Swiss chard is an eye-catching sight at the farmers market, with its bright green leaves and colorful stems. Did you know that they are easy to grow at home? We explain when to plant Swiss chard, the different types to grow, how to care for them, and the benefits of incorporating them into your diet.
While it may appear to be a simple leafy green, Swiss chard is delicious in various recipes, whether you enjoy braised Swiss chard in a stew, freshly cut ribbons of chard in a salad, or chard sauteed with olive oil and garlic.
The versatility of this veggie makes it the perfect choice for growing in the garden. This leafy green is related to spinach and beets, with a flavor that falls somewhere in between.
These vegetables are healthy for you, and they add a splash of pizzazz to your garden with their rainbow-colored stems. Not only that, but these plants grow very well in raised garden beds or a container on your patio.
How to Plant and Grow Your Own Swiss Chard
While Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. Vulgaris) is fairly simple to grow, it does require specific conditions to thrive and prefers growing during the cool-season.
However, it’s important to know when to plant Swiss chard seeds indoors before transplanting them in the garden to produce healthy plants, like the best time to plant arugula and other leafy veggies.
The key is to start them inside and plant them in the early spring after the last hard freeze or in the late summer if you plan on a fall garden. These are only some veggies planting in October that you can enjoy later in the year.
We explain how to grow and care for your plants to enjoy a healthy harvest of leafy greens throughout the Swiss chard growing season.
When to Plant Swiss Chard Seeds
The best way to start many plants is to grow them from seeds indoors before the last frost to give your garden a head start and ensure the plants thrive once you take them outdoors.
Here is when to plant Swiss chard seeds or planting beets from seeds to prepare them for the garden or pot.
If you’re wondering when to plant Swiss chard in zone 5 and up, consider starting them inside about three to four weeks before the last frost date to give them a head start.
Soak the seeds 24-hours before planting for faster germination. Fill a seed starting tray with potting soil and sow seeds a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch deep in the soil and four to eight inches apart.
Water them to help the dirt settle and place the tray on a sunny windowsill. If you do not have a window with good sunlight, set the tray near a grow light or bright lights to encourage germination.
When to Plant Swiss Chard Outdoors
After your plants germinate and reach a healthy size, it’s time to transplant them outside into a different container or garden bed. While this process is fairly easy, take some steps to ensure your plants adjust to the change and thrive.
If you’re wondering when to plant Swiss chard in zone 6, it’s safe to sow the seeds directly in the garden or container two weeks before the last frost or in the late summer for a fall crop.
However, it’s best to wait until early spring, when the temperatures are steady if you plan on planting seedlings.
Once the plants are four weeks old, harden them off by acclimating them to the outdoors. Take the young plants outside a couple of hours each day for about a week to help them get used to the changing temperatures.
Prepare the garden bed or raised bed with organically rich soil or fill a 12-inch deep patio pot with potting mix. Choose a spot in your yard or porch where the Swiss chard receives full sun for part of the day.
Make holes 12 to 18 inches apart in the dirt with 12-inch spacing, ensuring they are larger than the plant’s base. Remove the seedling carefully and transplant it into the bed.
Push soil around the plant and pat it down gently with your hands. Finally, water the garden thoroughly to help the plant’s roots settle into the dirt.
Swiss Chard Growing Season and Caring for Your Plants
Swiss chard growing season is different from many other garden plants since this leafy green is a biennial. Learn the best time to plant Swiss chard and how to care for your plants throughout the season to ensure you get the most out of your garden.
Swiss chard is annual and biennial. This means that it doesn’t go to seed during the first growing season, dies back when it freezes, and then returns from the root the following year. At the end of the second year, it grows a flower stalk, goes to seed, and dies.
Swiss chard grows fastest in cooler regions. If you live in a warmer area and wonder when to plant Swiss chard in zone 7 and up, the seeds grow well if you plant them directly in the garden ten weeks before the final frost.
The plants require about an inch to an inch and a half of water each week, so water your garden when your area lacks rainfall. They tolerate partial shade, but it’s a good idea to plant them in an area where they receive some full sun during the day.
Laying mulch over the dirt is a great way to help retain moisture while keeping the weeds at bay. Swiss chard does grow in poor soil, but applying nitrogen fertilizer, organic matter, or bone meal after planting encourages healthy leaf growth.
Consider covering your plants with a row cover to protect them from leaf miners or a light frost. For getting rid of aphids on Swiss chard and kale, use diatomaceous earth or a neem oil spray.
When is Swiss Chard Ready for Harvesting?
Unlike many other top garden vegetables, such as tomatoes, it’s often difficult to know when Swiss chard is ready for picking.
How tall should they be, and do you have to wait until the entire plant finishes growing? Discover how long it takes for these leafy greens to grow and when they are ready to eat.
Swiss Chard Harvest
The length of time it takes for Swiss chard to reach maturity varies depending on the type, but the general time frame is 50 to 60 days. It’s safe to harvest the chard leaves at any time during the growing season, as long as they are large enough to eat.
Pick the outer leaves when they are as small as three inches long but before they reach ten inches since young leaves are tender and flavorful. It’s a good idea to remove older leaves from the plant to encourage new leaves to grow.
Are There Different Types of Swiss Chard?
There are different types of Swiss chard, and rainbow chard is actually the varieties bunched together. Here are some common Swiss chard types and how they differ in appearance, flavor, and growing habits.
Many Swiss chard cultivars have orange, red, yellow, or green stalks and bronze, green, or purple leaves. This is something to consider when deciding which ones to grow in your garden. The types differ in height, leaf smoothness, and stem thickness.
Barese is an heirloom, dwarf-type with white stems, while Bright Lights is sometimes called rainbow chard and produces orange and pink to striped and red stems.
Fordhook Giant has dark green leaves and a mild flavor, Lucullus is an heirloom variety with broad, thick stalks, and Orange Fantasia has bright orange stems with savoy leaves.
Rhubarb Chard has dark green leaves with red veins, while Magenta Sunset produces bright pink and beautiful stems with pink veined leaves.
What are the Health Benefits of Eating Swiss Chard?
Swiss chard is not only an attractive plant to grow and a delicious leafy green to add to recipes, but it’s also packed full of vitamins and minerals. Here are the nutritional values of Swiss chard and the health benefits of consuming chard plants.
Swiss chard, also called perpetual spinach, leaf beet chard, seakale beet, and silverbeet, is from the cicla group and beet family, and there are many benefits to incorporating them into your diet.
These leafy greens are nutrient-dense foods, and both the leaves and stalks provide you with an abundance of plant compounds, vitamins, and minerals.
One cup of cooked Swiss chard has only 35 calories and seven grams of carbs. It contains Vitamins A, C, E, and K and fiber, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, iron, and potassium.
This plant is also high in antioxidants, including beta-carotene and several flavonoids with cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Swiss chard’s nutrients may help maintain healthy blood pressure, lower heart disease risk factors, lower blood sugar, promote weight loss, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and encourage beneficial gut bacteria.
Vegetable gardening is a great way to bring healthy food to your table, and chard plants are some of the easiest to grow. They are a beautiful accent plant and look stunning in a garden setting or container.
Knowing how and when to plant Swiss chard and give your plants the care they crave means you get to enjoy leafy greens throughout the season, so why not share our Swiss chard growing guide with your family and friends on Facebook and Pinterest?