Kale and Swiss Chard
Greens grow year round here in the SF Bay Area. I also know that they grow well in Southern California and also the Pacific Northwest, around the Portland, Oregon area in the winter too. Having fresh greens from your garden in the winter is such a healthful addition to your meals. Even if you don’t have an actual garden space, they grow really well in planter boxes that you can have on your deck or porch. Greens like Kale and Swiss Chard are hardy and actually really like the cooler weather.
One of the great things about the planter boxes is that you can have them closer to your house for easier access. Another advantage of the planter boxes near your house is to discourage the garden pests. My husband had a patch of winter greens growing in the garden – kale, chard, lettuce and arugula. One day when he went out, a gopher had gotten to them and had eaten everything except the arugula! What a bummer! At least he found out that they don’t like arugula! The reason the gophers came around was probably because this time of year he isn’t in the garden as much and they seized their opportunity! So, this is another good reason why planter boxes are great because they can be close to home so you can keep an eye on your precious plants! If you build the boxes yourself or have them made for you, the best woods to use are redwood or cedar because they are beautiful and rot resistant.
A couple of my favorite ways to use the winter greens we grow are baked in quiche or casseroles and also using them raw in green smoothies. My family has a green smoothie almost every morning with fresh and frozen fruit, almonds, peanut butter, etc. along with fresh greens like kale and swiss chard that we grow here at home. The reason for the etc. in the smoothie ingredient list is that everyone in my family does their own combo but fresh greens are always an important ingredient is everyone’s smoothie. We use our Blendtec blender to make smoothies with greens because it is very powerful and will completely blend all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Many household blenders will leave the greens kind of chunky and actually not very pleasant.
Having your own little planter garden is actually very rewarding. It’s also a health advantage to pick your greens fresh as you need them. That way you will get the most nutrients from them. When vegetables come from a long distance away and then are stored for a time, they lose some of their valuable nutrients.
Besides kale and swiss chard, there are other green plants that grow well in boxes and do well in cooler weather over the winter – spinach, arugula and lettuce are some of the other greens you can easily grow. The easiest way to start your planter boxes is to buy six-packs of the plants that you want – this will give your little garden of greens a jump start.
You don’t need to harvest the whole plant when you want to use some greens. Just carefully pick a few or as many leaves as you need, without entirely stripping each plant. Take a few leaves from each plant and that won’t shock them and they will continue to be happy and grow so you can continue to enjoy them through the winter months. 🙂