Honey Buns and Cukes

honey bun canteloupe blossomThe cucurbits are looking good, my friends. Although POD still needs to get a few bright blossoms on deck to attract pollinators, decorate the mulch with aluminum foil to repel aphids, spritz with POD’s special sauce to ward off mildews and bugs, and snip a tomato cage to turn it into a cucumber trellis. Soon.

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POD’s Popping!

On Deck Burpee HybridThe On Deck corn emerged a few days ago, the Honey Bun muskmelon peeked yesterday, and as of today the Speedy Green and Supremo cucumbers are starting to shift a little soil. Still waiting on that General Lee, but that’s it.

Thanks to aggressive squirrels, sparrows, and cats with full bladders (the only wildlife we see in South Philly, really) tender seedlings have been protected with yards and yards of deer netting. Handy stuff for urban container gardeners…

Plants On Deck 2014 has arrived!

Seeds, Seeds, Plants, and Seeds: Cucurbits

Cucumbers, oh, cucumbers. How we love thee.

  • Speedy Green Hybrid: Maybe a few cukes can be harvested in 42 days? Say, before the aphids attack? This is a biggie (12 x 60), so one per pot.
  • Supremo Hybrid: A little less huge, but still big (15 x 36). Prolific and disease resistant, thankyouverymuch.
  • General Lee: Yup, POD’s Minder is of the Dukes of Hazzard generation. Yup, Bo and Luke? Crushable. The Charger? Still wouldn’t kick it out of my garage (if I had one) for leaking oil 3_6_14genlee(a paint job, perhaps, yes). A disease-resistant cucumber named the General Lee? Yup. Sold. Thanks, Organic Gardening, for pointing this gynoecious paradox out!

Muskmelons! Such luciousness. And so many exciting new hybrids to try! (Side note: heirlooms are great, but will have to wait for the POD’s next, much-larger, raised-bed garden. Thanks for the courage, Michael Tortorello)

  • Honey Bun Hybrid: “Honey Bun is a real bush cantaloupe that is well suited for the smaller garden. The little melons are 5″ across with deep orange flesh and honey-sweet flavor. Each vine will produce 3 or 4 fruits.” That just about covers it.

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.

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

Cucumber Count

Even if the heat decides to wreak its havoc on the little blue deck, it’s been a good cucumber year, as you can see.

plants on deck cucumbers, White WonderSpacemaster: 7
Adam F1: 13 (RIP)
White Wonder: 12

And, for any first-time cucumber growers who might be out there, here’s a few picking tips for ya’:

  • Harvest cucumbers early in the morning, before they’ve been over-warmed by the sweltering sun.
  • Refrigerate immediately. Happily, they seem to survive storage for at least a week.
  • Tend to your cucurbits daily — leaving just one cucumber on the vine (they’re sneaky, so look closely) will halt production.

 

A Year Ago Today…

…POD was lamenting the aphid infestation that wiped out the cucumbers and melons. And the looper infestation, that wiped out the chard. And the whitefly infestation that wiped out the tomatoes. And, well, you get the picture.

This year, knock on the little blue deck, hasn’t been half bad, pest-wise. But now there’s this heatwave thing. And this whole lack of rain thing. And the whole taking off for a long weekend with 100+ temps in the forecast thing.

Adam F1 and White Wonder Cucumber
Poor Adam

So, enjoy those cucumbers while they last.  Remember Adam F1? There’s a seriously good chance that it’s been over-watered  or it’s got bacterial wilt. But either way, it’s wilty and yellowing.  It’s a pickle, isn’t it? One waters to protect plants from the hideous heat. Both water and heat can kill…so, to water or not?

It’s been a productive and delicious plant: 11 and counting. But POD fears its days are limited.