Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2009 Overview Chard and Spinach

I grow two plants in the Chenopodiaceae family - Swiss chard and spinach. Spinach is such a prima donna. She hates to germinate, hates being transplanted, and bolts at the slightest hint of heat or long days. I had to treat her with such care. I chitted the seed inside for two days, until I could see the first bit of little roots starting to come out of a couple of seeds. Then I planted Melody on 3/17, 3" apart in rows 6" apart.

Luckily for me she will perform if coddled. I put a row cover over most of the spinach. I left a little out in the open to see what happened. Well what happened is that the row covered spinach produced about a week ahead of the other. Row covers are such a godsend in the spring. I'm always dying for the first taste of spring grown crops and a week quicker was fabulous. In addition covers have the added bonus of keeping off the leaf miners I also planted some spinach 1" apart. That spinach also took a week longer to grow. My first harvest was on April 24th of all the thinnings. I harvested 2.5 pounds of spinach in about 20 sqft. The last spinach came out on May 27th to make room for the squash. Some were taken out earlier to make room for the corn.

I did seed some more spinach in the fall. What came ups was chomped on by slugs, but I still got some plants. The leaves are tattered however so I'm waiting to see if they can over winter under a row cover. Hopefully in early spring the slugs won't bee so vicious.

Next year I will plant a lot more spinach. I have a lot of wasted space that doesn't get planted in early spring. The whole squash and bean bed can be planted with spinach. It has to get ripped out prematurely, but it can still produce a decent crop in that time. And next year I'll do the whole bed correctly. Chit my seed, space them at least 3" apart, thin to 6", and use a row cover.

As a producer, chard is my favorite vegetable in the garden. She just never stops. I plant her early and harvest all summer long and into the fall until the ground freezes solid. A row cover in early spring helps her get off to a good start too, but once it starts getting warm I usually take it off. She was started indoors on 3/16, but I only planted five seeds. I decided I needed more chard so planted again on 3/22 with five more seeds. Since chard seed is not really a single seed, but a cluster of seeds, I thinned out to get a good showing of colors in my Bright Lights. The seedlings were transplanted on 4/7 and 4/14. Three weeks seemed like a pretty good size. They were still small, but took off fast.

I transplanted nine plants at 8" apart. They had a 16"x3' section of the garden or 4sqft. They stayed in the ground all year long and I harvested 8.9 lbs. Even in the fall they grew and this patch doesn't get sun in the fall. It is in shade.

Next year I wouldn't mind one more row. I could freeze a lot for the winter that way. Right now I have more spinach in the freezer than I have chard. I won't however grow Bright Lights. I like the taste of the Ruby Chard better. I will so miss those pretty stems.

Neither the spinach or chard were bothered at all by diseases. The only insects that bother them are slugs and leaf miners. The slugs aren't bad in the spring, but in the fall I'll have to do something about that next year. The leaf miners are easy to control. If they have a row cover they are free of them. For the summer chard I handpicked the eggs every few days. In addition I kept the leaves well picked so there would be few leaves to check and the handpicking would go faster.


  1. Hey Daphne! Thanks so much for the update!!! And I agree with you about the Ruby Chard, but I can't stand not growing gold-stemmed chard, so I grow it in pots on the deck as an edible ornamental. (If I don't eat it, the chickens will! It's definitely win-win.)

  2. Eight-point-nine pounds of chard?! Wow! I never weigh anything, such is my hurly-burly life. But it does produce and produce and produce. I can't give up on the Bright Lights, but the chickens don't mind the extra. I will try the Ruby.

    And it's such a great idea to put out more spinach in the beds that are otherwise on hold until summer. Just wish I'd prepared for that before we got a foot of snow today...hmmm. At least the pea bed is good to go!

  3. our friend Ben, well next year I'm going to bite the bullet and not grow it again. I may regret my choice, but I usually don't when I pick the best tasting.

    June, this year I just did spinach on a whim in the squash area. It worked so well that I'm expanding it. But you are right. I didn't put the compost on part of that section. Ah well. Maybe next year I'll get it all right. Nah! I'll always forget something. That is why I'm doing the overviews because I forget from year to year.

  4. The bright lights is lovely to look at, maybe you could plant it with the perennials around your garden next year. I am getting a green leafed/white stemmed chard soon, I will have lots if you would like some of them.

  5. I totally agree with you that chard is such a work horse in the garden patch. I have really come to love this plant and my family does too.

    Super recap and overview. My fall corp of spinach was pretty much a bust this year. I think I got it planted about two weeks too late and our weather turned horridly cold and wet very early. The combination of late seeding and early foul weather just did them in. The spring crop was gorgeous though and in fact... we ate some of the frozen spinach as part of our dinner tonight.

  6. Dan, I'm also ordering a green variety. I want to try Argentata from Fedco. They claim it is the best tasting of the chards. I can't resist trying it. I'll grow Ruby Chard too as a comparison.

    kitsapFG, I've eat only one of my frozen green packets so far. I needed them for the minestrone soup for Thanksgiving. I wanted to use the spinach in the garden, but it was just too laced up. Once I clear out all the fresh greens from my fridge I'll have to start using them.

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