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.

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Dear Aphids: POD Hates You

plants on deck aphids and waspsAs one of the only vegetable gardens in Pennsport, POD provides quite the haven for local pests. Each year POD struggles, and ultimately fails, to keep these suckers in check.

This year POD pulled out the stops with mulch, preventative organic sprays, squishing, leaf-soaking, and ultimately, chemical sprays. Can’t you tell? That is one messed up melon. One of these days, when this gardener has a garden that extends beyond pots, we’ll set some ladybugs free. (In the meantime, we’ll settle for not killing them.)

But for those gardeners just starting out, here’s an encyclopedia of aphid control options:

May 2014

52614_plantsondeck 52614_plantsoutfrontReally, there’s a lot more on the little blue deck than was hoped for.

Watering plants out front is a considerably more enjoyable undertaking (especially with the Hurricane’s “help” — she likes to get watered, too, and the basement hose provides a pretty fantastic impromptu sprayground.)

On the other hand, hauling gallons of water up the sladder isn’t a recipe for fun or for safety, but somehow that gorgeous baby maple became a gigantic maple tree. Which is nice and all, really nice, but the hours of midday shade probably aren’t so great for tomatoes and cucumbers. (Although come late July and August, Tree’s shade may provide said tomatoes and cucumbers a welcome respite from the heat.) So instead of a crazy, low-maintenance, street-side Pennsport garden jungle, as this gardener had imagined, containers have been steadily migrating back to the deck.

Everything has germinated, though, and once a few pollinator-attracting flowers have been added, we wait, water, and see.

Great Scapes!

garlic scapesLast weekend, as the fabulous Endurer was making yet another delicious dinner, he stumbled across a sad, forgotten head of garlic. A rarity around here.

Happily, the timing corresponded nicely with art time. So the Hurricane and and I decided to do something with them and with an old pot.

While these won’t wind up as nice, plump heads of garlic and the pot won’t find itself at MOMA anytime soon, they will provide scapes for many mashed potato and roasted chicken dinners to come.

Celery Flats

growing celery indoorsIf memory serves, POD’s not-too-distant relatives toiled in southwest Michigan’s celery flats. Fast forward a few generations, travel several hundred miles to the east, bunker in for yet another nippy weekend and growing celery indoors doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. growing celery indoorsThis Pennsport gardener and her trusty knife-wielding sidekick hacked off the end of a nice fresh bunch and stuck it in a bowl of warm water. With any luck, fresh shoots and roots will emerge in a week or so.

The Tale of the Heroic Kale

There once was an enterprising city squirrel. Mangy and distrustful, the demonic little rodent looked up, down, and scurried onto a little blue deck, located just blocks from the Delaware’s mighty river shores. The wind was icy but the twitchy devil was warmed by the doughnut he had stolen from a hungry worker down the alley.

Knowing that his treasure would surely taste sweeter after a few months buried in POD’s cold soil, he dug. And dug. And dug. The neurotic monster ripped the poor over-wintering kale from its chilly home and entombed his tasty find.

And the sad little kale,  rudely disrupted from hibernation, lay on its side, roots exposed to the brutal Philly elements.  The demonic little rodent twitched a twitchy smile and scampered off, satisfied with his destruction.

Months later, after the winter’s most brutal days had passed and spring was telegraphing her signs of life, POD’s tender braved the swirling winds and climbed the sladder to the little blue deck.

Oh, the carnage! Oh, poor little kale! But wait? Were its leaves still tender, supple, and green? A survivor!

Cradling the damaged and forgotten kale, she made her way back down the treacherous sladder and lovingly transplanted the heroic kale to the barren blue window box overlooking a busy Pennsport street. The kale, like the poor hungry dude’s quite possibly powdered sugar doughnut,  had survived.

Heroic Kale
Heroic Kale