Beta vulgaris Cicla
Swiss Chard is an excellent all-rounder, tough, reliable and productive throughout the year, making it an excellent choice for a kitchen garden, and its a must grow in my garden. The leaves can be used like spinach and ribs are a delicious vegetable in their own right. Swiss Chard is called poirée, bette or blette in France and is a very popular vegetable more so than in the UK. I urge anyone, who has not tried this vegetable yet, to give it a go. It is in season now and will be on and off until mid to late spring.
History The cultivation of chard dates back to classic antiquity. The Greeks and Romans used it widely but it did not become popular in Europe until the middle ages.
Site & Soil Swiss Chard is tough, tolerant of poor soils, shade, heat and temperatures down to –14c
Germinates 7-10days. Crops Spring 60days Summer 45days
1. Sow in situ in drills 1-3cm deep, in rows 30cm apart. Thin, when the seedlings have 4-5 leaves, to 22cm apart
2. Sow undercover in cells and transplant after 4-6weeks
3. Sow 3-4 seeds in stations 20-25cm apart in rows 45cm apart
4. Broadcast sow in 10cm wide drills and treat as a CCA.
Tip Soak seeds for 24hrs before sowing to break down the hard seed shell.
Chard will produce all year from a single sowing, it can be succession sown through the year or my preference is to make 2 sowings per year one in late winter/early spring and one in late summer/early autumn.
(May) June – Nov
Dec – April
Care Best grown in temperatures between 10-25c in well-manured soil. Water well in dry weather, mulch with compost or other organic material to conserve moisture in summer.
Harvest by cutting outer leaves just above ground level from several plants rather than completely stripping one. Continual cutting of outer leaves through the season ensures the production of new young tender leaves. Chard can be harvested at the baby leaf stage for use in salad or as a cooked vegetable either use the thinnings or treat as a cut and come again by cutting the small plants down to just above the soil surface.
Swiss chard is said to grow well with carrots, cabbage, beans, radish and turnip/swede. I find it grows particularly well next to aubergines.
Swiss Chard is rich in Iron and Vitamin A as well as a useful amounts of Vitamin B & C.
Verte a Carde Blanche Classic French variety with thick white succulent midribs and tasty dark green leaves. Really delicious and my favourite.
Bright Lights A swiss chard with a mix bright colourful stems and a mild, sweet flavour. It will overwinter to provide leaves during milder weather in winter and into spring.
Lucullus A swiss chard with thinner 2-3cm wide pale green to white ribs and light green crinkle edged leaves.
Zilver thick ribbed white ribs and green leaves i found it disappointing (i grew an organic variety from unwins).
Perpetual Spinach A long-standing easy to grow spinach like green, it is actually a slim stalked, smooth leaf swiss chard or leaf beet. It is quite hardy and prolific supplying a “perpetual” harvest of leaves throughout the year. It is much slower to bolt during the hot weather and long days of summer than true spinach. Maturity from fifty days onward.
MDD Growing Log
2004 Bright Lights. Excellent set out early May, produced all year and into following spring.
2005 Bright Lights Sown September direct harvest from April onwards. Lucullus Set out in spring from a late sowing indoors, crop affected by bugs but late summer crop recovered and harvestable autumn. NB ribs are thin on thin on Lucullus and not such a good taste.
2006 Bright Lights Sown September in cells, set out March produced all year. Verte a Carde Blanche March sowing in cells set out May produced all year.
2007 Zilver sown Feb in cells harvest through season and Verte a Carde Blanches own seed sown May produced late season and into following spring.
2008 Perpetual Spinach sown spring produced all year though some frost damage in winter. Crop from previous year in spring. Did not like it as much as thick ribbed chard. My favourite variety of Swiss Chard so far is Verte a Carde Blanche pictured above in April 2008 having grown all through winter producing and early crop in spring when little else is available to eat.
2009 Verte a Carde Blanche cropped right through till following April from a single spring sowing
2010 Verte a Carde Blanche cropped right through till following April from a single spring sowing
2011 Verte a Carde Blanche I won’t be growing any other variety from now on.