We grow Swiss chard more or less year-round as it gives a great harvest with little fuss and is easy to store for later use. Swiss chard, or just chard, is a tasty leafy green vegetable with shallow roots and large, often colorful leaves and stalks.
Sow chard seeds in warm soil in the spring and then again in summer and fall to harvest fresh chard throughout the year.
Swiss chard is often referred to as a nutritional powerhouse  and is full of vitamins and goodness, and is especially popular in the Mediterranean region.
A fast cut and regrow leafy vegetable
Swiss chard takes about 45-60 days from starting seeds to harvest and can be found in several colors that will light up any garden.
We find that the green-leaved varieties yield larger harvests than the more eye-catching red-leaved varieties that are more prone to bloom.
Chard is a great cut and regrow vegetable and will continue to produce new leaves as long as you leave at least 2-3 cm / 1 inch after harvest.
Grow Swiss chard in containers
Chard or Swiss chard, Beta Vulgaris, grows best in full sun or when given at least 5-6 hours of natural sunlight per day.
Swiss chard develops shallow roots, so your choice of a container should focus on the growing area rather than depth. A container with a depth of 20 cm / 8 inches is sufficient as long as the container itself is stable enough to hold the developing large chard leaves.
Swiss chard is not too picky about soil quality. Still, use fertile, loosely structured, well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter for the best result.
You do not have to start seeds indoors, as the chard plant will be ready for harvest in as little as 45-60 days. But, pre-cultivating seedlings in seed trays will extend your growing season and maximize your potential yield.
We find Swiss chard to be one of those vegetables that are great to have on standby to fill in gaps in the growing beds after harvest.
Also, as chard seeds are known to germinate unevenly, it helps significantly to have seedlings and young plants ready when planted seeds fail to germinate in containers and grow bags.
Starting seeds indoors
Start seeds in small pots or trays about 4-6 weeks before the estimated last frost and planned planting.
Use well-draining potting soil and plant seeds in clean small starter pots, seed trays, or containers.
We strive to use a lean and well draining potting soil mix when we start our seeds in pots and containers. But, we have successfully used regular garden or soil for starting chard indoors. From our experience, larger and more robust seeds like Swiss chard and for example New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) can be started in regular garden soil.
Sow 2-4 seeds in each cell or pot, or scatter the seeds in your container.
Take care not to place seeds too close together, as it will just complicate transplanting at a later stage.
As the chard seeds are pretty large, you should find it relatively easy to space the seeds in the pot.
Make sure that the soil is kept moist but not wet. If the soil dries out, the seeds will not germinate.
Keep soil moist and move the pot to a location with good light when seedlings start to grow and develop.
Transplanting seedlings in containers (or outdoors)
Move your seedlings to containers outdoors when there is no longer any risk of frost. Your seedlings should be about 10-20 cm / 4-8 inches tall at this stage.
When you grow Swiss chard, it is important not to overcrowd your containers with seedlings. Place seedlings approximately 15-20 cm / 6-8 inches apart. If your container is large enough for planting in rows, place rows about 20 cm / 8 inches apart.
Cover soil with a layer of mulch when seedlings are transplanted. The mulch will help the soil retain moisture and prevent contact between leaves and soil-based diseases and pathogens.
Water thoroughly when seedlings are transplanted, and make sure not to wet the leaves.
You can of course also grow Swiss chard directly in the ground outdoors. For best results, wait for the soil temperature to reach 10 degrees Celsius / 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Sow seeds 1-2 cm (0,4 - 0,8 inches) deep with a spacing of about 15 cm / 6 inches between seeds. Place rows about 20 cm / 8 inches apart. Cover seeds gently and then cover with a layer of mulch before watering thoroughly.
How to care for chard in containers
Water thoroughly right from the start and then continue throughout the season. Chard responds well to regular watering habits, and you should try to establish a pattern.
Chard is somewhat hardy, but if you have cold early spring or summer mornings where you live, you should cover your plants with a protective cloth.
The cloth will not only protect the chard from the cold but will also drive the growth of the plant. We use transparent plastic sheets, and there is a noticeable greenhouse effect in early spring.
When plants reach about 15 cm / 6 inches, you can thin your plants if needed. Aim for a distance of 10-20 cm / 4-8 inches between the plants. Leaves that are thinned out are great to use for fresh salads.
Chard is a great cut and regrow vegetable if you leave 2-3 cm / 1 inch after harvest and remember to add nutrients. If you plan to harvest your chard continuously, you must improve your soil. Choose to mulch with nitrogen-rich, fresh grass clippings or add nettle water or organic fertilizer.
Growing chard over winter
You can grow Swiss chard in late fall to overwinter and produce an early spring harvest where we live and grow (zone 7).
But do make sure to plant late in the fall as you do not want the seeds to sprout during hot days in November. Yes, it has happened.
You may feel this will not work for you in your zone. And maybe you are right. But there are things you can do to “hack” your grow zone.
Use raised garden beds wrapped in paper, plastic, or bubble wrap. Add a thick layer of mulch, and then cover your grow bed with a plastic cover.
You only have a few seeds to lose and an enjoyable habit of zone hacking to discover.
Pests and diseases
Chard is not immune to pests and diseases and is, among other things, susceptible to attacks by aphids, snails, beetles, and worms.
But truth to be told, we have had fewer problems with pests and diseases on chard and other leafy greens since we started mulching our containers, grow bags, and garden beds with hay or straw.
We also adhere to a version of crop rotation where we avoid growing the same plant in the same location year after year.
This is less of a factor when growing chard in containers and grow bags. Still, as we reuse and improve our soil every year, we avoid using the same – albeit improved – soil for our chard plants year after year.
Shifting the soil and location prevents the soil from becoming tired and thereby more susceptible to diseases.
How to grow Swiss chard and be self-sufficient
Chard is somewhat cold-hardy and can grow continuously throughout the season with little effort. This also makes it possible to grow Swiss chard and be self-sufficient with leafy greens all year round.
You can do this in many different ways. For example, start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost. This way, you will have an earlier harvest for fresh consumption and to freeze and save for the winter.
Schedule spring sowing with summer harvest and autumn and winter sowing with spring harvest. When you grow leafy greens in grow bags or containers, your plants are mobile to be moved for the best possible growing conditions.
Learn how to make a grow bag for shallow root leafy greens in our instructional tutorial “Make grow bags for lettuce and shallow root leafy greens”
Always have seed trays with seedlings and small plants ready to be planted when other vegetables are harvested. Maximize your growing area at any given time.
Chard is also ideal for growing between slower-growing vegetables to help maximize the yield of your growing area. When the chard leaves are harvested, the main crop can spread out.
And remember to mix it up and grow different varieties as the leaves have different characteristics and tastes.
We harvest our chard plants in 3 different ways.
1. Harvest while thinning plants
Harvest the early small seedling leaves by removing whole seedlings growing too densely. Thinning gives the plants room to spread out and develop while giving you a tasty treat for your next salad.
2. Harvest continuously
Chard will regrow and produce new leaves if the plant is allowed to remain in place after harvest. Cut the plant 2-3 cm / 1 inch from the ground or break off the outer leaves until only the smaller core remains. Water and cover the soil surrounding the harvested plants with grass clippings; you will find that the plants will start to grow again.
3. Final harvest at the end of life cycle
Cut and regrow will have a diminishing rate of return, and over time the plant will want to bloom. And this is when you should harvest your chard plant one final time.
Cut the plant level with the soil and leave the root system to break down naturally or remove it if you plan to plant new plants.
How to store and preserve chard
It is not difficult to store and preserve chard. We primarily freeze out chard leaves, but they can also be dried.
Before you freeze your chard leaves, you need to blanch them.
- Remove any woody-looking stalks from your harvested chard leaves.
- Place leaves in lightly salted water brought up to a rolling boil (simmering)
- Boil leaves for 3-5 minutes
- Place leaves in a colander, rinse under cold water
- Dry leaves to remove excess water
Now, place the leaves in a freezer bag and put them in your freezer. We pack the leaves flat and put approximately 200 grams / 7 oz in each plastic bag.
To dry your chard leaves, preheat the oven to 50 degrees Celsius / 122 degrees Fahrenheit and place the leaves in a single layer on an oven sheet – but leave the oven door ajar. Check the leaves every couple of minutes, so they don’t burn and crumble. Store dry and dark.
How to use Swiss chard
You can use chard in so many different ways, and it is genuinely only your imagination that sets the limits.
Our favorites include pasta sauces, lasagna, smoothies, and power drinks, and eating the leaves fresh in salads or chopped in salsa mixes.
Swiss chard offers fantastic flavors and textures and will reward you with large harvests with little effort.