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Chard

Beta vulgaris var. cicla

Touted as an edible ornamental, chard (also called Swiss chard) is as pretty as it is productive. Its large spinachlike leaves are packed with vitamins, and its colorful edible leaf stalks add vertical interest to the garden. Chard delivers the best flavor in cool weather, but unlike spinach, it resists bolting in heat and will continue to decorate the garden and the plate through summer. Trim leaves and stems as needed and enjoy them fresh or sautéed.

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Light:

Part Sun, Sun

Type:

Height:

From 6 inches to 3 feet

Width:

1 to 3 feet

Propagation

Where to Plant Chard

Pair chard with long-blooming annuals, such as geraniums, begonias, and calibrachoa, to create a container garden that delights the eye. Place the container on a patio or porch near the kitchen to ease harvest. Showy varieties, such as 'Bright Lights', 'Rhubarb', and 'Ruby Red', are grown for their bold red, yellow, and orange leaf stems.

Growing Chard

Chard grows best in full sun or part shade and moist, well-drained soil. It languishes in clay and slow-draining soil. Plant chard in a raised bed filled with quality top soil if your soil drains slowly. A quality potting mix works well for chard in containers.

Start chard from seed planted directly in the garden two to three weeks before the last frost is expected in spring. Sow seeds ½ to 1 inch deep and 2 to 6 inches apart in rows 18 to 24 inches apart. When plants are about 4 inches tall, thin to 6 to 12 inches between plants. For a continuous crop of young, tender leaves, sow seeds every month during the growing season. Chard can also be planted from transplants purchased at your local garden center. Delay putting transplants in the garden until after the last expected frost date. Frost causes some varieties are adversely affected by frost and will prematurely bolt or send up seed stalks.

Begin harvesting chard leaves and stems as soon as they suit your purposes. The seedlings removed during thinning make excellent salad greens. Harvest leaves and stems by cutting them off an inch or two above the soil. Harvest one or two leaves from each plant to promote a cut-and-come-again harvest through the growing season. Leaves become tough as they age, so cut plants back to between 3 and 5 inches tall to encourage tender new growth.

More Varieties of Chard

'Bright Lights' Swiss chard

This cultivar produces plants with a rainbow of colors, including gold, pink, orange, purple, red and white. It's slightly less frost tolerant than other chard varieties.

'Bright Yellow' Swiss chard

No question where this variety's name comes from. 'Bright Yellow' chard forms broad golden stalks that carry their color into the leaf veins. It makes a sunny addition to the flower border.

'Fordhook Giant' Swiss chard

This chard variety bears large ruffled green leaves and creamy white stems. It's an excellent spinach substitute during hot weather. It is easy to grow and a heavy yielder.

'Rhubarb' Swiss chard

This type of chard got its name from the deep red stalks and red-veined leaves.

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