“Eat your greens” is something we’ve all heard while growing up. Of course, it is only as an adult that you realize the significance of the saying.
Naturally, green vegetables are all the rage among the health-conscious population around the globe. They are superfoods rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. One such leafy green is the Swiss chard.
Swiss chard, known simply as ‘chard’, is a member of the beet family. It is known for its dark green leaves, bright, colorful stems, and a slightly bitter taste. Due to its appearance and flavor that is similar to that of spinach, it is also known as spinach beet.
Growing Swiss chard in your backyard or kitchen garden is an exciting as well as fulfilling prospect. What’s more, it is remarkably easy.
Read this comprehensive guide to know how to grow and care for Swiss chard. But first, let’s find out the benefits of growing Swiss chard in your backyard.
See also: How to Grow and Care for Lemongrass
Why Should I Be Growing Swiss Chard?
Growing Swiss chard in your kitchen garden is tempting for a hoard of reasons.
For one, you can have a constant supply of nutritious greens straight from your backyard to your dinner table. You can choose to toss in some chopped chard in your soup or stir fry it to prepare an awesome side dish. With stalks tasting similar to bok choy, the list of recipes you can prepare using this leafy green is very long.
Swiss chard is as nutritious as spinach. One cup of it packs an abundance of Vitamin K, three times the recommended daily intake to be exact. It is also an outstanding source of vitamins A, C, and E as well as magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.
But what if you aren’t a fan of eating veggies and your only motive is to see your kitchen garden blooming with colors? Planting different varieties of Swiss chard together, that is Rainbow Chard, will help your kitchen garden acquire a vivid and vibrant look.
Swiss chard can also be grown in a pot for use as an ornamental plant.
Another point in chard’s favor is the ease of planting and growing it. Chard is generally easier to grow than spinach. Additionally, it is a biennial plant, so once planted it will grow for two years instead of just one.
With Swiss chard being attractive to grow for so many reasons, let us take a look at how to do just that!
The Right Time to Plant and Grow Swiss Chard
Although chard is a cool-season plant, it can tolerate warmer temperatures as well.
If you plan to grow the crop through spring, wait to plant the seeds till about a week before the last spring frost date.
Alternatively, if you want to get a chard harvest before winter sets in, plant seeds a month before the first frost date.
Soil Conditions Required For Growing Swiss Chard
Swiss chard can grow in most soil conditions as long as the drainage is adequate.
Chard doesn’t like soil that is too acidic, as that will adversely affect its growth. Generally, a soil pH between 6 and 7 (slightly acidic to neutral) is ideal.
Which Variety of Swiss Chard To Grow?
All varieties of chard are equally nutritious. So the type that you choose to grow in your backyard will depend on the kind of flavor or stalk color that you prefer.
Some of the popular types of Swiss chard are:
This variety has a white stalk with a mild flavor. Pest-resistance is a strong plus point of barese chard.
This is another white-stalked variant with a slightly sweet flavor.
With a brilliantly pink stalk and a mild flavor, this variety has pink-veined leaves that taste really well.
Bright orange stems and a pleasant taste make this a colorful as well as a flavorful addition to any recipe.
Rhubarb chard’s stems are a deep crimson with red-veined leaves that are juicy to eat.
This variety of swiss chard has reddish-pink colored stalks and an earthy flavor.
You can solely one of these varietiesm or if you like, you can pick all of them and plant them in your backyard for a rainbow of colors.
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How To Plant Swiss Chard
Growing Swiss chard does not require acres of space. You can plant Swiss chard in a traditional kitchen garden, or for a shortage of planting area, you can even grow them in pots. A vertical garden is also a great option for those with less space in their backyards.
Once you have decided where you want to grow your chard, it is time to prepare for planting.
To get your seeds to germinate quickly, it is ideal to soak them in lukewarm water for a few hours before planting.
First up, choose a well-lit spot to plant the seeds as sunny locations are perfect for growing Swiss chard.
Make sure that the soil is rich by mixing in compost and sand in a 1:1 ratio. Adding in sand helps with drainage and aeration of the soil. It also prevents the soil from getting clumpy which allows the roots to penetrate better. Put in two to three inches of compost for optimal nutrient richness.
Next, plant the seeds half an inch deep, spaced two to three inches apart in several rows. Keep a space of about twelve to eighteen inches between rows. Such spacing gives you a lot of yields even if you have only a little area in your garden to grow Swiss chard.
To hinder the growth of weeds and to prevent the soil from completely drying out, add a two to three-inch layer of mulch. But make sure not to push it against your plants, otherwise, it will hold extra moisture and cause them to rot.
Want to grow a majestic carpet-like lawn? See this: How To Grow Lawn Like a Carpet
Caring For Swiss Chard
For optimal growth of your Swiss chard, you need to take proper care of it after planting the seeds.
Like all vegetables, Swiss chard grows best with regular watering. During periods of inadequate rainfall, water the growing plants more frequently to avoid moisture stress. This helps its roots to grow properly.
Once the plants attain a height of about three to four inches, take a pair of scissors and snip them to thin them slightly. Thinning prevents overcrowding of the leaves and allows them to attain normal size.
Snip from the outside of the plant and allow it to continue to grow up. To remove seedlings, snip them off at soil level with scissors. Enjoy the young seedlings as a tasty and healthy snack.
Use of Fertilizer
Swiss chard is a hardy plant and grows well enough even in poor soil conditions. Nonetheless, an application of nitrogen fertilizer around the base of the plants can aid leaf growth.
If you find that your plants aren’t growing to their proper size and are instead staying small, you can apply a balanced fertilizer midway through the season.
You don’t usually have to worry about pest control when growing Swiss chard, as it does not attract a lot of pests.
Having said that, certain bugs love eating the chard almost as much as you do. For getting rid of these, you will have to employ pest control measures.
Slugs and flea beetles can be controlled with pesticides. Hand-picking is also an option.
Older leaves might see an infestation of aphids. If so, simply pluck and discard the infected plants. Use a strong stream of water to dislodge the clusters of aphids that are stuck on the underside of the leaves.
Harvesting Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is ready for harvest around three months after planting. Only the outer leaves should be removed at a time, leaving the inner leaves intact. In no time, the inner leaves grow to replace the removed leaves and you can then snip them.
This can be continued for as long as required. Chard is a “cut-and-come-again” plant, which means that as long as you don’t harm the central bud, you will have a steady supply of leaves just by removing the outermost ones.
If you need to cut the whole plant, leave one inch of it in the soil, and cut the rest of it above that. This way, the plant will keep producing new leaves.
Make sure to harvest chard with a serrated knife for an easier cut.
How To Store Swiss Chard?
Store the leaves in a cold and slightly moist place such as your refrigerator. Or, keep them in a perforated plastic bag to allow proper aeration.
Do not store Swiss chard beyond ten days. Keeping them away for that long will cause the leaves to wilt and lose most of their nutrients.
With all the information provided in this guide, growing swiss chard should be a breeze for anybody. Not only will the brilliantly colored stalks and green leaves brighten up your garden but your salads will also look more cheerful. And of course, the nutrient power that the leaves pack will undoubtedly diminish.
So, what are you waiting for? Get the seeds and start growing swiss chard of your own! Happy planting!