Swiss Chard: A Comprehensive Guide to Growing and Harvesting

Swiss Chard: A Comprehensive Guide to Growing and Harvesting

Swiss chard is a versatile and nutritious vegetable that is relatively easy to grow. It is a member of the beet family and is known for its large, colorful and edible leaves. Swiss chard has a long growing season and can be harvested from late spring to early winter, making it a valuable addition to any garden. In this article, we will provide you with guidelines on how to grow and harvest Swiss chard.

Planting and Spacing

Swiss chard can be grown from seeds or young plants. If you are starting from seeds, you can directly sow them in the garden after the last frost. The seeds should be planted around 1 inch deep and spaced about 12 inches apart. Once the plants have grown and developed their true leaves, you can thin them to a spacing of 6-8 inches apart. This will allow enough room for the plants to grow and develop properly.

Growing and Harvesting

Swiss chard prefers full sun, but it can tolerate some shade. The plants should be watered regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Swiss chard is a fast-growing plant, and you can start harvesting the outer leaves when they are about 6-8 inches long. You can use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the leaves. When harvesting, be sure to leave at least 2-3 inches of the stem attached to the petiole. This will encourage the plant to continue growing and producing more leaves.

Swiss chard can be harvested all summer long and even into the fall, as long as you provide it with proper care. However, it is important to note that the leaves may become tougher and more bitter as the plants mature. If you prefer tender and mild-flavored leaves, it is best to harvest Swiss chard when it is young and the leaves are still tender.

Storing and Processing

If you have a large harvest of Swiss chard and cannot consume it all at once, there are several options for storing and processing it. The leaves can be washed, dried, and stored in a resealable bag or container in the fridge. They will stay fresh for up to a week. You can also blanch the leaves and freeze them for long-term storage.

The stems of Swiss chard can also be eaten and are delicious when properly prepared. They can be chopped and used in stir-fries, soups, or stews. The stems should be washed and cleaned thoroughly before cooking. If the stems are particularly tough, you can remove the outer layer with a vegetable peeler or a paring knife.

Pests and Diseases

Swiss chard is generally a low-maintenance plant, but it can be susceptible to some pests and diseases. Common pests include aphids, slugs, and leaf miners. To protect your plants from these pests, you can cover them with floating row covers or use organic insecticides. Diseases such as leaf spot and powdery mildew can also affect Swiss chard. To prevent these diseases, it is important to provide good air circulation and avoid overhead watering.

Final Words

Swiss chard is a versatile and nutritious vegetable that can be grown by both new and expert gardeners. It requires relatively little care and can provide a bountiful harvest throughout the growing season. Whether you grow Swiss chard for its colorful and ornamental leaves or for its delicious taste, it is sure to enhance your garden and your culinary experiences.

Harvesting Chard: How And When To Harvest Swiss Chard Plants

Harvesting chard is an exciting time for gardeners. Swiss chard is a versatile plant that can be harvested at various stages of growth, depending on your preferences. In this guide, we will discuss when and how to harvest Swiss chard to ensure a bountiful and delicious harvest.

Harvesting Young Chard: Swiss chard can be harvested when the leaves are young, usually around 6-8 weeks after planting. At this stage, the chard leaves are tender and mild, making them perfect for fresh eating. To harvest young chard, simply pinch or cut off the outer petiole, leaving the inner leaves to continue growing. This method allows the plant to produce more leaves for future harvests.

Harvesting Mature Chard: If you prefer larger chard leaves, you can leave the plant to grow for a longer period of time. Mature chard leaves have a stronger flavor and can be used in various cooking preparations. When harvesting mature chard, cut the entire stem at ground level or just above the soil line using a sharp pair of secateurs. Make sure to wear gloves while handling mature chard, as the stems can be quite tough and fibrous.

Harvesting Seedstalks: If you want to save chard seeds for future planting, you can allow the chard plants to produce seedstalks. This is an ongoing process for chard plants, as they will continuously produce new seedstalks throughout the growing season. To harvest the seedstalks, simply cut off the stems with seedheads using secateurs. Make sure to isolate the seedheads from other varieties to maintain the purity of the seeds.

Harvesting Chard for Storage: If you have a surplus of chard and wish to store it for later use, proper harvesting and processing are essential. Start by cleaning the harvested chard leaves thoroughly and cutting them into smaller, manageable pieces. Blanche the pieces in boiling water for a few minutes, then cool them in ice water. After cooling, drain the chard well and pack it in freezer bags or airtight containers. Properly stored chard can be kept in fridges or freezers for up to 12 months without losing its flavor and nutritional viability.

Assessing Chard Maturity: To determine the best time for harvesting, you can use a few guidelines. Swiss chard is ready to be harvested when the leaves are at least 6-8 inches long, and the outer petiole is thick and fleshy. Additionally, chard that has experienced a light frost can have improved flavor. It is always better to harvest chard before it bolts or sends up a seedstalk, as once this happens, the plant will focus its energy on seed production rather than leaf growth.

Tips for Harvesting Chard:

  1. Harvest chard in the early morning when the leaves are cool and hydrated.
  2. Use a sharp knife or secateurs to cut the stems cleanly to avoid damaging the plant.
  3. Thin out the chard plants when they are young to allow enough space for each plant to grow properly.
  4. Regularly remove any damaged or diseased leaves to prevent pests and diseases from spreading to the healthy plants.
  5. For continuous harvest throughout the season, pick the outer leaves first, leaving the younger ones to grow.
  6. When processing chard, remove the stems as they can be tough and fibrous. They can, however, be used in stocks and soups.
  7. Most pests can be deterred by keeping chard leaves clean and healthy, so regular cleaning and inspection are recommended.
  8. If you are unsure about the maturity of your chard, it is better to wait a little longer than to harvest too early.
  9. Expert gardeners suggest that chard tastes better when harvested in the morning or just after a rain shower.

By following these harvesting tips and guidelines, you can ensure a plentiful yield of healthy and delicious Swiss chard throughout the growing season. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and savor the flavors of this versatile and nutritious leafy green vegetable.

Swiss Chard Harvest

Harvesting Swiss chard is an exciting time in your gardening journey. After patiently waiting for the chard to reach maturity, it’s finally time to reap the rewards of your hard work. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your Swiss chard harvest:

  • Assessing Maturity: Swiss chard typically takes about 50 to 60 days from planting to reach maturity. You can start assessing the readiness of your chard by checking the size of the leaves. They should be around 6 to 8 inches long before you start harvesting.
  • Picking Chard: When harvesting Swiss chard, you have two options. You can either pick the outer leaves or harvest the whole plant. If you pick the outer leaves, new ones will sprout, allowing you to harvest multiple times from the same plant. If you prefer to harvest the whole plant, simply cut it off at ground level.
  • Thin and Save: When thinning your Swiss chard plants, save the thinned seedlings for consumption. These young chard greens are delicious and can be added to salads or cooked as a side dish.
  • Processing After Harvest: Once harvested, Swiss chard should be washed thoroughly to remove dirt or debris. You may also want to remove the tough stems by cutting them off at the base where they meet the petiole. The leaves and stems can then be stored separately depending on your intended use.
  • Storage Options: Swiss chard can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. For longer storage, you can blanch the leaves and stems and freeze them. Alternatively, Swiss chard can be canned or pickled for preservation.
  • Harvesting Seeds: If you want to save Swiss chard seeds for next year’s planting, allow a few plants to fully mature. The seedstalks will form above the foliage and turn dry or brown when ripe. Cut the seedstalks and place them in a paper bag to dry further. By rubbing the seedstalks between your hands, you can easily separate the seeds from the chaff.
  • Dealing with Pests: Swiss chard is generally a hardy plant and less prone to pests. However, keep an eye out for pests such as aphids, caterpillars, or beetles. If you notice any damage, remove the affected leaves or treat with organic pest control methods.
  • Climate Requirements: Swiss chard thrives in cooler climates and can tolerate light frosts. In warmer regions, it’s best to plant Swiss chard in the fall or early spring to avoid hot summer temperatures.
  • Spacing and Population: Swiss chard plants should be spaced about 8 to 12 inches apart to allow for proper growth and airflow. Planting too close can result in overcrowding and increase the risk of disease.
  • Expert Tip: To save space and ensure a continuous harvest, plant Swiss chard alongside other vegetables that have different growing requirements. This way, you can maximize your garden’s potential.
  • Overwintering: In areas with harsh winters, Swiss chard can be overwintered for a spring harvest. To protect the plants from freezing, cover them with plastic or use a cold frame for insulation.

Following these tips will help you enjoy a bountiful Swiss chard harvest and make the most of this nutritious and versatile vegetable.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.