Help!

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.

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?

 

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.

 

 

Green Tomato Chow Chow

So it finally happened. It got cold. For a minute. But sadly, just long enough to do in the last of the mighty 2015 tomato plants.110215_chowchow

After producing seven gallons of grape tomatoes, countless salads, and scads of lunch-sized portions, we laid our dearly beloved front yard tomato to rest. Planted in April, on the very day we signed away most of our future income on a tiny cottage in Lockeland Springs, this big fella’ was a winner. He wasn’t anything particularly special: just a plain old Bonnie from  Lowes, but man, respect.

He didn’t go down without a fight, naturally. So those  And now that POD hails from the south, it’s time to give chow chow a shot, y’all. It’s seriously delicious. Trust. This, from a woman who despises sweet pickle relishes and green tomatoes. Go figure.

As canning inherently scares me, I followed Garden and Gun‘s (yeah, yeah, I know) and Ball’s FreshPreserving to the letter. Assuming, that is, six cups of diced green grape tomatoes equals six green tomatoes.

 

 

First Frost

111314_firstfrostI’m liking Tennessee. A lot. Like, a lot a lot.

I preparation for the first killing frost, which stuck a week ago on November 22, POD’s beds received a pretty intense trimming. Leaving the rutabagas, carrots, and daikons to fend for themselves, a lovely harvest of lettuce, poblano chilies, zucchini, herbs, tomatoes, and flowers filled refrigerator shelves and pretty birthday vases.

Just in time for Thanksgiving. Thanks, Nashville.

Brassica Time!

IMG_1813Exactly one week ago, fall descended on our little garden. The cow peas (AKA black-eyed peas) and beans were yanked to make room for the newest additions.

Six Brussels sprouts, cabbages, and cauliflower found a home in one of the raised beds. More carrots, leeks, daikon radishes, lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, and rutabaga were planted in the sister bed and throughout the other planting areas.

POD’s Sorrel Soup

There have been a lot of role reversals around here. Instead of being the weekend cook, the gardener has become the weekday cook and the Endurer rules the grill on Saturdays and Sundays.

And, as my emerald green and abundant sorrel was about to be attacked by rogue, poorly staked tomatoes, I figured it was time to experiment with the newbie in the herb patch. Plus, we have leeks! And tarragon! And parsley! Oh, my! Which led us to this amazing sorrel soup. Which, in itself, is a bit of a reversal as I am not generally the one who cooks French-inspired foods (or soup). And, in the backhanded compliment department, the Endurer raved about this tangy, silky soup for days, calling dibs when leftover night rolled around.

POD’s SORREL SOUP

3 tbs butter (Go ahead, use a little more. Waistlines and dairy issues are under consideration around here, but we didn’t feel too cheated with this modest hunk of fat. Vegans, use olive oil.)

2-3 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced (may substitute onion, ramps, or scallions, but I think the leeks were part of what made this click for the Endurer.)

2 cloves garlic, minced

12 c. sorrel (A first for POD, sorrel is a very tart, tangy, zippy, mouth-puckering perennial. A little in a salad would go a very, very long way, although I can’t keep the Hurricane away from the plants. She loves the stuff. Although she also sucks on lemons.) 

4 c. chicken  or vegetable stock

1 medium potato, peeled and diced

a good bit of tarragon — at least 3 tbs (This is the secret wonder ingredient. Do not skip or scrimp.)

1/4 – 1/2 c. parsley (While the sorrel is beautiful in the ground, it turns army/dried pea green in the pot. The parsley mitigates the blah somewhat.)

2 egg yolks (If you’re interested in keeping this vegan, these can be omitted; however, they lent a beautiful silkiness and cut the acidity of the sorrel very nicely. You’ll probably want to add more vegan sour cream if you skip the eggs.)

1/2 c.  cream or creme fraiche (I used vegan sour cream to appease the dairy devil. Thank the cooking gods; butter seems to leave me alone.)

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Melt  butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks (or onion, ramps, or green onions)  and potato and turn the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and cook gently for 10 minutes.
  2. While the leeks and potato are cooking, pour the stock into another pot and bring to a simmer.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high, add the sorrel leaves and a healthy pinch of salt and stir well. When the sorrel is mostly wilted, turn the heat back to medium-low, cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  4. Whisk in the hot stock and herbs and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
  5. To finish the soup, whisk together the egg yolks with the dairy or non-dairy of your choice. Temper the yolk mixture by ladling a little soup into the eggs with one hand, while whisking with the other. Repeat this three times. Whisk the mixture into the pot and cook below a simmer — for a couple of minutes. Do not let it boil or the soup will break.
  6. Puree the soup with an immersion blender, season to taste with salt and pepper. It should be rather thin, but feel free to add a little flour to thicken or extra stock to thin.

Hitting Reset

071305_silverqueengrabThis is, apparently, something of a recurring theme for me lately. As loyal readers know, Plants On Deck recently relocated to East Nashville after over a decade on a 10×10 deck in South Philly, leaving dozens of pots and containers, a couple of orphaned blueberries, and a much-loved but aging and slivered little blue deck behind.

Philly’s unrelenting sun, dead calm 71615_melondays, and the harsh heat reflecting from endless miles of pavement and cheek-by-jowl row homes that felt like brick ovens, along with murderous hot nights and long dry weeks, made it tough going for landless container gardeners like myself. Water had to be hauled up the sladder two to three times per day, and despite the well-intended efforts of neighbors, friends, and house-sitters, returning from vacation always marked the beginning of the end: it was simply impossible to water enough and the ever-present aphids, finding the one patch of green in Pennsport, were unstoppable.

070405_tomatohunt3Nashville is hot. Damn hot. But honestly, the brutal edge that made August in Philly feel like what I imagine Mercury must feel like is largely absent here. (Granted, it’s still July.) And the soil here, it grows stuff! This year, returning from vacation meant harvesting nearly 40 cucumbers, 10 cups of basil, three muskmelons, a quart of plum tomatoes, a generous bunch of chard, a half pound of green beans, and heaps of luscious herbs.

Now, after several delicious Silver Queen centered meals, I’ve yanked the corn and spent beans, rerouted the feral Kentucky Wonder pole beans to the property-line fence and have planted a dozen more Royal Burgundy bush beans and spinach seeds. A second garden in late July may be too much to hope for, but then again, pretty much everything about this patch of land, right down to the arrowhead, has been a surprise.

Speaking of reset, while I recognize that Plants On Deck may no longer be the most appropriate name for these gardening meanderings, it’s here to stay. Put the platter on the deck, lower the needle, and keep on rocking, Music City.