Swiss chard is a vegetable that isn’t hard to grow and to many people, the leaves are superior to spinach in flavor.
Chard is also higher in minerals and vitamins than spinach. This is also true of beet root, because beets and chard are the same species of plant; Beta vulgaris.
Chard is quite high in vitamins K, A, E and C and is a very good source of magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, iron and calcium. It is high in fiber, as well. It is great for dieters, too. A cup of boiled chard contains only 35 calories.
Here is how you can have a robust chard crop, starting with seeds.
Chard is considered to be a cool weather crop, but don’t let this fool you. This vegetable is frost hardy, however it tolerates hot weather, as long as it gets plenty of water and the soil drains well. Chard will even grow in partial shade, although it loves sunshine. In fact, in summertime heat, it does well if it is shaded from the afternoon sun.
For instance, it can be planted on the east side of taller vegetables, such as corn or zucchini. By the time the corn or zucchini is tall enough, the heat of the summer becomes an issue and those plants give the chard a sun screen against the afternoon sun.
When to plant chard
Since chard is frost tolerant, the seeds can be planted two or three weeks before the last frost. There is a qualifier, though. The chard seeds will only germinate when the soil temperature is above 50 degrees F.
This means that while light frost usually isn’t much of an issue, the daytime high temperatures should be warm enough to heat the soil.
Chard likes reasonably rich soil that drains well. Most garden plots that are already established probably have soil that is rich enough for chard. Still, it doesn’t hurt to till in some finished compost or rotted manure. Finished compost can also be used later to side dress the plants. This not only continues to nourish them, it also helps with the retention of moisture in the soil.
Activating the chard seeds
For those who don’t recognize what is meant by activating the seed, this is simply the process of giving the seeds a bit of a head start. Viable chard seeds will grow even if they are put in the ground as-is. To give them a head start, however, put the seeds in a bowl and cover with water.
Let the seeds soak overnight, but not more than a full day. This allows the seed to absorb the water, so it wakes up and is more ready for germination. The same process can be used with beans or peas.
Dig a shallow furrow and place the activated chard seeds in the furrow about an inch and a half apart. Cover the seeds with one half inch to three quarters inch of soil. Press the soil down gently but firmly and water the row using a mist. The soil should be dampened to a depth of about an inch and it should be kept that way until the seedlings appear. This usually takes about a week.
Care and watering
Once the chard plants are three inches tall, they should be thinned out so the plants are about six inches apart. When possible, thin out the weakest seedlings and leave the hardiest.
The plants should be given one and a half inches of water per week, doubling this during the heat of the summer. Although this plant tolerates heat well, with some cultivars having been specifically bred for this trait, these plants do require plenty of water.
Harvesting and using chard
The harvest of chard is simple. Using a sharp knife, cut off the outer leaves near the base, taking care not to cause too much damage to the plant. If the plant goes into shock, the new leaves may not grow very rapidly. By only harvesting a few leaves off of each plant at a time, the chard can grow new leaves, which gives you a sustainable crop. Chard can be rinsed and put in plastic bags. In the refrigerator, the leaves should last about a week or so.
Chard is good both raw and cooked. When it is raw, it can be added to salads or put on sandwiches in place of lettuce. The flavor is unique and quite good when used this way. If they are cooked, they can be used in most of the ways spinach can be.
One of the healthiest ways to prepare the chard is to rinse the leaves, retaining the water that clings to them, then heat this gently with a pat of butter. Cook them, covered, a couple of minutes beyond the point when the water from the leaves begins to steam.
Chard isn’t hard to grow and it doesn’t take a lot of knowledge to have a robust crop. The flavor is quite good and this plant can be an excellent addition to a balanced and healthy diet. It is particularly good for dieters, people with high blood pressure and diabetics. There is a good reason that chard is one of the most popular garden vegetables, particularly around the Mediterranean. This would be a great plant to grow in your garden.
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Posted in food and plants and tagged beta vulgaris, chard, gardening, harvest, robust crop, seeds, swiss chard by rextrulove with 8 comments.