Sunday, January 31, 2016

End of Season Review - Lettuce & Corn


Lettuce

The lettuce story this year was a mixed bag – both good and bad.

Lettuce Harvest from the end of July

The good news was that I was harvesting lettuce until the end of November.  The bad news was that I started the lettuce 4 weeks late in the spring and then ended up losing a bunch of seedlings.  So my plan for X number of this variety and X number of that, didn't materialize - it ended up being a case of transplanting whichever seedlings I had left.  Then I didn’t get around to doing another sowing until mid-August, which resulted in a large lettuce-free gap at the end of the summer.

In addition to 4 varieties I had grown before, I also grew two new ones:  Radicchetta & Sweetie Baby.

Sweetie Baby

Sweetie Baby was quite nice, but I couldn't say the same about Radichetta.

Simpson Elite & Radichetta

It was so incredibly bitter – just awful!  I chose it based on one of Dave’s spotlights, but when I went to double check the details on his post, I realized that the variety I grew looked very different.  While his resembled oak leaf lettuce, mine looked more like dandelion leaves.  I obviously had purchased a completely different variety.  After that first taste, I ripped out all the plants and that was that.




Freshly picked lettuce, especially romaine & Batavia, keeps very well in the fridge, so the harvest gap between the spring and fall sowing was about 4 weeks less than what is reflected by the harvest period in the table.  Still, this means that we went without lettuce from the end of August to mid-November - a definite fail on my part.


Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year

I’m satisfied with our lettuce last season, all things considered.  The overall harvest was down from last year's total of 9,145 grams (20.16 lbs), but harvesting lettuce into late November partly makes up for that.
Final harvest at the end of November
 
I’ll be keeping all of the varieties except for Radichetta and will be adding a few more.  I enjoy  having a mix of lettuce and would rather grow only a few plants of 5 or 6 varieties rather than a lot of one or two.  I also noticed that the Royal Red variety didn’t hold up to the cold as well as the others, so I’ll drop that one in the fall and add one or two cold tolerant varieties.

Of course, my timing and seeding in the spring will go exactly according to plan and I’ll be doing timely succession plantings during the summer and into the fall ;)


Corn

When it comes to the corn, all I can say is …. dang corn stalk muncher.

Corn stalk casualty

Every day, it seemed that another stalk went down.  Miraculously, I was still able to harvest one tiny cob:

Corn in hand

Before heading to the kitchen

And that was it  - out of 24 plants I harvested one 42 gram (1.5 oz) cob of corn.

As for the most likely suspect in my corny tale, I’m pretty sure we are not dealing with raccoons as the culprit preferred chewing through the stalks rather than the cobs.  My feeling is that we are looking at skunks.  We had seen a couple of them wandering around out back several times and in their quest for grubs, our backyard was a mess of shallow holes & dug up patches of grass by late summer – more so than ever before.


Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year

I can still recall how incredible that corn tasted – it was split 4 ways, and oh, what a mouthful of deliciousness it was :)

My plan for next year?  Well, it centers around a rather unexpected surprise at Christmas:

Christmas gift from a very thoughtful friend
who sympathized with my corn woes

I already have the perfect spot for it – on top of the arbour, pointing down towards the beds.  One of the things I really like is the fact that it’s solar powered, so no need to deal with extension cords.  I’m very excited to try it – hopefully it delivers on it's promise.

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

22 comments:

  1. I hope your solar repeller works for you.
    I hate those "mystery" pests. I had the knocked down stalks as well, but mine was the masked bandit. Can't figure what yours can be--I guess Skunk would make sense.
    As for your sunshiney outlook (and I quote!)
    "Of course, my timing and seeding in the spring will go exactly according to plan and I’ll be doing timely succession plantings during the summer and into the fall :) "-----Margaret---I sure hope that works for you and you give all the rest of us lessons!!!
    Have a terrific week

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    1. I initially thought it was raccoons too, but the first stalks that went down were just babies, not even a foot tall yet and the cob of corn was from a stalk that the critter chewed through and then left on the ground with the cob still on it. Fingers crossed that my new gadget takes care of whatever it is.

      Ha ha...that timing remark of mine is to be said in a decidedly off-handed way...."oh yes, now THAT is EXACTLY what's going to happen....NOT!" sort of way :) Have a wonderful week too!

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  2. I figured out your Radichetta problem. There is an Italian lettuce called Radichetta because it looks like Radichetta which is a chicory which is in the veggie family that includes Dandelions. What you have in your photo is the chicory, not the lettuce.

    I didn't do a great job on my lettuce successions either. If it wasn't germination issues it was not anticipating weather issues. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong with starting lettuce seeds, but it seems likely that it's not necessarily the seeds that aren't viable when I get lettuce that germinates in pots where I've used soil that I recycled from failed or partly successful attempts to start lettuce. I have still got a lot to learn about growing lettuce!

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    1. Well now that does solve the mystery - thanks for that Michelle!

      I had such a hard time with lettuce germination at first, then thought I found a good method in 2014, but then had issues again last year...ugh. I guess all this unpredictability is what makes gardening both frustrating and exciting as you never know what next year will bring. Plus, when you do finally figure this or that out, it's so satisfying!

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  3. That's such a shame about your corn, I do hope your repeller works this year. Corn is one of those home grown veggies which tastes far superior to shop bought so well worth growing in my opinion.

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    1. I competely agree - there really is no comparison. Hopefully I'm able to harvest at least one cob per person this coming year!

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  4. I was going to tell you about the Radichetta being a type of chicory, but Michelle has beaten me to it. I can imagine it came as a shock if you were expecting a sweet lettuce! Some people hate chicory / radicchio on account of its bitterness, but then we all like & dislike different things. In the case of chicories, the bitterness is often reduced by blanching - a technique which is often used in relation to the Dandelion as well. Despite your various problems, you still got a decent amount of lettuce. It is one of the most useful crops to grow, because a bit of lettuce goes well with so many other things. A salad just wouldn't be the same without it!

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    1. Blanching must make a huge difference. I've only ever tried those small blanched heads of witloof chicory that look like mini-heads of romaine & I quite like those, as well as radicchio, which is sometimes mixed into salads that contain regular lettuce.

      I really think that a lot of people underestimate the value of homegrown lettuce - the supermarket stuff (which sadly is the only option at the moment) really can't compare.

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  5. Skunks to compete with too - you do have your work cut out and we complain about slugs!

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    1. I never thought of skunks as an issue either until I started researching corn pests and they kept coming up...every year something new, isn't there?

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  6. Oh, do let us know how that solar animal repeller works for you. I was thinking about using those in my own garden and in a pollinator garden I created for someone else. That's incredible that you were harvesting lettuce until the end of November! Yum!

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    1. I will definitely keep everyone updated - it would be a downright miracle if it did work as intended. I think the range is only about 30' or 40' but if it does a good job, I may very well get one for my front walkway - My daughter loves getting a few annuals in the spring and it seems that they always get nibbled to the ground by the rabbits in short order.

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  7. Your lettuce looks scrumptious! I have had a lot of luck growing a variety of different lettuce. You have inspired me to grow even more. I've never grown corn, although I bought seeds last year. I will give it a go this year.

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    1. Homegrown lettuce is delicious, isn't it? And there are so many varieties to choose from - it's hard to pick and choose (much like almost every other veg I grow, it seems!). I can't wait to hear how you get on this year with the corn - I'm sure you boys will love it!

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  8. Lovely selection of lettuce.. can't beat fresh pick salad to eat. Well you can't beat fresh picked 'anything' to eat! Hope you repeller works.

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    1. You said it - everything homegrown is sooo nice. Well, unless you accidentally grow a bitter chicory instead of lettuce :)

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  9. After looking at your Radichetta, it is definitely not what I've been growing! Mine looks more like a tall Oak Leaf. There are lots of good lettuces out there though. I do hope your animal repeller does the trick. It's always sad to see your veggies or fruit disappearing to critters. I need to stop my blackberry thief next year so we can get some blackberries!

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    1. I KNEW something was wrong when I tasted it as I recalled the rave reviews you gave it. No matter the climate or soil, there is no way it could have made THAT much of a difference!

      Oy, that's another issue I'll likely have to deal with now that I've planted raspberries and blackberries. Wouldn't it be lovely if this gadget worked and I didn't have to worry about netting them.

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  10. I just had a lovely dish of stewed beans and escarole - the escarole had been frozen after harvest. Similar to a chicory with the slight bitterness. But I gave a lot of escarole away. It was nice now and then but I'm not a huge fan of that bitter style of leafy green.

    I love all of the new solar powered gadgets for the garden. I don't have any yet but might invest in some pest control myself (like shiny things that wave when something comes near!). Good luck with the corn!

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    1. Thanks Susie - I don't mind a "bit of bitter" either and quite liked when my mom added dandelion greens to out salads back when we used to go camping in the 70's. The radichetta, however, was a whole lot of bitter...way too much for my taste.

      I haven't seen too many of these pest control devices actually being used, which sort of makes me question whether they work at all. I'll be interested to see what you decide to get - solar power is awesome, isn't it?

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  11. Keeping lettuce growing through the whole growing season is certainly a challenge. I hope your solar animal repeller works. Nothing compares to the flavor of home grown corn.

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    1. It definitely is a challenge. Back in 2014, we had an unusually cool, wet summer and I harvested heaps of salad all summer long, which set the bar pretty high - now if I could only replicate that during a typical hot summer.

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