How Much is That Lettuce…

Photo of lettuce just beginning

You have probably heard of the book The $64 Tomato? Let’s not discuss the price of this lettuce, shall we? I am going to chalk it up to a bit of pandemic induced madness–and the fact that I simply cannot grow any edibles in my yard anymore with the various critters out there. It’s like the old 60s show Wild Kingdom.

That’s more like lettuce

So here we are about 4 weeks later. The lettuce closest to the camera came with this setup and is unhelpfully identified as “green lettuce. ” Well, yes, it is. Variety might be nice to know, but whatever. When I went on to the app to indicate which plants I was growing, they gave them names–literal names like Amy. I deleted the app. You all know how I feel about gardening technology and that didn’t change my mind.

In the middle, I am growing flowers–or trying to. They’re a little slow. They’ll be alyssum someday, maybe, for my pollinators. In the meantime, I will probably go out and buy some real alyssum.

Farther from the camera is romaine lettuce. I am impressed with how healthy everything is and how fast the lettuce is growing, although it probably would do the same thing outside if it weren’t for Wild Kingdom. That’s one thing that I never get to see. By the time I might have any real growth outside, it’s gone.

So I won’t try to figure out how much lettuce I have to grow and eat to get a return on my investment. This thing will grow all sorts of other plants too. I figure basil in the winter will be nice–if it’s not too darn cold in my house.

Luckily lettuce likes it cool. I see a lot of salads in my future.

Tulip Surprise

Red Darwin Tulips

These are a few red Darwin tulips that have naturalized in my garden and have proven quite resilient. I can’t recall how many years ago I planted them but I am going to say that it has to be at least 20. So they have done quite well.

Since you see them coming up in all that leaf litter (and it is still cool here–cooler than it should be. I am not leaving the leaf litter for insulation purposes but to be sure that any beneficial insects have hatched out), obviously they are not bothered by damp–either the wet leaves or my wet clay soil. I wouldn’t recommend this treatment, but obviously they can endure it.

Tulip interior

Here’s the true “surprise ” though, that I reference in my title. You know that I am always raving about the multiple colors found in bulbs. Look inside at this lovely yellow ring around the deep black center. I am sure that coloration is for the pollinators–but it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy it too!

Little Mouses Ears

Small oak leaves

For decades, rather than rely on our last frost date (or our national weather service watches and warnings for freezes during the growing season), I look to the oak tree on our property.

There’s an old farmer’s saying that when the oak leaves are the size of little mouses ears, you have had your last frost. And on my property, this has certainly been true. Once my oak tree leafs out, we never have a frost or killing freeze.

Generally, there’s wisdom to these “old time”sayings. People have had to figure out growing seasons well before we had calendars and weather data. And using phenology, which is plant observation, is a time honored way to figure out when to do things in the garden.

For those that follow a 4 step program of lawn treatment, in my part of the country the first 2 steps are generally supposed to be applied when the forsythia bloom and then when the lilac finish blooming. It’s a good way for homeowners to remember how to treat the lawn.

There are lots of other phenological–or plant based–sayings as well. I am just not as familiar with them, nor do I rely upon them the way I rely upon my little oak leaves.

But the day that I saw these, I began transitioning some of the hardier plants outside. Summer is only 50 or so days away!

One Year’s Weeds…

Weeds in the sidewalk

Isn’t this a delightful look? This is what I come home to every evening–or it was, until last weekend, when, as you can see by the photo, I got out my handy crack weeder (which sounds like the gardener is doing the weeding under the influence of illegal substances, but really is that nifty tool that I left lying around in the photo in case you’re not familiar with it) and got rid of all that annual grass, chickweed and hoary bittercress.

This is actually about 6 weeks earlier than I normally do it but for various reasons my summer gardening is going to be a bit off schedule so, since I couldn’t stand the look of this, it had to go.

One of the things that I always try to do, no matter what’s happening in my gardening life, is what I call “weed triage.” It comes from the title of this post, which is, in full, “one year’s weeds, seven years’ seeds.” In other words, if you let your weeds go to seed, they will become quite a problem. Hence, weed triage. I may not always have time to do a full weeding of a garden bed, but you can be sure that if I see a weed flowering, I am going to go in and get it out before it seeds everywhere! Ugh!

And since the annual grass in the above photo with already in flower, and the chickweed was just beginning, this stuff had to go!

My Beginnings as a Gardener

Grape hyacinths

What I want you to notice here is the many cut muscari–or grape hyacinths as they are commonly known. I have just cut all these from plants–or bulbs, more correctly–that are growing in our lawn. We’ll be doing the first mowing this week and I can’t bear to see flowers get chopped up by a lawn mower.

But why that strange title on my post? If you read the tab on the blog called “Introduction ” you’ll see that I trace my beginnings as a gardener back to the age of 3 when I used to do the exact same thing–except in that case, I was “saving” naturalized violas commonly known as Johnny Jump Ups from my Dad’s mower. Old habits never die, I guess.

Also notice–and I didn’t plan this, I just grabbed a handy box from my recycling bin on the way out the door–the great interplay with the red box and the purple flowers. Red and purple are one of my favorite color combinations. To me, they just go together. A lot of people might find this as clownish as I find that sweet pink and yellow from last Monday.

Remember , if we all liked the same thing….

Allergic to Flowering Trees?

Maple flowers and crabapple buds

For decades, I would see flowering trees–like the purple leaf plum from Monday’s post or my own flowering cherry–in bloom. These would coincide with the onset of my own allergy symptoms and I concluded “aha! I am allergic to flowering trees.”

So when my allergy symptoms got bad enough for me to see an allergist and he asked what I thought I was allergic to, one of the things I mentioned was trees. As it turns out, I was correct. But it wasn’t really the pretty flowering trees that I am allergic to, just like people with fall allergies really aren’t allergic to goldenrod.

It’s pretty simple really. Different plants us different means of pollination. Generally, the colorful ones use that color to attract their pollinators, which means that they are not wind pollinated, they are insect pollinated. The pollen is generally too heavy to be a nuisance for many of us allergy sufferers.

Think for example of an asiatic lily or a tropical hibiscus. We have all probably gotten that heavy pollen on us at one point–sticky, messy, even clothing staining, but not generally allergy provoking.

Because allergies can be so problematic for many, there are even a couple of books and a web site devoted to rating plants based up their allergy provoking abilities. Thomas Leo Ogren is the pioneer of this idea and his books and web site are easily found via most search engines.

Not surprisingly, maples are not wonderful for allergy sufferers. But if you are wondering why you are suffering, maybe you need to look at different plants.