Metamorphasis of my Red Swiss Chard

I really want to know what is going on with my poor little red Swiss Chard! Something strange and bizarre is happening, and I don’t know why, or if it’s bad, and how to stop it if it is… or should I let it go? Maybe it’s just at the end of it’s life cycle. It’s turning into a vine!!!

Here’s the deal: last year I planted red swiss chard for the first time ever. My grandma had had it in her garden, so I thought I knew what to expect from the little guy. I searched for it in all the garden stores, and just when I had almost given up (I guess it’s just not a very popular plant), I found it! The farmers market had one – A little spindly, and split into two plants, but she was cute, so I went for it (when they are babies they are she, and when they grow they are he – not sure why, it just is.) After all of that searching, right after I planted the red – I found a regular white-stemmed Swiss Chard at one of the ordinary garden centers. I planted them both, and then moved on to other projects.

When they finally started producing, they were very very yummy, and lasted over the winter without freezing – I didn’t even have to cover them, which made me very, very happy :) – unlike most of the rest of my garden, which was demolished by the summer, and then obliterated by the freezes – sigh, such is life.

Then came 2010.

Here she was when I first started cleaning up the winter debris.

February 2010 - Cute Swiss Chard

Here he is now.

May 2010 - Spindly Swiss Chard

What’s up with this? I am totally confused – he’s sending out all these weird stringy vine things – did he get crossed with some kind of bean vine?

Swiss Chard - Right Now - with freaky little bloom

This started about a month ago – first this trunk like thing came up from the middle of the plant (which I chopped down – maybe that was a mistake?) Then he started sending up these weird skinny rounded stems, with little leaves, and then he went from big leafy bushy, to freaky spindly bushy. I’ve never seen this before – the new leaves are little bitty, and their stems are tough – I can’t even cook with them anymore – they are just too tough to eat! I’m also seeing little bloom heads, but no flowers yet – I wonder if it’s going to make seeds? 

Swiss Chard are only supposed to last a couple of years – but my white Swiss Chard is the exact same age, and it is producing very nicely, with the traditional big leaves and thick stems. No freakyness there. 

I have decided to just observe, and see what the little guy is going to do… Maybe I will try cooking the little bloom heads – I wonder if they are tasty?

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Cocoons!

Caterpillars, Caterpillars Everywhere!

Last year I planted a Dill plant in my veggie garden, which survived the winter quite nicely, and turned gigantic this spring. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the population of little Caterpillars that were enjoying it’s foliage had grown from one or two – to about twenty! (No worries – the dill is ok – they don’t eat much, and it had lots to spare.) What is pretty exciting though, is that the little guys have started cocooning! I first noticed that a couple of them had sort of ‘frozen’, and changed shape a little – then I realized that they weren’t actually holding on to the stems that they were sitting on – they were kind of floating above them – and when I looked really, really closely, I saw that they had spun a kind of little net – to hold them to the stem.

When I went out to look this morning, I found that three of them had developed this kind of green casing over their bodies. I’m so excited – I can’t wait for them to become little butterflys!

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Caterpillar - when it first settles on a spot

Caterpillar Cocooning

Cocoon!

Dill Plant

Caterpillar on the Dill

Caterpillar munching on the Parsley

The simple beauty of weeds…

While, like everyone else with a garden, I constantly combat weeds, every once in a little while I like to take a moment to just enjoy them.

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Updated Plan for my 2010 Veggie Garden

Ok, I’ve been meaning to update this for a while, but I keep getting sidetracked.  Here it is:

I will probably not add any more young plants until fall – summer in Austin is just NOT NICE to poor little plants – even the more established plants have a hard time.  I will try to keep everything moist and alive, but – we’ll see how it goes. I fully expect that half of the garden will shrivel within a month and a half, and the other half will start to go wild. Start the countdown to Chaos!

Drama aside – I did get another drip hose that I can try using if I start to loose everything, and a while back I picked up a big partial shade cloth at Home Depot that I can try using to reduce the ray’s – and the evaporation that they cause. I’m not sure how to keep it up high enough to walk under, but I’m sure I will think of something.

Let you know how it goes!

Bye for now…

Butterfly!

Today I caught a beautiful butterfly on the Stevia plant in my Herb section…

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Working Garden… Turkey Soup!

 

I didn't grow the turkey or the carrots - but all the greens are mine - Yummy!

Fruits!

This morning, I spotted the first little fruits! There was one big green tomato, and three little red currants that are swelling, the tomatillo is covered by blooms, and the bean plants actually have beans on them, and of course, the pepper plants are peppering!  They’re so cute :) I actually ate one of the yellow beans! Plus, my winter Squash and my Acorn Squash plants are starting to flower!

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Arghhh..

So, my Grow Box challenge is not going as hoped. While the little plants are staying nicely hydrated, and putting out some little blooms, the leaves are all really, really yellow! I talked to the folks at the garden center about this, and they say that either there is too much water (and I checked – there isn’t), or there is too much fertilizer. I did put some organic fertilizer in there, but not too much – but I wonder, maybe Lowes put some sort of fertilizer in their ‘organic’ garden soil, and ‘organic’ compost. If so, then – give me a break! How can it be organic if they are supplementing it with stuff!

Anyway,
I am thinking about solutions right now. My best idea is that I could water it really heavily, from the top, and maybe wash some of that crap out of the dirt – it’s getting hot enough that the soil should dry back out again to a reasonable moisture level pretty quickly.

Hmmm. I’ll have to think about this.

Blooms! Isn’t Spring Great…

Little flowers are starting to pop up everywhere! It’s so exciting… They may shrivel before they turn into fruits, but oh well, I will enjoy them now!

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On a slightly related note, my rose bushes are getting attacked by some little creature that likes to nibble petals – grownup petals, bud petals, whatever – it think’s they’re super yummy. Some of the poor flowers have been nibbled down to the nub! When I trimmed the spent flowers off of my big rose bush this weekend, half of what I trimmed was nibbled buds instead of finished flowers. Terribly demoralizing for the bush – all that effort, and nothing to show! For the life of me I can’t figure out what is doing it – it is way too high off of the ground for pill bugs…

Greenhousing

Considering how my indoors seed planting experiment went this year, I will NOT be going that route again. (Mold, wilting, shriveled little leggy seedlings that never managed to leaf out, etc…) Still, I do want to start my seeds early – they just do not get the young plants into the stores soon enough in the spring – or with enough variety.

After a lot of thinking about it, I have decided that the key to making the best little seedlings is Sunlight. Indoors I just couldn’t provide enough, and let’s get real – I have never had much luck with indoors plants. I have killed many an house-plant – for some reason I attract scale when I try to grow anything indoors, and then so much for that plant! I’m sure I am guilty of overwatering, or not watering, not fertilizing, not enough light, etc, etc, but really – when you just put a plant outside, it’s never needy like that, so why do we even bother bringing them indoors! (Well, besides the fact that they look pretty, and they clean the air we breathe.)

My new plan/experiment is the following – before my next attempt at growing seedlings (July 2010 & January 2011) I am going to figure out a way to make a cheap, warm, mini-greenhouse somewhere outdoors in my backyard.

That’s the plan – I think I should start now and have it ready, since winter is not really the time to be coming up with these things.

First, I will start doing a little reading about the best way to go about it, and I have also gone online and found a few resources and suggestions there, all of which I will start listing below as I find them:

* There’s a really cool one about winter seed starters – but I’m pretty sure it’s mostly intended for snowy climates – which we are definitely NOT. It recommends this whole method of planting in old clear plastic containers, and then putting them outside to get snowed etc on, then opening them up in the spring to find little plants – it’s pretty cool, but I don’t know if our climate would work for it.

* http://foodforeveryone.org/pdf/GBG_Chpt_10.pdf

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