A Deck of Chard

Like most people, growing up I was not big on vegetables. My mom would force me to eat many of the things I now love as an adult. Although vegetables such as green beans, mustard, turnips, and collards were often included in our daily meals, spinach was the only one I truly loved. I think my love for spinach came from watching Popeye the Sailor Man or something.

As a child, I would grudgingly eat what was set out in front of me, but when it came to trying something different, I was always a skeptic. One day last year while visiting my mom, she introduced me to what has become my new favorite green vegetable. Good old tender delicious Chard!

It’s a wrinkly looking leafy vegetable that comes in many varieties. It doesn’t require much seasoning ( I like to saute mine in olive oil and garlic) and is pretty easy to cook. This delicious green vegetable pairs well with steaks and I even can eat it solo which is a big deal for a carnivore like myself.

This year I planted my first crop and I absolutely loved growing it! It has continued to grow all through the season while my other greens have come and gone.

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Nutritionally, it is not as high in nutrients as spinach but, it is still pretty close and, for me it’s good to break up the monotony of my spinach days. To harvest, I simply cut the outside leaves and the inner leaves keep multiplying and producing!

What makes this vegetable even more outstanding, and my favorite to grow, is the fact that none of the insects or critters that invade my garden periodically like it! There is never a hole and rarely a nibble. I guess it’s just too healthy for the animals in my area.

So if you have not tried this delicious green, be sure to include it in your next seasons garden. You won’t be disappointed!

Here is my favorite sauteed recipe from Food Network. Enjoy!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/melissa-darabian/garlicky-sauteed-swiss-chard-recipe.html

The Uninvited Guests

This past week has been a whirlwind of hot and humid days. We’ve had some crazy thunderstorms mixed with heavy winds, that have left my garden with muddy vegetables and soaked soil. It seems that summer is going out with a bang and a shout.

My newly planted fall garden is now three weeks old and although it is still in its infancy stage, it has been through some rough changes requiring some quick action on my part. Some of the issues could have been avoided, some not so much.

Thinning beans
The four leaves are two separate bean plants. On the right shows how they were separated and replanted.

One thing that had to happen since my blog “Fall Gardening” was once my bush beans reached about two weeks old, I noticed that each bunch of seeds had sprouted into two separate plants. I had hoped to have avoided having to thin them out by trying to space the two seeds the recommended 4-6 inches apart upon planting. This still did not stop two plants from emerging.

Luckily I left space in the front of my box because I planned on planting in succession, but now this space will be utilized for my additional bush bean plants. The second issue that occurred was an attack on four of my seedlings by my dog Scooby. I accidently left the entrance to the box open and his curiosity got the best of him. He dug up a few of my mesclun lettuce plants and a spinach plant.

Luckily the damage was minimal and I had some leftover seeds so I was able to replant them with ease. This will only assure that those Items will need to be harvested a little later than the others, so I guess that’s a good thing.

My biggest problem and concern is that there seems to be some culprit who is nibbling on my greens and bean plants. I am not certain rather it is an insect or some sort of critter, but steps have to be taken to save my veggies.

Damaged mustard greens, green beens and turnips.
Damaged mustard greens, green beens and turnips.

My first step was to dust my plants with a preventative powder. Because I am trying to use natural ingredients, I have decided to use diatomaceous earth as the means for controlling insects.

Diatomaceous Earth
http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/degen.html

The type of diatomaceous earth that I use is a food grade powder that does not affect the taste of the vegetables and is completely edible. Since this is my first time really using it, the jury is still in session.

What I dislike so far about it, is that it is quite messy and I have to wear a mask when applying. It is not recommended that this powder be inhaled.

If in fact it is some sort of small animal that is invading my garden, I have started to sprinkle the dirt and surrounding areas with good old fashioned cayenne pepper. This too looks messy but always seems to work. The downfall of it is that once it rains or I water the garden it has to be reapplied. Lucky, for me I can buy it at my local dollar store so the cost is minimal for the most part.

Three week fall garden
Fall Garden at three weeks old.

So that’s it for now. Please be sure to follow my blog for updates on my progress as I continue on my journey of being a Top Shelf Gardener.

Murder of My Children

I lie in the bed at 7:20 a.m unable to go back to sleep. I have been up since approximately 6:47 and although I didn’t go to bed until after midnight, I am no longer tired. I decide that is is time to get my day started, for lying in the bed wide awake is much like lying in a coffin waiting to die.

I am very careful not to wake my family because I simply love my quiet mornings alone. I like to work fast in the a.m and pace myself into the afternoon. There is nothing better than not being disturbed while I am working.

I go downstairs to my dining room where I do most of my writing and thinking. I open my curtains and look out the window at my “work in progress” yard. Everything looks pretty good on my side except the dead vines hanging on the cable wires that remind me of the privacy I once knew. I take a deep sigh as I stare at the rusty shed that is totally ruining my view. This eyesore is something I can’t control.

I try to consider (for the hundredth time) how my neighbors would feel if I offered to paint it for them. I have never spoken a word to the strange people on the other side of the fence. Why strange you wonder? Because they keep dropping air conditioners out of the same dang window! It’s quite a funny thing to see and it reminds me of an episode of Laurel and Hardy. I giggle at the thought.

I again wonder would they be insulted or would they be glad for the free labor? I decide not to be a busybody and continue to keep this dream to myself. Next year, we will put up a privacy fence but until then I will just have to deal with it.

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I begin my morning routine….

Coffee check, incense check, shower check. Now time to check the weather forecast for today. Whoa!!! A wretched high of 87 degrees (which usually means at least 90) and it will be 77 degrees by 9:00 am. Guess I better go water my babies.

First thing I do is visit my three-week old fall garden. “Goodmorning,” I say as I gently begin spraying my tiny seedlings with my new super long water hose. The smell of the water somehow soothes me.

I usually water my garden at night so that the water does not burn the plants or dissipate too fast, but it will be super hot today so I will probably do a light watering again in the eve.

Now that the ground is wet and the worms may come out, I begin to worry about the birds bothering my poor plants. I decide it’s time to wake up my trusty sidekick “Scooby” to keep away the predators.

He grudgingly obeys as I yell to him “get the cat”. This always makes him run around in circles like a madman. Scares the heck out of anything in the yard even me sometimes.

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The nice thing about having a super crazy, I mean, intelligent dog is that he will chase away just about anything. The other day he tried to gently attack my daughter’s new beau. I haven’t seen that kid since.

Next I tend to my two petunia hanging baskets. They are really dry and brown at the bottom but still have some pretty blooms. I wonder if it is time to just let them go. Nah, maybe next week, as I finish watering my backyard and head to the front.

The front of my home has been sort of neglected lately. About two months ago I decided to plant pumpkin seeds in my front yard since I didn’t have an appropriate full sun space in the back.

I had the brilliant idea that I would have some beautiful vines and pumpkins once Halloween got here. There were only a few perennials in this space and most of my annuals would need to be pulled up soon anyway. This seemed to be an ideal spot until this happened.

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The vines look pretty I think. Honestly, I am not certain how I feel about them which is why I kept putting off pruning them! But today is the day!

Once I read that I could cut the vines to lessen the length and then the plant would concentrate more on making larger pumpkins instead of a lot of pumpkins, my mind was made up. I have only noticed one pumpkin in all of this mess and this lucky guy is on the driveway and side I want to keep.

Driveway pumpkin
Driveway pumpkin

The clock is ticking now and if I don’t get moving soon it’s going to be a sweltering hot miserable project! I decide to start with the smallest patch on the left side and work myself to the right. I dig down with my shovel and it comes out easily. I realize I don’t really need tools at all. What a strange plant it is with barely any roots.

Just when I get going, here comes Mrs.Busy Body from next door. “Oh, I see your plants are taking over Aye,” she says. I nod my head in agreement, “My squash are dying and I have no idea why,” She waits for me to tell her.

I glance over to the front of her yard and as usual, a hot mess. I see her sorry pumpkin vines that are struggling for survival in all of her chaos and I want to scream “WATER THEM LADY,” but instead, I offer a few umm-hmms as she jabbers about randomly. Her conversation is very similar to her yard with all kinds of random things being thrown about.

I start to zone her out and keep it moving. It is just too hot for chatter. Just when I think she is getting the picture, her husband walks up. I decide to say good morning since I don’t want to appear to be too rude. To be quite honest, I kind of like this guy. He barely talks and he minds his own business. My type of neighbor.

The most interesting thing about him is the fact that he always looks like he is going out for a pack of cigarettes never to return. I think it’s only a matter of time.

He gives her a look and they head off towards their home. I am grateful that he intervened since the last time she talked to me for over an hour and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I will never understand why people come up to you just to have a conversation with themselves.

As I continue to work and pull up the prickly vines, the bees start to chase me. I run in circles looking like a maniac in my moo-moo, sweat socks, and rubber shoes. I dodge there every attack not caring how foolish I must look. I will not let them bully me away from my garden today.

When that fiasco is over, I then notice that the vines I have removed have tiny baby pumpkins on them. Where the heck did these guys come from? At that very moment is when I realized, in all of my haste, that I am a murderer, and I have killed my own children!

I fed and took care of them just to snuff them out when they were no longer convenient. What started out as a trim became a full blown massacre. I hurriedly shoved them into the paper bag of death hoping no one will ever know just what I have done…

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When I am finished the front looks sort of bare again and I feel a little empty. But now, I am happy that I can see my Japanese Maple and rose bush again. I was somewhat worried that a .99 cent pack of pumpkin seeds was going to choke the life out of my overly expensive tree.

Now I can concentrate on putting more fall colors in the front and getting ready for my favorite holiday. I have made the right decision. I think…