Some More Seeds

The great debate continues. Should cucurbits (cucumbers and melons) be direct seeded in early May, or should they Happy Cat Cucumber Seed Packetsbe started indoors three to four weeks before the frost-free date? (Which, in POD’s case, is April 20thish.)

Philadelphia doesn’t exactly count as a “colder area of Pennsylvania”, but light begins dwindling on the little blue deck by the end of August so a head start seems like a good thing. If you have the luxury of full sun through September, you might want to go for the direct seeding.

And, because these heat lovers like it hot, POD will patiently, yes, patiently, wait until three true leaves have formed and outside temperatures are reaching the 70s. In other words, they probably won’t hit the deck until May — about the time the Philadelphia County Penn State Cooperative Extension recommends direct seeding.

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It’s Alive

As hard as it is to believe, the Brussels experiment continues.

Brussels Sprouts

These Franklin Hybrid sprouts started as seeds on August 7, 2009. Insulated with a layer of Michigan pine boughs throughout the winter, they may have survived the snowpacalypse and snowmageddon of 2009 and 2010. Of course, this pot has a date with a tomato seedling on April 20, so we’ll just have to see how quickly these guys decide to mature (we’re already well past our 80 day mark, but then again, one suspects they took the winter off).

brussels sprouts

Baby Basil and Tiny Tomatoes

Isis Candy Tomato Seed Coat
Isis Candy Tomato Seed Coat

They’re heeere. It took a few warm days but teeny bits of green have finally emerged. Twelve whole days after the seeds were planted, the basil and tomatoes have begun their journey.

Thanks to the sun-warmed and south-facing seeding room, the flowers that were planted just four days ago have already germinated. Next year POD should really hunt down a good seed starting mix and make a point of keeping them a little warmer.

For now, we’ll just make sure they receive plenty of sun (augmented by a carefully rigged grow light), gentle waterings, and encouraging words.

Spring Cleaning

Somehow, blights and fungi always manage to find the tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans that live on the deck. Exactly how remains a bit of a mystery.

Cleaning Planters
Spring Cleaning

This year the seeding soil has been sterilized and containers have been washed with lots of soap and hot water. Even the styrofoam pellets have been washed and rinsed.  (Although pellets from last year will not touch this year’s tomato and bean planters.)

75 Seeds

starting seeds
65 Seeds

And counting: only 6-7 weeks before planting on deck commences.

Despite the cold rain falling on freshly seeded radishes, the flowers (cleome, lavender, and the random seeds saved from last year’s annuals) and Happy Cat poblanos found their way onto the sill. In a couple more weeks, cucumbers and melons will join the ranks.

Already, POD’s beginning the forget-me-not notes for next year… and this, dear readers is why Plants On Deck got started in the first place. Unable to remember all the little things discovered throughout the growing process, this serves as a resource to my future forgetful self. Although the organic soil potting soil has been sterilized, next year POD’s going to spring for a specialized seed starting mix. It’s lighter and less likely to harbor diseases.

Try to keep your seeds warm and moist (but not wet) as they germinate — approximately 70-80 degrees.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Spring is here. The sun is shining. It’s 55 degrees outside.

Radishes and peppercress have been planted…and the bugs have emerged.

The thyme that had nearly made it through its indoor winter has been ravaged by aphids. A trip to the basement revealed the lone bag of organic soil crawling with what appear to be fungus gnats.  The thyme has been rinsed and then doused with soapy water. Fingers have been crossed.

Unable to toss away an entire bag of soil, it’s time to give sterilizing a shot. Because it’s very, very rarely used, the microwave lives conveniently in the basement, just above the infested soil. Perfect. A quick visit to the interweb reveled that the trick is to heat the soil to 150-190 degrees (anything over 200 degrees causes toxicity in the soil).

Armed with a kitchen scale, one quart measuring cup, and an instant read thermometer (don’t tell the husband/cook),  POD discovered that 1:30 to 1:45 in the ancient, tiny microwave heated a one-pound bag of soil to the desired creepy-crawly killing temperature.

Here’s the question, though: should the seeds that were just started be ditched and re-seeded in sterilized soil?

Gardeners, Start Your Seeds!

Starting Oregano SeedsEach year, POD tends to jump the gun and ends up planting too early. Determined to avoid false starts, last frost dates for South Philadelphia have been carefully compiled and averaged and a target plants-on-deck date has been established.

What does all that mean? Basically, Philadelphia’s average last frost date ranges between April 14 and May 15. After consulting the Magic 8 Ball,  POD’s declaring April 20, 2010 this year’s last frost and hopes to move things on deck between April 24 and May 1.

Why is this important? Well, it’s time to start (some of) your seedlings. In POD’s case, basil, oregano, tomato, and pepper seeds — all of which should be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost — are hitting the dirt.