Swiss Chard does well in practically every season, even in summer heat. Did you know: Swiss Chard is actually a type of beet that doesn't produce a bulbous root - instead, it is grown for its leaves.
Soak the seeds in tepid (warm) water for 15 minutes - overnight to help speed up germination, you can also scratch the seeds (scarification) to break the outer seed coat. Like beets, Swiss Chard are double seeds, so each seed may actually have up to two sprouts - if two sprouts occur, you’ll need to remove or transplant the second sprout to prevent overcrowding.
Swiss Chard can be grown as an ornamental. It produces great foliage and can stand temperatures of over 100oF to light freezes. A well established Swiss Chard can even survive a harder freeze (not a ground freeze) if the roots are well protected.
Start your seeds as soon as possible for fall growth, or if waiting til spring, be sure that the soil is at least 50°F. Consider growing Swiss Chard in a pot that can be brought indoors for a year-round supply.
Swiss Chard needs loose, well-draining soil with full sun to partial shade. Swiss Chard can do quite well in shade, and if you have higher temperatures, Swiss Chard can benefit (and taste better) throughout summer heat when kept in an area with afternoon shade. Vermiculite helps to break up your soil, whether added to the garden or to potting soil. Swiss Chard needs to be well spaced, minimum 6-12” apart. As they grow larger, some Swiss Chard can get up to 24” across. Plant near tomatoes, cabbage and brassicas, alliums, beans, radish, lettuce, mint, and celery, AVOID planting near most herbs, potatoes, corn, cucumbers, and melons.
Water your Swiss Chard well when planting. As it grows, you’ll need to water 1-2”/week, and possibly more if your leaves look wilted. As it gets colder, use less water.
If expecting early frosts, use a hoop house or row covers to protect your plants and extend your season. Swiss Chard can be harvested when it is 9-12" tall, but can grow up to 3’. Utilize the leaves like lettuce, or cook it down to give vibrant color to your meals! When harvesting, remove no more than half the stems and leaves. If the plant bolts (goes to seed), the leaves can taste bitter.
Swiss Chard is mostly affected by pests in spring, and as the fall temperatures come, less pests will attack the vegetation. Always check your leaves when harvesting for damage and for lingering pests. Caterpillars and grasshoppers tend to be the most common pests. Utilize pest control that can specifically target leaf eaters. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a naturally occurring bacteria (ie, organic) that causes stomach issues to insects that ingest it, though it usually only affects the larval stages of problematic insects, and won’t harm the adults.