Can’t Cut It, Part 2

Little Gem Lettuce compressed  Sadly, my reluctance to cut extends into the potager as well.  I just love looking at the beautiful patterns the veggies make in my raised beds.  Just look at that lovely block of perfect “Little Gem” lettuces. How can I harvest one, and leave an ugly hole?  Even removing a few outer leaves of a pink-tinged rosette of lettuce causes me to pause.  To cut an entire lettuce plant, or a head of cabbage that will ruin the design, is truly a challenge.  I tried at first to just take out the center plant, and then a corner plant, but I couldn’t stand the unbalance, so I’d cut all four corners.  That was too much lettuce to eat at once, so we too often ate two and composted two.  Even worse was when the end result was often admiring the design until the plants actually began to bolt, then cutting the entire block and eating as much as possible before composting the rest.  And doesn’t that entirely defeat the purpose of growing one’s own food so that it can be harvested at the peak of tenderness, flavor, and nutrients?  By allowing it to reach the bolting stage, lettuce is already less tender and more bitter.  It isn’t quite so big a problem with cabbage, because extra heads can be converted into freezer slaw or preserved in other ways, but tell me a good way to preserve lettuce!  I had to cut several lettuce plants in order to create the triangular space for this winter squash plant.

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I do much better with broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers where I can harvest, but the plant (and therefore the design) remains.  However, I found that even with the peppers, I so loved those big, shiny orange bells that I let them remain on the plant too long, picking them only if I found a blemish or I was desperate for one for a recipe.  I did, however, cut the cabbage on the front right in this photo without hesitation.  It was supposed to be a miniature “Pixie” like its neighbors, but obviously wasn’t.  It was growing much bigger and overgrowing the front edging of marigolds and peach alyssum, so “off with it’s head!”

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What to do?  Well, I’ve decided I must just pull on my grown-up pants and hitch them up with resolve.  This, 2017, will be the year that I harvest at the peak of perfection.  I will plant salad crops in smaller batches at a time so less will need to be harvested at once.  Some beds will be divided into four blocks rather than three, so cutting a block will be a smaller harvest.  But, most of all, I will not be so enamored of the design that I forsake the purpose of the potager.  Veggies will be harvested at the peak of perfection.

 

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About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
This entry was posted in garden design, garden planning, gardening, harvest, kitchen gardens, Potager, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Can’t Cut It, Part 2

  1. susurrus says:

    That sounds like a wise resolution!

    Like

  2. Ellie says:

    Wow! You have lots of garden beds! They look amazing! Xx

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    • carolee says:

      I do, and my husband thought I was crazy to build something so large at this stage in my life. When I told him I was putting a veggie garden in the back yard, he thought it would be small! But, it’s 40 beds plus a border on 3 sides inside the fence, and a flower border on the exterior side facing the house. Then I added the lavender slope on the exterior south side, and now I’m planning a cutting garden on the west exterior. The potager looked isolated, so I added the two island shrub beds, and a little primrose path behind the Lady Cottage. And 4 LONG rows of berries between the potager and the woods (the deer are loving that!) I think I’m done adding gardens now, because with that and the gardens around the house it is plenty to fill my time.

      Liked by 3 people

      • They are outstanding! Been working on ours outside and in the greenhouse for 3 years now. Took me over 10 to figure out that beds are the best way to go out her in dry high altitude Colorado. Hope when I am done, mine will look as perfect as yours!!

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      • carolee says:

        Thank you! It may not be perfect to everyone, but it is to me and that’s what counts. I’m really antsy to get the season started, but we are 11 degrees F this morn and covered in frost.

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  3. jennerjahn says:

    Loved this little bit of summer in January. How beautiful. When I think of fresh vegetables and beautiful summer flowers, I kind of hesitate to go on vacation away from home. How do you feel about that?

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    • carolee says:

      It’s really hard for me to leave my gardens, too. I miss them and worry about them, so last year, since it was my potager’s first year, I really didn’t travel much, because I didn’t want to miss seeing anything. I have good neighbors that will water, and am thinking that I may only have a few years left that I can travel, but I can hopefully garden till I drop over. I won’t leave in spring though because it’s too exciting to watch the bulbs emerge and flower, and planting the potager is too much fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful garden. I must admit the beauty of the lettuce bed never caused me not to harvest, but then we had a handsome pet rabbit who loved fresh lettuce. We had incentive.

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    • carolee says:

      I’ve actually been thinking of adding a rabbit to help motivate me, plus those rabbit droppings are terrific. When the children were little (they are all in their 40’s now!) we had rabbits and grew the most huge, amazing cauliflower and broccoli ever!

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  5. Bodger says:

    I love the idea that veggies are left unmolested, rather than spoil the display. No-one eats my artichokes, no matter how hungry they get.

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    • carolee says:

      I’m just having trouble with the guilt…I grew up with “Waste Not, Want Not.” I’m trying to convince myself that if I harvest one small area, there are still dozens and dozens of beautiful areas to look at. Plus it gives me space for new crops all season if I continually harvest. I’m hoping by the time the first lettuces are ready, I’ll be resolved to be happy with the cut/replace method rather than the “admire till it rots” philosophy!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. jenmac13 says:

    What an amazing and beautiful garden! My other half likes a neatly arranged garden but I’m relaxed about maintaining edges and symmetry. I will take your advice about sowing in small batches.
    This year I’m starting a new potager garden in a much bigger space than we had last year. It’s a bit dauntingly massive and is a long way from being a beautiful productive garden like yours.
    How did you get started with your plot?

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    • carolee says:

      If you go back and read my first posts it shows the beginning site and all the sequence of progress. I’ve gardened for decades but this is my first really organized, raised bed style. I’ve always had “cottage style” for flowers and just rows for veggies until I made an informal few raised beds for a Cook’s garden at the herb farm. I found out what a difference it made in terms of work and productivity, so when I sold the farm, I designed and built the potager. Last year was it’s first, and I was amazed at how much food it produced, despite some mistakes on my part. And, I could weed the entire garden in a little over an hour each week, because the weeds never had a chance to get over an inch tall. I’ve had mowed paths in the past, and knew they take too much work and only really look great right after mowing. So, I have landscape cloth covered in mulch for paths. I’m thinking of replacing mulch with gravel though. I’m finding it’s taking lots of time to pull weeds that come up in the mulch and it’s decomposing so fast that I’ll have to redo it this spring—already! At 70, there are other things I want to do with my time than unload 3 truckfulls of mulch and wheelbarrow it. It was kinda fun the first year, but not something I want to have to repeat every spring as I get older!

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      • jenmac13 says:

        Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I especially like the idea of planting quick growing radishes as marker plants for the rows. I’m looking forward to seeing your next posts 😀

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  7. Beautiful garden beds!

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  8. What a beautiful garden!

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  9. What a stunning potager, makes me think of some of the productive gardens in French chateaux.

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  10. karen says:

    Wow, your garden is so beautiful- and productive. My relatives own a herb farm in Cheshire. Virtually every meal is sprinkled with herbs. We recently had pears in red wine with cinnamon sticks – and thyme. It tasted quite amazing. All the best. Karen

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  11. I don’t know if you’ve solved your problem of how to remove lettuces and cabbages without spoiling your bed design, but several things have occurred to me. One, take a head of lettuce from one corner and next from its diagonal opposite, next the center lettuce, as though you are playing tic-tac-toe. Or take one from the outside edge, the next from the opposite side of the outside edge. Do you see? My own plantings tend to be sprawling affairs — I have no raised beds yet and am not sure I want them, although they do seem to help keep things neat. Cheers! Sharyn

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    • carolee says:

      Thanks for the suggestions. Do give raised beds a try, especially for early crops. You don’t have to wait to till or dig…or for soggy ground to dry out before planting. My mother still likes her “old fashioned” garden with long rows, but after I made her ten raised beds, she wouldn’t be without them. I find in my potager, I tend the raised beds more often than the in-ground interior borders because the raised beds are so much easier. Put in a couple, and I’ll bet you’ll love them for spring crops, especially.

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      • Here in Northern California we can plant and harvest nearly year-round unless we have an unusually rainy winter. Where I live, cool weather crops often bolt or scorch in unexpected sun, so I don’t grow many of them. I don’t grow in rows (tried it once and the plants all bent toward the sun — and if I followed the sun I’d have to plant in diagonals across my rectangular yard), but in blocks or groupings.

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