Swiss chard is a superfood packed with vitamin A, C, and K and lacks the bitter taste of other leafy greens, which makes it an excellent replacement for spinach and kale. Like other veggies, whether store-bought or homegrown, you can eat Swiss chard raw or cooked, but before you enjoy the benefits of this veggie, it’s essential to learn how to harvest Swiss chard.
Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) is a biennial vegetable with dark green leaves belonging to the beetroot family. Due to its highly nutritious leaves, its popularity is growing among home gardeners and those looking to use it for healthy diets.
Colors divide Swiss chard into ruby chard with red stems and green leaves and rainbow chard with typically colorful stems.
- Harvesting Swiss Chard
- Bolting and How to Avoid it
- Companion Planting for Swiss Chard
Harvesting Swiss Chard
Some common cultivars of Swiss chard with white stems are Lucullus and Fordhook Giant, and one of the most popular ruby chard is Rhubarb Chard. This article addresses when to pick Swiss chard and essential steps to keep in mind when harvesting Swiss chard.
Similar to all veggies, planting your Swiss chard depends on your gardening zone. Follow the guidelines on your heirloom seed packet and the USDA Hardiness Zone map on the back of the pack.
Although Swiss chard matures during the summer months, knowing when to pick Swiss chard is essential as it yields better crops in cooler weather after surviving colder nights.
When the water inside the plant begins to freeze, it produces more sugar to withstand the colder temperatures without freezing, creating more flavor in the crop for harvest.
Preparing Your Garden to Plant Swiss Chard
For the best yield, before planting your seeds, choose a planting site that receives full sun, whether you are growing Swiss chard in a pot or the garden. To repel bugs, choose vegetables grow well together in containers or the yard. Make sure your soil is well-draining and is mixed with compost at least two weeks before planting.
If you’re wondering how long does it take for Swiss chard to grow, the answer is 50-75 days, but soaking your seeds in water for 24 hours before you sow seeds speeds the germination process.
Knowing When to Plant Swiss Chard
Due to its ability to grow quickly and easily during cooler temperatures, Swiss chard is often grown as a cool-season crop. While it cannot survive a hard freeze, it is cold-hardy and capable of surviving a light frost if the temperature does not remain below freezing.
When is the best time to plant Swiss chard? Plant chard seeds two to three weeks before the last spring frost when planting in early spring. For a fall harvest, plant your seeds roughly 40 days before the first frost date for fall to allow time for your crop to mature before harvest.
Caring for Swiss Chard
When growing Swiss chard, keep the garden beds moist and watch out for pests. Adding mulch around your plant helps prevent weeds, conserve moisture and protect your roots from a light freeze.
Young plants are not tolerant of droughts, and low soil moisture affects early plant growth. While at the seedling stage, a crucial step when caring for your Swiss chard crop is to water the plant one to two inches per seed.
Fungal Diseases Affecting Swiss Chard
Though Swiss chard is generally easy to grow and care for, fungal diseases are usually to blame if your plant falls ill. Cercospora Leaf Spot is a disease that affects lower leaves by forming brownish-grey or black spots on the leaf with reddish-purple halos.
Downy mildew builds on your plant from humid weather or excess moisture on the leaves. Downy mildew is an unsightly light grey powdery substance on the leaves.
Preventing and treating fungal disease when planting kale in pots or Swiss chard involves adequate spacing between plants for air circulation and may involve thinning out leaves. To help avoid mildew, when watering your plant, always water at the base, avoiding the leaves.
How to Repel Common Pests from Your Swiss Chard Plants
If you notice long narrow tunnels in the leaves of your plant when you grow Swiss chard, leaf miners are responsible. Leaf miners are pale maggots that live in leaves to feed on them.
Swiss chard also draws pests like aphids. Avoid pesticides that kill beneficial insects like lady beetles that prey on aphids. To safely repel these pests, create a soap spray that does not harm your plant.
Combine water, rubbing alcohol, and liquid dish soap into a spray bottle and spritz the mixture onto your plant leaves. The spray kills pests and keeps more from being drawn to the plant. Do not overspray or use an excessive amount of soap as it may damage your plant’s health.
How to Harvest Swiss Chard
When harvesting young Swiss chard, selectively clip the outer leaves but leave more than half the stems and leaves intact to allow new leaves and stems to replace the older leaves. This is the best way to harvest Swiss chard without killing the plant. Follow the same practice when you harvest beets leaves.
This method is how to pick Swiss chard so it keeps growing baby leaves as harvesting in a continuous process. Most species produce three or more crops on the whole plant.
When harvesting the Swiss chard plant or when it’s rhubarb harvest time, cut off the stems to within two inches of soil. Depending on the weather during the growing season, you may experience more growth of leaves and stems of rhubarb and Swiss chard, which allows you to harvest again.
Storing Swiss Chard Leaves
After harvesting Swiss chard, store leaves in the refrigerator for up to a week after blanching, or freeze them. Rinse your leaves and stems, and bring a pot of water to boil.
Chop or cut your leaves and stems and place them in the water. Allow the water to return to boil for two minutes. Immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water, then dry and squeeze water out of the leaves. Place the leaves and stems into a plastic bag and place in the freezer; steam when ready to eat.
When to Pick Swiss Chard
When to harvest Swiss chard depends on the growth of your plant. Four to six weeks after planting, or your plant reaches one to two feet tall, begin harvesting baby greens from your Swiss chard plant. These tender leaves have a slightly earthy flavor like spinach and are great for including in salads.
Swiss chard harvest time may also vary by the time since planting. Harvest time for Swiss chard with more mature leaves ranges from 50 to 75 days. The larger leaves are perfect for including in stir-fry or wraps and sandwiches.
Bolting and How to Avoid it
Bolting refers to the growth of a plant occurring too rapidly or when the plant’s growth begins to “run away.” Most plants, including Swiss chard, bolt in hot weather without proper moisture or shade.
If you’re planting Swiss chard seeds in spring, when late summer arrives or if the soil temperature gets too high, it sparks a survival mechanism in the crop to produce its next generation of seeds as quickly as possible.
Increased temperature causes leaf growth to stop and the crop to flower and produce seeds. Once fully bolted, your Swiss chard becomes primarily inedible. Through bolting, the crop’s energy reserve focuses on producing seeds and flowers.
After bolting, your crop loses its flavor and becomes bitter. The leaves of your Swiss chard become tough but still edible if you boil them to reduce bitterness instead of eating your yield raw.
If you catch your Swiss chard plant in the early stages of bolting, snipping off the flowers temporarily halts the bolting process, allowing you to salvage the leaves.
Prevent plant bolting by protecting your plants from heat and drought. Keep your chard plants well-watered and provide some shade if you are experiencing high temperatures through the summer.
Companion Planting for Swiss Chard
When adding Swiss chard to your garden, it benefits you to add companion plants that aid your Swiss chard. Beneficial companion plants assist Swiss chard by loosening nearby soil, providing shade, and increasing its yield. Excellent companion plants also keep pests away, though not every crop pairs well with Swiss chard.
Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and kale loosen the soil and prevent weeds from spreading. Celery, marigolds, and vegetables in the onion family (Allium cepa) like chives and leeks repel pests and harmful insects.
These companion plants steal nutrients away from surrounding plants, and cucumber plants may also strangle the roots of your Swiss chard.
Quinoa plants also attract pests that are harmful to Swiss chard. Due to the height of sunflower plants, your Swiss chard may receive diminished sunlight and toxic substances in the soil from your sunflower plant.
Knowing when to harvest your Swiss chard and how to best care for your crop ensures you pick your yield at the best time.
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