Growing chard: when & where to plant chard

Lea
Lea
Lea
Lea

Having studied organic farming, I enjoy trying out new cultivation methods and other gardening experiments with friends in our community garden. I care deeply about exploring sustainable and mindful approaches to working with nature. This is my biggest passion, but I am also a real ornamental plant enthusiast!

Favourite fruit: strawberry, mango, guava
Favourite vegetables: artichoke, tomato, rocket

Swiss chard is real super food that is easy to plant in your veg patch. Here is everything you need to consider when growing chard at home.

Swiss chard seedlings
With a little TLC you can grow Swiss chard at home in the garden or in a pot [Photo: mikeledray / Shutterstock.com]

Chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris), also known as leaf beet and Swiss chard, is experiencing a surge in popularity. And no wonder! It has a delicious flavour, plenty of health benefits and vibrant colours.

When growing Swiss chard at home, not much can go wrong – provided, of course, you know what to look out for. Read on to find out how to grow this colourful leafy vegetable at home, including: when to plant chard, where to plant chard, and how to plant chard. We also have some tips on caring for the super food!

Whether you choose to grow Swiss chard (Flavescens group), where both the stems and leaves are edible, or leafy spinach beet (also known as perpetual spinach, perpetual chard or Cicla group), which provides vitamin-rich, spinachy leaves, you will need to sow your plant with care. Fortunately, chard is not too demanding and almost always succeeds, whether you plant it in a garden bed or pot.

Colourful Swiss chard growing in garden bed
Chard is a delicious and healthy vegetable that can thrive in gardens [Photo: Supakvadee T/ Shutterstock.com]

When to grow chard

The seeds of both Swiss chard and leafy spinach beet can be sown directly into a garden bed. Sow Swiss chard seeds outside at the beginning of April, and leafy spinach beet seeds from May.

It is worth noting that chard tends to shoot if it is sown directly into a garden bed in spring. Shooting means that the plant begins to go to seed, and forms flower heads. To avoid your chard going to seed, sow winter-hardy varieties in late autumn and harvest them in autumn and winter. In general, chard can be sown outdoors until the beginning of September.

Tip: If you want to sow your chard at the beginning of April, protect it from the cold with a fleece.

Small Swiss chard seedlings with red stems and green leaves
You can start growing chard as early as mid-February [Photo: Caron Badkin/ Shutterstock.com]

Alternatively, you can give your plants a head start by pre-planting chard seeds indoors. Do this from mid-February until the end of July. If you have started your chard in the greenhouse or bought young Swiss chard seedlings, they can be transplanted into a veg patch or pot from mid-April.

When is the best time to grow chard?

  • Start seeds indoors from mid-February to the end of July.
  • Sow seeds outdoors directly from the beginning of April to the beginning of September (Swiss chard) and from May to the end of July (leafy spinach beet).
  • Transplant (four weeks after pre-sowing) from mid-April to the end of July.

Tip: Not all varieties are winter-hardy. In any case, chard does not flower in its first year.

Where to plant Swiss chard

Finding the right location for your chard is easy: it isn’t picky! However, do look for a sunny or at least partially sunny location, as the vegetable does not do well in the shade. The soil should be loose and store moisture well. Your chard will also appreciate a soil that is well structured, with a high humus content and plenty of nutrients.

Tip: Swiss chard is not just delicious, it is also a stunning ornamental plant. Its colourful stems and patterned leaves are a feast for the eyes, and look great in flower beds, flower boxes and on balconies.

Colourful, patterned swiss chard plants growing in flower bed
Chard also makes a great ornamental plant [Photo: Arjuna Kodisinghe/ Shutterstock.com]

Where is the best place to grow chard?

  • Sunny to semi-shady location.
  • Even moisture.
  • Loose, well-structured soil.
  • Humus and nutrient rich soil.

Tip: Good companion plants for chard include all legumes, such as French beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus), radishes (Raphanus sativus var. sativus), horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) and cabbages like pointed white cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata). Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), on the other hand, does not get on well with Swiss chard.

How to grow chard

To grow chard, you have to decide whether to grow young chard plants from seed yourself, buy seedlings or sow the vegetable directly in your garden bed. There are a number of advantages to pre-sowing chard indoors. It reduces the risk of bolting, the chard ripens faster, and larger plants are less likely to be attacked by slugs.

Pre-sowing Swiss chard

To sow Swiss chard indoors, use a specially adapted potting compost and enrich it with fertiliser. Our slow-acting Plantura All Purpose Plant Food is ideal. Sow the seeds in pots with potting soil to a depth of about two to three centimetres, water well and place in the sun. The seeds germinate best at 18 to 20°C, and emerge within two weeks. As soon as the seedlings are about 8 centimetres long, prick them out.

Germinated swss chard seeds sown indoors
After emerging, prick out the chard seedlings [Photo: Corey O’Hara/ Shutterstock.com]

How to grow Swiss chard:

  • Prepare containers with potting soil.
  • Enrich compost with a fertiliser.
  • Sowing depth: 1-2 cm.
  • Water well.
  • Place in a sunny spot.
  • Germination temperature: 18-20°C.
  • Germination period: 14 days.

Plant or sow Swiss chard directly

Before transplanting and sowing Swiss chard directly into your garden, prepare your bed. Loosen the soil well and remove any weeds or stones. To give your chard enough nutrients and improve the structure of the soil, work compost or a slow-release fertiliser into the soil. A fertiliser like Plantura All Purpose Plant Food is perfect for this. It provides all the essential nutrients for healthy chard growth.

Sow your Swiss chard with a row spacing of 30 to 40 centimetres. Sow the seeds at a depth of two to three centimetres and then water them well. After the seedlings emerge, thin the plants to the desired planting distance so that they have enough space to spread and grow. This also allows air to circulate between the plants and makes it less likely for fungal diseases to take hold. For transplanting seedlings too, keep a row spacing of 30 to 40 centimetres. Plant seedlings only as deep as they were in the pot and water them all well.

Green leafy chard planted in rows
The ideal spacing for Swiss chard is 40 x 30 cm [Photo: Hong Vo/ Shutterstock.com]

Planting chard: step-by-step instructions

  1. Loosen the soil and remove any weeds or stones
  2. Enrich with compost or an organic slow-release fertiliser
  3. Make rows 30-40 cm apart
  4. Sow seeds at a depth of 2-3 cm
  5. Cover seeds with soil
  6. Water well
  7. Thin out the seedlings after they emerge
  8. Make planting holes for the seedlings
  9. Transplant the seedlings – keep 30 cm between each plant
  10. Plant the seedlings only as deep as they were in the pot
  11. Water well

Swiss chard plant care

In order to thrive, your Swiss chard needs good care. As an ever-hungry, vigorous grower, chard needs regular feeding. Compost or a natural slow-release fertiliser such as our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food is perfect for this. It releases its nutrients gently and slowly, providing your plants with all the nutrients they need over a longer period of time. Fertilise your chard every six to eight weeks.

Plantura All Purpose Plant Food
Plantura All Purpose Plant Food

With a long-lasting effect, for healthy soil, child & pet friendly

It is very important to water chard well, as it is a thirsty plant. Keep the soil evenly moist by watering regularly. However, try not to overdo it, because chard does not like waterlogging.

Summary: care for chard after planting

  • Fertilise with compost or a slow-release fertiliser
  • Re-fertilise every 6-8 weeks
  • Water regularly

If you have done everything right during cultivation, you will be rewarded with a delicious and abundant Swiss chard harvest. Read our article on harvesting chard for our top tips!

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