Getting Organized

After an exhilarating (but ultimately frustrating, as one order turned into two turned into three) seed-purchasing spree, POD’s house was adrift in seed packets. There are easily enough seeds in this house to plant a full-on multi-acre garden. It’s an addiction.

organizing seedsHello, $3 cigar box.

A potentially messy one. With early seeds stashed in one place, last year’s seeds stowed in another, this year’s gems tucked elsewhere, things got confusing. And the disarray began to grate.



What He Said

New York Times journalist Michael Tortorello takes on the hybrid/heirloom debate in “Heirloom Seeds or Flinty Hybrids?”

The faithful few may have noticed that this is a question that POD plans on exploring this gardening season. If this year’s hybrid experiment works, POD’s taking the Fisker route from here on out.

“AS gardeners stock up on heirloom seeds for spring, Rob Johnston, the chairman of Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, Me., would like to suggest an accessory. Why not buckle up in a 1936 Oldsmobile coupe? O.K., so it doesn’t have seat belts. But the swoop of the fenders resembles Joan Crawford’s eyebrows. Better yet, the rest of the Oldsmobile’s curves are all Lana Turner…But even with all that a ’36 Olds has going for it, Mr. Johnston, 60, said, ‘I’m not sure how big of a market there would be for 75-year-old cars. It would just be a sentimental business.’

So to return to Mr. Johnston’s own business, vegetable seeds, why is the backyard gardener buying so many 1936-era heirlooms?”

The Tale of the Heroic Kale

There once was an enterprising city squirrel. Mangy and distrustful, the demonic little rodent looked up, down, and scurried onto a little blue deck, located just blocks from the Delaware’s mighty river shores. The wind was icy but the twitchy devil was warmed by the doughnut he had stolen from a hungry worker down the alley.

Knowing that his treasure would surely taste sweeter after a few months buried in POD’s cold soil, he dug. And dug. And dug. The neurotic monster ripped the poor over-wintering kale from its chilly home and entombed his tasty find.

And the sad little kale,  rudely disrupted from hibernation, lay on its side, roots exposed to the brutal Philly elements.  The demonic little rodent twitched a twitchy smile and scampered off, satisfied with his destruction.

Months later, after the winter’s most brutal days had passed and spring was telegraphing her signs of life, POD’s tender braved the swirling winds and climbed the sladder to the little blue deck.

Oh, the carnage! Oh, poor little kale! But wait? Were its leaves still tender, supple, and green? A survivor!

Cradling the damaged and forgotten kale, she made her way back down the treacherous sladder and lovingly transplanted the heroic kale to the barren blue window box overlooking a busy Pennsport street. The kale, like the poor hungry dude’s quite possibly powdered sugar doughnut,  had survived.

Heroic Kale
Heroic Kale

Peas Podded

Sorry, so bad in so many directions. Couldn’t resist.

Peas in a pot, on POD
Peas in a pot, on POD

Planting Peas

Peas are a new experiment for Plants on Deck and, according to the Philadelphia County Cooperative Extension, the time is ripe for planting. Prussian Blue Peas, courtesy of Bartram’s Garden will, one hopes, wind their way up POF’s handrail and the Maestros will grace the little blue deck. Peas don’t transplant particularly well, so they’ve been direct-seeded in rich soil with a pinch of rhizobium, a little organic fertilizer and a few tablespoons of coffee grounds to boost the soil’s nitrogen levels.

Here’s hoping we can harvest these lovelies before the precious real estate is required for heat-loving melons, tomatoes, and cucumbers!

Too Many Tomatoes

Seed List, Tomatoes

You didn’t think Plants On Deck was going tomatoless, did you?

After last year’s abundance of well-documented tomato woes (and not such an abundance of tomatoes), this year’s hybrid fixation/experiment includes tomatoes, too. Here’s hoping these compact determinates produce more vigorously than last year’s bug-ridden indeterminates.

Patio Princess Hybrid: “Just the right size for small pots, while 2-3 plants will file a large tub. Each 24″ plant produces an abundance of 2 1/2 – 3″ fruits.”

Sweetheart of the Patio Hybrid: “This compact super producer bursts with snack-ready supersweet  baby cherries about 1″ round.”

Tomand Hybrid: “Tomato connoisseurs rave about the flavor of these broad-shouldered beauties. Fleshy, juicy and flavorful, ‘Tomande’ will treat gourmet gardeners to both heirloom taste and abundant hybrid yields.”

(Of course, Champ is heading back into the ring for another round.)

WARM! Be patient, POD. Don’t transplant those seedlings until Philly’s enjoying open-window 60° nights. 60°. pH 6.0-6.8. Well fertilized (esp. phosphorus, potassium, and calcium.) Consider plastic “mulch” in the early part of the season. 60°.

Yes, a Poblano

Seed Lists, Pepper

This year, actual poblanos are being planted. Well, transplanted. They’ll get their start indoors as soon as they arrive (it’ll take about 8-12 weeks before they head out onto the deck) and will be transplanted into well-fertilized soil once evening temps hover around 60. Soil pH 6.0-6.5.

UPDATE: And Seeds of Change’s poblano was back-ordered with no end in sight. And these guys actually have to be planted very, very soon as they take 7-12 weeks to mature enough for the journey to the little blue deck. Thanks, Park Seed Co.

Peas on POD

Seed List, Peas

A certain amount of flexibility is required here.

The husband made it clear that he wanted shelling peas. You know, those incredibly delicious English peas that pop so pleasantly. And yet, what’s listed here? A snap pea. You know, the kind you eat, pod and all? Good thing it wasn’t available, forcing me to re-read 18 pea seed descriptions and order the Maestro from Burpee. “Excellent flavor. Heavy crop of 4 1/2″ pods, with 9-12 peas each. Vines are nearly immune to powdery mildew.” Height 26″

Also? Lesson learned: order seeds from the small company first. Wait a day, figure out what they decide they’re not carrying and while you’re at it, figure out what you’ve forgotten, then order the balance from the big seed emporium.

These lovelies will find some dirt the moment they come home. One of those early crops that enjoys cool soil and despises the oppressive heat of the summer. They’ll  wind their way up the handrail, alongside the English Ivy, up to POD’s front door. (Yup, cheating.)  Like beans, they’ll also get a pinch of rhizobium and maybe a handful of nitrogen-rich coffee grounds for good measure.

Hello, Hybrid

Seed List, CucumbersLast year’s struggles with diseases and less-than stellar yields means that POD’s giving hybrids a shot this year. Vaguely creepy, but if they work…

Onstage this year:

Adam F-1: “High yielding and long lasting parthenocarpic [POD translation: seedless] hybrid with crispy fruits. Smaller 2-4” fruit perfect for pickles. Resistant to powdery mildew, downy mildew, and cucumber mosaic virus.”

Akito F-1: “Main Season hybrid produces high yields of straight and uniform dark green 6-8″ fruit with market winning taste. Powdery Mildew resistance and CMV resistance.” Holy crap! As POD’s Seeds of Change shopping cart was being populated, these $24.50 (for 50 seeds) got the axe.  And, since Warminster’s Burpee will be providing tomato seeds anyway, we’re hitting them up for the Salad Bush Hybrid, too: “High yields in small spaces. Very compact, strong tolerance to powdery and downy mildew, left spot, mucumber mosaic virus and scab. Very tasty slicers 8″ long, with smooth, dark green skin.” It’s been a while since bush cucumbers had a space on deck, so it’s time to give ’em another shot anyway.

Bonus: And Burpee tossed these into my already over-stuffed shopping cart, the White Wonder, “Burpee introduced this now classic cucumber in 1893, after receiving it from a customer in western New York. Pale ivory, the 6-8″-long and 2-3″-wide fruits have an exceptionally crisp texture, making for excellent fresh eating or tasty pickles. Produces high yields, even in high heat.”

Adam, Salad, and Wonder will be direct seeded (assuming there’s room) into toasty 65-70 degree, light soil with a pH of 5.8-6.7.