The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Volunteer swiss chard

Swiss chard seedlingAs I weeded the peas this week, I stumbled across a patch of volunteer swiss chard growing amid the tendrils.  The swiss chard plants were about three times as big as the seedlings which came up in this spring's bed,  sending me off in mental gyrations.

I never let my swiss chard go to seed last year, so these volunteers were clearly sprouting from last spring's seeds.  Why didn't those seeds sprout in 2009?  Do some swiss chard seeds always take two years to germinate (while others clearly germinate right away)?

Why were the volunteer swiss chard so much bigger than this year's version?  Did they sprout sooner, protected by mulch then warmed in the sunniest part of the garden?  Or do they just like the drainage in the mule garden better than the back garden?

I have no answers, but I do suddenly have a bed of swiss chard that will be big enough to eat next week.  I transplanted the volunteers out of the pea bed and into the many gaps in this year's swiss chard bed, and am anticipating a copious harvest shortly.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I went out to last fall's garden to get some lettuce yesterday and found a swiss chard plant with leaves big enough to eat. I might have had some there last year but don't think so.
Comment by Errol Sun Apr 25 08:56:16 2010

Do you think you planted it there a couple of years ago, or is it a true volunteer from some other plants you let go to seed?

After making this post, I was reading that swiss chard has lots of small seeds all connected together in the big "seed" we plant. That's why they come up in clusters, and I suspect the seeds might make their way out of the big cluster at different rates, which might explain why some would germinate the next year.

Comment by anna Sun Apr 25 21:32:39 2010
My theory is that some seeds get buried too deep to germinate or get stuck inside a dry hydrophobic clump of dirt, so they lie dormant. A bit of soil disturbance (digging over the bed, pulling up spent plants, weeding, etc) brings them nearer the surface where they germinate the following year.
Comment by Darren (Green Change) Mon Apr 26 21:26:47 2010
That's the best explanation I've heard in quite a while! I'll bet that's exactly what happened.
Comment by anna Tue Apr 27 07:24:35 2010

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