The weather has been somewhat brutal this past week, not that we Horticulturists at the IMA are the only ones suffering. But mercy! You can just stand still and sweat like crazy. Plus, I am always amazed at how soil can go from such a water surplus to such a water deficit in such an incredibly short time. But we have moved right along through the heat to get the Spring planting finished.
Sometimes before we can put one group of plants in we have to remove another group. This is of course most common in the annual areas. One of my major annual plantings is the Cutting Garden next to the Greenhouse. Most years I only do a summer planting there but this year we had the Garden Club of America national meeting in Indianapolis. Something had to be done for an earlier show. In these still rough economic times, buying enough pansies or other Spring ornamental to cover the whole area was out of the question. So what to do? Mix it up and make it work. I bought some pansies for a few spots so there would be instant color. For the rest of the area? Lettuce. Direct sown lettuce.
A few years back I did a lettuce planting in what is now Nonie’s Garden at the main IMA entrance. For that I started plants under fluorescent lights and made an intricate design.
This year would need to be simpler, just a simple pattern of green and red lettuce. The weather was not the best so I got the seed planted a bit late, resulting in a less lengthy period of ornamental value from the lettuce plants. Eventually the planting turned out quite nice.
Since the plants were started late, they were actually right at harvest size this week when I needed to remove them for the summer annuals. You don’t waste that much produce in a trip to the compost pile. We contacted Second Helpings, an Indianapolis based non profit community kitchen specializing in food rescue, fighting hunger and culinary training, and they said they would accept the lettuce.
I had a larger than usual group of volunteers that morning so we went to work immediately. I could not harvest until we weeded the beds. I just couldn’t.
Then we had to first harvest the plants from seeds that fell outside the pattern. We had to. I’m telling you we absolutely had to.
And then we had these beautiful beds for a few minutes before harvesting began.
Here’s part of the haul.
By the time we finished both beds we were able to give Second Helpings over 117 pounds of lettuce – all that from 3 ounces of seed. Pretty good seed to product ratio, considering I wasn’t even trying to grow a crop. We will have more produce later when Jonathon’s vegetables in the Tanner Orchard start producing.
I replaced the lettuce with Celosia and SunPatiens® (similar in appearance to New Guinea impatiens) that were a gift from Sakata Seed. Thank you Sakata®!
I’ll report on them more later in the summer hopefully. This is my first time growing the SunPatiens® in quantity. You will be able to see all three forms – Vigorous, Compact, and Spreading in a variety of colors. Impatiens have come a long way since the days of “Shady Lady.”
So don’t let a little heat keep you shut in at home. Hot damn! It’s gonna be a colorful summer.