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Lawn & Garden

Ask Dayle

7/10/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Dayle Davis

Leaf lettuce is very easy to grow and matures quickly.
Photo courtesy of MetroCreativeConnection
Q: This spring I planted a mix of lettuce and now the leaves are getting big. How do I know when it’s ready to eat? Should I cut the leaves, and if so, will they grow again?

A: I assume you are referring to leaf lettuce, but will offer a brief overview of two other lettuce varieties — butterhead and romaine or cos.

  • Leaf: Leaf lettuce does not form a head, but sprouts in an open leaf growth pattern. There are many cultivars that produce distinctly different leaf forms, such as crinkled leaves, frilled leaves or deeply loped leaves. Colors vary from light green to brown, to red to bronze. Leaf lettuce is very easy to grow and matures quickly. Harvest all lettuce types when full size but young and tender. If you delay, it will result in lettuce that tastes bitter and woody. For leaf lettuce, harvest the individual outer leaves to allow the center leaves to continue to grow. Suggested cultivars for leaf lettuce include Leaf, Salad Bowl, Grand Rapids, Black Seeded Simpson, Slobolt, Oakleaf, Green Ice, Prizehead, Red Sails, Lollo Rosso, Ruby and Red Fire.
  • Butterhead: This lettuce produces smaller, softer heads and loosely packed, folded leaves. The outer leaves may be a somewhat variegated green or brown color with cream or butter colored inner leaves. Suggested cultivars for butterhead lettuce are Bibb, Salad Bibb, Summer Bibb, Buttercrunch, Tania and Tom Thumb (miniature lettuce).
  • Romaine: Romaine or cos lettuces are the sweetest of the four types of lettuce. It grows in upright — up to 10 inches in height — with cylindrical heads of tightly folded leaves. Leaf color is medium green on the outside with shades of greenish white on inner leaves. Suggested cultivars for romaine lettuce are Valmaine and Parris Island Cos.

As a cool season vegetable, lettuce needs to be grown under cool, moist conditions for best quality at temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees F. In spring, sow seeds of leaf lettuce as soon as the ground can be worked. Butterhead and romaine can be grown from either seeds or transplants.

Lettuce grows in just about any soil as long as it is well-drained and moist, but not soggy. Loose, fertile, loamy soils, with organic matter added are best. Prepare the seedbed well before planting. Lettuce seed is very small and requires close, seed-to-soil contact for germination. Its root system is small, so adequate moisture and nutrients are essential for proper development.


Q:
About four years ago, I planted a small Hydrangea plant that was blooming at the time. Since then, it has not bloomed again. It has nice green leaves, but never blooms. I just noticed a small cluster of buds, for one flower, on the plant. Why is it going to bloom now since it hasn’t in the past? What can I do to get the rest of it to bloom?

A: I don’t know if this is the case for your hydrangea, but sometimes folks receive a lovely gift hydrangea bought from a florist or a hothouse plant with abundant flowers that have been forced to open under greenhouse conditions. Traditionally, these types of hydrangea are iffy to grow in our Zone 5, because the plant normally has a hardiness rating for Zones 6 to 9, which means the shoots — and therefore the flowerbuds — are often killed off by winter freezing in Zone 5. New foliage grows back each spring but, alas, blooms are produced on last year’s stems, and since last year’s stems died off during the winter ... no blooms. The cycle repeats itself each growing season, with new stems sprouting and holding the promise of next year’s flowers, then dying off in winter. Occasionally, one stem on the plant survives the winter and produces a lone cluster of buds, as you have described for your plant.

Thankfully, one of the newer cultivars of hydrangea, H. macrophylla ‘Endless Summer,’ blooms on both old and new wood and is hardy to Zone 4. This plant requires moist, well-draining soil and partial shade. It looks a bit lost on its own but is stunning in bloom when situated about midway in the flower border, with lower growing plants in front.

All that said, this past winter was a tough one on hydrangeas, and the branches of all six of my Zone 5 hydrangeas died completely to the ground. This meant no blossoms this past spring, but since all the plants have now produced new stems, there will be hydrangea blossoms in my garden in late summer.

For hydrangeas in general, keep in mind that too much sun, as well as too little water, will cause the leaves to droop. Water thoroughly during long dry spells and apply mulch to conserve moisture. Most hydrangeas bloom on old wood. “Old wood” is a term for the stems or branches that sprouted and grew the previous year. To be sure not to cut away this year’s flower buds that are not yet visible, never prune your hydrangeas until just after flowering.

Each spring spread a thin layer of compost or well-rotted manure over the roots of your hydrangea. Follow up with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 according to package directions.

For more information, call The Ohio State University Summit County Extension Hotline Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 330-928-4769, ext. 3, and request Fact Sheet HYG-1610-92, “Lettuce in the Home Garden,” and Fact Sheet HYG-1063-03, “Hydrangeas in the Landscape.”

Please note fact sheets are sent out free, but there is a fee for bulletins. Many bulletins are available online at ohio line.osu.edu and can be printed from home or accessed at the public library.

 

Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and course work in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is a master gardener emeritus under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension. Readers can send in questions regarding lawn and garden issues, which could be featured in a future edition, as well as about the OSU Master Gardener program. Questions can be emailed to kcollins@akron.com, faxed to 330-665-9590 or sent to Leader Publications, 3075 Smith Road, Suite 204, Akron, OH 44333. Please do not send any leaves, seeds or other organic material. Inquiries about area garden clubs or groups should be sent directly to the particular organization in question.

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