Swiss Chard - Swiss Chard is a very productive vegetable. You do not need to plant dozens of plants in a row unless you plan on feeding the neighborhood. We plant two or three plants per person and that gives us Swiss Chard at least once a week throughout the growing season. Swiss Chard is a great plant for growing in containers, but the bigger the better to accomodate its extensive root system; at least a foot deep.
Swiss Chard - Swiss Chard can handle some chill when it is young, so you can start seedlings 8 to 10 weeks before last frost and plant those seedlings about two weeks before last frost, assuming you harden off the plants properly. Swiss Chard seeds are actually clumps of seeds, so when you get germination you will see several little plants. Thin those down to one plant per growing unit. Swiss chard grows best in full sun, but is one of those vegetables that can tolerate a bit of shade. It needs a minimum of 5 hours of sun each day.
Planting Tricks (Optional)
Most yardeners do not have absolutely wonderful healthy soil for their vegetable garden. One way to overcome some problems that might occur later in the season is to add some products to the soil before planting your seeds or seedlings.
Compost – A couple of handfuls of quality compost sprinkled along the line where the seeds will go or in the hole in which the seedling will adds micro-nutrients and valuable natural chemicals to the soil giving your new plants a boost as they get started.
Vegetable Thrive – This is an organic liquid that contains beneficial soil bacteria and beneficial soil fungi called mycorrhizae which helps develop strong root systems. Sprinkle Thrive lightly along the line where seeds will go or into the hole for the seedlings. Your plants get a better start then if they were planted without these valuable amendments.
Swiss Chard - If you started seedlings indoors, you can plant them outside about two weeks before last frost (soil temperature at least 50 degrees). Or you can plant seeds directly into the soil two to four weeks before last frost (soil temperature at least 40 degrees). Outside planting depth is 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch with seeds spaced at about 4 to 6 inches. You should get germination in one to two weeks. They will be thinned to a final spacing of 10 to 15 inches when the leaves are 8 to 10 inches tall. Eat the thinnings.
Fertilizing Chard - Swiss Chard is a light feeder but likes a half cup of slow release granular fertilizer when it is planted. For the rest of the season, it likes a foliar spray of some kind every two to three weeks, but that is optional.
Swiss Chard - As soon as the Chard is six inches high, we surround each plant with a 2 to 3 inch layer of chopped leaves or straw. Pine needles would also work.
You can start harvesting Swiss Chard when the leaves are at least six inches tall. Always harvest only those leaves on the outside of the plant so more leaves will grow on the inside. We usually wait until the leaves are 12 inches tall before we begin harvesting.
We give our Swiss Chard a foliar spray of compost tea or liquid kelp every two to three weeks. We don't use any liquid fertilizer on this plant.
Swiss Chard - We use a very sharp knife to cut the chard leaves about an inch above the soil. Then in the kitchen we usually cut the leaf off of the stem. Usually we only cook the leaves, but on occasion we'll cook the stems similar to cooking celery. We also use the stems sometimes in soups.
Watering - Swiss Chard can handle a brief dry spell, but really likes to be kept uniformly moist. It does not like to be overwatered.
Storage - Swiss Chard will keep for 7 to 10 days if stored in the fridge in a plastic bag.
Swiss Chard - While Swiss Chard, properly harvested just on the outside leaves, is capable of producing leaves right up and through first frost. However, We feel that the flavor on the old plants is not quite as good as on the younger plants. So we start new Swiss Chard plants in July and sometime in September we switch for the old to the new. Those new plants will be giving us leaves to eat almost up to Thanksgiving.
Swiss Chard - Even if you don't eat them, keep picking the outer leaves as they mature.
Swiss Chard - Keep cutting off the outer leaves. We have sometimes had fresh chard for Thanksgiving here in Central Michigan, so it can handle cold weather for awhile.
Swiss Chard - These plants have a healthy root system that can go down 3 to 4 feet depending on soil conditions. When we dispose of the plants after they die with a hard frost, we take a knife and cut the plant off about 1 inch below the surface of the soil, leaving that huge root system in place to serve as food for earthworms and soil microbes.