My Beautiful Thing

After years of disappointing yields, POD is swimming (or drowning) in garden-fresh produce. What a deliciously beautiful thing.

Harvest TimeMy days as a container gardener were rewarding, for sure. I loved pushing seeds into the soil with the Hurricane’s tiny fingers assisting, we loved watching those tender shoots push through the deluxe organic-by-the-bag soil, and we loved June. We loved how healthy and vibrant the young plants looked, we loved the possibilities and the promise, and we loved having the only garden on the block. Heck, one of the only gardens in all of Pennsport.

For all the pleasure, those days were also pretty demoralizing. What I didn’t love so much? July and August. And aphids. Given the scarcity of delectable gardens in the neighborhood, each and every pest and squirrel came a’callin’ each and every year. Still, we managed to eke out enough of a harvest to come back for more, year after year, but only barely.

And on the menu for this week?

And on the shopping list? Lamb and Surryano and not much else.

Hitting Reset

071305_silverqueengrabThis is, apparently, something of a recurring theme for me lately. As loyal readers know, Plants On Deck recently relocated to East Nashville after over a decade on a 10×10 deck in South Philly, leaving dozens of pots and containers, a couple of orphaned blueberries, and a much-loved but aging and slivered little blue deck behind.

Philly’s unrelenting sun, dead calm 71615_melondays, and the harsh heat reflecting from endless miles of pavement and cheek-by-jowl row homes that felt like brick ovens, along with murderous hot nights and long dry weeks, made it tough going for landless container gardeners like myself. Water had to be hauled up the sladder two to three times per day, and despite the well-intended efforts of neighbors, friends, and house-sitters, returning from vacation always marked the beginning of the end: it was simply impossible to water enough and the ever-present aphids, finding the one patch of green in Pennsport, were unstoppable.

070405_tomatohunt3Nashville is hot. Damn hot. But honestly, the brutal edge that made August in Philly feel like what I imagine Mercury must feel like is largely absent here. (Granted, it’s still July.) And the soil here, it grows stuff! This year, returning from vacation meant harvesting nearly 40 cucumbers, 10 cups of basil, three muskmelons, a quart of plum tomatoes, a generous bunch of chard, a half pound of green beans, and heaps of luscious herbs.

Now, after several delicious Silver Queen centered meals, I’ve yanked the corn and spent beans, rerouted the feral Kentucky Wonder pole beans to the property-line fence and have planted a dozen more Royal Burgundy bush beans and spinach seeds. A second garden in late July may be too much to hope for, but then again, pretty much everything about this patch of land, right down to the arrowhead, has been a surprise.

Speaking of reset, while I recognize that Plants On Deck may no longer be the most appropriate name for these gardening meanderings, it’s here to stay. Put the platter on the deck, lower the needle, and keep on rocking, Music City.

Making a List, Part II

4x8 raised bed planThe good folks at Gardens of Babylon were kind enough to deliver a couple of yards a dirt, shovel them directly into the completed bed, remove a hunk of concrete from the yard, offer gardening advice, recommend local businesses, and donate a few abandoned cucumber, corn, pepper, and dill starts to the cause. After 10 years of gardening, POD finally has a garden center crush.

How to use this new-found space and garden center bounty was another challenge altogether. Having spent the icy winter locked in an apartment in West Nashville, you’d think that hours of methodical research and careful planning would have already been conducted. But no. There were houses to sell and buy, boxes to unpack and pack again, a Hurricane to tend to, a whole new city to navigate, unhappy cats to wrangle, and massive amounts of fretting to be done.

imageAlthough it’s embarrassing and utterly unlike most posts on this blog, a quick Google image search for “square foot garden” is about all the research that went into this one. Reports seem to vary on the amount of space needed per plant per square foot — and the most useful graphic from Territoral Seeds seems a little tight — so POD attempted to play it both safe (allowing two square feet for the tomato and a full square foot per cucumber, for example) and try to cram as much as possible into the inaugural bed.

imageSo here’s the list, followed by plants per square foot:

Mr. Stripey tomato (1 plant/2 sf)
bush zucchini (3 plants/4 sf)
basil (4 plants/1 sf)
marigolds (8 plants/2 sf)
bush cucumber (3 plants/3 sf)
chard [seed] (16-24ish/2 sf)
romaine lettuce (4 plants/1 sf)
butter leaf lettuce (4 plants/1 sf)
purple bush beans [seeds] (18/3 sf)
red bell pepper (3 plants/3sf)
corn (12 plants/4 sf)
melon 2 plants/4 sf)
Kentucky Wonder pole beans [seeds] ) (12/2 sf)

Planted in Lockeland Springs, East Nashville, Saturday, May 9.