Growing Swiss Chard

by National Gardening Association Editors

Swiss Chard is a favorite green of many gardeners because it grows well in both cool and warm weather. This ability to grow through the summer sets it apart from most greens, and should put chard at the top of your planting list!

What is Swiss Chard?

Chard is actually a bottomless beet. Although a member of the beet family, it doesn't develop bulbous roots. However, like beets, the large, fleshy stalks and broad, crisp leaves, are packed with minerals.

Planting Chard

Plant chard in rows about 15 inches wide, scattering the seeds an inch or so apart. Thin the plants to four to five inches apart. Harvest the first greens when they're about six inches high, and cut the entire plant an inch above ground. In a short time chard leaves will sprout again. Harvest only a few feet of the row at a time, so by the time you cut your way to the taller plants at the end of the row, the plants you harvested first are about ready to cut back again. This way the wide row of chard will keep producing into fall and early winter. If you really enjoy chard, make two plantings: one in early spring and another one in mid- or late summer. You can plant it in the fall down South.

Chard Varieties

Swiss chard comes in different colors. Varieties such as 'Lucullus' and 'Fordhook Giant' are green with white stems. 'Rhubarb' and 'Ruby Red' have bright red stems and reddish-green leaves. And 'Bright Lights' is like a sunset in your garden, with stems ranging from yellow to intense orange to fuchsia, purple, pink and white, with crinkly green leaves. All varieties of Swiss chard are good from a nutritional standpoint, being high in vitamin A.

Those chard stalks offer a double delight for the greens grower, by the way. Cut the stalk and thick mid-rib out of the leaves for two entirely different vegetables from the same plant: Cook up the leaves using your favorite greens recipes and prepare the stems as you would asparagus or braised celery.



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