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March 24, 2000     Cape Gazette
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March 24, 2000

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62 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, March 24 - March 30, 2000 GARDEN & FARM Elllngsworth photo Sussex Gardeners host plant auction Sussex Gardener's plant auction co-chairs 8uzanne Jones, left, and Bobbye Barlow are shown with items from the event at the March 16 club meeting. The gardeners' annual auc- tion features items brought in from members of the club, plus a program tailored around the event. The club meets monthly at All Saints Episcopal Church on Olive Avenue in Rehobeth Beach. Cape High prepares for agriculture program By Jim Cresson Making hay while the sun shines, Cape Henlopen School District last year sought and obtained $300,000 in grants to launch an agriculture program at the high school, and this year the district is making ready to open the program to students in the fall. The idea for the vocational- technical type program has been brewing with the current school board for the past few years, explained school board member Barry Porter. It gained wider sup- port last spring when Louder Mitchell and Lynn Davenport of the Lewes Grange pledged their endorsement, with some Grange funding assistance and with their participation on a district com- mittee to study the proposal and work out a curriculum plan. Cape Henlopen High School principal Ron Burrows explained the need for the school district to better serve its fanning communi- ty students while also offering a strong curriculum in landscaping and tuff management that would enable graduates to qualify for the growing number of resort jobs in the horticultural, landscaping and golf course maintenance industry. "We really felt a need to get back into the vo-tech branch of public education," Burrows said. "Sussex Vo,Tech High School doesn't always offer the kinds of programs that appeal to our stu- dents, and we recognized a need for this type program." Cape Henlopen High School assistant superintendent Sue Dutton was assigned the responsi- bility of developing a course out- line for the program and wrote the grant applications that eventually brought contributions of $250,000 from the state's School-to-Work initiative, $50,000 from General Assembly to match with $33,000 of local district funds, and a pledge of $5,000 from the Lewes Grange for classroom needs. "With that $330,000, we expect to have a large greenhouse with a computer-rich classroom and lab at one end of it and an instructor, who will be funded half by the grants and half by local district funds," explained program designer Dutton. "French & Ryan architectural firm has drawn the plans, and we're going to bid with the project next week to start con- struction." What will come over the next few months will be a modern, 86- ft. by 36-ft. greenhouse on King's Highway between the high school" Continued on page 63 'These surely will be your salad days' We may never know where mankind came from, whether the Rift Valley of Africa or the plains of China, but we do know what early mankind ate: lettuce. Our common garden lettuce - lactuca sativa - has been grown since before recorded history. Wherever man went, lettuce fol- lowed. Lettuce was grown by the ancient Romans, the Egyptians, the Swedes in early Delaware and the Pilgrims in New England. Lettuce was first and foremost a medicine. Indeed its botanical name, latuca, which is related to our word lactate, refers to its health-giving milky juice. It has long been recommended in ancient herbal books as a seda- tive. During World War II, Great Britain was cut off from its supply of the opium substitute lactucari- um. As fate would have it, a local source was found in the wild let- tuce that sprang up in the bomb craters. To this day garden lettuce has been shown to have a good influence treating forms of bron- GARDEN JOURNAL Paul Barbano cho-pulmonary irritation. The best part from a gardener's stand- point is that this remarkable salad ingredient is so easy to grow. Lettuce prefers cool growing conditions, so plant it as early in the spring as possible. Lettuce will make its best growth when the temperatures are under 65 degrees. Sow lettuce every three weeks for a continuous supply. Lettuce comes in several forms, all easily grown. There is the Iooseleaf lettuce, also called cut and come again, because if you carefully cut ony a few of the leaves, the lettuce will resprout from its roots. One of the most popular Iooseleaf lettuces is black seeded Simpson, an heirloom variety that can be picked for baby greens in just 25 days. Red sails is a beautiful loose leaf variety with deep burgundy leaves that stays crisp for a long time, even in the summer. The aptly named deer tongue has dark green leaves and is also available as red deer tongue with the same distinctive shape leaf with a red edge. Lettuce is an excellent food for poultry, as evidenced by now hard to find, chicken lettuce, another heirloom variety with a constant supply of leaves. Butterhead let- tuce, also known as Boston or bibb lettuce, has large soft outer leaves surrounding a loosely formed head. It is nearly as easy to grow as loose leaf lettuce and has a distinctive buttery flavor that makes it very popular in Europe. Then there are the so called romaine or COS lettuces. Showing off their history, romaine is sim- ply a corruption of the word Roman and cos comes from the Greek island of Kos, both ancient civilizations that grew lettuce. Romaine grows upright with long broad leaves that almost seem to form praying hands. It is the essential ingredient in Caesar sal- ads. In addition to dark green romaine lettuce, there are the red spotted freckles and red-blushed Rosalita. Finally, there is the ice- berg lettuce, or as it was known in the Middle Ages, the cabbage let- tuces. These are the familiar bas- ketball size head of lettuce seen so often in supermarkets. After sam- pling cos or even black seeded Simpson leaf lettuce, iceberg let- tuce will seem bland indeed. Ironically, iceberg lettuce is the most difficult for the home gar- dener to grow, though a variety like Great Lakes might be less of a challenge. Plant lettuce about !/4 inch deep, an inch apart, in rows a foot or foot and half apart. Choose a light soil with a neutral PH of 5.8 to 6.5. If you must fertilize, use fish emulsion or 5-10-10 commercial fertilizer. When the lettuce seedlings have two or three leaves, thin to eight inches apart or perhaps a foot apart for the ice- berg types. Thinnings make an excellent, tender addition to sal- ads. In the heat of summer, let- tuce has a tendency to bolt, that is, to go to seed. Hot weather and lack of moisture both will hasten bolting, making the lettuce bitter and inedible. Mulch and water generously to delay bolting. If you are saving your own seed choose the last plants to bolt, so that in effect you will selecting for summer hardy lettuce. Plant let- tuce now, and as Shakespeare tells us in Anthony and Cleopatra, "these will surely be your salad days." Paul Barbano writes about gar- dening and farming from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Address questions or comments to him do the Cape Gazette.