Monthly Archives: July 2015

My Little Lettuce Chuppah

I’ve always grown lettuce but for me, it’s been a spring crop. I never tried growing it in the summer or attempted to keep a constant supply of lettuce coming from the garden.

But this year, I decided to try a serious lettuce growing program.

To start, I knew that I needed a mixture of seeds, some that are better in the spring, others for the summer and still others for the fall. On my own, it would have taken a lot of time and effort to search through all of the lettuce varieties and determine which ones to grow. Fortunately, Johnny’s Seeds has developed a head lettuce planting program that lists the best varieties for each season.

I also knew that I needed a location to grow the lettuce that would be easy to control, water and monitor. So I made a 4’x4′ raised bed and divided it into 9 squares. That’s a little larger than the square foot gardening technique, but I liked that it would give the plants a little more room to grow.

IMG_9811I also wanted to provide some shade to the plants. Since I had already put stakes at each corner and wrapped the bed with chicken wire, I had the framework to attach some cloth to the top of the bed. I stretched wire to each diagonal post to make an “X” across the top of the bed. Then I put a piece of floating row cover over the top and attached it to the posts. The end result looked like a little chuppah (!), but it would give the plants some shade while still allowing me to access the bed for watering, weeding and harvesting.

I chose four different kinds of lettuce from Johnny’s program for the summer growing season. I figured that two summer crisps (Muir and Cherokee), a butterhead (Adriana) and a romaine (Costal Star) would give me a good mixture of plants to see which grew the best in the lettuce chuppah. Since lettuce can have thermal dormancy (seeds don’t germinate at high temperatures), I didn’t direct seed the lettuce; instead, I started seeds inside in Jiffy-7s.

Lettuce Bed with Knife Ready for Harvesting!

Lettuce Bed with Knife Ready for Harvesting!

I’ve been starting seeds every 2 weeks and planting four plants to a square in the raised bed. So far, it’s working well. This has been a wet and somewhat cool summer so the plants haven’t been stressed by heat or drought. I’ve started to harvest some of the first plantings and the lettuce is good.

Will this success continue? Time will tell. Warmer days are ahead and we’ll see if the plants bolt or turning bitter. Also, in August I’ll stop starting seeds of the summer varieties and switch to a couple fall varieties of lettuce.

If this experiment continues to work, that little 4’x4′ bed with its chuppah covering might just be the way to keep a steady supply of lettuce coming in from the garden. I could start in the spring and keep planting through early fall using the nine squares to grow lettuce all season long.

Flowers from the Mid-July Garden

‘Tis the season for a lot of the flower garden to be in full bloom.

Some of the best blooms are on the daylilies. This year, with lots of moisture and not too hot temperatures, has led to one of the best daylily displays in a long time.

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Another plant that’s looking especially good this year is the rudbeckia or black eyed susan. This little patch of flowers has been self-seeding for over a decade and they’re back again this year.

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And here are some of the other flowers that caught my eye:

Marigold

Marigold

Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon)

Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon)

Dahlia (Grown from Seed)

Dahlia (Grown from Seed)

Agastache

Agastache

Cosmos

Cosmos

 

Want Bees? Grow Lavender!

Everyone understands the importance of having pollinators in the garden. If you’re growing fruit trees, squash, cucumbers and other crops, you need insects to pollinate the flowers so that the fruit can set.

lav1I’ve never been very intentional about attracting pollinators to the garden. They always just seem to be there. But I’ve always noticed what plants seem to attract these insects. One of the best plants for bringing bees the to garden seems to be lavender.

This easy to grow perennial is a bee magnet. When the lavender is blooming, one plant can easily be swarming with over a dozen bees. The lavender plant that’s in bloom right now is especially attractive to bumblebees. While a nearby russian sage has honey bees flying around its blooms, the lavender has nothing but bumblebees visiting its flowers.

Lone Bee the Found the Borage!

Lone Bee the Found the Borage!

I also have a volunteer borage plant growing near the lavender. Borage is supposed to be a great plant for attracting bees but when there’s lavender nearby, the bees ignore the borage and head straight to the lavender!

Growing lavender is easy. While starting it from seed can be a challenge due to slow and sporadic germination, if you start with a small plant from a nursery, it’s hard to go wrong. Lavender likes full sun but doesn’t need a lot of fertilizer. It’s ignored by rabbits (yeah!) and the only thing it can’t tolerate is heavy, wet soil. If you want more plants, you can take cuttings and root them easily. And when the plant starts to bloom, you can cut some of the flowers and dry them for potpuorri or to use as dried flowers.

lav5After seeing how well the lavender has grown and how the rabbits leave it alone, I’ve planted a small bed of lavender near the front door. The location is warm and sunny and the plants should make an easy to maintain “hedge” that will draw in the bees.

I’m also thinking about taking some cuttings, rooting them and planting them in the vegetable garden. It certainly can’t hurt to have a few more bees working in the garden.

So if you want bees, try some lavender – it’s sure to bring them into your yard.

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