Swiss chard is nutrient-packed chameleon of the vegetable world comes in a variety of colors and is a superb, year-round stand-in for lettuce, spinach and celery.
Swiss chard is bursting with nutrients, including vitamins K, A, C and E, plus several B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, dietary fiber and a great source of calcium.
The best Swiss chard is that which you grow yourself, and fortunately it’s easy to cultivate and taste great. Swiss chard only needs 50-degree soil to germinate, and the plants are quite cold hardy, so in many places it’s not too late to start some seeds for a late fall/early winter crop, but can be grown throughout the year.
Soak Swiss chard seeds in warm water for 15 minutes to speed up germination before planting. Sow seeds 1/2-inch deep and a few inches apart directly in the garden when the soil is at least 50°F.
Or sow them indoors anytime in standard-sized, 10-inch by 20-inch plastic flats of individual plugs filled with a soil-less seed starting or potting mix (place 1 or 2 seeds in each plug) and transplant seedlings into the garden when they’re 2 to 3 inches tall.
Thin seedlings so they are 4 to 5 inches apart, or 8 to 10 inches apart if you plan to only harvest the outer leaves.
Plants do best in full sun but will tolerate some shade. They can endure light frosts in spring and moderate freezes in fall. Swiss chard has withstood temperatures well below freezing protected by nothing more than a piece of heavy plastic or an old sheet, and it survives in the raised bed greenhouse during Zone 5 winters, when it sometimes gets down below 0°F.
Mulch your plants with compost and/or grass clippings to add nutrients and discourage weeds, and use a natural fertilizer such as kelp or manure tea (a must for container growing). Provide moderate, even watering.
Harvesting Swiss Chard:
Swiss chard is a ‘cut and come again’ plant, which means that one crop can supply you with terrific bounty for months. Growing your own allows you to enjoy the tender baby leaves.
You can harvest just the outer stalks often or cut whole young plants off an inch or two above the soil and wait for them to grow again.