Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Late Starts


Technically, all of my posts for the last couple of months should be titled "Late Starts" as I think it was the rare seed that I actually planted on time.  The honour of the title, however, went to lettuce as it was the crop that was the most delayed this year - I sowed it 4 weeks later than I should have.

I looked back at my first Harvest Monday post last year, which was at the end of May, and I had several beautiful bowls of lettuce to show off.  This year, they are still tiny seedlings at this point.  No one to blame but myself on that one as I could have had fairly sturdy starts before my vacation.  I don’t quite know what happened but for some reason, I let these fall through the cracks.

4 of the 6 varieties I am growing this year, I also grew last year:  Sierra MI (Batavian), Pinares (romaine), Ruby Red (leaf) and Simpson Elite (leaf).  I described each of these in my End of Season Review.

Initially, I was going to hold off on growing Simpson Elite again, but decided that I could add two new varieties (Sweetie Baby & Radichetta) and still include this one if I did an even 2 squares per variety in my 3’ x 4’ spot.

Although 12 square feet doesn’t seem like a lot of space for lettuce, based on my experience last year, it was more than enough.  In fact, there were times when we couldn’t keep up with the harvest.

Lettuce, collard & Chinese green bed - June 1, 2014
 
Both of the new varieties I picked were inspired by blogger spotlight posts.

Radichetta (Catalogna) (52 days, loose leaf, Pinetree)

Photo Source:  Pinetree
 
Dave's spotlight prompted me to add this loose leaf variety to my grow list this year.


Sweetie Baby (50-60 days, romaine, Renee's)

Photo Source:  Renee's
 
I wanted to add another romaine to my lineup, and this choice was inspired by one of Michelle's spotlights.

I decided to start off by planting only half of the 2' x 4' space.  This decision was made more out of circumstance rather than an actual plan.  Because I was so backed up with all of my starts, I knew I was going to have a hard time fitting everything under the grow lights, so why not sow half the lettuce now, and the other half in a month?  Basically, it's a succession plan borne out of necessity.  If it works out, I may continue to do this in the future.

I did end up with a few extra plants, however, as I wasn't confident with their germination this year (it's been a bad year for that), so I didn't thin each cell to one plant like I should have.  And then, of course, I couldn't throw out the extras when I had all that empty space for the 2nd sowing staring me in the face.  So I planted them all up.

I planted out the lettuce a couple of days ago and it's looking pretty sorry right now.

Lettuce bed - Planted up and looking rather sad
Quite the contrast from last year, that's for sure!
 
Not the best photo, but the wind was up (what's new?) and I didn't want to take the cover off the bed, so I just stuck the camera under the cover and clicked away.  I'm actually not too worried about the lettuce just yet - most of my seedlings look pretty bad when I first transplant them & it takes them a week or two to perk up and really take off.

We have, however, been experiencing some unusually high temperatures lately.  The lettuce is in a bed that gets some afternoon shade & I'll also be covering it with a bit of Agribon to protect it from the mid-day sun, so I'm hoping that both of these factors help keep it a bit cooler.

Aside from the lettuce, I also wanted to touch on a few additional flowers that I'm growing.  Chamomile (new this year) as well as nasturtiums & sunflowers (same varieties as last year).  I've taken some photos, not so much because there's a lot to see at this stage (because there isn't), but more for my reference in the future.  I find it useful to have photos at different stages of growth so that I can gauge how well (or poorly) a particular plant is doing, how far along it was at a particular point in time, etc.

I was two weeks behind on sowing the nasturtiums and chamomile; I started both from seed in April.

I transplanted a couple of the nasturtium ("Tip Top Alaska Red Shades", William Dam) into a planter in the veg garden and a couple went into my daughters veg bed.

Nasturtium - 4 weeks
 
For the chamomile (William Dam), I thought that I would really like to grow my own & dry it for tea.  I only have a small spot for them in the herb bed, however, so I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to harvest.  I will have a bit of space in one of the asparagus beds, so I will likely plant the extras there.  I’m thinking of this as more of a trial to see if it’s worthwhile allocating a portion of a bed to it next year.

Chamomile - 4 weeks
 
I also sowed some sunflowers - (Giant Gray Stripe, Pinetree) - which are supposed to produce a huge head with lots of seeds that make for great eating.  Last year, I also grew these, but placed them off to the side of the yard and then promptly forgot all about them.  Even with our fairly cool, wet summer, the neglect was a bit too much and they bit the dust, so to speak.

Sunflower - 4 weeks
 
The sunflowers are supposed to be monsters, reaching a height of up to 12 feet tall, so I will only be growing 2 of them.  These were transplanted into one corner of the pea and cucumber/tromboncino squash bed and will hopefully get lots of bees on those squash & cucumber blossoms.

Till next time…

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

18 comments:

  1. Your greens looked absolutely amazing last year!! I'm late with any possible lettuce harvests but more out of difficulty with seeding - started some inside that just never took, so now I'm waiting for the outdoor lettuce to get going.

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    1. I can't believe I let it slip especially as I so look forward to fresh from the garden salads all summer. Hopefully both of our lettuce patches fill out soon!

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  2. Your greens look lovely! My lettuce is much smaller than yours and was sowed later than usual too. I blame the weather.

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    1. We did get a late start to spring (again!) this year, didn't we? I wonder if that is the new normal...or if there is such a thing as normal anymore.

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  3. With all the "being behind"---maybe we need Ma Nature to "be behind" in giving us fall this year, huh? You know the garden will be just fine. Somehow, despite our best efforts, stuff grows anyway-LOL!
    Most of the stuff I have coming up is disappearing and I cannot find the culprit. Oddly enough--"It" starts at one end of a row and goes right down the row. They take a few plants a day. You'd think that would make the culprit easy to find---look by the last plant they took, but I cannot find "it". If I have one kale or kohlrabi or carrot left, it will be a miracle.

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    1. That's very true - it's just hard to imagine a flourishing garden when I am still looking at so much bare soil & June is almost here. But all it takes is a few good days and everything seems to take off. I just checked on my turnips and I'm seeing bulbs. I think things grow faster when I don't stand there starring at them all day ;)

      Oh, Sue...I can't believe that IT is back! I still remember your post from last year about some critter in year garden - Where is it and why can't I find it?!?!

      I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this year you have better luck finding IT before it devours the next row.

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  4. Some years life just happens and the garden gets delayed. One year I didn't even plant my garden. I think I had mono that summer. I had no energy for anything. The terrible thing was that google took the pictures of my garden for their street maps that year with weeds that were four feet tall and that was the photo of my garden if you looked at it for years. Way to throw my mistakes in my face google!

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    1. Oh, Daphne, you are so funny! Google can have some bad timing. They only got to our small side street last year and, of course, I had a 5' high pile of mulch on one side of the driveway & a huge blue tarp covering soil on the other side of the driveway. On the plus side, it looks like we had just cut our grass, so I guess that's something.

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  5. I know all about late starts this year, I'm so behind with everything but I'm not too concerned as they'll either catch up or I'll just get later harvests. I'm growing more lettuce this year than I ever have before, mainly because we don't usually eat many salads but I started eating more last year so I want to grow my own this year. I'm using a packet of mixed seeds, there's different types included and some are green and some are red. I sowed more than I needed but instead of planting up the excess or composting them, I cut off the baby leaves and got a meal out of them. I've just sown another batch so that I can have a succession growing.

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    1. Garden fresh lettuce is such a revelation. I really didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I have & I really do miss it. It's always a sad day in the fall when I harvest the last of it and have to go back to shop bought stuff.

      One thing I also noticed was that it stores MUCH longer than lettuce from the grocery store...that actually seems to be the case for most homegrown veg. I would often harvest a week or two worth of lettuce at a time, wash it & then place it in the fridge so that it's ready to go whenever a salad is needed.

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  6. Just a weird year. I'm sure all will be well once things get going. Good luck with your giant sunflowers. I've found they seldom live up to expectations--but that doesn't stop me from trying! This year I'm growing Mongolian Giant--supposedly up to 14' tall. I'll say one thing, the seeds are huge!

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    1. You said it - we gardeners are eternal optimists, aren't we? We'll definitely have to compare our sunflowers later in the season to see if they met our expectations!

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  7. I love Radichetta but I must confess it has been a 'late start' for me this year! I have some plants almost ready to go now. My problem is there are too many varieties of lettuce (and everything else) that I want to grow. To me, 12 sqft of lettuce does sound like a nice amount. With two of us we often have a hard time keeping up with our harvests. Sometimes it is easier to grow it than to use it up. Now if I only had that problem with broccoli, which we never seem to have enough of!

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    1. You are so right - by the end of last summer I was harvesting much more than we could use on most fronts. I have a long way to go still in trying to figure out how much to grow of each crop so that we have a good, steady supply plus enough for preserving, depending on the crop.

      At least this year I won't also have the giant learning curve on how to preserve a lot of our produce as well. I'm hoping that makes a big difference in how overwhelmed (or not) I feel come August.

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  8. The good thing about chamomile is that if you let it go to seed it will volunteer all over the place and then it's just a matter of editing. I no longer have to devote bed space to it, it grows in the paths. It's almost a weed.

    It is amazing how productive a small patch of lettuce can be. I find myself growing less and less at a time because it bolts before I can use all of it. The challenge is getting the timing right on succession sowing. I always seem to have a glut or nothing.

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    1. If the chamomile volunteered around here, that would be amazing - a harvest with no bed space used and no work - what more could you ask for?

      I had the same all or nothing lettuce harvest going on last year. At least it stores really well (much better than the supermarket stuff, that's for sure!) so we were able to eat for quite a while from the fridge while the next round sized up.

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  9. Weather for a decent growing season is also making a late start

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    1. There always seem to be weather issues lately...either too much or too little. I would be nice to have "just enough" once in a while.

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