I switched from celery to growing Swiss chard in the garden for several reasons. It’s a little easier to grow and can be started directly in the garden where in my Zone 5 growing area I usually need to buy celery transplants.
The first year I grew swiss chard we had a very mild winter. I also didn’t clean the garden up like I should have. So I was pleasantly surprised to see the card was growing back and I would have a very early spring crop.
The next year I grew the multi- colored stemmed chard along with the white chard. I thought the colors would be fun in salads and veggie platters. I also realized that year that chard is a very decorative plant and it would be nice mixed in with flowers and herbs.
How to grow Chard
- Chard prefers well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter and high in nitrogen, with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8
- You will probably need to work well-composted manure into the soil to boost its nitrogen level
- The manure must be well rotted or your shards roots will burn from the acid content of the manure
- Choose a site that gets full sun (partial shade in hot regions).
- Either start the chard in pots 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost or plant directly in the soil one to two weeks before the lat frost is expected in your area.
- Sow seeds directly into the ground one to two weeks before the last expected frost. In mild climates you can also plant in autumn for winter and early-spring harvests.
- Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and four inches apart. They will germinate in about a week if the soil temperature is 60 degrees F. I cover my seedlings at night with plastic to hold in heat and help the seeds sprout faster.
- Thin the plants when they’re about 6 inches tall leaving eight inches between the plants.
Chard will use about an inch of water a week. They will bolt or go to flower if they do not get enough water. I sink a cut off small plastic pop bottle into the ground to help direct the water to the plants roots where it is needed the most.
If you mulch the ground around the plants the ground will not dry out as fast and the soil will stay hold moisture better. Mulch also suppresses weeds so will save you time in the garden
About one month after planting, water the plants with plant food, manure tea or compost tea. I myself prefer the teas.
Tips and trivia
- Begin harvesting single leaves when they’re 5 to 6 inches long. They are more tender and tasty when young.
- If you harvest the plants regularly they will produce new growth at the center and not be so apt to bolt.
- If the plants begin the form a flower trim it off. Plants that flower become tough, stringy and bitter.
- Frost will burn chard plants. Cover if you have a frost warning in your area.
- George Washington grew chard at Mount Vernon
- Europeans have used chard since the time of Aristotle.
- Swiss chard was first grown in Sicily
- Swiss chard is most popular in the Mediterranean.
- Swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and also contains potassium and fiber.
- The leaves can be smooth or curly and are attached to fleshy, crunchy white, red or yellow celery-like stalks.
Swiss chard is an extremely versatile crop that can be grown in cool or warm climates. In a warm climate it’s best to grow it in partial shade. It has a mild sweet yet slightly bitter flavor. Some have likened the taste to beet greens. You can use it raw or cooked and many people stir-fry it.