Swiss chard is the perfect leafy green for every Fall garden. Swiss chard is delicious, nutritious and easy to grow. If that isn't reason enough to add Swiss chard to a Fall garden plan, how about vibrant color? The average Swiss chard is green with a trace of red. But what if you could add more color? Like a rainbow of color? Why not up the wow factor of your Fall garden with a Rainbow Mixture of Swiss chard seeds that produce stems with hues of yellow, gold, tangerine, coral, rose, purple, and even white.
History: A salad of fresh Swiss chard is like serving up a bit of history. This vegetable is classified as a beet even though it appears as a leafy green rather than a root vegetable. Its distant cousin, Beta maritima, commonly called Sea Beets, grows wild along Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines throughout Europe. Locals of old enjoyed gathering and eating Sea Beets as far back as the 16th century. In the 19th century the vegetable began being cultivated commercially for the tender foliage fancied by so many families. It didn't take long for horticulturalists to develop varieties that were beautiful, tasty ornamentals that were also rich in vitamin and minerals.
Delicious & Nutritious: Milder in flavor than spinach, Swiss chard is delicious raw and fresh. When cooked, the flavor mellows further. There are some amazing things packed into each one cup serving of delectable Swiss chard leaves:
- 13 different polyphenol antioxidants, like kaempferol, heart-healthy flavonoids, and syringic acid that helps regulate blood sugar.
- Betalains are phytonutrients Swiss chard shares in common with beets. They are the source for the purplish-red tint to stems. Betalain pigments are more than just a pretty face. They have anti-inflammatory properties and support detoxification.
- Phytonutrients support the nervous system and organ health.
- A single cup of chopped and boiled Swiss chard provides more than 600% of recommended daily value of Vitamin K. This nutrient regulates blood clotting and transports calcium. Swiss chard is a superfood for circulatory and bone health.
Planning The Garden Plot: Swiss chard likes plenty of sun but will tolerate a bit of shade. Once past the tender seedling phase, the vegetable can tolerate a light frost and even a moderate freeze if protected with mulch or a light covering, such as a sheet of plastic or fabric.
Select a sunny spot with minimal shade and protected from the wind. Garden area should drain well. If soil is compacted, turn and work in light compost. Swiss chard prefers a rich soil with a pH between 6.0-6.8.
Yield From The Garden: Keep expected yield in mind when planning the garden. A 10 foot row of Swiss chard with a single plant every 12 inches will produce about 10 pounds of leafy greens over the course of the growing season. Swiss chard needs plenty of room so space rows about 20-30 inches apart. A garden that averages about 2-3 plants per person will produce enough leafy greens for a bountiful table of fresh Swiss chard throughout Fall and even into the early days of Winter.
Sowing Seeds: Determine when first frost is expected and sow Swiss chard seeds about 6-8 weeks prior. There are a few differences for sowing seeds indoors or outdoors.
- Indoor Sowing
- Soak seeds in hot water for about 20 minutes.
- Sow seeds 1/2 inch beneath topsoil of starter peat pots.
- In about 7-14 days, seeds will germinate and young sprouts will appear. Transplant outdoors, about 12 inches apart, in the entire peat pot so as not to disturb young, delicate roots.
- Outdoor Sowing
- Determine date of first frost and begin work in the garden 6-8 weeks prior.
- Prepare soil by turning, creating a soft, rich loamy texture to at least a 4-6" depth.
- Add about 1" of organic compost and work into soil.
- Soak seeds in hot water for about 20 minutes.
- Sow 2-3 seeds together a few inches apart directly in the soil about 1/2 inch deep when soil temperature consistently remains above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
- After seedlings sprout, thin weaker plants, creating a 6 inch space between remaining plants if you plan to harvest entire plants when ready. If you plan to only harvest outer leaves, space about 10-12 inches apart.
Watering The Garden: Swiss chard likes to stay moist, but there is a difference between moist and soggy. Too much water will cause disease. Best watering practice is a daily, light watering directly to the soil at the base of plants. However, pay attention to soil conditions. The soil should never feel completely dry. Adjust watering practices accordingly to find that sweet spot.
Feeding The Garden: Compost or grass clippings will discourage weed growth while also delivering nutrients to your plants. Natural fertilizers, like kelp, are beneficial. If Swiss chard is grown in outdoor containers, use a nutrient-rich manure tea.
Harvesting The Garden: About 30 days after first sign of sprouts, Swiss chard is mature enough to begin harvesting. When mature, plants will be about 20 inches tall with colorful stalks as long as 10 inches. To enjoy multiple harvests throughout the growing season, only harvest outer leaves. First harvest at 30 days will be baby leaves. Plants will fully mature over the course of the next 30 days. Consecutive harvests of leaves after first harvest will deliver larger, lusher foliage. A pair of scissors makes harvesting leaves easy.
If a gardener prefers to harvest the entire plant, cut young plants with a sturdy pair of small garden shears about one or two inches above the soil line. The root system will produce another cluster of leaves. Just sit back and wait. Harvested Swiss chard stores well in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Trouble In The Garden: Fungus is the most common problem with Swiss chard. Strange colors, wimpy leaves, and odd textures are all signs that there is trouble in the garden:
- Leaf spot: When the fungus Cercospora is running amok in the garden, lower area of outer leaves show the first signs. Look for brown or black spots with halos in shades of red or purple. The grayish spores the fungus produces may give the leaves a fuzzy appearance and texture.
- Mildew: When the Downy fungus affects Swiss chard, leaves appear coated in a greyish powder.
The solution to fungus is prevention. Provide plenty of space for plants. Air circulation is the friend of Swiss chard. Regularly thin leaves. Rather than water over plants, apply water at the base. Copper based fungicides are preferred if aggressive treatment of plants is required.
Pests In The Garden: Swiss chard is yummy and helps a body grow strong which is why there are plenty of insects that appreciate this plant just as much as gardeners. Here are some of the most common insect invaders known to plague Swiss chard:
- Flea Beetles: If leaves appear wilted or filled with tiny holes, look for beetles that are shaded in colors of bluish-gray to black. Some may even appear to be striped. Pyrethrin sprays are effective but an organic gardener may prefer a natural solution. A spray that is 5 parts water, 2 parts alcohol (rubbing, not drinking!), and a dash of liquid soap should solve the problem.
- Leafminer: If it looks like tunnels have been eaten into leaves, the larvae of this insect is hard at work. The same natural soap spray can be used to get rid of them. Prevent re-infestation by covering plants with fine cheesecloth.
- Aphids: This insect loves just about any vegetable growing in the garden. The same soap solution can be used to send Aphids running. But the best treatment is prevention by introducing ladybugs or green lacewings to the garden.
Order Starter Seeds: For those planning their Fall garden, now is the time to order a unique Rainbow Mixture of Swiss chard seeds. Don't just grow a healthy garden, grow a beautiful one.