Question: What can I do with my Swiss chard over the winter? Can Swiss chard survive winter? Will I still be able to grow it all winter long? -Fran S.
Answer: As Swiss chard is a biennial plant that typically grows for two years and then produces seed, it is certainly possible to overwinter Swiss chard, though only if you live in an area where temperatures never dip too low. Swiss chard is a surprisingly hardy plant that can tolerate hot summers and cold weather, in fact, chard’s flavor might actually benefit from a bit of cold weather, as long as it doesn’t drop below 15 degrees F, which will kill the plant.
There are two ways that Swiss chard can be used in winter gardens. First, you can sow cold-hardy Swiss chard in spring and again in late summer and the greens will be ready for harvesting after about 55 days. Harvest older, outer leaves first so that smaller leaves can keep growing. Continue to harvest frequently to encourage quicker inner leaf growth and enjoy a continuous harvest from 55 days after the first planting until several weeks after your area’s first frost date in the fall.
You can also take advantage of Swiss chard’s biennial life cycle to get two year’s worth of harvests from a single plant. A biennial is a plant that grows for two consecutive years before producing seed. If you live in an area where temperatures never drop below 15 degrees F., you can overwinter Swiss chard. Plant it in the first spring and harvest leaves throughout the summer, then keep them in the garden all winter long. They will start growing again in the following spring, and you can then enjoy early spring greens followed by a second summer’s worth of leaves. To improve your chances of success, cut leaves down to at least 3 inches (7.5 cm.) above the ground during the first summer to give the plant a better chance to grow back.