Lettuce is a hardy annual that can tolerate light frosts and can be easily grown from seed or transplants. Lettuce need sunny locations early but can tolerate some shade and as the days get warmer, more shade is better. Sunlight combined with warm summer temperatures usually make the lettuce bitter. Lettuce grow best when the day temperatures are between 60-70 degrees F and when planted in well-drained soil that is kept evening moist with light watering.
Leaf lettuce is the most popular type of lettuce grown by gardeners, but you can also grow iceberg, butterhead, and romaine lettuce.
Sow leaf lettuce in rows with 10-20 seeds per foot and space rows about 12” apart. Thin out seedlings after sprouting to a spacing of 6” apart. If transplanting, plant individual plants 6” apart. For head lettuce plant 12-18” apart. Lettuce can be planted in between other crops that shade the lettuce during the heat of the day.
Lettuce has shallow roots so cultivate or hoe shallow to keep the weeds down. Overwatering can cause disease problems, and any overhead watering should be done in the morning to allow the foliage time to dry. Mulching is also beneficial since it keeps the leaves off the ground and the soil cool.
Generally, lettuce should be planted and enjoyed in the spring then abandoned when the it gets hot and the taste gets bitter.
Lettuce mature between 40-80 days depending on the variety.
Harvest leaf lettuce when the plants reach 5-6” tall. Harvest the older outer leaves first. Harvest bibb lettuce when the leaves begin to cup inward. Harvest romaine lettuce when when the leaves have overlapped and formed a tight head that is about 4” wide and 6” tall. Crisphead lettuce is ready to harvest when a head is formed that looks like head lettuce in the grocery store.
Click here for more information on growing lettuce from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Office.
Here is a great article on soil testing by Janet Carson with the UA Cooperative Extension Service.
Soil is an important part of growing a garden, yet it is often taken for granted. People spend thousands of dollars planning a landscape, buying the plants, but without a decent soil to grow in, the results, may not be what you had in mind. So lets get to the root of the problem.
Traditionally, Arkansans complain about the lack of soil, and the abundance of rocks. Or they may have "gumbo"–i.e., heavy clay, pure sand, or it’s so acidic, you could make vinegar from it. Fortunately, there isn’t a soil or planting site out there, that can’t be amended or corrected. It just may take a while. Learning your problems before planting, will make solving them much simpler.
Your first step should be to have a soil sample tested. This is a very simple process. Take a shovel and go six to ten places in the area you are planning to plant in. Dig down six inches –which may require a pick axe, but we do need a full soil profile. Then take a slice of the full six inch profile and place it in a bucket. Repeat this process six to ten times. By now, you have probably worked up a sweat, and gotten a great exercise workout. Mix this soil together, to get a good representation of what you will be growing in, and take a pint of it to your local county extension office. It should be relatively dry, since it will be shipped in a cardboard box, so let it air dry first.
If you will be growing distinctly different plants–such as lawns, vegetable gardens, perennials, etc, you can have several different soil samples tested. Simply repeat the same process for each one. A full pint of soil is needed for each sample you want tested. If you have a problem area in the yard, you may want an isolated sample from it to compare with the rest of the yard. Don’t divide your yard into too many samples, unless you plan to fertilize each area separately.
When you take your samples to the county extension office, they will ask you some routine questions to fill out the accompanying soil sampling form. In addition to the pertinent personal information, such as name and address, you will also be asked what you will be growing. If you are having more than one soil sample tested, you will also need an identifying name for each sample. Vegetable, lawn and flowers would suffice, just make sure you know what the name corresponds to, should you use something like 1, 2 or 3. Now all you have to do is wait on your report, which should be mailed to you within a week or two.
At this time, there is no fee associated with the routine soil testing process in Arkansas. Fees associated with fertilizer sales pay for this service.
When you receive your soil report, it may look a bit confusing. There are a lot of numbers and nutrients listed. There will also be a recommendation for the plants you are growing, as to fertilizer and liming needs. A fact sheet entitled "Understanding the Numbers on Your Soil Test Report" should accompany each soil test report. This should help to explain the level of the nutrients in your soil—what is high, and what is low, and even what some of the terms mean. Some people prefer to just follow the recommendations, and ignore all the numbers.
Some key items to look for include the pH of the soil. The pH of the soil is a measure of acidity or alkalinity, often referred to as a sweet or sour soil. Many soils in Arkansas are acidic, but knowing how acidic can determine your liming needs, if any. Many garden plants like slightly acidic soils, and some even prefer it–azaleas, gardenias and blueberries in particular. An optimum soil pH range for most plants is 5.8 to 6.3. Slightly lower or slightly higher isn’t a big deal, but some plants will suffer in soils with strongly acidic soils, while acid lovers struggle when it is higher than 6.5. If it has been determined that your soil sample is too acidic, there will be a recommendation of how much lime should be applied to get your soil in the proper range. Lime does not move quickly in a soil, so applying it prior to planting, where it can be tilled into the soil is ideal. If by chance, your soil is too alkaline, elemental sulfur or aluminum sulfate will be recommended to lower the pH.
Nutrients needed for plant growth are all listed in the soil report. They include phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper and zinc. Nitrate-nitrogen and sulfate-sulfur are also there. On the soil report there will be a listing of each of these nutrients and a rate or level that they have been extracted from the soil, usually in pounds per acre. An example, for phosphorous: values below 20 are low, 20- 40 is moderately low, 40- 60 is medium, 60-80 moderately high, with 80- 100 being high. Again, the fact sheet will give you a comparison level.
Salinity or E.C. is another important consideration. Remember that all fertilizers are basically salts, and too much salt in the soil can cause injury to plants. This is also included on the report, and includes all soluble salts. If the readings are too high, there will be no fertilizer recommendations or fertilizer reductions until these levels go down.
There are other numbers and terms listed, which are important to soil scientists, and may stand out if there is a problem, but should not be of a huge interest to the home gardener. Knowing your soil pH is important, and getting your nutrient levels in line is also needed for good plant growth. If you have specific questions, call and visit with your local county extension agent.
If there are problems to your soil site, amending is important. But do remember, if you alter your soil with lots of organic matter or other amendments, it will change all your nutrient and pH levels, and it is important to test your soil again. Fall is an ideal time to test your soil, since often plants are nearing the end of their growing cycle, fertilization is ending, and you can prepare for next year in advance. Plus, you beat the spring rush, when everyone else is thinking about it.
This story first appeared in the AR Gardener Magazine.
By: Janet Carson
(Testing picture from http://blog.statcounter.com/2007/11/)
Sometimes in nature, beauty and danger go hand in hand in both animals and plants. Take for instance the Poison Dart Frog. It looks so friendly with its bright yellow color, you can’t help but want to reclaim your youth and play with the little frog. But just touching this frog can cause paralysis from the poison that lies within its innocent looking skin. Or consider the Blue Ringed Octopus. It’s tiny yet vibrant. But I wouldn’t suggest adding it to your salt water tank. For a specimen that doesn’t grow much larger than 8 inches, its venom can kill a human, and currently there is no anti-venom available. And then you have plant life, like the Lily of the Valley. Oh sure it looks sweet with its soft white bell blooms and elegant green stems, but hidden in its delicate frame are 38 different cardiac glycocides that are highly poisonous. Brugmansia or Angel’s Trumpet may sound heavenly, but if ingested the level of poison that flows thru its stems could result in death. And Poinsettias can kill your pets… What??? Actually, that one is just a myth.
Now I know, you’ve been told all your life that Poinsettias are poisonous by teachers, medical books, doctors and even veterinarians, and you have a firm belief that such a dangerous flower should be placed high on shelves where pets and children can’t reach them. But as science has grown and advanced over the years, we now know it was just a false alarm. Poinsettias are in fact not poisonous. According to the Madison Poison Control Center, a 50 pound child would have to eat 500 to 600 poinsettia leaves to suffer any significant ill effects. Now, I know children like colorful foods like jelly beans and starburst, but I’m pretty sure after just one leaf your child won’t be reaching for any more. And a pet that occasionally munches on a leaf or two won’t suffer any harmful side effects. Of course this doesn’t mean the poinsettia is edible either. I’ve read one study where the person brave enough to eat the poinsettia leaf described it as horribly bitter. So I wouldn’t recommend making a holiday salad out of its vibrant leaves any time soon.
I would however recommend you decorate with the Poinsettias to your heart’s content. Take them off the shelf. It’s safe, I promise. Use them for a festive Christmas centerpiece. Flank the fireplace or Christmas tree with them. Give them as gifts to friends, Secret Santas, teachers, and neighbors. And just enjoy their beauty this Holiday season. After all the Poinsettia is the traditional Christmas flower.
Old Man Winter really can be a nuisance sometimes. Blowing in, making our hands all dry and our hair all brittle, forcing us to turn up the heat and drag out our winter clothes, and picking on poor defenseless flowers in our garden. Of course, he also brings brilliant fall colors, the relaxing crackle of a cozy fire in the fireplace, the absolute need to make hot chocolate with extra marshmallows, and every kid’s dream….SNOW! So, I can’t say I dislike Old Man Winter entirely. And tho I can’t offer much help with dry hands or brittle hair, I can offer some advice for those poor flowers he’s been picking on.
Frostbitten plants aren’t pretty. Black tips, mushy stems, curled leaves, wilted blooms. Your first instinct is probably to rip them right out the ground, or at the very least trim away the dying parts of the plants. But your mother was right when she said patience was a virtue. Patience is exactly what you need to bring those plants back to life.
So first things first, understand that some plants aren’t meant for cold weather. If you still have begonias or impatiens in your garden for example, you really don’t need to try to save them. They weren’t designed for the cold weather. But if you have perennials, shrubs, or cold weather flowers like pansies and snapdragons, don’t give up on them. They will most likely come back all on their own if you give them the time they need.
Second, resist the urge to prune. Pruning will only lead to new plant growth. New plant growth is tender and fragile. It won’t survive the next frost and will result in even more frost damage to your already ailing plants and shrubs. Don’t fertilize them either. This will also lead to new plant growth. So put the clippers away until around March or April, when the temperature is warmer and the chance of frost has passed. Once you see new growth on the plant, you can fertilize them again.
And thirdly, keep watering your plants. Even tho it looks like the plant is dead, it probably isn’t entirely a goner. So just keep watering your plants just like you always do. And when the weatherman predicts another frost, cover them up just like you always do. Remember woven fabrics provide more protection from frost than sheets of plastic.
Then just sit back and wait for Old Man Winter to take a nap and you will see happy blooms again in no time. We also suggest stocking up on some cocoa and marshmallows as well. It won’t help revive your plants, but it’s guaranteed to help YOU survive the winter…
Old Man Frost just purchased a first class ticket today, and with his bags packed full of ice, snow, freezing temperatures, and the occasional blizzard, he boarded his plane and is now headed our way. Internal Winter Weather Alarms have been reported to be going off in the minds of thousands across the area as they diligently began dragging out coats, scarves, hats, gloves, thermals, fuzzy slippers, ear muffs, space heaters, electric blankets and Snuggies® all in preparation of his arrival. No word yet on just when Old Man Frost’s plane is scheduled to land, but we can officially report that he is definitely in route. The question is, are you ready to meet him??? Better yet, are your flower beds ready to meet him???
Now, I know he sounds scary. Anyone carrying a blizzard in their suitcase has got to be a little scary. But in reality, he’s not quite as terrifying as you might think. And he does actually serve a purpose in that whole ‘world goes ‘round’ scheme of things. Why if Old Man Frost didn’t make an appearance every now and then, those deer you hunters like to hunt probably wouldn’t be moving around quite as much, making it just a bit harder to obtain the legendary 12 point buck you’ve had your eye on all Summer. But before you put on all your camo gear and head out into the woods, take a moment to help your flower beds prepare first.
The most obvious thing you can do to protect your precious blooms from frost is to cover them up. Blankets, old sheets, burlap, even a heavy layer of mulch can keep your flowers snug as a bug when the temperature begins to drop. Some people like to use a sheet of plastic, but woven fabrics will provide more protection than plastic. Of course, whatever heating method you use will have to be removed when the sun reappears to prevent the plants from suffocating.
The least obvious thing you can do is to water them. Yes I said water them. I know it sounds crazy, but watering your flower beds thoroughly a day or two before a heavy frost can actually keep them warmer. Wet soil holds more heat than dry soil. And a plant that might suffer from cold stress doesn’t need the added stress of lack of water too. So grab the hose and douse them. Keep in mind, this is a day or two before the heavy frost, not the day of or the day after. The water needs time to soak in. Water on leaves or blooms during a freeze can cause the plants to suffer freeze damage. You can however give them a light watering in the evening, before the temperature begins to plummet. This will raise the humidity levels and reduce frost damage. Watering before a frost works with fruit trees too. And spraying the actual fruit before a freeze can shield the fruit from freeze damage. After the frost, wait until the sun and temperature comes up before you water them again.
And with those two simple steps, your flower beds are ready for Old Man Frost!!!
So go ahead and put on your camo gear guys and find that legendary deer. Don’t forget your safety orange. And if you see Old Man Frost, tell him we’re ready for him!!!
Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia
Once upon a time, in the Orient far away, a Queen was born. Her name? Camillia. No delicate flower, Camillia was known to flourish in cooler months, boasting stunning colors and dazzling onlookers clear into April. But one day, she grew tired of her surroundings and decided she wanted to see the world. So in the late 1700s, Camillia left the Orient and headed out into a brand new world. Today, she’s making an appearance right here in our very own Greenhouses.
Camillias are woody perennials that perform best when planted in the Fall. They prefer a slightly acidic, well-drained soil. If you have Azaleas, you can create a life-long friendship when you plant the Camillia close by. They also make excellent container plants. Now I know, it’s tradition to immediately fertilize your plants as soon as you get them in the ground, but the Camillia is a light eater and would prefer that you not feed her until Spring. Avoid over-feeding her as well, because she has been known to pout and refuse to produce as many blooms. She’s not an avid swimmer either, so try to keep her on higher ground. Since it’s difficult to purchase sunscreen for shrubs, you may want to plant your Camillia in a shady spot to avoid burning her foliage in the full sun. Camillias should be pruned immediately after their blooms fade and new spring growth begins to flower. Heavy mulch, two to three inches thick, is recommended since they are not a drought tolerant shrub. But while all the other flowers go on strike during those bitter winter temperatures, your Camillia will proudly stand against the winds and supply your garden with lasting color.
Now don’t dally. The Queen is waiting. Be sure to stop by and see her soon…
For more information on Camillias visit The American Camillia Society.
Costume? Check. Flashlight? Check. Giant bag to fill up with free candy? Check!!!! I’ve even got a back-up bag too just in case my first bag gets full. Now I just have to decide if I want to trick-or-treat on Saturday or Sunday??? Or maybe I should just go crazy and trick-or-treat both nights for double the sugary delights! That’s right, cuz this year Halloween falls on a Sunday and depending on where you live, you might just get the chance to celebrate Halloween for two nights instead of just one. And you don’t have to limit your Holiday Fun to just trick-or-treating. There are plenty of Haunted Houses, Fall Festivals, and Halloween Parties to keep that Holiday Spirit going clean thru the weekend.
But whichever ghoulish activities you decide to attend, remember your safety rules. Carry a flashlight. Only visit well-lit houses in familiar neighborhoods. Double check all candy and goodies before letting the kiddos dig in (and be sure to swipe a few candy bars for yourself for taking those lil ones door to door all night long). Stay on the sidewalks. And avoid unfamiliar pets.
Now for those of you that are more into giving out the treats rather than going to get some treats, you will be sure to entice more trick-or-treaters your way with lots of festive and unique decorations that you can pick up right here at Parks Brothers.
If you still need help deciding which night you want to get your scare on, check out 5 News for the 411 on when and where all the fun will be taking place.
See you at the Greenhouse! And Happy Boo Day!!!!
Ahhh, feel that crisp cool breeze, stock up on that Halloween candy, and take in that stunning view as the leaves begin to turn shades of gold, orange, and red… I don’t know about all of you, but after that ultra-hot Summer, I’m thinking Fall has never looked so good!!!
The inferno-style heat really did a number on our landscaping here at the farm. But with the cooler temps ahead of us, we’re sending those sad old spring flowers packing and bringing in some fresh new faces to liven things back up. And with Halloween less than a week away, it’s high time to transform your yard into a spooky playground for all those trick-or-treaters coming your way. Don’t worry, we’ve got all the Fall Decor you will ever need right here on the farm. Our Retail Girls have been busy lil pumpkins and have created a whole greenhouse full of fanciful characters for your Fall Scene. And our pansies, violas, snapdragons and mums are in full bloom, eagerly awaiting a new garden to call home. We also have wheat straw, corn stalks, gourds and pumpkins to complete your Fall Make-Over!
Don’t forget that Fall is the perfect time to plant new trees. And in honor of the perfect tree-planting season, we’ve slashed our prices on all our fruit trees by 40%!!!
So grab your garden gloves, drag out that spade, and let’s transform our gardens one pansy at a time!!!
I like pansies almost as much as I don’t like mums. They have all the attributes that mums lack and their only drawback is that they don’t like it hot.
What other flower can you plant that will last for seven to even nine months? You can plant them in September (if it cools off early enough) and they’ll look good until April or even May (if it doesn’t get too hot). In additions to that, you have a lot of vibrant colors to chose from and here in the south if the winter is mild enough, they will bloom all winter long especially if you live in Zones 8-9.
The biggest challenge to growing pansies it the timing. When will your sales peak? Last year it was late October. This year we needed them all ready the third week of September. Next year, who knows? So much goes into determining how many to grow and when to try to have the pansies ready. We rarely have perfect weather for growing them so we are constantly either trying to keep them short, bushy and blooming or pushing them to hurry up and bloom while simultaneously growing the perfect plant. Our growers and waterers do a great job doing this, and we have great crops of pansies each year.
So this year, with the hot summer two things happened. First, the heat impeded the pansies uptake of nutrients which put all of our crops a week or two behind. Second, the heat cooked everyone’s flower beds so EVERYBODY wanted them replaces as soon as possible. These two conditions led to what I call The Great Pansy Famine of 2010 also known as “Shoot, we’re sold out of pansies and the next crop won’t be ready for another 10 days.”
But it looks like the famine may be nearing the end. We have parts of tow crops of J6 ready with one more coming on that will be ready in about 10-14 days. Plus two more crops of #4 pansies. We also have #6.5 and #12 mums that are still in Bud or are Cracking some color with a few that have some Light Color, plus the ornamental cabbage and kale to go with all of them.