Plant A Green Machine

When cool-season greens like spinach start to flag, look to the more heat tolerant Swiss chard to fill in.

Swiss chard grows as an upright cluster of crinkled deep green leaves with thick white central stalks. There are also Swiss chard cultivars that boast brightly colored stalks, making them perfect choices for edible landscaping. Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads, while mature leaves are best cooked. Sow a short row of Swiss chard every couple of weeks from midspring through late summer for an ongoing harvest of this tasty and healthy green.

Common name: Swiss chard
Botanical name: Beta vulgaris Cicla Group
Plant type: Tender biennial grown as an annual vegetable
Zones: n/a
Height: 12 to 18 inches
Family: Amaranthaceae


Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Fertile, humus-rich loam or sandy loam is ideal.
  • Moisture: Evenly moist but not soggy


Care

  • Mulch: 1 inch of organic matter like straw or finely shredded leaves
  • Pruning: None
  • Fertilizer: Topdress with compost or apply manure tea or soluble fertilizer regularly.


Propagation

  • Seeds


Pests and diseases

  • Leaf miners, flea beetles, aphids and powdery mildew are potential problems.


Cultivars

  • ‘Lucullus’ and ‘Fordhook Giant’ are vigorous white-stalked varieties.
  • ‘Bright Lights’ produces plants with a range of stalk colors.
  • ‘Oriole Orange’ has bright orange gold stalks.
  • ‘Peppermint’ has pink and white stalks.
  • ‘Pot of Gold’ has bright yellow stalks.
  • ‘Ruby Red’ has bright red stalks.


Garden notes

  • Plant colored-stalk Swiss chards in pots or patio containers along with herbs like parsley, basil and chives to provide both ornamental and edible interest.
  • For best leaf quality, water consistently.
  • When cooking large, mature leaves, separate leafstalks from leaves because they’ll need different cooking times.


All in the family

  • Swiss chard is a member of the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae), a large group of mostly herbaceous plants.
  • Spinach, quinoa and celosia are other familiar members of the amaranth family.
  • Swiss chard is closely related to garden beets; in fact, they're both in the species Beta vulgaris, but Swiss chard does not form enlarged storage roots as beets do.


Where to buy
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, johnnyseeds.com
Park Seed, parkseed.com
Renee’s Garden, reneesgarden.com
Sustainable Seed Company, sustainableseedco.com


PHOTO CREDIT: Alex via Flickr Creative Commons