We’re heading for hotter weather, so keep an eye on your cool-weather plants. Regular spinach is probably done for the season, so rely instead on Malabar or New Zealand spinach, Swiss chard or other green leafy materials for salad-making. Sweet potato leaves are edible, but I prefer them cooked. They’re delicious in stir-fry. Some lettuce is bred to withstand heat, but even that will grow better if you can arrange some shade for it. Some folks make a tiltable quonset-shaped tent to shade lettuce, and others plant lettuce under pole bean tripods. Any way you can shade lettuce works.
One of the lettuce varieties bred for hot weather is Anuenue (Hawaiian, so pronounced a-nooey-nooey). It’s a Batavian head lettuce, slow-growing but never bitter. It does prefer regular watering. Batavian lettuces in general seem to be more heat tolerant than other lettuces, according to Janie Burns of Meadowlark Farm in Nampa. If you’re as curious as I, you’ll find Batavia is a city in the Dutch East Indies (Jakarta), but historically it was a term for an area in the Netherlands comprising fertile islands in the delta of the Rhine. As a Norwegian horticulturist friend said, “The Dutch are very clever about plants.”
Unfortunately shade and mulch often enable destructive creatures such as slugs, too, so put out slug bait (that’s safe for pets) or beer traps. We made an A-frame structure covered with chicken wire for cucumbers to climb, and to prevent weed growth under that frame I installed a black plastic garbage bag. When the garden was being cleared for winter, I lifted the bag and found a huge supply of slug eggs (about a cup full of gelatinous BBs). I scooped them up and put them into the trash.
Folks who water their yard and garden using irrigation water often see very large slugs. We are on city water, but I have seen a couple of very large slugs in our yard over 45 years. I don’t know the size of the slug that laid that large mass of eggs, but I’m certainly glad they didn’t hatch in my garden. When slugs attack garden plants, they eat holes completely through leaves. Some folks think the light-colored trails on leaves of spinach, beets, Swiss chard or ornamentals such as Columbines are slug damage, but they’re wrong. Those trails are made by leaf miners, eating (or mining) the cells that lie between the top and bottom of the leaf. They are offspring (maggots) of small black flies that lay eggs on specific plants (such as those previously named), those very tiny white eggs laid in neat little strips so they appear to be white blotches on the backs of leaves until closely examined. Once hatched and entering the leaf, they’re impervious to spray, but you can see them and squish them between finger and thumb.
Some folks spray leaf miner eggs with Neem, a product that apparently prevents hatching of insect eggs, including squashbug eggs. The problem is that the gardener (such as I) can’t remember which egg cluster he/she sprayed, and can use up a $12 can of spray without totally controlling a hatch of destructive insects. Some folks use lint rollers to displace eggs, and others just scrape eggs with fingernail onto the soil away from the plants they’d feed on.
I’ve not found snail problems in the garden, although I’ve seen a few old snail cases. Control of slugs and snails may be by use of beer traps such as shallow cans set in soil with the rim at soil’s surface, and filled with cheap beer. Pets may drink the beer with or without drowned slugs, however. Some baits – iron phosphate, for instance – are safe to use around pets and they kill slugs. Always read and follow the label instructions of any pesticide. Slugs dislike sand, so a good mulch of sand may be protective, or if you have raised beds, put a strip of copper tape or mesh around the bed to repel slugs and snails. If you live in an area free from rattlesnakes, pile rocks at a corner of your yard to encourage snake habitat, for they’ll control slugs, snails, other insects and small rodents.
Newer areas of the city are rattlesnake habitats. There are a lot of snakes (water and garter) along the Boise River, but I wouldn’t count on the area being free of rattlesnakes. They do go into the water too.
Send garden questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.