24 Aug 2009

Promiscuity on the Patch…

Sowing a variety of lettuce seeds for a bit of late summer salad is proving to be a promising investment. But concern for the appearance of our tender leaves is leading us to a bit of old style matchmaking. We need to marry them off before they're ruined by spending the night with too many pests. (My own sweet peppers were positively decimated overnight by a herd of hungry caterpillars.)

Which leads us down the aisle to companion planting, that old favourite of organic gardeners. Some time in the past, I've read that mint is a good companion for lettuce. Jekka McVicar, in her New Book of Herbs (my copy published in 2002, so now not so new), denounces mint as promiscuous, having cross-bred, inter-bred and generally misbehaved. And who can blame them when no-one can resist giving their verdant leaves a quick squeeze in order to release that glorious smell? But perhaps not what we want, although the leaves of Spearmint (mentha spicata) make lovely tea and add a certain 'je ne sais quoi' to a salad or dish of couscous.

Having researched a little further, it would seem that radishes or strawberries make the ideal partners for lettuce, which is good as we have plenty of those. But I still think we should give those naughty but nice little mint plants some space, even if we do have to contain them amongst the cabbages.


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