Who’s Plants On Deck?

POD’s tender, a freelance writer and full-time college administrator, grew up on 30 acres in southwest Michigan, where gardening was (and still is) a way of life.  Sure, she screamed and moaned every time she was forced to weed the multi-acre garden plot. (Not to mention the herb beds, perennial gardens, and endless annual plots.) But years later,  jonesing for fresh, home-grown, love-labored produce, a gardener was born. Finally.

The only catch? No acreage. No yard. Instead, a narrow sunless alleyway leading to the street (see: Sladder) with just enough room for a bicycle and a garbage can.

That’s when the little blue deck was born.

POD’s not a trained gardener, but it’s in the genes. The tender’s been growing and learning, succeeding and failing for over 10 years. Container gardening isn’t easy, but  those very challenges make it all the more rewarding.

I hope you’ll join me.

12 responses to “Who’s Plants On Deck?

  1. Hi. Just read your grid article on brassicas. Have you ever tried keeping spring broccoli plants going til fall? I have been just cutting off any flower head and waiting for cool weather. Think theyll be good or should I pull them and replant starts? Thanks for the great columns!

    • I have, twice, but I’ve never had any success. (Which isn’t to say that if I were you, I wouldn’t try it a third time.) The heat of the summer causes the plant to bolt (flower and then go to seed), so all the plant’s energy is used up on trying to produce seed, rather than producing an edible vegetable. Sorry.

  2. Hi POD,
    We’re a brand-new socially responsible start-up in Bloomington, Indiana with an exciting new container garden/vermicomposter. Would love to hear what you think–please visit our website at http://www.gardentowerproject.com.
    Thanks!
    Ramsay

  3. In June, my husband and I will be moving to Philly and will have a tiny apartment in a row-home with a back patio/garden. I have never gardened before and I have no idea what kind of plants I can expect to grow in the Philly climate so where do I start? I’d like to start slow and possibly begin with herbs and small things I can use in the kitchen before progressing. Any advice?

    • Welcome to Philly! I hope you love it as much as we do — we moved here from Michigan 15 years ago and its definitely home.

      If you’re just getting into the whole gardening thing, I’d recommend basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, and maybe tarragon (if it’s an herb you’ll use). It’ll be too late to start your herbs from seed at that point, so I’d recommend buying young plants (Urban Jungle and Greensgrow Farm are two good non-box store options). The thyme, sage, and rosemary will probably even survive the Philly winter if you cover them with a layer of mulch and stick them in a sheltered corner — I haven’t bought new plants in years; although I tend to bring my tarragon inside at the end of the season. You can also pick up a packet of “heatwave” lettuce seeds and plant them throughout most of the summer. You’ll have to keep them well-watered, though, and perhaps keep them out of the direct sun during our scorcher July and August days. In general, greens are also worth trying, I’ve had good luck with Swiss chard throughout the summer months. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, throw in a couple pepper plants (jalepenos are probably the easiest) as it stays quite warm into September around here. If you find you’ve caught the bug, you can begin planting a few fall crops in early-mid Julyish. (Philly’s hardiness zone is, more or less, 7). Check out the April issue of Grid Magazine (our local sustainability magazine) for some great (Philly-specific and otherwise) gardening tips.

      Happy gardening and a warm Philly welcome.

  4. Hi,

    I wanted to email you in regards in any possible advertising opportunities you may have with your website. I’m looking to earn support for a national cause and get visibility for the “plant 1 billion trees” project. Shoot me an email back and let me know if you would be interested at all in supporting this cause or if you want more information on it.

  5. I like your blog. I am also from Michigan (midwestern part of the state). I am about to update my blog on my rooftop gardening adventure. I am also growing lemon cucumbers, but mine are still tiny here in Seattle! I’ll keep checking back. Thanks for all your tips.

  6. Help…I am growing chard in containers and am not sure how to harvest it. I have cut off some of the leaves for salad, but am not sure how long before the chard is ready.

    • Mary,
      As far as I’m concerned, it’s really a matter of taste. You’re absolutely right — the immature leaves are terrific in green salads, we do it all the time. For a chard dish, though, I tend to harvest the greens when they’re a little smaller than what most would consider fully mature. It’s just a little more tender that way. Here’s a link to a smitten kitchen photo — http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/08/tell-me-more-tell-me-more — You can see by the weathered ends that this probably isn’t the freshest bunch. For comparison, I pick mine a little earlier than this; my stalks tend to be a little shorter and a little less rhubarb-sized but the leaves are still quite full and tasty. Cut the outer, larger stalks. The smaller inner stalks will quickly grow to maturity. Enjoy!

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