by Jennifer Richardson
When dietitians talk about leafy green vegetables, Swiss chard is at the top of the list. Related to beets (and sometimes called leaf beet), Swiss chard as nutritious as spinach and easier to grow. One cup of chard has 300 times the recommended daily amount of vitamin K. It’s also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and E as well as magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.
Swiss Chard Varieties
Swiss chard comes with stalks and leaves that are reddish, yellowish, or green. Mixed seeds make a beautiful display. However, since different-colored varieties have different rates of growth it is easier to harvest a monochrome patch than a mixed one. Try these varieties: Five Color Silverbeet, Oriole Orange, and Fordhook Giant.
Swiss Chard Planting and Care
Swiss chard is one of the easiest crops to grow. Rich, well-drained soil in a sunny location is ideal, but chard will produce a good crop even in light shade and in poorer soil. Sow chard seeds directly in the garden in spring when the soil reaches 50 degrees F, or about two weeks before the last frost date.
Sow them one-half inch deep and three inches apart, Thin seedling so they stand ten inches apart. Mulch to maintain moisture and keep weeds down.
Swiss chard is a versatile garden plant. In addition to growing it in rows in a vegetable garden you can tuck individual plants in an ornamental garden. Chard is attractive enough to hold its own in the midst of flowering annuals and perennials. It is also a fine container plant.
Swiss Chard Pests and Diseases
Insects and diseases rarely bother Swiss chard. If aphids infest older leaves just discard the leaves. Slugs chew holes in chard leaves; you can control the slugs with shallow pans of beer sunk to ground level or non-toxic iron phosphate slug bait. A fence is your best bet for keeping deer from consuming your crop in late summer or fall.
Swiss Chard Harvesting
The stalks and leaves of Swiss chard are ready to harvest four-to-six weeks from sowing. It’s a “cut and come again” crop, which means you can harvest it over and over. Pick the outer leaves and stalks first and let the inner ones mature. Snap or cut the stalks off near the soil line.
Swiss chard tolerates light frost, so you can harvest inner leaves through November even in northern climates. With a season extender, cold frame, row cover, or greenhouse you can grow and harvest Swiss chard into the winter.
Common Questions and Answers About How to Grow Swiss Chard
Can Swiss chard be transplanted?
There are several reasons why you might need to transplant swiss chard. If you started the seeds indoors in a container, you will need to transplant the seedlings when it is time to move them outdoors. If you need to thin out a group of swiss chard plants that are too tightly planted and are crowding each other, transplanting is recommended, as Swiss chard is a very versatile plant that usually tolerates the transplant process very well. As long as you provide everything that the transplant needs to grow, it should thrive in its new location where it has plenty of room of its own.
Can you eat Swiss chard every day?
At normal serving sizes, you can eat Swiss chard every day. However, it is possible to consume enough Swiss chard for it to be dangerous if you eat more than seven pounds of it, although it’s unlikely a person would eat that much. The potential (though unlikely) danger exists because Swiss chard contains oxalic acid. When consumed in excess, oxalic acid can cause symptoms such as abdominal discomfort, convulsions or tremors, low blood pressure, kidney stones, vomiting, and weak pulse. Oxalic acid is also present in spinach and beet greens.
Can you freeze chard raw?
You can freeze Swiss chard raw, though blanching the leaves before freezing them prevents them from turning bitter and extends their shelf life when frozen. Because blanching takes literally a few minutes, it’s recommended to freeze Swiss chard before you store it to avoid these risks. Freezing your homegrown Swiss chard stops the action of the enzymes that can cause the greens to become bitter while they’re being stored in the freezer. Raw Swiss chard has a frozen shelf life of four weeks maximum, while blanched Swiss chard has a frozen shelf life of 10 to 12 months.
Do you soak Swiss chard seeds before planting?
Yes, Swiss chard seeds do benefit from a soaking before planting to help speed up germination. Most vegetable seeds need to be soaked overnight, however, Swiss chard only needs an easy 15 minute soak in warm water before planting.
Does Swiss chard come back every year?
Swiss chard does not return year after year, however, as a biennial, it can grow back for an additional year after the initial growing cycle.
Does Swiss chard grow back after cutting?
Yes, Swiss chard can be harvested multiple times as long as it is harvested correctly. First, remove the outer leaves, then, as new inner leaves grow inside of the original inner leaves, take the outer leaves again (the inner leaves that you left last time). As long as you leave a set of inner leaves and the weather is suitable for foliage growth, more leaves will develop after each harvest.
How do I know when Swiss chard is ready to pick?
Swiss chard is ready for harvest when the leaves are tender and ready to eat. If you prefer baby leaves, you can harvest Swiss chard just 30 days after planting. For large, mature, thick leaves with a midriff, harvest after 45 to 60 days of growth.
How do you harvest Swiss chard without killing the plant?
You can keep on harvesting Swiss chard right up until it frosts, as long as you know how to properly harvest the leaves without harming or killing the plant. To harvest Swiss chard correctly, pick the leaves by snapping the stem right at the base of the plant. When you snap them at the base, separate the leaf material from the stalk. You can use the stalks like you would celery or toss them into a stew or soup. For a continual harvest, always leave the terminal bud intact so that more leaves will continue to grow for future harvests.
How do you pick chard so it keeps growing?
The most common method for harvesting Swiss chard is to cut off the outer leaves 1 ½ to 2 inches above the ground while they are young, fresh, and tender (about 8 to 12 inches long). Older leaves are often removed from the plants and discarded to allow the young leaves to continue to grow, but older leaves are edible as well. Be careful not to damage the terminal bud, and more leaves will be ready to harvest in the near future.
How do you start Swiss chard seeds?
If you are sowing your own seeds, you can get quite an early head start outdoors as they thrive on colder temperatures. If you want to get an early start on growing Swiss chard, sow seeds indoors and move them outside as temperatures begin to warm up. Soak seeds for 15 minutes in cold water prior to planting to speed up germination. Plant seeds about one half inch deep and a half inch to one inch apart. Once seedlings emerge, thin to two to three inches apart.
How does Swiss chard taste?
Swiss chard is similar in taste to other leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and mustard or beet greens, although it’s known for having an especially mild flavor most similar to spinach or beet greens.
How long do chard plants last?
Chard plants can be harvested all throughout the growing season up until the first frost. Swiss chard is a biennial, so it will grow for two years, surviving the winters in areas where temperatures do not dip below 15 degrees F. After the second year of growth, your chard plant will start to produce seed and it will not grow back the following year.
How long does Swiss chard take to grow?
If growing Swiss chard from seed, the time from planting to harvest is 55 to 65 days. You can start harvesting chard when the leaves are three inches long, for young, tender leaves, and these are typically ready for harvest after just 30 days. For full-sized leaves with a thick midriff, harvest time is around 45-65 days. Don’t allow the leaves to grow bigger than 10 inches long, as they will begin to taste earthy and bitter. Either take a few leaves at a time or cut down the entire plant, aside from the terminal bud, taking the plant down to just three inches then let it grow back.
How many hours of sun does Swiss chard need?
Most vegetables and leafy greens need full sunlight exposure for optimal growth. Swiss chard, however, will do just fine in both full sun and partial shade conditions. Swiss chard will grow well with four two six hours of sun per day.
How much Swiss chard is too much?
It’s unlikely that you will accidentally consume enough Swiss chard to be problematic, but eating more than seven pounds per day of this leafy green can cause health problems. The oxalic acid that provides chard with its bitter, earthy flavor can also cause symptoms including abdominal discomfort, convulsions or tremors, low blood pressure, kidney stones, vomiting, and weak pulse if you consume too much of it. Oxalic acid is also present in beet greens and spinach.
How often should I water Swiss chard?
Like all garden vegetables, Swiss chard performs best when provided with a regular source of water. When there is no rain in your area, provide one to one and a half inches of water per week. Do not let the soil dry out completely between waterings.
Is chard a perennial?
Chard is not a perennial, nor an annual, though it is often grown as an annual in areas with cold winter weather. Chard is actually a biennial, and in areas where the weather never drops below 15 degrees F, it will survive the winter, and produce for a second year before producing seed.
Is Swiss chard good for you?
Swiss chard isn’t just tasty—it’s nutritious, too, with lots of health benefits when you make it part of your regular diet. Like other dark, leafy green vegetables, Swiss chard is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. It’s low in calories, with just 35 calories per cup of cooked greens. A small amount of cooked chard gives you all the vitamins A and K you need each day and comes close to fulfilling the daily requirements for vitamin C. Eating chard is also a good way to include calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, vitamin E, and zinc in your diet. Swiss chard is also high in antioxidants that fight the free radical damage that can cause disease, including polyphenols, beta carotene, kaempferol, quercetin, rutin, vitexin, vitamin C, and vitamin E,
Is Swiss chard hardy?
Swiss chard is a very hardy plant, which can endure hot and cold weather with relative ease. Swiss chard can even stand a bit of neglect on your part, and tends to bounce back easily from less than optimal growing conditions.
Is Swiss chard poisonous to dogs?
Swiss chard isn’t just acceptable for dogs to eat—it’s a healthy part of our canine friends’ diet. This leafy green provides dogs with calcium, iron, potassium, and a dose of vitamins A, C, and K.
Is Swiss chard toxic?
When consumed in moderation (as most of us are likely to do under usual circumstances), Swiss chard is a delicious and healthy part of the diet. However, it is possible to get too much, though you’d have to consume more than seven pounds a day to start seeing problems. This potential downfall is due to the oxalic acid that gives the greens their signature bitter, earthy flavor. Getting more than your fair share of oxalic acid can result in symptoms including abdominal discomfort, convulsions or tremors, low blood pressure, kidney stones, vomiting, and weak pulse. The acid is also present in beet greens and spinach.
What can I not plant next to chard?
Although plenty of plants make good neighbors for Swiss chard in the garden, there are some varieties you should watch out for. Make sure to keep the plants listed below planted far away from your Swiss chard. Each of these crops will either attract harmful insects to the garden or compete with your Swiss chard for nutrients it needs, preventing both crops from thriving.
- Herbs (with the exceptions of chives and mint)
What family is Swiss chard?
Swiss chard is a member of the green vegetable family as well as the vegetable group called chenopod/amaranth vegetables, or the Amaranthaceae family. Other green veggies in the chenopod/amaranth family include spinach and beetroot.
Want to learn more about growing Swiss chard?
See these following sources:
Growing Swiss Chard from Mother Earth News.
Growing Swiss Chard from Horticulture Magazine.
Chard from the University of Illinois.