Friday, August 11, 2017
Lettuce Coming And Going
How can one garden without growing lettuce? Controlling our food supply was one of the forces pushing our early efforts in he garden. Having spent many winters reading about the lifestyle of Scott and Helen Nearing, clearly defined what I was looking for. We have their book featuring the stone greenhouse but our version never got built. We do manage to grow our own lettuce for several months of the year.
Rabbits and lettuce both growing in the same area presents predator problems. Wire fencing bent into cages is our first line of defense. Unfortunately, baby bunnies zip through the two inch wide openings like no barrier exists. Mobile home skirting was fashioned into a low wall. For many years the combination of the wall and cages have protected our plants. Once a woodchuck burrowed under the wall but found the cage array troublesome. Only temporary damage done was the yellow subsoil and stones that were left on top of my carefully made dark soil.
The old plants flowering and making seed now need to be cleared out. We make no attempt to save seed but sometimes find new plants growing at the base of the compost pile or where the previous year's crop grew. Once the lettuce bolts, the leaves become bitter.
These plants are growing one bed behind the others. It has provided us with great fresh salad material but is now largely past. A second strip of wire fencing was added around the bottom edge. Rotated 90 degrees, the openings went from 2 X 4 to 2 X 2. The young rabbits were effectively denied entrance to the tasty young plants inside but the extra wire made the cage heavy and awkward to remove. Simply placing it on edge solved that problem.
These plants will serve as our current source of fresh lettuce. The combination of a shade cover over the wire cage and the lower nighttime temperatures will keep these plants usable for a longer period of time. Composting old lettuce is unpleasant but it is part of having enough.
Here is the next generation of salad supplies. Summer heat prevents lettuce seed from germinating so these plants were started in the basement. Their potting soil was also stored in the relative cool there. Four seeds are placed in each pot and some of this day with drizzle will be used to replant with but a single plant in each pot. Holding these plants in the pots will slow their growth until they are needed in the garden. When the time is right they will be planted out and our supply of fresh greens will continue into fall. A new tray of seeds could be started now but this whole process is getting a little old. The first seeds were put to soil in March driven by my need for winter to end. Now we have no season extenders so our plants will be ended by frost. My preference is for that first frost to find my garden soil bare. What is missed from late harvests is offset by a lack of cleaning up the black slime that follows frost on plants left in the garden.