There are so many benefits to leafy greens, including a vast array of vitamins and fiber. Growing Swiss chard in your backyard means you can have a large supply of beneficial greens. Learn when to plant Swiss chard and when it will be ready for consumption.
When to plant Swiss chard: Swiss chard has two growing seasons so you can plant it in the spring and the fall. Wait until two weeks before the last frost date in the spring to plant and four weeks before the first frost date in the fall. Keep harvesting your Swiss chard as it grows and the plant will continually grow new leaves.
Planting Swiss Chard in Different Climates
Swiss chard is a cool-weather crop and won’t do well in the warmth of a tropical climate. The leaves will wilt with the hot temperatures.
The soil for Swiss chard should be moist and a dry climate isn’t able to support this. If you really want to try Swiss chard, you will need to be diligent about hand watering.
A temperate climate is perfect for Swiss chard. It prefers cool weather and you can get two long growing seasons in this climate.
While you can definitely grow Swiss chard in a continental climate, you can expect a much shorter growing season. The hot summers and cold winters mean that spring and fall are shortened.
You just might be able to grow Swiss chard in a polar climate. This is a cool-weather plant, so wait until the weather starts to warm up and you might get a decent growing season in.
Choosing Swiss Chard Seeds
If you love having bright colors in your food, this variety is an excellent pick. It is often just a mix of chard varieties but you will be rewarded with stems that are yellow, orange, pink, white, and red in color.
With white stems, this variety provides a bold contrast with its dark green leaves. It is an heirloom variety and will grow about 20 inches tall. Lucullus has a mild flavor and takes about 50 days to mature.
Straight out of a coloring book, this variety has bright orange stems and curly leaves. You can harvest the leaves when they are young and they are a great addition to a salad.
A pretty variety, the stalks are pink and then fade into white. While the leaves don’t become mature until 55 days after planting, you can still harvest young leaves that have a tender taste.
How to Plant Swiss Chard Seeds
Swiss chard is a cool-weather crop, which means you can actually have two growing seasons for it. This includes the spring and the fall.
If you want to plant Swiss chard in the spring, you can sow your seeds outside about two weeks before the last spring frost date. For most areas, this will be around Apil but be sure to check your local frost dates.
As for fall planting, you want to sow the seeds five weeks before the first frost date. This will probably be around late September or early October, again, depending on where you live.
Before you plant, make sure your soil is full of nutrients. You can add compost to the area and mix it all in. Try to aim for soil that is slightly acidic, with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0.
If you don’t have compost available, you can mix it with chemical fertilizer. A 5-10-10 mixture is the best for chard.
To help your Swiss chard seeds germinate faster, you can soak them in water 24 hours before planting. This will signal the seeds to start growing and will speed up the growing process.
For planting, the chard seeds should be about 1-inch deep. You can then plant the seeds 3 inches apart with rows spread out by 18 inches.
It’s also recommended that you stagger the start of your planting. Make two or three successive plantings of Swiss chard seeds that are 10 days apart so that you have a continual harvest.
How to Water Swiss Chard
Swiss chard needs water to grow. If the plant does not have enough water, it will start to wilt, which is a clear sign that you need to increase your water intake.
Generally, you won’t have to worry too much about watering your Swiss chard due to its planting season. Spring and fall are normally wet seasons.
However, if you live in an area that has dry spells, then be sure to keep the soil moist. Furthermore, if you want to prolong your Swiss chard season into late spring or early summer, then it will definitely need more water as the temperature starts to warm up.
How to Grow Swiss Chard
Most gardeners will overplant seeds for their vegetables, including Swiss chard, to balance against seeds that don’t take. As a result, you can have a rather bushy line of Swiss chard if all of the seeds start to germinate.
After your chard is about 3 inches tall, you want to thin it out. This will encourage more airflow and less competition for the roots.
Thin your Swiss chard so that it is about 5 inches apart. If you have very large varieties of chard, then you can thin the plants up to 8 inches apart.
After your Swiss chard starts to sprout up, you can add a layer of bark mulch to the area. This will prevent weeds from popping up and will also help with water retention around the soil.
As long as you start with a good soil base, you won’t have to worry too much about fertilizing your Swiss chard. If, however, you are worried about the nutrients in your soil, you can add a balanced fertilizer to the area. This should happen about halfway through the growing season.
While you don’t actually have to prune Swiss chard, you can cut it back a bit to promote new growth. Once Swiss chard becomes over a foot tall, it can become tough and bitter.
To encourage new, more tender stalks, you can cut this old-growth back. As long as it is early enough in the season, the chard will continue to grow so you can harvest more.
The parts of the Swiss chard that you cut back are still edible. While they might be less flavorful, you can still add them to other dishes to create a better flavor.
How to Harvest Swiss Chard
Both the leaves and the stalks of Swiss chard are edible. The stalks have a crunchier taste to them but both are usable in a number of recipes.
Try to wait until your Swiss chard is about 6 or 8 inches tall. Once it starts to sprout, chard grows rather quickly, so you won’t have to wait too long for this to happen.
To harvest your Swiss chard, use a pair of scissors for a clean cut. This will also help prevent you from getting into the space of nearby plants.
Start by harvesting the outer leaves and stalks of the Swiss chard. The inner parts of the plant will continue to grow after you remove the outer layers.
A benefit of growing Swiss chard is that one plant will continue to produce edible pieces. As long as you stick to cutting the outside areas first, the inner stalks will grow larger and be ready for consumption after a few days.
How to Store Swiss Chard
As you might be able to tell, you can have a large amount of Swiss chard ready at the same time. While you might want to stick to just harvesting as need be, if you have a large amount of chard ready, it’s important to know how to store it.
Start by cutting back on what is ready. Then, give it a good rinse to get rid of any dirt or bugs, and then place the leaves in a plastic bag that has ventilation holes. Store it all in the refrigerator.
If you’re unsure of how to start with Swiss chard, you can separate the stalks and the leaves. While the leaves can be cooked or eaten similar to spinach, the stalks and the thicker ribs of the leaves can actually be cooked like you would with asparagus.
If this seems like a lot of work, you can simply sauté the entire plant. A bit of oil and some seasoning make for a healthy side dish.
How long does Swiss chard take to grow?
Swiss chard is a very fast-growing plant. After sowing the seeds, you can expect them to be ready in about four to six weeks. It will take a few more weeks for the leaves to be fully mature, but young leaves are still edible.
Because you can keep cutting back Swiss chard and it will still grow, you can have Swiss chard ready for consumption for months.
Swiss chard is an excellent, nutritious vegetable to plant in your garden. You can plant in the spring, a few weeks before the last frost date, or in the fall, a month before the first frost date.