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Chard, the Bouquet of the Garden

Chard is the bouquet of the Garden! Plant it for pretty! Plant it as a centerpiece, at the front, by the entrance. Contrast it with frillys like carrots or in the spring with dill.

Chard is fabulous in containers on the balcony, mingled with ornamentals in your landscape, and brightens any veggie garden, especially in Mediterranean WINTER gardens! Whether it is all green, a white stemmed Fordhook Giant, or Bright Lights/Neon from white to neon pink, bright oranges and reds, brilliant yellow, it is glorious!

And it’s not just another pretty face, it’s a prodigious producer, Cut-&-Come-Again, and again, and again! In our SoCal clime, it acts as a perennial, sometimes living for several venerable years!  Low calorie, only 35 calories per cup, it is packed with vitamins K, A, C, E, and B6, a valuable food for maintaining strong bones. Chard is also very good source of copper, calcium, phosphorus, and a good source of thiamin, zinc, niacin, folate and selenium!

According to Aug 2013 HuffPost Kale has a LOT more Vitamin A, twice as much Vitamin C, but Chard has almost 4 times the iron! they are about equal in calories, fiber, protein and Calcium. A different Oct 2017 post says: [Kale] has more than twice the number of calories of collard greens or Swiss chard. Salt is another story. Kale has only 30 micrograms of sodium, whereas Chard has 313! All these counts may make no difference to you, because kale leaves may taste bitter to you, and are tough to chew unless massaged for salads or steamed. Chard is less vegetal in flavor than kale, even the stems can be slightly sweet! And Chard comes in all those dazzling bright colors!

Chard is a lot like Spinach, but has an earthier flavor. Dr Weil says: …concentrations of oxalic acid are pretty low in most plants and plant-based foods, but there’s enough in spinach, chard and beet greens to interfere with the absorption of the calcium these plants also contain. TreeHugger says further: Raw versus cooked spinach offers a trade-off. Vegetarian Times writes that folate, vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium are more available when spinach is eaten raw, cooking increases the vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron – as well, important carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, also become more absorbable when spinach is cooked. The advice is eat lots of different veggies both raw and cooked!

Food Values compared Kale Mustard Collard Greens Chard

In a sense, Chard, Beta vulgaris, is a relatively new vegetable that is thought to have first been described in the mid-18th century. It is also known as Swiss chard, silverbeet, spinach beet, and even spinach in different parts of the world. It is in the same family as beets, but doesn’t make a bulb like they do.

Chard is one of the top 5 veggie producers per square foot! It is a fast prolific crop maturing in only 55 days! It tolerates poor soil, inattention, and withstands frost and mild freezes. Besides being a beauty, having a blazing array of colors, leaf after leaf it feeds a family! Though the colorful hybrids are stunning, and your shopping list is delighted with their magical names, the older green forms tend to out produce them and are more tolerant of both cold and heat. The mammoth white stemmed heirloom Fordhook Giant can’t be beat! It grows up to and more than 2′ tall with huge leaves, and feeds an army, with heavy yields even in hot weather!

Chard may be considered an all season plant in SoCal, but it suffers in heat. It wilts terribly mid day. The problem is heat, not water, and sometimes gardeners literally drown them with water, rotting the root. Either put up some shade cloth, or don’t grow them in summer. After x number of wilts, they never quite recover their full zest and radiance. At the community gardens, there are none left by mid summer. Soon you can be growing it again ~ they thrive and grow quickly in cooler fall weather!

Varieties Cornell lists 49 chard entries!

Five Star ratings go to Burpee’s Rhubarb Chard, Verte a Carde Blanche and Verde da Taglio. Bright Lights is an All America Selection winner! Umania is a Japanese chard that tolerates heat and cold, is slow bolting.

Flat leaved or bumpy?! Bumpy, called Savoyed, leaves give more chard per square inch, but they can also hide aphids. Narrow or wide ribs. Green, crimson or purple leaves! Rib colors galore, from white to neon to the darkest reds!

Chard Purple Leaves Gold Ribs Savoyed.jpg

 

 


You can see why chard is frequently used in flower gardens!

Check out Nan Ondra’s post! She grows a designer quality garden in Pennsylvania! Nan says ‘As the season progresses, the leaves of some of the orange- to red-stemmed chards darken to bronzy green or even a deep purple-red.’

Chard, an amazing array of leaf and rib colors!

 

 

 

 

Do you like that purple one with the yellow rib?! The beauty on the left is Prima Rossa! The cooler the weather the deeper the color!
Chard Perpetual Spinach Scottish heirloom MacGregor

 

Perpetual Spinach varieties and container sorts make leaf after leaf, and behave themselves. Maybe you would like some red leaves and red ribs! Try Scottish heirloom MacGregor Swiss Chard! It does not get colossal, is more tender than other chards. Pot of Gold, green leaves with yellow ribs, is also a charming dwarf variety!x

Grow It!

28 Days for tender little leaves, only 55 days or so to maturity.

Chard likes a rich sandy loam soil – well manured and composted with worm castings added. It is sensitive to soil acidity. A low soil pH results in stunted growth. Consistent water, full sun, and plenty of space! A healthy chard, will take a 2′ to 3′ footprint, more if it is a Fordhook Giant! At 28” tall, it makes a shadow, so plant accordingly!

Soak seeds overnight or presprout! Direct seed into the garden 3-5 weeks before the last frost date, or you can start seedlings indoors around the same time. Transplant seedlings after your last frost. Chard seeds germinate best in soil temps around 75°F-85°F (not air temps) but 50°-55°degrees will do, and is practical. Avoid seeding during daytime air temps of 80°F or more. In SoCal, one of the best times to plant is mid August for production all winter long. Plant then in the shade, on the north or east sides, of taller plants that will be replaced by fall plants or will finish soon. Chard seeds don’t mind those hot August soil temps, but Chard plants here do best in cool weather, wilting pitifully midday in hot summer temps. Check your soil to see your plant really needs water or is reacting to the heat.

Germination will take 5-16 days. Chard seeds are actually a cluster of seeds and will produce more than one plant. Spacing will determine the size of the plants. Space plants at 4″-6′ apart within rows spaced at 18″-24″ apart. When the young plants are 4 inches high, thin them to stand 8 inches apart. If you are pest and disease conscious, keep right on thinning so adult leaves don’t touch each other! That, of course, depends on the size of the variety you pick.

Depending on your space and needs/wants, avoid planting in rows, plant far enough apart that mature leaves don’t touch leaves of another chard plant. Interplant here and there. That way Leafminers, aphids and diseases can’t go plant to plant. if you have space, you can broadcast your seeds in sections of the garden to create a bed of tender leaves and thinned to 4 inches apart as they mature. Otherwise, plant your seeds 1/4-3/4 in. deep. That will give you a steady table supply of tasty little greens!

Mulch in summer keeps roots cool and moist. In So Cal winters it keeps rain or watering from splashing soil up onto the leaves.

Water! Chard, like Lettuce, likes plenty of water regularly to keep it sweet. It’s putting up big leaves again and again. Weed early and often!

Feeding! Since Chard is a prolific producer, it needs feeding from time to time. In summer it can use a little compost and a tad of manure. Some worm castings would make it even happier! Late summer spread a little compost over the root zone, drench with a water-soluble organic fertilizer. They will make a strong comeback early fall. In winter a light feed of fish emulsion is easy to apply, and easy for it to uptake.

Pests & Diseases

  • Hose APHIDS off Chard, kale and brocs. Keep doing it for a few days to catch the ones you missed, and new generations. For hard to get at places, down the centers of chard and in crinkly kale leaf crevices, get out that spray bottle! Treat once, wait a couple days, treat the ones that got away and newborns. I tried this home remedy, it WORKS! The simplest is to spray with 2 parts alcohol, 2 parts water, 1 part  soap. DO NOT use on seedlings, it will kill some of them. Spritz lightly rather than drenching or you may kill your bigger plant too! If the aphids are totally out of control and you can’t get to them down in the center of the plant, if you are very brave, cut the whole plant off a couple inches above the crown, let it produce new leaves.
  • Leafminers are the bane of chard, spinach and beets, going from plant to plant. These are not plants to row crop! You know you have leafminers when you see their trails or brown patches on the leaves as the miners burrow between the leaf’s layers. Remove those sections and badly infested leaves immediately. Keep your chard harvested. Harvest while the leaves are fresh and a bit smaller before the leafminers get to it!  Some say soft fast growth is perfect habitat for the miners, but chard is meant to be a fast grower with plenty of water to keep it sweet! So if you can’t eat it all, find a friend or two who would appreciate some and share your bounty! Or remove plants until you have what you can keep up with.  Plant something else delicious in your new free space!
    x
    Details from U of Illinois Extension:  Spinach and Swiss chard leafminer flies are 1/2 inch long and gray with black bristles. This leaf miner lay eggs on the underside of the leaves side by side singly or in batches up to five.  One larva may feed on more than one leaf.  After feeding for about two weeks, the larvae drop from the leaves onto the ground where it pupates and overwinters in the soil as pupae. In spring, they appear from mid April to May and they cause serious damage compared to the other generations that appear later. The life cycle is only 2 weeks long, and they can have five to ten generations per year!  That’s why you immediately want to remove infected parts of your plant, to stop the cycle! Cornell Cooperative Extension  UC – IPM
  • Slugs & snails are chard’s other not best friends. Irregular holes in the leaves, that’s the clue. Remove by hand, checking the undersides of leaves and down in the center area where new leaves are coming. I chuck snails and slugs where our crows gourmet on them. Or use Sluggo or the cheaper store brand in the cardboard box of the same stuff. Lay down Sluggo two or three times to kill the generations then you won’t need to do it again for quite awhile.
  • Beets, Chard and Spinach get Cercospora leaf spot, light brown patches surrounded by purple halos. Promptly remove infected leaves. Late fall or early spring plantings are most likely to be affected. Late summer when conditions are favorable (high temperatures, high humidity, long leaf wetness periods at night) is the worst. It grows on infected crop residues, so immediately remove leaves that collapse on the ground. It is carried by wind or rain to host leaves. This is one case where AM watering really makes sense to reduce humidity. Plant less densely for more airflow, thinnings are tasty! Planting only every 3 years in the same spot often isn’t possible if there is too little garden space, so cultivating, turning and drying the soil between plantings is good. See more

Harvest & Storage

Cut or twist off stems of outer leaves while still tender, 1-2 inches above the soil surface. Leaves are of best quality just when fully expanded or slightly smaller. Chard loses water very quickly after harvest, so give it a rinse, shake off excess water, pack loosely in a plastic bag, get it into the fridge. Use ASAP, 3-4 days! Do not store with fruits, like apples, and vegetables that produce ethylene gas. Blanch and freeze leaves if you like; use in soups and stews later.

Chard seeds look exactly like Beet seeds!Like other biennial plants, chard produces flowers and seeds in the spring of its second year, after it has been through winter. Let your favorite chard make a flowering stalk, seed and dry. Label it before it starts drying so you know what color or variety it is. The seed is super easy to harvest. Just hold your fingers close to the stalk, zip them along the stalk and put the seed in an airtight container. Label it right then and there because you can’t tell chard seed from beet seed! Same family. If you want that variety of colors, and don’t have room or the time to let all of them seed out, just get a packet at your local nursery or online from your favorite seed house. Keep your seeds cool and dry, viability 3+ years. Harvest plenty for you, gifts for friends, seed swaps!

Culinary Satisfaction

When preparing your chard, if you are eating it for the Vitamin A, trim the leaf from the rib. You can eat the rib, it just takes a little longer to cook unless you chop it up into little pieces. Ribs have healing factors all their own due to their colors! Here’s a surprise – use stems like celery! Stuff and serve! Or pickle them, or the crisp ribs can be steamed or grilled like asparagus!

Small leaves in salad, drizzle with a sauce or dressing of your choice. Larger leaves chopped, steamed over rice or in stews. Toss with olive oil and stir fry with your favorite veggies and protein. Layer in lasagna or a casserole of scalloped potatoes or turnips. Everyone has their favorites! Deb Elliott of Helena AL loves hers in chard soup, beginning with chicken bouillon, Italian sausage, onions and little red potatoes. Chopped chard leaves are added toward the end, as it only takes a few minutes for them to cook.

Chard can be used as a substitute for spinach in most dishes and goes well with roasted meats, cream sauces, nutty cheeses, and tomatoes. Try adding chard to au gratin or serving it alongside Jamaican Jerk chicken with red beans and rice. Squeeze out excess water, and use the cooked chard in casseroles, quiches, or as a succulent side dish.

Or try this Vegetarian Stuffed Chard Oregon Style from Organic Authority!

Chard Stuffed Oregon Style, Scandinavian Recipe

Cabbage is substituted by chard in this Pacific Northwestern version of a Scandinavian recipe. Light, nutritious and deliciously healthy, the chard leaves are stuffed with a grain of choice alongside Oregonian staples like hazelnuts, dried cranberries, goat cheese and late summer veggies for a satisfying and wholesome dish. The red, pink, white and yellow veins of rainbow chard leaves are an excellent choice for this chard recipe, especially if you are looking for visual appeal. Serve it as a main vegetarian dish with a side of yogurt sauce, homemade chutney or lemons wedges, or make smaller ones to serve as pop-in-your-mouth appetizers.

Serves 3-5

Happy growing, happy eating!


Updated 9.26.18

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Nutritious and Beautiful Rainbow Lacinato KALE!

Rainbow Lacinato Kale is almost too pretty to eat! West Coast Seeds says, ‘A fabulous cross of beloved Lacinato with the super cold hardy Redbor produces these multicoloured plants with mostly the strap-like leaves of the Lacinato and the colouring of the Redbor. It is slower to bolt and more productive than Lacinato. Enjoy cooking this colourful bouquet all winter long.’ 65 days.

PLANT KALE! In SoCal, rather than cold tolerant varieties, select heat tolerant varieties that will grow well over summer too!

Kales have amazingly different colors and shapes!

  • Scotch – Curly Leaf Kale is the most plant you will get for the footprint of all the plants in your garden! Its leaves are amazingly convoluted, and it keeps growing as you pick, tall and taller, up to 7′! In healthy soil it may make side plants along its naked stem. It’s disadvantage is if it gets aphids, then whiteflies attracted to yellowing leaves, they are hard to hose out of the leaves.
  • Siberian Kale is a curly edged flat leaf variety. If you like your curls, but not your aphids, you might prefer this beauty. It’s leaves are light blue-green with white stems. It is the most tender variety, making it a great choice for raw salads.
  • Red Russian is a flat leaved low variety, with a red/purple midrib, beautiful among your ornamental yard plants!
  • Red Bor, a completely purple beauty, midribs and leaves, is perfect for edible landscaping. 3 to 5′ tall. It is mild and crisp!
  • Lacinato, aka Dinosaur Kale, is a bumply long narrow leaved variety that gets tall. Rainbow lacinato kale, image above, is more productive and quite prettier!
  • Ornamental kale, aka Salad Savoy, is such a pretty winter garden accent! Ruffly, maybe frilly, purple, white, green heads.

Kale, Brassica oleracea, varieties have differing tastes. Some are more peppery to a bit bitter, like Curly Leaf; Red Russian is milder. Some are snacks in the field, while others need some cooking or even disguising in a stew with other veggies if you aren’t a kale lover, but want the nutrition. Salad Savoy is mild and tender.

For your growing pleasure, here is a terrific all-in-one mix from Hudson Valley Seed!

Kale Seed Mix Russian Siberian at Hudson Valley Seed
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IMPORTANT! Non organic grocery store Kale is now one of the most pesticide contaminated veggies!

GROW YOUR OWN even if it is in a container at your front door or on your balcony, wherever you can! Put in a bucket or planting bowl! That’s as fresh as it gets! It’s easy to grow from seed or a transplant from your nursery! It needs a little watering – you can carry a little bucket or if that’s too heavy, a half bucket, of water from your tub or kitchen tap. Keep it harvested so it doesn’t get too big, but never more than a 1/3 of the plant at a time. You will become accustomed to it’s happiness and yours as you learn. It will become part of your family.

If you are not inclined to grow it, buy organic! Support your local organic growers, go to the Farmers Market! Bon appétit!

Soil Fertilize well at planting time because your plant will be working hard, leaf after leaf, forever and ever! Kale grows best when your soil is mixed with organic matter (manure/compost) and perhaps a tad of lime. Overplant, closely, to start, for lots of little plants for salads, then keep thinning to 24 to 36 inch centers for your final spacing. Even my ‘dwarf’ kales get up to 36″ wide!

Intermingle with companion plants and different varieties of kales and Brassicas! Cilantro enhances Brassicas and repels aphids! Keep replanting that cilantro! Lettuces repel cabbage butterflies. Different varieties mature at different times and you will have less pests like aphids.

In SoCal weather your kale will grow up to 4 years, even more, though it is a biennial. Feed them time to time because they are heavy producers, a continuous leaf crop. Dig in a compost, worm castings, manure chow. Be careful not to break main roots. Scratch in some of those delicious box powder ferts, or if you live in Santa Barbara get that super landscape mix at Island Seed & Feed. Water it in well. Or get out your spade fork, poke in some holes and pour a compost, castings, manure tea down the holes! Your soil, your kale, and the faeries will dance in the moonlight!

Mildews, yuk. Severely infected plants may have reduced yields, shortened production times, and fruit/leaves that have little flavor. Powdery mildews like warm and dry weather, are windborne! Be good to neighboring gardeners, remove infected leaves ASAP! Some Powdery Mildew spores can’t germinate in water, so water your kale overhead every couple of days to wash spores away and suppress the spread of the mildew! Downey mildew, the fuzzy under leaf kind, likes cool moist weather, is spread by wind, water, and overwinters in your soil!

Aphids suck the juices out of leaves, stealing your plant’s vitality. Aphids are pests particularly of Curly Leaf Kales. You can see they are well protected in those curls, humidity is great, thanks! Inspect your curly leafs regularly. Hose away aphids and whiteflies, mildew ASAP! Let them have it! Remove leaves that are hopelessly infested and DO NOT compost them. Remove yellowing Brassica leaves. Yellow attracts whiteflies. In general, plant further apart for air circulation, water and feed just a little less to let those leaves harden up a bit. Soft fat leaves are an invitation to aphids and mildew! Keep up with harvesting, so leaves are healthy and resistant. if they get in the center new leaves, hose ’em out! Get in those little folds.

Aphids do it all year-long birthing as many as 12 a day! That’s long odds in their favor. Aphids prefer a comfy 65° to 80°F, sigh.
If ever there were a reason to plant habitat for their predators…. As well as being super pollinators, Syrphid flies larvae are natural enemies to aphids; they can eat an aphid a minute! These flies are actually those little bees that hover, hover flies! You’ve seen ’em. Plant ample habitat for them. They prefer white (alyssum) and yellow colored flowers, some preferring more open flowers like daisies and asters. They like parsley, dill, yarrow (leaves speed compost decomp), clover and buckwheat flowers. Plant more flowers!

Prevention is the wise choice.

  • Do fall cleanup of leaves and debris.
  • Plant in full sun
  • As soon as you do your planting, or the very next day, treat with your homemade remedy: heaping tablespoon Baking soda, 1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk, one regular aspirin, teaspoon liquid dish soap per watering can/gallon. Treat again every 10 days or so after that, and after rains.
  • Water less and early in the day.
  • Avoid excess fertilizer, use slow release fertilizers instead.
  • Remove weeds and plant less closely to reduce humidity.

Apparently it is technically safe to eat steamed washed mildewed kale. But many gardeners won’t have it. They don’t prefer to breathe the spores, say the kale smells mildewed, and suspect a lack of the right taste. Having read about spores overwintering in soil, I’m no longer putting it in my cold compost, likely a perfect habitat for it.

Get mildew resistant varieties! Some say their Lacinato kale is resistant. Blue Curled Scotch Kale seems to be. High Mowing says NASH’S GREEN KALE is resistant, as proven in the damp winters of the Northwest! If you are looking for cold hardiness, here is great information from Mother Earth News field trials! Kales are generally Heat tolerant but even more heat tolerant varieties are surely coming due to weather changes and droughts. Coastal SoCal kales grow all year long and the most severe condition in recent years is heat!

The nutritional value of kale is superb, both in disease prevention and treatment!

  • The trick is to balance the nutrition versus the calories. For example, kale has less calories, but sweet potatoes have more Vitamin A. But that kale does have 98% of our daily need!
  • Kale has less sodium and a surprisingly high Vitamin C count, in fact, raw kale has 200% the Daily Value we need! Even cooked, it has 71%! A cup of cooked kale or collards contains more vitamin C than an eight-ounce glass of orange juice, and more potassium than a banana. All that and only 55 calories!
  • One of the super features of kale is it has a high amount of bioaccessible Calcium, especially needed by older women! We can absorb 50 to 60% of kale’s calcium. A cup of kale has more calcium than a cup of milk, that many are allergic to! And, it is a top source of Vitamin K, also essential to bone health.
  • Steamed kale’s fiber-related components bind with bile acids in your digestive tract to lower your cholesterol levels. Raw kale does too, just not as much.
  • Extraordinarily, kale’s glucosinolates can help regulate detox at a genetic level!
  • Over 45 different flavonoids in kale, kaempferol and quercetin heading the list, combine both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that reduce your risk of cancer.

Proper Storage  Do not wash kale before storing. Water encourages spoilage. Remove as much air as you can from the plastic storage bag. Pop it in the fridge, it will keep for 5 days. The longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes.

Eat more, cook less! Eating a cup to 2 cups 2 to 3 times a week is good, 4 to 5 times is better! Steaming is best. If you have young thin stemmed kale leaves, cut the leaves into 1/2″ slices. If your kale is older, thick stemmed and you don’t want the stems, run a sharp knife along the stem to shave the leaves from the stem, cut those into 1/2″ slices. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes to enhance their health-promoting qualities, then steam for 5 minutes.

Kale Blueberry Salad Natasha's Kitchen

Delicious Kale Blueberry Salad recipe at Natasha’s Kitchen!

Tasty Culinary Adventures:  With most kales, young leaves can be added to a salad. Mature leaves are better in soups, quiches, stir fry, steamed over rice sprinkled with soy, or sautéed and tossed with your favorite dressing! Kale chips are easy to make; dry and sprinkle with your favorite flavors! Have you had it chopped with scrambled eggs for breakfast?! Make a cream of kale soup, kale potato soup. Add to accent your fish chowder. Add to winter stews, or with cream of Butternut squash! Chopped and steamed with diced potatoes, diagonally sliced carrots, and onions, all tossed with olive oil. Are you hungry yet? Get rad and try a smoothie! With yogurt and berries, mmm, delish! Finely chopped in hummus, or super tender baby leaves, thinnings, chopped in salad, or sprinkled with enthusiasm in enchiladas!

Cool kale salads! Delish with dried cranberries, toasted or raw cashew pieces, vegan mayonnaise and a little lemon juice. With fruits like avocados, apples, pears. Napa or red cabbage, carrots, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Dress to taste with vinaigrette, sesame-ginger or tahini dressing. How about chopped kale, pine nuts, and feta cheese with whole grain pasta drizzled with olive oil?! If your kale plant flowers, those are edible too! Just run your fingers along the stem then sprinkle the flowers over your salad.

Bon appétit! To your superb health and longevity!

Repost of Nov 2013, updated Dec 2017, 3.21.19.

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for our SoCal Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Chard is the bouquet of the Garden!  Whether it is all green, a white stemmed Fordhook Giant, or Bright Lights/Neon from white to neon pink, bright oranges and reds, brilliant yellow, it is glorious!  And it’s not just another pretty face, it’s a prodigious producer, Cut-&-Come-Again, and again, and again!  In our SoCal clime, it acts as a perennial, sometimes living for several venerable years!  Low calorie, it is packed with vitamins K, A, C, E, and B6.  Chard is also very good source of copper, calcium, phosphorus, and a good source of thiamin, zinc, niacin, folate and selenium!

Chard is a top producer per square foot!  It is a fast prolific crop maturing in only 55 days!  It tolerates poor soil, inattention, and withstands frost and mild freezes.  But it likes a rich sandy loam soil – well manured and composted with worm castings added.  It likes lots of consistent water, full sun, and plenty of space!  A healthy chard, will take a 2 to 3’ footprint, more if it is a Fordhook Giant!  At 28” tall, it makes a shadow, so plant accordingly!  Some varieties, like Fordhook, have crumpled leaves, lots of leaf per space, like curly leaf kale, lots of return per area used.  Others have a flatter leaf.  Rhubarb chard has a narrower midrib.

Chard seeds are actually a cluster of seeds (like beets) and will produce more than one plant, so thinning and/or micro greens is part of the story!  Spacing will determine the size of your plants.  Too crowded, shading each other, they will be smaller.  With full space, they will produce to feed an army!  If you are harvesting baby chard leaves on a regular basis, space them 2″-4″ apart, or 8″-10″ if you plan to harvest less often.  Generally, row planting chard is not your best choice because of leafminers.  See below….  Plant them here and there; interplant with stinky herbs!  Sow chard seeds ½” deep; germination will take 5-16 days.

Leafminers are the bane of chard, spinach and beets.  Plant so your neighboring plants leaves don’t touch each other.  This is NOT a plant to row crop.   Leafminers flies just lay eggs from one plant to the next.  Separate your plants into different areas, biodiversely; interplant with herbs.  They are so pretty I put them where they can be seen the most!  You know you have leafminers when you see their trails or brown patches on the leaves as the miners burrow between the leaf’s layers.  Remove those sections and badly infested leaves immediately.  Keep your chard harvested and well watered to keep it growing and producing fast, sometimes outgrowing the leafminers.  Give it plenty of worm castings both in the surrounding soil and on the surface.  Cover the surface with a thin layer of straw to keep the castings moist.  Some say soft fast growth is perfect habitat for the miners, but chard is meant to be a fast grower with plenty of water to keep it sweet!  So if you can’t eat it all, find a friend or two who would appreciate some and share your bounty!  Or remove plants until you have what you can keep up with.  Plant something else delicious in your new free space!

Details from U of Illinois Extension:  Spinach and Swiss chard leafminer flies are 1/2 inch long and gray with black bristles. This leaf miner lay eggs on the underside of the leaves side by side singly or in batches up to five.  One larva may feed on more than one leaf.  After feeding for about two weeks, the larvae drop from the leaves onto the ground where it pupates and overwinters in the soil as pupae. In spring, they appear from mid April to May and they cause serious damage compared to the other generations that appear later.  [The life cycle is only 2 weeks long, and they can have five to ten generations per year!  That’s why you immediately want to remove infected parts of your plant, to stop the cycle!]   Cornell Cooperative Extension

Slugs & snails are chard’s other not best friends.  Irregular holes in the leaves, that’s the clue.  Remove by hand, checking the undersides of leaves and down in the center area where new leaves are coming.  I chuck ’em where our crows gourmet on them.  Or use Sluggo or the cheaper store brand of the same stuff.

Harvest chard quickly, rinse, pack loosely, get it into the fridge.  Do not store with fruits, like apples, and vegetables that produce ethylene gas.

Let your most wonderful chard go to seed!  It will likely get as tall as you are!  Let the flowering clusters turn brown and hand harvest your anticipated number of seeds you would like, plus some extras in case, and some for giveaway or trade!  The seeds are viable for 4 to 5 years if you keep them cool and dry.

Chard is young-leaf tender in salads, mature-leaf tasty steamed and in stews, sautéed, and in stir fries.  Some people eat the leaf midrib, others cut it out, use it like celery, stuff and serve.  And there’s always chard lasagna….

6-Large Leaf Chard Lasagna 

Oil your baking pan
Lay in flat uncooked lasagna noodles to fit, cover bottom
Remove stems, lay in 3 unchopped chard leaves, more if your pan is deep enough
Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil leaves Sprinkle with chopped onion, garlic bits
Spread with flavorful cheese of your choice
Spread with zesty tomato/pizza sauce of your choice
Repeat.  Pile it high because the chard wilts down
Top with onion slices, tomato slices, or whatever pleases you
Sprinkle with Parmesan

Bake at 375 for 45 mins
Let cool for 20 mins, EAT!

If you don’t eat it all, freeze serving sizes

Instead of chard, you can use spinach, fine chopped kale, strips or slices of zucchini or eggplant!

Have a tasty day!

Next week, Garden Tools Specially for Women!

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Foliar plant care is so easy!
Use a
Dramm Can, the Perfect Foliar Machine!

Worm Castings, Compost, Manure Tea, Fish Emulsion/Kelp for FEEDING – All in ONE!

You can easily make this tea!  A handful of castings, a handful to a cup of compost, handful of manure, stir and let them soak overnight in a bucket.  In the morning, swoosh it around in the bucket one more time, let it settle, then pour the top liquid into your watering can, the one with the up turning rose.  Add a Tablespoon Fish Emulsion/Kelp, mix, and drench your plants in the morning!  Yum!

Epsom Salts, Magnesium Sulfate, Your Solanaceaes, Peppers especially, and Roses!

Magnesium is critical for seed germination and the production of chlorophyll, fruit, and nuts. Magnesium helps strengthen cell walls and improves plants’ uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.  Magnesium deficiency in the soil may be one reason your tomato leaves yellow between the leaf veins late in the season and fruit production slows down.

Sulfur, a key element in plant growth, is critical to production of vitamins, amino acids (therefore protein), and enzymes.  Sulfur is probably the oldest known pesticide in current use. It can be used for disease control (e.g., powdery mildews, rusts, leaf blights, and fruit rots), and pests like mites, psyllids and thrips. Sulfur is nontoxic to mammals, but may irritate skin or especially eyes.  Sulfur has the potential to damage plants in hot (90°F and above), dry weather. It is also incompatible with other pesticides. Do not use sulfur within 20 to 30 days on plants where spray oils have been applied; it reacts with the oils to make a more phytotoxic combination.

Epsom Salts are easy to do!  Buy some Epsom Salts, what you soak your feet in, at the grocery store, mix a tablespoon per gallon, foliar feed!  Foliar feeding is simply sprinkling leaves with your solutions, and works better than applying to the soil!  Get a Dramm 5 liter long snouted watering can that has a turnable sprinkler head.  That long spout comes in handy, reaching well into your plant!  Turn the head so the water shoots up under the leaves then falls back on the tops!  The long arc of the handle gives lots of maneuvering ability!  Feed your plants once when they bloom, and again ten days later. The results, attributed to magnesium in the salts, are larger plants, more flowers, more fruit, thicker walled peppers!  I use this mix on all my Solanaceaes: eggplant, pepper, tomato, tomatillo.  Roses love it too! 

Baking Soda & Nonfat Powdered Milk for PREVENTION!

The bicarbonate of soda makes the leaf surface alkaline and this inhibits the germination of fungal spores. Baking soda prevents and reduces Powdery Mildew, and many other diseases on veggies, roses, and other plants!  It kills PM within minutes.  It can be used on roses every 3 to 4 days, but do your veggie plants every 5 to 10 days, or after significant rains, as the plant grows, because these new plant tissues are not yet protected yet by your fungicide.  Irrigate well 2 days before use; on a sunny day spray off as much of the PM as you can from plants in sunny locations.  A heaping Tablespoon baking soda to a gallon of water, with a 1/2 Teaspoon of a surfactant – insecticidal or dish soap or salad oil, does the job.  It is not effective without the surfactant to spread it and make it stick.  You can add a liquid fertilizer with it if you want.   Cautions:  1)  I have had no trouble using it on my veggies, but it may burn the leaves of some other plants, so try it on a few leaves first.  2)  Don’t apply during hot midday sun that can burn the leaves.  3)  Avoid over use – it is a sodium, salt.  For a definitive discussion of Baking Soda usage and research, see https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/bakingsoda.html.   The article is an easy read, nicely summarized, has references, includes cautions and info on commercial preparations.  Best of all is to plant powdery mildew resistant varieties:

  • Cucumber:  Diva
  • Yellow Summer Squash:  Success, Sunray, Sunglo
  • Zucchini:  Ambassador, Wildcat
  • Pumpkin:  18 Karat Gold, Gladiator

Add nonfat powdered milk to your Baking Soda fungicide!  Powdered milk is a natural germicide, boosts your plant’s immune system!  Apply right away on young bean plants, all your cucurbits – cukes, zuchs, any mildew prone plant.  A 1/4 c milk in your gallon of water.  Get under those leaves, early morning so the leaves dry and the habitat is less humid.

Also add Salicylic acid, an aspirin to the mix! It triggers a defense response in tomatoes and other plants as well, and stimulates growth!  One regular strength dissolved/gallon does the job.

Healthy plants and abundant production are so rewarding!  Just take a few minutes to give your plants a boost with these simple treatments!  Whether Dramm, or another can, get yourself a good one!  Make it easy to get up under those leaves!  Otherwise, you are treating only 1/2 your plant!

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Broccoli! Beautiful and valuable to your health!

Broccoli may be the most nutritious of all the cole crops, which are among the most nutritious of all vegetables. Broccoli and cauliflower (and other members of the genus Brassica) contain very high levels of antioxidant and anticancer compounds. These  nutrients typically are more concentrated in flower buds than in leaves, and that makes broccoli and cauliflower better sources of vitamins and nutrients than cole crops in which only the leaves are eaten. The anti-cancer properties of these vegetables are so well established that the American Cancer Society recommends that Americans increase their intake of broccoli and other cole crops. Recent studies have shown that broccoli sprouts may be even higher in important antioxidants than the mature broccoli heads. Other research has suggested that the compounds in broccoli and other Brassicas can protect the eyes against macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people.  If you choose to eat broccoli leaves, you will find that there is significantly more vitamin A (16,000 IU per 100 grams) versus flower clusters – the heads (3,000 IU per 100 grams) or the stalks (400 IU per 100 grams).

Vegetarians rely heavily on broccoli because it’s high in calcium.

Tasty Image from PlantGrabber.com – Bonanza Hybrid Broccoli

IN YOUR GARDEN….

  • Companions:  Cilantro makes it grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!  Lettuce amongst the Brassicas confuses Cabbage Moths which dislike Lettuce.
  • Brocs prefer full sun, though partial shade helps prevent bolting (suddenly making long flower stalks).
  • Brocs LOVE recently manured ground.  Well-drained, sandy loam soils rich in organic matter are ideal.  Broccoli plants will grow in almost any soil but prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 for optimum growth. A pH within this range will discourage clubroot disease and maximize nutrient availability.
  • Seedlings should be 8″-10″ apart with 30″-36″ between the rows.  Broccoli yields and the size of broccoli heads are affected by plant spacing. The tighter the spacing the better the yields, but the broccoli heads will be smaller. If you intend to keep your plants for side shoots, plant taller varieties to the northmost so they won’t shade shorter summer plants you will soon be planting.
  • Mulch will help keep the ground cool and moist as well as reduce weed competition.
  • An even moisture supply is needed for broccoli transplants to become established and to produce good heads. Never let the seedbed dry out. In sandy soils this may require two to three waterings per day.
  • Put a ring of nitrogen around cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants, to grow bigger heads.
  • The center head produced by broccoli is always the largest. The secondary sprouts produce heads about the size of a silver dollar. Sidedressing with fertilizer can increase yields and size your side shoots.
  • Cool weather is essential once the flower heads start to form. It keeps growth steady.

Brocs are truly susceptible to aphids.  Yuk.  Grayish greenish soft little leggy things that blend right in with the side shoot florettes.  If you snap your fingers on the side shoot, you will see the aphids go flying.  Those side shoots I remove.  If aphids are in curled leaves, I hold the leaf open and hose them away with a strong burst of water!  Then I keep my eagle eyes on them, each day, checking to get rid of them before another colony forms.

Important planting tip: There are less aphids when you plant different varieties of brocs together!

Broccoli varieties vary considerably, tall, short, more heat tolerant or cold tolerant, some make tons of side shoots, small heads, large heads!  For smaller heads, grow quick maturing varieties.  Packman is the exception!

Cruiser 58 days to harvest; tolerant of dry conditions
Calabrese 58 – 80 days; Italian, large heads, many side shoots. Loves cool weather. Does best when transplanted outside mid-spring or late summer.  Considered a spring variety.  Disease resistant.
DeCicco 48 to 65 days; Italian heirloom, bountiful side shoots. Produces a good fall crop, considered a spring variety.  Early, so smaller main heads.
Green Comet 55 days; early; hybrid, 6” diameter head, very tolerant of diseases and weather stress. Heat tolerant.
Green Goliath 60 days; heavy producer, tolerant of extremes.  Prefers cool weather, considered a spring variety.
Nutribud, per Island Seed & Feed, is the most nutritious per studies, having significant amounts of glutamine, one of the energy sources for our brains!  Purple broccoli, in addition to this, contains anthocyanins which give it its colour. These have antioxidant effects, which are thought to lower the risk of some cancers and maintain a healthy urinary tract as well.
Packman 53 days; early hybrid, 9” head!  Excellent side-shoot production.
Waltham 29 85 days; late, cold resistant, prefers fall weather but has tolerance for late summer heat.

If you still want to plant broccoli now, January, be mindful of the days to maturity, and when you think you will be wanting space to start your spring for summer plants.  When it gets late in their season, cut lower foliage off so small summer plants can start under them while you are still harvesting your winter plants.  The days to maturity on seed packs starts with when you put the seed in the soil.  The days to maturity on transplants is from the time of transplant.  And broccoli is notorious for uneven maturity, so you will often see a range of days to maturity, like DeCicco above.  So don’t expect clockwork.

Harvest the main head while the buds are tight!  Cut about 5” down the stem so fat side branches and larger side shoots will form.  Cut at an angle so water will run off, not settle in the center and rot the central stalk.

The respiration rate of freshly harvested broccoli is very high, so get it in the fridge asap or it goes limp!  It should not be stored with fruits, such as apples or pears, which produce substantial quantities of ethylene, because this gas accelerates yellowing of the buds.

Dying parts of the Brassica family of plants produce a poison that prevents the seeds of some plants from growing.  Plants with small seeds, such as lettuce, are especially affected by the Brassica poison.  A professor at the University of Connecticut says Brassica plants should be removed from the soil after they have produced their crop.

If you didn’t harvest your side shoots and your broccoli has gone to flower, harvest the flowers and sprinkle them over your salad, toss them in your stir fry for a little peppery flavor!  You won’t get any more side shoots, but if you want seeds, leave the flowers, let the seeds come.  Fine long little pods will form.  Let them stay on the plant until dry, then harvest your seeds.  Pop the pods, remove the seeds so no moisture will remain to rot them.  This large species crosses easily though, so probably best to buy sure seeds unless you don’t mind mystery results!

The trick to producing excellent broccoli heads is to keep the broccoli plants growing at a strong steady pace. Top-dress the plants with compost or manure tea; or side-dress with blood-meal or fish emulsion; and water deeply. Repeat this process every 3-4 weeks until just before harvest!  John Evans, of Palmer, Alaska, holds the world’s record for his 1993 35 lb (no typo) broc!  He uses organic methods, including mycorrhizal fungi!  And, yes, moose eat broccoli!

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Tomatoes, Fusarium Wilt, and Dandelion, a Virtuous Plant!

Dandelion, Diente de Lion

Dandelion, Diente De Lion!

Canadian researchers have discovered that the dandelion weed can protect tomato plants from fusarium disease.  Fusarium attacks the plant roots.  It reduces the number of tomatoes that the plant produces.  Dandelion roots produce cichoric acid.  This acid prevents the disease from getting iron from the soil.  Fusarium needs iron to survive.

Plus, dandelion greens have superior nutritional and medicinal properties, 4 times the Vitamin A in spinach, in fact, the highest of all greens!  The cultivated dandelion variety, Taraxacum officinale, is said to be far superior to the rest in taste!  It has broad upright leaves that seem to multiply in great stands right before your eyes.  These dandelions like rich, moist soil.  Commercial varieties include Thick Leaf, Improved Thick Leaf, and Arlington Thick Leaf. Most American dandelion growers cultivate San Pasquale and Catalogn chicories, but call them dandelion greens, which are similar.  Oh, and after a frost, their protective bitterness disappears.

Wild Man Steve Brill says:  ‘The leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They’re higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium [more than milk!] content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.’  Low in calories, a terrific liver cleanser, people have eaten dandelions for centuries. The name comes from the French, who called them dent de lion, or “lion’s teeth” because of their sharp, serrated leaves. All parts of the dandelion are edible, but the youngest leaves, less bitter before blooms form, are most commonly eaten, in salads, sautéed or steamed.  Drizzle with a deliciously tangy vinaigrette made of honey, Dijon mustard, orange juice, and fresh rosemary.  Or toss with garlic, olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper, or with bacon fat (pancetta if you prefer) and a little wine vinegar.  Island Seed & Feed has some seeds!

Do know that many weeds, including dandelions and lambsquarters, are known to host verticillium wilt. Remove them when your crops are done. Don’t let them overwinter or leave them lying about.

More Tomato Tips! 

Buy toms that are tagged VFN, or just VF – that’s Verticillium Wilt and Fusarium resistant.  When they are about a foot tall, water their neighboring plants, but not them.  That keeps a drier soil the fungi can’t thrive in.  Once a plant has the diseases, the leaves curl lengthwise and black spots appear on the lower stems and leaves, pull it and start over.  Months of lost production time and poor production are not worth it.  If your plant gets diseased, but is producing and you decide to keep it, don’t prune out the suckers (the little branches that are between the main stalk and a branch) because blight can enter your plant through these cuts.  For more pollination, tap your stakes and cages, or the main stalk, to shake the flowers – around 11 AM is best!  If your toms aren’t well pollinated, they may be strangely shaped!  Plant different kinds of toms apart from each other so 1) they don’t hybridize on the spot 2) the wilts don’t spread from one plant to the next.  Since toms are true heat lovers, you can plant a U perimeter of tall plants, leaving the South side open, and plant your toms in the U!  Water those neighbor plants, not the toms directly, regularly, so your tomato’s tap root can get regular water.  That prevents blossom-end rot.

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