Tuesday, August 9, 2011

an interesting season

Bolting Swiss chard.
Photo borrowed from
As many of you know, it's been a funny year for gardeners in Minnesota. Our long, cool spring really slowed things down, and the recent burst of rain and heat has caused things to flourish in an almost uncontrollable manner. It's been wild to watch how quickly plants have grown over the last several weeks. Some elements designed into the edible landscape have gone a little overboard, and not quite how I expected. We've had quite a few of the glorious chard plants bolt, which I have never seen before. A flower stalk on a chard plant is a rather impressive sight. Generally chard won't bolt in our northern region because of it's biennial nature. But with fluctuating temperatures and some dry spells, this robust plant can surprise us and send up that giant, fleshy flower stalk. The leaves are still edible after bolting, but may take on a different flavor. To keep them looking better, I plan to cut those stalks out, clean up any old, cracked or overgrown leaves, and see if I can keep them going. I'll keep harvesting from my un-bolted plants, which seems to help prevent bolting in the first place. (Just cut a few of the outer leaves without damaging the crown, and the plant will keep pushing out new leaves from the center). And maybe I'll even scatter a few seeds to get some lovely, tender new leaves before the end of the season.

If you're into seed saving and your chard has bolted you can give that a try too! This little factsheet from the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service has a list of seed-saving resources that might be helpful.

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