We’ve been growing swiss chard for several years and it’s become a family favorite. Swiss chard is one of the few greens we can grow well into the summer without it getting bitter or bolting, it helps cover the transition between our winter and spring gardens.
Swiss chard is a great source of vitamins K, A, C and E, along with magnesium, potassium and iron. It also has B vitamins, calcium and copper. How’s that for a multi-vitamin???
Swiss chard is both cold hardy and heat tolerant, making it ideal for growing year round. It’s cold hardy to 15°F, if it gets colder than that you’ll need to use frost protection. We easily grow it in our summers with temperatures over in the high 90s and low 100s for months on end.
Growing Swiss Chard
Swiss chard can be directly sown in the garden 2-3 weeks before your average last frost date. It’s one of the few plants that can be sown in cold soil so don’t be afraid of starting it too soon. It’s also cold hardy to 15°F so if you get a late freeze it should be fine. Sow the seeds about 1/2″ deep and about 12″ apart. The plants get pretty big and need that space. The seeds should germinate in 5-7 days.
Swiss chard seeds are similar to beet seeds which makes sense since they’re in the same family. The seed is actually a cluster of seeds so you’ll likely get several plants from one seed. You’ll need to thin them out when they sprout. You can use the thinnings in salad.
Not only are swiss chard plants cold hardy they are also heat tolerant and should make it through most summers just fine. In my climate, we can grow swiss chard year round which is another reason I love it.
In really cold climates, you can cut the chard back and mulch it heavily for an early spring crop.
Because swiss chard can be quite striking, it makes a great addition to your edible landscape and is pretty enough to be out front. There’s an attorney in your area who grows it in pots outside his downtown office, along with citrus trees, blueberry bushes, and other edible goodies.
If you need help deciding how much swiss chard to plant to your family I have some free worksheets to help you out. Just enter your email in the form below and they’ll be emailed to you.
Swiss Chard Pests and Disease
There are very few pests or problems with swiss chard which is yet another reason you should consider growing it. Although it can tolerate hot, dry conditions better than other greens, if it gets too stressed you might find aphids on your swiss chard. Ladybugs like to eat aphids, so you might try purchasing some and releasing them. Aphids like nasturtiums so you can plant some near the chard as a sacrifice crop. – You can also just try watering it more to reduce it’s stress level and make it more resistant to pests and disease. The photo above was taken at the end of a long hot summer and the chard had been growing for 8 months, it was time to give it to the chickens.
Leaf miners, cabbage moth caterpillars, and grasshoppers can also cause problems. If they aren’t too bad, I still use the leaves and just cut around the damage or give the leaves to the chickens. If you have a problem of any of these year after year, you can use row covers to protect the swiss chard – just put it on early in the seasons so you don’t trap them inside to feast on the swiss chard.
Harvesting and Preserving Swiss Chard
For swiss chard, I just harvest just the outer leaves and let the rest continue to grow. This will allows me to harvest from one plant for months.
Swiss chard is a biennial which means it sets seeds it’s second year. It will send up a seed stalk and flower, you can let it go and collect the seeds or cut the stalk off and it will continue to produce new leaves.
Because of it’s long harvest season there’s really no need to store swiss chard, although you can. For storage you can chop it up and freeze it or dehydrate it. I will sometimes dehydrate it to make a green powder to put in smoothies, rice, or sprinkle on eggs for a some added nutrition. If you don’t have a dehydrator you can dehydrate swiss chard in the oven.
Using swiss chard
Swiss chard tastes very similar to cooked spinach and so can be used in any recipe that calls for spinach. It’s a little sturdier but not as much as kale. I like to saute it with onions and grated carrots to use as a side dish.
Do you grow Swiss Chard? Any other advice?