Under the Lights

Lettuces and Mache under lights
Lettuces and Mache under lights

This lettuce was started to harvest for Thanksgiving, less than a week away. I went with an organic fertilizer this year, kelp and fish based, 4-3-3. I’m not completely thrilled with the results (not that I’m blaming the fertilizer); the leaves look a little leathery. The red lettuce is “Red Sails” and the green is either “Yugoslavian Yellow or Simpsons Elite” I started some cubes of both and can’t tell them apart. Most of he Red Sails are a little too deeply red, there should be more green and variation, so I’ve been moving the lights further and further away. Does anybody know what I’m doing wrong to get leathery leaves?

None of what I’m growing now requires heat and I leave the basement cool; 60 degrees or less.

Red Sails lettuce

I’ll pick them early and crisp them well; with the addition of pears and goat cheese, they should still be fine for Thanksgiving Day salad but I’d also like to improve my results.  I’ve seen red lettuce that was blanched by crimping the outside leaves together; maybe I’ll need to learn how to do that.

A friend from a warmer climate (apparently) asked me why I’m not still growing lettuce outside. I’ve been waking daily to frost and a crusty soil. I could use crop covers or season extenders but on my north side of the hill, I don’t get much sun, either. So for comparison’s sake, the first picture below is Mache, (variety Vit) aka corn salad that I planted in September outside. It will sit at this size all winter long but will be my first food crop in April when the sun hits this bed.

Mache planted outside in September
Mache planted outside in September

The picture below is Mache that I planted on October 19; it’s growing slowly but has definitely pulled ahead of the outdoor planting.

Mache started in October, under lights
Mache started in October, under lights

Thuj One and Two

Thuj Two and One, unpacked

I mentioned in my post on Sandy’s damage that a gardening friend had recommended Thujopsis dolobrata as an interesting and useful evergreen plant for my northern border.  She said it was somewhat rare and I’d tried to find it at some of the bigger nursuries in the area, without success.  Although they are slow growing and these will take a long time to mature, I decided to buy some small plants online from Evergreen Nursery.  Buying small plants, I could easily afford a spare.  They left Chattanooga, TN, on November 6 and were at my door last night when I got home from work.

They were strangely packaged in a box that originally seems to have held frozen salmon, wild-caught near China (thrifty nursery), and also strangely placed in the box horizontally, with their verticle stems folded.  I guess that gave them less room to shift?  One of them had a major branch broken off in shipment and they have some slight browning on some branches.  But for being in a box and bouncing through several states in various trucks, they look pretty good.  Here they are soaking on the deck.

Soaking in their new pots


I have named them Thuj One and Two.   Thuj Two lost the branch and also has a second leader.  He might make an excellent candidate for bosai, if only I knew anything about bonsai.  I’ll let them dry out somewhat from their welcome home soak and let them get some weak afternoon sun.  Then they will spend at least the winter with their pots submerged in the soil in one of my garden beds; maybe the summer, too.  I still have a lot of cleanup and preparation to do for their final home and gardening season is pretty much done here.

This white pattern on the underside of their leaves is characteristic of the plant and one of the features that sets this evergreen apart.

Thujopsis dolobrata underleaf detail
Underleaf Detail

Sandy and Work in Progress

We were very fortunate that Sandy only gave us a glancing blow, however, I have my own little garden saga of destruction and hopefully next summer, renewal.

I thought that I and my all of neighbors had come through pretty much unscathed but when I backed my car out of the garage for work on Tuesday morning, I noticed a lot more light from the north where the property line and my driveway converge.  A large ash tree had fallen and, fortunately for my house, chose to fall away from it.  Unfortunately for my neighbors it hit the power line that runs from the street to their house and the pole on their lawn snapped off at the base.  The gallery pictures start with pictures of that.

As I was looking for other signs of damage I noticed that the tree next to the fallen one had been snapped at the base, probably taken a glancing blow, and was leaning into yet a third, a huge three part maple.  Despite my struggles to prevent it, these trees had been damaged some years ago and while they leaf out every year, I’d been getting more and more pesimistic about their survival.  And the two trees together, one mostly detached from its roots had taken a serious lean toward the house.  So worried calls to my insurance company over, I started calling tree services.

Tree service to the rescue.  Although they tried to be considerate, I’m not sure which was more terrifying, the bite of Sandy’s lessser winds that hit us, or a yard full of men with chain saws.  With sadness, I had them take one more three part ash that was in a similar shape.  Still alive but losing the battle.  Somebody got a lot of really nice hardwood out of this.

Trees down, I had to wait a few days for the logs to disappear.  The car in the picture helps with scale.  The last shot shows how much more cleanup work there is to do.  Among other things, the wood pile and my three compost bins, instead of tucked under trees, are strangely out in the middle of an open area. I need to do more cleaning in another part of the yard to make a place for them.  I confess, I’ve worked a lot more with the sunny parts of my yard; building and maintaining the roses, food garden and dahlia beds.  This is the north side of my yard, on the north side of a wet slope and some of the landscaping challenges here are formidable.

But with suggestions from gardens friends, I’m already imagining new plantings, maybe even beauty and order, in what has been primarily a wild and difficult area.  Opportunity for renewal is also what storms offer.  I need a specimen tree that will also act as a windbreak and privacy screen, to anchor new plantings there.  My Norwegian friend Arnhild suggested a Thujopsis dolobrata.  From pictures it looks like a beautifully shaped evergreen with a white underside to its fleshy leaves .  And after reading that they like moist conditions, I’m hot on the trail to buy one.  That spot is low and gets runoff from the driveway so is often wet.  It will go roughly on the right side of the last shot, although if I buy the one quart size which is all that I’ve found so far, it will take awhile to show up in pictures!

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