Tricks to Planting a Successful Leaf Lettuce Crop

Leaf lettuce isn’t a difficult vegetable to grow, by any means. However, for the best results, there are some tricks that can be used to plant the lettuce. These aren’t particularly difficult, but they do seem to be almost counter-intuitive, so many people don’t know about them. Light The biggest tip is probably that for lettuce seeds to germinate, they need sunlight as well as water. With most vegetables, the seeds are planted a quarter of an inch to a half an inch deep and sometimes deeper. However, this doesn’t work very well with leaf lettuce. The method that yields great results is to prepare the row for the lettuce, then moisten the row well. Lay down the lettuce seeds, press them firmly into the dampened soil, then water them well, using a fine mist so the seeds don’t get washed away. Clear plastic, such as the plastic wrap used in the kitchen, can be laid down over the top of the seeds to retain moisture while also letting the sunlight through. This isn’t necessary though, as long as the seeds are kept quite moist until they germinate. If the conditions and temperatures are right, germination usually takes place within two days, provided that the seeds are reasonably fresh. (Lettuce seed starts losing its viability in a year or so.) Temperature Lettuce is a cool-weather crop and grows best when the temperatures are 55 F to 65 F. Despite this, the best germination of the seed occurs when the temperatures Continue Reading →

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Benefits of Wasps in and around Gardens

  Many people have rather painful memories of wasps. They can bite from the front end and repeatedly sting from the other, since most don’t lose the stinger when they use it. People acquainted with yellow-jackets have probably been subjected to the reminder that wasps are often best left alone. For the home gardener, though, wasps can be a great insect to have around the garden. Bees and wasps Though bees and wasps are similar, they aren’t the same creature. The coloring can be much alike, but they are still not the same. Most species of each do tend to have hives of one sort or another. The number of individuals in the hives of either can be large. Some wasps and bees are solitary and don’t produce large hives or colonies. Still, the point is that wasps aren’t the same as bees. They are different insects. Pollination When people think of flower or plant pollination, they often think of bees. Indeed, bees are important pollinators, spreading pollen particles from one flower to another. What some gardeners might find interesting is that wasps often also¬†pollinate flowers. They may not be as proficient at producing honey, however pollen and nectar are rich energy sources and many species of wasps take advantage of it. In areas where there aren’t many bees, wasps may even do the majority of the needed pollination. Predatory habits A great number of wasp species are predatory, particularly on invertebrates like insects and spiders. They tend to be Continue Reading →

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Successfully Growing Rhubarb Plants

In both the Oregon Cascades and the Montana Rocky mountains, two plants that are among the first to start vigorously growing in the United States are strawberries and rhubarb. Both are extremely hardy perennials that seem to breeze right through even bitter cold temperatures. In fact, most of the rhubarb produced in the US comes from Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado and Michigan. It seems appropriate somehow that strawberries and rhubarb combine so well in strawberry-rhubarb pie. Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)¬†is quite easy to grow. That said, it should also be mentioned that rhubarb can’t survive anywhere that doesn’t get cold enough for the plant to become dormant. For the plant to do this, the daytime high temperatures in the winter need to be 40 F or less for at least several weeks. Most of the growth is also when the temperatures are below 70 F. Thus, it is a plant that is most at home in places that have a harsh winter and a cool spring. The rhubarb plant doesn’t do very well when the temperatures become very hot. In part, this is because the leaves are very large and when it is hot, they release a great amount of water in a process called transpiration. When the temperatures are such that more water is transpired than the amount taken in by the roots, the leaves begin to wilt. In fact, this is the cause of wilting leaves for virtually all plants and it is the reason squash and pumpkin leaves Continue Reading →

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Deer Resistant Herbs for the Garden

  In North America, one of the biggest problems that gardeners face every year is deer. Annually, deer destroy more garden plants than any other four-legged creature. There are deer resistant plants that can help to lessen the problem, but it needs to be understood that they aren’t really “deer-proof” plants. That should be a clear disclaimer. There is very little that is ‘proof’ from deer. For instance, having seen a deer jump an eight foot chain-link fence with very little effort, it is pretty clear to me that a deer-proof fence is either a matter of wishful thinking or extreme cost. Likewise, deer-proof garden plants are virtually a contradictory term. A hungry deer will eat nearly any plant, including cactus and plants that would be poisonous to humans. All that said, there are plants that deer don’t particularly like eating and a few that they find offensive, primarily because of the aroma, provided that they aren’t really hungry. Interestingly, there are several of these that are aromatic herbs that are commonly used for seasoning food or making tea. Here are a few. Oregano Deer don’t care for the flavor or aroma of this plant. The plant isn’t hard to grow, but it normally is low growing and not the best ground cover. Most people won’t grow enough of it to be a major deterrent for deer. Sage Garden sage is another plant that deer will usually bypass, if there are other plants growing nearby that they can eat. Sage Continue Reading →

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Beautiful Weeds for the Yard or Garden

  Most gardeners have probably never thought of growing weeds to make the yard or garden look more beautiful. Still, a great definition of a weed is “any plant that grows were you don’t want it to grow”. This means that what might be commonly thought of as a weed might not be a weed in every circumstance. Even troublesome plants are often quite fetching. For instance, poison ivy and poison sumac are lovely. These are worse than weeds and aren’t something most people would think of growing in their yards to add beauty. The point is that the plants that aren’t wanted can still be appreciated for their beauty. This includes many regular weeds that can be viewed with pleasure without causing the problems poison ivy and sumac can. Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) This plant is also known as wild morning-glory, is a European native that made its way to the US. It is a climbing plant that often grows well near fences. The medium green leaves are somewhat arrowhead shaped. It is the smallish tube-shaped flowers that add most of the beauty, though. Since the plant climbs readily, the blooms add color to the yard, especially along boarders. If the plants don’t have support, they will grow close to the ground and over it, forming a ground cover. While this is a weed that can spread, it is worthy of consideration for growing along fence rows. It can still be an invasive pest, so care should be taken in Continue Reading →

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A Bit About Cauliflower

All members of the cabbage family, including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi, are tremendously healthy additions to a person’s diet, whether eaten raw or cooked. Some studies have even shown that eating a portion of these plants daily might greatly help prevent or treat certain kinds of cancer. Cauliflower is a tremendous source of vitamin C. A cup of cooked cauliflower can exceed the required daily allowance for this vitamin, so it is a good vegetable to eat during cold and flu season. It is also high in vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese. Yet a cup only has 25 calories, which makes it great for dieters. When growing cauliflower, plant them in warm, rich, well draining soil and keep them watered well. The soil should be high in nitrogen, with plenty of finished compost or other organic additives dug in. Ground temperature is more important than air temperature for these plants. Once they are established, they tend to be cold hearty if the air temperature drops. As soon as the head begins to form, draw the leaves up around the head and tie them together above the developing head. By doing this and blocking the sunshine, the heads take on a nice white color. This is sometimes called blanching, though it has nothing to do with the sort of blanching that is done during cooking. The heads are usually ready for harvest when they are about 6 inches in diameter, but while the head is still tightly Continue Reading →

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