You can grow lettuce, it is one of the easiest plants to grow in the spring. Lettuce needs very little soil to grow and tolerates cool days and frosty nights. In the spring, lettuce should be given as much light as possible. Think container gardening or garden beds where trees have not leafed out yet.
In my Northern Virginia garden, I sow seeds in containers and the garden bed in March and again every 2 weeks thereafter until the end of May. Lettuce seeds are very small so just press them into wet soil. Afterwards, make sure the soil does not dry out, which may mean watering often, depending on the weather. The squirrels like to dig in my containers on the deck so I apply a dust of blood meal. In the garden bed, the slugs like to dine at night so I throw down broken eggshells. I tend to sow too many seeds so as the seedlings emerge, I pull to create more space for the remaining soldiers and use them in salad or transplant to other areas of the garden that are waiting for the warm weather veggies. The nice thing about lettuce is that you can grow them before the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants so you don’t need more land; you just double up on your existing land. This year, I sowed lettuce seed in March in a very large Smart Pot called the Big Bag Bed–it is the size of a kiddie pool! By April, I was able to transplant quite a few in a garden bed. Just now, in May, I planted peppers in between the lettuce in the garden bed so by the time it is summer the lettuce will have been pulled (it will be too bitter) and the peppers will grow into the space.
My family prefers the loose-leaf and romaine varieties. Loose-leaf, or cut and come again, has leaves that are loosely splayed outwards from the crown. They are the easiest to grow, quickest to harvest, and come in a variety of colors. The entire plant can be cut at the base but most people cut the outer leaves as needed so the younger, inner leaves can take their place. Within this group are some of the best heat tolerant varieties. Romaine, also called cos, is not as sweet to me but I find that homegrown romaine is much tastier than store bought. Its stiff, vertical leaves are great for sandwiches and wraps. Romaine has the highest nutritional value of all the lettuces so it is a feel good mommy lettuce.
There are two other types that I have not grown. Butterhead, such as Bibb and Boston, has small heads of dark green leaves. These plants are so tight they have to be cut at the base and harvested whole. Crisphead is the familiar Iceberg, a tight ball of light colored leaves that requires a long cool season so it would be too challenging for me.
Try growing lettuce, you would be amazed at how it is easy and tasty!
You Can Grow That is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something by posting gardening articles on the fourth of each month. Visit http://www.youcangrowthat.com/blogs/ for more articles.
Last week I wrote about the Independent Garden Center (IGC) show at the National Harbor, MD, and several new plant introductions. When I used to write about new plant introductions for Chesapeake Home magazine, I focused on what was truly new and different, not just the newest shade of red. Here are a few gardening products that would truly make a difference to a gardener. For more information and to see if the products are available at your local garden center, check the web site and Facebook page for the product.
Slug Gone is new to our country; it is British wool from sheep fleece that has been shaped into small, ¼ to ½ inch pellets, similar to rabbit food. Wool fibers have very fine scales with small barbs on the tip called cuticle cells. These enable the wool fibers to link together to form a mat. When wet, the pellets form a natural barrier to slugs both because the minute fibers irritate the slugs and the wet pellets spread to form a mat. This mat also becomes a barrier to weeds and helps retain moisture. What I like about Slug Gone is that it is a natural product, safe for children and pets. This product is distributed by Quince Creek in Pennsylvania which has a Facebook page called SlugGoneUSA. http://www.sluggoneusa.com or http://www.sluggone.com
Bag of Slug Gone with pellets in a plastic container
Fabric aeration containers are not new, in fact, there are more brands and designs on the market now. Smart Pot is a well known brand that has been around for a number of years and is available in various sizes from 3 to 20 gallon, circular shapes. What you might not know is that Smart Pot has the Big Bag Bed, Wall Flowers, and Compost Sak. Big Bag Bed is a very large, circular fabric “raised bed” similar in size to the “kiddie pool” you would put in the backyard for toddlers. Its circular shape comes in three sizes: original, 50 inches x 12 inches; junior, 36 inches x 12 inches; and mini, 24 inches x 8 inches. These are intended to serve like raised beds and are designed so you can reach into the center from any point on the perimeter. Wall Flowers are 3 gallon bags that can be hung on a wall or hung over a rail, similar to a saddle bag. These are perfect for adding vertical color or even growing annuals and herbs on your deck. Compost Sak is 30 inches wide and 38 inches tall, with a 100 gallon capacity. You can throw in your refuse and let it decompose naturally. http://www.smartpots.com
Victory 8 Garden has taken fabric aeration containers in a different direction. Once filled with soil, their fabric containers become square-shaped, making them perfect for square foot gardening enthusiasts. The EZ-Gro Garden line of containers is designed to be “instant raised beds.” They come in several sizes: small, 2 feet x 2 feet; medium, 3 feet x 3 feet; and large, 4 feet x 4 feet, all almost a foot tall. They also have rectangles which look like two squares attached: small, 2 feet by 4 feet; medium, 3 feet by 6 feet; and large, 4 feet by 8 feet, all almost a foot tall. They have a line of just square containers called CuBe, which are 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot tall. You can either plant them singly or arrange the cubes in any arrangement: lines, squares, or rectangles. Using the square foot gardening concepts, Victory 8 Garden illustrates the number of plants that can be planted in one cube for most popular vegetables. Victory 8 Garden also sells DekProTek, which is a 1 foot by 1 foot wire mat, about an inch or two thick, that can be placed under the fabric container to allow air circulation and to protect the deck from too much moisture if the fabric containers are on a deck. http://www.victory8garden.com
DekProTek on left and a CuBe, folded with tag, on right
Posted in products
Tagged Big Bag Bed, Compost Sak, Cube, DekProTek, EZ-Gro Garden, fabric containers, Slug Gone, slugs, SmartPot, Square Foot Gardening, Victory8Garden, Wall Flowers