Growing Swiss Chard:
Growing Chard Organically

Growing Swiss chard is among the easiest of all leafy greens. It does need full sunlight (at least 4 hours per day) and plenty of water in order to thrive, but it can grow in many different types of soil.

Growing Swiss Chard: Plant Snapshot (Beta vulgaris)

Growing Swiss Chard
  • Family: Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual – ready to harvest approximately 50 days after planting.
  • Recommended varieties: Fordhook Giant, Burpee’s Rhubarb Chard, Verte a Carde Blanche, Verde da Taglio
  • Cold tolerance: Hardy – Will survive hard frosts and can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring.
  • Required Sun: Full sun (at least 6 hours each day)
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: Chenopodiaceae: leaf beet
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Beans, cabbage, onions
    • Avoid: Corn, cucumbers, melons, potatoes, and all herbs
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Growing Swiss Chard: Planting the Seed

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Planting Swiss chard is very similar to planting beets, its close relative. And like beets, Swiss chard is a hearty plant, able to grow in almost any condition other than very hot or very cold temperatures.

While it is tolerant of many soil types, having a soil that is rich in organic matter will help them produce even more delicious vegetables. A few weeks before you plant, mix a few inches (8 cm) of compost into the top 6 inches (16 cm) of soil to give your plants the nutrients they prefer.

When you’re ready to plant, broadcast seeds onto a garden bed that receives partial shade a couple of weeks before the last expected frost date, then rake over a thin layer of soil.

You can also transplant Swiss chard from nursery-bought plants.

Snapshot: Planting Swiss Chard

  • Planting depth: about 1 inch (25 mm)

  • Spacing in rows: about 8 inches (20 cm)

  • Germination soil temperature: 50 to 85 degrees F (10 to 29.4 degrees C)

  • Days to germination: 10 to 20 days

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Growing Swiss Chard: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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Regardless of whether you start from seed or a transplant, maintain about 8 inches (20 cm) between the plants (thin them out if you started from seed) throughout the growing season.

Give your Swiss chard plants between 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of water each week and spread mulch around them to conserve the soil moisture and keep the garden weeds at bay. You should protect seedlings and transplants with a floating row cover in the early growth stages, especially in cooler climates (use a heavyweight row cover in colder climates).

If you have less than ideal soil, fertilize with a liquid organic garden fertilizer when they get to be about six or seven inches (16 cm) tall.

Snapshot: Growing Swiss Chard

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 6.0 to 7.5
  • Growing soil temperature: 50 to 85 degrees F (10 to 29.4 degrees C)
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Growing Swiss Chard: Harvesting Time

You can start enjoying your Swiss chard’s leaves (can be eaten when small or large) and stems (can be steamed and eaten like asparagus) at any time after the leaves form. This is usually in the summer, though you may also be able to harvest Swiss chard in the fall if they didn’t overheat during summer (if they did, you can also replant in summer for a fall harvest).

You can choose to cut the entire plant a few inches (8 cm) above the ground or just the large outer leaves. By cutting just the large outer leaves, you leave the smaller leaves to develop for future harvests.

Snapshot: Harvesting Swiss Chard

  • Time to harvest: About 10 weeks
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Storing Swiss Chard and Freezing Swiss Chard

You can store Swiss chard in plastic bags and place in the refrigerator for up to two weeks after harvesting. For storage, select young and tender green leaves from your collection, wash them thoroughly, cut off any woody stems and cut the leaves into pieces.

You can also water blanch for one-and-a-half to two minutes, cool, drain, package, seal and freeze them for up to one year.

Swiss chard seeds will last approximately four years.

Snapshot: Storing Swiss Chard & Freezing Swiss Chard

  • Storage temperature: 32 to 40 degrees F (0 to 4.44 degrees C)

  • Humidity: 90 to 95% relative humidity

  • Storage life (unfrozen in above conditions): about 2 weeks

  • Storage life (frozen): Up to 1 year

  • Seed longevity: About 4 years

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Growing Swiss Chard: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Swiss Chard. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Bulb mites (Spinach crown mites)
  • Crickets
  • Cutworms
  • Darkling beetles
  • Earwigs
  • Flea beetles
  • Garden symphylans
  • Leafminers
  • Loopers
  • Nematodes
  • Seedcom maggots
  • Snails/slugs
  • Wireworms

Diseases

  • Damping off
  • Downy mildew
  • Virus diseases
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