Ron Kujawski: Bitter lettuce no more


With this being the first day of summer, here is a summer quiz. What's a summer salad without lettuce? What's summer lettuce that has bolted (produced a flower stalk) in response to hot, sunny weather?

The envelope, please -- and the answer is: blah!

Most of us have no trouble growing lettuce in spring, but once summer heat arrives, lettuce tends to bolt and become bitter. Hmmm, what to do? Try these options:

• Plant heat-tolerant varieties such as: Buttercrunch, Summer Bibb, Tom Thumb, Black Seeded Simpson, Green Ice, Valmaine, Optima, Oak Leaf, Red Sails, Little Gem and Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed (yes, that is a real variety -- and don't ask.)

 Plant lettuce in an area of the garden receiving only morning sun. It could even be in flower borders.

 Plant in the shade of taller plants, such as sweet corn or tomatoes, or place shade cloth over lettuce plants. Support the shade cloth with hoops made from sturdy wire or PVC pipe.

 Plant lettuce in containers and place these in areas with partial shade, or load the containers on your child's wagon and move it to shade as needed. The kid is probably too busy texting to notice.

Before you go off searching for Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed, get on with these tasks:

 Plant more cucumber and summer squash. The first plantings may be doing fine now but plants tend to get ratty looking and stop producing fruit later in summer due to disease, insect damage, or just wear and tear. New plantings will be ready for harvest when the original plants run out of gas.

 Make an all-out effort to get control of snails and slugs. With all the recent rain, snails and slugs reign in gardens. Yeah, they move slowly but they devour my plants faster than I can blink. There are pesticides to control slugs and snails, but I put on latex gloves and pluck them off my plants and drop them into a container of soapy water.

 Be aware that most commercial animal repellents are water-soluble. If these have been applied recently to ward off rabbits, deer, and other varmints, they have been washed away in the rain and will have to be re-applied to plants. Even during dry periods, repellents should be re-applied every two to three weeks. However, read product labels for specific information.

 Sharpen mower blades and re-sharpen periodically throughout the mowing season. Dull blades leave the ends of grass leaves shredded, a situation that invites disease infections.

 Take a stroll through the garden in late evening. That's the time when many floral scents are at their peak. Part of the reason is the air is calm and the chemicals responsible for scent are less likely to be volatized. Another reason is some of the most fragrant flowers are moth pollinated. These flowers emit their scent at night to attract moths at a time when they are most active, i.e. after sunset.

 Keep a notebook handy when working in the flower garden. I'm always finding plants that will need to be moved or divided and replanted. Now is not the time for those jobs and unless I write them down and plan ahead I'm sure to forget to do them next spring when the time is right.

Speaking of planning ahead:

 Begin grooming plants to enter into the annual Grow Show at the Berkshire Botanical Garden on Aug. 10 and 11. Watch for more details at www.berkshirebotanical. org

 Mark your calendar for: The Lenox Garden Club's "Hidden Treasures" Garden and House Tour on July 13 and the Pittsfield Garden Tour on July 20 and 21. Who knows, you may run into Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed on the tour.


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