Growing Swiss Chard | Sowing | Thinning | Weeds | Watering | Harvesting | Pests and Diseases
Some vegetables are rarely seen on supermarket shelves and the swiss chard is a notable example. Known by various names, such as seakale beet, silver chard, rainbow chard and silver beet, the confusion of names has not helped. Sometimes restaurants even get it wrong, naming this vegetable erroneously as ‘sea kale'.
For the home garden, the swiss chard has the great advantage of being easy to grow and producing a crop that stands well throughout winter, producing usable leaves and leaf stems until late spring. The two parts of the leaf can be cooked, using the green leaf blade in the same way as spinach and the leaf stalks in the way celery stalks are used.
The vegetable has got a new lease of life recently with the trend for ‘jardins potager' - decorative vegetable gardens. In shades of red, white, yellow, pink and purple, the brightly coloured stems are as much grown for colour as eating!
Swiss chard is related to beetroot and even sugar beet. Broad-stalked forms of beet have been grown in China since the seventh century and in Europe it is recorded over four hundred years ago. It is valued as a fresh winter vegetable and is very versatile in cookery. The leaves contain useful amounts of iron and dietary fibre.
Growing swiss chard
The seeds are sown in two lots - early spring and mid-summer. The first sowing will give a crop for late summer and autumn and the second sowing will give plants to stand over winter. Sow the large seeds thinly about 5cm apart in rows 30cm apart in good soil.
When the seedlings emerge they can be thinned at about two weeks to 10cm apart and two weeks later to 20cm apart. If there are gaps, the seedlings can be transplanted easily.
Weed control is relatively easy when the crop has grown to cover the rows with dense foliage but until then should be kept free of weeds.
Swiss chard does not need watering except in a summer dry spell. In light soil, it may show signs of wilting and should be watered.
Simply pull up the entire plant and cut off the root, or break off enough leaves to satisfy requirements.
Pests and diseases
The swiss chard is not prone to diseases but can suffer from snail damage, especially as young seedlings.