Home' Christchurch Mail : December 6th 2012 Contents 26 CHRISTCHURCH MAIL, DECEMBER 6, 2012
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Gorgeous greens: Sow or plant more lettuces for Christmas.
Salad bowl is always full when
lettuces live fast and die young
By LYNDA HALLINAN
This column is adapted
from the e-newsletter get
growing from New Zealand
Gardener. to subscribe to
get growing (it's free!), visit
the NZ Gardener website at
nzgardener.co.nz, and click
on the get growing tab. to
mags4gifts.co.nz or call
0800 mags 4 gifts.
New Zealand spinach is such an
underrated edible plant,
especially in hot, dry, summer
Unlike standard spinach, which
grows upright like silverbeet,
native spinach has a natural tend-
ency to ramble and wander. It can
easily cover 1 square metre.
Plant it at the edge of a raised
bed or retaining wall and let it
spill over the sides, or use it as a
living mulch to conserve soil
moisture around taller tomatoes
or blocks of corn. It s as tough as
boots, but has succulent, fleshy
leaves. Plant native spinach see-
dlings (in punnets) or sow from
seed (Kings Seeds and McGregor s
both offer it).
Sow direct; it s easy.
Don't run out of salad
Sow or plant more lettuces for
Christmas crops and to keep your
salad bowl filled during the sum-
Are you a butterhead or a head-
ing type? Do you love cos or are
you faithful to loose leaves? Or do
you like all sorts of lettuce -- and
the more the merrier? There s a
huge range of varieties to suit
every gardener, from urbanites
with balcony gardens and
gardeners with tunnel-houses.
The ideal conditions?
Lettuce loves moist, fertile,
well-drained soil. It needs
protection from the midday sun,
so select a place in the garden that
is partly shaded in the height of
Scatter the tiny seeds over a
patch of bare soil and cover with a
light sprinkle of seed-raising mix.
Keep well watered until your
seedlings appear. Thin out if need
be. You can eat the thinnings as
Lettuce seedlings have shallow
roots so they re an easy target for
pesky birds to peck and pull out.
Dangle something shiny to scare
them away, such as old CDs or
strips of tinfoil stapled to stakes.
(Or invest in a cat!) Slugs and
snails adore the seedlings. You
may need to lay bait to protect
them, or instigate nightly
torchlight patrols with a bucket of
salty water to dispatch them in.
Feed lettuces fortnightly with
liquid fertiliser and keep your
hose or watering can handy in
case that deep morning soak has
burned off by the end of the
We often say that lettuce is a
vege that likes to live fast and die
young, while it s still sweet and
crisp. However, if it doesn t get
regular water as a teenager, it ll
mature into a bitter, twisted
If you find your lettuces are
developing sour flavours in dry
weather, harvest in the morning
and dunk them up to their necks
in a bucket of cool water all day.
Recommended varieties include
Great Lakes and Webb s
Wonderful (both hearting types),
red-tinged Iceberg-style Grenoble
and Buttercrunch, a frilly, open-
headed lettuce that s slow to bolt.
Great cut and come again oak-leaf
types include deep red Salad Trim
or green Royal Oak Leaf.
Protect your berries
Cover raspberries, redcurrants,
strawberries and boysenberries
with bird netting -- and check it
for holes and gaps. It s amazing
how devious birds can be when
there s a ripe -- or even a partially
ripe -- berry in sight. If you re
draping loose netting over your
plants, make sure it s held at least
10-20cm clear of the tops of the
plants, so birds can t just sit on
top of it to peck at your precious
fruit from above. And if you re
pulling it tight over stakes, the
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