Plants on Deck: Garden Planning 2017, Making a List

Last year’s garden was a largely a success, despite a shocking amount of neglect. Despite totally insufficient staking, four varieties of tomatoes flourished through early November, with the last of the green tomatoes ripening and becoming a delicious late December sauce. And happily, for the first time in POD’s history, an almost sufficient (the Hurrican and I really, really like beans) amount of green beans hit the table. The only complete failure were the cucumbers, which quite immediately contracted a blight and died after one round of prolific fruiting.

This year, one of POD’s many ambitious resolutions (ranging from chestnuts like exercise more and snack less to unicorns like slow down and smile more) includes paying a bit more attention to both the tiny plot of Lockeland Springs land and then actually writing about it right here in this here blog.

Plants on Deck: Garden Planning 2017, Making a List.
Plants on Deck: Garden Planning 2017, Making a List.

Garden of Neglect

IMG_2793So much has happened in gardenland this summer that it’s been tough to keep up. Despite so-so attention, the summer garden was a one family CSA. Alas, it’s on the wane, and we’re digging in for the fall.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Zucchinis have been uprooted after six solid weeks of zucchini meals four nights out of seven.
  • The four cucumbers caught a wilt and produced a meager dozen of fruits. Note to self: lemon cucumbers may be Nana’s favorites, but they’re not ours.
  • Tomatoes are going great guns, despite totally inadequate staking and a nasty, nasty worm proble
  • BEANS! Finally, after years of failure, the yields have been spectacular this year

And in the fall garden, seeds planted today by the Hurricane and yours truly:

  • parsnips
  • rutabagas
  • leeks
  • beans (more beans!)
  • zucchini & cucumber (round two, planted earlier this month)

Rocket Fuel

Wow. Behind on posts these days. But here’s the thing: we had a great spring for greens. The two beds produced well, but we’re still figuring out how much to plant and when. So, file this away in the “Note to Self” department: go greens crazy in March. We planted a two squares of arugula and spinach and four squares of lettuce. Not enough. Cover the beds with arugula and spinach, scatter in a few square of lettuce, but go for the greens. They’ll be ready to yank by the time May planting season rolls around in earnest and the freezer will be well-stocked with arugula pesto and my craving for saag paneer will be sated.

We love arugula around here, but never had the space to grow enough to do much beyond topping a few sandwiches. This year two square feet of garden space produced plenty of sandwich toppings, salad spice and three cups of arugula pesto. That’s a lot of rocket.

Planted in early March, the Selvatica arugula had just started to bolt when the craving for pesto hit hard. The entire patch was plucked and pesto was pounded. As this is apparently a smaller, wilder form of the tangy green, it’s a bit more heat tolerant, so we’re reseeding today, hoping for one more crop.

Note to Self: Although we did a much better job planting both beds with spring crops this year, I’m going all in next year and plan to plant an abundance of greens in early March, using each available square foot. It’ll take some fortitude, but when it’s time for summer planting, I’ll get all ruthless and yank them to make way for beans, zucchini, melons and corn in late April.


Okay, so here’s the thing: I need a good local nursery (Nashville, TN) or a great mail order one. Go!

My starts from Burpee are gorgeous, but customer service was so-so and they arrived a good two weeks later than I would have liked, despite asking nicely to have the shipment move up. And my lone Roma start from Territorial arrived more dead than alive.

Help a gardener out, friends.

At Last!

At long last, the eagerly awaited shipment from Burpee has arrived. Although a couple of weeks later than this gardener would have like, the garden is planted.

File_000 (4)Well, with the exception of the basil. Here’s a pro-tip: never place your complex online plant order with a very, very demanding and garden-aware 5-year-old at your elbow. Surprising precisely no one, but disappointing plenty, I managed to order 4 lemongrass starts rather than the 1 lemongrass and three Italian basil plants I had intended.

Who the heck needs 4 lemongrass bushes? Evidently Plants on Deck.

Bed One:
3/5/16: leaf lettuce (seed)
4/3/16: romaine, Swiss chard (seed)
4/22/16: okra, beans, musk melon (seed)
4/27/16: Shooting Stars eggplant (starts)

Front of house:
Sweet peppers (California Wonder, Flavorburst Hubrid, Orange Sun)

Side of house:
Yellow Pear, Italian Ice Hybrid, and Chef’s Choice Orange hybrid tomaotes

Front slope and herb garden:
tarragon, lemongrass, mint, Persian basil, rosemary, and parsley

Bed Two!

IFile_000 (2)s it ever go time! Bed Two is planted. Not the best of pictures, but you get the idea.

2/20 leeks, spinach

3/5 lettuce, radishes

4/3 carrots, brussel sprouts

4/22 more lettuce, carrots

4/22 zucchini

And the April gardens, thus far (complete with garden cat):

File_000 (1)


Beans for My Baby

The Hurricane is not much of a baby anymore, having just forsaken “Frozen” for a reinvigorated allegiance to Hello Kitty and Rainbow Dash. (That I know a Pretty Pony name frightens me terribly.)

At any rate, this gorgeous Tennessee weekend was a busy one. False Indigo seeds imported from Michigan now bookend our gorgeous Autumn Sage, just upstage from our overwintered Blanket Flowers. Perfect timing, as our daffodils have gasped their last and the tulips are about to say goodnight for the season. Snap dragons augment the perennial pansies and self-starting borage, coreopsis, and zinnias have been transplanted from last year’s flower bed (eventually this year’s tomato patch, if Burpee ever gets around to sending us our starts) into the treacherous front hill. Calling all bees!

Lest you think this blog is about pretty things, let me tell you about our beans.

We love beans. And, legendarily, POD has had a rough go of growing this maFile_000 (4)gical fruit. Last year was okay, at best, if you count black-eyed peas as beans. Which I do. I really do. We managed a few great pesto/bean/pasta meals featuring the young pods and enjoyed a New Year’s Hoppin’ John feast from our quart of shelled dried peas, but our Royalty Purple suffered from storms and poor garden positioning and our Kentucky Wonders were not so wonderful.

So this year, because I had to spend money on at least one new gadget, we’re going to plant our pole beans around this shiny new leaning tower, a row of faithful cow peas (black-eyed peas) and lima beans already line the property line fence, and a strip of Scarlet Runner bean will, we hope, will multitask as beautiful and bountiful.



Berry Excited

I himg_2564ave a 5 year old. Forgive me. Berry-related puns are an occupational hazard.

At any rate, the Hurricane and the newest addition to our feline family, Miranda, were pretty delighted to see this little box waiting for them this afternoon.

Moments before the skies opened with a tremendous crack, we managed to plant 25 bare root Flavorfest strawberries. Selected for their promised disease resistance, vigor, yield and adaptability, these gems looked perfect for our newly excavated front hill.

Naturally, I neglected to notice they’re best suited for zones 4-6 — so we’ll see how they deal with a zone 7 Nashville summer. Why can’t things work? Why can’t I read?


Hello, World!

beanandpeabedPlants on Deck 2016 has arrived! Not that there’s a deck in sight, friends.

And that’s just fine.

Tennessee spring is gorgeous. After 20 years in Philly where the seasons went like this: Snowmageddon to blink-you-missed-it-spring to hotter than hell to freezing rain, I’m easy to please. This Zone 7, unlike our previous one, actually has seasons. And they’re all pretty spectacular.

The parsley and thyme are back in business, the tarragon is making a comeback and the oregano is spreading like kudzu.

Soil has been tilled and beds have started to sprout. Nearly 100 peas are popping along the north fence(planted mid-March), raspberry canes are standing tall, and the fence line is ready for cow peas. The north side of the house awaits the Hurricane’s tomato and cucumber selections (with an emergent seeding of collards to hold us over) while the east hill is naked in anticipation of its strawberries.

And the beds have not been forgotten, all of the following (with the exception of today’s additions) have sprouted.

Bed 1:
February 20, 2016: Swiss chard
March 5, 2016: Arugula, lettuce
April 3: chard and lettuce augmentation

Bed 2:
February 20: spinach
February 20: leeks
March 5: lettuce
March 5: watermelon radishes
April 4: brussel sprouts, carrots, and more lettuce

And here’s the best: our neighbor to the north, inspired by the Hurricane, has planted her first garden.


Late Bloomers

cauliflowerIt’s been a while. A good, long while.

Now that this gardener writes posts and website copy for a living, she’s much less inclined to write for POD. It’s kind of like the carpenter’s house that’s in a constant state of construction. There’s only so many nails you can hammer and there are only so  many words in a week.

Which is a shame, really, because now there’s no written record of my end-of-season success and failures. And unlike the Hurricane, my pre-occupied memory is a faulty beast.

At any rate, here are a couple of photos excavated from the over-stuffed memory of my phone. Bless technology and date-stamping.

cabbageandwild onionCauliflower: Ordered as starts from Burpee’s, these beauties were harvested in mid-December. Of the six, though, three fell victim to cabbage loopers and weird slimy heads, likely the work of some cold, wet weather and the aforesaid evil worms.

Cabbage: Also ordered as starts, these tiny potent heads were welcome additions to several burrito and gimbap nights. Harvested January 30, 2016.

Brussels: Like the cauliflower and File_000cabbage, these tiny brassicas began life at Burpee. Nothing says stay-in “date night” like martinis and brussel sprouts and bacon, baby.

Rutabagas: From seed. Yes, yes, yes.

Daikon radishes: Oh my, best things ever. Even if they’re bigger than my arm.

Carrots: These touchon carrots, plated rather late, provided an oh-so-welcome scavenger hunt for the Hurricane. Nothing says January 30 like a bowl full of sugar-sweet carrots. The Hurricane’s squeals of carrot digging delight? Priceless, as they say.

25189116549_f0052e070f_zWith any luck, these late bloomers will play a starring role this fall/winter. Next year, though, I’m hoping to have a little more time and patience for seeds. Organic cauliflower in December, pretty amazing. Cost-effective? Absolutely not.