Friday, 5 November 2010

Lettuces are really daisies in diguise......

Gorgeous still day today - wonderful looking out into the sea here.
It’s one of those days here – lovely and bright – pretty wind free, which is really UNLIKE the few days before which have been gale central - 50-60mph winds and sideways rain/hail. Today is the kind of day that make you think – wow – what a place! I’m teaching later (Veggie Gardening for beginners) and trying to get together a no-nonsense fact sheet about growing this weeks topic……………..The Daisy and if we've time, also the Beetroot Family. We’ve started out our veggie class with the basics (I’m helping a local gardening ‘guru’ with this new veggie class) – how to prepare a garden, what you’ll need, shelter, crop rotation etc and its amazing to hear him talk. He languidly and freely imparts his knowledge letting his students ‘imbide’ his wisdom – I on the other hand am not quite at this level yet – gabbling nonsense until somehow or other I manage to stop and breathe.

Now none of this is particularly rocket science (well it might be if you like growing herb rocket…………) but up here in the soggy, windy north the way we have to grow things is a bit different to those folks elsewhere in the UK. Up here spring arrives here shortly before summer starts (I think it might even be the day before some years) late April/early May – autumn tends to be a sodden blink of the eye when we’re practically in winter again, by um October its winter again. OK I’m exaggerating slightly but you get the gist – not much of growing season here – if you want veggies here in the garden you have to be more like a sprinter than a marathon runner – short bursts of activity at just the right time – reap many rewards.

Pick up a normal gardening book here and you have to do a fair bit of guess work as to WHEN exactly you can do anything and IF you do it the same way as in the books – mostly is not the same – in fact someone should write a book about HOW to garden in the north of the UK because I’m blown if I can find anything that is very relevant to a lot of Scotland never mind up here…a tirade for another time I think! Back to thinking about veggie gardening.

Luckily (or not?) I’m big on plants and do like pretty handouts/hands on experience in the class room so whatever I forget to babble out - will be safely written down for others on the sheet. So I like the stage we’ve got to now that we’re tackling the main veggies by group or family. As a lot of vegetables are in the same plant ‘family’ it makes a lot of sense to treat them together I suppose – growing all the ‘Alliums’ or the ‘onion family’ – (e.g. onion, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives etc) together because they will like the same types of conditions does indeed sound sensible. But then again, when you tell folk that lettuces are in fact daisies – they look at you a bit odd, but infact lettuces are daisies - honest!!

Anyway enough of my mumbling rubbish! Vegetables very nicely fit into 8 main plant families – well nine if you chuck in a group called miscellaneous………………These are important to know once your garden is up and running, to ensure correct 'crop rotation' which avoids build-up of pests and diseases. Sort of makes a lot of sense unless of course you think about potato family which is a funny group of hot/cold lovers – although they like similar things – they like them in different locations! Knowing the families often helps figure out what to grow where. When you're planning next years veg - it might be helpful to look at it that way....

Vegetable Plant Families – what on earth are they - ok I'll spill the beans.............Well really they cover the main things we eat – so we’re covering them together, although in no particular order.

1. Pea and Bean family – Leguminosae (Broad Bean, French Bean, Runner Bean, Pea)

2. Onion family – Alliaceae (Garlic, Leek, Onion, Shallots)

3. Cabbage family - Brassicaceae (Cruciferae) (Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Radish, Rocket, Swede, Turnip ,Oriental Brassicas (eg Kohlrabi))

4. Beetroot family – Chenopodiaceae (Beetroot, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Spinach Beet or perpetual spinach, Fat hen)

5. Potato family – Solanaceae (Potato, Tomato , Aubergine, Peppers and chili’s)

6. Daisy family – Compositae (Lettuce, Chicory/Endive, Jerusalem Artichoke, Salsify/Scorzonera)

7. Carrot family – Umbelliferae (Carrot, Celeriac, Celery, Fennel, Parsley, Parsnip)

8. Marrow family – Cucurbitaceae (Cucumber, Courgette, Marrow, Melon, Pumpkin, Squash)

9. Miscellaneous reprebates (Corn, Lambs Lettuce, New Zealand Spinach)

So far  in our class we’ve covered the first two groups (the legumes and the alliums) and I’m devising fact sheets/good web resources for each family as we go (If you want any via mail/email - please get in touch - I might try and upload them on here for anyone who wants them). My partner in crime (Tall charming gentleman with the languid teaching style) is covering Crusifers later (Cabbages) and I’m on cue to tackle Beetroot & Spinach and family & co and Daisies that you eat (Lettuces)……..which will no doubt be at breakneck speed but with alot of enthusiasm!

The daisy family - full of potential!

1 comment:

  1. I think you should be the one to write the book on gardening in Scotland! You'd be brilliant!