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If you love leafy green vegetables you should learn how to grow Swiss chard! It is so easy to grow and has a place in my garden every year.
Swiss chard is in the same family as beets. You can really think of chard as a beet that doesn’t produce a bulb but instead gives you lots of tasty leafy greens and stems that you can use like spinach or asparagus.
How To Grow Swiss Chard
Swiss chard can be direct seeded into the garden or started indoors.
Swiss chard is a tasty, cold hardy green that can be grown in the early spring. You can start direct seeding chard in your garden 4 weeks before your last frost date.
Once the soil has reached 10 C (50 F), sow the seeds 1 cm (1/2 an inch) deep and 5 cm (2 inches) apart. When the plants have come up thin them to be 10-15 cm (4 to 6 inches) apart if you like tender young chard.
Spacing Swiss Chard Plantings
If you would like to grow baby chard don’t thin your plants at all. Just continue to pick the leaves and they will regrow. Keeping them spaced tightly will help to prevent the plants from growing large.
If you want to grow chard to be full size for large leaves, space the plants 30 cm (1 foot) apart and in rows 30 cm (1 foot) apart if you are using the square foot garden method or planting in intensive beds.
When you are growing in a traditional garden you will need to leave at least 45 cm (18 inches) between rows to allow room to weed with your tiller.
If you would like to get a head start on your growing season you can start Swiss chard by seed 4-6 weeks before your going to transplant them outside.
Swiss chard is a biannual vegetable that is really easy to grow. Although it is normally grown as an annual if you live in an area with very mild winters it can sometimes come back year after year.
I’ve had it regrow in our zone 5 garden in years with mild winters. If it starts to flower simply cut the flower stock off and the chard will keep making new leaves. However the taste of chard once it starts to flower can be more bitter.
Swiss chard like most greens will do best in a rich soil. Before you start to plant your chard take some time to work in lots of compost or aged manure into the planting bed.
Chard is pretty cold hardy and will tolerate light frosts. It’s not as tolerant of hard freezes like kale and other collards are. If you have hard frosts or snow coming it’s best to give it some protection. Covering chard with a floating row cover or plastic covering will help to protect it from the worst weather.
Swiss chard can be planted in full sun to part shade. Like most leafy green vegetables it prefers to grow in moist soil so remember to keep your garden bed well watered.
Chard is very easy to grow in the spring and fall but can turn bitter once the summer heat arrives. You can prevent this by growing heat-tolerant types and providing some shade.
Varieties Of Swiss Chard
There are many varieties of Swiss chard that you can grow in your home garden. Some are smaller compact plants that are suitable for container garden while others grow much larger and are better planted in the ground.
These are a few of my favourite varieties that have done well for us year after year.
Celebration is a beautiful chard that produces red, yellow, gold, white, and rose stems with slightly savoyed green leaves. It’s good grown in large containers and the brilliant colours are just gorgeous on your farmers market stand or dinner table. This is one of our favourite chards that we grow every year. Matures in 60 days.
Fordhook Giant is a cold-hardy variety that also stands up well in the summer heat. It produces dark green leaves on very thick white stems. This variety is truly a giant growing leaves 60 – 70 cm (24-28”) with stocks 7 cm (2.3”) wide! Matures in 60 days.
Silverado Swiss chard are compact plants with a high resistance to bolting. It has bright white stems and dark green, heavily savoyed leaves. This variety grows more slowly than most chards but its hardiness makes it a great choice for home and market gardens. Matures in 60 days.
David’s Garden Seeds Swiss Chard RainbowOutsidepride Swiss Chard Red – 1000 SeedsSwiss Chard Seeds- Heirloom Rainbow Mix- 100+ SeedsBurpee Fordhook Giant (Organic) Swiss Chard Seeds 350 seedsOutsidepride Swiss Chard Green – 1000 SeedsEverwilde Farms – 250 organic Ruby Red Swiss Chard Seeds
Companion Planting Swiss Chard
Using companion planting in your garden offers many benefits. It can help to discourage pests and it also makes caring for plants with similar needs easier.
Good companion plants for Swiss card are:
Swiss chard can be harvested in 2 different ways.
The first way of harvesting Swiss chard is to but off the outer stocks and allow the smaller inner ones to keep growing. This is a great way to extend your harvest because you will be able to keep picking from your chard for months.
The second way you can harvest chard is to cut off the entire plant all at once, leaving about a 2-inch stub. If you keep them well watered and fertilize it with compost tea or a fish fertilizer the chard will regrow. You can get 2 or 3 cuttings off your Swiss chard in a season using this harvesting method.
The harvested leaves of chard are best stored in the fridge. Plastic bags with ventilation holes will keep the leaves fresh for about 2 weeks.
What Does Swiss Chard Taste Like?
The leaves of Swiss chard taste similar to spinach and beet greens they can be eaten raw or cooked. Growing spinach in the summer is much harder than growing chard so it makes an excellent replacement for spinach in summer recipes.
When using larger leaves cut out the midrib before using. Then chop up the large leaves and you can use it in soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles.
You can also eat the stems of the chard plant. They are similar in texture to bok choy, they are crunchy and have a slightly sweet taste. You can use them in recipes that you would normally use asparagus or bok choy in.
Slugs are a common pest on leafy greens including Swiss chard. There are many ways to deal with slugs in your garden but one very simple way to keep them off your chard plants is to sprinkle some diatomaceous earth on the ground around your plants.
Aphids suck the sap from plants and you will notice the damage quite quickly.
The easiest way to get rid of aphids on your chard is to blast them off with the jet spray on the garden hose. They are soft-bodied and the spray is strong enough to kill and wash them away.
After that spray both the tops and bottoms of the leaves with an organic insecticidal soap. The soap will kill the aphids and any other insects on the plant.
You see Swiss chard is really easy to grow! Just make sure you plant it early, keep it well watered and thin it so it grows to the size you want. If you follow these simple tips you will be enjoying lots of Swiss chard from your garden.
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.