Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How to Grow Swiss Chard in the North

Image: giffconstable/"Bright Lights"

Swiss chard is a great green to grow in the north because it’s a cool season vegetable and takes 60 days or less to grow to maturity. Both its leaves and stalks are edible and are commonly used instead of spinach in many dishes. To be frank, Swiss chard looks great in the garden whether it’s eaten or not.

Vegetable Type: Annual in the north
Name: Beta vulgaris var. cicla
Family: Chenopodiaceae (goosefoot)

Growing Requirements for Swiss Chard in the North

Spacing: Direct sow seeds ½” deep, 2-6” apart in rows 18-24” apart
Thinning: Thin to 6-12” apart when seedlings reach 2-3” in height
Soil Type: Loamy, fertile, well-draining
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Watering: Keep evenly watered
Fertilization: Till lots of compost or composted manure into the soil before planting.  Swiss chard prefers fertile soil rich in organic matter
Weeding: Keep Swiss chard well weeded taking care not to disturb its roots
Mulching: Mulch to prevent weeds and retain moisture

Common Diseases and Pests for Swiss Chard

Leaf Spot: To identify leaf spot, look for tannish-brown spots (color may vary) that will spread over time, often killing off foliage if the infestation is severe. Be proactive by planting leaf spot resistant varieties and rotating the crop. If a severe infestation occurs, fungicidal spray may help.

Downy Mildew: Look for yellow patches on leaves. Mildew is typically caused by too much moisture. Avoid spraying cabbage heads when watering. Plant downy mildew resistant varieties.

Aphids: Look for tiny, pear-shaped yellow, green or brown insects with long antennae and legs. Treat by spraying with a mixture of 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and ½ teaspoon of liquid soap mixed into a quart of water (shake well before using).

Leaf Miners: Leaf miners leave behind squiggly lines yellow in color. They mostly damage greens. To get rid of these pests organically, treat the greens with neem oil or introduce Diglyphus isaea wasps into the garden. These wasps will happily feed on leaf miners.

How to Harvest Swiss Chard

  • Harvest Swiss chard before it gets tough. Remember, the older it gets, the tougher the texture
  • Cleanly snip up to 5 leaves from plants at a time leaving the stalk and crown in place to encourage new growth
  • Harvest stalks before Swiss chard becomes thick and woody
  • Eat fresh or blanch and freeze leaves and stalks like spinach
Helpful Organic Gardening Articles

How to Blanch and Freeze Vegetables
How to Make Your Own Seed Tapes

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