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Chard - Beta vulgaris cicla

Chard (also known as Swiss chard) is a member of the beet family that can be successfully grown as a vegetable green. It is planted early because the seedlings are tolerant to moderate frost.

Chard will produce fresh greens throughout the summer. The large, fleshy leafstalks may be white or red with broad, crisp, green leaf blades. The leaf blades are prepared like spinach, and the midribs (or stalks) may be cooked in the same manner as asparagus. Chard is an attractive ornamental that adds to the beauty of a garden. Many gardeners like to grow chard because it is usually not available in food markets, and it yields well with few production problems.


Varieties

- Fordhook Giant, White Mid-Rib - 60 days to maturity, large leaf ribs or stalks.

- Lucullus, White Mid-Rib - 60 days to maturity, heat tolerant.


When to Plant

Chard does well on any soil where lettuce and spinach will grow. Plants may be started inside and transplanted in the garden after the danger of frost is past, but most gardeners plant seed directly into the garden in April and early May.


Spacing of Plants and Depth of Planting

For seeding outdoors, plant seed 1/2 to 3/4 inch deep (8 to 10 seed per foot of row) in rows far enough apart to cultivate. Thin the seedlings to 4 to 6 inches apart. An alternative method is to thin the seedlings to 2 to 3 inches apart, then harvest the excess plants when they are sufficiently large for greens (6 to 8 inches high), leaving a final spacing of 9 to 12 inches between plants. Transplants should be set in the garden 9 to 12 inches apart.


Harvesting

The most common method of harvesting chard is to cut off the outer leaves 1 1/2 inches above the ground while they are young and tender (about 8 to 12 inches long). Be careful not to damage the terminal bud.


Swiss Chard

Since Swiss chard is a close relative of beets, plant it the same time you do beets. Seeds should be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the average last killing spring frost. Swiss chard is unusual in that quite often a single planting can be harvested for nearly a year.

Swiss chard is grown for its tender leaves. The plants grow 1 to 2 ft. tall and the crinkled leaves have prominent central ribs. These ribs can be cut from the rest of the leaves and cooked and served like asparagus. The remainder of the leaf is eaten as greens. For harvesting, cut the leaves at the base of the plant with a sharp knife. The undisturbed inner leaves should continue to grow and be ready for picking in a few days. Discard any old leaves, if they remain on the plant, they will decrease production.


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This page was last updated on November 16, 2002