Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is nutrient-packed chameleon of the vegetable world comes in a variety of colors and is a superb, year-round stand-in for lettuce, spinach and celery.
Swiss chard is bursting with nutrients, including vitamins K, A, C and E, plus several B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, dietary fiber and a great source of calcium.

The best Swiss chard is that which you grow yourself, and fortunately it’s easy to cultivate and taste great. Swiss chard only needs 50-degree soil to germinate, and the plants are quite cold hardy, so in many places it’s not too late to start some seeds for a late fall/early winter crop, but can be grown throughout the year.



Soak Swiss chard seeds in warm water for 15 minutes to speed up germination before planting. Sow seeds 1/2-inch deep and a few inches apart directly in the garden when the soil is at least 50°F.

Or sow them indoors anytime in standard-sized, 10-inch by 20-inch plastic flats of individual plugs filled with a soil-less seed starting or potting mix (place 1 or 2 seeds in each plug) and transplant seedlings into the garden when they’re 2 to 3 inches tall.

Thin seedlings so they are 4 to 5 inches apart, or 8 to 10 inches apart if you plan to only harvest the outer leaves.

Plants do best in full sun but will tolerate some shade. They can endure light frosts in spring and moderate freezes in fall.  Swiss chard has withstood temperatures well below freezing protected by nothing more than a piece of heavy plastic or an old sheet, and it survives in the raised bed greenhouse during Zone 5 winters, when it sometimes gets down below 0°F.

Minimum maintenance:
Mulch your plants with compost and/or grass clippings to add nutrients and discourage weeds, and use a natural fertilizer such as kelp or manure tea (a must for container growing). Provide moderate, even watering.

Harvesting Swiss Chard:

Swiss chard is a ‘cut and come again’ plant, which means that one crop can supply you with terrific bounty for months. Growing your own allows you to enjoy the tender baby leaves.

You can harvest just the outer stalks often or cut whole young plants off an inch or two above the soil and wait for them to grow again.


February Greenhouse Planting

Tips for February Greenhouse Planting

 This is a great time to begin some cool weather crops such as lettuce, broccoli and radish seeds. Who does not love  garden lettuce freshly grown in their greenhouse. A great February growing tip.

Salad anyone?
Lettuce – February Greenhouse Planting : lettuce seeds get planted in rich, well-drained soil  and near the surface where they can get a little light (this helps with germination). Since lettuce has such shallow roots, transplanting can be cumbersome so plant in large container.  Plant leaf lettuce and expect a crop in 50 to 80 days.


You might want to plant some sweet alyssum between lettuce rows to attract predatory insects that feed on aphids.
Radish -February Greenhouse Planting : radishes about 1/4″ deep about 2 to 4″ apart in your greenhouse in February.  Radishes need long periods of daylight for fast maturity so you might want to keep them under a fluorescent grow light. It would be best to keep your greenhouse temperature between 45ƒ and 50ƒ at night (temperatures that are too warm can lead to non-edible radishes).  Radishes are high in vitamin C, folate, and fiber.

Broccoli -February Greenhouse Planting :  broccoli . Broccoli takes about 2-3 months to mature. When you harvest the central head before flowering, you will continue to get smaller side sprouts. You will get bigger heads when you keep the broccoli cool. Broccoli has vitamin C, calcium, vitamin A, potassium, folate, iron, and fiber .


February Greenhouse Planting. YOU can start frost-tolerant crops , according to your local climate. In most areas of the country these can be started in January then hardened off and moved to the garden in February or early March. Some frost-tolerant vegetables include beets, Brussels sprouts, spinach, parsley, kale, carrots and collard greens. Remember, these vegetables are frost-tolerant but are not tolerant of deep, extended freezes.

ENJOY February Greenhouse Planting in your Solar Gem Greenhouse.




medium-greenhouse Greenhouse SaleGreenhouse Sale from our factory


Solar Gem Greenhouses are the BEST BACKYARD GREENHOUSE AVAILABLE ANYWHERE!  Solar Gem Greenhouses manufacturers the best backyard greenhouses in North America since 1991. Are you ready to share the possibility to  grow a dream garden, year-round, right in their own backyard? Our one-piece and easily portable fiberglass greenhouses are designed for gardening enthusiasts of all skill levels.

Check out our Inventory Sale
$500 discount on small
$800 discount on medium size greenhouses
Contact John @ Solar Gem Greenhouses office 253-383-3055

We overbuilt our inventory and that is GOOD for you! We need to move these out of our shop so we can do our winter mold work repairs. This means a great savings for you! Hurry while supplies last! We also have inventory of our work tables and can give discounts on these as well. These prices are good through January so you will be getting a great deal. Don’t wait, get into the growing mode and get your greenhouse set and start your seeds so you can have beautiful flowers and/or vegges in the ground when the weather improves. You won’t find this deal anywhere else, we need to move these out so we can work on our molds, you get a good deal, we get room!

Gig Harbor Academy installs a Solar Gem Greenhouse

large-greenhouseWe are so excited that Gig Harbor Academy now has a 15 foot Solar Gem Greenhouse. The kids will learn all about gardening and eating food they have grown.  Solar Gem Greenhouses is so excited to be a part of their learning experience. GHA funded their purchase by their spring auction donations and the generosity of parents to make this program become possible. The program will help teach the kids to be more self sufficient and be able to grow their own food. A move to get back to our roots. Imagine if every school were to engage their students to learn the benefits of a backyard garden and the healthy foods which can be grown. Think of the last time you walked into a garden and picked a tomato and made a salad. How much better did that salad taste than store bought? Imagine if every school took the initiative to educate their students on the basic steps to become self reliant. How much healthier would we all be?

Gig Harbor Academy was happy to report to their family that the greenhouse they purchased  was made locally in Tacoma.  GHA said, “Thank you for the great service Solar Gem Greenhouses!”
We at Solar Gem look forward to seeing what is grown in the greenhouse.  Many thanks to the Academy. We hope they send us some great pictures of their harvest.


gha gha1 gha2 gha3

Rain leaks in my greenhouse

It’s raining in my greenhouse, HELP!

This time of year in the PNW can be rather daunting when it comes to greenhouse growing. I just spoke with a customer who called with the phrase above.  As we all know, once the sunny days of September pass, we start to experience a bit of rain. Well, maybe a bit more than a bit! As a result, we need to take steps to remedy the problems of excess moisture in the greenhouse. The best and easiest way to correct the atmosphere within the greenhouse is to bring in a dehumidifier. You can purchase one from any one of the big box stores and plug it in and within a couple of days, your greenhouse will dry up and it will stop raining. When looking at a dehumidifier, make sure it has a connection for a hose so you can connect and let it drain through the hose or you will be emptying it daily. Take an old hose and cut it so that it isn’t too long and connect to the the unit. You can drill a hole in the side of the greenhouse and push the hose through so it flows outside, or just let the hose rest on the lip of the lower vent in the back wall and let it drip out. Now, you will just need to monitor the moisture level to insure that your plants don’t dry out too much. Once you have the moisture level fixed, you can get back to growing your fall/winter crops. Oh, and don’t forget, maybe disconnect the roof vent or you will be drying out your neighbor’s property as well as the vent may open during the day, that is, if the sun makes an appearance!

Let’s grow!

Turkeys in the Greenhouse

Greenhouse Growing and soil care

You’ll be amazed by the many uses of a Solar Gem backyard greenhouse.
Not only can you use it to grow crops in cold weather to extend the growing season,
you can also use it to provide food and shelter for poultry and livestock.
Turkeys in the Greenhouse(photo by M. Howe, a Solar Gem owner)

Another benefit of the greenhouse is that it’s a great place to put worm bins.

Solar Gem Greenhouses has the best heat retention values.  We believe out of all the greenhouses for sale, Solar Gem’s backyard greenhouse holds up better than any other.

A greenhouse is a very valuable addition you can make to your property.  Do you want to be more self-reliant by growing more of your own food?   With a Solar Gem Greenhouse, you can plant spring, fall and winter crops and extend the growing season.  You will enjoy fresh food for 12 months. Consider a large, medium or small Solar Gem Greenhouse for delicious home grown crops. LET’S GROW!



Greenhouse in the snow

The best vegetables to winter garden

With cold temperatures almost here, many backyard gardeners across North America will
soon be retreating inside, content to wait out Old Man Winter until a Spring thaw beckons them outside again. But plucky gardeners don’t take lightly to putting the soil, seeds, pots and fertilizer down for any amount of time. Their solution? Gather the right tools, identify the best vegetables to winter garden, and forge ahead with joyous abandon!

If you desire to transition into that latter category, and free yourself from high grocery store prices and GMO foods, let’s identify what you’re gonna need to succeed.

Location, location, location

First, where will you grow? Basements with heaters and grow lights have been a great fall back locale when other, better options aren’t present, but it’s fraught with setbacks including losing your basement for any other productive purpose while you try to cultivate plants in it. But more and more smart backyard gardeners are opening up their gardening world to year-round status by procuring a genuine year-round backyard greenhouse that’s made to withstand the worst winters and successfully grow fresh veggies when most people think you can’t. May I humbly suggest a Solar Gem Greenhouse? No other requires no assembly, requires no maintenance, diffuses all sunlight, is made for cold weather gardening, and comes with a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Keeping it warm enough to winter garden

What will you need in your new backyard greenhouse? Well, depending upon your latitude, and the severity and duration of your winter weather, you are likely to need some combination of propagation mats (check out the store on the Solar Gem website) and a ceramic space heater to keep the temperatures inside conducive to cultivation. And what temperature is that, you ask? Generally speaking, you’ll want to maintain an interior temperature north of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s about 4 degrees Celsius). Also, a low-tech but helpful way to maintain warmer temps inside your greenhouse is to place a few plastic garbage cans filled with water inside… they will absorb the heat of the day (even in the dead of winter) and radiate that stored heat back into the greenhouse interior when the sun goes down and temps drop precipitously.

What’s on your menu?

Now to the exciting decisions – what will you grow? Some of the best vegetables to winter garden are (in no particular order) kale, potatoes, spinach, chard, turnips, carrots, Brussel sprouts, lettuce and onions. That’s not to mention some herbs and spices that do well in the colder times of the year… basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, chives, and sage. And yes, these can be grown in pots and containers.

For many of us, winter is a time of low humidity. So, be sure to maintain a solid watering regimen for those things you grow in the winter months.

Be bold, and don’t give in to cold temperatures!

You can be a winter gardener too, and enjoy some favorite edibles even when there is snow on the ground! For even more growing ideas, visit one of my favorite gardening sites Take charge, eat healthier, and make this winter a memorable one as you grow fresh, delicious and healthful winter vegetables in your own backyard garden.

Family enjoying their solar gem greenhouse

School is back in. Let’s teach kids to garden!

It isn’t a big secret that the education of our children has greatly evolved over time; the
incorporation of computers and IPad’s as aids to learning, keeping up with the latest technology, teaching about new discoveries and cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, while never forgetting the importance of reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s the basics which used to be part of curriculum’s – say, how to cultivate food and plants – that has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle….squeezed out in favor of preparing for standardized tests and other pressing matters. On this, the day that most of the North American school children return to school, let’s dedicate ourselves to teach kids to garden once again!

Family farms were yesterday’s classroom

Times were that family farms were the botanical classroom for most youngsters. Mom and dad would involve the kids in the full cycle of planting, watering, fertilizing, and harvesting vegetables of all sorts, whether for personal consumption or to sell at the market. This was first hand, hands-on kinds of lessons that were invaluable to teaching independent living and healthful eating.

As family farms became rarer, and school curriculum’s stuffed more and more subject matters into their school day, children have lost the critical knowledge of how to grow their own food. This is a trend that simply must change.

Can schools really fill the void?

While we can’t bring back the America of 50+ years ago, we can insure that kids learn to cultivate vegetables and fruits and thus learn how they can feed themselves. But here’s the rub… either our schools must find a way, or we (as parents and grandparents) must create our own backyard gardens and teach these critical skills to our posterity. And considering schools are so overburdened these days with standardized tests and limited funding – even playground time/Physical Education has been eliminated, for Pete’s sake – this seems like a far-fetched option.

Imagine generations to come who have no earthly (pun intended) idea about soil, seeds, fertilizers, irrigation, harvesting, etc. It’s a sad and scary thought that is already closer to reality than you may think.

Teach kids to garden: A call to mentor

Take charge today! Let’s teach kids to garden! Commit some of your backyard to a quality greenhouse and the year-round growing of healthy edibles. Then, generously share how it is done with a young person close to you. Not only will this be the most delightful hobby you’ve ever engaged in, you will be teaching invaluable skills to our next generation, not to mention the wonderful bonding experience that will ensue.

School is back in. It’s up to you or the already overburdened teachers. The future of backyard gardening is in our hands.

easy backyard greenhouse canned vegetables

A July 4th reflection: American self-reliance

From the pilgrims, to Colonial times, to the clarion call of “Manifest Destiny” in our push
across the untamed west, American self-reliance has been a proudly defining trait of our nation’s forebears. Today, with financial, climatological, political, and security uncertainties abounding, that spirit of “improvise, adapt, and overcome” has returned in spades.

Strength and preparation from the very beginning

When Myles Standish, William Bradford and 100 other pilgrims landed in Plymouth Massachusetts in November of 1620, bitter cold weather and a lack to sufficient provisions tested their very survival until the fruits of their labor (and some timely trading with friendly Natives) provided a path to prosper. It is likely that lessons learned during these times forged an indelible streak of independence in our collective DNA and a desire to prepare for all contingencies into souls of Americans for many generations to come.

A growing phenomenon

Know anyone who is growing their own backyard garden and either consuming or canning what they grow? If not, you likely will and soon. While farmers and farm lands are being squeezed, families who grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables are simply exploding in numbers. Experts point to fears about Genetically Modified Foods, escalating prices, the possible interruption of supplies, and the desire to eat fresher foods, as the things that animate them the most.

Look at the popularity of whole home generators, solar paneled homes, in-home root cellars, food storage plans, and backyard greenhouses as modern-American society hearkens us back to the frontier spirit of old and a culture of planning for the unknowns ahead.

An American self-reliance tradition

Our history is replete with heroic examples of rugged individualism and self-reliance. And on this hallowed holiday that we ponder and celebrate the birth of this great nation, let us be thankful for the blessings of liberty and observe that, in many ways, everything old is new again.

Happy birthday, America!

food growing in a greenhouse is a great hobby

The amazing economics of vegetable gardening

By now, just about everyone is aware of California’s drought and the impact it is having on America’s food production and the prices folks pay for their fresh and frozen vegetables. With this as the backdrop, it’s time to look at the economics of vegetable gardening.

Dollars and sense – the economics of vegetable gardening

First, let’s consider the economics of what you and the majority of your neighbors do to procure their vegetables… they saunter off to the local grocery store and buy what they need. By the time you get to the check-out line, at least three entities – often more – have had a chance to add their costs of doing business and their profit margins to the fruits and vegetables you have selected. This includes the farmer who grew it, the shipping companies that moved it along the way until it ended up in your grocery basket, a middle-man vegetable broker who packages and sometimes private labels for different chains, and finally, your grocery store. It adds up to pricey foods, and the drought has only added to the pricing misery we all experience. In sum, your food dollar is shrinking as is the quality of the vegetables they offer.

The backyard gardening formula for success

However, you need not be a hapless victim of the wild swings of Mother Nature or the profit needs of farmers and grocery stores. Think about starting your own backyard vegetable garden and taking control of both the costs of feeding yourself and your family, and controlling the quality and variety of the vegetables you consume. By starting your own peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, cabbage, broccoli, etc., from seed, you can save a ton of money over the long run.  Often times, mail order companies will charge $4 for a single tomato or pepper seedling.  Meanwhile, you can purchase 30 seeds for about the same amount of money and grow your own.  In addition, if you grow your own seedlings, you have a lot more varieties to choose from.

Long-term savings

The longer you backyard garden, grow your own edibles, and plant the seeds you cultivate yourself, the cost of food will shrink with each passing season.

Put your backyard gardening plan together today

So, what do you need to get started? A commitment, a plan, a great backyard greenhouse (to protect against weather, animals, and bugs), seeds, soil, pots, fertilizer, a water source, and of course, a backyard. You can do this. What’s more, your wallet and your taste buds will thank you for many years to come. The amazing economics of vegetable gardening are yours to discover!