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.

Bitty Broccoli

broccoli
Top: Greensgrow
Below: PODgrown

Maybe it’s time to admit defeat.

Earlier this month we received our first winter CSA share from the good people at Greensgrow. It was gorgeous. And the ensuing lemon chicken with broccoli was delicious.

Speaking of broccoli, the broccoli was especially envy-making…given that POD’s broccoli is in a pretty pathetic state.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of fateful kale…

Waaay back in August, a shopping spree at that very same urban CSA mecca resulted in a deck full of cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Oh, my.

But what the CSA gods provideth, the nursery demons taketh away: just days later the starts proved themselves to be crawling in loopers. Squish, squish. Problem solved.

BUT then, a couple weeks after that, a particularly nasty-looking aphid took over. All new for 2012, people: Cabbage aphids! Which, apparently, tend to be more problematic in fall crops. Good to know. These nefarious boogers were regularly sprayed with heavy doses of a Dr. Bronner’s soapy water solution  but to no avail. Deck decimation.

(SIDE RANT: So, not only did this organic “magic all-one” soap fail to kill off the aphids, but the funky-smelling unscented variety stings toddler eyes, and when the screaming toddler flails the offending suds into a nearby adult’s eyes, it stings theirs, too. Like a lot. And it leave a nasty residue on one’s skin and a milky scum on brand-new jet black vehicles. Both the human and vehicular test subjects required two non-Bronner’s scrubbings to remove all traces of ickiness. Which clearly, POD has time for.)

Defeat admitted.

It’s Alive

As hard as it is to believe, the Brussels experiment continues.

Brussels Sprouts

These Franklin Hybrid sprouts started as seeds on August 7, 2009. Insulated with a layer of Michigan pine boughs throughout the winter, they may have survived the snowpacalypse and snowmageddon of 2009 and 2010. Of course, this pot has a date with a tomato seedling on April 20, so we’ll just have to see how quickly these guys decide to mature (we’re already well past our 80 day mark, but then again, one suspects they took the winter off).

brussels sprouts

Eight Weeks and Growing

Brussels Sprouting
Brussels Sprouting

The Brussels sprout experiment continues. These guys are exactly two months old and appear to be thriving. Whether or not they’ll get around to producing, only time will tell.

Generally Zone 7 gardeners plant sprouts in March for an August harvest, but the flavor benefits from cooler temps and honestly, during the summer months, container space is just too precious to hand over to a single 3-4″ stalk of sprouting heads.

The seedlings exposed to the most unobstructed sun (like this one here) are certainly doing the best. The seedling tucked among the flourishing parsnips is about half this guy’s size.

Fall Fell

lettuce seedsWell, dear friends, Fall has touched down in South Philly. Which is not to say we won’t be slammed with a few more 90 degree days; but generally, temps are hovering in the 70s during the day and low 60s at night. The biggest challenge, though, is the rapidly dwindling sun exposure. POD enjoys at least six to eight hours of sun throughout most of the summer but by September, it receives only a few hours of morning sun.

What does this mean for POD’s zone 7 garden? Major work on deck.

As you can see from yesterday’s post, there’s been some reorganization.  First, all containers have been crammed together to maximize sun exposure. Both the Gold Nugget and Isis Candy cherry tomatoes bit the dust, as did the spacemaster and lemon cucumbers (tune in for more info on Friday).  Filling their shoes are several more parsnip seeds, French radishes, lettuce, Swiss chard, and carrots.

Parsnips and Radishes of the Future
Parsnips and Radishes of the Future

The Brussels sprout seedlings have also made their way, full-time, onto the deck. Honestly, they’ve been looking a little peaked lately. Here’s hoping they pull through.

Parsnips Peeping

parnsipsA few weeks ago, in a fit of Chicken Little-like panic, fall garden planning began. This is a first for POD — usually the containers get retired when the last of the straggling cucumbers make their way onto a salad and the herbs have been hacked down and transformed into indoor pets.

Not this year, though! POD has visions of making the Thanksgiving trek to Michigan with armfuls of parsnips, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and maybe even some last-gasp chard. (There’s no hope that the wee parmex carrots will amount to much, but hey, it’s worth a shot.)

Sprouts Sprouting!

These six Brussels Sprout seeds were planted a little over a week ago. Already they’re reaching out to grab every ray of sunlight they can. POD knows the feeling.

brussels sprouts seedlings in teeny peat pots
brussels sprout seedlings in teeny peat pots

The little peat seeding containers are really quite wonderful. They can be purchased pretty inexpensively and they make transplanting incredibly simple. Many are even made of recycled material or contain organic fertilizers. Come planting time, all you need to do is rip the bottom out (so the roots can grow more freely) and drop the entire container into the soil, making sure to cover the lip of the pot with a layer of soil. Best of all, they’re biodegradable.

Obviously, they’re probably a little more difficult for folks who plant crops in quantities larger than oh, say three plants, but for container gardeners, they’re a great way to go. They’re gaping holes of thirst, though. You’ll need to check on your wee seedlings daily to make sure they’re getting adequate water.

Sowing New Seeds

Usually, POD feels a twinge of sadness this time of year. Okay, more than a twinge. Yes, the deck is prospering and yes, the farmers’ markets are flowing, and yes, the kitchen is humming with fresh produce, but the end is near. And it hurts.

What makes POD happy? Seeds. So this year, instead of resigning myself to the end of an era, POD’s expanding. Who knows how it’ll turn out, but it seems worth a shot. Unlike the rest of the produce on the 2009 little blue deck, this is new uncharted territory.

Thanks to the now-dead Django restaurant, a Philly favorite until the chef/owners relocated to the ‘burbs and left a pale imitation in their wake, POD and her lovely husband discovered that Brussels sprouts don’t totally suck. Add some butter and bacon and you’re good to go.

These seeds (selected because they’re Franklin Hybrids — and POD is a Philly garden, after all) from Territorial Seed Company, are enjoying some rich, firmly packed organic soil and plenty of indoor sunlight and stable temps. They should germinate in a couple of weeks or so. Check back for progress reports. These sprouts are also apparently quick to mature — a big considerations this time of year.

There’s even enough to share with a certain Philadelphia City Paper Editor.

Here’s hoping for a mild winter and a bonus crop.

brussels sprout seeds
brussels sprout seeds

Planting Fever

Each week (or so) we have a few friends over for dinner, and while I was busy stirring POD’s thai chilies into the evening’s much-delayed lemongrass curry, our dear friend began asking all sorts of interesting gardening questions.

Clearly he’s caught the gardening bug. Poor thing.

He came to his addiction late, though, and is wondering what the heck he can still plant now that daylight is on the wane and Philadelphia has turned into the soupy humid swamp that is late July.

So, dear friend, here are a few suggestions for July, who knows, you just may see them sprouting up on deck soon. Let’s give it a whirl together:

Brussels Sprouts (October-December harvest)
Cauliflower
(December-March harvest) — Look for the following varieties: Needles and Purple Cape
Parsnips (November-December harvest)

Check back in a couple of weeks and see what works for August sowing.