Swiss chard is a colorful leafy green that will expand your vegetable garden. Because it’s so easy to grow, many gardeners add this nutritional vegetable to their lineup.
If you’re thinking about starting Swiss chard seeds, keep reading. In this post, I’ll go over how to plant Swiss chard and care for it until harvest.
Let’s dive in!
A Quick Overview of Swiss Chard
Why Plant It
There are many reasons for starting Swiss chard seeds in your garden. It’s chocked full of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin A.
It’s also a great way to add color to your otherwise drab winter garden. The Swiss chard stems are often colorful, contrasting the bright green leaves.
The last (and perhaps the best) reason to plant Swiss chard is that it’s easy to grow. Whether you’re growing it outdoors or in indoor containers, Swiss chard will thrive as you cut and come again.
Here are some of the most popular varieties of Swiss chard to try:
- ‘Bright Lights’ – This colorful variety of Swiss chard will add pops of yellow, orange, and red to your garden. It’s cold hardy, but it can also withstand early summer temperatures. Both the leaves and stems make a delicious addition to a salad.
- ‘Ruby Fresh’ – This variety is specifically bred to produce “baby” leaves for salads and other fresh snacks. The bright red stems pair beautifully with dark green leaves. It’s a good addition to a microgreen garden.
- ‘Fordhook Giant‘ – This is one of the largest varieties of Swiss chard, often reaching two feet in height. It has long white stems and ample amounts of foliage, making it an excellent substitute for spinach. It matures quickly so that you can grow it in spring and fall.
- ‘Rhubarb‘ – This variety may look similar to ‘Ruby Fresh’, but Rhubarb’s leaves can reach up to two feet in height. It’s another good go-to if you want to grow a large amount of Swiss chard. Unlike the fruit Rhubarb, this variety of Swiss chard does not have poisonous leaves.
When to Plant Swiss Chard
Swiss chard takes around 55 days to reach maturity. Plan for your Swiss chard to be ready to harvest before any extreme temperature hit – hot or cold.
If you plan on growing Swiss chard in early spring, plant your seeds three to four weeks before the last frost.
Similarly, if you want Swiss chard in the fall, plant your seeds around six weeks before the first projected frost.
If you’re starting Swiss chard seeds indoors, you can plant them even earlier than this. This will give you transplants that are ready for harvest sooner than direct sowing seeds.
How to Start Swiss Chard Indoors
First, let’s go over how to plant Swiss chard by starting indoors. If you like an early harvest or succession garden, this is the route for you.
What You’ll Need
To set yourself up for success, ensure you have the proper seed-starting equipment. Here are a few helpful things to get you started:
And, don’t forget the most important thing – seeds!
We’ve listed four varieties above that are available from two of our favorite seed retailers, Hoss Tools and True Leaf Market. You can find even more Swiss chard seed selections by visiting True Leaf’s website.
Starting Swiss Chard Seeds
Starting Swiss chard seeds is easy and straightforward. Fill seed-starting trays with your favorite seed-starting mix.
Before you plant the seeds, it’s best to moisten the seed starting mix. This will keep your seeds from accidentally washing away.
Swiss chard seeds should be planted at a depth of 1/4 inch. Use the sharp tip of a pencil or wood label to make an indention for your seed. Once you’ve placed the seed in the hole, lightly cover it with soil.
As you plant your seeds, make sure to label each variety so you don’t forget.
Place the seed starting trays on a heat germination mat under a full-spectrum grow light. The seeds should germinate in approximately five to 14 days.
Germination time is often determined by the temperature of the soil. If you use a heat mat, you should see quicker germination times.
Tips for Transplanting
Once your seedlings have developed true leaves and have reached two-three inches in height, they are often ready for transplant.
This means that you can begin to prepare a space in your outdoor garden. Transplants should be spaced every 12 inches in the garden. This will give them enough room to spread out without competing for resources.
How to Direct Sow Swiss Chard Seeds
Now, let’s go over how to plant Swiss chard outdoors. That means your seeds will be sown directly into the garden. Since starting Swiss chard seeds is easy and germination rates are high, many gardeners prefer this method.
Choosing the Best Location
Swiss chard grows best in partial to full sun, so your sunny garden spot will work perfectly. The vegetable germinates more frequently when the soil reaches 50 degrees, so the sun is important to warm it up.
Swiss chard prefers soil that has a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, so neutral to slightly acidic soil is best.
Sowing the Seeds
Plant seeds three inches apart at a depth of 1/4″ to 1/2″.
Once seedlings emerge and develop true leaves, you can thin them out to every 12 inches. True leaves are the second set of leaves that appear and should resemble a small version of a Swiss chard leaf. Choose the healthiest seedling to keep.
Caring for Swiss Chard
Whether you start Swiss chard indoors or direct sow, there are some common care practices for this vegetable.
Swiss chard plants should be kept hydrated. Don’t allow the plants to dry out. Similarly, Swiss chard shouldn’t be overwatered.
Since it grows in mild temperatures, you may be able to go more than a day between watering. Just make sure to check your plants daily for dryness.
Even though starting Swiss chard seeds is easy, the plants do appreciate some added nutrients after being established.
Mix compost into the first few inches of your garden soil. This is a great all-natural way to improve your soil texture and health.
Or, if you prefer to use a fertilizer, go with a granular, slow-release fertilizer to work into the soil.
It’s best to use an all-purpose, well-balanced fertilizer. Check out our product recommendations in our blog post, Best Fertilizers for Seedlings.
When and How to Harvest
If the Swiss chard in your garden has been growing for longer than 55 days, you’re ready to harvest.
Although, Swiss chard can be harvested as soon as it reaches four inches in height. This is good for throwing into a spring mix salad.
Waiting for mature Swiss chard will give you full-size leaves to use in the kitchen.
To harvest Swiss chard, take one leaf and remove it flush with the soil. The stems can often be broken off by hand, or you can use a knife to cut the stem.
You’ll be surprised how quickly a new leaf will grow back in its place!
Note: cut only as much as you need right away. Swiss chard can be stored in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator for only one to two days.
Wrapping Up How to Plant Swiss Chard
By learning how to plant Swiss chard, you’ll add a colorful, nutritious green to lengthen your growing season. Whether you start seeds indoors or direct sow, you’ll be pleased with how easy it is to grow.
Now that you’ve learned how to start Swiss chard, are you ready to learn about other vegetables? Visit the Seed Starting page on our website to get all the insight on how to grow your favorite vegetables and flowers!