Bolting lettuce and frozen tomatoes.

I never claimed to have a green thumb.

In fact, I think I proclaimed this year as “The Year of Learning” for our garden, didn’t I? Well, a few lessons have landed in our lap in the month since we got our bathtub plants in the ground. The first one is “growing tomatoes in Park City is next to impossible without a greenhouse.” Toward the end of June (!!), we had a bit of a cold snap where temperatures at night dipped into the 30s. We covered our garden structures with a blanket on one of the chilly evenings, but missed a night and lost three of our four tomato plants. John and I replaced them quickly, with large plants that we hoped would produce juicy fruits sooner than later. But again, we had a couple of cold nights. It didn’t get down to freezing, but it was cold enough to kill all four tomatoes and a hot pepper plant, too! Before our trip to Montana, we got our third batch of tomato plants in the ground and are doing our best to be vigilant with covering the garden when the temperature drops. But, honestly? It’s July. If we lose any more plants, I might resign myself to buying summer tomatoes at the Farmers Market and planting carrots and potatoes in that garden plot, instead!

The second lesson is about lettuce. While the tomatoes didn’t like the cold weather, the lettuce apparently loved it. We have two leafy lettuce plants that were growing like crazy, and four little romaine lettuce plants that are now starting to take off! Before we went to Montana, I noticed what looked like a bloom on the top of one of the leafy varieties. In a matter of days, this had happened:

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True gardeners are shaking their heads knowingly.

I figured that, as with herbs, you want to remove the blooming part before it actually blooms. Flowering causes the plant to stop growing the things we want to eat, like the leaves of herbs and lettuce. I hopped online to learn how to pick lettuce properly and learned that my half-bloomed lettuce was a goner.

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It had bolted, which is when the plant stops growing and focuses all its energy on the bloom. Great for the plant, bad for hungry gardeners– bolted lettuce is very bitter, and sometimes tough. A sign that lettuce has bolted is a milky substance in the stalk. Like this.

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Sigh.

Apparently, a cold snap followed by extreme heat (hello, recent Park City inferno) can shock a plant into bolting. So we chopped this lettuce, and tossed it in the compost bin- the bitter leaves aren’t salvageable. Bummer! I did pick plenty of leaves from the other lettuce plants before our trip. I also grabbed the tops of our basil and a few chives. The cucumber and zucchini had a few yellowish leaves, but plenty of blossoms.

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Look at this pretty little harvest- our first! We enjoyed an awesome salad on July 2 that tasted more delicious because we grew it.

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We were away from home for a full week, first at Sundance and then in Montana. The weather had been hot, and I was worried about the garden. I took stock last night before dinner, and everything seems to be growing! The cucumber and zucchini are getting bigger, but slowly- especially the cucumber. I’m used to zucchini and cucumber plants taking over the plot. To my green thumb friends: is the little guy too hot? Do he need more water? Less water?

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The hot peppers are still growing, with a few flowers on them. The replacement tomatoes seem to be good- third time’s the charm, right? I even picked two Sun Sugar babies for our salad! The romaine seems to have found its happy place. And the rest of the herbs are good- especially the cilantro, which I’ve never been able to keep alive!

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This year is certainly surprising so far. It’s early July, so I know we still have some time before it’s truly harvest season. The good news? The garden structures are bomber. Not a nibble on any plant.

Except by us. Take a look at last night’s harvest! Now that was a salad.

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Hopefully, we’re out of the tomato-freeze woods. But you never know in Park City.

Share your garden struggles and triumphs with me!

(Garden progress from start to finish can be found here, here, here, and here.)

6 replies »

  1. I grew lettuce one year and raised my hands in surrender – ha! I am trying herbs this year and the dill is out of control, but the rest of the herbs are doing well. It has not been a good planting year with the highs and lows and extreme highs and lows wearing on the plants. Happy Gardening – Love Your Bounty – Happy Weekend:)

  2. Even garden “troubles” are delightful! That salad…mmm, mm. Bolting is common here since, in the in-between seasons, our temps can fluctuate 40 degrees. However, summer is a whole different problem. It’s just too flipping HOT. Been 100 degrees here nearly every day this month with no rain to speak of in this usually sub-tropical setting.

    And I’m living in an apartment. Daily, we go to the house and pick what we can, which isn’t much considering we share yield with our neighbors (the not-feathered two-legged and the six-legged varieties), but getting SOMETHING is all that’s needed to keep my wheels in motion. Right now, it’s figs, tomatoes, eggplant, basil and chives, and we cook around those. Never to waste a homegrown! Fortunately, our farmer has potatoes too. Can’t wait until Sept when we’re moved back in and getting ready for fall greens: my fav.

    Don’t let a little thing like bolting get you down. Gardening is one part effort, two parts persistence, and three parts flexibility. You just gotta roll with it, baby 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your joys and your not-so-joys. It’s all part of the process and we who are not so perfect at it appreciate your candor!

    • You’re still in the apartment? Gah. Home will feel incredible when you return.
      We’re learning, that’s for sure- and the lettuces that survived are thriving. Now we know! I’ve just got my fingers crossed for our tomato plants… we ate two little cherry toms the other day but I want LOTS. Like tomato sauce lots.
      “Not so perfect” should be my middle name… 🙂 Happy Sunday, Shannon!

      • “Lots of tomatoes…” Is a noble goal.

        Hey, if you have Netflix, watch the feel-good stream of DisneyNature: Wings of Life. It tells the fabulous story of the intimate relationship between flowers and pollinators, as told (by Meryl Streep) from the perspective of the flower. Simply beautiful. You’ll never look at a tomato blossom quite the same afterward.

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