Swiss Chard

October 27, 2005

I frequently recommend growing leafy greens such as Swiss Chard because they are so nutritious, delicious, and easy to grow. Often a single sowing can extend across several seasons, providing harvestable greens from spring, right through fall frosts. Even more remarkably, Swiss Chard can survive frigid winter conditions to produce additional early spring harvests when garden fresh vegetables are at a premium.

Growing Swiss Chard in the Home Garden

Striped%20Chard Swiss Chard
You can grow Swiss Chard from seed, which can be started indoors in containers under grow lights, or you can sow the seeds directly into the garden. The seeds resemble beet seeds but don’t require as much thinning. Space the transplants or thin to about eight inches apart in raised beds that have been composted or enriched with a general organic fertilizer.

The only troublesome insect pest affecting chards are leaf miners, which do mostly cosmetic damage by creating noticable trails in the leaves. For control I simply remove the affected leaves. Some years the plants go untouched by the leaf miners, but even during bad years the damage usually subsides as the season progresses.

Cooking and Preparing Swiss Chards

DSCF0109 Swiss ChardSwiss Chard is very delicious and can be lightly steamed, stir-fried, used raw in salads, and substituted for spinach or other leafy greens in your favorite recipes. The leaves will grow to enormous sizes but maybe used, along with the stems, at any stage of growth.

The wide thick stems can be used like celery, stuffed with a dip, or be added to vegetable trays. The best way to harvest is to carefully twist the stem off from the base of the plant.

Popular Varieties of Swiss Chard

There are many different varieties of chard. My favorites are Bright Lights and Five Color Silverbeet (Rainbow Chard). These are great because they offer an incredible range of brilliant colors from pink, red, yellow, orange, white, and striped that really stand out in the ornamental vegetable garden and can even be used in flower beds.
Yellow%20Chard Swiss Chard
Other great varieties include: Fordhook Giant, Rhubarb , Pink Lipstick, Vulcan, Golden, Broadstem Green, Witerbi Mangold, Oriole Orange, Golden Sunrise, Virgo, and Canary Yellow Chard. There’s also a cultivar called Perpetual Spinach, which is also a variety of Swiss Chard.

For more great tips to creating an attractive vegetable garden check out the “Amazing Secrets to Growing Luscious Fruits and Vegetables at Home.”





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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

kerry November 6, 2005 at 11:01 am

A man after my own heart. First the shallots and now the swiss chard. I’ve grown this for the first time this year but have yet to try it. Am I to understand that the plants I planted late this summer will overwinter and produce next spring too?

Kenny Point November 10, 2005 at 10:04 pm

Hi Kerry, there’s no guarantee that Swiss Chard will survive the winter, but it’s pretty hardy and it often survives here in Pennsylvania without protection. Our winters are probably harsher than what you typically see in Kentucky, so I think that your odds of the plants surviving are pretty high.

Andrea Kiture May 28, 2006 at 1:53 pm

I have grown Swiss Chard in Houston, Texas for the first time in a container. It has done exceptionally well, I wasn’t that familiar with them and wasn’t really sure how to prepare them. Do they feeze well?

Jake Duffner July 21, 2006 at 5:22 pm

Andrea,

I followed these instructions last year and it came out really well for soups and stir fry.

To freeze:

1. Prepare a sink of cold water. Rinse chard through several changes of water lifting leaves out leaving sand and soil behind. Then separate the stems from the leaves.
2. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Drop about one pound of whole leaves in boiling water, cover and blanch for 2 minutes (blanch stems for 3 minutes).
3. Remove chard from water and immerse in an ice water bath for 2 minutes. Drain.
4. Pack in zip-closure freezer bags or freezer containers, leaving no headspace. Label, date and freeze at zero degrees for up to one year.

Wesley Cornelius October 26, 2006 at 10:00 am

I planted some swiss chard seeds about 2 week ago and this morning I went by Home Depot and they had swiss chard plants @ .99 a pot, I picked the pots that had 2 plants in each one so I feel like I got a good deal because swiss is a easy plant to seperate and I am also growing garlic,shallots,cabbage and broccoli and in the summer I grow okra.egg plants ,habanero peppers and tomatoes and herbs. I am in jawja.

J Ruppel April 13, 2007 at 10:58 am

One of the things I like most about Swiss Chard here in north Texas is that you can start it early but since it is so heat tolerant it will carry on well past the time that the lettuce and spinach and other greens have long since given out. A great choice for warm locales.

Sue May 1, 2008 at 12:28 pm

What do you do with the seeds (swiss chard) before you plant them?
Do you break them up?
My husband did this and they did not come up.
Thanks.

Kenny Point May 1, 2008 at 12:40 pm

Hello Sue, I never break up the swiss chard seeds (or even beet seeds for that matter) before planting, and even though the seeds resemble a compound type of seed the seedlings usually germinate into individual plants that don’t require as much thinning as beet seedlings.

Joy May 4, 2008 at 10:57 am

If you plant the white chard with the fat stems, especially with a little afternoon shade in the hottest areas, you get two products for the price of one. The stems can be “strung” like celery, and then braised / simmered for meaty-textured, savory dish. Plain salt and pepper is enough, but they stand up to all sorts of things. Cumin and corriander…or basil, marjoram and tomatoes…curry…red peppers and coconut milk… all quite decent. You can also make refrigerator pickles. (I don’t know how they stand up to longer pickling or canning. Wash well and try.) The leaves (tough ribs ideally stripped out) can be cooked like any greens. They are not as tender as spinach or sorrel, but MUCH faster-cooking than kale or collards. Comparable to young beet greens, and with a hint of the same flavors. If you want to throw in wild greens, I seem to remember that they cook OK, time-wise, with Fat Hen (chenipodium, a common weed in most parts) or garlic mustard (a common weed in some parts). Very good for you, very yummy. Don’t cut the whole bunch at once, just keep picking stems off, and they’ll keep going until frost. Cover them (hoops and plastic) and you may bring them through several light frosts.

Rich November 4, 2010 at 11:48 am

Is it practical to dig up a rainbow chard plant and grow it indoors? How long will it continue to produce good leaves?

Kenny Point November 5, 2010 at 6:59 am

Hi Rich, I doubt that the mature Swiss Chard plants would tolerate being dug up and transplanted very well. It would probably work better to grow a chard plant in a container and move that indoors. Growth and leaf production would depend on how much light you can provide for the plants.

Scott November 5, 2010 at 8:59 am

When is the best time to start Swiss Chard? I’m down south of Houston, so the winter will be very mild and I’m looking for something to do once my okra gives up its last hurrah soon.

Kenny Point November 18, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Hi Scott, I’m not sure what to recommend for starting Swiss Chard in your growing region. Here in Central Pennsylvania I direct sow the seed in early spring but after things have warmed up a bit. Established chard plants can tolerate some frost but will not grow under freezing conditions. I would just experiment with various planting times to determine what works best during your mild winters. You could also try some hardier leafy greens like kale, mustard, and collards, which will survive and continue growing under much colder conditions than chard will.

Rich Laska November 29, 2010 at 9:53 am

As an experiment, I brought transplanted three mature rainbow chard plants into my greenhouse. The leaves had pretty much frozen back. They are doing wonderfully, but it takes a lot of energy to keep them alive when the wind chill last night was 2 degrees.

Bryan May 4, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Wow, great growing tips!!!!!!

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