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!

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.

Repurposing

repurposed tomato cages, melon trellisLast year plants on deck used tomato cages as a trellis for cucumbers and melons. While it seemed genius, it wasn’t, perhaps, an unqualified success as the 2010 cucurbits did sorta’ so-so. (Not enough air circulation, perhaps?)

It seems silly to waste the investment; so last year’s cages were snipped and spread open to provide large surface areas for the Adam F-1 Cucumber, Orange Hybrid Melon (to be called C. Borealis from here on out, thanks Bethysmalls), and White Wonder Cucumbers to roam. The sharp edges were turned to help train the vigorous vines and to help protect a certain accident-prone gardener. (One whose motto is: “if you haven’t bled on it, it’s not a success.”) An excellent use of unused garden crap, right?

Yeah, there are two C. Boreali in one pot — likely a mistake — but someone couldn’t bring themselves to snip out the oh-so-healthy vine.

Off With Its Head!

Thinning Cucumbers
Help me! I'm a mystery melon!

It’s a necessary evil, thinning is. Last year two melons were housed in a single 5-gallon bucket. That didn’t work so well, honestly. Only 3 or 4 Minnesota Midgets made it onto the table. This year, given just how rootbound last year’s  mildew-ridden corpses were, one plant will enjoy all 5-gallons of real estate. POD hopes this will encourage healthier root development and air flow around the leaves.

Because the roots of melons and cucumbers are very delicate, don’t pull the rejects from the soil — you may end up disturbing the surviving plants root system. So instead, carefully pinch the doomed seedlings off at the soil line.

But guess what! We have a mystery on our hands! So, two 5-gallon buckets of melons were planted. One bucket with Charentais (from seeds saved from a Culton Organics melon) and one bucket with Minnesota Midgets (from seeds purchased at least 4 years ago). One bucket sprouted four healthy seedlings (thinned to one) and the other bucket sprouted not a one.

Do you think POD labeled the buckets? Strangely, no. Do you think POD remembers which went where? Not so strangely, no. Whattya’ think? Will it be French or will it be American? Unwisely, POD seems to have lost/pitched the saved Charentais seeds and is disinclined to plant what may or may not be a second MN Midget. Make sense? Thoughts?

Some More Seeds

The great debate continues. Should cucurbits (cucumbers and melons) be direct seeded in early May, or should they Happy Cat Cucumber Seed Packetsbe started indoors three to four weeks before the frost-free date? (Which, in POD’s case, is April 20thish.)

Philadelphia doesn’t exactly count as a “colder area of Pennsylvania”, but light begins dwindling on the little blue deck by the end of August so a head start seems like a good thing. If you have the luxury of full sun through September, you might want to go for the direct seeding.

And, because these heat lovers like it hot, POD will patiently, yes, patiently, wait until three true leaves have formed and outside temperatures are reaching the 70s. In other words, they probably won’t hit the deck until May — about the time the Philadelphia County Penn State Cooperative Extension recommends direct seeding.