By Roger Erpelding
After planting the early crops on April 25, it was time to check them out, and to see how they were doing. My first night in this area was on June 12. The potatoes looked very good. Just west of the potatoes, I snuck in a row of vine crops. They are up, and I thinned them out by snipping off the extra plants. About 4-6 plants are all I need for each hill. Leaf shape and fragrance are the ways I differentiated and identified these plants.
Just east of the potatoes were lettuce and spinach and what a crop of lettuce it was! I knew I would need to pick it soon, as it was taller than I wanted it to be. So, Friday night, with a large bag in hand, I went to work. I just broke each clump off about 2 inches above the ground. With a little rain and a little good luck, I’ll be picking it one more time before I let it go to seed. As the weather warms, the lettuce will tend to get a little bitter.
The spinach crop was also doing well, and I will be picking it soon. The shape of the leaves is its identifying factor. I’ve purchased enough spinach at the store to know how the leaves feel and I couldn’t help tasting a few of them while I was picking lettuce.
Saturday morning was weeding time. I began along the east edge, where I had planted radishes. They came out along with the weeds. Some of them were going to seed, and it was time for the radishes to go. Unfortunately, I had way too many plants that produced tops only. Some year I’ll get them in early, and have better luck.
It was a great morning to weed these crops as well. It had rained a week earlier, but I couldn’t believe how dry it had become. This end of the garden is full of night shade. Their pungent and rather unpleasant fragrance is its identifier. I have pulled this weed for years, and can tell what it is immediately. It is well adapted, so I pull it just above the soil line; otherwise it’ll break off, and the roots will remain. It is growing rampantly among the spinach and lettuce as well.
What about those carrots? As usual, they are growing in bunches. Sometimes they are too thick, and at other points there are gaps in the rows—pretty typical. The good news is that they are growing well. When in doubt just pinch off a tiny portion of the ferny leaf and take a sniff. They are full of night shade and grass as well.
I did not use a hoe for this purpose, but weeded by hand. This is due to the proximity to the vegetables involved. It is just more efficient for me to weed in this way. Where crops are more spread out, such as green beans or cucumbers, a hoe would be a little more practical.
I had not yet picked all of the lettuce. Tuesday night I was at it again. I picked a nice bag of lettuce last night, and we’ll have tasty salads tonight. I couldn’t believe all of the weeds I missed, so I did some additional weeding as well.
By the end of the week I will have picked the spinach. Again, I’ll probably find weeds I missed, but that won’t be a problem. Picking spinach leaves with one hand and pulling weeds with the other is old stuff to me.