Tag Archives: caterpillars

Is it Possible to Overdose on Lettuce?

23 Mar

Last spring we planted a row of red loose leaf lettuce. It was the easiest thing in the world to grow, and I couldn’t believe how delicious it tasted compared to the lettuce that’s sold in the grocery store, even the organic lettuce.

The best part about growing loose leaf lettuce is that it keeps growing from the top after you cut the leaves off from the bottom, which means many harvests from one plant.

We had salad almost every night for weeks off that lettuce, until the extremely early, ungodly heat caused the lettuce to bolt into tall stalks.

This fall we decided to see if we could grow lettuce during the winter. We used the rest of the seeds from the original package and sowed two rows. Even though there were a few nights where the temperature got close to freezing, it was overall an extremely mild winter, so growing it was a cinch.

The seedlings sprouted, and I had a hard time thinning them out. I wanted to put them all in pots and give them away. (Is it weird of me to hate getting rid of the seedlings? I struggle with this always.)

To help keep the lettuce warm at night, we placed bricks along the edge of the bed and down the middle between the two rows of lettuce. On those nights when there was danger of frost, we covered the lettuce with clear plastic.

I did forget to cover the lettuce one night when there was frost–and it didn’t cause any damage.

We had lettuce all winter long. My friends and neighbors had lettuce all winter long, too, thanks to us! We still have lettuce. I can’t give the stuff away fast enough because it won’t stop growing.

It’s my own fault because I didn’t thin the seedlings enough. I feel like the sorceror’s apprentice. Or The Octomom of Lettuce.

Enough lettuce for the entire neighborhood

Alas, today I went out to harvest some lettuce for dinner and discovered two things: 1) the caterpillars are back and have done a number on some of the lettuce in one day, and 2) the lettuce has reached its end of life and is starting to bolt.

I’ve started pulling the tallest lettuce plants out of the ground, harvesting the leaves, and cutting up the stalks for the compost. When I’ve gone through all the lettuce plants I’ll sow some more seeds to start a spring crop.

The caterpillars were a problem at the beginning of winter. It’s amazing how quickly they can eat through a head of lettuce.

While washing some lettuce for dinner, I discovered a cocoon on one of the leaves. Feeling sad about the possibility of inadvertently destroying a future butterfly, knowing the leaf will wilt and decompose before the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, I put the leaf outside on the patio table and thought about ways to save the cocoon. When I taught kindergarten years ago we had a butterfly garden, so I knew it could be done.

An hour later, when I told Michael about the cocoon, it had disappeared from the table. I’m pretty sure a bird couldn’t resist dragging it off to their nest.

The cycle of life continues.

My very own very hungry caterpillar cocoon

If you’ve never grown loose leaf lettuce before, I can’t recommend it enough. It takes no finesse or skill whatsoever, and you’ll save lots of money growing your own. Best of all, it’s tender and delicious.

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