A delicious alternative to spinach, Swiss chard is easy to grow and relatively low maintenance.
With its ornamental leaves and stems, it looks just as good in containers and borders as the vegetable plot. Packed with vitamins, the leaves make a colourful addition to stir fries and soups and very young, tender leaves are great in salads. The stalks can be cooked separately and are equally tasty.
Follow the advice in this handy guide to grow your own Swiss chard.
Sowing Swiss chard seeds
Sowing Swiss chard seeds
Make a shallow drill in well-prepared soil in a sunny spot and sow your Swiss chard seeds thinly, approximately 1.5cm deep. Cover seeds with soil and water well. Sow in rows 40cm apart. You can sow chard from March to September.
Check out this detailed step-by-step guide to sowing Swiss chard seeds.
Looking after Swiss chard
Swiss chard seedlings
As the seedlings begin to grow, thin out the plants so that they’re 25-30cm apart. Water well after thinning. Keep an eye out for pests, but apart from watering, this is an easy vegetable to look after. Sow seeds every few weeks for a continuous crop that’ll see you through the winter months, with just a little protection.
Swiss chard can be grown successfully in containers and even in among your flower borders, where it will complement the hot colours of late summer flowers.
Harvesting Swiss chard
Snipping fresh chard leaves
Young chard leaves are delicious eaten fresh and you can use early thinnings for salads. The fully-formed leaves will be ready to harvest about 10-12 weeks after sowing, but late summer sowings may take a little longer. Cut individual leaves as you need them and the plant will keep producing new growth.
Check out this advice on harvesting Swiss chard, carrots and beetroot.
Storing, preparing and using Swiss chard
Swiss chard is best eaten soon after picking. However, leaves can be blanched and frozen for later use in soups.
See some of the tasty recipes using Swiss chard, from our friends at Olive Magazine.
Chard: problem solving
Netting Swiss chard
Swiss chard is a relatively trouble-free vegetable apart from attacks on seedlings by slugs and snails, so do put some protection in place after sowing.
Some varieties, particularly the ones with red stems can be prone to bolting.
Beet leaf miner can also affect chard. These are flies whose maggots tunnel inside the leaves creating blotches that eventually turn brown and affect the growth of the plant, particularly early in the season. The best way to deal with this problem is to try to squash the maggots in the blotchy areas or to net crops.
Crop rotation is important as this can prevent any overwintering maggots of the beet leaf miner from affecting your chard crop.
Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’
Swiss chard varieties to try
‘Bright Lights’ RHS AGM – with rainbow-coloured stems and green and leaves of green or bronze. Good for harvesting into the late autumn months, it can also be overwintered for an early spring crop
- ‘White Silver’ RHS AGM – with thick white stems and dark green leaves this is a classic Swiss Chard. A hardy variety, good for cropping through early winter
- ‘Fantasy’ – a lovely red-stemmed Swiss chard with a mild flavour and notable for its good tolerance of downy mildew
- ‘Bright Yellow’ RHS AGM – with golden yellow stalks, this is a lovely variety that’s slow to bolt and very hardy over winter. It’ll also produce an early spring crop after the last of the late-autumn harvest
- ‘Green Wave’ RHS AGM – with green stems and leaves, this looks much more like spinach. The flavour is a little milder and it’s less prone to bolting