How To Grow Chard
Name: Beta vulgaris sub sp. cicla
Light: Full sun but tolerates light shade
Soil Type: Rich, moist, well drained
Soil Temperature: 40°+
ph Range: 5.5 – 7.0
Watering: Consistent moisture, mulch to keep soil cool
Plant (Payson): April 1 – June 15 / August 1 – September 15
Planting Method: Seed
Germination: 5 – 7 days
Transplant: Are available but grows easily from seed
Maturity: Begin harvest at 35 days
Common Pests: Aphids, Leaf minor, Birds
Common Diseases: Cercospora Leaf Spot, Downey Mildew
Chard tops resemble that of beets and spinach with stems that look like Bok Choy or celery. There are many varieties from white stemmed to brightly color edible ornamentals. The white-stemmed varieties consistently outperform their more colorful counterparts in terms of productivity and bolt resistance.
Swiss Chard is one of the easiest, prolific vegetables to grow in a home garden.
Green and white chard is common while varieties with pink, crimson, orange, yellow, gold and purple leaves can be real show stoppers in the garden. While not as eye catching, the green and white varieties outperform their colorful counterparts in terms of productivity and bolt resistance.
Whichever variety you choose, chard is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K, B’s magnesium and other minerals important for bone health. Chard grows well from seed, but starter plants can also be purchased.
Prepare a fertile bed by loosening the soil while mixing in compost and a balanced organic fertilizer following the suggested application rate.
Chard prefers rich loose soil with a pH range between 6.5 and 6.8 that has been mixed with mature weed-free compost and a balanced organic fertilizer.
Note: in our PCG experimental gardens we have had good success with replanting in the same garden space, however, crop rotation is always advisable as it prevents soil borne diseases and promotes nutrient rich soil.
Swiss chard will grow in full sun or partial shade. The more sun-the faster it will grow, however, because of our hot Payson summers, it is best to plant chard in an area where it will receive morning and afternoon sun with protection during the hottest part of the day. This can be accomplished by planting next to taller plants or using a shade cloth.
Chard is typically a cool weather vegetable; however in our Community Garden, gardeners have had success growing chard even in the summer months.
Chard is available for transplanting although it grows very easily from seed. If starting with transplant, space them 12 inches apart.
For Spring planting, it is recommended that chard seed by sown directly in the garden two weeks before the last frost date, or start seeds indoors 3-4 weeks prior to the last frost date and plant seedlings after the last Spring frost. For fall harvest start seeds 10 weeks before your first frost date.
Sow the big, crinkly seeds about a half an inch deep and 3 inches apart two weeks before your last frost date through early summer. Soaking the seeds overnight may aid in germination.
Chard seed capsules often contain two or more seeds. Thin newly germinated seedlings. Don’t pull! If more than one germinates, snip off all but the strongest sprout at the soil line, gradually thin direct-sown seedlings to 12 inches apart.
Mulching will help maintain an even soil temperature during the hot summer as well as conserving soil moisture.
Swiss chard is a hardy plant and can withstand some drought. You may need to supplement it with additional water during the hottest summer months. Water when you notice the leaves begin to wilt—water before harvesting to ensure crisp leaves.
To provide additional nutrients, mulch with a compost of decaying organic matter once every 3-4 weeks. If you choose to use an organic fertilizer, dissolve it in water and apply by pouring the mixture directly over the leaves of the plant, this will feed the plant through its foliage as well as its roots.
Keeping chard weed free is important to eliminate competition with weed roots for nutrients in the soil.
Cercospora leaf spot is a fungal disease that causes light brown patches surrounded by purple halos to form on leaves of chard, beets, and sometimes spinach. Warm, rainy weather favors outbreaks. Keep plants properly spaced to promote good air circulation and promptly remove any affected leaves.
Aphids on chard may be controlled with a strong spray of water and bird damage in the form of holes and tears can be prevented by covering your growing plants.
Chard can be harvested when the plant reaches 10-18 inches in height (green varieties will grow taller than colored or rainbow varieties). As soon as the leaves are of the desired size they can be harvested. Pick leaves from the outside in. The plant will continue to produce leaves until the plant bolts and goes to seed. After harvesting, remove the root system from the soil to prevent disease buildup. Only compost healthy plants and roots; carefully place those with insect infestation and soil borne diseases in the dumpster.
The most common way to pick chard is to cut off the outer leaves 1.5 to 2 inches above the ground while they are young and tender being careful to not damage the central growing bud. Older leaves should be removed and discarded to allow the younger leaves to continue to grow. Harvesting chard is best done using a clean sharp scissors or knife.
Twist leaves away from chard plants while young. Three to five leaves can be harvested from a plant at a time, making sure the crown remains intact. The more you pick, the more new leaves will be generated. Rinse leaves with cool water immediately, shake off excess moisture and store, refrigerated, for up to four days. As the plant ages it may push out of the soil, like a beet. If this occurs, it is better to harvest the leaves with a sharp knife.
You can serve Swiss chard raw or cooked. This leafy vegetable is great in soups, salads and stir-fries. It can be steamed, sautéed, simmered in soups or dehydrated. Chard can be stored in a refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks in an air-tight container—be sure leaves are dry before storing.
Chard can be blanched and frozen just like spinach. You can try drying and crushing fresh, unblemished leaves and use the flakes to add color and nutrients to soups, stews and casseroles.
Cooked chard greens can stand in for spinach in most recipes and the ribs can be steamed or grilled like asparagus. Chopping the leaves and ribs and cooking them together is also an option. Chard can be used in casseroles, quiches and as a side dish.
To aid in your gardening success, here are some useful, trusted links for more information on tomatoes. Please remember Payson Community Garden is an organic garden. Some of these sites may contain recommendations for non-organic products. Please see this website or Plant Fair Nursery website for a list of recommended products that meet the organic standards of Payson Community Garden.