Category Archives: Swiss Chard

A Final Peek Under The Hoops

Time to take the plastic off.

This pic shows kale on the left side.  My notes read ‘Vates Kale’, but I didn’t note the seed vender.  I like this kale.  A few carrots are in the very front right side.  The empty space after the carrots is where spinach was planted.  Under all 3 of my hoops this past winter, I had a real problem with aphids.  They, of course, never freeze out under the hoops – nothing freezes under the hoop.  A bit further back, with the red stems, are Detroit beets.  I don’t know if they will mature in a month – within a month I will be pulling out everything except some kale and chard so that I can plant my spring crop of squash and peppers.  These cool weather crops had their chance.  If the beets don’t mature their roots, I will at least be able to harvest the greens.

I am really having a problem trying to figure out how to grow under the hoop in Texas.  This past winter started out in October with a rough week or 2 of freezes, then it was very warm for a few months and winter finished with a few weeks of freezing weather.  This lack of consistency causes problems like early  bolting and stunting.  I’m going to have to think this thru for next winter.  I also learned this winter to NOT grow broccoli or cabbage under the hoop.  (The cabbage & broccoli grown outside of the hoops is doing great.) I also can’t grow spinach under the hoop.  I’ll also have to be more vigilant about the aphids.  Also, the cos lettuce didn’t need to be under the hoops – it didn’t do well.  I think that the main reason that I planted all of these things under the hoops was to protect them from rabbits.  Last fall the rabbits ate all of my lettuce and spinach.  This winter they didn’t even touch any of the cabbage or broccoli that was planted in the open.  The only rabbit issue I had was one blue berry plant eaten.

Some of this gorgeous kale is bolting and some isn’t.  While I like this kale, I don’t believe a few plants will be enough to save for seeds.  Also, I just don’t have the room to let this leaf crop sprout it’s seed heads – that takes a lot of space.
under the hoop

This is a close up of the kale and small beets.
under the hoop beets kale lettuce

There is no reason to show pics of the other 2 hoop garden beds – they aren’t this impressive.

Last winter this bed provided me a bountiful crop of chard that I spent weeks dehydrating in the food dryer.  Chard will be one of my main hoop crops next winter.

Again, my hoop garden is 5′ wide & 16′ long.  A 10′ length of gray plastic conduit fits perfectly from one bottom edge to the other, held in place by a 2′ section of 3/8″ rebar cut into 2′ sections with 12″ of each piece pounded into the ground.  I bought a $40 box of thick plastic.  The 100′ roll was cut into four 25′ sections.  The 12′ width fit perfectly over the hoops with a foot on each end resting on the ground, weighted down with old 2×4 pieces of lumber.  The extra 3 to 4′ of plastic on each end was gathered and weighed down with a few bricks or rocks.

I like the idea of the hoop gardens, but I need to rethink this and work it some other way next winter.

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Late Season Bean Planting

After trying to get over the failure of my spring garden, probably due to Dow Agriscience’s poison aminopyralid, I have decided to replant some quick growers for the second half of our growing season here in Texas.  This bed is scheduled to have broccoli, cabbage and greens this fall.  However, since these crops won’t be planted for at least 6 to 8 weeks, I am going to try to get a quick crop of beans.

So far, the beans look OK.  I think that maybe most of the poison aminopyralid may have degraded in this bed.

This half of the bed is planted with yellow wax beans. I intend to pick them for fresh yellow beans and have no intention of saving seeds. This means that this crop should be done in 60 days.  There is basil planted all thru this bed – I planted it after my squash mysteriously started to dye – probably thanks to Dow’s poison aminopyralid that is now loose and ruining compost piles all over the western world.  One okra plant survived – barely holding on for the past few months, but now seems to have taken off – it is in the lower left side, circled in red. In the front right corner is a lone surviving pepper plant.  The peppers seem to be doing better – again I suspect that maybe Dow’s poison aminopyralid may be degrading.  The tomato next to the okra never recovered and really needs to be pulled.

yellow wax beans

This end of the garden – below – was initially planted with left over Seed Savers Painted Pony beans from a 2009 batch. The seeds were refrigerated, but I guess they were just too old – only 2 seeds sprouted. So, a week later I replanted the area with a few Bolita Bush bean seeds that I had left from Baker Creek, dated 2010. They sprouted and now they look like they are actually pole beans! As such, I had to put some tomato cages among them so that they have something to climb onto.  I had intended to only grow bush beans for 2 reasons: to improve the nitrogen in the bed and for something quick – bush beans mature quicker than pole beans. Well, this is a surprise an I hope that they will be done and producing by the time I have to yank them out to plant my broccoli seedlings in. I didn’t have enough seeds to cover this whole half of the bed, so I’ll just leave that bare spot unplanted for now.  I had planed to save some of these Bolita seeds – if the plants can mature quickly enough.

late summer bean crop

I still don’t have my greenhouse moved over to our new property and have had a very difficult time trying to get seeds to sprout.  These are my cabbages and broccoli seedlings.  The chinese cabbage seedlings were rained on and over half of them were lost.  I have reseeded these trays. I need several hundred chinese cabbage seedlings and at least 6 dozen cabbage transplants and at least that many broccoli seedlings.  I plan to grow the broccoli under my winter hooped garden beds and stick the cabbages all over – under the hoops and outside.  It can take the freeze.

broccoli cabbage seedlings

I have trouble knowing when to start the cabbages and broccoli because it is so hot here for so long and quickly gets cool.  It is almost too hot to get the seedlings started and then gets too cool to get them growing good in the garden.  I can’t even start the spinach until the soil cools to 75 degrees and at the same time I plant my lettuce.  I plan to direct seed the carrots, chard, beets and kale pretty soon.  The turnips are the last thing to get planted.  The winters seem to be getting colder and get here sooner.  I’m having trouble timing plantings.

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Overview Time

Time for an overview.  This garden, except for the peppers, has exploded in the past 3 or so weeks.

This view is from the center row, looking up at 4 raised beds – 2 on each side.  In the far set of beds, you can see the summer squash over flowing into the row between the beds.  Since I don’t have very much bed space, I planned to grow squash on each side of the raised cattle panels in the middle and allow the squash to grow over the side into the middle beds.

In the front bed on the right, you can see the cucumbers and the waltham butternut squash growing on the ground around the bed.  The left bed has chard and some poor quality tomatoes.

overview of garden

This picture is from standing at the opposite end of the garden, looking at those squash plants growing into the aisle.
overview of garden

It was very humid today and the camera lens fogged up on this picture.  This picture was standing just a bit over from the last picture.  The grass is in serious need of mowing, but it has been so wet this past week.
foggy lens  garden overview

A closeup of the zucchini and squash.  These are hybrid plants from Twilley Seed.  They grow larger than heirloom plants.  Some winter squash – butternuts – are growing up on the center cattle panel.  That is a pot of basil in the front corner.
overview of garden

The squash is doing great.  The peppers are a failure due to excessive spring rain.  The beans aren’t doing the greatest.  The chard has to be harvested soon because it doesn’t like the heat.

I mulch between the raised beds with wood chips and bark.

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Too Much Rain – Peppers Water-Logged

We have had a very unusual week of rain and my peppers don’t look too happy.

The new leaves, grown since the rain which left the soil in the beds drenched, are curled and deformed looking.
water logged peppers

All of the peppers in the raised beds have these curled, defective leaves.  The few peppers in pots that didn’t get rained on look normal.

Doing research, the most likely cause of these leaf issues are either too much water and/or temperatures too cool, which it is with all this rain.  Peppers like it hot and dry.  I have to hope that things will dry out and the peppers will grow back normally.  The beds are filled with fertile soil rich in humus and organic matter, so they drain well.  The problem is that it has rained just about every day.
water logged pepper leaves

You can see that the older leaves look just fine, but the newer leaves that grew during the rainy time are deformed.  I started my pepper plants from heirloom seeds that I save and use year after year.  Gotta hope these plants make – I’m counting on all of the peppers – AND the fresh seeds for next year’s plants.

The swiss chard and squash are loving this rain.  I’m not sure about the beans or tomatoes – they don’t look just great either.

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Overview Time

Time for another overview of my garden:

This shot shows all 6 long beds – 3 are straight in front.  To the left is my new garden shed.  The area around the shed in in the process of being developed.  I plan to plant about 4 more blueberry plants and many wild black berry bushes in the area this side of the white shed.

This front bed has hot peppers on the left side of the raised cattle panel and summer squash on the right side.  Directly under the panel, winter squash is growing.  This bed has Waltham Butternut.  You can see onions hanging over the edges.  Earlier this year I planted onions around the edges of most of the beds.  I have bark and shredded wood chips as ground cover between my raised beds to discourage weeds.

overview of garden

I plant marigolds all over the place – in the edges of the raised beds and in small pots placed all over.  If I didn’t have so many seedlings drying out and dying this spring, I would have many more pots of marigolds all over.  This bed has summer squash (yellow and zucchini) on both sides of the cattle panel.  Early Winter Butternut squash is growing under the panel and will grow up the panel.  I grow my winter squash vines up the cattle panels.  I planted a couple of peppers at the ends of these beds.  This bed has Dwarf Kale going to seed.  I didn’t particularly like this smaller leafed kale, but I so enjoy Brassicaceae plants going to seed.  I am using bamboo poles to hold the kale plants out of the way so that the squash planted around them have plenty of sun and space to grow.
overview of garden

The bed at the top left has summer squash this year.  Last year it was my pepper bed.  I try my best – with my limited space – to rotate crops each year.  The bed at the top right – the one with my winter tent hoops still up, has a batch of Autum King carrots at the front corner.  I need to pick most of them soon.  A few of them are already going to seed.  I am also letting a couple of these Slo Bolt leaf lettuce plants go to seed.  I have the time because this is going to be my Basil bed this year (love that pesto) – but my basil seedlings are not all ready.  Some are already in, as are some peppers.  The swiss chard at the back of this bed will all be harvested and dried when my latest batch of basil seedlings are ready to go into this bed.  At the top left are some large pots with tomatoes, mentioned in another post.  Between the beds are bark and wood mulch, in the beds is leaf mulch.  I mulch all bare dirt.
overview time

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Swiss Chard

Last October, I planted Luculus Swiss Chard. (The seeds were from 2009 – still germinated very well).   It didn’t grow particularly well thru the very cold winter.  This spring it took off and for the past month or so I have been drying a load or 2 each day.  Swiss chard is a cooler weather plant and I can see some of the plants starting to bolt.  I can see different styles of leaves and have chosen the plants that I want to let go to seed – plants that have very large, wrinkled leaves, shorter stems are preferred.

wide shot swiss chard

These are dried swiss chard leaves.  It only takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 110 to 115 degrees to dry a load.  After doing a few loads, I realized that I can lay leaves right up next to each other, touching along leaf edges.  This means that I can pack about a third more in the dryer that I first thought.
dried swiss chard leaves

These dried leaves are what is left after laying them out before drying – leaves touching – across the sheet.  You can see that 2 leaves actually dried together.  Not a problem – they are totally dried.  These are leaf halves – I rinse them off, lay them flat and slice along each side of the main vein – it doesn’t dry quickly – and dry the leaf material, not the main stem.
dried swiss chard leaves in food dryer

These are just a few of the leaf shapes from the same batch of Luculus Swiss Chard seed packet.  Some leaves grow to almost 24″ long.  I like to let them grow large to dry.  Smaller is better for eating raw.  At this point in the season, I am just working on letting the best leaves grow as large as possible before cutting and drying.
assorted swiss chard leaves

I am carefully culling the leaves.  I cut and dry the largest and most wrinkled leaves – a personal preference.  I have picked the plants that I want to allow to go to seed. For those chosen few, I am leaving the small leaves and some larger leaves – cutting off only the largest leaves.   Some of those chosen plants are starting to bolt, as is expected as the days warm.  I will be removing and drying the ‘other’ plants as they start to bolt, eventually leaving only the bolting chard as it goes to seed.  I have never before let swiss chard go to seed so I really don’t know what to expect.
carefully harvesting swiss chard

I have already planted squash, tomatoes and peppers around the chard.  They are growing, waiting their turn to expand into the space now occupied by the swiss chard.  This picture shows some of the chosen plants – they have strong, large, wrinkled leaves – just the way I like them.
carefull harvesting swiss chard

The little plants in front of the chard are pepper seedlings.  You can’t see from these pics, but all of the chard plants have lots of cut off stems at their base.  Standard instructions usually say to cut all of the chard leaves off a few inches from the ground and let it grow back. I don’t do that – I cut the largest leaves to dry and allow the baby leaves to grow. The chard will be gone when they need that space.  I don’t have all of the room that I would like so I am working on figuring out how to work the planting as I go from spring/summer to fall/winter gardening, and back again.

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