Swiss Chard is probably the most under-appreciated of all vegetables. It is vitamin-rich and nutritious. It is extremely easy to grow, too. These plants tolerate poor soil, inattention. And it withstands frost and mild freezes. Swiss Chard tastes good. You can eat both the stalk and the leaves. The leaves can be used as a fresh salad or cooked like spinach. Try the leaves in any spinach recipe. The stalks are cut up and cooked in a variety of dishes. Whether you’re a new or an experienced gardener, this “How to Grow Swiss Chard” guide will help you to grow better chard.
What more can you ask for, in a garden vegetable?
Did you Know? Swiss Chard is a member of the beet family. It just doesn’t have a bulb.
Try growing them in a container on your patio or deck. You’ll be glad you did!
Swiss Chard comes in a few types. One has a reddish stalk. Another has a creamy white stalk. The third variety is multi-colored. Aside from the discerning diner, these varieties taste pretty much the same.
Most popular varieties:
Bright Lights – A rainbow of red, white, yellow, gold, violet, and orange stems.
Fordhook Giant – perhaps the most popular. And, it’s heat tolerant, too!
Rhubarb – Don’t confuse this variety of chard with Rhubarb. It got its name as it resembles Rhubarb. But, it certainly tastes much different.
Tip: Buy a packet of the red and the white stalked seeds. Mix them in your garden for an eye-appealing display. Then, mix the two stalks in your recipes to add color. The seed lasts a couple of years if kept in a cool and dry place. If two seed packets are more than you need, keep the leftover seeds until next year!
Plant Swiss Chard as soon as the soil can be worked. It will sprout fairly early and will not be harmed by spring frosts. One planting will last the entire year. So, plan a permanent place for it in your garden.
Tip: For an even earlier crop, start a few seedlings indoors. Then, transplant them outdoors when the night temperatures go down to a minimum of 28 – 30 degrees. Even if you plant a little too early, they can be covered up during unusually cold weather.
Outdoors: Sow seeds 1/2 to 1 inch apart, in rows three feet apart. Thin seedlings to two to three inches apart. Swiss Chard plants are tolerant to over-crowding. So, don’t worry if they appear too close. If you are just growing it for your home garden, a three to four-foot row is more than enough for a whole family.
Growing Swiss Chard is easy!
In selecting the location, you can plant Swiss Chard in the shadier parts of your garden, and where the soil is the poorest. While this plant is very forgiving, like any plant this prolific grower will respond to compost, manures, and fertilizers.
To minimize the bitter mid-summer taste, make sure the plants get plenty of water. When you water the rest of the garden, don’t forget the chard.
Let the outer leaves grow as big as you want. If you can’t eat it as fast as it is producing, cut and discard leaves as they begin to wilt, turn brown, or be damaged by insects. If the patch gets out of hand, do major surgery on the leaves. The inner leaves will take their place quickly.
Tip: Try your hand at growing Swiss chard indoors during the winter. Sow a few seeds in an indoor planter and place them in a sunny window.
Soil Temperatures – Ideal germination temperature by vegetable
Ideal Soil pH – by vegetable
Insect infestations are fairly uncommon. Occasional chewing and sucking pests will affect them, most notably aphids. Most infestations occur in mid-summer when the leaves take on a slightly bitter taste.
For home gardeners, we do not recommend sprays. Discard any affected leaves. In our home garden, if an infestation occurs in the mid-summer, we turn to another leaf vegetable. At this time of year, Swiss Chard is a little too bitter for our taste. Continue removing infested leaves as you find them.
Deer eat Swiss Chard. This is most common in the fall when other food sources are gone.
This plant is resistant to most plant diseases. And so, one planting will almost always last the season.
Pick leaves and stems as soon as they are large enough to harvest, usually in four to six weeks.
Both the stems and the leaves are popular for eating fresh or cooked.
You can harvest the leaves regardless of size. Pick the outer leaves and the new inner leaves will soon grow in their place. If the leaves turn a little too bitter for you in mid-summer, make sure to come back to them as the weather cools. The inner leaves are most tender and tasty, and are slightly blanched. Cut the stems near the base, even if you are not going to use them. But, be careful not to cut the stems of the inner leaves.
Rinse thoroughly and check the underside of the leaves for insects.
Here’s the best thing about this vegetable: As the weather cools, the leaves are their tastiest. Swiss Chard tolerates frost and freezes into the upper twenties. Even if a freeze kills off the outer leaves, the inner leaves may be protected. Cutaway any frost-damaged leaves. You still have chard to pick.
Even in the Northern U.S., Swiss Chard is being picked at Thanksgiving. Many gardeners pick it as late as Christmas!
Tip: A cold frame usually ensures fresh chard well into December, when prices for lettuce and other garden greens are sky-rocketing.