Thursday, October 2, 2014

Anthropology of Lettuce

Red Romaine
The fall vegetables are in various stages of their life cycles.  A closer study will yield a wealth of information for gardeners of every level.  Don't be intimidated.  Fall vegetables are hard to kill.  This information is only going to fine-tune your garden.  For simplicity's sake they will all be called lettuces.

These lettuces were planted about a month ago.  Remember post about fall seed suggestions?   These were some of the same varieties that supported my garden center each fall and were sold wholesale as bedding plants in Charleston.  If you bought watercress bedding plants from Abide-A-While, Hyams or Cross Seed in Charleston, they came from my greenhouse.

A few differences in technique have slowed the lettuce development in the non-professional world.  Here 'ya go:
Green Romaine

1.  First, At the greenhouse we used Osmocote 14-14-14 incorporated into the soil as our fertilizer choice.  It causes very little run-off when incorporated and the labor on it is minimal.  It's an expensive option if you are growing in bulk, but it also keeps working after the customer has taken the plant home.  Healthy plants mean happy customers.
Leeks

At the house I am using pelleted chicken litter.  This is still only available at greenhouse supply companies but some of them, like Griffin Greenhouse Supplies, have retail outlets.  To get the results I got as a professional,  I would sprinkle this on the plants every Monday.  My Mondays are busy though and they have only been sprinkled twice.  
Lollo Rosa and Buttercrunch

The difference has made what would have been a 3 week crop into a five week crop.  Delaying payday by two weeks is a huge difference!  If my livelihood still depended on it, they would have been sprinkled every Monday without fail.

2.  The next difference is sunlight.  In SC we had a dedicated lettuce area that got full sun.  Here they are on my patio and get about half a day sun.  They stay a little wetter, the pH drops and some algae and clover grow in the flats.  I sprinkled them once with agricultural lime and it helped, but not for long.  Lime is a soil amendment that I have found to be unpredictable, but the best solution when it works.

If that paragraph didn't make a bit of sense to you, I'll explain:  Algae on soil generally means the pH is low.  Clover also likes low pH.  Low pH won't kill your fall plants, much.  But the right pH will make the neighbors stop their cars and stare, or sneak into your garden at night to steal lettuce.  Don't make the pH too high though.  That will kill them dead. (The lettuce, not your neighbors.)  If you want to take your gardening to stare-in-amazement levels, go buy a pH meter and give each plant what it likes.

Enough for today. I will stop now before I kill you with boredom.

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