Swiss chard is an amazing, cold hardy vegetable that is very easy to grow. If you are looking to save money at the grocery store and have something that has a long growing season, here is how to grow Swiss chard. You still have time to add this green vegetable to your fall garden planting. It can be a great part of a perennial garden, as it is a biannual and will pop back up first thing in the spring for a second harvest season. Because of this, having fresh greens from the garden can make a big difference in your household meals till late in the fall, and provide you with an early crop first thing in the spring.
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Why Swiss chard is so wonderful to grow!
Swiss chard is nutritious, and is also a good cut-and-come-again crop, meaning you plant it once and can get multiple harvests out of it. It is one of the last vegetables to die off in the late fall and one of the first to pop back up in the spring.
Everyone should be growing this in their gardens and hedges. You can pick colorful rainbow chards, different shades of green, summer hybrids, and good old heirloom Russian-type hybrids that will survive just about anything. If you are looking for something that provides fall, and even winter harvests, depending on your zone and climate, this is a plant you want to get started soon for the fall season.
Incidentally, if you are wanting to plant a perennial garden, you would enjoy the book Growing Perennial Foods by Acadia Tucker. It is listed in my bookstore link below and will help you get a low-maintenance vegetable garden going.
I live in a zone 6b area, and Swiss chard will last here usually to about -6 or -7 before finally dying off for the winter. So often the first few, hesitant snowfalls of sleet and cold weather, these hardy biennials survive just fine.
How to Grow Swiss Chard
Now keep in mind that as the weather grows colder, the growth of cold hardy vegetables does slow right down. You want to have them grown at least 3/4’s or hopefully full grown while it is a little warmer out so you can harvest as needed. The colder it is though, the less regrowth there will be till spring.
Of course, you can grow them quite easily in pots as well. Make sure to use a deeper pot for proper root development and moisture retention. A bright, airy window is a good spot for these greens. While it likes the sun, it doesn’t need heat the way tomatoes and peppers do.
They do best in well-draining soil amended with compost, and prefer a little more alkaline soil, although I haven’t found it deters them much being in my regular garden soil here on the coast. A little bonemeal helps with leaf and root growth. Make sure that they get somewhat regular moisture as it gets hotter. I find that mulching it with newspaper and grass clippings keeps the soil cool and damp, which it absolutely loves.
If it starts to bolt, which means it sends up seed stalks and usually happens in hotter weather, you can cut the seed stalks off and make sure it gets a good watering to keep it producing a little longer.
This is also a good vegetable to have in a winter greenhouse, or cold frame to add to your winter greens.
Recipes for Swiss Chard
If you are wondering how to cook and use Swiss chard, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
The younger leaves are sweet and tender for use fresh, as in salads. As they get bigger, they get a little stronger in flavor and can be a little tougher, especially if the weather has been hot. Chopping large leaves and stem make them great for stir-fries, soups, and stews.
However, my favorite ways to cook them are as follows.
- Crisp up some bacon in a pan, remove to drain, and add in your chopped Swiss chard leaves to wilt down. Add a little sea salt and pepper to taste and crumble the bacon back in.
- Or you can saute a little garlic in some olive oil, add in your chopped Swiss chard leaves, and wilt down, adding sea salt and pepper to taste. You could add in some slivered almonds to add some protein for a light meal.
Either of these ways is a soul-satisfying side dish, or meal if you like.
Leave me a comment below and let me know what you are planting in your fall garden! What is your favorite way to use Swiss chard if you already grow it.