So Annoyed. So Sad.

tomato grrrCrap soil. AGAIN. Leaves yellow. Stunted everything. Even the freaking basil isn’t growing. Thank you, Vigoro organic potting mix, thank you.

Need more? Something, a bird one suspects, judging from the slash-like wounds on the stems, the lack of tell-tale havoc in the surrounding dirt, and the omnivorous quality of the beast, has eaten everything. A freaking COMMON SPARROW, most likely. The poor tomato pictured here had staged a comeback. All the submerge leaves had made a desperate bid for daylight. It was so exciting! So green! So hopeful! So Christmas miracle-y in June-y. But nope, not to be. All plants on deck are dead this year, folks. Four cucumbers, three basil plants, three tomatoes…all eaten. White flag waved: it’s finished.

Fingers crossed for plants out front and the liberal application of organic (why bother?) fertilizer. The only thing that looks decent is the mystery tomato and the one surviving Early Girl — both of which were spiked with a traditional, evil, chemical-rich fertilizer stick. Sigh.


Outside, Amma!

The windows are open and cheeks are pink. Woo hoo.

With any luck, photographic evidence will follow soon, but Plants on Deck is live for 2013. And the plants out front are stylin’ in brand-new lemon yellow window boxes. Thanks, dearest Endurer for building them, and thanks, Hurricane Ye, for the inspired color choice.


  1. Paris Market carrots — 19th century French heirloom, early red-orange golf-ball carrot. (Probably should have planted these a few weeks ago, but we do what we can these days.)
  2. Cherry Belle and random mixed radishes
  3. Mesclun salad mix
  4. Bright Lights Swiss chard
  5. Rainbow blend carrots


  1. Beam’s Yellow Pear tomatoes: Seed packet sez: “Introduced to Seed Savers Exchange in 1983 by John Hartman of Indiana. Our favorite when we compared 25 different yellow pears in 1998. Endless supply of 1 1/2″ fruits with great flavor. Ideal for salads.” And Hurricane Ye.


  1. Early Girl tomaotes, courtesy of Gurney’s Seed and Nursery.

Plants On Deck 2010

In case you were wondering what’s on deck:

  • Genovese basil (2)
  • Gold Nugget cherry tomatoes and Scarlet Nantes carrots
  • lettuce (Black Krim and Ashley), cilantro, and parsley
  • Des Bagnols (4 French filet bush beans) surrounded by lettuce and Scarlet Nantes carrots
  • purple bean with lettuce
  • Blauhide pole beans surrounded by lettuce
  • True Lemon cucumber with Swiss chard and lettuce
  • Black Brandywine tomato and lettuce (added 5/23)
  • Isis Candy cherry tomato with oregano
  • Minnesota Midget muskmelon with lettuce
  • Charentais muskmelon with lettuce and an orange cosmo
  • Thai bird chili
  • poblano pepper
  • Boothby Blonde cucumber with Swiss chard
  • pepper cress, tarragon, thyme, chives and orange cosmo

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.


Okay, so, POD was recently inspired by a Graceful Gardens-designed kitchen garden. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s already October; but this fledgling garden was stuffed with beautiful herbs and greens — making me realize that those empty five-gallon buckets, sitting all forlorn-looking at the corner of the deck, were really such a waste.

So, off to the South Philly Lowes POD goes. I know, shame on me.

Two kale sets have now joined the thriving chard, parsnips, lettuce and the trooper poblano.

Of course, six, count ’em six, little squishy worms had to be picked off the undersides of the holey, half-devoured leaves before they could be popped into the waiting buckets.

Serves me right. Be forewarned.

2009: A Review

Apologies for an incredible dull post. When making plans for next year, however, it’s important to remember what worked and what didn’t. So, here it is, all in one tidy package.

Herbs: This year’s parsley, mint, tarragon, bay, and thyme were winners. Next year, grow basil from seed. The lavender never blossomed and thus, failed miserably. Next year, plant oregano and cilantro! The mint was a fine companion to the Gold Nugget tomato, but given diseases that befell the tomato, it should be planted with the rest of the herbs next year.

Lettuce: The four-year-old hand-me-down seeds produced well. They did not do well as companion plants to cucumbers and tomatoes. Could have used more — use the carrot container for additional lettuce. Still, it may be time to spring for new seeds

Carrots: After two years of parmex, it’s time to try something new. Plant as companions to tomatoes.

Radishes: Worked very well. Need to buy new seeds.

Peppers: Poblano Segundo produced well but needs careful fertilization and calcium to prevent yellowing leaves and blossom end rot. Save seeds and plant again next year. The Thai chili and random ornamental hot pepper both  produced incredibly well.

Cucumbers: Lemon cucumbers produced very well. Try the iznik again — only produced one cucumber, but dozens were on the vine before mildew throttled them. This was POD’s second attempt at growing Spacemasters — whose small, compact vines seem perfect for a roofdeck garden, but what’s the point if they only produce two little cukes?

Muskmelons: Refer to More Than a Handful

Rainbow Swiss Chard: Grew very, very well as a companion to the cucumbers and melon. Buy seeds and plant again! Perhaps try as a companion plant to tomatoes as well.

Snap Beans: Need more! Refer to Food for Thought.

Eggplant: Consider omitting. Three plants produced only enough for two meals. Preferred the Udmalbet over the Bambino.

Tomatoes: Oh, tomato. While the cherry tomato experiment worked fairly well, it’s worth experimenting with a couple new varieties. Four plants. New: black cherry tomato and Kellogg’s breakfast (full size). Old: Tumbling Tom, Gold Nugget, or Isis Candy. Prefer the Isis Candy, but the Gold Nugget produced more heavily and the Tumbling Tom fits in a 1.5 gal container and seems poised for a second crop.

Parsnips and Brussels sprouts: Verdict to be rendered at a later date.

Persnickety Parsnips

POD’s figuring things out as we grow along, but parsnips, like any other veggie, seem to be a little fussy. But, so far, so good — every one of the javelins has germinated and they’re sprouting right along.

  • Rich, deep, well-fertilized soil
  • Go light on the nitrogen, though — evidently they don’t like it
  • Full flavor develops when the roots have been exposed to near-freezing temperatures
  • POD’s hopes for a Thanksgiving crop may not pan out — perhaps more like a February harvest, just when they’ll be most needed
  • Full sun/partial shade okay

Eating Eggplants


Apologies to POD’s mother, but early memories of eggplants bring thoughts of bowling to mind, rather than eating. Those gargantuan, spongy, fibrous, gooey, tasteless monstrosities were more suited for tossing at pins (say, the stringy wrist-thick wild asparagus that grew in the field) than sticking in your mouth.

All that changed with the discovery of Thai eggplants at Philly’s Number 1 Oriental Supermarket at 6th and Washington. These little guys actually have flavor of their own, possess a satisfying crunch, and are completely devoid of spongy goo.

Although this is only the second meal produced from the Udmalbet and Bambinos, it’s a keeper.

Adapted from Casa Moro (2004) by Sam and Sam Clark

3  udmalbet and 6 baby bambino eggplants
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4 tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbs pine nuts
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbs balsamic with a pinch of sugar
1-2 tbs fresh oregano, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450

1) Slice eggplants into cubes the size of sugar cubes, then sprinkle with the fine salt. Leave to sit in a colander for at least 20 minutes, then blot dry with paper towel. Toss with half the olive oil, spread out on a large baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes until they start to brown and are completely tender.
2) Put the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium to low heat. Add the onion, pine nuts and a pinch of salt to the pan and soften for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3) Add the garlic and dried oregano and cook until the garlic, onions and pine nuts have taken on an amber color — be careful not to burn anything.
4) Add the cooked eggplant to the pan, increase the heat slightly and stir briskly for a minute or two.
5) Stir in the vinegar and most of the fresh oregano and cook for two minutes more, until some of the pungency of the vinegar has gone. Taste for seasoning, and serve with the remaining fresh oregano scattered on top.

Death by Powder

Well, thank goodness POD’s cucumbers were just about ready for retirement.  They survived a minor case of leaf spot and random blight but powdery mildew did them in.

powdery mildew
powdery mildew

It’s not a surprise, really. Temperatures have cooled and light has waned: a perfect recipe.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota Midgets have also been touched. Because there are at least six melonettes ripening, the most affected leaves have been snipped and the rest drenched in a dripping coat of Neem.

disease-stunted lemon cucumber
disease-stunted lemon cucumber