Gardeners have been growing Swiss chard since the time of Aristotle, a testament to its enduring appeal; food plants have a way of making friends when they’re colorful, nutritious, delicious, and hardy.
Chard is sort of a forerunner to beets and a close cousin to spinach, close enough that in many instances it can be substituted for the latter. We’ve compiled a few suggestions here for its cultivation and storage.
Types to Try
White-stemmed varieties, consistently outperform their more colorful counterparts in terms of productivity and bolt resistance.
Brightly colored varieties, are the queens of the edible ornamental. Varieties bearing red, pink, yellow, or orange ribs are available individually or in pre-packaged mixtures.
Perpetual varieties, which are often called perpetual spinach, have thinner stems and smaller, smoother leaves than larger varieties, and they taste more like spinach. The short, stocky plants work well in small gardens and containers.
Check out our chart for growing swiss chard varieties.
When to Plant
In spring, sow directly in the garden two weeks before your last frost date, or start seeds indoors three to four weeks before your last frost date and set seedlings out just as the last frost passes.
In fall, start seeds about 10 weeks before your first frost date, and set the seedlings out when they are four weeks old.
How to Plant
Prepare a rich, fertile bed by loosening the soil while mixing in compost and a balanced organic fertilizer, applied at label rates. Plant seeds half an inch deep and 3 inches apart.
Set out seedlings 12 inches apart. Indoors or out, thin newly germinated seedlings with cuticle scissors instead of pulling them out. Chard seed capsules often contain two or more seeds. If more than one germinates, promptly snip off all but the strongest sprout at the soil line. Gradually thin direct-sown seedlings to 12 inches apart.
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