Growing Tips: Swiss Chard

Quick Reference:

Plant seed 1/4 inch deep spaced 3 to 4 inches apart. Germination: 7 to 10 days. Plant spacing in the garden, 10 to 12 inches.

When and where to plant:

Swiss chard is the easiest green to grow in Alaska and is more cold tolerant and bolt resistant than spinach. Swiss Chard, a member of the beet family, grows best in cool weather and full sun. In Alaska, seed may be planted before the danger of frost is past as long as the soil temperature is in the 40's. Prepare a good loam soil in full sun that has a pH near 7, neutral, swiss chard does not grow well in acid soils. Apply plant food, enrich soil with organic matter and plant as soon as the soil has been prepared and has warmed in the spring. Soak seed in warm water for 6 to 8 hours immediately before planting to speed germination, DO NOT soak longer. Cover seed with fine soil, firm soil over seed and keep moist until seedlings emerge. For an earlier crop start seed indoors in a container 3 to 4 weeks before the garden is ready spacing seed 1 inch apart. When seedlings are 2 inches high plant directly in the garden. Seedlings transplant easily.

Care:

The main concern with swiss chard is it does not get thinned properly, each seed is a cluster of seeds and must be thinned by pulling or cutting off the excess tops, so only one plant remains. At the first thinning the spacing between plants should be 3 to 4 inches. When the plants start growing together again pull every other plant using the entire plant. The plants require plenty of moisture and apply plant food every 4 weeks. When the plants are not harvested often enough remove old and tough leaves to encourage new growth.

Harvest:

Cut outer leaves when the plants are 6 to 10 inches tall, new leaves will continue to grow from the center of the plant. Will provide continuous greens until frost.