Although it’s similar to spinach and kale and often confused with rhubarb, Swiss chard is a separate vegetable. This member of the beet family—botanical name Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla—adds nutrients to your diet and flair to your garden. Discover how to plant Swiss chard to expand your repertoire of leafy greens.
Swiss chard varieties grow from eight to 24 inches tall. Their colorful stems can be pink, white, yellow, or another fun color. This leafy vegetable is high in antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and K. “I always remind my gardening class that Swiss chard isn’t just nutritious, it’s also a feast for the eyes with its vibrant stem colors,” says Julia Hodges, a seasoned authority on plants, gardening, and growing food.
The superfood is also an excellent source of potassium, manganese, magnesium, iron, and copper. Note that you should not eat too much Swiss chard if you’re monitoring your oxalate intake.
- Tips for Planting Swiss Chard
- Planting Swiss Chard: Getting Started
- Planting Swiss Chard: Sowing Seeds
- Caring for Swiss Chard Plants
- Harvesting Swiss Chard
Tips for Planting Swiss Chard
It’s possible to eat chard leaves and stems raw or cooked. The vegetable has a less bitter flavor than many other greens. Try adding homegrown Swiss chard to salads, pasta, pizza, stir-fries, or soup.
Although it’s possible to grow Swiss chard in pots or indoors, a garden bed is most common. Follow guidelines for how far apart to plant Swiss chard to increase your chances of enjoying an extended harvest.
How to Plant Swiss Chard
This vegetable grows in USDA zones 2 to 11. The best way to plant Swiss chard is to grow Swiss chard from seed. Sow chard seeds starting in early spring in cooler regions and before the first fall frost in milder areas.
The plant is a biennial in warmer regions, meaning that it sets seed in its second year. Swiss chard prefers cooler weather; however, it does continue to grow over the summer, unlike many greens—albeit more slowly.
Pick a location with full sun if possible or light shade if necessary. You can start growing Swiss chard indoors with seeds in trays or sow them directly in the garden. In either case, make sure to thin the seedlings to provide enough room for the leaves to grow.
Swiss chard plant spacing varies depending on whether you want baby greens or larger leaves, whether you are growing Swiss chard in containers or outside in the garden. Give your plants consistent water and a little fertilizer. Harvest outer leaves as needed throughout the growing season.
Planting Swiss Chard: Getting Started
To get started planting Swiss chard, choose a variety and companion plants. Make sure to plant chard at the appropriate time of year for your region.
Swiss Chard Varieties
Each chard variety has a unique, candy-like color combination.
Note that rainbow chard is not a specific chard cultivar but rather a combination of different varieties.
Companion Plants for Swiss Chard
Choose companion plants with similar sun, soil, and water needs. They also should not attract problem pests and diseases.
Avoid planting beets, legumes, and most herbs near Swiss chard. Find another location, as well, for cucurbits like cucumber and pumpkin, and do not grow spinach nearby.
When to Plant Swiss Chard
Part of how to plant Swiss chard is choosing a suitable planting date. When to plant Swiss chard is easy. Direct sow chard seeds from early spring through midsummer when the soil is at least 50℉, or start the seeds indoors three to four weeks before the last frost date.
Transplant the seedlings outdoors just after the last frost, like when is beet season. In warmer regions, sow chard seeds in late summer, up to one month before the first fall frost. Chard tolerates light frosts and is hardy to 15℉. The vegetable is a biennial in milder climates.
Planting Swiss Chard: Sowing Seeds
Start chard seeds indoors or sow them directly in the garden. Although full sun is ideal, a little shade is fine during the summer.
Choosing and Amending Soil for Swiss Chard
This plant thrives in loose, deep, well-draining, fertile soil that’s rich in organic matter. The soil should be loamy and slightly acidic to neutral.
Work in some aged compost before planting. Extra nitrogen is beneficial for leafy vegetables. Consider adding a balanced, slow-release fertilizer.
Planting Swiss Chard Seeds
To speed germination, soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting. Sow the seeds a half-inch deep. Succession planting extends the harvest.
Expect the seeds to sprout in 7 to 14 days. Because they’re shaped in irregular clusters, they’ll send out little groups of seedlings.
If you sow seeds indoors, transplant the seedlings outside when they have at least three true leaves. Before transplanting, acclimatize the plants outdoors for a couple of hours per day for several days.
How Far Apart to Plant Swiss Chard
Sow Swiss chard seeds four to 12 inches apart within rows—on the closer end for baby greens. Space the rows 18 inches apart.
Once the chard plants are three to four inches tall, thin them to six to eight inches apart, or nine to 12 inches for larger plants. Snip off the plants at ground level using scissors.
Leave each cluster’s strongest seedling in the ground. Use the others as salad greens. Crowded chard plants produce smaller leaves and may go to seed more quickly.
Caring for Swiss Chard Plants
Swiss chard is a relatively easy vegetable to grow. Other than thinning, all you need to do is provide a little water and fertilizer and watch for pests and diseases.
Watering and Fertilizing Swiss Chard Plants
Chard requires consistent moisture, especially when the plants are first starting out and as they get larger. Ensure that established plants get one inch of water per week and water more often during summer dry spells.
Spread mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weeds. Feed liquid fertilizer or compost tea twice during the summer.
Preventing Pests and Diseases on Swiss Chard Plants
Several pests and diseases plague chard plants occasionally.
To discourage pests, minimize weeds, use fertile and well-draining soil, and follow guidelines about how far apart to plant Swiss chard.
Watch your watering since chard diseases are often a result of under or overwatering. Pick off any insects and eggs by hand, or spray them with a hose. Remove and discard severely infested leaves.
Harvesting Swiss Chard
This vegetable typically takes 50 to 60 days to mature. The way to harvest Swiss chard is to pick chard leaves when they’re six to 12 inches tall. Harvest continually to keep your plants productive.
Pick the older leaves a few at a time to give the young, tender leaves room to grow. Cut off chard leaves about one inch above the ground with a sharp knife. Harvest Swiss chard in the morning or evening when temperatures are cool.
Rinse leaves, pat them dry, and store them in the fridge in ventilated plastic bags. After harvesting an entire plant, pull up its roots to give other plants more space.
Try planting Swiss chard to enjoy a nutritious, tasty vegetable with vibrant colors to boot. Start chard seeds indoors or sow them directly in the garden starting in early spring. Find out how far apart to plant Swiss chard to maximize your harvest.
Cut off a few chard leaves at a time or harvest the whole plant to add to stews, salads, pizza, and more. You won’t regret learning how to plant Swiss chard.
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