Miner’s lettuce is ready for harvesting
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