Planning a Raised Bed Garden for the Ages

Plants On Deck 2018 PlanningOr, for 2018, at the very least.

What better time to think about a summer’s harvest than the moment we emerged from a record-setting spell of brutally cold weather. Miranda the Garden Cat spent her nights atop a heating pad and hand warmers (only because they were fresh out of paw warmers) and MNPS decided to shut down for an inch of snow. For sanity’s sake, it’s time to start thinkin’ on next year’s harvest.

Last year’s promised third bed never became a reality, thanks to an overlong construction nightmare — a nightmare that left us with a dreamy Garden Fort, so I can’t really complain. This year, however, that bed’s gonna’ happen because, in addition to a second revenue stream, the Endurer finally has the workshop of his dreams.

Plants On Deck Garden Plan

Plants on Deck Spring & Summer Planting Calendar

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Nashville’s last frost is expected to occur around April 6. Since the dates are calculated using the 1981-2010 climate normals, I feel pretty confident reserving the first week of April for planting most of the spring crops. For others, I’m going with my gut and will be getting dirty a little earlier. You’ll notice some repeats, it’s intentional; we’re going for an extended harvest. You’ll also notice that I’ve given myself some wiggle room, including two whole weekends to plant. Because. Well. Life.

Seedlings we’ll take care of in-house. Starts will come from Nashville’s amazing Bate’s Nursery.

Seed Indoors

January 20: Celeriac
March 1: Basil
March 1: Peppers

Direct Sow February 24

Sugar Snap Peas

Direct Sow March 10-17

Mustard greens

Direct Sow March 31-April 7


Direct Sow April 14-21

Celeriac seedlings
Lemongrass starts
Pepper seedlings
Tomato starts

Direct Sow April 28-May5

Black-eyed Peas
Lima beans
Peppers seedlings

Direct Sow July 7-14





Thanks, Trump.

Because everything that goes wrong from now on, from OMG-that-hurt medical tests to the Hurricane’s tempers, to snow falling on my pea shoots and greens (following a week of 70-degree days and the balmiest February this Northerner has ever experienced), it’s the President’s fault.

Logical? With the exception of taking “science” out of the EPA’s mission statement no, it’s not entirely logical, but I need a scapegoat. And what’s a better target for my ire than a carrot-colored narcissist with a lot of power who actually hates science, wants make healthcare even crappier (and probably more painful) than it already is, and who will likely make it even harder for those who suffer from mental illnesses to obtain care.

Anyhoo, if you’re still reading after that little tirade, well, cheers.

February Seeding, Nashville Raised Bed Gardening
Alien fingers and February sowing.

Back in February, I needed some optimism. I needed to feel dirt under my alien nails (thanks, iPhone). I needed to forget myself. But I think I jumped the gun. Here’s hoping my darling greens and pea shoots aren’t disqualified for the season. After waking to snow flurries (and, briefly, a very happy Hurricane) I’ve tucked them in, under a layer of sheets and straw. But the forecast calls for a few nights in the mid-20s.

I’m not entirely optimistic about anything anymore.


Making Plans: Bed 2

The Usual Suspects: Corn, Beans, & Muskmelon

Nothing to see here, folks. This bed spells summer.

First sowing of beans: May 1
Corn: May 1
Pepper Seedlings: May 1

  • Note to self about peppers. So, in a marathon session of online seed ordering, I ordered Gurney’s California Wonder peppers. Not really thinking about the fact that they’re SEEDS, not plants. And while I love the idea of growing peppers from seed –and the magic of seeds, in general — our tiny house isn’t the best place to cultivate seedlings. Our little home is a dangerous vortex of clumsy cats, a demanding Hurricane, poorly positioned windows, and too-much-to-do-to-little-time-disorder. It’s enough that I manage to keep a kid and three cats alive, let alone seedlings. Anyhoo, I digress. So that May 1 thing is a loose guideline. The Hurricane and I are going to make seed germination a cool science thing this spring and she’s in charge of keeping them alive. Not that she knows that yet. Plan on an early to mid-February seeding session.

Beans: May 1 (or earlier, weather depending. It’s been, like, 70 degrees, for 3 days. In January. But hey, Global Warming is just a thing scientists cooked up to get funding. No biggie. Nothing to cry about here.

Cucumbers: This year we hit Gurney’s for our seeds and sets. Just not super happy with Burpee’s last year — plant sets arrived late and battered and the cucumbers succumbed pretty immediately to blight.

Melon: Here’s hoping the Li’l Sweet Hybrid is amazing, because we need melons to work it this year. We need a money maker.


Making Plans: Bed 1

Making Plans (POD Style): Bed 1

I’m pretty sure the Russians are going to be taking over the Kroger by the time spring rolls around, so January feels like a great time to get my head straight and garden plan on.4x8 Raised Bed Garden Map

It’s a brand new world, good garden people. As I type, a grand garden shed is being erected in the back 40 (more on that later) with plenty of room for tools and just enough room for out-of-towners.

We’re expanding to four, count ’em FOUR, 4×8 beds this spring which means all sorts of fun. Undoubtedly, I’m being over-ambitious here, but hey, a gardener’s gotta’ dream. The first bed features early spring goodies. Nothing terribly earth-shattering in this particular bed, other than one last (I swear) attempt at growing something in the brassica family.


After suffering a series of catastrophic cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts failures over the years (thanks for being so dependable, cabbage loopers and stink bugs, you’re the best!), I swore I was done. Then the Endurer hit me with puppy eyes and we’re giving romanesco a shot. We haven’t seen one of these fractal beauties since fleeing the East Coast.

I thought Nashville was the next “It” city. Come on y’all, get with the program.


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)


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.



A Second Harvest

0928_zucchinireduxAfter it became clear that summer squash had made the Hurricane’s top-ten summer veggie list, we planted a second batch of zucchini soon after the first batch had tapped out. This time around, they occupy real estate formerly held by under-producing purple royal beans. Located at the edge of the bed — which seems to work well and allows them to drape down to the grass — they occupy about four square feet of space. The three young plants (seeded around 8/21) contributed to a delicious Moro side which accompanied the ridiculously chewy good burgers from Porter Road Butcher. And there are more to come. Both burgers and courgettes.

(Note: three plants may not be sufficient unto the day. The zucchini appear to take a little longer to mature in September than they did in July. And, well, three plants weren’t enough in July, either.)

Courgettes with Almonds
(proportions and ingredients customized to POD’s harvest, but adapted from Moro East) — feeds three as a small size

8 oz courgettes (AKA zucchini) topped, tailed, an sliced into thin rounds
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs blanched almonds (I’ve also used marcona almonds and pine nuts)
1 small garlic clove, thinly sliced
8-10 cherry or plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, halved, and seeded (optional) (confession: I have never blanched, peeled, and seeded a cherry tomato. Ever. I’m sure that the chefs would shudder, but come on, that’s crazycakes.)
1 tsp chopped mint (POD’s mint is recovering from a failed attempt at keeping it corralled in a container. Don’t worry, it’s gonna’ pull through, but I substituted fresh oregano last night and it worked like a charm.)

Toss the courgettes with the salt and place in a colander. Allow them to sit for at least 10 minutes over a draining board or sink, then pat dry with some paper towel.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the almonds and fry for a few minutes, until they just start to turn a pale pink-brown, then remove them with a slotted spoon and add the courgettes to the pan. (Keep on eye on the almonds as they will go from perfect to burned within seconds.) Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and half the mint and continue to cook for about 15 minutes, until very soft, sweet and starting to break down. Now return the almonds to the pan an cook for 5 minutes more, squashing any bits of tomato tomato that are too large for your liking. Add the remaining mint, season with salt and pepper and serve.

A New Leaf

081815_carrotsThe mighty cucumber is no more. After producing at least 100 fruits the workhorse was retired.

Weep not, dear gardeners! Rejoice, for the time of fall planting is at hand! Behold: four short rows of rutabagas have taken its place. (Pictured to the left, though, are carrots. Sorry.)

Anyhoo, rutabagas are a new addition to the POD lineup. According to the UGA Extension, this turnip-like brassica is easy to grow and needs to be planted about 60-90 days  prior to the first heavy frost. At 75 days, we’re good.

Also on deck? spinach, carrots, daikon radish, and a second attempt at zucchini. All of which (with the exception of 081815_zucchiniIIcarrots) are new for POD — and the notion of a fresh start in August helps alleviate the sting of back-to-school sales, shortened days, and cool pre-fall nights.