Harvesting the Swiss Chard Forest

One thing I notice about some of my over-wintered vegetables, is that they are very quick to bolt. My over-wintered Swiss Chard was doing well for about two months and all of a sudden it grew more than a metre and started to go to seed.

BEFORE: Swiss Chard and kale, getting totally out of control

BEFORE: Swiss Chard and kale, getting totally out of control


On Monday I had an email discussion with one of my gardening friends about letting vegetables go to seed. What if we just left the vegetables alone to self-seed?  I love the thought, but in practice it may not work as well as expected, with some of the faster growing species (like pac choi or arugula) taking over.

My Swiss Chard and the two kale plants left-over from last summer were starting to block the sun, so this morning I pulled everything up and harvested the leaves. I ended up with much more vegetables than expected and ended up pushing big ziplock baggies of greens on my colleagues.

AFTER: the baby swiss chard, kale and overwintered lettuce are all happy to see the sun!

AFTER: the baby swiss chard, kale and overwintered lettuce are all happy to see the sun!

One thing that was surprising was how dry the soil was after removing the plants. Maybe this explains why some of my fava beans are falling over (they didn’t last year!). I watered everything very well, then dug about 15 pounds of manure into the bed. I planted “sweet slice” cucumbers and “mammoth” dill in the newly liberated space.

On the very right hand side of the picture above, you can see my overwintered spinach which is also going to seed. I am trying to keep it going until we’re ready to eat it; based on the number of veggies I already have in the fridge, that may be several weeks. At this point in the year I not only push vegetables on everyone that I meet with, but start to cook everything in a way that reduces vegetable  volume, so that we consume the maximum possible amount of vegetables per serving.

Today I also replanted some more carrots around the leeks. Apparently leeks help to repel the carrot root fly, a problem that I had last year. The original batch of carrots was planted in the trench with the leek seedlings, but was then selectively consumed by slugs or other insects. I don’t  know if planting the carrots around the maturing leeks will work, but I might as well try.

Other stuff:

  • Small Guy’s squash and zucchini have already sprouted and I reduced each group of sprouts to just two per mound.
  • The bush and fortex beans are all about six inches tall. Only about 10% of the pole beans sprouted, but that is hardly surprising as the seeds were several years old. I might try to replant the area with more pole beans.
  • Tomatoes are sucking, big time. The plants are still small and seem prematurely aged, with dried leaves and shriveled stems. Boo.
  • The arugula is fabulous. The species we are growing this year (wild arugula from West Coast Seeds) forms compact plants with big leaves.

Finally, the hive…the bee guys came this weekend and Art reported that they removed the third brood box and replaced it with a queen excluder and honey box. I guess that means that the bees are going to produce honey instead of larvae. They also replaced some frames that the bees did not build on. So far I haven’t noticed a huge increase in the number of bees in the yard; usually there are a lot in the raspberries and the California lilac, and this year there doesn’t seem to be significantly more.

Okay, that’s it.

About Chrystal

This blog is my online journal to keep track of what is going on in different parts of the garden, different times of the year.
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One Response to Harvesting the Swiss Chard Forest

  1. patsquared2 says:

    Great update. You covered a lot of ground (gardening humor) and shared some good info. I’m guessing the Swiss Chard was sucking all the water and a fair amount of nutrients! Love the bee hive update! Keep on gardening…

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