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Swiss Chard – It’s Like Spinach, But It’s Not

Swiss Chard (Chard) is a dark leafy green that can be used raw or cooked. It also freezes well for winter consumption. Chard can be planted any time during the growing season and re-blooms after harvesting. Not only is it nutritious but it looks beautiful in the garden, as well. Read this article to learn why and how to grow Swiss Chard in your garden.

By Mickey Scullard, Dakota County Master Gardener

Swiss Chard – It’s Like Spinach, But It’s Not

Swiss Chard (Chard) is in the beet family, (Beta vulgaris) and is very easy to grow. Like spinach, you can direct seed Chard, however, you will want to wait until all danger of frost is past. Unlike spinach, Chard is not sensitive to day length and does not bolt when the days get longer and it gets hot in early summer. Very rarely, if planted too early while temperatures are cold or cool, Chard may bolt.

You only need to plant Chard once in the spring and it will keep re-growing after each harvest through Fall. While spinach will regrow if baby leaves are harvested early, it will eventually bolt in early summer. You do not have to plant or replant Chard for a fall crop (which you may want to consider in late August for spinach) and if you miss getting it planted in spring, you can plant it at any time during the growing season. So, if you haven’t planted it yet, go ahead and get some Chard seeds sown. 

Swiss Chard seedlings

You will want to manage the weeds around Chard to prevent it from having to compete for water and nutrients. Keep it regularly watered. If drought conditions exist, leaf growth will slow. As soon as it has sufficient water again, it will resume growing. 

To harvest Chard, you can pick the leaves at varying sizes based on your preference. Some people will cut the leaves just above the base of the plant (the crown). The leaves do pick up dirt in the stalks and leaves, so you will want to wash it well to avoid a gritty bite. Simply wash well in cool water. You will be able to harvest Chard into the Fall months, sometimes even after the first snowfall. Chard freezes well, requiring simple blanching in boiling water, followed by a cool water bath, and bagging it in a freezer bag. 

Nutritionally, Swiss Chard provides many important nutrients such as Vitamin K and Vitamin A. It also provides Vitamin C and magnesium and contains antioxidants including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. It is low in carbohydrates and is low calorie (depending upon how it is cooked). Some studies suggest it can help with blood sugar control, support heart health, reduce blood pressure, and other health benefits. Some articles label it a ‘superfood’. 

On top of all that goodness, Chard can be a lovely addition to a landscape as the stalks and leaf veins range in color from bright white (Fordhook most common variety), to yellow, gold, green, orange, pink, red, or striped. Some varieties are: “Bright Lights”, “Rainbow”, “Rhubarb”, “Neon Lights”. 

Paired with annual or perennial flowers, the green, bronze, or purple leaves with their showy veins and stalks add texture and color to containers and flower gardens. 

Consider adding Swiss Chard to your garden for both its beauty and nutritional values! 


Growing spinach and swiss chard in home gardens 

Swiss Chard 


Health benefits of swiss chard: 

Allergy Associates of LaCrosse: 

Photo Credits: University of Delaware (1), University of Minnesota Extension, Gardening: Swiss Chard (2), University of Wisconsin Extension (3,4,5,6)

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