Growing Swiss Chard

Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard—or simply “chard”—is a member of the beet family that does well in both cool and warm temperatures. Here’s how to grow Swiss chard in your garden!

Swiss chard is best known for its bright and colorful stems, which come in a rainbow of hues—pink, yellow, orange, red, and white. Even if you dislike the taste of chard, it can act as a beautiful ornamental plant!

Chard grows quickly and easily, and both its stems and leaves can be eaten cooked or raw. Plus, the plant is high in vitamins A, C, and K, making it a great addition to any diet. 

Chard may also go by the names leaf beet, seakale beet, silver beet, and spinach beet. 

Planting

When to Plant Swiss Chard

  • Swiss chard is typically grown as a cool-season crop because it grows best in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. However, chard is quite tolerant of hotter temperatures, too. Its growth will slow down in summer, but chard’s higher heat tolerance makes it a great salad green to grow when it gets too hot out for others.
  • Plant chard seeds 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date.
  • Chard is best treated as a “cut-and-come-again” crop. This harvesting technique involves taking only a few older leaves at a time from each plant, allowing younger leaves to continue growing for additional harvests later in the season. Alternatively, if you prefer to harvest the entire plant at once, plant additional chard seeds at 10-day intervals for about a month in the spring.
  • For a fall harvest, plant chard seeds about 40 days before the first fall frost date.

Swiss chard

Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site

  • Chard will tolerate partial sun, but grows best in full sun. 
  • Ensure that your soil is well-draining and rich by mixing in compost before planting. If your soil is particularly poor, apply a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) to the planting site. 
  • Chard prefers a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0 (slightly acidic to neutral).

How to Plant Swiss Chard

  • To speed up germination, soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting.
  • Sow the seeds ½ to 1 inch deep, spacing them 2 to 6 inches apart in rows.
  • Space rows about 18 inches apart.
  • Like beet seeds, chard seeds actually come in clusters of a few seeds, which results in multiple seedlings emerging from a single planting hole.
  • Once the plants reach 3 to 4 inches tall, thin them to about 6 to 8 inches apart (or 9 to 12 inches apart if you desire larger plants). Snip them with scissors and enjoy the young seedlings as a snack!
    • Note: Because chard is grown for its leaves, thinning isn’t as important as it is with beets, which need space for their large, round roots to expand. Crowded chard plants just tend to produce smaller leaves.

 

Check out this video to learn how to grow Swiss chard:

Care

How to Grow Swiss Chard

  • Chard usually does just fine without the use of fertilizer, but if yours seems to be staying small, consider applying a balanced fertilizer halfway through the season.
  • Water Swiss chard evenly and consistently to help it grow better. Water plants often during dry spells in the summer. You can also mulch the plants to help conserve moisture.
  • For the best quality, cut the plants back when they are about 1 foot tall. If chard plants become overgrown, they become less flavorful.

Pests/Diseases

Harvest/Storage

How to Harvest Swiss Chard

  • You can start harvesting when the plants are 6 to 8 inches tall, depending on which size leaves you desire. Cut off the outer leaves 1-½ inches above the ground with a sharp knife (being careful to not damage the plant’s center).
  • Use the “cut-and-come-again” harvesting technique, taking the largest, oldest leaves and leaving the young ones to continue growing. Provided you harvest carefully, the new leaves will grow and provide another harvest.
  • You can cut the ribs off the chard leaves and cook them like asparagus.
  • The rest of the leaves are eaten as greens. You can cook them like spinach or eat them raw.

How to Store Swiss Chard

  • Rinse off Swiss chard leaves and store them in the refrigerator in ventilated plastic bags.

Recommended Varieties

Wit & Wisdom

  • Swiss chard originated in—you guessed it—Mediterranean Europe! Oddly enough, chard is not native to Switzerland at all. According to legend, a Swiss botanist was responsible for determining chard’s scientific name and the “Swiss” just stuck!
  • Embrace your leafy greens! Learn more about the health benefits of going green!

Recipes

Growing Swiss Chard

Botanical Name Beta vulgaris var. cicla
Plant Type Vegetable
Sun Exposure Full Sun, Part Sun
Soil Type Loamy
Soil pH Slightly Acidic to Neutral
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color
Hardiness Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Special Features