January in the Garden 2015 – Swiss Chard

Happy New Year fellow gardening enthusiasts!!

ChardLeavesLike all leafy greens, Swiss Chard is nutritious, delicious and very easy to grow. Being one of a couple perennial vegetables like asparagus, you can extend your harvest over several months and with just light frost conditions, into the next year. Swiss Chard can handle cold winter conditions and produce a bounty of spring harvests. Like kale, the cool weather kicks up the flavor up a notch.

Swiss Chard is a very under –appreciated veggie.  Besides being extremely nutritious and rich in vitamins, it grows well in marginal soils and with little attention.  Both the stalk and leaves are edible.  It can be cooked as you would spinach or used fresh in salads.  To minimize the sometimes bitter summer taste, keep your plants well watered and harvest the leaves when they are young.  This is not much of an issue with the variety Bright Lights. Trim back leaves that wilted or that have insect damage and harvest the leaves as large as you want.  It will rebound quickly and you will find you will have more than you can possibly eat.  Strip the plants of older leaves if you are flooded with chard.  There will be many  more smaller inner leaves to take their place.

Swiss Chard is a member of the beet family except there is no bulb.

Aphids are the biggest pest we experience in our gardens.  Wash them with a blast of water and use insecticidal soaps or neem oil if necessary.  If your infestations get totally out of hand , trim them plants down to a couple of inches, wash them off hard, spray and fertilize with any high nitrogen product.  We use Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1. I hear deer like Swiss Chard. If that is a problem- venison is delicious!

The only disease we experience is powdery mildew on our chard.  Sulfur, water and soaps are the tools of choice, besides pick and toss.  Serenade is another organic product for the control of powdery mildew.

Edible landscaping is a huge topic these days.  People are ripping out their lawns and planting colorful veggies.  With the price of water in Southern California (reservoirs are already down 18% this year in Northern California) and the use of drip irrigation- you might as well grow something that will feed your friends and family.  Lawns use a lot of water and are not very tasty!

Bright Lights has multi-colored leaves that grow very large if desired and can add tons of pop to your edible landscape.  They can handle shady areas which is a plus in your garden.  If you work compost into your pre-plant program, the poorer soils are not an issue.  Basically- plant it anywhere.

I get my seed from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  You can have them send you a catalog or order on-line. Bright Lights is a signature multicolored mix from JSS. The leaves are slightly savoyed, green or bronze with stems of many colors including gold, pink, orange, purple, red, and white with pastel variations.  The flavor is milder than ordinary chard and each color a bit different.  It is an AAS (All-America Selection) winner.

Swiss Chard  is easy to direct seed, but the special needs groups that help us here as well as the residents and kids in our Seed to Table program, find it a breeze to sow in trays in our greenhouse. The seed comes pelleted, which  reduces jamming in mechanical planters and easier to work with when the fingers aren’t as nimble as they should be.  The Swiss  Chard seed pellets are made of inert NOP (National Organic Program)-compliant materials.  Pelleted seed should be stored in a cool, dry place and used over the course of the year. A packet of 200 seeds is only $3.95.  That’s a bunch of food for a very little price. We plant our Swiss Chard, 12”-18” apart, staggered on both sides or the drip tape.

So add some pop to your garden and enjoy your bounty by adding Swiss Chard to you edible landscape.

As Horticulture Manager at Sunshine Care in Poway CA, I invite you to come take a stroll through our organic gardens and we can swap growing ideas and recipes. We have also started up our popular garden lecture series, held on the third Saturday of the month at 10:30 am.  They are free, informative and open to the public with refreshments, door prizes and tours of the campus. Our speakers know their stuff!

Check out our web-site www.sunshinecare.com for more info and feel free to contact me, Roy Wilburn with any questions, ideas or a tour.  roy@sunshinecare.com  858-472-6059
Roy’s Bio

Happy Gardening!

Categories: Horticulture

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