Are you interested in growing Swiss chard? Then you will be delighted to know that it is not that hard to grow. It is an incredible addition to your garden as it features vibrant and colorful stems that make the place where you are growing it more eye-catching.
Making Swiss chard a part of your garden also gives you easy access to this leafy and nutritious vegetable that you can prepare in a lot of ways. You can cut its leaves into ribbons and dress them raw in your salad recipes. You can also braise Swiss chard to prepare stews or sauté them together with their stems.
There are endless possibilities when it comes to preparing and cooking Swiss chard, so making it a part of your vegetable garden is definitely a fantastic idea.
Quick Facts About Swiss Chard
- Common names: Swiss chard, leaf beet, spinach beet, silver beet, seakale beet
- Botanical name: Beta vulgaris var. cicla
- Type of plant: Biennial, vegetable
- Size upon maturity: 18 to 24 inches tall; 9 to 12 inches wide
- Soil type and pH level: Moist, rich, and well-drained garden soil; a bit acidic – soil pH level of around 6.0 to 6.5
- Sunlight exposure: Full and partial
- Color of flowers: Yellow
- Bloom time: Summer
- Hardiness zones: As a biennial plant – USDA zones 6 to 10; as an annual – USDA zones 3 to 10
Swiss Chard Described
Swiss chard belongs to the beet family, which is mainly grown and cultivated because of its rosette of big and crinkly green leaves that you can find on thick white, rainbow-colored, or red stalks. It is one of those leafy vegetables recognized for high nutritional value.
It especially contains high levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, making this dark leafy vegetable a great addition to anyone’s diet. Otherwise called leaf beet, spinach beet, silver beet, or just chard, this vegetable makes an incredible ingredient to baked dishes, soups, and dips.
You can also sauté chard in oil together with garlic to create a side dish or use it in your salads. It has a taste that may remind you of beet greens and spinach. It is slightly crunchier compared to spinach, though, it has more tenderness compared to kale.
Swiss chard is also a gorgeous and attractive vegetable, which comes in a wide range of colors. A few of them have stalks in the shades of red, yellow, purple, and green, among many other colors.
While classified as a beet, take note that Swiss chard has no bulbous roots. It has uniquely shaped leaves that also serve as the main reason why many consider it part of the goosefoot family.
Different Types and Varieties of the Swiss Chard Plants
If you are seriously considering making Swiss chard a part of your vegetable garden, then you have to get to know a bit about its different types and varieties, including the following:
This is one of the most popular Swiss chard varieties. It features dark green leaves and stems of different colors. The fact that its stems have different colors, including red, pink, white, yellow, and orange, in just one crop make it really attractive to look at in your garden.
Apart from its multicolor stems, this variety is also known for being bolt-resistant.
You will like this Swiss chard variety because it is one of those that grow really fast. It features ruby stems and veins. You can also expect their leaves to be ready for harvest in around twenty-three to thirty-five days after you transplant them. The fire fresh variety is also disease-resistant.
Lyon is one of those Swiss chard varieties greatly recognized for their taste. You will immediately notice their lime green leaves featured on their white stalks. Each leaf is capable of growing over one foot long and almost ten inches wide. You can readily harvest this open-pollinated Swiss chard variety in just around fifty days.
You will love this open-pollinated variety because of its smooth and delicious leaves with the same taste as spinach. You can harvest this type within just fifty days and can be expected to produce crops the entire summer.
This Swiss chard is recognized for being a hybrid variety featuring stems and veins in the shade of cranberry red. This hybrid can reach a growth of 18 inches and matures in around sixty days.
Best Time to Plant Swiss Chard
One fact about the Swiss chard that you should know is that it can be classified as a cool-season crop capable of tolerating or withstanding cool weather and warm temperatures. However, you have to know exactly when you should plant them.
The reason is that if you plant them too early during the spring, there is a possibility for their root growth to be impeded. The good news is that Swiss chard is highly versatile that you can sow seeds and harvest them during two growing seasons.
The first one is during the early spring, specifically once the last threat of possible frost damage already passed. You may also choose to do the planting at an earlier time, but you have to use protection in the form of row covers. A row cover will keep the seedlings protected overnight up until the rising of temperature.
You may also do it in the fall. You can go for this option if you intend to grow Swiss chard and enjoy an autumn harvest. In that case, sow and plant seeds around one and one-half to two months prior to the date of the first frost.
Where to Plant Swiss Chard?
When it comes to where you should plant and grow Swiss chard, the perfect spot is that which allows it to receive full sun, though, this plant is also capable of withstanding or tolerating partial shade. Make sure that the soil is well-drained and well-worked while being rich in organic matter.
Use a lot of organic matter, specifically compost, for soil amendment. You can amend soil even further by using a slow-release fertilizer containing nitrogen. Go for the organic one. Some examples would be blood meal, cottonseed meal, and feather meal.
Nitrogen is necessary as it can encourage the plant to grow tender leaves vigorously. As for the pH level, it should be around 6.0 to 6.5, which other leafy greens and vegetables also enjoy. Perform a soil test to determine the pH level of the garden and identify if there are nutrient deficiencies.
When choosing the best location for growing Swiss chard, you also have to consider the width of the plants once they are fully mature. You need to know that so you can space Swiss chard seedlings or seeds appropriately, thereby preventing the plants from touching each other upon reaching full size.
How to Plant and Grow Swiss Chard?
Now, it’s time for you to plant the Swiss chard. If you intend to plant this vegetable in a garden bed outdoors, the best way to do it is to sow chard seeds with a space of around two to three inches apart. The holes also need to be an inch deep.
Leave a minimum of two to three feet in between each row, giving the plants enough room and space to grow. You may also start to germinate the Swiss chard seeds indoors as a means of controlling the temperature and humidity of the plant’s surroundings.
If you intend to transplant Swiss chard, you have to keep its root ball undisturbed. Give each seedling sufficient space, specifically around 4 to 6 inches apart, giving them sufficient room for growth.
Once you are done planting, surround the plants with around two to three inches of organic mulch. Some examples of organic mulch you can use are shredded straw and shredded leaves. Aside from helping you retain moisture, this mulch can also suppress weeds.
Another thing that you can do when growing Swiss chard is to use a grow light. This type of light is useful in preventing the seedlings from having to stretch out as they search for light.
You should also use an oscillating fan if you plan to start seeds indoors as it can create an air movement designed to prevent what we call the damping off disease. It is a type of fungus that can harm newly sprouted and young plants or seedlings.
Growing Chard in Containers/Pots
You may also choose to grow chard in a container or pot as it is easy to do so. There is no need to use a very deep container or pot since this type of plant comes with shallow roots.
The only thing you have to ensure is to give the plants enough space in between each one depending on their size upon maturity. This is important if you intend to grow several chards in one pot or container.
Make sure that the pot or container also has enough drainage holes. Add an organic potting mix and maintain light soil moisture. The soil should be moist but not waterlogged.
Caring for your Swiss Chard
After planting Swiss chard, support its growth by caring for it properly and focusing on these areas:
Swiss chard requires soil that is organically rich. It should also have ample and good drainage. It likes to be in soil with a slightly acidic pH but take note that it can also withstand a more neutral soil.
Again, Swiss chard tends to grow at its best if it is under full and direct sunlight. It needs around 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight. Note, though, that it also has this ability to tolerate partial shade.
In terms of its water needs, the goal is to maintain evenly moist soil without making it overly soggy. You can keep the moisture in the soil by surrounding the plants with a layer of mulch.
Humidity and temperature
There is a tendency for the chard plants to overwinter when grown in USDA zones 6 to 10. However, take note that it is a biennial in the mentioned zones, which means that there is a tendency for it to seed rapidly upon reaching its second year.
You can also grow and care for your chard as an annual if the USDA hardiness zones are around 3 to 10. The chard can handle light frost, though, there is a risk of you losing this plant once the temperature goes below the freezing period for a short period.
In terms of humidity, you have an assurance that it will not be a major issue provided you continue meeting the moisture requirements of the plant. Ensure that the plants receive proper air circulation, too.
When it comes to fertilizer, it would be ideal to use manure or compost. You can already feed your plants with a side dressing of them during the middle of the growing season. In case you are using poor soil, organic vegetable fertilizers can help nourish it.
How to Harvest Swiss Chard?
Harvesting Swiss chard is often possible within fifty to sixty days after planting it. It is ideal to harvest leaves when they are still glossy and upon reaching around 6 inches tall. The perfect time to do the harvest is early morning. Avoid harvesting leaves during the afternoon as those have minimal moisture and are at high risk of wilting.
Harvest by cutting the young ones one inch over the ground. Use sharp garden shears or scissors for cutting. By doing that, there is a high chance for the chard plant to continue growing.
Cutting stalks starting from the outer leaves or parts of the plant is also another way to harvest. Leave its heart behind as it is what you can expect to grow continuously. One more thing you should know about chard is that it has the tendency to overwinter and keep on letting you harvest the next spring.
However, you should consider pulling out the plant upon seeing it showing a flower stalk, a process called bolting. If that happens, you can no longer expect the chard to be edible.
You can enjoy the younger chard leaves when used in salads. You may also eat them similar to how you do it in spinach or beet greens. It is also ideal to enjoy the harvested leaves within the day you cut them.
However, you can also store it unwashed. Just put it in a plastic bag, unsealed, and there is a high chance for it to last for a week. You can also freeze or can it, so you can serve and enjoy it at a later time.
Common Pests, Diseases, and Insects
To help you succeed in growing Swiss chard, here are the usual plant diseases, insects, and pests to watch out for:
Powdery and downy mildew
These two are fungal diseases Swiss chard leaves often encounter. Powdery mildew often causes the plants infested by it to look like they have a white powder coating. Meanwhile, downy mildew makes yellow spots appear on the plants.
Protect your plant from these fungal diseases by planting it under the full sun. Ensure that each Swiss chard has enough spacing in between, promoting better air circulation. It also helps to prevent overhead watering, which may develop an environment that fungal spores love.
These refer to tiny bronze or black leaf beetles that are only around one-eight-inch long. Managing pests and chewing insects, like flea beetles, is possible with the aid of a floating row cover.
It is also advisable to look for beneficial companion plants for Swiss chard that also serve as trap crops. The best choice would be radish, which indeed works effectively as a trap crop since these beetles prefer it over other plants.
These refer to sap-sucking insects capable of spreading diseases to plants while damaging crops. As they feed on the leaves, it is highly likely for them to excrete honeydew. This will attract other insects, including ants.
Use insecticidal soap to prevent aphids. You can also control and knock them off by streaming water on them sharply.
Snails and slugs
Swiss chard may also be infested by snails and slugs. You can handpick slugs but note that you may have a difficult time spotting each one of them. If your plants are suffering from severe infestations, use bait containing iron phosphate. Ensure that your chosen bait solution is organic, too.
They are fly larvae known for tunneling through your plant’s leaf tissues. Leaf miners may cause unsightly damage, though, not that fatal. If you discover leaves damaged by these larvae, it would be a good idea to get rid of them.
Dispose of any infested leaves. You may also use a floating row cover as an effective preventative solution. The reason is that it can protect your plants from adults that may lay eggs on them.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does Swiss chard keep growing after cutting?
Yes. Swiss chard is said to have the ability to grow again after you cut them. This means that they allow multiple harvests, especially for their mature leaves.
Does Swiss chard grow back every year?
No. It is a biennial, which means that you can expect them to grow back every two years. It can also survive winter seasons provided it is in locations with temperatures that do not go down to 15 degrees F.
Expect the Swiss chard to start generating seeds once its second development year ends. There will be no growth in the next year.
What month should you plant Swiss chard?
It is advisable to plant chard during the early to mid-spring, specifically around two to four weeks prior to the last frost date. Planting within that period will guarantee optimal and better results.
How to harvest Swiss chard so it continues to grow leafy greens?
Harvest the chard’s individual stalks from its external part and let the inner part grow bigger. Upon discovering that this plant begins to grow taller, it is advisable to harvest the entire plant. Do this before they start bolting.
Pick the leaves only as the entire plant falls under the cut-and-come-again harvesting technique. You may cut, break, or pinch the leaves at around one inch over the ground. Begin with the leaves at the outer part of the plant first.
Make it a point to leave around one-third of the leaves on every chard plant. This is necessary for keeping the growing bud within it fully protected. This also allows its rapid regrowth and a really bountiful growing season.