Mini Farming: Growing Beets and Chard
The mini-farming guru breaks down all there is to know about growing beets and chard effectively. Learn the tips for soil preparation, planting, harvesting, seed saving and preserving. Also, check out this refreshing and simple pickled beets recipe.
Beets, beet greens and chard are an absolute nutritional powerhouse, so cleaning your plate is a good idea!
Photo Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing
Mini farming is a holistic approach to small-area farming that can enable a gardener to produce 85 percent of an average family’s food on just a quarter acre. In Maximizing Your Mini Farm (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012), author and mini-farming guru Brett L. Markham breaks down the tips, tricks and planning advice that can make your small-area farm profitable and help you grow more food on less land.
You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Maximizing Your Mini Farm.
Growing Beets and Chard
Beets and chard (also known as Swiss chard) are variations of the same beta vulgaris species commonly descended from a sea beet that grows wild around the Mediterranean. Though beets are grown for their roots and chard for their leafy greens, the greens of both are edible. Beets, beet greens and chard are an absolute nutritional powerhouse. The roots contain glycine betaine, a compound shown to reduce homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine levels are predictive of coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular diseases and stroke, so beets are definitely a case where cleaning your plate is a good idea!
In addition to this, beets supply minerals such as manganese, magnesium and iron, as well as B vitamins such as niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine and folates. Beet greens and chard are also an excellent source of vitamin K, which plays a role not just in blood clotting, but also in bone formation and limiting damage to brain tissues. They also contain vitamin C, beta carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein and a host of other important antioxidants.
That’s all well and good but … are they tasty? Absolutely! And, even better, they are among the easiest crops to grow on your mini farm.
Given properly prepared soil, beets and chard can be grown practically anywhere in America that plants will grow. I’ve never tried a variety of either that wasn’t delicious, though you’ll find over time that certain varieties may grow a little better or taste a little better in your specific location. I’ll give you a list of my favorite varieties, and I think you’ll find them well-suited, but please don’t limit yourself to just my suggestions.
Beets: Bull’s Blood, Early Wonder, Cylindra, Detroit Dark Red
Chard: Ruby Red, Rainbow (a/k/a 5 color silverbeet), Fordhook Giant
Beets and chardgrow best in deeply dug, rock-free soils rich in organic matter that have a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. The beds should be fertilized normally, though adding a teaspoon of borax (mixed with something like bone meal or wood ashes for even distribution) per thirty-two-square-foot bed is a good idea because beets are sensitive to boron deficiency. One major problem with germination of beets and chard is that soil can crust over the seeds, leading to plants being trapped underneath the crust. This will cause uneven stands with different rates of maturity. To solve this problem, make sure there is plenty of well-finished compost in the soil.
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