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Growing Swiss Chard


swiss chardGrowing swiss chard is easy, it crops for months on end, and is a versatile alternative to the much stronger tasting spinach. Chard is an almost forgotten vegetable which really deserves a lot more attention than it receives - high in vitamins A and C and fibre, it offers a tasty alternative green which most kids will be quite happy to eat!

Swiss chard varies in colour from red stems and veins and dark green leaves (called rhubarb chard), silver/white stems and veins and green leaves (called silver chard) to yellow/cream stems and green leaves. It is often grown amongst the flower border, as the rhubarb chard especially is also a very ornamental plant.

Swiss Chard is also known as leaf beet, or seakale, so you may well find the seeds advertised as such instead of as swiss chard. Chard is a prolific crop and in the milder climates will keep on producing leaves throughout autumn and even in lesser amounts through the winter.

The leaves and stems are edible, while the roots are not. The taste of the stems is slightly reminiscent of celery, while the leaves are like a mild spinach, and cook in exactly the same way. We usually cook the stems and leaves together, chopping the stems up and adding them to a small amount of boiling water or a wok a few minutes before the shredded leaves. My grandmother used to grow swiss chard every year, and bake the stems whole with a white or cheese sauce, which makes a nice light meal or snack.

Planting and Growing Chard

Growing swiss chard really is very easy - and very rewarding too!

Chard is absolutely not fussy about the ground, but given the option, prefers plenty of organic matter, such as manure or good quality compost to retain the moisture. Since it can stay in the ground and keep producing for up to 12 months, a nitrogen or organic liquid feed can be applied during the growing season or if the plants do not appear to be growing well.

Seeds (available from Sutton Seeds) can be sown either in spring (for a continuous crop until the following late spring) and in late summer, for a winter crop which will last until the following summer. Sow seeds straight in situ in rows approximately 18 inches (45 cm) apart.

chard seedlings

We usually sow 3 seeds in one spot, then thin out when about 4 weeks old, leaving the strongest seedling to grow on. The remaining seedlings can be transplanted elsewhere in the garden if wished.

Chard seeds germinates quickly, usually within 10 days. Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, take out the weaker plants and leave about 15 inches between plants. Growing chard plants too close together increases the risk of downy mildew and fungal infection.

Swiss chard likes a LOT of water, so soil which maintains its moisture is good. If they don't have enough water, you will see the leaves begin to wilt. It is best to water with a watering can at the base of the plants, as their thick canopy of leaves can at times prevent rain from reaching the soil close to the roots.

Start harvesting your crop 8 - 12 weeks after sowing. Cutting a few stems from the outside of each plant on a regular basis will ensure you continue to have a good crop of fresh greens throughout the year.

Chard is best fresh from the vegetable plot, but can also be frozen for later use.

We absolutely guarantee that once you have tried growing swiss chard, it will be on your MUST PLANT list every year from then on! Enjoy!

Recommended varieties

rhubarb and mixed chardBright Lights Seeds provides mixed seeds for a wonderfully colourfull (and tasty!) row of chard. Probably the most entertaining and interesting as they not only look great, but each colour tastes slightly different. Kids will love this variety pack.

Rhubarb Chard Seeds are the most interesting to look at and perfect for planting between flowers and shrubs in the border. With long crimson stems and dark foliage.

Silver Chard or Sea Kale Seeds has white stems and crisp green leaves and provides a continuous crop from late spring to the beginning of winter. We have grown this variety in 2008 and are VERY happy with the results!


 

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