Tag Archives: swiss chard

Hello Spring

With Snow On The Ground

We had around two feet of snow last Tuesday and most of it is still on the ground.  The daytime temperatures are hovering between 30 and 40°F which isn’t helping to melt it.  Today is the official first day of spring but outside, you would never know it.  It’s more like ‘Hello spring, where are you?’ to me.  Crocuses, Hellebores and Snowdrops were completely buried under.  My little cold frame looks more like a little igloo in the garden.

It’s not only me that was fooled by nature, the Robins have already made an appearance despite the snow.  The American Goldfinches have started to drop their winter coats.  We try to help them by providing food and water when there isn’t much out there for them besides endless snow.

A male American Goldfinch, amidst snow fall, starting to show their bright yellow plumage, their summer color.
Cold frame is covered with snow. I’ll try to dig my way there to see how it looks inside.

I had sown some lettuce seeds inside the cold frame a couple of weeks ago because I wasn’t expecting to get this much snow around now.  I’ll dig my way in there tomorrow to see how they are doing.

Though it doesn’t look like spring outside, a new cycle of life, a new season, has already begun inside the house.  This is the time I usually start tomato, pepper, eggplant, Swiss chard and kale seedlings.  The first three need to be done around 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost so they can have enough time to grow, bear fruits and ripen.  As for the Swiss chard and kale, they like cold weather anyway so I can put them out in the garden early.

Variety of tomato and pepper seedlings for the new season
Variety of Swiss chard and Kale seedlings

Next, is prepping tropical plants in the basement for their summer outdoors.  Spring should come around the corner and stay within a few weeks.  But who knows? We had snow in April.

 

 

 

Winter Vegetables

Getting Ready For Winter

There is not much left in the vegetable garden especially after temperatures dropped below 20º F.  I didn’t have time to cover the plants outside the cold frame: Mizuna, Broccoli Raab, Scallion, and Mustard Green.  But they perked up a little bit once the temperature climbed above 50º F.  Heavy snow is predicted for today so I harvested some Mizuna and Swiss Chard and steamed them with fresh tuna yesterday before they got buried under the snow.

This winter will be the second year we put up a cold frame.  Last year was our experiment in growing vegetables in winter under a cold frame without extra help from a heater.   We started the whole process very late last year and the winter was extreme, but we still had salad when it was freezing outside.  The frame nearly collapsed from heavy snow piled on it but it was very encouraging to be able to have fresh greens from our own garden in March.  We have assembled everything early this year.  We also added supporting bars to the hoops so we won’t have to hold our breath during a heavy snow fall.

Our cold frame last winter had become a little igloo.  The frame slightly collapsed inward from heavy snow.
Our cold frame last winter had become a little igloo. The frame slightly collapsed inward from heavy snow.
This year's cold frame with three additional supporting bars.
This year’s cold frame with three additional supporting bars.

I’ve sown Chinese Broccoli, Kale, Swiss chard, Chinese celery and Arugula in this plot in early September.  They’re growing quite nicely.  Mustard Green ‘Dragon Tongue’ sprouting up from fresh compost I added to the plot is a pleasant surprise.  Pac Choi seeds sown weeks ago also sprouted but turned out to be Mizuna instead.  This mislabeled seed package has become my problem lately since I frequently forget to label the seed pod packs when drying them.  Unfortunately they all tend to look alike.  Too late to sow another Pac Choi in there for this winter; they wouldn’t sprout until next spring.

Arugula and Swiss chard seedlings in early September.
Arugula and Swiss chard seedlings in early September.
Arugula and Swiss chard in late October
Arugula and Swiss chard in late October

Slugs have eaten all lettuce seedlings.  My second batch will have to be in the house as baby greens instead of full grown lettuce.  I put a beer filled container in there but only two slugs took the bait.  I think they only go for fresh beer, not the one that their comrades have already drowned in.  I picked off a few more fat slugs yesterday and don’t know when my next chance to check inside the frame will be, hopefully it will be cold enough to slow their metabolism down.

Chinese broccoli looks perky and happy in there.
Chinese broccoli looks perky and happy in there.
Swiss chard among Mustard green 'Dragon tongue' and Edible Chrysanthemum
Swiss chard among Mustard green ‘Dragon tongue’ and Edible Chrysanthemum

Now the slugs have moved on to devouring the Mustard green ‘Dragon tongue’ seedlings (above image).  Surprisingly enough they won’t touch the Edible Chrysanthemum sowed since spring.  It’s a vegetable worth growing because I can sow it once in spring and keep harvesting it until late fall.  I cut them again yesterday but left enough stems to see how they will weather this winter in the cold frame.

Snow is coming down today and expected to be around a foot by its end.  Hopefully I can make a path to the cold frame and pick some salad tomorrow.

 

Great references for growing winter vegetables:

  • Four-Season Harvest: Organic vegetables from your home garden all year long by Eliot Coleman
  • Salad Leaves For All Seasons: Organic growing from pot to plot by Charles Dowding

 

 

Vegetable Garden

Summer Vegetables

Our vegetable garden this year is very different from last year.  We had a lot of cherry tomatoes last year from seeds that sprouted up in compost I used.  There are not many of them this year as I’ve pulled the sprouts out early before my guilt set in.  I just can’t bring myself to demolish a perfectly good plant.  I didn’t expect the uneven weather we’ve had that caused a lot of the tomato flowers to drop and the fruits to grow very slowly.  Beans, Kale, Broccoli and Swiss Chard are doing well though.  I can’t pick them fast enough.

August is here and the temperature dropping close to 50°F for a few nights has not helped either.  What happened to summer?  I’m debating whether I should sow winter vegetables now or wait until mid-September as usual.

The Swiss Chard is doing fine this summer
The Swiss Chard is doing fine this summer
I have no idea how this Morning glory got here but I let it grow since the flowers are so beautiful. The Bitter melon doesn't seem to mind sharing space on the fence either.
I have no idea how this Morning glory got here but I let it grow since the flowers are so beautiful. The Bitter melon doesn’t seem to mind sharing space on the fence either.
Winged beans in the foreground are just starting to flower. The Italian and Asian long beans in the background have been producing a lot of beans this season.
Winged beans in the foreground are just starting to flower. The Italian and Asian long beans in the background have been producing a lot of beans this season.
The lush Red Asian Long beans and Italian beans are growing faster than I can harvest.
The lush Red Asian Long beans and Italian beans are growing faster than I can harvest.
Sad looking tomatoes.  I had to cut most of their leaves off when black spots started to grow after  raining continuously for a few days.
Sad looking tomatoes. I had to cut most of their leaves off when black spots started to grow after raining continuously for a few days.
Holy basil are doing fine amongst the Kale, Dill and Genoese basil.
Holy basil are doing fine amongst the Kale, Dill and Genoese basil.

Spring Vegetable Garden

Sprouting Time

After a long wait for fresh backyard salad, I can hardly stop myself from sowing seeds in the vegetable garden.  As soon as the soil softens, judged by seeing weeds coming up, I put Arugula, Radish (Cherry Belle and French Breakfast), Pak choi, Mizuna, Kale, Swiss chard, Scallion, Lettuce, and Broccoli Raab in.   The arugula is always the first to come up.

I also put Snap Peas in the soil directly.  I find that they grow stronger that way than starting them in a container and replanting them.  I just soak the seeds in water for a few hours, placing them between damp paper towels.  The roots will sprout out in two nights.  I drop the ones with roots in the soil and cover them.  I don’t have to worry about hardening them.  If they feel it’s the right time to poke shoots above ground, they will. They are already a couple of inches tall now.  I will have stir-fry sized pea shoots in a couple of weeks.

Some self-sown Broccoli Raab, Borage and Calendula also came up.  Last year’s Red Russian kale, Scallion and Radicchio looks pretty fresh and healthy.  I can pick them while waiting to thin the seedlings (great baby greens for salad).  I also picked my first Asparagus of the season last weekend and will have some more this weekend.  Garlic is looking lovely at this time too.  I have already fed them once.

Yes, the tomatoes have sown themselves again.  They are just an inch above the soil surface right now, not big enough to be transplanted yet.  I will take most of the Borage and Calendula out from the vegetable garden and transplant them along with the flowers.

Anywhere I turn there are signs of new shoots and leaves unfurling, another cycle of life has begun.

First fresh, sweet, asparagus of the season.
First fresh, sweet, asparagus of the season.
Most of these Calendula seedlings will be transplanted to the flower garden.
Most of these Calendula seedlings will be transplanted to the flower garden.
These Snap peas were sown directly in the soil.  I don't have to cover them even on a 39 degree night.
These Snap peas were sown directly in the soil. I don’t have to cover them even on a 39 degree night.
Borage sprouts up right next to the garlic.  I keep a few of them in the vegetable garden, but this one will have to move.
Borage sprouts up right next to the garlic. I keep a few of them in the vegetable garden, but this one will have to move.
Put the garlic cloves in last October and they came up in March.
Put the garlic cloves in last October and they came up in March.

Before the Curtain Closes

And Before the Rain Washes Them Away

It’s raining again tonight, actually it has been raining on and off for the past two days.  It’s just drizzle now.  Luck was on my side yesterday; gave me a chance to take some photographs of fall colors before the rain washes them away.  Not much left of the garden, really, just a lot of leaves on the ground and some flowers here and there that push their last bit of energy before going to rest.  The whole visual of fall garden gives me a sense of ending.  That is what gardening has taught me: a life cycle.  I see plants sprout, grow, blossom, fade and die within one season.  Then it starts all over again, maybe in a new place, or a new form.

Anyway, I don’t mean to be philosophical here.  It is just that gardening makes you keep your feet on the ground, working along side mother nature and enjoying what she gives us.

Even at the end, she still paints a beautiful picture that artists through the centuries have struggled to match.

Japanese Maple & wooden bench

The bright red of Japanese Maple leaves provide a very beautiful contrast to the bright yellow of western maple leaves in the background.  The Tree Swallow family was long gone, but a male Eastern Bluebird came to check this birdhouse for a potential roosting place a week ago.  This bench is a great place to sit and watch the sunrise and contemplate the beauty that surrounds us.

Pineapple sage

Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) is still flowering and the Bumble bees still work on the last drop of its nectar.  I will be picking the leaves and drying them for tea before the frost comes.

Salvia ‘Black & Blue’

Salvia ‘Black & Blue’ is still flowering as well.  I grew them for the first time this year and have no idea whether they will last the winter so I’ve collected the seeds, just in case.  I will try to plant them next to the Pineapple sage next year; the color combination should be great.

Strawberry

We still pick some Roman strawberries, with lovely pink flowers, at this time of year.  The fruits are small but very sweet and the plants never stop producing them.

Knockout

Rose ‘Knockout’ is a continuous bloomer.  Once it starts in late spring, it never stops blooming.  This one managed to evade the hungry deer so far.

Swiss chard

The bright bold colors of Swiss chard are one of a few vegetables left in the garden.  Chinese celery, Kale, Scallion, and Parsley are also still standing.  Some stray garlic seedlings have sprouted up as well.

Iris ‘Lenora Pearl’

Re-blooming Irises have bloomed on cue.  Once October comes, they shoot up new flower stems for the second time.  They tempted me to up-root the other Irises and plant all re-bloomers, but there are not that many color choices to choose from.