Category Archives: Lettuce



I’ve been reading a great gardening book

“Grass Roots Gardening”

By Donna Schaper

It’s a quick read

Packed with thought provoking words of wisdom

She is described as:

“Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church

Mother of three children

Author of 28 books

And happiest when she is in her garden.”

She has introduced me to the idea of being

A “Gypsy Gardener”

You see she has found herself gardening

All over the country.

From Arizona to New England

To Florida to Minnesota.

She has covered the country with her gardens.

This is a great read.

I found my copy on the close out table.

Find it and buy it.

I finished her book this week while vacationing

In Colorado


And as it happens

I got to garden there.

I’ve learned a lot in these few short days

Of high desert gardening.

One – don’t get gardening advice from the Big Box Stores.

Me:  “What is the USDA zone for this area?”

Big Box Employee:  “Western”

Me:  “No it’s a number.”

BBE:  ” Oh 7.”

Me:  “I don’t thinks so Oklahoma is a 7.”

BBE:  “We have a lot of varying weather here”


Time to move on.

So I just started digging.

Here’s the problem



Inches and inches of cedar mulch.

Now, I usually try to not get too opinionated in our weekly visits

But, I’m about to go off the deep end on the subject of cedar mulch

So if you are a big fan of the stuff

I’d suggest you just stop reading now

And tune back in next week

When I’ve put my high horse

Back in the barn.

So let’s talk mulch.

I have long held the theory that cedar mulch is part of

A “great cosmic commercial gardening conspiracy.”

Think about it.

Convincing homeowners all over this country

That each year they should buy bags and bags and bags

Of commercially produced mulch

Now forget that they never tell you that

As the mulch decomposes it will zap every bit of nitrogen from your precious soil.

And all kinds of ants and other not so great insects love this stuff.

My theory has always been

That if I – a living thing – don’t want to live under it

Why would any living thing.

Like a prized perennial.


The thing is this new garden that I was digging in this week

Is covered with no less than 4 – 5 inches of cedar mulch.

I’m told a heavy layer has been added each spring for years.

“Keeps the weeds out and the moisture in.”

They say.

Except that as I began to work I discovered that the mulch is so heavy

That the rain and irrigation water only go as deep as THE MULCH.

The soil is as dry as can be.

And there were weeds

Mostly grass and not overwhelming,

But weeds.

And forget worms.

In three days of digging I only found 5 worms.

Not good.

Though I did meet a fox

Up close

And Peg met a deer.

So I set about removing years of bad gardening decisions.

Mulch is gone

Mushroom compost added


Probably not enough

But it’s a start.


I bought a few perennials that I can’t grow at home

Delphinium, Iceland Poppies and Lupine.


And planted Arugula and Mixed Salad Greens

Which will probably  be eaten by the deer

Before I have a chance to return and make a yummy salad.

And with much of the mulch now history

Perhaps seeds from the existing perennials


Or those I bring from my first love

My home garden


Will have a chance of filling in the blank spaces

And making this mountain garden

Look more like an actual garden

And less like a Mad Men ad for mulch.

So my advice for this week is

Buy the book

Forget the cedar mulch.

Pretty simple.

It will be safe for all to return next week.

Till then

Happy digging.


P.S.  Next week if I remember we’ll talk about what I do in place of mulch.

Wouldn’t want to leave you hanging.

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Filed under Delphinium, Gloriosa Daisy - Rudbeckia, Lettuce, Peonies, Perennials, Poppy, Uncategorized


I have long been interested in community gardens.

They come in several different configurations.

It can be a large area divided into plots.

Each plot tended by a different gardener.


Or it can be a place where a community comes together

To grow things.

For themselves

Or for others.

This spring I finally get to participate in a community garden.


You may recall I wrote about planting it a few months ago.

It’s located at our new local client choice food pantry

And food resource center named Loaves & Fishes.

At the moment this garden consists of 10 raised beds.


Built as an Eagle Scout project.


Then our volunteer extraordinaire David

Added 3 – 250 gallon rain barrels that are catching the rain water

From the roof of the building.


After a 2 inch rain

They are full.

We’ve been cutting greens each week

To share with the clients who come to us for food.

Imagine going to a food pantry and getting a bag of freshly cut spinach

Or lettuce.


Or Swiss chard.


It’s just heavenly!

But we’ve had a few challenges along the way.

As it turns out our garden sits at the bottom of a slight bowl.

And it’s been

Well a bit of a pond.

So Saturday was Family Volunteering Day

At Loaves & Fishes.


75 volunteers from the community,

A Cub Scout Troop

As well as the corporate sponsors for the day

Triangle Insurance

And Central National Bank

Came to help.


They made quick work of spreading

A truck load of fill sand.


Then moving gravel into the paths between the beds.

Within a few hours we went from pond

To problem solved.

It was an amazing transformation.


Now this is really more hardscape work

Than actual gardening.

And we may have completely worn out this group of volunteers.

But the thing is

We are community.

Cheerfully helping

To solve a problem.

Growing great food

For people who really need it

And appreciate the care

We take to help them.


For years my passion has been feeding people in need.

Now at Loaves & Fishes I get to watch others find their passion.

If you haven’t found a way to help others.

I hope you find a passion

And a home for it

That is as much fun as this wonderful community.

Or better still

Come and join us

Gardening for good and helping feed others.


P.S.  If you have extra produce or eggs from your own garden we would appreciate

Your bring them to Loaves & Fishes.  We’ll find them a grateful home!



Filed under Community Garden, Gardening, Gardening Friends, Hunger, Lettuce, Rain Barrels, Raised Beds, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Uncategorized, Vegetables


It is amazing to me

How each spring

The same plants emerge from their winter’s sleep


To create my garden

And yet

Each spring

I am surprised by what happens

In my own backyard.

This year

This “I can’t believe how late spring is” year

I am struck by the seemingly endless shades

Of purple.

I know that I have 2 new shades

Of purple Iris.



Plus the standard deep purple


And it seems the Columbine

Has a trifecta of purple.




Then there is my mystery wild Orchid


And the last of the Violas

Before the heat of summer knocks them out


There’s a rich purple in this year’s

Mixed Lettuce greens.


And a new purple in the Alliums

Planted last fall

After seeing Kristina’s great Allium seed pods.



I also have a new lilac bush

Small…but covered with blooms.

Add to them the purple Rose I planted last year


Could it be

That purple is the “new pink”

Of  my early spring garden?

Not for long

Peonies and Roses can’t be far behind!

Enjoy the week,



Filed under Allium, Columbine, Gardening, Gardening;Perennials, Iris, Lettuce, Peonies, Perennials, roses, Spring Flowering Bulbs, Uncategorized, Viola, Violets


Yesterday I took a friend on a little tour through my garden.

Frankly, it was embarrassing.

I knew I hadn’t spent much time in my garden

For weeks.

But I hadn’t realized what bad shape it was in.

It has a major case of “the flops”.

Between the rain

And Peg looking for bunny rabbits

Plants – especially cockscomb – have fallen down everywhere.

Paths are almost impassable.

Weeds are well…being weedy.

It isn’t pretty.

Luckily, today was a spectacular day.

Cool with a high of around 65 degrees.

And cloudy all day long.

So I spent the day doing what I should have done all along the way.

Cutting back

Pulling out.

I think I have mentioned before

I have a problem of shall we say “editing”.

I let too many tiny seedlings

Grow into giant plants.

Too much of a good thing like cockscomb

Will strangle even a rose bush.

Rosa Julia Child and New England Asters

Rosa Julia Child and New England Asters

Tomato plants run amuck

Will completely shade other plants into oblivion.

So even though it’s very late in the season.

I’m whacking away.

Hopefully they’ll be time for all of this to recover.

And just in case there isn’t.

I’m throwing lettuce seed in all the empty spaces.

It’s a little late for that, too.

But what the heck

You never know

If you don’t try.

So the lesson here is simple.

From time to time

You have to cut things back

Or completely pull them up and compost them.

Begin again.

As the decades roll by its harder and harder to do that.

At least for me.

Familiar is comfortable.


But then you end up living in the shade of your past.

You just don’t grow as much in that shade.

Not good

For roses

Or for people.

Fall officially begins next week.



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Filed under cockscomb, Compost, Fall, Gardening, Gardening Friends, late summer garden, Lettuce, roses, Timing, Uncategorized


A few years ago we re-did the back patio.

Lifting all the worn out brick,

Expanding it a bit and

Replacing it with new brick.

At the same time we bought GIANT new pots

Traditional Rolled Rim Italian clay were our choice

Rolled Rim Italian Clay

Rolled Rim Italian Clay

I think we were on the garden tour that first year.

So I invested in fantastic pink tropical Hibiscus.

Glorious in the green house

Not a bloom on them the weekend of the garden tour!

Thus began my years of problem pots.

I won’t bore you with  year by year disaster stories.

Suffice it to say that I’ve had trouble finding the right mix.

Last fall I murdered the mile high purple fountain grass.

Last Year's Attempt

Last Year’s Attempt

It was great till it grew so tall I couldn’t see my garden from the breakfast room

And…the wind blew it over onto the flowers.

So out it went.

For lack of a better idea I just planted them to lettuce.

Peg Checking on the Lettuce

Peg Checking on the Lettuce

Made sense to me.

The pots are close to the kitchen

For easy cutting.

And with the mild winter I had terrific lettuce for months on end.

Now that it’s late spring it’s starting to bolt

And taste a little bitter.

Besides I’m having  a luncheon in my garden next week

So I had to do something.

The answer came at my friend Susan’s front door.

Dipladenia Deep Red !

Dipladenia Deep Red

Dipladenia Deep Red

I found it at my favorite local nursery in hanging baskets.

Brought them home and was ready to pull up all the lettuce.

When I stopped.

Let’s try just pulling up only the lettuce I need to make room for the new plants.

Leave the rest for filler.

Great idea.

Along with the Lettuce, Nierembergia survived the winter

And is blooming wildly…more filler.

Winter Survivors: Nierembergia & Lettuce

Winter Survivors: Nierembergia & Lettuce


Next I added True Yellow Lantana, plumbago, Gomphrena, and Purple and White Petunias.

White Cascade Petunia  "Short-Term Annual"

White Cascade Petunia “Short-Term Annual”


I know, I swore off petunias last year.

But they sucked me in so

I did a paradigm shift.

I don’t expect them to survive the whole summer. 

I now consider them “short-term annuals”!

Don’t buy very many and tuck them close to something that will live.

And again, I only removed the lettuce that was necessary.

The end result is well, great in my book.

Full & Finished !

Full & Finished !

The pots look full.

Much fuller than normal for this time of year.

As the plants grow, the lettuce will die.

Nature will take its course.

Love when that happens.

Enjoy the week.


Saturday Morning Visitor

Saturday Morning Visitor

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Filed under container gardening, Dipladenia, Gardening, Gomphrena, Impatiens, Lantana, Lettuce, Nierembergia, Petunia, Uncategorized


The season is winding down.

You can feel it in the air.

It’s a slow winding but we are definately on the down side.

These endless glorious days

Our reward for the past few months.

So I thought it would be a good time for a little review.

Let’s start with pots.

Mandevilla & Lantana on the back deck

They had a tough summer.

Luckily I decided to plant lantana in many pots

Don’t ask me why

Other than I remember liking a pot of lantana years ago at my friend JB’s house.

It’s the first year I’ve used it in pots.

It loves heat

So it has done very well.

I’ll definately repeat it next year.

But… the variegated purple fountain grass is another story.

It’s simply too big

I mean waaaaaay to big.

So big that it falls over with the slightest wind or rain.

I’d thought I’d dig it up and take it in

I’m more in a “let it die mood” at this point.

Let me know if you want to come and dig it.

I did see a mix of lantana, salvia victoria and penta that was stunning.

I also admired plumbago recently so may mix all that into the pot next spring.

The butterflies and hummingbirds should really like that combination.

Now, remember when I whacked away on the roses on the arbor of the garden house.

I’m pleased to report that the black spot has not returned all summer.

To be fair it could have a lot to do with the severe lack of rain

But I’m hopeful the black spot is truly history.

Maybe it fried along with the rest of us.

And speaking of roses the blue sticky traps seem to have worked.

I’ve enjoyed fully opened gorgeous blooms from the Aloha roses.

The traps are covered with lots of little black things which I’m guessing are the villan thrip.

Then there are the zinnias.

I planted more than I ever had.

Now, I have a ton for the monarchs to feast on as they migrate south.

I am not as crazy about the Thumbelina zinnia that I planted at the front of the bed.

Somehow they are taller than I expected.

The blooms are pretty small for arrangements.

They, too, are blooming wildly, but I think I over did it.

Perhaps if I just don’t plant them as thickly next year it will work better.

Kind of a recurring theme here too much & too tall.

The fall snap pea crop would have to be considered pretty much a failure.

Sorry Peg.

My guess is it was too hot when I planted.

Or maybe that place just wants a rest.

I’m not great at crop rotation.

But I do have lettuce popping up in three different places.

And the cilantro is doing just great.

For the first time I’m growing swiss chard.

Throw in a little of the volunteer arugala

And we’re talking greens!

That’s not a review of the entire season

Just what’s in front of me now.

Frankly, I’m just grateful to have something left to review this year.

But please.

Don’t think of this as a scorecard.

Gardening isn’t a contest.

It’s a journey.


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Filed under Fall, Garden Planning, Lantana, late summer garden, Lettuce, Penta, Plumbago, roses, Salvia Victoria, sugar snap peas, Timing, Uncategorized, Variegated Purple Fountain Grass, Zinnia


There is something about fall




It’s an almost indescribable feeling

The end of summer

The beginning of fall

Here on the plains I’ve known fall to arrive anytime from mid-August until October.

This year it came right on schedule.

Sunday morning of Labor Day Weekend.

Put away white clothes – check !

Turn on the cool – check !

It was as if someone finally found the switch on that blast furnace known as the Summer of 2011.

And they mercifully turned it off.

Every day since has been pure delight.

Cool crisp mornings

Sunny delightful afternoons.

So….what do we do in the garden now.





First I discovered that the sugar snap peas I planted a few weeks ago weren’t doing so good.

Some had sprouted

But not many

Something was eating on some.

Likely grasshoppers.

So I re-planted.

Remember to soak the seed a few hours or overnight.

Then since I was filling in I used a dandelion digger.

Stab it into the ground where there is a blank space

And drop the seed in the hole.

Water well and keep moist till they sprout

Which shouldn’t take long this time of year.

Hopefully there is still time for them to grow and produce Peg’s favorite veggie.

Then I began to think lettuce.


I seem to plant things in the same place.

I know with vegetables you need to rotate.

But since mine are inter-planted with my flowers that’s a little tricky.

So I’m doing the next best thing.

Keep enriching the soil.

The edge of the hydrangea bed by the gate is one of my favorite spots.

The impatiens mostly just fried there this summer.

So I pulled what was left up – way ahead of the usual time.

Next I worked up the soil

Pitchforks are great for this job

Added compost – lots of compost.

Compost from summer leaf pile

Work it all up and

Invite Cassidy and Sloan to help plant.

The theory is if they grow it they will eat it!

Once we’ve sprinkled lots of Encore Mix from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

We pat them in and give them a drink.

I’m working on a couple of other lettuce beds.

Won’t plant them for a week or two.

Hopefully this will spread out the season and we’ll have tons of lettuce

To eat and to share.

For the re-thinking I engaged Elliott

He’s here for a working vacation.

It’s amazing how you can ponder your garden for weeks trying to solve a problem

And solve it in a 10 minute conversation with a kindred soul fellow gardener.

The problem is that my wonderful Dahlia area is losing it’s sun.

It’s going to shade.

All ready the ends are not producing

The middle can’t be far behind.

Yet a solo Dahlia in the sunny part of the garden is blooming its head off.

Elliott’s idea.

Add a Dahlia area on the northeast corner of the garden house.

Great idea.

This area looks like it will always be sunny.

It’s will require some fall and spring transplanting

Before I can plant the area to Dahlias next spring.

I’ll keep you posted along the way.

As for observing

We’ve spent lots of time watching and feeding orb spiders this week.

An orb spider "preparing" lunch

But….that’s a story all its own

I’ll share it next time.

Till then

Glory in these days

Walk your neighborhood

Look at it through the eyes of a child

Take it all in.


Cassidy in front of the sunflower she planted last spring.


Filed under Compost, Fall, Garden Planning, Lettuce, Orb Spider, sugar snap peas, Sunflowers, Uncategorized


Recently I bought a new camera.

Just a simple point and shoot that hopefully will give better color to the pictures I share.

I’ve noticed something since I got it.

I see differently

more, actually.

Can’t wait for the sun to come up to go into my garden and take pictures.

Pictures of the same flowers and bugs that I’ve known for years.

Decades really.

Late summer visitor - Orb spider

But I’m seeing them differently through this new lens.

Veronica spicata, for instance.

Veronica Spicata

It’s not a terribly showy flower.

I’ve called it a “filler flower” for years.

Probably not politically correct to cast it in such a subservient role.

I’ve even threatened to dig it all up from time to time.

But…the truth is it’s a great flower

now that I see it through a new lens.

And cockscomb

Sure, I’ve marveled over the big “brainy” blooms

Now I’m fascinated by the clusters of feathery blossoms as they rustle in the breeze.

I’m suddenly drawn to the things that have been right in front of me.

Things I walk past each day

Yet don’t truly see.

Like this short but mighty Gloriosa Daisy that just begged me to take its picture.


It’s so important.

Critical really in much of life.

Perhaps seeing is the thing that ties the varied parts of my life together.

Because I garden

I observe.

My mind keeps going to another of my passions.


How to solve it.

It, like veronica spicata, is right in front of us.


We may not see it.

We likely don’t realize it’s even there.

But it is


Close at home

And far away

If we look – choose to see.

Recently we opened a food pantry at the high school.

It will provide food for kids who have none on weekends.

It has refrigeration so kids can have access to fresh food

A staple for so many of us.

A luxury for so many more.

Kelly is planning to plant another “field” of lettuce this fall.

Harvesting last spring's lettuce

I’ll have a row or two.

We’ve made arrangements to have volunteers come and cut and take it to the high school.

Lettuce bagged and ready to deliver

Seeing a need right in front of us.

Planting a way to meet that need.

Seeing the world connected.

Is it any wonder I love to garden!!!


P.S.  If you have extra fruit and vegetables you’d like to share, just let me know.

A potential fall tomato crop?


Filed under cockscomb, Gloriosa Daisy - Rudbeckia, Hunger, Lettuce, Orb Spider, Tomato, Veronica Spicata