Ladybug Ladybug, Welcome Home

This growing season has been a tough one for my lettuce table. Normally by Christmas we are out cutting fresh leaves for salad every day. This year the hot – cold – hot temperatures in the fall made for some rough growing. I finally got the right combination of morning sun, umbrella shade in the afternoon and a weekly hit of a 20-20-20 fertilizer and boom! Lettuce for days. Weeks. Months!

As I was cutting the first good crop, I noticed black bugs on the leaves. Like a lot of black bugs. aphids to be exact. It dawned on me later that we’ve always had a praying mantis in the garden. He (she?) reappeared sometime in the fall and apparently she (he?) was working to keep the aphid population in check. But this year he/she didn’t come back so when the mantis is away, the aphids will play.

And play those little bastards did.

I want the lettuce table to be organic so I didn’t want to spray any pesticides.  I used an insecticidal soap which is safe for humans, but allegedly the aphids don’t like it and they should leave when you spray it. I swear to God, those little assholes laughed when I sprayed it on the leaves. I saw one pretending to take a shower with the soap while he laughed with his friends. All the while eating my plants.

When I gave my mom a big bag of lettuce, I told her to make sure to wash it well to get the bugs off. “Don’t worry.” she said. ” I just serve the salad with poppy seed dressing so in case I missed any bugs, you can’t tell.”

It’s amazing I came out as normal as I did.

Anyway. I decided I couldn’t take it any more and after several phone calls to local nurseries and Google searches, I found a retailer that would ship me some ladybugs asap. Ladybugs are natural predators of aphids and they won’t hurt my lettuce. Not to mention they are adorable. Yesterday when the little ventilated box arrived, it was like Christmas. No one should get this excited about a box of bugs…and yet there I was, sprinkling ladybugs onto the leaves of the lettuce saying go! eat, my pretties! eat them all!!! while laughing manaicly.

The kids were entranced by the hard work the ladybugs were doing – within an hour of being on the leaves, they were eating to their hearts content. Gone were the sounds of those little jerks laughing. Now all we could hear was the nom nom nom sounds of the ladybug lunch.

Muuuahhhaaahhhhaahhaa!!!

So delicious. Until you notice the bugs…

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Workin’ hard!

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Fresh Pressed and It Feels So Good

I wanted to take a minute and say thank you. Thank you for my friends and family who  faithfully click the link to The Goon Room despite already getting the posts in email form just to boost the number of hits. Thank you for Word Press choosing to feature TGR on Fresh Pressed and thank you to all the new readers who have subscribed. Lastly, thank you for all the wonderful comments. I hope to bring a little laugh to your days for many years to come!

And now for some business! The delicious lettuce table  featured in yesterday’s post was an obvious hit. So my sweet hubby Peter volunteered to write up the instructions for building the table for anyone that is interested. I will however warn you that the supplies may shock you.

When I asked Peter to build me the table, he was super excited. Little did I know that the process would include not only the supplies to build the table, but it would also include a new top-of-the-line miter saw. A table to mount the saw to. Several new tools including a staple gun (the version we already owned was not right, allegedly), clamps, saw horses and a lot of other crap that I’m sure came home from Lowes but was not shown to me. That said, the result was fantastic – I’m just saying that you’ve been warned! The measurements below can be adjusted. Our table is pretty big, but could be made into a much smaller version for a deck or balcony.

As far as planting, I found that loose leaf varieties of lettuce work great. Seedlings from the nursery didn’t do quite as well. Also spinach needs a little sandier and better draining soil. But the strawberries seem to be loving it so save a space for a few seedlings of berry goodness.

Supplies:

8 – 2”x4” boards (12’ long)

4 – 1”x4” boards (12’ long)

30 – 2 ½” Galvanized Deck Screws

24 – 1 ½” Galvanized Deck Screws

1- 2’ x 12’ Roll of Aluminum Window Screening

1- 2’ x 12’ Roll of Hardware Cloth

Mitre Saw (or a handsaw and some powerful biceps)

Staple Gun (with staples)

Drill (with bit to match screws)

Construction:

The first step in constructing your salad table is to cut your lumber into the following pieces (if you decided to us a hand saw, here is where you earn your keep):

2 – 2”x4”x12’ pieces

6 – 2”x4”x17” pieces

6 – 2”x4”x36” pieces

6 – 2”x4”x32” pieces

2 – 2”x4”x6’ pieces

2 – 1”x4”x12’ pieces

10 – 1”x4”x17” pieces

1.     Now that your lumber is cut, place your two 2”x4”x12’ pieces of lumber on the ground (parallel to each other) about 17” apart.

2.     Take two of your 2”x4”x17” pieces of lumber and place them between the 2”x4”s that are lying parallel on the ground so that you create a rectangle. Now use four of your 2 ½” galvanized deck screws to firmly secure the boards together.

3.     Take your four remaining 2”x4”x17” pieces of lumber and place them between the 2”x4”s that are lying parallel to create five relatively equal planting areas.  Now use eight of your 2 ½” galvanized deck screws to firmly secure the boards together.

4.     Now you get to use everybody’s favorite tool – the staple gun.  Roll out the hardware cloth and cover the bottom of your newly created rectangle with it.  Attach the hardware cloth with staples.

5.     Roll out the aluminum window screening and cover the bottom of your newly created rectangle (and the hardware cloth) with it.  Attach the aluminum window screening with staples.

6.     Now that the top of your salad table is complete, you need to construct legs for your table.  Because the top of your salad table is rather heavy you want stout legs that will bear all that weight.  To construct a table leg, take one of your 2”x4”x32” pieces and attach it to one of your 2”x4”x36” pieces with a 2 ½” galvanized deck screw.  You want the pieces to lay on top of each other on the 4” sides, meet at the bottom and leave a 4” gap at the top.  Repeat this process until you have six legs.

7.     With the rectangle still on the ground, you can now attach the legs to the top of your salad table with the 2 ½” galvanized deck screws – three legs on each side, one in the center, one three feet to the left and one three feet to the right.  The top of your salad table should rest on top of the 2”x4”x32” pieces and the 2”x4”x36” pieces should be on the outside of the table top.

8.     With the rectangle still on the ground, attach two 1”x4”x12’ pieces of lumber over the hardware cloth/aluminum screening with 1 ½” galvanized deck screws.  These pieces will give the table support and the table top won’t sag when you add soil.

9.     With the help of another person (or if you’re the tough guy who decided to use a handsaw you can do this yourself) turn the table over.  You can now attach the bottom shelf to your table.  To do so, attach the 2”x4”6’ pieces of lumber to the front and back the table legs about halfway between the ground and table top with the 2 ½” galvanized deck screws.  The 2”x4”x6’ pieces of lumber will not only provide a base for the shelf but will serve as a good brace for the table legs.

10. Now you can attach the ten 1”x4”x17” pieces of lumber to the 2”x4”x6’ pieces of lumber that you just added with the 1 ½” galvanized deck screws and create a slotted shelf – be aware that anything you put on this shelf will get wet when the table top drains.