Saturday, September 24, 2011

Swiss Chard

Did you know that Swiss chard is a member of the beet family?  I'm growing it, and I didn't know that!  My husband learned this from a crossword puzzle this week and shared with me.  Another thing I didn't know about Swiss chard when I started growing it... how to cook it.

I've been procrastinating harvesting the chard because I wasn't sure what to cook with it.  But it was getting pretty out of control, so I finally decided to take some in last night.  I found a recipe with great reviews on that called for baking it with feta cheese.  It was an easy recipe, but I have to admit, the result was not my favorite.  I don't know if it was the recipe or the chard, but it came out very bitter.  I had heard that chard is milder than spinach, but this was definitely not!  I want so badly to like Swiss chard because it's such a pretty, hardy garden plant.  I will definitely give it another try with a different recipe.  Meredith's suggestion from last week looks good!  Any additional suggestions?

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fall Garden

I thought about waiting until the spring to start a garden at the new house, but with several weeks left until the first frost, I decided to make a go of a fall garden.  I read Square Foot Gardening and was excited to get started.  After running all over town to find the materials (mainly the five different varieties of compost), I got my little garden set up in one afternoon.  (A special thank-you to my mother-in-law, who gave us a raised bed container as a house-warming gift!)
My next problem was finding seedlings.  In the midst of finding and buying a house, I hadn’t started any seeds for a fall garden, and it was a bit too late to start broccoli, cauliflower, or cabbage indoors.  I was headed home from a local gardening store when I happened to pass Hartke Nursery.  My parents had bought me and my husband a tree from Hartke for our anniversary (a Japanese Maple, now planted in our yard!), so I had been there once before.  I decided to pull in and take a look around.  I wandered through the rows of plants for sale and happened on a table with fall vegetable seedlings.  They didn’t have many, but they had almost everything I wanted!  I bought a six-pack each of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mixed lettuce, and Swiss chard.  (I would have liked to plant sugar snap peas and spinach, but I’ll get to those next year!)  I got home, popped them in the garden, watered them in, and they have been growing happily ever since.  I fortified the garden against the numerous squirrels and rabbits in our yard with plastic chicken fencing stretched around four metal fence posts, and they haven’t broken in yet.
The founder of this method would tell you that my garden isn’t a “true” square-foot garden because I don’t have dividers marking off each square.  Maybe next year.  I was more focused on getting the plants in the ground!
I should have the first harvest of Swiss chard this weekend.  (I must confess that I’ve never actually eaten Swiss chard before, but it’s so pretty and hardy that I just had to grow it.)  I hear you prepare and eat it like spinach.  I’ll let you know how it is.  The lettuce has been the least happy of the plants; although still growing heartily, some of the plants started to bolt as the temperature climbed back into the 100’s a couple of weeks ago.  I'm so glad we finally seem to be done with the heat!  I’ll post updates on the garden’s progress.  So far, I’m loving this square-foot gardening method!
Is anyone else growing fall vegetables and/or using the SFG method?  What do you think?  Does anyone have a good Swiss chard recipe to share?

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Growing Adventure

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Back in the spring, I started a handful of seedlings in a corner of our little apartment.  Under a single grow light, they sprouted up until I had more seedlings than I could possibly pot on my tiny 2- by 4-foot patio.  So, I planted a number of herbs, two tomato plants (one a yellow pear tomato and the other a red slicing tomato), two pepper plants (one bell, one hot), and about a dozen carrots, and gave the rest of my seedlings away to good homes.  My plants adapted to their new outdoor habitat, growing thicker and stronger in the breeze and taller with the moderate sun reaching my patio.  However, as the summer arrived and blasted us with scorching heat and weeks without rain, it was hard to keep the plants happy.  One of the pepper plants, the rosemary, and the chives withered and died.  Something infested my tomato plants, which got silvery scales on their leaves (let me know if you know what this is… I’m still not sure!).  The hope and enthusiasm I felt while nursing the seedlings along in early spring wilted as well, but I kept the remaining plants limping along.

In midsummer, my husband and I bought a house (hurray!).  We packed everything up, and I decided to leave the sickly tomato plants behind.  The remaining pepper plant, basil, and carrots traveled with us to our new home.  As the summer wore on, the carrots became quite stunted and the tops dried out.  The basil plant suffered in 100-plus-degree heat without water for several days while I was out of town.  However, the pepper (which turned out to be the hot pepper) plant has survived and produced several good peppers!

A little ray of hope for my gardening skills!

It is so amazing to look at these vegetables and remember the tiny seed I planted so many months ago.  The seedlings that I sent out into the world have fared a little better than my own.  My sister’s pear tomato plant is producing little yellow tomatoes, as are the plants of some friends.  I hope to make another attempt with these next year.  Now that we have our own bit of land, I'm excited to try my hand at gardening again!