Swiss chard is a traditional plant that has been cultivated for over 4000 years. In the 16th century it was supplanted by spinach from the domestic gardens, but now the vitamin-rich leafy vegetables are becoming increasingly important again. Not only the simple preparation plays a role, because the crop, which is closely related to the beet, is easy to keep and can even be harvested in the greenhouse all year round. The decorative stem vegetables have now become a permanent fixture in many ornamental gardens. You can easily grow Swiss chard yourself. Just as easy as sowing Beta vulgaris subsp. Vulgaris, is also cared for and harvested.
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Location and soil
The vegetable plant needs a sunny location, but also gets along well with places in light partial shade. In the shade, Swiss chard shows poor growth and the harvest is correspondingly small. In order to obtain resilient and strong plants, you should choose a humus-rich and well-drained substrate. Dry and nutrient-poor soils can be prepared with compost and clay. In addition, you should add pebbles, which counteract compaction of the soil and also transport excess water away from the plant roots more quickly.
Sowing and planting
The two-year-old vegetable is propagated exclusively through seeds. From February you can grow chard on the warm windowsill or in the greenhouse. Direct sowing outdoors is possible from around mid-April, but can continue into June. Beta vulgaris subsp. Vulgaris is not only an extremely vitamin-rich and nutritious plant, but is also cultivated by many gardeners as a decorative ornamental plant in borders and in flower pots. Mangold is also suitable for hill beds and greenhouses.
Growing Swiss chard outdoors
Prepare the planting site – ideally in autumn – and completely rid the soil of weeds. If you want to grow several rows of Swiss chard in a row, you must keep a minimum distance of 35 centimeters between the individual plants. This leaves the vegetable plants enough space to develop optimally. At the same time, you prevent the rapid spread of powdery mildew and other diseases. Pull out the rows and, if necessary, tension the prepared location with a string. This makes it easier to keep track of the seeds that have been spread.
When sowing, you can optionally sprinkle the seeds across the prepared bed and cover with a layer of humus approx. 1 to 2 centimeters thick. Or you can press two to three seeds together a few centimeters deep into the soil, whereby you can keep the required planting distance better here. Keep the substrate moist, whereby direct and firm pouring should be avoided. With the watering can nozzle you have the possibility to dose the water quantities better and more evenly. After about 14 days, the young plants germinate and can be pricked out from a size of 8 centimeters. The most vigorous plant remains at the germination site, the other chard plants can be grown in another place. From this point on, you should mulch the bed and work in compost, if you haven’t already done so.
Cultivation in the bucket
Swiss chard also cuts a fine figure in planters. In spring, prefer the vitamin-rich vegetables in growing pots. Use only the strongest plants for further cultivation, you can either move the rest in the garden or pass it on to interested neighbors. A nutrient-poor substrate has proven its worth until germination, after which the soil must be prepared with humus. Beta vulgaris subsp. Vulgaris is sensitive to waterlogging, so a thin layer of potsherds on the bottom of the vessel has proven itself as a preventive measure against root rot.
When choosing the size of the planter, you should not be sparing. Choose a high and wide flower pot so that the vegetable plant can develop optimally. The same conditions apply to the location as in the field: the sunnier, the better and stronger the growth of the Swiss chard.
Fertilizing and watering
Beta vulgaris subsp. Vulgaris are among the most heavily draining plants and require large amounts of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Organic and natural remedies, such as nettles and clippings, have proven their worth here. Mulch the soil every 3 weeks, applying the fertilizer at the same time. Nitrogen-rich liquid or long-term fertilizers are used for Swiss chard in buckets. It is fertilized strictly according to instructions in order to avoid an oversupply of nutrients.
Water regularly, keeping the soil moderately moist. It is poured again as soon as the top layer of soil has dried. On hot summer days, water should be supplied in the late evening or early morning. This ensures that the moisture seeps into the ground and does not evaporate in the hot midday heat. In dry soils, a thick layer of horn shavings reduces the risk of evaporation. Be careful when watering and make sure that the stalk Swiss chard does not get large amounts of water into the interior of the plant.
Depending on the size, the first leaves of the plant can be harvested around 3 months after sowing. The crunchy leafy vegetables can only be kept for a few days and show brown discoloration at the interfaces after just a few hours. Wrap the leaves and stems of the chard in damp kitchen paper and place in the refrigerator if not eaten immediately. The harvest takes place in the first year and can continue into autumn. With cut chard you can harvest the leaves you need, the plant always sprouts new. Stalk chard, on the other hand, only uses the outer leaves, the plant heart must remain untouched for new plant parts to form.
Under the right conditions, the harvest under glass can also take place well into February. Do not expose Swiss chard in the greenhouse to frosty temperatures and only water with lukewarm water. The biennial plant is sensitive to pressure, so be careful when harvesting and processing it later.
Swiss chard can withstand double-digit minus temperatures at times without suffering permanent damage. Nevertheless, protect the plant from snow and frost by applying a thick layer of mulch or horn shavings in the fall. Due to the decomposition, this material is also a valuable fertilizer for the coming spring. Potted plants are protected by burlap or a fleece that is wrapped around the pot. This will prevent the roots from being damaged in winter. Relocating to a dry, cool room, however, is not necessary and can inhibit the sprouting of the vegetable plant in spring.
In order to grow the popular crop in your own garden for several years, you should regularly collect seeds from the existing chard plants. Select 6 to 10 vigorous plants, which can only be harvested moderately in the first year. From the second year you can start harvesting the seeds from the beginning of September. Strip the seeds into a larger container and let them dry well. You can pack the seeds in paper bags and store them in a dry, cool place until the following year. Under the right storage conditions, the seeds can finally germinate for up to four years.
Care and cultivation tips
The vegetable plant comes from the foxtail family and is considered to be extremely versatile and rich in vitamins.
Instead of just having a dreary existence in the vegetable patch, you can combine Swiss chard with other ornamental or useful plants. If you mix other vegetables with Beta vulgaris subsp. If you want to assemble Vulgaris, you can use the following varieties:
Only the direct proximity to spinach does not benefit the Swiss chard. However, the vegetable plant with the colorful stems can also be cultivated on raised or hill beds without any problems.
Swiss chard needs a lot of moisture. With a layer of organic mulch you can also increase the moisture of the soil. Whether you water with lime-free or lime-containing water is of no importance for the Swiss chard.
Also known as the cabbage stalk, vegetables are often a nutritious snack for snails. Protect not only the young seedlings from the voracious plague, but also the larger plants. Spreading sawdust and regularly collecting the animals have proven to be good preventive measures against snails.
Fighting diseases successfully
The vegetable plant is considered to be extremely resilient and is rarely the target of diseases and pests. The only exception here are powdery mildew pathogens. Plants weakened by drought or incorrect care have little to oppose these fungi. The same principle also applies if the distance between the individual plants is too small.
This fungal pathogen penetrates the interior of the host plant, constantly secreting toxic substances. A first indication of “downy mildew” is a grayish-purple fungal lawn on the underside of the leaves, but if you look from above you can see white-yellow spots. If left untreated, the infected parts of the plant die and the fungal spores spread further through the living tissue of the chard. This type of mildew is caused by moisture. Avoid direct watering over the leaves and regularly check the entire plant population. Treatment is carried out by removing the infected leaves and shoots. Do not use chemical fungicides on crops.
This fair weather fungus is caused by prolonged drought. An easily removable, whitish to brown coating on the upper side of the leaves is an indication of this fungal pathogen. Powdery mildew can be easily removed with a mixture of milk and water. Spray this brew regularly and cut away affected parts of the plant if necessary.
If the chard is heavily infested with powdery mildew and all countermeasures have been ineffective, you should think about removing the plant completely. This is the only way to contain transmission and protect neighboring plants from the pathogen. You can easily dispose of infected plants on the compost, as the fungus needs living material to multiply and spread.
Swiss chard is a plant rich in tradition and rich in vitamins, which under ideal conditions can be harvested well into autumn. The spinach-like vegetables are easy to cultivate and also offer an interesting and useful eye-catcher on the balcony or terrace.