My sister recently told me that her lettuce wasn’t doing very well because she hadn’t had time to water it. I told her that shouldn’t matter, and she argued with me, telling me that lettuce needs lots of water. I like to test these “rules” in my own garden, which often makes for some interesting arrangements and results.

On May 5th I bought a mix of lettuce and planted it. I watered it on the day of planting and once after. As you probably recall, we had very little rain in Southern Ontario in the month of May, so my watering was the most the lettuce got.

I was pleasantly surprised how much my lettuce grew in that time.  I had my first salad from my garden this past Monday, and it’s still growing strong, ready for another harvest today. (I know we had a fair amount of rain this past weekend, but I my lettuce was growing very well before that).

My low water lettuce, with one harvest already done.

 

A little about the conditions of my garden; I have a raised garden/retaining wall, which is south facing and has a sandy loam soil mix (thanks to the previous owner). The retaining wall is crumbling, adding to the “well-drained” conditions of the raised garden. I have wood mulch throughout, and lots of it (the other day I was planting some Kale and realized there was over 6 inches of mulch in once area of the garden).

I grow a mix of perennials, annuals and vegetables in my garden, most planted somewhat haphazardly as I use my garden to test and experiment, rather than as a visual masterpiece. Sometimes this works in my favor and a neat little colour combination of plants will reveal itself…

Using lettuce to create foliage interest in your garden.

For the first time ever, my other half actually commented on how great the garden looked, and how beautiful the colours looked (he prefers grass to EVERYTHING).

Dianthus with some chartreuse lettuce for an unexpected colour combo. Both get very little water…

Am I telling you to push your plants into a perpetual state of thirst? Not at all. But stop over-pampering your plants, they are living things and they will adapt to the conditions to survive. They have root systems which will quickly grow or move to find moisture, and at the same time, they will shrink and limit growth if there is too much water. Play with the “rules” of gardening a bit and see what great results you may end up with. Less water will typically amount in better results than too much.

Happy Gardening!

Aileen

Variegated Sweet Iris – Iris pallida ‘Variegata’

This is my favourite perennial (although I say that about a lot of plants). This one is so easy to look after and does not become the clumping mess that some of the bearded irises often grow into. Its leaves are variegated which brings colour to your garden from April right through to snow fall. The sharp contrasting spikes add a great aesthetic value to any garden.

The best part about this iris is the flowers. They are lavender in colour, not such a big deal, but they smell INCREDIBLE! I tell people to plant these close to decks or other sitting areas so when they do bloom, you can pick up the scent while you relax in your garden. What kind of scent does this flower have? I think it is best described as grape candy.  When this one is in bloom, I spend more time than is considered normal with my nose stuck into them while inhaling deeply in a state of scenty bliss.

The technical info:

Exposure: This plant likes full sun (I have some in part shade, it doesn’t do as well, but it survives and flowers)

Water: I can’t recall ever adding water to this iris, expect the day I planted it. If it does need water, the leaves will show a slight droop. With good soil (compost) and mulch, I can’t imagine this would need water except in the case of a severe drought (four or more weeks with no rain or supplemental watering and very hot weather)

Notes: When it’s planted, make sure that the tuber base is not covered in mulch or soil, the tuber needs to get some sunshine.

I haven’t yet to have to divide these, and it’s been over five years since I have planted them.

I pull the dead flowers off after they are done (if I get around to it) and that is the only real maintenance I have ever had to do with this perennial.

Note: I have always looked for the one with the yellow variegations, not the white. I find them more attractive. They can be hard to find, but if you find them, buy them! You will thank me for it.

Combination ideas: Plant this with other plants with dark green foliage with yellow flowers (i.e. Coreopsis). Make sure to place near perennials with rounded leaves to capitalize on the two variations of leaf shape. Plant these in a groups of three at minimum, or in larger groups for larger spaces.

Happy gardening!!!