Kitchen Garden

Belgian Lettuce and Garden Update


Today is the day to plant Belgian lettuce according to my late maternal grandmother. Not a specific variety, any lettuce seed will do. March 2 planting makes it “Belgian” in a way someone who grew up in a Minnesota-Polish farming community would understand.

It’s not happening this year, as the ground is frozen and covered with snow like last year. I’m not ready to give up on tradition, but this year’s weather is forcing my hand. As soon as the ground can be worked, lettuce seeds will be broadcast belatedly.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac indicates the average growing season in this area is 163 days, with an average last spring frost date of April 25. I’m calling bullshit on that right now and planning this year’s indoor planting to coincide with a last frost day of May 15. God willing and the creek don’t rise, some seeds will be planted in trays this week, with seedlings ready to go into the ground in May.

Starbor hybrid kale seeds arrived by U.S. postal service on Friday. The back order was finally filled, so this season there will be three kinds of kale, including the Blue Curled Scotch and Scarlet varieties already on hand. If everything proceeds as expected, there will be plenty of kale.

Seed-wise, I’m ready to plant the garden as soon as conditions permit.

The apple trees produced an abundance of new growth last growing season. While temperatures are below zero is the time to get out and prune new growth and make shaping decisions. That work is planned for this week.

Heavy snows took a toll on our lilac bushes, and I’ve not been to the back of the lot to check that clump. They are maturing, and may be due for a radical cutting back to enable new growth. Some research is needed, but the one next to our front door shaped up nicely when I cut the old branches away. These were planted from rootstock when we arrived in Big Grove, so it’s hard to see them mature, even if it’s a part of nature.

No deal is finalized with the CSA this spring, although the farmer may not know what she wants yet. There is an opportunity for some spring work until her supervisor arrives in May. If that doesn’t materialize, the time will be spent improving our garden—which is definitely needed.

The pantry is being worked down, but plenty of tomatoes, soup stock, apple sauce and apple butter remain on the shelves. Jars of canned dill pickles, hot sauce, salsa and Serrano peppers remain. There are even a few jars of kale soup starter on the shelves. Enough to tide us over until the first harvest.

Absent Belgian lettuce, there is hope for an abundant gardening season.