Sunday, August 9, 2009

Let Us Eat Lettuce

A week ago today, Sunday, I gave some much needed attention to the Red Sails summer lettuce: first a deep watering followed by a drenching with liquid seaweed fertilizer and then an application of a thick layer of "cool mulch."

What is "cool mulch"? It's a theory I have, as yet unproven, that light colored materials -- such as these locust leaves that fall onto our yard in a continuous rain -- make the best mulch for plants that like cooler soil around their roots.

I've read that heat-loving plants like eggplant really spring to life with a layer of black plastic that warms things up the way they like it. I haven't gotten around to trying that out yet, but it makes sense.

Wouldn't it also make sense that if the heat lovers love black plastic, the "cool kid" plants would like something that reflects back more of the sunlight before it warms the soil? I can tell that these lettuce plants like their little shade house -- old lace curtains draped over bamboo stakes -- so, I thought, maybe they will appreciate some nice champagne colored carpeting to go with the lace curtains.

Here's what they looked like early this morning, a week later. They seem to be happy.

And I was happy too. Picking lettuce is a great incentive to be out in the garden as early as possible. Our lettuce turns into limp rags unless I pick it while the dew drops still glint on the leaves. Today is a scorcher -- which, typically, I spent in the sweaty harvest kitchen making green soup and green beans for freezing -- but thanks to the lettuce I caught the garden at the height of its freshness this morning.

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