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.
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!
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.
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 soil here is very dry. Palo Alto apparently used to be flood plains, and the reflects the sediment. The USDA Soil Survey of the Santa Clara Area describes the soil in Palo Alto as “mostly brown silty clay loam that is well drained” and adds that the soil is “very fertile but can be difficult to work by hand when dry unless large amounts of organic matter are added.”
The zucchini and winter squash that I planted a few weeks ago are growing really well! The seeds were planted on July 3rd. Given that the seed packet said days to germination would be 10-14 days, I’m pretty pleased with growth these plants have put on since being planted 17 days ago. The photos for my last update were taken July 10th, so these photos represent just over a week of growth. Isn’t photosynthesis amazing!
Last Friday, I had the day off of work due to July 4th, and took the opportunity to plant a few seeds. I had brought a handful of seed packets down with me — most of which were two to three years old. Couldn’t hurt to put them in dirt, though, right?