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Introduction to growing swiss chard in the garden
Swiss chard is a beautiful and an edible plant. I love growing my swiss chard due to the taste and of course the colors it gives in the garden. Swiss chard will grow well in spring and in fall as it is a quite cold-hardy plant. It will die due to hard frost though.
what is swiss chard?
Swiss chard or Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris is a leafy green vegetable. It is often used in Mediterranian cooking.
The leaves are very nutritious. That’s why it’s often used by health-gurus as a part of their healthy diet.
The leaves vary from green to reddish and the stalks can vary from white to red. This gives a beautiful scenery. The plant can really be used as an ornamental as well.
Swiss chard is a biennial plant, it will flower from the second season. It might start to bolt when temperatures are too high though. To avoid bolting, keep the plant moist at all times, this will greatly diminish the chance of bolting.
where to grow swiss chard?
Growing Swiss chard in the garden is easy.
Swiss chard can really live on neglect. But if you want nice big, sturdy plants, you can give them a good soil to live in.
The soil should have a ph between 6 and 7. Give it a lot of nutritious compost or some other food.
Try to keep the soil moist at all time. Although the plants won’t wilt when standing dry for a short period, they might get stunted without enough water.
The plants can grow in the colder seasons, thus being able to live with less sun. But they do like the sun. And giving them a sunny spot will reward you with bright big leaves and stalks.
the roots of the plant tend to grow quite shallow so watch out with total dryness in the summer.
When to grow swiss chard?
In fact, Swiss chard can be grown almost year round. If you can keep them from freezing to death by harsh frost, you can harvest leaves every so often.
You can start your swiss chard plants really early in spring and grow them late into fall. The plants will only die if it freezes really hard. it’s even possible to keep the plants alive when they are covered in snow. The snow will protect them from the harsh wind and lower temperatures.
In our zone 8b, it’s possible most years to grow swiss chard year round with the use of a greenhouse in the winter time. I personally like to grow some of the plants in containers so I can place them in the greenhouse when temperatures drop too deep.
Indoors, there’s no limit to growing Swiss chard. With a little additional light, the plant will thrive. Just putting it in front of a south-facing window is more than enough to give a harvest of leaves now and then.
taking care of swiss chard.
As already mentioned, taking care of swiss chard is really easy.
Keep the soil moist and make sure there’s a good layer of nutrient-rich compost or composted manure on the soil.
Sow the seeds 1 fourth of an inch deep and let about a space of 2 inches in the row. So, that’s about half a centimeter deep and about 5 centimeters apart.
Don’t be afraid that the plants will overgrow because you can leave enough space between the rows to give all the plants the right space.
You can start sowing the seeds outside in their final spot as soon as temperatures go over 10°C or 50°F. You can also start growing the seeds indoors.
It doesn’t really matter when you start the seeds indoors as long as there is light in the room.
transplanting or planting Swiss chard.
Transplanting seedlings of Swiss chard should be done when the plants have at least 2 real leaves. You will see the difference between baby leaves and real leaves without any trouble.
Sometimes it’s necessary to transplant the plants if they take up too much space because they are sown too tightly together. Just break up the root clump and plant the plants where you want them to be.
It is possible that the plant goes into growth shock if the roots are harmed too much. But the plant will take off after a while and grow on like nothing ever happened.
harvesting Swiss chard
Harvesting Swiss chard is taking off the outer leaves when they are ready to you.
You can harvest the young and tender leaves to put in a salad. But you can also let the leaves grow tall and harvest them to make a stew or a soup.
It’s possible to harvest leaves as soon as the plant is about 10 inches or 25 centimeters tall. You can remove some of the whole plants if they are sown to tightly together so the other plants have more space to grow.
Don’t harvest from the center as this can harm the newly emerging leaves.
diseases and pests in growing swiss chard in the garden
Cercospora leaf spot
The disease can be recognized by it’s brown to grey, or black spots with a red to purple halo. In humid environments, there can be a fuzzy layer on the leaves.
Aphids never give up. When talking about a pest, it’s always good to mention aphids. They keep on coming back and get more resistant to treatment time after time. They have a whole range of plants they can attack. While sucking out the life of your plants, aphids can spread diseases with their saliva.
You can treat the infestation with a hard spray of water or with a homemade insecticidal soap mixture. In any case, you’ll have to treat several times. Keep an interval of 3 to 5 days for 3 to 4 times to kill off the critters and the eggs.
Alticini or flea beetles will devastate the leaves of your plants. They will eat small holes all over the leaves. You can easily treat the beetles with neem oil.
If you clean up in the autumn after the harvest, you can already prevent a lot of problems because the beetle pupae overwinter in the debris on the ground.
There’s a possibility if you have a first attack that you’ll get a second attack after a couple of months. So check the plants in a timely fashion.
Pegomya hyoscyami or spinach leaf miner
Leaf miners are never welcome. Just like other leaf miners, the spinach leaf miner or beet leafminer lays its eggs on the underneath side of the leaves. The maggots munch there way into the leaf, making unsightly tunnels. Once the maggots are inside the leaf, it’s difficult to treat them. I personally just cut off the leaf and hot compost it so the maggots die and I stop the new generation of flies from emerging.
So this is it for this article on growing Swiss chard in the garden. I hope you’ve found it interesting. If so, please share on social media, with friends, and other gardeners.
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Thanks for reading and see you in the next post.