How to Grow Swiss Chard
Grown for its tasty and nutritious leaves and leafstalks (petioles), chard is a good substitute for spinach in most recipes. Prefers cool weather, but lasts through summer without going to seed (bolting). Colorful leaves and petioles make it great for edible landscaping and ornamental plantings.
Seeds or Seedlings
5 to 7 days, 40F to 55F
Full Sun, Part Shade
DAYS OF HARVEST
30 to 40
Start planting about 2 to 3 weeks before last expected frost. Sow seeds ½ to 1 inch deep, 2 to 6 inches apart, in rows 18 to 24 apart. Like beets, chard “seeds” produce more than one plant, and so will require thinning. Thin to 6- to 12-inch spacings.
If you plan to harvest whole plants, make succession plantings through late summer.
Delay planting of ‘Ruby Red’ or ‘Rhubarb’ chard until after last frost. These varieties may go to seed (bolt) if seed is exposed to freezing temperatures.
Start seed inside for earlier crops, or if you want to arrange different colored plants of the variety ‘Bright Lights.’
Mulch plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
You can begin harvesting when leaves reach usable size. Remove a leaf or two from each plant, or cut plants an inch or two above the soil for cut-and-come-again harvest. Avoid damaging the growing point in the center of the plant at harvest.
As plants age, older leaves get tough. Cut plants back to about 3 to 5 inches tall to encourage a flush of new, tender growth.
Chard will be ready for harvest in 55 to 60 days from sowing. Pick outside leaves as early as three inches long but before leaves grow to10 inches long. Older leaves will have an earthy flavor. Harvest chard on a cut-and-come-again schedule; remove a few outside leaves at time. If you harvest the whole plant, cut it back to about 3 inches above the soil and it will grow back. Chare that over winters can be harvested again the second year.
Harvest seed stalks as they dry and thresh with a flail or by stomping. After threshed use a ½" and ¼" screen to help with cleaning. Chard seed remains viable for 4-6 years under cool and dry storage conditions.
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