Plant of the Week – Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard is one of our garden staples, especially in our aquaponics system. We have found it to be easy to grow and it has a tolerance for both heat and cold.
Chard (Beta vulgaris) is a member of the family that includes beets. Some people call swiss chard, beets without the beets. There are several varieties from pale green to brightly colored stalks in reds, yellows, and purples. All are highly nutritious and delicious.
If you enjoy eating greens, you certainly want to put swiss chard on your planting list. Raw chard rivals kale in its nutrition value and surpasses many of the more popular greens available in the market.
Chard is versatile in the garden and the kitchen. Young chard leaves can be harvested, and the plant treated as a take and return plant. Harvesting young leaves from the plants encourage the plant to produce more leaves for a continual harvest of tender young greens. If allowed to mature, the plant produces masses of tall, broad leaves with thick stalks. The stalks and leaves are harvested and used in recipes just like any other green. Chard can be eaten raw in salads, cooked like greens, added to casseroles, soups, and stews. We make a dip using sour cream, cheese, dry soup mix and chard fresh from our garden. (You can find this recipe on our website.)
Chard is considered an annual. We generally keep some chard growing in our greenhouse year-round. Hard freezes will kill chard, but mild frosts don’t seem to bother it, and it will tolerate the heat of West Texas if planted in partial shade.
Chard, if allowed to mature will grow to a height of 18 to 24 inches and spread about 18”. If planted in rows, keep the rows 18” apart and plant your chard about 12” apart. Seed can also be broadcast. Many people use chard as a landscape accent plant. Several varieties offer stunning colors in the stems which can bring a different sort of accent to a landscape. Swiss chard is a great addition to your edible landscape.
Chard takes about 65 days to mature. However, using take and return harvesting techniques can extend your harvest from a single plant for many weeks. You can begin harvesting the leaves when they are 6 to 8 inches tall and add them to salads. The best flavors will develop in the leaves after 60 days.
Chard is tolerant of a wide range os soil conditions. It does prefer full sun but will tolerate a bit of shade. Make sure it gets at least 4 hours of direct sun. When the temperatures get hot, chard may bolt. Pinch back the bolts, and you may keep the plants going for a few more weeks despite the heat.
We have found chard to easy to grow, not especially susceptible to insects or disease and a great addition to our kitchen. Its versatility extends to landscapes making it a perfect addition to a landscape for color accents. Swiss chard is a great way to start an edible landscape.
For more information about organic gardening, edible landscapes, and organic lifestyles, visit our website at West Texas Organic Gardening.
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