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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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 Melons

Seed List, MelonsPOD’s had mixed results with melons, but loves, loves, loves them. Last year just a few melons were harvested, but oh, how rewarding those melons were. Plus, fancy cucurbits are ridiculously expensive and difficult to find. Last year’s charentais was heavenly. But there was only one of them. Not one plant (well, that too) but one melon!

So this year:

Kiara F-1: “High quality true French charentais with authentic flavor. Strong vines provide excellent fruit protection…resistant to fusarium wilt 0, 1, 2; intermediate resistance to powdery mildew.” ARRRRRGGGG! And, the folks at Seeds for Change are totally letting POD down. Not available. Back to the drawing board. So annoyed. Since POD’s become so attached to the notion of charentais flavor in the sturdy form of a disease-resistant hybrid, Park Seeds answered the call: “Measuring about 4 1/2 inches in diameter, French Orange Hybrid is a superb eating experience and a great change of pace from cantaloupes and honeydews. The vines are very disease-tolerant for even bigger, healthier yields.”

Sprite: Hey, Diana, wanna’ trade? Lemme’ know and we can work something out.

These beauties will be started inside about 3-4 weeks (say, late April-ish) before being transplanted into light, well-drained, warm 65 degree soil with a pH of 6.0 and above.  Mulch well.

Mystery Melon

Charentais, maybe.
Charentais, maybe.

So, last year Plants On Deck fell in love with a certain farmer’s Charentais melons. In a fit of exuberance, seeds were saved and joined the rest of the crew on the little blue deck.

Since then, much research was conducted about saving seeds. And stuff was learned. Like, um, melons cross-pollinate in the fields quite easily. Yeah, bees. Forgot about that. We also know our farmer guy grows lots of delicious varieties. Which means, my mystery melon (let’s just assume the late bloomer was the Charentais) may be a mutt of sorts. Which means there’s a decent chance it’s not going to produce Charentais melons. Or much at all.

So, I guess there’s still some mystery lingering around, after all.

A Handful of Melons

Conventional wisdom (and most gardeners) will tell you that melons aren’t great candidates for containers. And it’s true, most melons aren’t. If you do your homework carefully,  however, you may surprise yourself with a nice crop of sweet, tasty muskmelons. Look for dwarf or bush varieties and vines that aren’t likely to exceed 3-4 feet.

Minnesota Midget
Minnesota Midget

What you see here is a fast-ripening Minnesota Midget. These little guys grow to about 4-6 inches in diameter (about 1/2 lb) and pretty much fall right off the vine when they’re ripe. Two plants are happily (mostly) thriving in this five-gallon bucket and earlier in the season, to maximize growing space, a nice batch of chard was keeping them company.

These cantaloupes are just about perfect for roof deck gardeners: they ripen much more quickly than traditional melons, the plants are relatively compact, and best of all, are resistant to diseases and wilt. With Philly’s hot summers, heat-loving melons really do make a lot of sense.

POD has tried both direct seeding and transplanting and has found that direct seeding works best in zone 7. Patiently wait until early summer and temperatures have warmed (65 degrees or so) and then stick ’em in the ground. Make sure you build a trellis so you can train the plant to grow upward, conserving precious growing space. Alas, with the approach of fall, the little blue deck’s hours of direct sunlight are rapidly dwindling so melons that mature in 70-90 days are also critical requirements.

We’ve enjoyed two years of sweet little Midgets and it’s time to consider alternatives for next year:

Emerald Green, 2-3 lbs, 70-90 days
Green Nutmeg, 2-3 lbs, 70-80 days
Golden Jenny, 3/4-1 lb, 85 days (insect resistant)
Petit Gris de Rennes, 2-3 lbs, 80-85 days
Sakata’s Sweet, 1-2 lbs, 85-95 days
Sleeping Beauty 1/2-1lb, 85 days
Savor, 1-2 lbs, 70-80 days (disease resistant)

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds seem to have an excellent selection of seeds.