Friday, November 20, 2020

Fenton Friday: Garden Fresh Salads Galore

By Nicole Noechel 

I’ve lived in small dorms and apartments for the past four years, so I haven’t had much space to grow my own plants. I tried growing a cherry tomato plant my freshman year, but it began to die in my dorm, and I had to give it to my dad to grow in his garden. 

This semester, having space to grow my own lettuce in the Fenton Street Community Garden has been really fulfilling. Eating a salad with fresh ingredients, including my lettuce and tomatoes and peppers that Kathy Jentz, editor of Washington Gardener, kindly let me take home, makes it taste so much better. 

I planted the Lettuce Leaf 'Salad Bowl Blend' seeds from Botanical Interests in early September. I divided some between two pots that we left in Kathy’s backyard and sprinkled the rest in the community garden plot. I planted way too many seeds in the garden, not knowing how many were left in the packet, and I had to take some out so the crop wouldn’t become too crowded. 

As soon as the potted seeds sprouted, squirrels (or maybe rabbits?) began to dig up and eat them. Not wanting all of my lettuce to suffer the same fate, we covered my garden crop with a cover cloth to keep pests out. It worked well—my lettuce was still able to get the sunlight it needed, but it was safe from rabbits, squirrels, and bugs. 

I visited the garden in early October, and my lettuce was looking great. It still wasn’t ready to be harvested, but it was much taller than the pictures of seedlings that Kathy had sent me a couple weeks earlier. I pulled out any weeds, watered it, and covered it up again, excited to take some home with me the next time I visited the garden. 

By October 20, the lettuce was ready to be harvested. I carefully cut the leaves from the stems, making sure not to uproot any plants so they could continue to grow. I took my lettuce home with me and made some tasty Caesar salads, my favorite kind. I harvested another batch of lettuce a few days ago, on November 17th, and have been making salads with that as well. 

I didn’t think that growing lettuce would be so straightforward and easy, but with Kathy’s help and expertise, it has been a blast! I would definitely like to grow my own food when I move out of my apartment—especially fresh tomatoes, which I’ve enjoyed picking and eating from Kathy’s garden plot throughout the semester. I’ve learned a lot about gardening this semester, like the best ways to water fragile plants and how to cover crops to keep them from being eaten, so I will take those lessons and apply them to my gardening efforts in the future. 

About the Author: Nicole Noechel is a senior multiplatform journalism major and history minor at the University of Maryland. She is interning this fall semester with Washington Gardener.

About Fenton Friday: Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house in zone 7 Mid-Atlantic MD/DC border. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 8th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.) See past posts about our edible garden by putting "Fenton" into the Search box above.

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