Growing Guide
 
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Swiss chard

Vegetable (Cool Season) - Spinach, Beets, Chard, Vegetable (Warm Season) - Salad Greens

Also known as stem chard, spinach beet, leaf beet
Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla
Chenopodiaceae Family

Grown for its tasty and nutritious leaves and leafstalks (petioles), chard is a good substitute for spinach in most recipes. Prefers cool weather, but lasts through summer without going to seed (bolting). Colorful leaves and petioles make it great for edible landscaping and ornamental plantings.

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Site Characteristics
Sunlight:
  • full sun
  • part shade
Prefers full sun early in the season, part shade in summer when it’s warm.

Soil conditions:

  • requires well-drained soil
Prefers deep, loose, fertile soil, high in organic matter, with pH 6.0 to 7.0. Needs consistent moisture, especially as plants grow large.
Plant Traits

Lifecycle: annual

Biennial grown as an annual.

Ease-of-care: easy

Requires thinning, but is otherwise relatively trouble-free.

Height: 1 to 3 feet

Spread: 0.5 to 2 feet

Foliage color:

  • medium green
  • dark green
  • red
  • purple
  • yellow

Depending on variety, leaves are dark to medium green, usually with red or white leafstalks and veins. ‘Bright Lights’ has leaf stalks that are red, white, orange, purple, gold, or pink.

Foliage texture: coarse

Shape:

  • cushion, mound or clump
  • upright
Special Considerations
Tolerates:
  • frost - Tolerates moderate frosts, but don’t plant in very early spring. Some varieties will bolt (go to seed) prematurely if exposed to prolonged freezing temperatures.
  • salt
Special characteristics:
  • not native to North America - Domesticated from wild species in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Special uses:
  • edible landscaping
Growing Information
How to plant:

Propagate by seed

Germination temperature: 40 F to 95 F - Optimum 85 F.

Days to emergence: 5 to 7

Seed can be saved 4 years.

Maintenance and care:
Start planting about 2 to 3 weeks before last expected frost. Sow seeds to 1 inch deep, 2 to 6 inches apart, in rows 18 to 24 apart. Like beets, chard “seeds” produce more than one plant, and so will require thinning. Thin to 6- to 12-inch spacings.

If you plan to harvest whole plants, make succession plantings through late summer.

Delay planting of ‘Ruby Red’ or ‘Rhubarb’ chard until after last frost. These varieties may go to seed (bolt) if seed is exposed to freezing temperatures.

Start seed inside for earlier crops, or if you want to arrange different colored plants of the variety ‘Bright Lights.’

Mulch plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

You can begin harvesting when leaves reach usable size. Remove a leaf or two from each plant, or cut plants an inch or two above the soil for cut-and-come-again harvest. Avoid damaging the growing point in the center of the plant at harvest.

As plants age, older leaves get tough. Cut plants back to about 3 to 5 inches tall to encourage a flush of new, tender growth.

Pests:
Aphids
Leaf miners
Diseases:
Leaf spot
Downy mildew
Varieties
Browse Swiss chard varieties at our Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners website.

Most varieties have either red or white stems. ‘Bright Lights’ – an All-America selection in 1998 – features mild flavor and a rainbow of stem colors (red, white, orange, purple, gold, pink) and bronze or green leaves.

Swiss chard or stem chard has swollen midrib and petiole. Leaf beets or spinach beets lack a swollen midrib and petiole.

Some varieties recommended for New York include:

Bright Lights
Fordhook Giant
Large White Ribbed
Lucullus
Rainbow
Rhubarb
Ruby Red