Chard en Garde Manger: The Delicious 3-Season Green for Food Security

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This article on growing chard is part of our Green of the Month series. To read the rest of the articles in the series, click here.

In case you don’t speak French (or visit lots of fancy restaurants), that title is my attempt at a little food funny. The term garde manger means “the keeper of the pantry.” The modern garde manger usually does other cool stuff, too, like make garnishes for plate-up, prepare cold dishes, and even ice-carve.

Originally, though, that title was literally applied to the person who guarded the food supply from rats and robbers, and ensured there was plenty of food to last through lean times. Food security was something the wealthy took very seriously. Having a dedicated garde manger looking out for your food stores was a sign of status and meant you were an important person.

As home-food growers, particularly those of us concerned about the precariousness of our modern food supply, we also have to be garde mangers of our own pantries and gardens. Growing chard can help.

The Goods on Chard

Here are some important reasons why anyone concerned with good health and a year-round food supply should add chard to their garden lineup.

1. Long Production Period

Chard is one of those awesome vegetables that makes you a garde manger in the traditional sense—as in, it offers a continuous supply of nutritious food you can rely on even in periods of drought, light frosts, extended heat, and more.

It’s definitely a 3-season vegetable. In many cases, it can even make it through winter with just a little weather protection. Once established, it can be harvested often and over long periods of time.

2. Adds Soil Tilth Without Tilling

Long-standing chard can grow a deep taproot. This makes it a wonderful scavenger of minerals and nitrogen. It can even do well in somewhat depleted soils.

If the root is left in the ground to rot after the top growth dies, it acts similar to tillage radishes, making food for bacteria and creating air spaces to break up soil compaction.

3. Nutrition Powerhouse

A cup of raw chard has 7 calories and contains 374% of your daily dose of vitamin K, 44% of vitamin A, 18% of vitamin C, and 7% magnesium. It’s almost 93% water, which makes it extremely hydrating if you are worried about health risks from chronic dehydration.1)

A cup of cooked chard has 35 calories and contains these amounts of your daily vitamins: 636% of vitamin K, 60% of vitamin A, 42% of vitamin C, 36% of magnesium, 32% of copper, 25% of manganese, 22% of iron, 22% of vitamin E, 20% of potassium, and 13% of your daily fiber.2)

Chard is loaded with phytonutrients. Red- and yellow-ribbed chards may also contain harder-to-come-by phytonutrients like betalains, betaxanthins, or indicaxanthins.

4. Ridiculously Easy to Grow

In my own experiments with growing chard, I find it grows better if I don’t fuss over it. I plant my seeds, mulch around where the root will come up, and maintain moist surface soil until the plant is 2 inches tall. After that, I water weekly in dry periods and keep weeds down until the chard really takes off.

It does need prepared garden soil. However, I specifically skip adding compost when planting chard to encourage it to grow deeper roots rather than letting it glean nutrients from the top few inches of soil.

Some of my chard roots have been over 2 feet deep. They are technically edible, but not as tasty as beet roots.

5. Versatile for Use in Cooking

I have heard a lot of gardeners and CSA members complain about having too much chard and not knowing how to cook it. I used to have that problem until I challenged myself to prepare a multi-course meal with chard as the main ingredient.

This month, rather than give you a recipe for chard, I am going to share that menu. I hope these ideas will inspire you to find creative ways to use your abundance of garden-grown chard.

Le Menu

Amuse-Bouche (i.e., tastebud tantalizer): Essence of Chard

Sauté chard with garlic and butter. Add some cream, salt, and pepper, and puree the mix in your food processor. Run your liquid through a fine sieve to make it smooth. Served chilled in small ramekins, like soup shooters, with a bit of crumbly bacon on top.

First Course: Chard Leaf Wraps

This is a play on cabbage wraps. Steam the chard leaves and wrap them around the filling from your favorite cabbage wrap recipe in lieu of cabbage.

Second Course: Chard en Garde

Make a paste, the consistency of peanut butter, using blue cheese, minced walnuts, a little cream for texture, salt, and pepper. Spread your paste down the stem of the chard leaves and roll them lengthwise into long tubes. Tie them with some chives to hold them together. Set them on the plate like two swords “en garde.”

Third Course: Chard Terrine

This is basically a fancy name for chard lasagna. Sub in chard for pasta and use your standard lasagna recipe for the filling. Bake as usual.

Fourth Course: Sausage With Chard Slaw

To make the slaw, ribbon the chard and mix with raw, shredded carrots. Warm your favorite vinegar-based coleslaw dressing and pour over the vegetable mix to make a hot slaw that pairs perfectly with your favorite grilled sausages.

Fifth Course: Chard Salad

This is simply chard chopped into salad-sized bits with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. It is meant as a digestive break before the last course. Go heavy on the mustard to give this course bite. Also, use baby chard leaves if you have them, as they are more tender.

Sixth Course: Chard Cakes

This course is about like making zucchini bread. Sure, it has chard, but the flavors are mostly masked by large doses of sugar, flour, and eggs.

Sauté chard in butter, puree it with some milk, and use it as your liquid in your favorite cake batter recipe. Use cream cheese icing for added sweetness.

This is just a peak at how to use chard in recipes. Also try chard paneer, spanakopita with chard instead of spinach, chard-and-artichoke dip, Tuscan bean and chard soup, wilted chard salad with bacon dressing, chard omelets, and more.

A Few Cautions About Chard

Too Much K Vitamin for Some

Similar to some of the other leafy greens we’ve covered in this Green of the Month series, chard has lots of vitamin K, which can be a problem for people on blood thinners or who are pregnant. Similar to using beets and beet greens, there is also some controversy about whether chard is okay for juicing.

It’s in the Beet Family

Chard is in the beet family, along with spinach. You’ll want to keep this in mind if you are using crop rotation for pest control or nutrient management.

Read More: “Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 1: Pest Control”

Read More: “Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 2: Pathogen Prevention”

Growing Chard

Now that your mouth is watering at the thought of fresh chard from your own garden, you need to get out there and plant it.

Soil Preparation

Chard grows best in prepared garden soil. It doesn’t need a lot of nitrogen for good production, but it does need consistent moisture. Keeping mulch or well-aged compost around the base of the plant will help retain moisture throughout the growing season.

Seed Starting

Chard is best started by direct planting in garden beds. Soaking the seeds for a few hours before planting will expedite germination.

Like beets, a single seed is actually a cluster of seeds. Planting seeds about 6 inches apart in a lattice pattern works best for beds that are 3-5 feet wide. Otherwise, if you have rows less than two feet wide, just plant them about every 4-6 inches apart down the center of the row. If you use mounded or raised beds, it’s better to avoid planting chard at the edges for better moisture control (edges dry out faster). Plant no deeper than 1/4 inch for speedy germination.

Lattice Planting - Chard - TGN

When your seedlings emerge, there will usually be a few new plants clustered together. Use scissors to cut the extra seedlings back to the ground. You can use the trimmed leaves in salads. Do not pull the extra seedlings, as this may disturb the roots of the plants you want to grow.

For continuous production of baby chard for salads, start new plants every few weeks. As the plants mature and their root mass expands, the leaves begin to grow much faster. This makes it harder to harvest baby greens from mature plants at exactly the right time. Younger plants are better for growing baby greens and older plants are better to use as cooked spinach substitutes.

Young Plant Care

While plants are young, make sure to keep the top few inches of soil moist by watering as necessary. Once plants are about 5 inches tall, the root is usually sufficiently deep that you can cut back to once-a-week watering if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.

Mature Plant Care and Harvesting

To maintain good production, you need to encourage additional growth by regularly harvesting larger leaves. Also, older leaves are more prone to insect damage and fungal issues. Timely harvesting keeps chard plants healthier for longer.

To harvest, cut the outer leaves close to the base of the plant. I try to cut my stems so that about 1 inch remains above the soil. For long-standing chard, if plants begin to slow their production, cut all of the stems down to about 2 inches from the ground. Allow the plant to regrow several leaf stalks and then start harvesting again.

Varieties of Chard

Usually when people think of chard, dark green leaves and deep red stalks come to mind. Home gardeners may also think of a mix of colors including dark red, pink, and yellow stalks. These are most likely rhubarb, Five Color Silverbeet, Bright Lights, or Rainbow Chard varieties.

These very colorful varieties are often the highest in some of those hard-to-get phytonutrients mentioned earlier. They are awesome in salads and cooked (older leaves). However, the less colorful kinds of chard are also highly nutritious and are often more prolific for using as a summer spinach substitute. 

My two favorite chard varieties for using as a cooked spinach substitute are Erbette Chard and Perpetual Spinach. These are not great for salads, but they get huge fast and allow for lots and lots of cuttings. They hold up extremely well in heat and humidity and taste delicious sauteed or steamed.

Also, here’s a list from Cornell University with more varieties to check out: Cornell Chard Variety List

Unconventional Growing Tips for Adventure Gardeners

Chard is an awesome choice for edible landscaping. The challenge with using it this way is being able to have your chard and eat it to. To keep a beautiful stand of chard while harvesting it too, go ahead and leave two plants in one hole rather than thinning back to one when the seedlings come up.

Harvest from one plant for a while, then allow it to rest and harvest from the other for a while. Alternate about every 2 weeks when plants are mature.

This works because those established, deep roots are faster at growing new leaves than young plants. However, you may have to manage the nutrition in the soil a bit better since you have multiple plants competing for the same resources. Also, root rot can be an issue in wet soils, so hardwood mulch tends to work better for this method.

Tell Us What You Think!

What’s your experience with chard—cooking it or growing it? Do you have a favorite variety or any tricks you’ve learned to keep chard in constant production? Use the comments section below to share your ideas!

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Garlic Growing Guide – A Look At How To Grow Organic Garlic

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If you didn’t plant your garlic in the fall, you need to do it very soon, so it has time to mature. This garlic  growing guide will teach you step by step how to plant, care for and harvest garlic. Did you know you only need to get garlic seeds once and have an unlimited …

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The post Garlic Growing Guide – A Look At How To Grow Organic Garlic appeared first on SHTF Prepping & Homesteading Central.

4 Keys To Keep A Newly Planted Garden Growing Strong And Healthy

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When it comes to a newly planted garden, a little attention now can pay off big later! The first few weeks after planting is a critical time for vegetable plants. It is when tender seedlings and transplants are at their

The post 4 Keys To Keep A Newly Planted Garden Growing Strong And Healthy appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

22 Ways for Growing a Successful Vegetable Garden

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Spring is fast approaching, so are you planning to grow a healthy and beautiful vegetable garden that will help beautify your home’s outdoor and be a place of relaxation? Growing your own fruits and vegetables in the yard lets you spend more time outside, at the same time saves your money for buying organic food. So if you have the space to grow your own vegetables, you should definitely take advantage of that. Even if you only have a small space, it isn’t an obstacle anymore in your effort to vegetable garden. In the following projects you will find a lot of vegetable garden designs to help you start your neat and tidy veggie garden that produces fresh and tasty food for you. Take a look and get started!

1. Use metal trough as container for vegetable garden and install a path between your veggies:

Tutorial of above project ====>

2. If you are planning to plant cucumbers, melons, and beans in your garden, you can build a trellis and raised garden box combo to let them get support at some point:

Tutorial of above project ====>

3. Spiral garden has very cool looking and works great for people with limited space:


4. Use landscaping rocks to build a series of raised garden beds and put a galvanized water trough in the center of garden for easy watering:


4. Use landscaping rocks to build a series of raised garden beds and put a galvanized water trough in the center of garden for easy watering:


5. U-shaped raised garden makes efficient use of limited space:


6. Build pea tepees structure to make the harvesting and maintenance more easier:

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7. Use landscape stones to build a stunning carved garden in your backyard:


8. Wire trellis is a great option to build a vertical growing garden in a tiny backyard:


9. Lay the ground with red bricks or pebble and place cedar and pine planks garden boxes on it to plant your veggies:

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10. Build a mini vegetable garden along a foundation wall:


11. Concrete blocks are the perfect materials to organize an easy and cheap vegetable growing place:


12. Build a bean tunnel for your climbing beans:


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It’s The Pain-Free (And Overlooked) Technique To A Bigger Garden Yield

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Succession Planting: The Pain-Free Path To A Bigger Garden Yield

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Succession planting is a great technique to use in your garden that will provide you with delicious benefits for little extra work. The primary goal of succession planting is to produce more food from your garden by continuously planting crops throughout the growing season.

If you’re like many of us fellow food growers, maximizing your garden’s production is a yearly goal. The idea behind succession planting — an often-overlooked technique — is to replant another crop immediately after you harvest, sometimes repeating more than once, depending on your climate and ability to utilize season extension methods.

To prepare yourself for a full season of succession planting, it is helpful to sit down in the spring and map out what crops you are planting where, and when. This will serve as a reminder when to start new seeds indoors so you always have strong and hardy seedlings on hand.

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There are different types of succession planting, and you can use one of these methods or all of them in your garden simultaneously.

Same Crop Succession Planting

“Same crop succession planting” refers to re-sowing the same crop at regular intervals throughout the season to ensure that you always have some of this crop to harvest. This is used most often for lettuces, radishes or scallions. By planting a smaller quantity every 1-3 weeks, you will harvest smaller amounts continuously, rather than a large amount all at once. Not only will you enjoy fresher produce from your garden, but you will surely reduce the amount of food waste your household generates, as well.

Different Crop Succession Planting

Another type of succession planting incorporates different crops in succession, and is very effective in accommodating the changing climate throughout the year. Follow the first cold-weather crop with a different species of plant that thrives in the hot summer sun. You can then follow this up again with another cold weather crop that will hold up to overwintering. If you plan accordingly, you can plant the same spot multiple times throughout the year, using many different scenarios. For example: Plant cold-weather crops in the spring (such as spinach, cold-hardy lettuces, peas) under row covers, hoops or cold frames; followed by quick-maturing, heat-loving crops (beans, radishes, carrots, scallions, summer squash); followed again by cooler-weather crops that you can overwinter (kale, leeks).

Intercrop Succession Planting

A less commonly used method is called “intercropping” and involves planting more than one species of plant in the same spot at the same time. Each crop matures at a different time, usually in succession, and allows you to maximize your production by growing a harvest of more than one crop in one space.

Succession Planting: The Pain-Free Path To A Bigger Garden Yield

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There are a few things to keep in mind to facilitate greater success with this type of a succession-planting schedule.

Seamazing: The Low-Cost Way To Re-mineralize Your Soil

By starting the seeds of your second and third plantings inside, you will have strong and hardy seedlings ready to go, increasing your garden’s efficiency.

Each time you harvest and replant, be prepared with soil amendments to feed your soil. Organic compost, manure, glacial rock dust, Epsom salts or your favorite organic fertilizer will help to ensure that your soil remains as nutrient-dense as possible to support a lush and vibrant garden. The more nutrition you feed your soil, the healthier your plants will be and the more nutrient-dense your food will be.

Utilizing nutritious mulch throughout the year will help retain moisture and nutrients in the soil, while greatly reducing those pesky weeds.

Lastly, intensively planting a space in your garden with multiple crops in one growing season can take its toll on your soil. Follow an intensive season with a nutritious green-manure cover crop; that will help regenerate the soil and prepare it for the next round of edible production. Rotate your bed of intensive succession plantings to a new place in your garden each year to reduce stress on the soil and the risk of pests and disease.

By simultaneously utilizing a few tried-and-true techniques in your garden – succession planting, mulching, and crop rotation with green manure cover crops — you can increase your production potential to a whole new level.

Do you use succession planting? Share your tips in the section below:

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‘No Fundamental Right’ To Grow A Garden, Attorney Tells Judge In Major Case

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‘No Fundamental Right’ To Grow A Garden, Attorney Tells Judge In Major Case

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A closely watched court case concerning front-yard gardens in Miami Shores, Florida, has finally received a court hearing, and the city’s attorney showed no signs of backing down.

Circuit Judge Monica Gordo heard a challenge June 8 to the Miami Shores ordinance that allows fruit trees and plastic flamingos in front yards but bans vegetables.

“There certainly is no fundamental right to grow vegetables in your front yard,” Miami Shores attorney Richard Sarafan told the judge. “Aesthetics and uniformity are legitimate government purposes. Not every property can lawfully be used for every purpose.”

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The attorney for the couple at the heart of the case disagreed.

“We’re not saying you can do anything you want on your property,” attorney Ari Bargil of the Institute for Justice told Gordo, according to the Miami Herald. “We are simply saying you can grow vegetables on your property and that is protected by the Constitution.”

(Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s interview with Bargil here.)

Bargil is representing property owners and married couple Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll, who – as Off The Grid News reported – were ordered by the city to tear out their vegetable garden.

The couple grew vegetables in the front yard for 17 years until the Miami Shores village government passed an ordinance banning front yard vegetable growing. Ricketts and Carroll were facing a $50-a-day fine.

“There is no vegetable ban in Miami Shores,” Sarafan said. “It’s a farce, a ruse.”

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Miami Shores’ residents are free to grow vegetables as long as they stay in the backyard, Sarafan told Gordo. But Ricketts and Carroll contend that their back yard does not get enough sunlight to grow a garden, and that their front yard is the only option.

The case is significant because it could establish a legal precedent that property owners have the right to grow vegetables.

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The Institute contends that the village violated the Florida state Constitution’s privacy clause, which bans arbitrary government interference in private activities.

The issue is important because several local governments across the country have tried to ban front-yard vegetable gardens, Institute for Justice Communications Coordinator Matt Powers noted.

The most outrageous case occurred in Oak Park, Michigan, where city officials threatened to jail Julie Bass for planting vegetables in her front yard in 2011.

“These incidents demonstrate a disconcerting trend in local governance, as city councilmembers are increasingly seeking to regulate even the most harmless uses of property,” Powers wrote at the Institute’s website.

Gordo will make a ruling in the case sometime in the next few weeks, The Miami Herald reported.

“Come by when we win the case,” Carroll told reporters after the hearing, “eggplants on us.”

That meal might be years away if the legal battle drags on.

Should cities be able to ban front-yard gardens? Tell us in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

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Secrets To Successfully Watering Your Garden

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Watering the garden…it sounds like such a simple and peaceful chore. But in reality, it is one of the biggest factors in the success or failure of a garden. The secret to success is knowing how to water, when to water,

The post Secrets To Successfully Watering Your Garden appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

The 7 Healthiest Vegetables You Can Plant In The Garden This Year

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The 7 Most Nutritionally-Dense Vegetables You Can Plant In The Garden This Year

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If you are looking to become more self-sufficient while boosting your nutrition at the same time, there is no better choice than with a home vegetable garden.

Homegrown veggies are superior to store-bought veggies in terms of freshness, taste and nutrition. When you add in their lower cost, and the pride you feel in growing your own food, it is a no-brainer. Plus, many veggies are easy to grow and do not require large amounts of space.

It makes sense that fresh-picked vegetables taste better than store-bought veggies, but why are they more nutritious? It has to do with that freshness. Supermarket produce usually has traveled many miles over a period of a few days to even a few weeks to get to your store. That long trip from farm to table allows nutritional content to degrade, especially if the vegetables have been exposed to heat. According to nutritionists, temperature is the top factor in keeping fruits and vegetables in the best condition.

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The 7 Most Nutritionally-Dense Vegetables You Can Plant In The Garden This YearIf you are looking to pack the biggest nutritional punch that you can with your garden this year, here is a list of seven veggies – based on government nutritional data (see chart) — that are the healthiest you can grow.

1. Kale – You’ve probably read about all the health benefits of this superfood, but did you know it was easy to grow, too? It likes sunny, cool conditions of the spring and fall and soil that has a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

Kale leaves are rich in fiber, iron, vitamins A, K and C, and new studies link kale to lowered LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Add it to salads, soups and stews for its hearty taste and nutrition.

2. Spinach – This super healthy vegetable does well in spring, fall and even winter in some locations. Leaves will turn bitter tasting, so it is a good idea to harvest them promptly.

Spinach contains the antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin that are good for eye health and for digestion. Spinach also is high in iron, calcium and vitamins A, B and C.

3. Collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens — You can mix these greens — which are rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants — or eat them separately. A Harvard University study concluded that people who regularly consume dark green, leafy vegetables are about 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. Eating these greens may also protect against certain types of cancers, according to studies by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

These greens are hardy in the garden. They don’t need much space, and they can thrive in partial sunlight.

The 7 Most Nutritionally-Dense Vegetables You Can Plant In The Garden This Year

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4. Carrots – You probably grew up hearing that eating carrots was good for your eyes. It’s true. Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, a type of vitamin A that gives carrots their orange color and helps the retina and other parts of the eye to remain healthy. This root vegetable, which is at its most nutritious in its raw state, also is a good source of fiber, antioxidant agents, vitamins C, K and B8, folate, pantothenic acid, iron, potassium, manganese and copper. Bugs Bunny was definitely on to something!

Carrots grow best in the cool temperatures of early spring and late fall. They can do well in small spaces and do not mind a little shade.

5. Red bell pepper – High in nutrition and low in calories, red bell peppers taste great raw in salads or cooked in pasta dishes. One medium pepper can provide 150 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C. At only 32 calories, that’s quite a boost. Red bell peppers also help combat atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

Red bells come in many different varieties. They prefer full sun and soil of at least 65 degrees that drains well. As the plants grow, you may need to stake them, depending on the size of the peppers you are growing.

6. Bok choy – One of my new go-to-favorites, bok choy (aka Chinese white cabbage) is loaded with more beta-carotene and vitamin A than any other type of cabbage. It also contains vitamins C and K, potassium, magnesium and manganese. Additionally, the Harvard School of Public Health calls bok choy a better source of calcium than dairy products.

The 7 Healthiest Vegetables You Can Plant In The Garden

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Bok choy is low in calories – one cup contains about 20 calories – yet its high fiber content will help you feel full. You can use bok choy in place of other cabbages or eat it raw.

Bok choy requires rich, loose soil, and it will need fertilization not long after planting.

7. Sweet Potatoes – Many nutritionists place sweet potatoes first in their list of healthy veggies. They contain high amounts of vitamins B6, C and D, iron and magnesium.

Unlike other types of potatoes, sweet potatoes prefer hot weather, so they grow best in the South. If you live in a colder climate, you can have success with raised beds with covers. Either way, sweet potatoes like sandy soil and plenty of sunshine.

According to 2015 research by the National Gardening Association, 35 percent of all American households are growing food either in a home garden or in a community garden. This percentage is an overall increase of 17 percent over the last five years.

Another advantage of growing your own vegetables is that you avoid the dangers of chemicals. When you plant and care for your own garden vegetables, you know exactly what has been sprayed – or has not sprayed – on them.

What are your favorite healthy vegetables? Share your advice in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

Urban Farming: No Farm Farming

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Many people graduate from college and just sit year after year wondering what their calling is. If you are looking to make a difference in the world and find that the typical 9-to-5 isn’t making the cut, then perhaps it’s time to take a look at farming, specifically urban farming.

“What if I don’t have land?” you might ask. This article will help you bring farming techniques into fruition in areas where space is limited. Permaculture is a large concept at work here and it can run the gamut of everything from composting to water retention systems. Although you may think that your backyard is too small to enact some of the main principles, think again. All of these things can bring you one step closer to farming in your backyard.

Water Harvesting

You may not be building the water terraces of ancient China or the aqueducts of old Peru, but you can still change the dynamic landscape of your own backyard to save water. Consider where you need to water and where rain gathers. If you can divert this natural force and slow it’s descent to the sewer you’ll be better off.

First, let’s tackle the backyard. Taking excess dirt and creating a slope that funnels water to the center of the garden is the best way to take advantage of soil architecture and save rain water, as well as water from your sprinkler. 

Roof runoff is also worth saving no matter how rare rainfall is in your area. There are a few things to keep in mind when setting up a water cache system like this.

  • Water Quality: Water must be filtered and should be pollutant free. Keep in mind that zinc-aluminum roofing can be dangerous to your health.
  • Do not let your gutters become blocked with leaves. Leaf guard can be expensive, while homemade alternatives are still effective.
  • Regular maintenance is a must. You’ll want to make sure that water is sealed at appropriate times, to protect from development of mosquitoes in warmer months.

Companion Planting

Growing plants that are native to the same continent and cultures together will improve crops survivability. Because these plants have evolved in the same place for many generations, they require the same protection, and in some instances provide shade, nutrients, and ground cover.

You might find your crops being under siege from spider mites or other pests. This guide will illustrate just how to face those problems in an organic way, by using companion plants.


Composting is central to the farming experience. While we won’t delve completely into the wide world of composting here, there are a few things to remember while at home in the urban setting.

  • Make sure to seal compost bins to avoid confrontation with pets, pests, and neighborly noses.
  • Red Worms are your best friend
  • Save coffee grounds or ask for some from a local business
  • Find a local composting co-op if you don’t have room at home.

Keep in mind that your goal is to return nutrients to the soil as food for crops. You don’t want your backyard turning into a miniature dust bowl after several seasons.


This is a topic that can take some getting used to, but with proper installation you can use the forms of water in your household that are not exposed to human waste to better hydrate the garden. I’ve seen setups where the sink was disconnected and water was free to run into a bucket for later distribution. This comes with it’s problems of course, and is not recommended. But there are designs aplenty for whatever age your home may be. Here are some of the most prominent benefits:

  • More water for use, and less strain on wells or drought stricken areas
  • Less strain on failing septic tank
  • Less energy and chemical use
  • Plants benefit foremost and after water is returned to it’s origin (groundwater) faster
  • Increased awareness of and sensitivity to natural cycles

Poultry & Eggs

Yard pending, you can find a way to install a small to medium chicken coop or convert a pre-existing shed. The chicken housing must meet several requirements, not only for city ordinance, but also for the chickens themselves to be happy and fruitful:

  • Chicken feeding is a regular job and requires a solid schedule. An automatic feeder may lessen the burden.
  • Fencing around the coop can be important if you have nosy pets or live in an area rife with predators.
  • Don’t forget the light! Chickens only lay eggs based on daylight cycles. Some lights will also affect the temperature of the coop, which is another important part of keeping chickens healthy and alive.
  • Make sure you have access to the inside so you may clean regularly.

Whether the goal you have in mind is for eggs (quite sustainable) or for poultry, you should find that the coop is an excellent addition to the home, and is one step closer to making you an actual farmer. Treat your chickens well and healthy product will come along with it.

Position of the Sun         

If you aren’t paying attention this could spell disaster for your first year, mostly because you won’t have a second year. Without proper daylight your crop will never properly flourish, and for some locations the urbanite may have to do some proper planning. Before making any cuts on the tree linings of the property, make a chart that shows where the sun line falls on your property. In some cases you’ll have full coverage, but more than likely you’ll have a tree or two in the way. Note the time of year as well, as the sun will shift depending on the season.

After trimming, consider burying the remnants of your tree trimmings to create a Hugelkultur bed. This is a form of composting that uses trees and tree parts to save moisture, contribute nutrients, and reinvigorate the soil. Gather the tree parts and bury them with a layer of nutrient dense material and cover with topsoil and my personal preference of straw.

Urban Farming For All…

This article is only the tip of the iceberg.  Use the following resources to transform your backyard into a farmer’s market contributor, and turn that day job into that of an urban farmer. If all goes well, maybe you’ll make that return back to college for an agricultural education. For now, supplement your income with fresh fruit, vegetables, and stock!

References and Resources for Further Education

Urban Farming

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Guest Poster: Ryan De La Rosa on twitter
Guest Poster: Ryan De La Rosa
Ryan De La Rosa is traveling the NorthWest looking for a place to farm, even a place to compost would do.