Chard has become a favorite leafy green for many Sonoma County gardeners for its adaptability to both cool and warm weather, making it an easy year-round crop.
- Care is the same as for beets, a close relative with a different root structure.
- Summer heat and winter frosts are easily tolerated.
- Nutritious stems and leaves are edible cooked or raw, similar to beet tops.
- Chard comes in several colors: red, green, yellow, and orange.
- Colorful crops make an attractive addition to ornamental gardens.
- Chard is often called Swiss chard although it is native to the Mediterranean region.
- Amend soil with compost or other well-decomposed organic matter to add fertility, hold moisture, and provide fast drainage—techniques that facilitate steady, rapid growth for the best-tasting greens.
- Mix in a balanced fertilizer such as 5-10-10, following directions on the label if you opt for a purchased product.
- Plant chard in rows 12-15 in. wide to allow for plants to spread.
- Scatter seeds 1-2 in. apart. Thin seedings to 6-10 in. Use thinnings for tender greens.
- Make 2 plantings, one in early spring, another in late summer if you prefer. Fall-sown seeds may result in shorter plants that survive over winter.
- Work additional organic matter into the top 4-6 in. of soil throughout the year to promote moisture retention. Side dress with a balanced fertilizer if production slows and you want to harvest more leaves.
- Harvest after 50-60 days or when plants reach at least 6 in. high.
- Cut the entire plant to the ground or break off leaves at the base close to the stem. Leaving a stub may cause the stem to rot.
- Expect fresh growth to resume after leaves are picked.
- Harvest regularly; old leaves become stringy and tough.
- Harvest only a few feet of a row at a time to allow for regrowth and ensure a long harvest.
- Watch for a seed stalk to grow the 2nd year. Chard is a biennial, treated as an annual for 12 months or more of leafy greens.
- Sonoma County Master Gardener Vegetable Planting Summary.