If you listen in on any gardening show, read any gardening book, or follow any gardening blog, you'll probably be told that lettuces are among the 'must haves' for the novice gardener.
They are quick and easy to grow, we are told.
They taste delicious, so people say.
Well, that's what I think at any rate.
Lettuces are NOT easy to grow. Why anyone ever claims they are is beyond me! They have to be one of the most finicky, fussy, annoying vegetables EVER to grow.
And at this point, right here, you might start to get the idea that I have not had a great deal of highly rewarding salad production. You'd be mostly right. I can grow lettuces. I can, honestly (sometimes, if everything works in my favour). But most of the time, there are just too many variables outside my control. You see, the thing is that lettuce doesn't like to get too hot. Or too cold. Or too damp. And definitely never too dry. It has soft, juicy, succulent leaves just begging to be munched by every marauding insect that roams the earth.
(Short interruption as the writer goes to check text: reminder from husband not to forget the sprinkler. Opps, that's right, I am trying to water the garden and blog at the same time, probably not a wise juggling act. Sprinkler now off. Husband thanked. Wet shoe removed. Wet sock and skirt drying while writer continues writing! - moving the sprinkler never works the way I intend it to...)
Lettuce is a pain to grow, at least in my temperate bordering sub-tropical Tauranga, NZ climate.
I currently have three lettuce seedlings in my garden. Bedraggled, I wonder if they will survive to produce me anything edible before succumbing to the heat? My parents garden does have lettuces. Mollycoddled lettuces, but lettuces none the less. Twice daily watering of seedlings, fertilizer, mulch, and (the piece-de-resistance), a cloche with shadecloth over the top. Shade, and protection from the chickens, blackbirds, and sparrows that would just love to nibble on tender lettuce leaves or dig in the nice moist earth for worms. They are looking good. I am hopeful.
But in the meantime I am buying lettuce from the Farmers Market. Our silverbeet and beetroot have grown like crazy this summer, so I'm not to fussed about lettuce.
Once the heat of summer leaves, the Big Garden (my parents') will hopefully be stocked up with lettuce and other greens for winter smoothies, soups, stir-fries, and salads.
But while my garden will have beetroot, celery, kale, and silverbeet, it will probably not have lettuce.
Because there's another reason I don't currently grow lettuce.
I killed over 100 snails in one raid, then a week later Boyo and I killed maybe 321? Plus slugs that were eating my veges left, right, and centre. I forget, it was awhile ago - but suffice to say we were squishing as fast as we could and stomping on quite a few without even intending to! He held the torch, I stomped in the gumboots. We were a ruthless, efficient, snail-killing machine. There were snails EVERYWHERE! Nice gentle rain after a month without much, and they all wambled on out from their hiding places in the agapanthus. Seriously, if you are a gardener, you should NEVER grow agapanthus. Talk about snail heaven!
Just don't tell my son. He loves snails. Munchkin has pet snails. He did notice the carnage, it was a bit hard to camouflage hundreds of squashed, dead snail bodies strewn over our lawn, but fortunately he was easily moved to other more interesting things.
Infestation under control? I hope so. My son has got about 3 new snails in his terranium from gardening endeavours over the past week or so, so I've obviously not got them all yet...