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Swiss Chard

When to Plant

  • Prepare your soil with mix aged manure and/or compost at least two weeks before planting, if not the prior season.

  • For the spring season, plant chard seeds 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date.

  • When ready to plant, apply 5-10-10 fertilizer to the area.

  • To speed germination, soak seeds in water for 24 hours prior to planting. 

  • Continue planting seeds at 10-day intervals for a month. 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. 

  • For a fall harvest, plant chard seeds about 40 days before the first fall frost date. (Many varieties will tolerate a light frost.)

Choosing 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

  • To speed up germination, soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting.

  • Sow the seeds 1/2 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.

  • To grow (not merely start) chard indoors, soak seeds for 24 hours in water. Plant in rich potting soil in a container with drainage holes. Place the container in a sunny window. Water to keep the soil damp.

How to Grow

  • When plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, thin to 4 to 6 inches apart or 6 to 12 inches if plants are large.

  • Use scissors to avoid disturbing nearby plant roots—and harvest the cuttings!

  • 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.

  • Mulch the plants to help conserve moisture and suppress weeds.

  • When plants are about 1 foot tall, cut leaves back to 3 to 5 inches to encourage new tender growth. If chard plants become overgrown, they become less flavorful.

Pests/Diseases

  • Aphids

  • Leaf miners

  • Cercospora leaf spot

  • Slugs

How to Harvest

  • You can start harvesting when the plants are 6 to 8 inches tall, depending on which size leaves you desire. Cut off outer leaves 1-1/2 inches above the ground with a sharp knife. Avoid damaging 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.

  • Harvest regularly, and the plants will produce continually.

  • To extend the harvest, lift the plant, with roots in the soil, and transfer to a container in a greenhouse. Maintain the temperature at around 50°F. Initially, the chard will appear limp, but it should rebound.