Miner’s lettuce is ready for har­vest­ing

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - BAR­BARA SMITH

START PICK­ING MINER’S LETTUCE

Miner’s lettuce is at its best this week – at least it is where we’ve been en­joy­ing the best spring on record: warm days, clear skies and oc­ca­sional, light rain. Miner’s lettuce, which grows in the gar­dens of those of us who love un­usual sal­ads that fea­ture chick­weed, French sor­rel, broad bean tops, lin­den tree leaves and other crunchy treats, makes a de­li­cious ad­di­tion to the bowl.

Miner’s lettuce can be found growing wild in sur­pris­ingly hos­tile habi­tats, look­ing healthy and ap­peal­ing de­spite the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions. My favourite wild crop of miner’s lettuce grows on the edge of a pine plan­ta­tion among the deep car­pet of pine nee­dles and is ridicu­lously healthy, de­spite not be­ing man­aged by hu­mans; not fed or wa­tered, weeded or in any way fussed over. The vi­brant green leaves taste lovely and there’s no end of them. Some­thing in that en­vi­ron­ment suits them per­fectly.

If you leave the har­vest­ing of miner’s lettuce too long, the flow­ers form and while they can be nipped out, I be­lieve the leaves taste much bet­ter be­fore they flower.

START A ROOF-TOP GAR­DEN

Look­ing for a new gar­den­ing chal­lenge? Try growing your own roof gar­den. I don’t mean for you to clothe your home’s cor­ru­gated iron with flow­ers and herbs; that re­quires en­gi­neers and con­sents from the coun­cil, but you could start small, as I have done, with a lesser roof. Mine’s pro­tect­ing my cob oven from the rain and is the per­fect size to trial a gar­den that’s up off the ground. I’ve built my clay-oven cover from slates and added com­post as a medium in which to grow the sorts of plants that can sur­vive ex­po­sure to the el­e­ments with only a thin slice of soil to nour­ish them. Thyme and stone crop do well in these con­di­tions, as do sage and iris.

A French thatcher once told me that he plants the ridges of his roofs with irises and that en­cour­aged me to try them my­self, with great suc­cess.

Give roof-top gar­den­ing a go. It’s not at all dif­fi­cult and quite ro­man­tic.

PICK OFF RHUBARB FLOW­ERS

At this time of the year, rhubarb will try to do what many other peren­ni­als are do­ing: flow­er­ing in or­der to re­pro­duce and spread their kind near and far. If you have a mind to grow rhubarb from seed, by all means leave these emerg­ing spikes alone and they’ll flower and seed in the way na­ture in­tended, how­ever, you’ll reap a lesser har­vest of stalks as a re­sult. A good deal of the plant’s en­ergy has to go into pro­duc­ing seed, and that has to come from some­where. Most gar­den­ers mul­ti­ply their rhubarb plants by di­vid­ing the crowns dur­ing win­ter and it’s an ef­fec­tive way to in­crease the crop. Growing rhubarb from seed re­quires a great deal of pa­tience, but is worth do­ing at least once, just for the ex­pe­ri­ence and the sat­is­fac­tion.

KEEP YOUR GAR­LIC PLANTS WELL FED

By now, the gar­lic cloves you planted dur­ing the colder months of win­ter will be reach­ing for the sky, and they are very hun­gry plants.

If you’ve grown them in com­post, they will be look­ing spec­tac­u­larly healthy now, but there’s no harm in adding to their vigour with a good feed of liq­uid ma­nure. Har­vest a wa­ter­ing can (or two) full from your liq­uid ma­nure bar­rel – you do have a bar­rel of horse ap­ple/don­key dung/sea­weed soup, don’t you? – and then drench your gar­lic plants with it; don’t hold back, they can take it all, vo­ra­cious feed­ers that they are.

AP­PLY THE HOE TO YOUR BROAD BEAN PATCH

Keep­ing your broad beans free from any kind of com­pe­ti­tion will greatly im­prove the har­vest of this favoured crop – plus they look so good against all that weed­less soil!

Broad beans can be planted across sev­eral months, and those go­ing in the ground now will grow quickly .

My broad beans were started in pot­tles in the tun­nel house and are vig­or­ous and healthy, and made the tran­si­tion from in­doors to out­side suc­cess­fully and with­out any growth be­ing checked.

If you want a new gar­den­ing chal­lenge, try growing a rooftop gar­den.

This col­umn is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gar­dener mag­a­zine. For gar­den­ing ad­vice de­liv­ered to your in­box ev­ery Fri­day, sign up for Get Growing at: get­grow­ing.co.nz

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