Long a staple of the famously healthy Mediterranean diet, Swiss chard's rich, earthy-tasting leaves deliver large doses of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Swiss chard is actually a member of the beet family, but it only produces the thick leaves you'll find in beets, not the roots. Chard comes in many colors, ranging from white to yellow, orange, red and purple. Between its massive leaves and contrasting colors, chard makes a dramatic and healthy addition to your vegetable garden. Learn how to grow chard by following the tips below.
Swiss chard grows best in rich, well-drained, slightly alkaline soil. Before planting, amend your soil with a 3-inch layer of compost or garden soil, such as Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® Garden Soil.
Sow your seeds about two weeks before your last expected frost date. Plant chard seeds 1/2 inch deep and 2 inches apart in rows about 15 inches apart. As seedlings develop, thin the plants to 8 inches apart. You can harvest the seedlings you remove and use them in soups and salads.
When your Swiss chard plants reach 5 inches in height, start feeding them every 2 weeks with a water soluble plant food like Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food. Water frequently enough to keep the soil moist. Weed aggressively. Spreading a 3-inch layer of mulch around your plants will help maintain soil moisture and curb weed growth. Mulch is especially important in warmer climates, as high summer temperatures and dry air encourages Swiss chard to go to seed.
Your harvest will be ready to be ready to pluck in 45-55 days. Harvest your Swiss chard throughout the summer and into the fall, starting when the plants are about 5 inches tall. Take the outer leaves of your plants first by snipping with gardening shears at the base. Harvesting the outer leaves actually encourages the growth of new, tender inner leaves. Also, harvest by working your way down the row so that by the time you reach the end, the beginning of the row will be sprouting new leaves again. As winter approaches, harvest the whole plant by cutting it off at the ground before a hard freeze.