Hello! We traveled to Lexington, Kentucky as part of a Memorial Day weekend getaway. During our visit, we walked around the University of Kentucky Arboretum, where I saw this:
In the vegetable garden area, multiple heads of beautiful leaf lettuces were growing. As it was a hot day (the high of 90 was just one degree shy of tying the high for that date), my mouth watered at the sight of those crisp heads of lettuce. I joked that I ought to pick a head and tuck it under my shirt. Of course I'd never do this, and just as well, for my husband pointed to the security cameras mounted on the outbuilding next to this garden.
And there was a sign stating that the produce grown at the arboretum is distributed to those in need. I was glad of that, for I've often seen produce well past its prime at similar public gardens. Perhaps rotting tomatoes and greens gone to seed are meant to show the life cycles of the plants, but this has always seemed wasteful to me.
That was my fantasy lettuce garden. Then I returned home to the reality of my own lettuce patch:
I don't have space for a big vegetable garden, so I grow some of my produce in pots on my deck. I got the idea of a "lettuce bowl" - a large pot of mesclun - from some of the vendors at our local farmer's market, who offer a similar item. But why pay $13 bucks or more when I can easily do the same for far less? I have two bowls of mesclun, sown a couple of weeks apart.
The only trouble with my deckside "lettuce bowl" is the gang of neighborhood squirrels. They're fond of digging up my pots of mesclun! So I learned to drape these plantings with "row covers" (sheer curtains purchased at thrift stores). This worked well, but of course I'd have to uncover the mesclun when I wanted to pick it, and I couldn't see the pretty leaves of my crop very well either.
Then last fall I came across a tip that had potential: a woman's flower garden was beset by unwelcome visitors like squirrels and rabbits. Another avid gardener told her to place children's pinwheels from the dollar store around the perimeter of her garden. Supposedly the critters don't like the movement and shiny colors of these toys and so they'll stay away.
Shortly before Memorial Day, our local Dollar Tree advertised pinwheels, so I picked up a baker's dozen. Some were placed in my vegetable garden and others were placed in my deck pots. You can see the red and blue of one pinwheel in the left side of the above photo.
As a test, the pinwheels were put into place Friday morning of the holiday weekend, and we returned home the next Monday afternoon. I looked over my deck and garden plantings - not a single plant had been disturbed.
I was happy about this! In the past, besides row covers, I'd spent money on fake owls and snakes and various repellant sprays or powders. The fake critters have to be moved every so often and the repellant concoctions (some commercial, some DIY) have to reapplied after rains. But the pinwheels just sit there and spin around in the breeze, and look cute even when still.
So there you have it - gardening fantasy and reality, plus an easy tip to try out if you have critter troubles too. Here's to a good growing season!
(If you'd like more information about the University of Kentucky Arboretum, go here. It's worth a visit if you're in the Lexington area.)