Beets are one of my Beautiful Girlfriend’s (the one who let me marry her) favorite vegetables. Mine too, and we love the greens at least as much as we love the roots!
Beets are planted about 1/2 inch deep, 4 inches apart. If planting in rows, space them about a foot apart. The seeds are actually clusters that produce more than one plant. After they start to grow, use a sharp pair of scissors to snip the heads off of all but one plant in a cluster. Snip just below where the leaves come together. Trying to thin the clusters by pulling will damage the root system of the plant you want to keep. The remaining plant may die if the roots are damaged too badly.
Some choose to allow beets to grow a bit before thinning. Today, I thinned some very small seedlings; because I saw that weeds were invading and didn’t want them to overrun the beets. With some nice sifted compost soil in one bucket and some pulverized leaves in the other, I went to take care of the beets.
When weeding the delicate beet seedlings, scissors are again used to snip any invaders away from the tiny beet plants. Pulling weeds that are very close to the seedling will damage the roots of the beets you are trying to save. I use my trusty Swiss army knife scissors for this delicate task.
After thinning and weeding, I carefully placed the sifted compost soil around the beet plants; being careful not to “smother” them. The leaves should stick out of the soil; but the stem of the beet should be covered. Then I carefully applied the pulverized leaves for mulch. That helps keep the weeds in check, prevents moisture loss, and of course keeps the soil healthy.
Below are some “before and after” pictures of my beet thinning excursion. To illustrate why I thought I’d better get my hiney in gear to save the beets, I wanted to point out what I was saving by (crudely) drawing a red circle around the beet seedling. The next photo shows the soil applied, and the final picture shows the end result with pulverized leaves for mulch.
Seems to me Swiss Chard is a very underrated vegetable. Very easy to grow, very nutritious, and an excellent substitute for spinach in any recipe. You can eat the stems as well as the leaves. We even use it in place of lettuce on sandwiches. Just tear the leaf from the rib and place it where lettuce would go.
Chard seeds are planted about 1/2 inch deep, 4 to 6 inches apart. If planting in rows, space them 18 inches apart. Chard is a member of the beet family; so like beets the seeds are actually clusters that produce more than one plant. After they start to grow, use a sharp pair of scissors to snip the heads off of all but one plant in a cluster. Snip just below where the leaves come together. Trying to thin the clusters by pulling will damage the root system of the plant you want to keep. The remaining plant may die if the roots are damaged too badly.
After the clusters are thinned and are growing nicely, thin again so there’s about a foot or maybe even a little more between plants. Any that are spaced more closely will be produce an end result of smaller plants. Toss the plants you remove into your favorite stir fry or perhaps even a quiche.
If planted early, chard can be harvested pretty much all season long. It’s even frost hardy to some degree; but when the temperatures stay below freezing the leaves will be damaged significantly. If you’re a seed saver like me, when fall starts to slip into winter be sure to trim the leaves down; then give the plant a good covering of mulch. With any luck it will endure the winter and produce seed the following year.
I find the plants are most productive when the leaves are allowed to grow to good size, then trimmed off the plant till just a few small ones remain. With young plants, I cut the leaves off with a sharp knife as close to the root crown as possible; being careful not to cut too close and injure the plant. When the plants become more substantial, I just grasp the base of the stem near the bottom of the plant and gently push downward and tug slightly till the stem breaks away. If there’s any remaining stem sticking out from the plant, I generally cut it off with a sharp knife; again being careful not to cut too close to the center. Pictures below show some before and after pictures of today’s harvest. As you can see, I did some substantial trimming; but so long as a few healthy leaves are left behind; the plant will flourish and provide several harvests.
I used this technique because I’ll be blanching and freezing the leaves. I have several plants, so when I want fresh leaves I merely harvest one or more plants less aggressively.