As I stare out at the falling snow, I’m already planning on how and when I will be planting Swiss chard in window planter boxes.
Swiss chard is a wonderful and easy to grow leaf vegetable. Many people describe it as being like a mild spinach. Indeed, it can be used in nearly every way that spinach can be. It grows well in the garden and it is one of the vegetables that tends to grow very well in a window box.
Chard grows best in soil that drains well and with plenty of organic material mixed in. This, and the shallow root structure, make it ideal for window boxes since the soil can be easily blended and controlled without back-breaking labor. Simply mix finished compost into regular screened garden soil or all-purpose potting mix. If no compost is available, grass clippings and used coffee grounds make an acceptable substitute, if they are mixed in well.
Done in this way, no fertilizing is necessary usually. The soil should reach within a half-inch or so from the top of the window box so the growing medium will be far enough from the top that it can be adequately watered.
Swiss chard is a cool weather crop that should be planted from seed if at all possible, since it doesn’t like being transplanted. The seeds germinate, normally within two weeks, if the soil temperature is 55 to 65 degrees, F. The plant will withstand temperatures down to freezing, but growth tends to slow down when the temperatures get much over 75. This makes window boxes ideal as they can be moved to cooler locations during the heat of the day.
Like many leaf vegetables, chard loves to have plenty of sun. Window boxes are great for moving to sunny locations around the home, inside or out, while making sure that the plants don’t get quite so hot that they start wilting. During the heat of the day later in the year, simply move the box to a partially shaded area.
Watering can be slightly more problematic for chard when using a window box rather than a garden bed. Ideally, they need one to two inches of water per week.
However, this means that because of the depth of the soil in the box and how easily it drains, it is best to keep from putting all the water on the plants just once a week. Rather, give them a good soaking two or three times a week, letting the soil dry out a little bit between the water times. The soil should neither be kept sopping wet, nor allowed to dry out completely.
Cold but stale coffee can be poured in the box once every couple of weeks for a small nitrogen boost. Just take the extra moisture into account to prevent the chard from being over-watered. The plants also benefit from a gentle misting, especially on hot days, but don’t do this if the plants are going to be in the sunshine immediately afterward. Dampening the leaves can cause the leaves to sunburn in sunshine, as with spinach.
One of the benefits of using a window box or two to grow chard is that the harvesting is simple. Merely clip off a few of the outer, lower leaves and let the rest continue to grow. This can prolong the harvest by encouraging continual growth.
Depending on how high the box is sitting, bending and stooping over to reap the chard can also be minimized. Leaves and stems that look old or in a bad state should also be removed. These can usually be added to the compost pile.
Swiss chard is great for growing in a window box and there are many advantages to growing the crop this way. It often results in less work than growing these vegetables in a garden. This is also a space-saving method to grow Swiss chard. Best of all, a gardener can have several of these boxes if they are especially fond of the flavor of chard.
Last year, we had some chard in the ground and some in window boxes. Those that were grown in the window boxes out-produced those that were in the ground and were ready to start harvesting sooner. I like the idea of using window boxes for growing this vegetable and the snow isn’t going to stop me from planning.
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Posted in food and plants and tagged gardening, growing chard, planter, swiss chard, window box by rextrulove with 2 comments.