Growing Lettuce in Your Garden!

Lately, I have heard this statement several times.

“My lettuce is bitter or tasteless or falling over and limp. What varieties of lettuce should I be growing?”  My response is “You’re asking the wrong question. The question should be, how do I properly grow lettuce?”

buttercrunch       Crisp Mint1

These are two of my favorites! They are delicious and easy to grow. Buttercrunch has a soft leaf and is very tolerant to heat! Crisp Mint is a Romaine type with a mildly sweet flavor and crisp texture.

There are several issues that must be addressed:

  • Proper soil – sandy loam is best
  • Irrigation – even amount of moisture (drip irrigation preferred)
  • Full sun vs partial shade (when the temperature increases, partial shade is a benefit)
  • Temperature – the ideal temperature range is 35° – 80° (F). Buttercrunch, Oakleaf and Amish Deer Tongue are great hot weather varieties.
  • Proper spacing of plants (if you sow seed too heavy, you must thin the seedlings to prevent overcrowding. Use the thinnings for baby lettuce or micro greens).
  • Fertilization – use moderate amounts of compost. Side dress with seaweed emulsion and fish emulsion.
  • Succession planting –

Here are other varieties I have grown and found to be flavorful, dependable and having good texture.

Lettuce-Speckled-LT103-DSC03175 merveille-des-quatre-saisons-lettuce2 Lettuce-Outredgeous-DSC02642         Lettuce-Hendersons-Black-Seeded-Simpson Lettuce-Flashy-Butter-Gem-LT160-web         Lettuce-Flame-LT113-web



Succession Planting for Success!!

It is amazing how many times I hear of someone’s lack of success for certain crops. When you “put all your eggs in one basket” and only plant one time, that is often the basis for disappointment. If you do several small plantings a week to 10 days apart you have a much better chance for meeting your expectations. Succession planting will fulfill your idea of a good garden!!

succession planting            succession planting1

There are several strategies that maximize your efforts. You will be astounded when you see how much produce you can get from small areas.

  • Two or more crops in succession: After one crop is harvested, another is planted in the same space. The length of the growing season, climate, and crop selection are important issues.
    • For example, a cool season spring crop (such as Irish potatoes) could be followed by a heat-loving summer crop (bush beans). The beans require less fertilizer and supply free nitrogen to the soil. The  bush beans are not bothered by the potential diseases of the potatoes.
    • Likewise, garden peas ( a legume) could be planted in cooler  weather, followed by tomatoes or squash.
  • Same crop, successive plantings: Several smaller plantings are made at timed intervals, rather than all at once. The plants mature at different dates, providing a continuous harvest over an extended period.
    • Lettuce, spinach and other greens are common crops for this method. The beauty of this approach eliminates the overwhelming effect of too much produce at one time.
      • There are many lettuce types from which to choose:
        • Looseleaf, Butterhead, Cos (romaine), Buttercrunch, Batavian, Heading and Chinese. Some of the Looseleaf and Romaine types may be grown in warmer/hotter temperatures.
  • succession planting3
  • Same crop, different dates of maturity: Planting different varieties (for example broccoli or tomato) that come to harvest at successively later dates.
    • Calabrese Green Sprouting broccoli matures 10 – 14 days earlier than Waltham 29 broccoli.
    • Stupice tomato starts to fruit in 55 days, Roma tomato 70 days and Black Krim tomato 85 days. Plus Stupice and Roma are much smaller plants which can be planted in front of the taller Black Krim.

Using one or all of these methods will give you a greater chance for success in your gardening endeavors. Enjoy your new opportunities!


The Squash Vine Borer is your Enemy and Here’s How to Defeat Them.

You’ve started your summer squash and zucchini. The plants look great! A couple of weeks later, the plants start to wilt and some die. What did I do wrong? After careful observation, you notice there is something that looks like wet sawdust at the base of the plant. Plus, you see small holes in the bottom stem. What is going on?

SVBwilt  SVBdamage

Your enemy is the Squash Vine Borer!! (SVB)


The female Squash Vine Borer moth (Melitta curcurbitae) lay brown eggs especially on the stems, just above the soil line.

squash-vine-borers-3-sm  SVB1SVBmating   SVBeggs2

Eggs hatch in 10 days. Once the eggs hatch, they immediately enter the stem, leaving a small hole at the place of entry surrounded by frass (moist sawdust like debris). The larvae (white caterpillars with brown heads) bore into the stem and remain until maturity before pupation (the transformation of the larvae to a pupa(in a cocoon)). They will now stay in the soil (usually 1″-2″) and over winter .

squash-vine-borers-4    SVBmoth_pupae

Squash Vine Borer moths emerge from the ground from early spring through mid-summer. The moth looks like a wasp and is a half inch long. The wings are clear and look like a windowpane. Unlike other moths, this one flies during the day and makes a buzzing sound.

Now that you have identified the enemy, what are your weapons of warfare?

  • A preemptive strategy would be to use a floating row cover (sheer, light weight fabric that is placed over a crop to protect from insects). It is secured in place to prevent insects from damaging the crop. The row cover is put on at the time of planting until the plants begin to flower. Squash crops require insect pollination.
  • Monitor by using a yellow colored bucket trap with water, placed near the newly planted squash plants. The yellow color attracts the moths.  Traps must be checked daily. Once you’ve found moths in the traps, start looking for stem damage. This indicates the female moth is out laying eggs.
    • SVBtrap
  • Create a barrier on the lower stem by using materials such as aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the lower stem to confuse and prevent the moth from  laying eggs.
  • Plant a trap crop of early planted Hubbard squash three (3) weeks prior to planting your preferred squash crop.
  • Use succession planting (weather permitting). Have fresh transplants ready to go. A late crop planted after SVB pressure may offer a harvest. Do not plant your late crop where there has been previous pressure from the SVB. Rotate your planting to an unaffected area.
  • SVB resistant varieties of squash, such as Waltham Butternut, offer a solid stemmed variety to thwart the penetration of the larvae. Cucurbita moschata are their least favorite, as they are solid stemmed. Cucurbita pepo are their most favorite, as they are hollow stemmed. Seed catalogs will list this information for each squash seed offered.
  • When a squash plant has been attacked by the squash vine borer, find the borer by looking for the frass or small holes with frass. Carefully slit open the stem and remove the caterpillar. Cover the wound with fresh soil or compost to encourage the re-rooting of the plant.
  • Remove and destroy any plants that are severely wilted or dead immediately. Do not compost these plants!!
  • Sanitation is key! Immediately remove your squash vines after harvest. Do not compost!! Burn the vines or bag the vines and remove them from your property. The soil must be exposed to reveal the cocoons.
  • Till or fluff the soil up to 2″ to expose SVB cocoons. Songbirds and poultry delight in eating the pupae (cocoons).
  • Always rotate your squash crop to another space each year.

My strategy this year includes the Blue Hubbard trap crop and yellow trap buckets. Plus, I will preemptively spray the ground stems with a mixture of vegetable oil and Dipel (Bacillus thuringiensis). I’ll keep you updated throughout the summer.