usually waited to put them in the ground until early May. The climate is milder here, though, so I imagine I can start tomatoes a bit earlier.

According to, in my zipcode it looks like I should be starting most spring crops as early as November – even before Thanksgiving!. Tomato seeds can be sown as early as November 25th.

Screenshot of planting calendar

I am skeptical about this planting calendar. Most sources say to sow tomato seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last frost date. My last frost date is Feb 22nd. Counting backwards, I should sow tomato seeds December 28th at the earliest, not November 28th! must have done their math wrong…

I turned to the trusty Margaret Roach’s seed starting calculator, which states the same general guideline (sow tomato seeds 6-8 weeks before last frost), and plugged in my quoted last frost date of February 22nd, expecting to get December 28th…. Nope!

November 3rd! That’s crazy!

Some of the dates in Margaret Roach’s calculator are slightly different, but overall, they’re pretty similar to Hmmm…..

Screenshot of part of Margaret Roach’s planting calendar for comparison

What is going on? Does it have to do with day length in the middle of winter? I’m not sure. Most people use grow lights nowadays so daylight shouldn’t matter that much. Does anyone have any ideas?

I’ll probably split the difference, and start seeds in mid-December. My fall crops will probably still be in the ground when I start seeds for spring. It’s non-stop gardening here!

My First Zucchini!

Taaa daaaaa!!!

The days to maturity of the zucchini I planted is 50 days. I put the seeds in a pot on July 3rd and harvested a 9 inch long zucchini on Sep 12. That’s 71 days…I probably should have picked this one a few days ago, but oh well…

It took a bit longer than I was expecting, and to be honest, the zucchini plants haven’t been as productive as I’d hoped, but I’m not complaining. There’s room for improvement, but I have to start somewhere, and one ripe zucchini is a win in my book!