Growing Chard from Sowing to Harvest

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

White-stemmed chard

There’s a lot to like about chard. It’s stunning to look at, incredibly hardy, and remarkably versatile in the kitchen, offering essentially two crops for the effort of one. Curious? Then read on to find out how to sow, grow and enjoy a fine crop of generous chard!

Swiss chard is exceptionally easy to grow, making it a great choice for beginner gardeners looking for a no-fuss crop to get them started. Chard has broad, thick stems available in a range of colors: brilliant white, zingy yellow, and even lipstick pink!

Best Chard Growing Conditions

Chard loves a sunny, open position. Grow it in soil that’s both moist and fertile. Plants can occupy the same position for many months, so make sure you can afford to dedicate a suitable space for a longer period; don’t worry, it’s definitely worth doing so!

A week before sowing, scatter a general-purpose organic fertilizer then rake the soil to a fine tilth.

How to Sow Chard

Sow your seeds anytime from spring to late summer, when a quick late-season crop can often be squeezed in.

Mark out seed drills with a trowel. The drills should be about 1in (2cm) deep, with 16in (40cm) left between additional rows. If the ground is very dry, water along the drills before sowing to cool and moisten the soil.

The large, knobbly seeds can be sown one by one. Space them so they are about one to two inches (2-5cm) apart. Cover them back over with soil, gently pat down then water along the rows to further settle the soil and prime your seeds for germination.

Once the seedlings appear it is likely you will need to thin them out because each bumpy seed actually contains a little clump of several seeds which may all sprout. Thin them in stages until the plants are one foot (30cm) apart.

Harvesting chard

Chard For Successional Planting

An alternative to sowing directly into the ground is to start chard off in pots to plant out at a later date. This is particularly useful for succession planting, when your chard may need to be started off away from the plot and wait its turn while another crop finishes.

Once the previous crop is cleared, simply plant out the sturdy young chard at the same final spacing used for direct-sown seeds (above). This method can also help prevent slugs damaging the young seedlings.

Keep the ground free of weeds and water in hot, dry weather. Using a hoe to decapitate weeds as they appear makes the job a doddle. Regular watering will encourage plenty of fresh, leafy growth, and is essential in dry weather to stop the plants from running to seed, or ‘bolting’. If they reach this stage they should be dug up and added to the compost heap as they'll stop producing tender leaves.

Dipping chard into a soft-boiled egg yolk

Harvesting and Using Chard

Begin harvesting chard as soon as it reaches a usable size. The secret is to pick little and often, taking a few outer leaves from each plant at a time to allow new leaves to replace them.

You can extend the harvest period by covering plants in autumn with fleece.

At the start I mentioned that chard offers two crops for the effort of one. Here’s how: Strip the fleshy leaves away from the central stem, chop these up and steam or wilt in a pan in the same way you would cook spinach. You’re now left with the central midribs. Almost as tender as asparagus, they can be cooked in exactly the same way, perhaps served with salt and melted butter, a rich hollandaise sauce or dipped into a creamy soft-boiled egg yolk. Yum!

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Show Comments


"rust spots on chard"
neil campbell on Saturday 21 December 2019
"Hi there one and all - I wonder if anyone has anything to say about rowing chard in the NW of Scotland... It is growing well, but it can be VERY wet here, as you might imagine. But it can also be, perhaps unimaginably for this area, very dry. April and early May can be bone dry. I watered regularly, even kind of irrigating. Being on a fair slope, I dug holes above the beds and waited until I saw moisture at the bottom of the slope. Can Swiss chard be too wet? Additional question - does chard not overwinter? Everywhere I look seems to suggest it is finished by mid-late autumn... Thanks, Bob Phillips, Gairloch, Wester Ross. "
Bob Phillips on Saturday 23 May 2020
"Hi Bob. I can very much vouch for your summary of weather conditions in NW Scotland, having spent both extraordinarily wet days on Rhun and Eigg, and a glorious week of un-broken sunshine around Cape Wrath/Durness. It's a lovely part of the world and you're blessed to live there. In answer to your question. Yes, Swiss chard can overwinter quite successfully, even in Scotland. If it does mostly die back, it should regrow in spring, though you could cover it to keep it in good eating condition throughout the winter. Regarding wetness - it's a pretty resilient plant. In my garden it sits in very wet soil throughout the winter to no apparent harm."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 25 May 2020
"Re planting a rainbow chard from garden to pot"
Terry Newbound on Friday 28 May 2021

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