If you are looking for a leafy green to add to your home garden, you should consider growing Swiss chard. Swiss chard is easy to grow and can be harvested throughout the growing season. Learn how to grow, harvest, and use Swiss chard!
Why Grow Swiss Chard
If you’ve never heard of Swiss chard, let me enlighten you. This leafy green is a member of the Beet family and is related to Spinach. Swiss chard has large, dark green leaves with white, yellow, pink, or red stalks. The leaves are delicious eaten raw or cooked and can be added to salads, smoothies, or stir-fries.
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Swiss chard is a great choice for gardeners because it is easy to grow and can be harvested throughout the growing season. Swiss chard is also a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like potassium and magnesium.
In mild climates, Swiss chard will act like a perennial, growing for several years. In places with colder climates and more hard freezes, Swiss chard may be an annual.
Popular Varieties of Swiss Chard
- Bright Lights – a mix of brightly colored stalks with green leaves. This is one of my favorites!
- Fordhook Giant – large leaves on tall, thick stalks. Looks good in a flower bed as well, so a wonderful part of an edible landscape.
- Rhubarb Chard – a variety of pink and red stalks with green leaves that resembles rhubarb!
Do you have a different favorite variety of Swiss chard? Leave a comment at the end of this post and share with the other readers!
How to Plant Swiss Chard
When planting Swiss chard, you will want to choose a location that receives full sun or partial shade. Swiss chard enjoys cooler temperatures, so it’s perfect to grow in the spring and fall. It can withstand summer’s heat, if it’s in partial shade or shaded by other plants by mid day.
Plant in early spring about two weeks before the last frost. In fall, plant as soon as the hottest days of summer are done.
When using seeds, begin by planting them about ½ inch deep and then space them about 12-18 inches apart. If you’re using transplants, plant them so the soil line is even with the top of the transplant’s soil ball.
Plant in soil that is amended with compost or composted manure. Swiss chard doesn’t like wet feet, so make sure the soil is well drained. (Raised beds and containers are perfect for this!)
Water newly planted swiss chard plants regularly, keeping the soil moist but not wet. Once they are established, you can water them less often, depending on your climate and rainfall amounts.
How to Care for Swiss Chard Plants
Water your Swiss chard plants regularly, especially when they are young. Mulching will help keep the soil moist and cool, reducing watering needs.
Fertilize Swiss chard plants with a balanced organic fertilizer every few weeks. I like to use Espoma’s Garden Tone, but you’ll know what type of fertilizer you need based on the results of your soil test which I highly recommend all gardeners get every few years or so.
Pest and Disease Common to Swiss Chard
If you live in an area with pests, you may need to protect your Swiss chard plants from aphids, slugs, and other critters. There are many ways to do this, such as using row covers, traps, or organic pesticides. For helpful articles on common pests and natural prevention and treatment methods, check out these articles:
Diseases common to Swiss chard are fungal diseases, such as downy mildew and powdery mildew. To prevent fungal diseases, keep the leaves of your plants dry by watering them in the morning so they have time to dry before nightfall. Watering close to the base of the plant using a watering system like Gardening Grids by Gardening in Minutes will also help keep leaves dry.
Remove any diseased chard leaves and dispose of them in the trash, not on the compost pile. This will help keep any bacterial or fungal diseases from spreading further.
How to Harvest Swiss Chard Leaves
Harvest Swiss chard leaves by clipping them at the base of the stem. You can harvest leaves throughout the growing season, but I like to wait until they are about six inches long so they are more mature and have a better flavor.
Harvesting the leaves of the Swiss chard plant will allow the plant to continue to grow and produce more leaves instead of cutting down the entire plant to use at one time.
You can also harvest the stalks of Swiss chard. The stalks should be harvested when they are young and tender, before they develop a toughness. The stems of swiss chard can actually be eaten much like celery and are delicious fermented!
See my full post on 18 Recipes for Swiss Chard from appetizers and smoothies to side dishes, soups, and pastas!
Storing Swiss Chard
Swiss chard stores rather well in the fridge, much like kale. Store harvested Swiss chard leaves in a plastic bag in the fridge; sometimes I place a paper towel in the bag to absorb any excess moisture. The leaves will keep for about two weeks.
Growing Swiss Chard FAQ
- How long does it take Swiss chard to grow? Most varieties will produce large edible leaves in 50 to 60 days. Be sure to check the seed package or seedling insert to see the times for your specific variety.
- Can Swiss chard be grown in containers? Absolutely! I grow some on the self-watering planter on my front porch. Since Swiss chard doesn’t spread, rather grows upward, it’s great for containers will other low lying vegetables.
Swiss chard is a great choice for gardeners because it is easy to grow and can be harvested throughout the growing