Mountain Gardening

Chard can be purchased at local greenhouses in cell packs to transplant outside.

During the 2020 pandemic winter, I spent a lot of time cooking — trying new recipes and perusing mail-order seed catalogues for ideas for my spring garden.

My hubby and I tried our best to stay healthy, and I learned a lot about putting nutritious food in our aging bellies.

Of course, we all know (or should know) that we should get lots of fiber from chowing down on fresh, green leafy vegetables. But how much lettuce and spinach can one person eat?

So in January I bought a bundle of Swiss chard at the grocery store. It was good. Very tasty. Now I’m growing it in my vegetable garden at home.

Chard is a close relative of beets and isn’t that hard to grow, providing that you start with rich, well-drained soil and a sunny site.

As with other leaf vegetables chard should be watered regularly to prevent “bolting.” The term bolting means that the plant is moving toward flowering and seed production and will stop producing tender leaves. Once a plant bolts it is time to remove it and put in something new.

Chard seedlings can be transplanted — either started indoors or purchased already growing in small plastic cell packs at local greenhouses. Or the knobby seeds can be directly sown right into the ground in a garden row.

If you choose to buy vegetable starts, beware of “root bound” plants.

It may be that the seedlings have been in those confining spaces too long and the roots have become matted and densely tangled. The roots have begun to grow around and around or even poke through the drainage holes.

Chard is often called “Swiss chard” although, if anyone cares, that is misleading. Chard is not native to Switzerland at all. According to legend, a Swiss botanist was responsible for determining chard’s scientific name and the “Swiss” just stuck.

Last week I was feeling good about getting out and planting my vegetable garden. I planted onions, cilantro, spinach, lettuce and, of course, chard. My soil was loose and moist and the afternoon was beautiful. But a mere hour after I had tucked the seeds in the ground and watered them in, a bull moose ambled up and walked right through the garden, messing up my freshly seeded rows and leaving behind big craters of his hoof prints. Then he did it again.

What can I say? Gardening in Jackson Hole.

Gardening guru Marilyn Quinn shares her botanical expertise weekly during the summer. Contact her at columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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