How to plant:
Propagate by seed
Germination temperature: 40 F to 95 F – Optimum 85 F.
Days to emergence: 5 to 7
Seed can be saved 4 years.
Maintenance and care: Start planting about 2 to 3 weeks before last expected frost. Sow seeds ½ to 1 inch deep, 2 to 6 inches apart, in rows 18 to 24 apart. Like beets, chard “seeds” produce more than one plant, and so will require thinning. Thin to 6- to 12-inch spacings.
If you plan to harvest whole plants, make succession plantings through late summer.
Delay planting of ‘Ruby Red’ or ‘Rhubarb’ chard until after last frost. These varieties may go to seed (bolt) if seed is exposed to freezing temperatures.
Start seed inside for earlier crops, or if you want to arrange different colored plants of the variety ‘Bright Lights.’
Mulch plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
You can begin harvesting when leaves reach usable size. Remove a leaf or two from each plant, or cut plants an inch or two above the soil for cut-and-come-again harvest. Avoid damaging the growing point in the center of the plant at harvest.
As plants age, older leaves get tough. Cut plants back to about 3 to 5 inches tall to encourage a flush of new, tender growth.
Leaf miners Diseases: Leaf spot
Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard in the homemade greenhouse last November.
Looking for Swiss chard recipes? Here are some of my favorites:
What To Do With Swiss Chard—Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip Recipe & Other Ways To Cook & Enjoy My Favorite Leafy Green
Healthy Swiss Chard Tuna Salad with Scallions & Kalamata Olives
Swiss Chard Cabbage Salad with Garbanzo Beans & Cottage Cheese
Swiss Chard and Artichoke Soup
Swiss Chard and Artichoke ‘White’ Pizza
The year I turned 30, I had two friends who turned 60, and I took full advantage of the situation. “Save me some trouble,” I said, “and tell me the most valuable thing you’ve learned in the last 30 years.”
The first one offered up a piece of advice I’ve tried to abide by ever since. He said, “Be happy, not resentful or envious, when good things happen to other people.” But it was seven words of wisdom from the second friend that truly changed my life: “Always plant Swiss chard in the garden.”
Variety is good for the garden and the tastebuds, but if I were allowed to grow only one leafy green, it would definitely be Swiss chard. This 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. When the spinach is suffering from heatstroke, or the lettuce is keeling over from frostbite, my hardy Swiss chard doesn’t even flinch.
Swiss chard, which is also known as white beet, strawberry spinach, seakale beet, leaf beet, Sicilian beet, spinach beet, Chilean beet, Roman kale, perpetual spinach, silverbeet and mangold (and that’s just in English!) is bursting with nutrients, including vitamins K, A, C and E, plus several B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron and dietary fiber.
It’s a good source of calcium and contains promising cancer-fighting properties. Throughout history, various parts of the plant have been used to treat everything from ulcers to dandruff. But more importantly, it tastes delicious.
The best Swiss chard you’ll ever eat is that which you grow yourself, and fortunately it’s easy to cultivate. 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.
The plants are also pleasing to the eye, so you can tuck a few almost anywhere. Swiss chard does exceptionally well in containers, which means even apartment dwellers have no excuse not to try growing some. Containers should be at least 12 inches deep and 12 inches across; three or four plants will fit comfortably in a 14-inch-wide pot.
Young Swiss chard plants in the homemade greenhouse last November.
A packet of Swiss chard seeds will set you back only a dollar or two. I order mine from my two favorite seed companies, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds located here in Missouri and Pinetree Garden Seeds in Maine.
Fordhook Giant, introduced in 1924 and pictured in the top photo, is a popular variety with large, dark green leaves and white stems that always does well for me. I grow it along with more unusual varieties, such as the two pictured above, Pink Lipstick and Canary Yellow, whose brilliant yellow stems are stunning.
Last spring I excitedly planted several new (to me) varieties in my garden, including Vulcan, an improved rhubarb chard developed in Switzerland; Sea Foam, said to have great flavor and texture; and Orange Fantasia, which boasts light icy green leaves and bright orange stalks that hold their color when cooked.
Unfortunately my entire crop was destroyed by an army of ravenous blister beetles. Boy were they bad this year. Fortunately I’ve learned to live by the motto Never plant the entire packet of anything at once, and the remaining seeds I direct seeded last week have already sprouted. The blister beetles are gone for the year, so all I have to worry about this time around is the weather and the deer. At this point I’m quite hopeful.
If space is at a premium or you can’t make up your mind what kind of Swiss chard to plant, you might start with Five Color Silverbeet, an Australian variety often sold as Bright Lights or Rainbow Chard. You’ll get near-neon shades of pink, yellow, orange, red and white chard from one packet of seeds.
Before planting, soak Swiss chard seeds in warm water for 15 minutes to speed up germination. 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 soilless 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 (though tiny seedlings are more tender). My 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 our Zone 5 winters, when it sometimes gets down below 0°F.
Maintenance is minimum:
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. (As a rule, properly moist soil will crumble evenly into small granules when you grab a handful and squeeze it.)
Most pests ignore Swiss chard, though more than once the deer have happily munched down my entire crop.
Cut and come again: new growth is already visible.
How To Harvest Swiss Chard:
Another reason I love Swiss chard is because it’s a ‘cut and come again’ plant, which means that one crop can supply you with beautiful bounty for months. Growing your own also allows you to enjoy the tender baby leaves, which can rarely be found for sale.
You can either continually harvest just the outer stalks (scissors work great—start tossing the tender leaves into salads when plants are about 6 inches high) or cut whole young plants off an inch or two above the soil and wait for them to regrow.
Between the plants outside and in the greenhouse, I literally had Swiss chard available for all but three or four weeks of the entire year. Even Whitey The Chicken was enjoying freshly picked greens in January.
Just before a severe cold snap in January, I cut nearly all the leaves from the many large plants in the greenhouse. This huge bounty kept just fine for several weeks in our 40-degree pantry. I covered the remaining chard ‘stumps’ in the greenhouse with floating row covers, old bed sheets, and lightweight blankets. Bamboo stakes (they have so many uses!) stuck in the ground around the plants helped keep the heavier coverings from flattening them.
When the temperature outside dropped into the single digits, I put an oil-filled radiator heater (we have several—they work great and are very safe) in there on the lowest setting. This kept the plants in a sort of holding pattern.
As soon as things warmed back up a bit, they went right back to growing, and long before spring, I had 22 thriving plants in the greenhouse and almost more chard than I could eat. If you’re in a warmer climate, you could easily grow Swiss chard year round outdoors with little or no protection.
So what’s your favorite way to enjoy this glorious green? Do tell!
More posts about some of my favorite things to grow:
Favorite Heirloom Tomatoes to Grow—Mine and Yours
Growing Onions in the Garden
Growing Short Day Onion Varieties from Purchased Plants
Harvesting Spring Onions Grown from Purchased Plants
Endive and Escarole in the Kitchen and Garden
Growing Lemon Cucumbers from Seed
Growing Miniature White Cucumbers from Seed
My Favorite Heirloom Carrots (so far) to Grow from Seed: Parisienne
How to Grow Beets from Seed (and here’s my favorite beet recipe)
How To Grow Nero di Toscana Cabbage (also called Dinosaur Kale, Lacinato Kale, Tuscan Kale, Cavalo Nero) and What to do with It
How To Grow Your Own Gourmet Lettuce from Seed (It’s easy!)
How To Grow Arugula from Seed in Less than a Month
Tips for Growing & Using Rosemary Year Round
© FarmgirlFare.com, the veggie loving foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and there is almost always homegrown Swiss chard around.
When thinking about planting seeds, sometimes it can be confusing. What should I plant when? Well, the answer is… there are a lot of different answers! What to plant when depends on your location and zone, your weather, and your planting method. Some seeds must be started indoors early, and others can be planted right out in the garden. Here are our picks for seed starting calendars so you know the answer to the question, “when should I plant, what?”
First comes some advice from Anne at ‘The Micro Gardener‘. She has compiled a list of garden planting calendars and resources you shouldn’t miss.
First thing you need to know is your growing “zone”. In the US, you can find your zone for your state and area by visiting the ‘USDA” website. If you need to find out your frost dates, you can use this chart from ‘Food Skills and Self Sufficiency‘.
Next, you want a way to keep track of what you plant, and a place to hold onto any printable calendars and resources. I recommend a garden journal. You can buy one at any bookstore, or you download the free printable garden journal from ‘About.com‘ and simply slip it into a binder cover.
Margaret Roach from ‘A Way to Garden‘ has a program you can use to help you no matter what zone you garden in. All you have to know is your approximate last frost date. You plug that date into her planting calculator, and it tells you the best dates to plant from seed indoors, or to transplant or plant from seed outdoors. She has both veggies and annual flowers on her calculator for you. Margaret has been a garden writer for both Newsday and Martha Stewart Living.
From ‘Anglican Home‘, this vegetable planting cheat sheet gives you info on what to plant when, also ideas on container planting and companion planting as well!
Many vegetables can be planted for winter harvest… it’s not just spring that these decisions have to be made! ‘Territorial Seeds‘ has a winter gardening planting calendar for a general idea on when to plant for winter harvest. If you live in a severe winter climate, check with your local nursery to verify these dates.
So no matter where you live or what you plant, here are the garden planting calendars and resources to get the right plant, into the right spot, at the right time! We think you will also love our posts on Gardening Cheat Sheets and Square Foot Gardening.
Image Credits: The MicroGardener, Food Skills, About, A Way to Garden,Anglican Home, Territorial Seeds
Swiss Chard Care – How To Grow Swiss Chard In Your Garden
If you’re a person who values your leafy greens, you may want to grow a crop of colorful Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla). For people on a vegan or keto eating plan, chard is the perfect companion to spinach and kale.
A bit crunchier than spinach, but more tender than kale, this gorgeous vegetable comes in a surprising array of colors. Technically speaking, chard is a beet, but doesn’t have a bulbous root. It’s referred to as a member of the “goosefoot” family due to the shape of its leaves.
What makes it Swiss? It was identified and named by a Swiss botanist. Full of Vitamins A and C, Swiss chard counts toward the dark leafy vegetable component of your diet. Whether it’s white, red or yellow, it’s full of nutrition. It’s easy to grow, so read on to learn all about Swiss chard care in your garden.
How Do I Plant Swiss Chard?
Learning how to grow Swiss chard in the garden is easy and the plant thrives when given suitable conditions. Chard likes an area with full sun to partial shade. Your soil should be loose enough to drain well.
Make a row in the soil and plant your seeds about a half inch or so deep, with eight to ten seeds per foot. Keep about 18 inches (20 cm.) of space between your rows. When the plants are a couple inches tall (5 cm.), thin them so that they’re four to six inches apart (10-15 cm.). Chard is generally easy to grow. It just needs enough room, water and a perhaps a bit of fertilizer.
As part of your spring garden, you’ll want to get Swiss chard seed into the ground in early to mid-spring, or at least when you’re sure there’s no more chance of frost. A good rule of thumb is to be sure the soil is at least 50 F. (10 C.), which is warm enough for the seeds to germinate. If you want to ensure a steady supply of chard, you can use succession planting, sowing new seeds every couple weeks, to lengthen the harvest time.
If you prefer growing Swiss chard through the winter, get your seeds into the ground at least a month prior to the first fall frost. As a winter vegetable, chard grows well with other root crops, like carrots, turnips, and parsnips. It also grows well with the aforementioned spinach and kale.
This lovely and highly nutritious vegetable is happiest when the temperatures of spring and fall are cool and moderate. It will still do well in summer weather, but the warmth will make it grow a little more slowly.
Swiss Chard Harvesting
You can go ahead and begin to harvest your greens when your chard plants are around 9-12 inches high (23-30 cm.). If you wait until they’re much taller than that, they’ll lose some of their flavor. Cut the outer leaves first to allow the tender inner leaves to grow.
Once you’ve completely harvested a chard plant, go ahead and pull it up and toss the root into your compost. It’s finished. This will give your remaining plants more space to grow. Swiss chard plants can grow up to two feet (60 cm.) in a season if they get enough water! Again, if you plant new seeds every couple of weeks, you can continue to harvest the plants throughout the season.
Swiss chard makes a great addition to soups, casseroles, stir-fry dishes and salads. The leaves are ready to eat raw or cooked. Chard’s stiffer ribs can be removed and cooked tender for any dish that need an extra boost of nutrition.
How to Grow Swiss Chard
Days to germination: 5 to 15 days
Days to harvest: 50 to 60 days (for the full head)
Light requirements: Full sun or partial shade
Water requirements: Regularly but not overly frequent
Soil: Loose and fertile
Swiss chard may not be the most common of garden vegetables, but it’s growing in popularity due to its versatility and hardiness. It may seem like just another leafy green, but you can cook the stalks like asparagus too.
Swiss chard has crinkly leaves and looks a lot like savoy spinach, but its easier to grow and doesn’t bolt in hot weather either. Varieties of Swiss chard all have green leaves, but you can find a multitude of colors for the stalks. You can grow pink, red, yellow or white to add some color to your garden. Fordhook Giant is one of the most popular home gardening varieties as it is easy to grow and is very hardy.
Like most dark green vegetables, Swiss chard is extremely nutritious. Very high levels of vitamins K, A, C and even E. You’ll also get magnesium, potassium and iron in every leaf.
Starting from Seed
Because of a deep central root, Swiss chard is not suitable for transplanting. You’ll have to start your seeds right out in the garden, which shouldn’t be a problem because they are fine with cooler weather.
Get your seeds planted out about 2 weeks before your final frost date, sowing the seeds around half an inch deep. Dig your soil thoroughly and add nutrients in the form of compost, aged manure or commercial fertilizer before you put in your seeds.
Your seed spacing depends on how you plan on using your Swiss chard harvest. If you intend on picking the small leaves as the plants grow, they will need much less space than if you are going to let the heads get larger.
For small leaves and a frequent harvest, you can just sprinkle the seeds over your intended Swiss chard patch and let the plants grow as they may. To get larger heads with good sized stalks for cooking, plant 2 or 3 seeds about 10 inches apart. Once they sprout, thin to 1 strong seedling in each location.
You should choose a sunny spot to plant your Swiss chard, but they are fine with a bit of shade during the hot weather. Planting your chard near taller growing plants is a good way to create shade later in the season when you need it.
Swiss chard is a very maintenance-free plant that won’t require too much work as it grows. They aren’t heavy-feeders like many other vegetables so you don’t have to worry about constantly feeding or fertilizing them. One good feeding of standard fertilizer near mid-summer is fine.
Water your plants regularly, but a bit of a dry spell now and then won’t harm them. Overly dry or hot weather can cause the plants to bolt, but if you cut off the new flowering stalk right away, you can continue to harvest leaves. Bolting isn’t the end of your crop like it usually is with leafy vegetables like spinach or lettuce.
Swiss chard is a very good container plant, and also makes a nice ornamental addition to a flower garden. The dark leaves and bright stalks are attractive, and the plants won’t overpower your flowers.
Like in the garden, how you space your plants will depend on how you intend to harvest. For easy leaf-picking, just spread some seed in your pot and watch your plants grow. Larger heads need more room, so plant 2 in each 12″ pot. Your containers should be at least 12″ deep as well.
Pests and Diseases
Though hardy, there are a few pests that can hurt your Swiss chard crop that you should watch out for. Your usual slugs and snails can be a problem for the leaves, so take precautions against them. The old-fashioned saucer of beer usually helps to draw them away from your plants, or some heavy sprinklings of diatomaceous earth can also kill slugs.
Leaf miners will chew tiny tunnels through your chard leaves and can be hard to get rid of. Remove the damaged leaves to keep them from spreading and spray with insecticide. If this is a big problem in your area, you can use a fine layer of mesh over your plants during the spring to keep the flies away. It’s the flies that lay the eggs, that turn into the little caterpillars doing the damage.
Downy mildew can target your Swiss chard if you have been watering too much or your plants are clustered very close together. Treat the mildew with fungicide, and thin out some of your plants to improve the air flow around the leaves. Don’t water your plants from above, soaking the leaves either. Direct the water right at the soil to help prevent mildew.
Harvest and Storage
With Swiss chard, harvesting and growing are somewhat the same because you can pick the leaves all through the season while the plant is growing.
Once the outer leaves have grown to about 4 to 6 inches in length, they can be picked. Only the outside leaves should be harvested like this, so don’t pick the smaller inside bud of leaves or you will kill the plant. Be gentle when cutting the leaves. Use a knife or garden clippers instead of pulling.
To use the stalks as a vegetable themselves, you will need to let the plants grow longer until they have formed a loose head and the stalks are large enough for use. You can still cut a few leaves off at a time at this point, or just harvest the entire head. When slicing the head free, leave a few inches of stem and your plant may recover and keep growing more leaves.
You can keep on picking leaves right until the first hard frost. A few light frosts won’t harm the plant at all. In mild climates, chard can be grown and harvested all through the winter as long as the weather is generally above freezing.
Its difficult to estimate your overall harvest because it largely depends on how often you pick the leaves, and how much you pick at any given time. A rough guideline is 2 or 3 plants per person, and you’ll have a good supply of chard all summer long.
You should harvest your Swiss chard when you intend to use it because it doesn’t store for very long after its been picked. Keep your leaves in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
The smaller leaves can be frozen for longer storage too. Wash them and blanch for about 3 minutes, then freeze. Thawed leaves are fine for cooking but are not suitable for salads or raw uses.
- Rosemarie Says:
July 18th, 2011 at 5:48 pm
Excellent article, very informative and helpful.
I just planted my first Chard plants and they
are doing great. Thank you this will help me.
- Penelope Lake Says:
January 14th, 2012 at 4:48 pm
Florida Gardener and growing Swiss chard for the very first time…..I wonder if you need to pick the lower outer leaves to encourage the plant to produce more leaves..
- Dani Says:
January 24th, 2012 at 6:50 pm
Extremely helpful article! I heard a TSP podcast by Jack Spirko that said that every person should grow *something* they they eat, so I decided to start a container garden on my balcony. I used your information to grow some “bright lights” chard (as well as a selection of different lettuces) and I am delighted every time I harvest and eat the bounty from my micro garden.
Keep up the great work!
- Jackie Goodrich Says:
July 19th, 2012 at 7:01 pm
I have a question as to what could be wrong with my swiss chard? The stalks have these black spots all over them and the spots go all the way up into the leaf. I really would like to know if it is still edible?
- Janet Says:
July 29th, 2012 at 1:00 pm
My swiss chard has grown tall and it looks like it is seeding what should I do with the plant.
- Charles Says:
September 16th, 2012 at 8:01 pm
Good and very informative and helpful article. Swiss chard can be replanted many times without any problems, you can also buy starter plants and replant them more than once with any problems too. We sell a lot of them at our nursery here in So Cal.
- akiko note Says:
June 17th, 2016 at 9:09 am
If, you could tell me ” Why is the growing chard goes seed after 5″ tall.
I have been planting for years of chard ,But I never success like I see in the net. after glowing 5″ every plant get flower and seeds leaves are very small. ?? Thank you
- Administrator Says:
September 29th, 2016 at 2:42 pm
Plants bolt (put up flower stalks and seed) often in response to warm temperatures. It may be too hot. Chard is a somewhat cool weather crop.
- Carol Weinreich Says:
September 15th, 2016 at 8:03 am
I have started chard indoors for 5 years and successfully transplanted the seedlings every year. Otherwise, excellent article.
- laurence harding Says:
May 12th, 2017 at 2:40 am
thank you, i am growing white chard for yhe first time, they are just srpouting, do i need to net against birds?.
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The succulent leaves of Swiss chard can be used much like spinach. You can even use the big ones to wrap “cabbage” rolls. The colourful stems can be cooked like asparagus. Enjoy the small leaves in salad. They grow easily and well in our climate and stand in the garden for many months, giving a long harvest from one planting. Follow along with this handy How to Grow Swiss Chard from seeds Guide and grow food.
Beta vulgaris var. cicla
We Recommend: Celebration Swiss Chard (SW753) is the variety of choice for those who want to sample a bit of everything. Its combination of wild colours will bring dramatic visual appeal to any garden.
For Urban Growers: Give Peppermint Swiss Chard (SW763) a try this season in any large container. Aim for relatively vigorous root growth and a pot size of 5 gallons or more. It’s pretty enough to treat as an ornamental – and then you get to eat it!
Season & Zone
Season: Cool season
Exposure: Full sun
Direct sow mid-April to early August. Chard is moderately winter hardy. Optimal soil temperature: 10-30°C (50-85°F). Seeds should sprout in 7-14 days.
Sow seeds 1cm (½”) deep, spaced 10-30cm (4-12″) apart in rows 45cm (18″) apart.
Ideal pH: 6.0-6.5. Swiss chard prefers loose, deep, and fertile soil rich in organic matter. Plenty of consistent moisture is required, especially as plants grow larger. It grows best in full sun, but will tolerate light shade in summer. A liquid fertilizer or compost tea applied twice during summer will keep chard growing well.
For salad mix, seed more densely and cut as baby leaves. Cut individual mature stalks using the large outer ones first.
In optimal conditions at least 75% of seeds will germinate. Usual seed life: 3 years. Per 100′ row: 220 seeds, per acre: 64M seeds.
Beans, Brassicas, and onions make the best companions for chard.
More on Companion Planting.