SF Bay Gardening

SF Bay Gardening

Exploring everything green beneath the fog

Latest Posts

Glass Gem Popcorn: A Rainbow in Every Husk

Glass Gem Popcorn: A Rainbow in Every Husk

It’s been making the internet news cycles again: Glass Gem Corn (or Glass Gem Popcorn). It is definitely beautiful, and, in the sunnier parts of the Bay Area, easy to grow. Glass Gem is a flint corn, meaning it is intended to be harvested and […]

Tomato Growing Guide Printable

Tomato Growing Guide Printable

There are tools that I bring into the garden with me, like a shovel, clippers, and gloves. These things are meant to get dirty or wet. Gardens are not “clean” places. For that reason, I find it very difficult to have my reference materials, like […]

Baker’s Twine: The Most Versatile Gardening Tool

Baker’s Twine: The Most Versatile Gardening Tool

It’s crazy to me that I haven’t written about this before. I use this tool all the time in the garden, and I’ve mentioned it a few times, but I never just came out and admitted that this item is truly the best thing to have in your garden, PERIOD.

Baker’s twine.

Bakers Twine
Baker’s twine. So humble, but so useful

Yep, seriously.

I love this stuff.

First off, it’s like $5 for a million yards of it.

Second, it lasts forever. I have some bits I used 6 years ago to tie tomato branches to my tomato cages that’s still tied, and still usable if I didn’t think to bring out my twine cone that day. I just take the frayed bits and, if they’re long enough, tie up what I need to.

Bakers Twine used on Tomato cages
An example of an older bit of twine holding up this year’s tomato plants.

Third, it’s cotton, so it’s biodegradable (eventually).

Fourth, it has so many uses.

  • Tie up tomato branches to cages to keep tomatoes off the ground
  • Make lines for beans, peas, gourds, hops, cucumbers, etc. to climb
  • Tie bundles of herbs for drying
  • Lash bamboo together when building trellises (though Bamboo Lashing is definitely superior for this task)
  • Attach poles together for bean teepees
  • Wrap around black plastic when suppressing nasty weeds like fennel and blackberry
  • Tie down the corners of your pop-up greenhouse when the provided twine isn’t long enough
  • Making bundles of cardboard for recycling pickup
  • Wrapping gifts to give them a “rustic” look
  • All those normal kitchen uses (if you haven’t dropped the cone in the soil 50 times already, like I have)
Hops climbing cotton twine
Hops climbing baker’s twine.

So, when you run out of whatever string-type alternative you use for similar purposes in your garden, do yourself a favor and buy an industrial-sized cone of baker’s twine and for the next 20 years or so, you and your garden will thank you.

Plants you Should Never Buy as Seedlings

Plants you Should Never Buy as Seedlings

You’ve definitely seen them. At a garden center, or even some supermarkets, you’ve seen those racks of those happy little seedlings in their little plastic pots. Plant starts that are so perfect, so ready, and at only $3.99 each! But I’m warning you: some of […]

Assembly and Review of the OGrow Deluxe Walk-In Greenhouse

Assembly and Review of the OGrow Deluxe Walk-In Greenhouse

The OGrow Deluxe Walk-In Greenhouse (like these) was a Christmas gift, and I assembled it in February. It has been serving as a vegetable seedling grow house and greenhouse for some tender succulents since then, and I’m ready to give my opinion of it in […]

Yes, We have Black Widows in the Bay Area

Yes, We have Black Widows in the Bay Area

I was definitely in denial about black widows.

A friend had talked about seeing black widow spiders in her garden, and I just thought to myself, “she’s mistaken.”

I mean, I’ve lived in the SF Bay Area for more than a dozen years and never heard of anyone seeing one, let alone having any kind of “encounter” with one. I garden: I spend time in the dark and dirty places spiders love.
I’ve even found brownish/blackish spiders in my house with that suspiciously round boo-tay and checked them for any hourglass tattoos on their bellies, but they were always other kinds of spider. Never a black widow. Never.

Until a fateful day in January.

I opened my green bin to drop in the week’s compost before trash day, and there was this shiny, round-abdomened, black spider, on the lid in a (not to be disparaging, but) messy web. I tapped the lid a bit, to see if it would move. And it did–just a smidge–and just enough to one side that I could clearly, even in the fading light of dusk, see the red hourglass marking on its underside.

Well.

So, I did what any normal human who values her life would do: I went into the house to grab my camera and took some pictures. They’re not great (see “fading light of dusk” above) but you can see I’m not hallucinating here, people. 

Close up of Black Widow on a trash can lid
Even in the poor light, and behind her messy web, you can see the red hourglass.

Then, after I gingerly took the garbage bins down to the curb, I did some research on my newfound friend. I hope you find it as useful and interesting as I did.

Are Black Widow Spiders Deadly?

The short answer is: usually not. Just like the seasonal flu, black widow bites are deadly only when they occur in people who are already in a weakened state, like sick or elderly people, or in small children.

That being said, their bites are incredibly painful. One fun bit of trivia is that the pain is sometimes so great, it is mistaken for appendicitis. I’ve had appendicitis, and it hurts so much you vomit and kind of want to die. With that kind of insider knowledge, I’m going to recommend you avoid black widow bites if at all possible.

If you get bitten, elevate the bite area if you can, apply a compress, and get someone to take you to the Emergency room. They will be able to get you the best pain relief and, if you do have an extreme reaction, they can administer antivenom and help you with your breathing.

How can you Identify a Black Widow Spider?

We have a lot of very helpful and not poisonous spiders around the Bay Area, so it’s good to know how to spot the few you should actually be cautious around.

Black widows can be black or brown, and have a shiny, round abdomen.

You won’t find them out in the garden in the sun–you’ll find them inside trash can lids, under and behind things in your shed or garage, and generally away from where you cam easily come across them. They will run away if exposed. They want to stay hidden.

Their webs are not symmetrical, but are instead messy and lacking obvious organization.

And, of course, most have that telltale red hourglass marking on the underside. 

Not all black widows are perfect specimens, however. So, if you’re not totally sure, I’d say avoid contact. And, if you have small kids or pets around the area you’ve found a potential black widow, I’d say kill it just to be safe. Most spiders I’d do my best to save from harm, but I’d rather not see my kids in the kind of pain true black widows can inflict.

Bonus Spider Story

A few months after my first black widow experience, my husband and I were clearing some things around in the garage. I moved a bag of nearly empty compost and discovered a likely black widow underneath. She immediately began running for cover under the bag, so I moved it again to keep her where we could see her while we discussed her fate.

Unbeknownst to us, a male Scrub Jay had noticed the excitement from a power line above. He swooped down next to us, hopped over to the spider, and neatly picked it up and flew to the top of a telephone pole to eat it. That certainly solved our dilemma of how to dispatch of Ms. Spider, but I did read about how eating a black widow can cause tummy troubles for birds. Mr. Jay seemed fine later, but he may think twice about rescuing humans from spiders in the future 🙂

So, Um, Yeah

So, Um, Yeah

I know you’re freaking out, because I am freaking out. We’re all freaking out. A little more or less, depending on time of day, amount of media consumed, number of dependents we’re supposed to home school, percent of productivity we’re expected to be at, etc, […]

2020 Garden Plans

2020 Garden Plans

Sometimes I worry, as spring approaches, that I’ll lose interest in gardening—that there just won’t be anything new to strike my fancy. But then, the seed catalogs come. And the emails about the new seeds show up in my inbox. And I am smitten, once […]

What to Plant in September

What to Plant in September

Even as fall looms ahead of us, our warm September weather keeps the tomatoes, cucumbers, and gourds growing strong. And while the wild blackberries in full sun may have shriveled up, the ones in shady spots are just now fruiting plump, tasty berries. Here is a list of what you can plant in your Bay Area garden in September.

This list is based on my planting calendar, which is a great reference when you are choosing what to plant and what to prepare for each season. I’ve included sources for each plant and some notes to better help you in planning your garden this year.

Fava Bean

Sow seeds outside.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Beet

Sow seeds outside. This is the last recommended month until February to plant.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Broccoli

Plant seedlings outside or start seeds indoors and plant outside in October in FOGGY AREAS only. This is the last recommended month until February to plant unless you live in a FOGGY AREA.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Brussels Sprout

Plant seedlings outside. This is the last recommended month until May (FOGGY AREAS) or June to plant.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Cabbage

Plant seedlings outside or start seeds indoors and plant outside in October in SUNNY AREAS only. This is the last recommended month until January to plant unless you live in a SUNNY AREA.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Carrot

Sow seeds outside in SUNNY AREAS only. This is the last recommended month until January to plant.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Cauliflower

Plant seedlings outside or start seeds indoors to plant outside in October in SUNNY AREAS only. This is the last recommended month until February to plant unless you live in a SUNNY AREA.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Celery

Plant seedlings outside in SUNNY AREAS only. This is the last recommended month until February (SUNNY AREAS) or March to plant.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Collards

Sow seeds outside. This is the last recommended month until February to plant unless you live in a SUNNY AREA.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Kale

Plant seedlings outside. This is the last recommended month until February to plant.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Kohlrabi

Plant seedlings outside or start seeds indoors to plant outside in October (SUNNY AREAS ONLY).
Sources: Botanical Interests

Lettuce

Sow seeds outside.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Mustard

Sow seeds outside. This is the last recommended month until January to plant unless you live in a FOGGY AREA.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Parsnip

Sow seeds outside in SUNNY AREAS only.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Potato Tubers

Plant outside. This is the last recommended month until February to plant.
Resources on growing Potatoes: Grow Potatoes from your Pantry
Sources: Peaceful Valley

Radish

Sow seeds outside.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Spinach

Sow seeds outside.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Strawberry

Plant outside.
Sources: Amazon, local nurseries

Swiss Chard

Sow seeds outside. This is the last recommended month until February to plant unless you live in a SUNNY AREA.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Turnip

Sow seeds outside. This is the last recommended month until February to plant unless you live in a SUNNY AREA.
Sources: Botanical Interests

Have you checked out these Naked Ladies?

Have you checked out these Naked Ladies?

Don’t worry, I’m talking about the beautiful, fragrant, and totally weird flower that pops up this time of year, right after all its foliage had died back. The Belladonna Amaryllis (AKA Belladonna Lily, AKA Resurrection Lily, AKA Naked Ladies) is ablaze just about everywhere sunny […]