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

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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.

The Inexperienced Gardener

Over the last few years, I have acquired a strong interest in gardening. It started off as a love for flowers but then evolved into a full-blown desire to grow things almost anything. Last year I planted my very first vegetable garden. I started out with an expensive two level pine raised garden, but then when I ran out of space, I moved to a shady space under a fence in my yard.

Raised and Second at old home

The funny thing was that my second garden, in the shady area, consisted of nothing more than the native soil in my yard, but the vegetables grew much better than in the expensive raised garden which consisted of fancy store bought soil. The area was under a fence with bushes on the other side which provided just enough shade for vegetables such as cabbage, zucchini, and cucumbers.

This area also had enough sun for corn which grew lovely! The soil was very rich and had tons and tons of worms which were the first indication of fertility. What I gained from this experience is the notion that sometimes what is readily available to you can be your very best option.

Although I had learned a lot about my soil and gardening in my first year as a vegetable gardener and knew the next year would be even better, I ended up moving to a new home where uncharted gardening and home improvement awaited me.

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As of now, I have been at my new home for 8 months and have tackled many projects in this short time. After trying to figure out where I would put my new garden, my fiancee made the suggestion that we convert the pond (which I was not a huge fan of) into a raised garden! The area had large flowering bushes around it, and also a separate area for flowers. In theory, this area would be suitable for both sun and shade plants.

With this new space, a lot of new challenges came with it. We first had the task of removing over 4 ft of water, filling the pond with about 2.5 feet of fill dirt, plus 2 feet of top soil manure and other amendments.

Pond 1

Ribbet collage
I researched what items grew best in full sun or part shade. I carefully created a draft showing where everything was to be planted. I even made a calendar that kept track of the dates I planted my plants (I did not start from seeds) and a fertilizing and feeding schedule. I had it all figured out… So I thought.

Raised Garden 1 Graph

At the beginning of this spring season I had planted two types of tomatoes, (Roma and big boy) zucchini, cucumbers, bush beans, basil, two types of red swiss chard, okra, broccoli, collards, kale and hot peppers.

By late summer which is as I am writing this, I no longer had okra because they took too long to take off and I felt the space was overcrowded so I gave the plants away, and I learned that collards were the hardest to keep the insects off naturally so eventually I pulled them up. I did get at least three harvesting’s from them which was more than enough for me.

The red cabbage formed heads, but they did not get very big. This was the same problem I had with them last year, so I’m not sure I will try again with the red ones. The green ones tend to do well anywhere I put them. The bush beans did not produce very much so I pulled them up too.

The previous year I did a vine variety of beans which produced a lot, but they were not flavorful so I think I will try vine again next year but a different variety.

My zucchini suffered from powdery mildew all season but still produced some decent sized zucchini but nowhere near the large ones from the previous year. I think they were not getting enough air which caused the mildew and slower growth.

But still, all in all, I consider my new garden to be a huge success and it looks beautiful in my yard! People come by and marvel over its greatness! I am very pleased indeed! 🙂

Begining garden

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Even though it is in full bloom, it is still a lot of work. Over the season, I have had to cut down and prune my tomato plants because they were entirely too tall, and most of the nutrients were going into the height of the plant and not the fruit. Once I learned the art of pruning (kinda) they started to produce more fruit, and much faster. I continuously have had to add support to my tomatoes so I think next year I will use cages.

I also had a very slight case of rot bottom on just a few plants. I also moved one of my cucumber plants from the garden to a pot because it was competing with the zucchini. I originally thought zucchini could be grown on a trellis but was wrong.

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Now we are approaching the end of summer here in Michigan so I have decided to start a whole new vegetable garden! Yes, I am venturing into fall gardening this year. Stay tuned for my next posting which will take you step by step with me, as I challenge myself to dig deeper and become a Top Shelf Gardener!