Swiss chard is very easy to grow, making it a great choice for beginner gardeners. And it looks beautiful in the garden, with broad, thick stems available in colors ranging from pure white to golden yellow and even hot pink!
Grow chard in a sunny, open position, in moist, fertile soil. Seeds can be sown any time between spring and late summer. Scatter a general-purpose organic fertilizer on the soil one week before sowing, then rake the soil to a fine tilth.
Make seed drills an inch deep, leaving 16in between rows. Cool and moisten the soil by watering along the drills before sowing if the soil is dry.
Sow each seed one by one, spaced 1 to 2 inches apart. Cover them back over with soil, gently pat down, then water.
Each knobbly seed is actually a capsule containing a several seeds, and most of these are likely to sprout. Thin them in stages until the plants are a foot apart.
You can also start chard off in pots for transplanting later, which has the benefit of helping to prevent slugs from eating the young seedlings. This is also useful for succession planting, while you wait for space to become available in the garden. Once you’ve cleared out the previous crop, transplant the sturdy chard seedlings in the garden one foot apart, leaving 16in between rows.
Caring for Chard
Keep your chard weeded using a hoe. Water regularly to promote plenty of fresh leafy growth, and to stop the plants from running to seed, or ‘bolting’, in dry weather. If they do bolt, they’ll no longer produce new leaves so dig them up and add them to your compost pile.
Harvesting and Using Chard
Pick little and often as soon as your chard reaches a useable size, taking a few outer leaves from each plant at a time to let new leaves grow on and replace them. In fall, position row covers over the plants to keep the harvests coming for longer.
Cook chard leaves just like spinach. Strip the leaves away from the central stems, chopping them up and steaming or wilting them in a pan. The central stems can be cooked in the same way, but take a little longer. They can be served with salt and melted butter, a rich hollandaise sauce, or dipped into the yolk of a soft-boiled egg.
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