Mailbag: June Edition

Father And Son Planting Seedling In Ground On Allotment

We love to get feedback from our readers!

Here at Heirloom Solutions, each week we receive many letters. We do our very best to respond to each one personally. Some folks send us questions and others like to share their gardening ideas and experiences. Why don’t you drop us a line, too? Send us your gardening questions, recipes, pictures, and ideas to editor@heirloomsolutions.com and we’ll do our very best to get back to you right away.

Here’s the June edition of our Reader Mailbag…

Q: My lettuce bolted. I don’t want to stop eating fresh salads! Can I grow lettuce in the shade?

A: Yes, no, and maybe. Lettuce is a delicate plant and definitely not a tropical one. It does not do well in hot temperatures. However, that being said, many gardeners have success growing it in the shade during the summer months. Your success will depend on how hot the temperatures are in the shade, and how well you can keep it watered without drowning it.

I live in North Carolina where summer temperatures can stay in the high 90’s for days or weeks on end. I can grow lettuce in the shade if I cross my fingers and hold my tongue right. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Personally, I encourage you to try it – you may have great results! If you don’t, consider it a learning experience. Make sure to select a more heat-tolerant variety of lettuce for best results. Iceberg and romaine lettuce do not grow well at all in the heat, so you’d be better off choosing a butterhead or looseleaf variety.

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One last parting word – lettuce in the summer cannot tolerate afternoon sun, so make sure your shady area stays shady during that critical time of day. It may be able to tolerate a little dappled sun or early morning sun.

Q: I successfully started tomato seeds, but after I put them in the garden they suddenly died. What happened?

A: Good question. I can only guess what might have happened to them without knowing more, but my best guess is that they were either dehydrated or suffered transplant shock.

Transplant shock happens when a seedling is taken from the comforts of indoors, from steady temperatures and nice grow lights and suddenly put into the garden without what we call a “hardening off” period. Hardening off your transplants is a critical step that should never be missed. Your seedlings should be taken outside for a few days, if not weeks, and allowed to safely adjust to the conditions outside. This is done by putting them in the cool shade and slowly introducing them to the sunlight and fluctuating temperatures. As the days go by, you gradually increase exposure to daytime sunlight, taking care to keep the seedlings well hydrated during the entire process.

Often beginning gardeners (or impatient experienced ones) will skip this important step. Sometimes the seedlings will survive anyway, but often they do not and will die quickly once exposed to the hot spring or summer sun. Try to think of your seedlings like little children. They have to learn to roll over and sit before they learn to crawl or walk. Likewise, your plants need to learn to tolerate the all-powerful sun, especially if they have been started indoors. Most direct-sow plants do not need this hardening off period as they have adapted to outdoor growing conditions from the very start.

If that wasn’t the case, I would guess your plants probably died from lack of moisture, or from too much moisture. Again, think of them like children. They require regular nutrition (water) when they are little, but too much of it will make them sickly.

Good question, and better luck next time!

Q: Why are my pepper plants turning yellow?

A: There are several possibilities.

1) Spider mites can be a problem for pepper plants. Check for any insect damage.

2) Lack of nitrogen can make a plant turn yellow. Consider re-mineralizing your soil and adding necessary nutrients for optimum plant growth. I recommend SeaMazing.

3) Lack of water or drought stress can cause plant discoloration. Make sure the peppers are well-hydrated without drowning them. Offer them a daily watering for a few days in a row to see if this helps with plant color and overall plant health.

Re-Mineralize Your Soil And Enjoy Better Harvests

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