What’s Growing: Updates on lettuce

A lot of time has passed since we last updated what was growing. Our backyard is a test garden, where we try out different seeds and varieties, as well as various methods for farming. This is where we fail forward, learning what works and doesn’t work at any given time. Sometimes that is intentional, and sometimes not.

First update is lettuce. We planted this special, and expensive, variety of Salanova lettuce. It grew! At first slowly, and then when I finally locked in our irrigation for that mini-bed and decided to actually weed out all the chickweed that tried to smother it, we got several nice heads of lettuce.

Here is what we learned while growing this crop:

  • The window from maturity to “oh GAWD WHY IS IT SO HOT” is quite narrow, and if you aren’t ready to be on top of it to harvest it and eat it, it wont do that well.
  • That also means you have to want to eat it. Squash and green beans have a variety of culinary things you can do with them. Lettuce has one: salads.
  • Caterpillars love it.
  • Site prep and timing are important. We may need to solarize the soil in the future to help deal with weeds.

Since we aren’t growing for commercial production, and since I commandeered my parents’ landscape beds for this project, we didn’t have the ability to use plastic mulch common with cabbage and head lettuce. However, I also didn’t use any mulch, and the grasses and chickweed that germinated after my initial hoeing certainly threatened the crop.

One of the most difficult aspects of gardening with organic and natural processes is chemical free (or chemical-“reduced” depending on your understanding of organics) integrated pest management. I intentionally didn’t touch the lettuce to see what would happen, for how long, and by what species. No neem oil, no soapy water, and no mechanical removal. While we got several heads of usable (i.e. edible) lettuce we definitely would need to plan ahead and explore options for pest control if we want to move forward with this as a production crop.

 

 

 

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What’s Growing: Sauerkraut and Pickles

On Friday (02/15/2019) after a post-Valentines Day date with Amanda, I sowed two new crops I haven’t tried before, Minuet Chinese Cabbages and Green Onions.

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Notice the germination rates and date of testing. Johnny’s is meticulous. Copyright Matt Watson

 

The Minuet is a Napa type of cabbage, and we bought it to make some live-cultured sauerkraut. Transplanting is recommended, but we do not yet have our seed starting operation set up, so we are direct sowing a little early. Hopefully by the time they sprout and begin to mature, we’ll be past any frost danger in Bexar County. They only take 45 days to mature so we should have some good kraut in time for summer grilling season.

The green onions, also known as bunching onions, are a variety called White Spear. They are a heat resistant variety, which is needed in South Texas. These are cooked in some recipes and used as a garnish in others. Great on posole, fish tacos, or in cheese dips.

Lastly, I sowed another round of radishes. Planting in intervals makes sure you have a steady supply of vegetables without getting too overwhelmed with them all at once. I’ll be doing that with the cabbages too in order to account for the early sowing time.

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Cherry Belle Radishes from Botanical Interests. Copyright Matt Watson

We love radishes in salads, as well as pickled. Seriously, try some pickled radishes with brisket next time you smoke one.


What is growing in your garden? Have questions about these crops, or want recipes of our favorite ways to prepare them? Let us know below!

What’s Growing: My Own Salad Bar

As of Jan 31, 2019, we have Parsley, Malabar Spinach, and Radishes in the test garden.

seed packets
Copyright Matt Watson

Parsley is slow to germinate and needs to be soaked overnight to assist it sprouting. Same with the Malabar Spinach. We very scientifically eyeballed an amount and dumped it into a half pint mason jar with some water. Oddly, the spinach seeds gave off a red pigment to the liquid.

The Malabar Spinach is not a “true” spinach but is more of a vine and can be trellised. They have red stems like rainbow chard, so maybe that has something to do with the red pigment whilst soaking. I’m doing keto right now and spinach gives me a great dose of veggie vitamins without having a ton of net carbs.

Radishes are just about the easiest things to grow, and this heirloom variety is marked as frost tolerant. We have about a month to go before we are out of frost danger in Bexar County, so these should serve us well till then. We also look forward to our Easter Egg radish seeds expected to be delivered in March.

What’s Growing: Red Sweet Crisp Lettuce

As of Jan 25 we have a row of Salanova┬« Red Sweet Crisp Lettuce seed sown in the test garden. We want to see if this will be a good option for a “salad bar” garden. It grows as a head of lettuce, like your romaines and icebergs, but it is a loose leaf lettuce which makes it easy to wash and perfect for quick salads.

This lettuce is a cool weather crop and we are getting it in as early as possible, with new rows sown every other week so we have plenty on hand for a while. At certain points plants will do something called “bolting” which means it puts energy into making seed rather than fruit or leaves. Most of the time it is because it is getting too hot. The heat here in South Texas will hit hard, but this lettuce is supposedly slow to bolt, so hopefully we can produce them into the spring.

Salanova® Red Sweet Crisp Salanova® Lettuce
Copyright Johnny’s Selected Seed

 

Let us know what your favorite lettuce is. Understandably, that is a weird request, but maybe some of you know you like spring mixes over iceberg lettuce and things like that. Others, like me, have never really put thought into having a preferred lettuce because that is the food that your food eats.

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What’s Growing: 1015Y Onions

As of 01/11/2019 we have in the ground 45 or so 1015Y Yellow Onions. Developed by Texas A&M University, these Texas Super Sweet onions are the king of yellows and a staple with any Texas barbecue.

They are in a raised bed for drainage and so that I could add peat moss to the native alkaline soil. They should take about 110 days to mature, around early May. This is our first try with onions and I look forward to testing the results with some brisket after they cure and dry.

Onions
Flower Pot Frog guards our raised bed of onions.