Sunday, 3 November 2013

HEAD LETTUCE Growing in Arizona fields


I have had a request for more information about lettuce.  When I did the last post about lettuce I said I would post information about head lettuce.  Well, I guess it is about time to "make good" my promise - or was it a threat?  In any case, I now offer some pictures and information about how they grow head lettuce in Arizona.  My pictures were taken in the Wellton, AZ area.
* * *

 If you can make it out the caption is "Massive field of head lettuce".
Actually, this is not a really big field.  Bigger ones are grown south of Yuma, they are 
visible from Highway 95 that runs to the Mexican border.

In the foreground is the remnants of harvested lettuce which will be plowed under.


Only the highest quality lettuce heads are bagged then boxed.
Lower quality heads are just put in boxes, not bagged first.
Very low quality heads or heads that are too large for marked are put in very large
containers (about 3' deep and 4' square)


Even in the heat the workers wear hats, scarves & long sleeve clothing to protect from
sunburn and possibly chemicals.

 Close-up view of the bagging station.  Loaded boxes go onto the trailer and when it is fully loaded the trailer is pulled from the field to the roadside where it will be taken by truck to a cooling station at the packing plant before being shipped all over the country & to Canada

 Lettuce quality is judged by many standards including size.  If there are many heads not quite large enough for market they field may be picked a second time a while later.  If the heads are too large for market (retail sales like grocery stores) then they will go into the large bins where they are washed & chopped up for bulk sales.  (perhaps your favourite salad bar?)



The cooling plant shown in the pictures above was in use in Wellton AZ when the pictures were taken but it was dismantled a few years ago and the trailer loads of lettuce are now trucked in to Yuma to be processed.  (A trip of about 30 miles)

I think that is enough about lettuce - I will try to post other crops soon.


Tuesday, 9 July 2013



Just a couple of pictures to show how things are going here in SUNNY (for a change) Duncan.

* * * 

 Hanging basket, look closely at the blue pansy at top right - do you see what I see?

 Something we don't often notice - a white spider and what amazed us was that it had captured
a bee & killed it!

 The potatoes are gone, as mentioned previously they were volunteers...and they were tasty!
I think we got about 2 or 3 kg from the 3 or so plants.
As you can see, the squash plants are doing well.

 The main squash plant that is producing the most greenery (and has some squash forming nicely)
is located in the corner of the raised bed on the right next to the greenhouse.  And YES, it is doing a great job of taking over everything!  It went across the 5 foot raised bed, up the 8 foot plank, and is now busy trying to smother the greenhouse!  On top of the greenhouse there are 2 or 3 shoots that are setting fruit and it is STILL GROWING!  I think it has grown at least a foot in the last 2 days and I have had to cut the ends off some of the side shoots off the main vine or it would be a huge mess.  To the left of this vine (Sweetmeat Squash) is another squash plant which is probably about 3' or 4' from the Sweetmeat and it is something new to us - it is called "Gold Nugget" and is supposed to have fruit about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds, orange flesh, round, good keeper.  In the center of the support for the scarlet runner beans is a second Gold Nugget.  The Gold Nugget variety does not set vines but instead it grows "bush style" much like a zucchini.  (I hope to heck it has more flavour than a zucchini!)  This type squash might be better to grow as it takes less room and is not trying to take over the whole garden like the Sweetmeat does.
As shown in last year's blogs, the sweetmeat can go to 10 or so pounds which is a lot of squash for 2 people!  To take care of the big squash Janet cooks it and freezes it.  We will keep you posted as to what the new variety is like and how well it keeps and what it tastes like.

* * *
The rest of our garden is doing quite well.  The strawberries produced a good crop but are done for the season now and I have to thin out the plants as there were too many crowded together which meant a lot of berries spoiled.  I am also starting some runners from the strawberry plants I have in the greenhouse as they are "everbearing" and I think having plants that produce fewer berries over a longer period of time might be just what we need rather than a big crop all at once.  We made strawberry jam this year and now we have enough jam (blackberry, raspberry, plum) to last us for many years!  And in addition to jam, we have a load of raspberry and blackberry jelly.
The raspberry patch is choked up with new and old canes.  I have lost count of how many raspberry shoots/runners that I have given away this year already.  Actually I just gave up trying to keep count after I hit 60 or 70!!!  They got snapped up quickly after being offered on "Cowichan Freecycle" - lots of happy people got plants.

Inside the greenhouse, a few changes have taken place.  There were 8 or 10 raspberry shoots that went under the wall of the raised beds and came up in the greenhouse then grew up to the roof and wanted to keep going.  I topped and kept 2 canes in there just to see what they would do and gave the others away.  One support for peas has been taken out and may find itself in one of the outside raised beds.  The lettuce didn't even bother to form heads - some of the butter crunch looks more like Romaine lettuce.  Too much nitrogen in the soil that we purchased to fill the raised beds is making the plants grow like mad but they are not what you really want.  Our tomato plants are up to the roof and topped, some tomatoes on the are nearly the size of a tennis ball already so we are waiting for some nice tasty fruit instead of the "store bought" imitations.
Our cylinder beets are doing well with some showing roots as thick as a broomstick and doing well as far as length is concerned.  We use cylinder beets as they can develop without each beet taking up much room and they make nice even size slices for pickled beets (which all the family loves).
The carrots are growing nicely but it will be a while before there is anything there to taste but we have been eating green beans on a regular basis.  The variety I tried this year doesn't seem to be producing quite as well as the purple ones we usually grow.  Guess we will change back next year.  Speaking of beans, the scarlet runner beans are already past the 6' mark so I am trying to train them on horizontal strings up in the air which makes picking much easier.  We used to do that when we had a 6' high fence around our swimming pool when we lived in Cowichan Bay and it sure was nice to walk along and pick all the beans that were hanging there in front of you instead of having to fight your way through the foliage to find them.

* * *
Till next time - 
Happy Gardening!

Friday, 14 June 2013



The middle of June, soon the days will start getting shorter, but we are now starting
to enjoy the bounty of the garden.  Lettuce, peas, bush beans and strawberries!  And it won't be long before we are picking raspberries.  The volunteer potatoes are trying to take over the garden and the Sweet Meat Squash is sending out a nice healthy vine.  

* * *  THE GOOD * * *


Our helpers in maintaining soil quality.  Compost workers!
If you have good soil you should be able to find these helpers
in moist places around some plants.  If your compost pile
is working right there should be loads in there!

* * * THE BAD * * *


A different type of wireworm and beetle.

Size comparison

The CUTWORM  Another nastycritter
Shown in the picture is 2 larvae cases plus the active cutworm

In the past we have been bothered by cutworms and wireworms.
Not wanting to put poison in areas of the garden that produce food,
we decided to try beneficial nematodes.  We purchased a package of
nematodes from a local garden centre and kept them in the refrigerator
until we were ready to apply them.  You need warm soil and you have to 
apply them with a good amount of water so they disperse into the soil where
they hunt out various larvae etc.  (Look it up on the internet!)

Since we applied the nematodes we have been seeing a large number of
"critters" that look like wireworms only they are dark grey in colour and
seem to be thinner than wireworms.  Most of these are near the top of the soil
with many of them dead on the surface.  The local nursery confirms they are 
wireworms but I am still baffled by the size and colour as they don't match what
we have seen in the past.  I might have to send samples to the Canadian
Dept. of Agriculture to have the species confirmed.  There are a huge number
of different varieties but these look different than any I see on the internet.


Ever see what you think is a giant mosquito?
It is probably a Crane Fly !

In the larval stage the Crane Fly can make a mess of a lawn.
Circular patches of dying grass usually indicates damage done
by the crane fly larva.  If you turn over a segment of the sod you 
will likely see some of these worms.  Nematodes will do them in!


A garden that is thriving is a beautiful sight.

I guess an explanation is needed - the closest bed is 5'x8' and is home to a variety of plants.
The big plant at the left end is potato, and there are a few of them that volunteered from last year.
They are gone beserk!   At the right end of the bed is our Sweetmeat Squash and it has grown a huge amount.  Last year the same variety grew up onto the roof of the greenhouse so this year I am giving it a helping hand by putting a plank up for it to climb on.  Last year the squash that hung from the vine were more pear shaped than squash shaped!  The scarlet runner beans are hidden in behind the potato plants and a very large chive plant is also partly hidden.
The "tent" covers our 4'x8' bed of strawberries.  They are LOADED!  I made the framework to support mesh to keep the birds out.  I then had to add a strip of plastic along the bottom as the birds were hopping up and getting the berries along the edge.  Then I added a very think plastic drop sheet (for painting) to keep the rain off the berries, and we sure did have a few days of downpours.  ("showers" according to the weatherman - ha!)

 Ahhh yes, the greenhouse.  Beets on the left as well as lettuce and peas.  All doing nicely.
On the far right the tomato plants are getting huge and I had to trim off some of the bottom leaves as they were shading the carrots.  Closer in, the bush beans are producing & we have tried them out.  A new (to us) variety that is OK but perhaps not as tasty as the "Royalta" (purple beans) that we grew last year.  The Egyptian onions are falling over, even though tied up (sort of ) and are producing "bulblets" that I am harvesting and setting out for green onions.  

 Janet's flower garden at the front of the house is doing a good job with the Dianthus spreading and the Alyssum that self seeded from last year is doing great.  The variety is "Carpet of Snow" and that is as close to snow as we like to get!

At the end of the bed is a clump of Lavender and also in this bed you can see
Pansies, pink Geraniums and Chrysanthemums.
The bed looks better and thrives better being mulched with cedar bark mulch.

Our "watchdog" likes to lay on the back of the sofa chair and keep an eye on who is going past.
I took this picture as it was the first time we had seen her stretched out like a surfer with both hind legs out catching the sun.  If another dog goes by she kicks up a fuss and "yodels".

And that is how things are here in "The Warm Land"  -  Cowichan Valley