- All About Swiss Chard
- Can I Grow Swiss Chard?
- Chard Plant Insects & Diseases
- Chard Plant Harvesting Tips
- Chard Recipes & Storage
- Swiss Chard Care In Pots – How To Grow Swiss Chard In Containers
- Growing Swiss Chard in a Pot
- How to Grow Swiss Chard in Containers
- Swiss Chard Care in Pots
- Container Corner
- Beautiful Swiss chard
- Growing Swiss chard in containers
- How to grow Swiss chard
- Swiss chard varieties to try
All About Swiss Chard
Chard is a close relative of beets. It is often grown as a summer substitute for spinach because of its tolerance for warm temperatures.
It also withstands cool temperatures and can be grown from early spring right up to frost.
Can I Grow Swiss Chard?
Swiss chard prefers rich, well-drained soil in full sun or light shade. In the North, sow from early spring to midsummer for a fall crop; in the South sow in fall to spring. Sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep in rows spaced 18 inches apart. Thin seedlings to 12 inches apart when they are large enough to handle.
Chard Plant Insects & Diseases
Plants are rarely bothered by pests and diseases and grow easily.
Chard Plant Harvesting Tips
Use thinnings as salad greens. Harvest outer leaves as needed, when they are more than 6 inches long. Cut the leaves about 1 inch from the ground. Harvest continually to keep the plants productive.
Before the first hard freeze in fall, dig up the plants with the roots still attached, and with some soil covering the roots. If you store the plants where it is cool and moist you can keep harvesting from them during the winter.
Chard Recipes & Storage
Use as a green, either cooked or raw. Use the leafstalks with the leaves, or cook the stalks separately like asparagus.
See all our swiss chard
Swiss Chard Care In Pots – How To Grow Swiss Chard In Containers
Swiss chard is not only delicious and nutritious, but eminently ornamental. As such, planting Swiss chard in containers does double duty; it provides a showy backdrop for other plants and flowers and since for most of us our seasonal color plantings are located near an entry to the home, makes for easy picking. Read on to find out how to grow Swiss chard in containers.
Growing Swiss Chard in a Pot
‘Bright Lights’ a cultivar awash with red, white, gold, yellow, violet, and orange hues was introduced to the market 20 years ago and since then other cultivars have been introduced. Among these is ‘Fordhook Giant’ a heat tolerant variety for those folks with warmer growing seasons. There’s also the brilliant ruby red ‘Rhubarb’ and brilliantly white types of Swiss chard. The plethora of colors available make container gardening with Swiss chard a delight.
Swiss chard container gardening can be done with just chard or in combination with other plants. Swiss chard can also be grown in a
pot indoors during the colder months for a constant supply of nutritious greens.
It is very easy to grow and tolerates poor soil, negligence on your part and is frost hardy. Not only is Swiss chard beautiful, but it can be used fresh or cooked. The leaves make colorful stand-ins for spinach and the stalks can be cut up and cooked as you would asparagus.
How to Grow Swiss Chard in Containers
When planting Swiss chard in containers, the pot does not need to be too deep because the root system isn’t deep but you do want to take into account the large leaves You can buy transplants or sow your own seeds. If you sow your own seeds, they can be started quite early outdoors, as they thrive in cooler temps. If you want to get a jump start, start the seedlings indoors and then transplant them outside when temperatures begin to warm.
Sow the seeds ½ to an inch apart (1-2.5 cm.). Thin the seedlings to 2-3 inches (5-8 cm.) apart. Swiss chard is ready to be picked within 4-6 weeks. Harvest at this time or if you are growing the plant as an ornamental, leave the leaves until they wilt, turn brown or are munched on by insects. At that time, remove the outer leaves. The inner leaves will continue to grow.
Swiss Chard Care in Pots
Swiss chard care in pots is fairly minimal since the plant is very resilient. It doesn’t mind being crowded and tolerates poor soil without any additional fertilizer. The plant also prefers a shaded location.
That said, like any plant, it will respond to additional nutrition. Swiss chard can get bitter when summer heat blazes, so be sure to give it plenty of water. Plants that are grown in pots need more watering than those in the garden, so keep an eye on it.
Using Swiss chard in a container never occurred to me until I saw it in this creative container planting outside of the fire station in Vail, Colorado. I love using plants with interesting foliage in mixed containers, because I don’t have to rely on flowers to carry the show.
Annual flowers often go through phases during the growing season where they may not have very many blooms (especially if “someone” forgets to water for a few days…), but plants with interesting foliage will fill in those gaps and keep containers looking good, even when blooms are sparse.
For example, in the picture, even though the blue Lobelia is the only plant flowering in the combination, it is still an attractive planter. (Other plants pictured include Golden Creeping Jenny (my favorite ‘spiller’ plant), Salvia (my best guess is ‘Mystic Spires’ Blue Sage), and there’s a purple Sweet Potato vine tucked into the planter on the far right.)
Beautiful, edible Swiss chard
Swiss chard, or Beta vulgaris, adds a nice vertical element to a mixed container and contributes both interesting texture and color. Best of all, you can eat it too! Depending on the variety, chard matures between one and three feet tall, so it is best used at the back of a mixed container planting, or as a central vertical element. The stiff vertical stalks of chard are the star of the show and come in white, red, orange, purple, yellow, or pink. Most varieties offer one of these stalk colors with a green leaf, but the ‘Bright Lights’ and ‘Rainbow’ series of Swiss chard produce stems in multiple colors. Chard grows best in full sun to part shade (preferably in the afternoon) and is not too fussy about soil conditions or consistent moisture (of course it will perform better if watered consistently, but it can handle occasional neglect).
Growing Swiss chard
Swiss chard is easy to grow from seed and can either be sown directly in outdoor containers in mid to late spring, or, for a head start, can be started indoors in early spring. Even though chard can handle light frosts, it’s better to wait until your average last frost date to plant young plants outdoors. Both the leaves and stems of Swiss chard are edible and are chock full of vitamins K, A, and C, plus a healthy dose of magnesium, potassium, and iron. Harvest some for dinner by cutting stems near the base when they are between nine and twelve inches tall. The plant will keep producing new stems throughout the growing season. The whole plant can be harvested as long as the center growth point isn’t damaged, but this method is better used in vegetable gardens rather than mixed containers, since it will leave a gaping hole in your planting.
Chard is a versatile leafy vegetable and can be prepared in many different ways. A quick internet search will produce hundreds of recipes ranging from a simple quick sauté with garlic and lemon, to soups, creams, and stuffings. Basically, chard can be used in pretty much any recipe calling for a green leafy vegetable (e.g. as a substitute for spinach), but I especially love it in a quiche. Well, to be honest, I love anything in a quiche…
Swiss chard is the one vegetable that every cook should grow. As long as you have it growing somewhere (and it’s just as happy in a pot as in the ground), you can wilt it in butter or oil, you can cream it with a little nutmeg, you can sit it next to slow-cooked beef or in the bed of a flan, and you can turn it into a gratin or serve it with anchovies. You can even ferment the stiff stems into a fine pickle, or turn them into a curry.
So, if you are going to sow one more thing this summer, let it be Swiss chard.
Sown now into warm summer soils, it will grow big quickly – big enough to survive right into winter. You can use the thinnings for salads: if picked very small, the young leaves are good raw. Once the plants are about 15cm tall, you want to have about 30cm between them. If that seems on the wide side, heed my advice: you want strong rootstocks before autumn sets in. The more room the roots have to roam, the more likely the plants are to survive the frosts. If you are sowing rainbow chard ‘Bright Lights’, then note that the yellows, oranges and reds tend to be the least hardy, while the white is the most frostproof. Order your harvesting accordingly.
‘Fordhook Giant’ has the thickest white stems, if that’s what you are after. ‘Golden Chard’ has lovely, deep yellow stems and a good flavour, while ‘Pink Passion’ has the brightest, neon pink stems you can imagine. Leaf beet (aka perpetual spinach) has been bred to produce very thin stems and lots of leafy top growth, so that’s a great one for cut-and-come-again and also useful for productive small spaces.
Once the plants are established, it is well worth mulching around their base: they like to be kept well watered and this will help conserve moisture. Straw, Strulch (a mineralised straw mulch) or homemade compost will also help prevent the ground from freezing in later months, and with a little fleece to hand, you should be able to get right through the winter.
If you sow Swiss chard in spring, it sometimes bolts very quickly in the summer heat. Sow later in the summer, and you get around this problem.
Swiss chard is tempting to slugs, but if the plant is healthy, it will outgrow these battles. More of a problem, particularly if you like to eat only the soft green parts, is beet leaf miner, which produces unpleasant blisters with a wriggling maggot in the middle. Pick off infected leaves immediately and make sure you squish the blister before you put them on the compost, otherwise the maggots will keep munching and hatch in your pile. If the problem is particularly bad (and it can be on allotments), cover the area with a fine mesh netting when the plants are around 10cm tall or before the tiny adult miner fly finds them.
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Growing Swiss chard in containers is a great way for urbanites to grow some greens. Of course, Swiss chard is a great addition to a full-sized garden, too. A single Swiss chard plant will produce for months! Swiss chard — also known as silverbeet — is less finicky in the garden than spinach and milder in flavor than kale.
For apartment dwellers, growing Swiss chard in containers is a no-brainer — it grows well in pots. Swiss chard plants will provide food for months. In past years, I’ve harvested chard from one planting for an entire summer season.
Beautiful Swiss chard
Here’s a bonus: Swiss chard is beautiful. Really, really beautiful, making it a perfect candidate for growing in containers on the patio. It’s also a great addition to flower beds, making for an edible flower garden that will sneak past your homeowners association.
Swiss chard comes in many varieties and colors. Shockingly bright rainbow chard adds color to your garden or patio with stalks in yellow, red, pink, and white surrounded by deep green leaves. Perpetual spinach is related to chard (and beets). It’s less flamboyant — it’s all green — but is a bit milder in flavor than some of the chard varieties and one of my favorites.
Growing Swiss chard in containers
If you’re an urban gardener or limited on garden space, this is what I want you to do: Get some Swiss chard seeds. And a container of some sort. It doesn’t have to be a fancy pot, or a very big one. (The one you see above is about 12″ in diameter and came from a garage sale.)
Fill the pot with soil. Bagged potting soil works fine. Mix in a little compost if you like.
How to grow Swiss chard from seed
To grow Swiss chard in containers, bury five or six Swiss chard seeds – spaced equally – under about half an inch of soil. Consider soaking the seeds prior to planting to give them a good head start. Sprinkle with water daily. If you’re planting it out in a garden bed, space the seeds about four-to-six inches apart. The first sprouts should appear within a week.
If you’re growing Swiss chard in containers, you’ll likely need to water it daily, depending upon your weather. Soil in containers tends to dry out more quickly than an in-ground garden. The soil should be kept moist but not overly wet — much like a wrung out kitchen sponge.
In a garden bed, as the plants grow and become crowded simply pull an entire plant from the ground to harvest it (rather than trimming leaves as described below). A tighter spacing like this allows you to harvest more and shades the soil as the plants grow, which can fend off weeds.
Growing Swiss chard – in containers or in the garden – couldn’t be easier.
Swiss chard is a biennial, which means that it will often provide a second year of growth for you with no extra work. If your chard plant goes to seed, you’ll need to start fresh, since the greens turn bitter once that happens.
Even novice gardeners can handle growing Swiss chard. Go on now. Get your hands dirty!
When to harvest chard
When leaves reach about 4-6″ tall, you can start harvesting what farmers market growers call “baby chard.” You’ll do so by cutting off just a few of the outer leaves on each plant, allowing the plants to continue producing.
As the plants get more robust, you can harvest more leaves – just make sure to always leave at least several leaves growing on each plant. Use scissors to cut leaf stems near the base of each plant.
Using Swiss chard in the kitchen
- Saute the greens as you would spinach.
- Chiffonade and stir several leaves into an egg scramble or frittata.
- Cook the stems like asparagus.
- Add to fresh green salads.
- Add a few leaves to your morning fruit smoothie.
- Chop the chard finely and add to soups or marinara sauce.
- Dice the raw stalks and add to tuna salad instead of celery.
Swiss chard recipes
Swiss chard recipes are in high demand around here when it’s abundant. Give these recipes a try if you’re growing Swiss chard!
- Baked Swiss Chard Stems with Parmesan
- Creamed Swiss Chard with Back Bacon
- Swiss Chard Slaw with Creamy Avocado Dressing
- Spicy Pickled Swiss Chard Stems
- Chard Leaves Stuffed with Rice and Herbs
- Swiss Chard Gratin
- Rainbow Chard Korean Pancake
- Swiss Chard Pesto
- Cheesy Tortellini Casserole
- Baked Potato Cakes with Chard
- Rainbow Pizza
- Cider Braised Swiss Chard with Apples
- Smoked Gouda Mushroom Chard Burger
- Swiss Chard, Fennel, and Sausage Pasta
- Moroccan Red Lentil Soup
- Potatoes in Garlicky Chard Broth
- Swiss Chard Quiche
- Polenta with White Cheddar, Chard, and Mushrooms
- Grilled Cheese Crepes with Chard and Dill
- Spring Vegetable Rigatoni Bake
- Swiss Chard Hash
- Kielbasa Sausage and Vegetable Soup
- Ten Healthy Swiss Chard Recipes
- Sausage and Swiss Chard Strata
- French Swiss Chard Tart
- Swiss Chard and Caramelized Onions
- Rustic Polenta Casserole
- Rainbow Chard and Cheddar Souffle
- Swiss Chard and Mushroom Galette
- Shredded Chard and Cabbage Salad
- Hearty Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup
- 10-Minute Sautéed Greens
- Lentil Dal with Hearty Greens
- Mini Polenta Pizzas
- Croatian Swiss Chard
- Swiss Chard, Bacon, and Gruyere Tart
- Pinto Bean and Swiss Chard Burritos
- Swiss Chard Chips
- Quinoa and Chard Spring Rolls
- Swiss Chard and Golden Beet Frittata
- Mexican Lentil and Chard Breakfast Casserole
- Swiss Chard Tart with Ham
- Swiss Chard and Mushroom Frittata
- Mediterranean Risotto with Chard
- A collection of more Swiss chard recipes
Need more Swiss chard recipes? Consider using Swiss chard in recipes that call for kale. It will do just fine.
Originally published June, 2016; this post has been updated.
Cold-hardy greens such as collards, turnips and kale are excellent crops for Texas gardens, but as temperatures begin to warm up in spring, these greens quickly begin to decline. Swiss chard, underutilized and underappreciated in far too many gardens and kitchens, is a delicious leafy green that is able to tolerate heat, withstand cold, and look attractive while doing it. Its brightly colored stems and thick, crinkled leaves contribute beauty to the landscape and nutrition to the plate.
ORIGINS OF SWISS CHARD
It is reasonable to assume that a vegetable called Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla) would have origins in Switzerland, but in fact it is closely related to the garden beet which is native to the coastal regions of the Mediterranean. According to heirloom vegetable expert William Woys Weaver, chard has been cultivated “since classical antiquity,” and its nomenclature has gone through many incarnations.
The stems of chard closely resemble those of cardoon, and the French word cardons was used to denote both vegetables, though botanically they are not related. To further confuse the matter, the leafy vegetable chard with the colorful stems was also known in France as Chilean beet. In Italy it was referred to as white beet, to British gardeners it was silver beet or sea kale beet and early American settlers knew it as beet chard. The stems come in an array of dazzling colors — orange, magenta, crimson, yellow and pink — which are often sold under the common descriptor of “rainbow chard.” Some older horticultural records refer to the green-leaved chard with broad white stems as Swiss chard, but today chard and Swiss chard are used interchangeably. Chard was prized by the Greeks and Romans for its medicinal properties, and modern science affirms this belief. It is a valuable and often overlooked source of many nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber.
A RELIABLE HEIRLOOM
Interest in heirloom vegetables, particularly tomatoes, has caught on over the last few years, though many Texas gardeners have experienced disappointment at the hands of such unpredictable varieties as ‘Brandywine’ or ‘Mortgage Lifter.’ But not all heirlooms are so fickle. Leave that heartbreak behind and turn instead to an heirloom that actually likes our growing conditions! Swiss chard is an ideal specimen for Texas and is well-adapted across the entire state. It prefers full sun in cold weather but will tolerate partial shade, especially as spring temperatures begin to rise and sunlight intensifies. Consider planting it at the edge of a deciduous tree where it will receive full sun in winter and a leafy canopy to provide protection from the hot afternoon sun in summer, or tuck it into an ornamental bed where it might benefit from the dappled shade offered by neighboring shrubs or perennials. Chard is not particular about soil and even prefers the slightly alkaline conditions that are found throughout much of the state. Highly acidic soils may require the addition of lime; check with your county extension agent or submit a soil sample for testing. Poor soils can be improved by mixing in 1 to 2 inches of organic matter such as compost, grass clippings or decomposed leaves. If you garden in areas with heavy rainfall (if there is such a thing anymore), plant in raised beds to ensure adequate drainage. Swiss chard is an ideal plant for a square-foot garden and will also do well in a 2–3 gallon container that is at least 8 to 10 inches deep. Take advantage of Swiss chard’s ornamental color and stature, and combine it with complimentary cool-season annuals and/or culinary herbs in a larger container.
Swiss chard is not susceptible to serious pests or disease, though rainy weather or wet conditions can invite risk for a fungal disease called Cercospora leaf spot. Maintain proper spacing to encourage good air circulation, keep soil surface well mulched and remove affected leaves promptly to keep this disease in check. Marauding caterpillars can be thwarted with a dusting of Bt, and insecticidal soap and spinosad products are low-toxicity controls for aphids and flea beetles. Row cover fabric will deter annoying pests and will also protect plants when frost threatens. Swiss chard is quite hardy and has survived sleet, snow and cold snaps in my Central Texas garden, but gardeners across the state will want to protect it when temperatures threaten to drop into the 20s, especially for extended periods.
SEEDS OR TRANSPLANTS?
As urban and suburban gardeners try to coax the most from their landscape, Swiss chard has gained recognition as a space-efficient, easy-to-grow and good-for-you vegetable that is at home in a kitchen garden as well as an ornamental bed. Transplants are available in garden centers, but you can save money by growing your own or sowing seeds directly in the garden. Swiss chard seeds will sprout in cool soils (50º F) and spring-sowing can begin 3 to 4 weeks before the last average frost for your area. Speed up germination by soaking seeds in tepid water for several hours before planting and keep the soil moist until seedlings are established. Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart, thinning to 12 to 15 inches when plants reach about 4 inches in height (be sure to eat the thinnings). The pebbly chard seed is actually a fruitlet cluster made up of several seeds, and after germination adjoining sprouts may have intertwined roots. When thinning, avoid disturbing these fragile roots by snipping or pinching off unwanted seedlings just above the soil line. If given sufficient room to grow, most chard varieties will reach a height of 1-1/2 to 2 feet, reaching their mature size in about 55 to 60 days, although young leaves can be harvested as baby greens as quick as 30–40 days after sowing. Plants that are spaced closer together (6 to 8 inches) will not grow large but will offer a continuous supply of young, tender leaves.
Chard is like the Energizer bunny of the garden — it just keeps going and going. There is no reason to harvest an entire plant; three or four large outer leaves can be cut from an individual plant, allowing the inner leaves to continue production. Be sure to mulch your plants well throughout the year and give them a nitrogen boost every 4 weeks by applying a water-soluble fertilizer or by sidedressing with 1/4 cup of granular fertilizer per 10 feet of row.
Because it tolerates both heat and cold, chard can remain productive over two or three seasons, especially in those years when we do not experience extreme summer or winter temperatures. Over time, you may notice a thick root forming at the base of the plant — perfectly normal, though not edible. Swiss chard is hardy and resilient, but it does have its limits. Hellacious summers, like the one we experienced in 2011, may cause leaves to be tough and bitter. Under such circumstances, you may be better off discarding spent plants and sowing a new crop in another spot in the garden in fall. Or try rejuvenating growth by cutting the entire plant a few inches above the crown. Sprinkle 1–2 tablespoons of fertilizer around the perimeter of the plant and tender, new growth will soon emerge.
HARVEST AND STORAGE
To harvest Swiss chard, use a sharp knife or clippers to cut off the stalks of individual leaves at the base. Some gardeners (myself included) harvest by twisting and snapping the stems, but be careful to make a clean break as any remaining stubble can become an entry point for insects and disease. Rinse well after harvest and cut the stems from the leaves before storing. Stack the leaves and wrap loosely in paper towels or a tea towel, place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator up to a week. Store stems separately in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Excess chard is easy to freeze: blanch leaves for two minutes in a large pot of boiling water, transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool, drain well by gently squeezing water out of leaves and place in freezer bags or plastic containers. Label and date before storing in the freezer and eat within 6 to 12 months.
VARIETIES ADD BEAUTY
Whether you are growing Swiss chard to eat or to admire, there are numerous varieties to choose from, and I have never met a variety I didn’t like. Classic varieties like ‘Lucullus’ and ‘Fordhook Giant’ have broad white stems with thick, crinkled green leaves. Both are heirlooms and have proved themselves to be sturdy, reliable and productive. Green and white chards are generally more vigorous and resistant to leaf spot than colored varieties. ‘Lucullus’ was introduced to America at the end of the 19th century, and ‘Fordhook Giant’ was introduced by W. Atlee Burpee in 1934. Its name comes from the Fordhook Farm, Burpee’s extensive test garden in Pennsylvania. ‘Silverado’ is a more compact green and white variety; its one drawback is that sand can get trapped in its heavily savoyed leaves, so it will require thorough rinsing. The colored varieties may be a little more temperamental, but they are worth the extra attention. ‘Bright Lights,’ a popular All-America Selections winner from 1998, boasts stalks in a dazzling rainbow of color with shiny leaves that have a mild flavor. ‘Magenta Sunset’ features dark green leaves attached to thin and tender stalks that look like magenta-colored celery and ‘Pink Lipstick’ matures into lovely green leaves with stems and veins in varying shades of pink. ‘Golden Sunrise’ and ‘Orange Fantasia’ both have glossy, dark green leaves atop broad golden stalks. ‘Rhubarb,’ an heirloom from the Civil War era, has ruby-colored stems and veins (it is sometimes referred to as ‘Ruby’ chard) which contrast with bright green leaves. At first glance it has excitedly been mistaken for rhubarb by visitors to my garden — quite a letdown when I inform them that the stately plant with the crimson stalks and large, beautiful leaves is an imposter that tastes nothing like rhubarb. ‘Bionda di Lyon,’ ‘Verde da Taglio’ and other Italian varieties are worth experimenting with in our Texas landscapes. Vegetable expert and variety tester Bill Adams is a fan of ‘Verde da Taglio’ as a container specimen. I seeded it directly in my garden last spring and it stood up to the summer of 2011 without croaking, so I am a fan as well!
CHOW DOWN ON CHARD
Chard’s versatility follows it into the kitchen, where it can be utilized as an ingredient at any meal. Chopped and sautéed leaves can fill a quiche or omelet; fresh, young leaves can be added to a salad for lunch; and cooked and seasoned greens provide a nourishing side dish for supper. Swiss chard is a cousin to spinach, and its leaves can serve as a substitute in most recipes. Cooked leaves can be added to lasagna, enchiladas or casseroles, and raw leaves can be sliced into ribbons as a nutritious addition to slaw. For a quick and healthy preparation, just rinse a large handful of young leaves, shake off excess water and throw them into a skillet over medium heat. Cover with a lid for a few minutes and the water that clings to the leaves will create sufficient steam to wilt the greens. Serve with a vinaigrette dressing or simply season with salt, pepper and a few shakes of your favorite vinegar or pepper sauce. It is a good idea to use more leaves than you think you will need as the large, robust leaves will shrink significantly during cooking.
Enhance the flavor of Swiss chard dishes by adding nuts, dried cranberries, lemon juice, feta or parmesan cheese, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil or chopped bacon. I told you it was versatile! Large, tough leaves can be combined and cooked with other greens, or added to soups to boost flavor, texture and nutrition. Many phytonutrients that provide antioxidant benefits are found in the colorful pigments of vegetables, and the veins and ribs of Swiss chard are no exception. The thick and fleshy stalks can be sliced thinly and added to stir-fry dishes, soups or stews or they can be cut into spears or wedges and braised and buttered to serve as a side dish on their own. The colored stalks, which lose most of their color during cooking, can be more fibrous than the white varieties; so experiment with different varieties and cooking times. When leaves of Swiss chard are worn out from weather, wind or pests, the ribs are largely unfazed and perfectly edible. I’ll remove the tattered leaves and toss them into the compost pile, then head to the kitchen to prepare yet another health-promoting dish with that satisfying “I-grew-it-myself” flavor.
How to grow Swiss chard
A delicious alternative to spinach, Swiss chard is easy to grow and relatively low maintenance.
With its ornamental leaves and stems, it looks just as good in containers and borders as the vegetable plot. Packed with vitamins, the leaves make a colourful addition to stir fries and soups and very young, tender leaves are great in salads. The stalks can be cooked separately and are equally tasty.
Follow the advice in this handy guide to grow your own Swiss chard.
Young chard leaves are delicious eaten fresh and you can use early thinnings for salads.
Sowing Swiss chard seeds
Sowing Swiss chard seeds
Make a shallow drill in well-prepared soil in a sunny spot and sow your Swiss chard seeds thinly, approximately 1.5cm deep. Cover seeds with soil and water well. Sow in rows 40cm apart. You can sow chard from March to September.
Check out this detailed step-by-step guide to sowing Swiss chard seeds.
Looking after Swiss chard
Swiss chard seedlings
As the seedlings begin to grow, thin out the plants so that they’re 25-30cm apart. Water well after thinning. Keep an eye out for pests, but apart from watering, this is an easy vegetable to look after. Sow seeds every few weeks for a continuous crop that’ll see you through the winter months, with just a little protection.
Swiss chard can be grown successfully in containers and even in among your flower borders, where it will complement the hot colours of late summer flowers.
Harvesting Swiss chard
Snipping fresh chard leaves
Young chard leaves are delicious eaten fresh and you can use early thinnings for salads. The fully-formed leaves will be ready to harvest about 10-12 weeks after sowing, but late summer sowings may take a little longer. Cut individual leaves as you need them and the plant will keep producing new growth.
Check out this advice on harvesting Swiss chard, carrots and beetroot.
Storing, preparing and using Swiss chard
Swiss chard is best eaten soon after picking. However, leaves can be blanched and frozen for later use in soups.
See some of the tasty recipes using Swiss chard, from our friends at Olive Magazine.
Chard: problem solving
Netting Swiss chard
Swiss chard is a relatively trouble-free vegetable apart from attacks on seedlings by slugs and snails, so do put some protection in place after sowing.
Some varieties, particularly the ones with red stems can be prone to bolting.
Beet leaf miner can also affect chard. These are flies whose maggots tunnel inside the leaves creating blotches that eventually turn brown and affect the growth of the plant, particularly early in the season. The best way to deal with this problem is to try to squash the maggots in the blotchy areas or to net crops.
Crop rotation is important as this can prevent any overwintering maggots of the beet leaf miner from affecting your chard crop.
Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’
Swiss chard varieties to try
- ‘Bright Lights’ RHS AGM – with rainbow-coloured stems and green and leaves of green or bronze. Good for harvesting into the late autumn months, it can also be overwintered for an early spring crop
- ‘White Silver’ RHS AGM – with thick white stems and dark green leaves this is a classic Swiss Chard. A hardy variety, good for cropping through early winter
- ‘Fantasy’ – a lovely red-stemmed Swiss chard with a mild flavour and notable for its good tolerance of downy mildew
- ‘Bright Yellow’ RHS AGM – with golden yellow stalks, this is a lovely variety that’s slow to bolt and very hardy over winter. It’ll also produce an early spring crop after the last of the late-autumn harvest
- ‘Green Wave’ RHS AGM – with green stems and leaves, this looks much more like spinach. The flavour is a little milder and it’s less prone to bolting