Spinach and Swiss Chard: Healthy Greens from Your Garden

High in vitamins and anti oxidants, many leafy greens are under used in family meals. These are an easy to grow class of plants. Spinach and chard can be grown in the ground pots or hanging baskets. Seeds can be sown in the Fall or Spring. Plant successive crops every 2 weeks after the initial sowing to keep a continuous supply going. Chill the seeds in the refrigerator for 1 week prior to planting.

Sow seeds in rows of 12 to 15 seeds per row. Cover them 1/2″ deep. Spinach likes a moisture rich, well drained soil, and benefits by side dressing with a nitrogen fertilizer to promote healthy greening.

Spinach blight, caused by the cucumber mosaic virus is a common problem. Downy mildew and other fungal infections are brought on by excessive humidity. Raised beds help avoid this problem. Look for bolt resistant hybrids bred to withstand common fungal problems.

Harvest spinach when you see a 5-6 leaved rosette. Cut just at the soil line. You can pick just the larger outer leaves on each head of spinach, allowing the inner leaves to develop for another cutting. Successive sowing should keep you well supplied throughout the season.

Chard is actually a beet that has been bred only for leaf production. There is no underground formation of the vegetable portion of the plant. The leaves can be green, yellow or red, depending on the variety, making them ideal decorative elements in the garden.

Sow chard in the early Spring, planting 1/2 to 3/4″ deep in good well-drained soil. Use 8-10 seeds per row, thinning to 2-3″ apart. keep the chard well watered and side dress with a good nitrogen fertilzer.

Harvest by cutting the leaves 1 1/2″ above the ground.

Lettuces come in many delicious varieties for the home gardener. Bibb, butter, romaine and red oak leaf. it is one of the most often planted salad vegetable. The red oak leaf can be used as a decorative element in containers and hanging baskets, as a fill in during Fall and Winter.

Lettuce fares best when temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees. It should be planted in late summer or early Spring for best results. Too much heat produces a bitter, stunted, bolting mess. There are a few new hybrids that have been bred to withstand heat.

Leaf and butter lettuces should be planted in the very early Spring, as soon as the ground can be worked. Sow successively 10-14 days apart to get continous production. All tyopes need to be fully mature before any real heat sets in.

Plant seeds 1/4″ to 1/2″ deep in short rows, 10 seeds per foot, in single, double, or triple rows 12-18″ apart. frequent shallow watering instead of deep watering, will produce crisp leafy heads for harvest. Too much water leads to wilts, rots and scalding of the leaf margins.

Using a healthy organic mulch can help keep weeds and pests down significantly.

Aphids like to munch on lettuce, so if this becomes a problem, using insecticidal soap is a necessary step to eliminate them. If you see some tip burn on the young leaves, remove it by cutting only the browned area away with sharp cuticle scissors.

Harvest lettuces by cutting with a sharp knife, at soil level. Choose full heads, and try and cut every other one until new heads fill in.

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