Question: Can I plant kale and Swiss chard together? Would it make sense to plant those together in my vegetable garden? -Kim M.
Answer: Kale and Swiss chard have similar maintenance needs, so they make very suitable companion plants that can be grown close together or even in the same planter. If you decide to grow the two together in separate containers, choose a pot for each individual plant that’s at least 12 inches wide. This way, the plants will have plenty of room to stake a claim and develop a strong root system so they’ll be able to access the moisture and nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong. If you’ll be planting kale and Swiss chard in the same container, you’ll need one that’s large enough to allow 12 inches of space between the plants, making rectangular planters or window boxes especially ideal. Plant these vegetables in a standard potting mix with a pH level between 6.2 and 6.8 that will offer plenty of drainage.
Once you have the kale and chard situated in the container you’ve selected, find a spot for them to grow where they’ll receive at least six hours of sunlight each day. (Kale can handle partial shade, but chard plants won’t do nearly as well without their full daily dose of sunshine.) Top the potting mix with one or two inches of a mulch such as straw, compost, pine needles, shredded leaves, or ground tree bark so the soil will stay cool and retain plenty of water for the plants.
Every week to 10 days, you’ll need to nourish these plants with a water soluble 8-4-4 fertilizer mixed into a gallon of water. Water the plants a bit first, even though the fertilizer is administered in water, so there’s no risk of their roots being burned by the fertilizer. Pour the water spiked with fertilizer into each container until the moisture drips from the drainage holes in the bottom—but stop once it drips, and don’t continue until the water is outright flowing out of the pot.
Your kale and chard plants need to get between one and one and a half inches of water per week, between the rainfall and what you provide them, to stay fully hydrated. If the weather turns especially hot and dry, give the vegetables a little extra moisture. If you’re ever unsure whether your kale and chard plants need more water, simply check the water level of the soil at a depth of one inch by sticking a finger into the soil near where the plants are growing to see whether the soil an inch below the surface still feels moist. If it seems damp or the dirt clings to your skin, the plants still have water available, and you don’t need to give them a drink just yet.