Ted’s essays

lettuce lessons

wilting 7xWith the recent cold snap, my Bitterroot winter garden experiment quickly entered Phase III.

On October 14th, we filled planter boxes that were here before us with soil and seed. Then added water and wait.

The plant seeds came from Territorial Seed, who has significant expertise in year-round gardening. They recommended some pak choi and three varieties of winter-hearty lettuce. I was not overly optimistic, as almost nobody around here tries outdoor winter gardening. However, I am not one for giving up before I start, so off we go.

Well, old man winter approacheth and these tough guys were telling me how unhappy that was making them. plant hospital 6xI added a little stick and painter-drop-cloth cold frame that theoretically held a little of the air from the “warm” outside of the house for them.

On December 3rd I added a pair of 60-watt incandescent bulbs (you know, the ones that actually put a little of their energy into heat and are now banned by the nanny state?). I calculated the two of them at about $3 a month – making the salad more expensive, but hey, it would be fresh and natural.

Well, Winter decided to play hard ball. As you can see in the first photo above right, they were dying. The nice loose compost/mulch/soil lettuce happy place combination was frozen everywhere but directly under the aluminum bulb reflector. I’m looking the end of their living to feed us fresh salad right in the eye.

Sigh. Okay. How many pots do we have and where can we keep them in our little cabin?

The coffee table I built for Missy’s African Violet (RIP) was rather easily made available. I had to work a bit to dig up chunks of frozen soil with nearly dead plants in them. I had to leave them to thaw out overnight. But 24 hours later, I was able to pot the plants that were already showing generous signs of gratitude for their salvation.

lettuce living againHere they are less than two days from their near-death experience looking the happiest they’ve ever been in their brief lives.

Little do they know that the nice, tender, loving man who has fondled and nurtured them fully intends to eat them alive before they mature. But such is the relationship between predator and prey.