Outsmarting the Heat…Or Not!

Outsmarting the Heat…Or Not!

The weather is warming up considerably in East Texas. We’re to reach temperatures of 85° by weeks end. It’s so pleasant to be out that it’s beginning to be a struggle to keep everyone, including myself, inside to do those indoor tasks that must be done, like school and cooking.

I’m learning to outsmart the heat though. For one thing, I’ve begun to incorporate school with outdoor tasks again. The boys usually walk a mile or two for exercise, this has been changed to garden chores like hoeing and digging. Poor Jonathan is ready to start walking again. He said yesterday he would be happy to go three miles. He’s not getting off though, I want the chives in by Wednesday. Poor boy.

Garden wise I’m doing a few things to beat the heat as well. As most of my regular readers know, I have a love hate relationship with growing lettuce. In Arkansas I never had a problem with bolting. I had more of a problem keeping Ryan from eating it straight out of the garden. When I moved to South Texas, I planted all the things I had grown in Arkansas. It didn’t work. Year after year I had lettuce gone to seed before we could taste it. It was just too hot.

Now that we’re further North, in relatively the same climate as we were in El Dorado, I’m crossing my fingers for some “real” lettuce this year. I had gotten in the habit of growing micro-greens, which, don’t get me wrong, are delicious and quite nutritious, but I want a head of lettuce. We always want what we can’t have, don’t we?

So, under the cucumber trellis in Patrick’s garden I’m growing Tom Thumb lettuce, and they’re coming along beautifully. So far, so good. But I’m also trying some other things I think will satisfy my longing for those beautifully developed, Mr. McGregor type garden plants I’m looking for this year.

I’m trying many of the offerings from a great company called Kitazawa Seed Co. from California. This company has an interesting history and I’m a sucker for interesting history. They also have a large assortment of Non Genetically Modified seed, so that rocks.

I’m growing Pak Choi (called Bok Choi also) for the first time this year. I’ve read that it

Extra Dwarf Pak Choy from Kitazawa Seed Co.

will be tolerant to heat until it’s pretty warm, so I’m thinking to keep it in until about the beginning of June and then switch to tomatoes for the summer. I’m planting about five feet a week to ensure a continuous crop for a few weeks. Again, so far, so good.

I’m also trying Nappa Cabbage for the first time as well using the same five foot method. I’m growing “Blues” which is a hybrid variety, and “Tenderheart” which is an heirloom. Both of these varieties are early maturing which will help me get them in and done before it gets really hot around here. My family adores Nappa

Tender Heart Nappa Cabbage from Kitazawa Seed Co.

Cabbage. We have been using it as a lettuce substitute for the last couple of years. When we have BLT’s they are actually BCT’s. We use it for everything except Taco Salad. Taco Salad insists on having “real” lettuce. What a snob.

I’m growing cilantro now, but will stop probably about the middle of May. It too, loves to bolt, even the “Slo-bolt” varieties I use.

I have a funny-ish story about my cilantro from last year.

At the beginning of December there was a “hard” freeze heading to our area so I decided to pull up the remaining basil and start a “lasagna” bed so it would be ready for spring planting.

A “lasagna” bed is a method of layering compost in place, allowing it to settle over winter to be ready for spring planting.

So, I cut off all the basil for pesto and started my layers. Four layers of newspaper, a layer of manure from my brother-in-laws horse, a layer of rotted tree bark from the neighboring wooded area, two layers of shredded newspaper, a layer of wood ash, a layer of pine straw from the woods, another layer of manure, if you’re keeping score, that’s ten layers already. Water it all down and it’s ready to “simmer” until spring.

Three weeks after starting the lasagna bed, around Christmas time, imagine my surprise to find that the cilantro I had grown and used in September until it bolted, long forgotten, buried under ten layers of newspaper, compost, bark and ash, was now growing contentedly unconcerned with the cold, oblivious to everything, and there it grew until we tilled it in for planting the ground cherries. We had salsa for four months with fresh cilantro and canned tomatoes from last years garden. What a treat.

So, I’m growing cilantro now, then I’ll stop. But now I know, that I can grow it again starting in November, and I will. Ha! Take that heat!

The other way I “beat the heat” is just by using common sense. I generally don’t try to grow things that are just really not going to be happy with the heat of our area. I don’t grow broccoli, but I do grow broccoli raab which is heat tolerant. I choose plants that grow well in places like Indonesia and Vietnam, hot and humid. While I’m not able to grow every tropical there is, I’m able to grow those I want to for the most part.

The most innovative thing I’ve learned in my gardening life, and it only took forty blah blah years to learn it, is to be content. I may never get to have everything I want in my garden, but I have learned to be content with the things I have and I’m blessed because of it.

I hope you have a content, paisley day!~KeriAnne

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