Mighty Mites

plants on deck: melon aphidsplants on deck: melon aphidsPlants on Deck’s bane is back. Like clockwork the pesky sap-sucker, this time we’re looking at melon aphids, has made a mess out of POD’s cucumber patch.

With a little discouragement from UMass Amherst and Clemson, identification is hovering around 99.9%. Even more depressingly, POD never realized what a wide array of life-sucking aphids existed.

Adding insult to injury, these beasts can transmit the sooty mold (yup, POD’s got that, too) virus within 15 seconds — let’s repeat that: 15 SECONDS — of piercing the leaf with their nasty little slurping mouthparts.

And they’re fertile too, naturally, “…winged females colonize crops in early summer, and wingless females produce live young for about 15 days (70-80 offspring per female) resulting in multiple generations. The time from birth to reproductive adult can be one week.” Yup, we’re doomed.

Prevention is the best medicine, but needless to say, despite ample experience with the boogers, reflective mulching was not employed in this year’s slack-bottomed garden. One of the benefits to plants out front, though, is that daily hosing of the undersides of the leaves is (more or less) keeping things in check (more or less) for now. Long enough, the Hurricane hopes, to harvest a just a few more delicious cucumbers.

Baby Bumblebee

I’m bringin’ home my baby bumblebee,
won’t my Mama be so proud of me?

I’m bringin’ home my baby bumble bee,
Ouch! It stung me.

BumbleBeeThe Hurricane, loves, loves, loves, the bumblebee song. If you aren’t familiar with the masterpiece,  count your blessing. It’s an earworm. She also spent the better part of a year as a Bumblebee at school. Which means she’s kinda’ fascinated (AKA obsessed) by them.

You know, like other gardeners in POD-land. It was a relief to see this fuzzy guy, as bees have been a little scarce this summer and hand pollination can be a drag. While there are only a couple female blossoms on the poor cucumber, at least they’ll get some attention.

 

Uncoiled: The Geeky Life of a Gardener

cucumber tendril, plants on deckC’mon, admit it, you’ve spent collective hours staring at cucumber tendrils too, right? Coiling and uncoiling them? Trying to unkink that weird reverse loop that appears in the middle of each tendril? Spring/sproinging them gently between your fingers, mouth hung open in slack-jawed amazement? Staring, unblinkingly, because you’re sure if you watch hard enough you’ll be able to see the sucker move? Or, more likely, apologizing to the ambitious cucurbit when, in your clumsy haste to redirect the tenacious tendrils, you snap the surprisingly strong springs in two?

cucumber tendril, plants on deckAnyhoo, if any of the aforementioned scenarios strike a chord, then this delightful clip (seriously, follow the link, it’s worth it — POD’s too cheap to spring for the video upgrade and too pressed for time to muck around with it any longer) from Science Friday should make you bounce in your seat and clap your hands in geeky joy, too. If that’s not enough, there’s always Harvard research dollars at work…

Cucumbers Coming

Someday.

But Sunday was a big day. The sun was shining, the soil was warm, the time was right and Monday’s forecast called for the last of April’s showers. Given the Hurricane’s deep, deep, deep, affection for cucumbers, which rivals her love of tomatoes, it seemed important to get some things in the ground.

Step 1: Styrofoam, for drainage
Step 1: Styrofoam, for drainage.
Step 2: Dirt. Lots of dirt
Step 2: Dirt. Lots of dirt.
Step 3: Costume change + consultation with deck amis.
Step 3: Costume change + consultation with deck amis.
Step 4: Finally! Planting White Wonder, Adam F1, and Lemon Cucumbers
Step 4: Finally! Planting White Wonder, Adam F1, and Lemon Cucumbers

Melon Balls

On Friday, the lone French hybrid melon dropped from the vine. Surely there are better ways of ascertaining a melon’s ripe lusciousness, but POD hasn’t found a particularly reliable method just yet. So, we here at the little blue deck go for the slipping and sit method. Which basically means we let the thing fall right on off the vine (“slipping,” in gardening parlance), and then let it rest for  few days in the kitchen, until that melon musk is just too irresistible.

September Progress

September rebootThe Little Hurricane has recently been redubbed Typhoid C.  You see, yesterday marked the one-month anniversary of our shared illnesses. That’s 30-odd days of hacking coughs, multi-colored mucus, razor-studded throats, viscous vomit, and booger crusts. Not to mention shared a  fever of 103. Yeah, yeah: hot-blooded. Got it. Still no fun.

What does a toddler’s discharge have to do with the health and well-being of the little blue deck? Everything, it seems. It’s like the deck doesn’t exist, let alone the computer upon which the deck is rendered public. All that matters is saline solution, honey, vomit dodging, and sleeping. This morning, though, despite a shocking lack of sleep and an abundance of the aforementioned symptoms, the deck’s disarray was too much for this sniffling gardener to handle. So while little Ms. Typhoid and her similarly afflicted father departed for the store and the playground, the deck got some half-assed love.

The final tomatoes were plucked and sad, tired plants were bagged. A smattering of cucumber beetles got smushed, just for the heck of it, and the C. Borealis (AKA french orange hybrid melon) upon which they were feasting gave up its last fruit.

September rebootWhat containers remain have been haphazardly scatter-seeded with lettuce, winter cress (AKA creasy creens courtesy of Bartram’s Garden), radishes, kale, and kohlrabi (courtesy of Startin Yer Garten).

August Progress

As you can see (to the left), the soil-afflicted Tomande and the Sweetheart of the Patio have bit the dust. One of the two Gold Nuggets became a feast for the white flies,  leaving one heat- and storm-battered Tomande and the Patio Princess and remaining Gold Nugget valiantly fighting off white fly attacks of their own. Next year, come July, white fly traps really have to make an appearance to help out the beleaguered and overwhelmed marigolds.

Still, you’ll hear no complaints here. This has been a great summer for POD and with any luck, those vacated pots will be seeded with peas, chard and lettuce before the weekend is out.

The cucumbers are still pouring in — at last count: Spacemaster: 14, Adam F1: 13 (RIP), White Wonder: 32. That’s not a typo, people. Nearly nine pounds of tomatoes and counting!  Not to mention 20 adorable (and strangely hot) little poblanos, gobs of basil, herbs, chard, and two delightful C. Borealis melons.

Squirrels? They suck, but they’ve sucked much less this year than usual. See that tomato on the railing (squint, you’ll see it, top right)? You’d think the least the greedy SOB could do is finish the thing.