You’ve probably often heard of the importance of including leafy green vegetables in your diet, and so you’ve probably also heard of Swiss chard. Because of its relationship to beets, it is also known as leaf beet. It not only has the same nutritional value as spinach, but it is also much easier to grow. Swiss chard contains 300 times the daily recommended value of vitamin K per cup in addition to being high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, potassium, and dietary fiber.
Varieties of Swiss Chard
There are several varieties of Swiss chard that you can choose from that come in red, yellow, and green. You can plant a mixed patch for a fun color variety, or choose one color so that the growth rate is consistent. Some of the most popular varieties of Swiss chard include Oriole Orange, Five Color Silverbeet, and Fordhook Giant.
How to Plant and Grow Swiss Chard
You want to begin with well-draining, rich soil that is located in a sunny spot, although it is possible to grow in an area that gets some shade and where the soil is not as rich. Wait until two weeks before the last estimated frost date for your area or until the soil is at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Sow the seeds right into the soil, about a half inch deep and with three inches in between each seed.
Once the seedlings come in, thin them so that they are about 10 inches apart. To help maintain the moisture in the soil and cut back on weeds, make sure you add mulch around the growing chard plants. Because Swiss chard is versatile in the garden, you can also include individual chard plants in ornamental gardens or even in containers.
Diseases and Pests of Swiss Chard
One of the things that makes the Swiss chard so easy to grow is their resistance to both diseases and pests. Sometimes, the older leaves will become infested with aphids, but simply removing and discarding the leaves will solve that problem. Another common garden pest that likes Swiss chard is slugs, which can easily be deterred by burying shallow pans filled with beer to ground level. Larger pests such as rabbits and deer can be kept out by fencing.
SWISS CHARD HARVESTING
The stalks and leaves of Swiss chard are ready to harvest four-to-six weeks from sowing. It’s a “cut and come again” crop, which means you can harvest it over and over. Pick the outer leaves and stalks first and let the inner ones mature. Snap or cut the stalks off near the soil line.
Swiss chard tolerates light frost, so you can harvest inner leaves through November even in northern climates. With a season extender, cold frame, row cover, or greenhouse you can grow and harvest Swiss chard into the winter.
Featured Image: credit to Flickr/LollyKnit