Growing Swiss chard in containers is a great way for urbanites to grow some greens. Of course, Swiss chard is a great addition to an in-ground vegetable garden, too. A single Swiss chard plant will produce for months! Swiss chard — also known as silverbeet — is less finicky in the garden than spinach and milder in flavor than kale.
Looking to get the most veggies you can out of a small space? These small garden ideas will help!
For apartment dwellers, growing Swiss chard in containers is a no-brainer — it grows well in pots. Swiss chard plants will provide food for months. In past years, I’ve harvested chard from one planting for an entire summer season.
Does your homeowners association prevent you from growing food in the front yard? What if they never even KNEW? My ebook, The Edible Front Yard Garden will show you how!
Beautiful Swiss Chard
Here’s a bonus: Swiss chard is beautiful. Really, really beautiful, making it a perfect candidate for growing in containers on the patio. It’s also a great addition to flower beds, making for an edible flower garden that will sneak past your homeowners association.
Swiss Chard Varieties
Swiss chard (beta vulgaris) comes in many varieties and colors. Shockingly bright rainbow chard adds color to your garden or patio with stalks in yellow, red, pink, and white surrounded by deep green leaves.
Grow Some Greens!
Ready to grow fresh greens, no matter WHERE you live? Sign up for my
FREE quick-start guide and start growing some of your own food!
Fordhook Giant is a robust plant that has broad green leaves. It grows about 2′ tall.
Bright Lights (sometimes called rainbow chard) is a commonly available multi-color chard. The red, pink, or yellow stems are striking in the garden. The plant reaches about 20″ in height.
Perpetual Spinach is related to chard (and beets). It’s less flamboyant — it’s all green — but is a bit milder in flavor than some of the chard varieties and one of my favorites.
How to Grow Swiss Chard
Wait for soil to become workable in early spring, when soil temperatures are between 50-75 degrees or about 4 weeks before the average last spring frost date. Then rinse or soak seeds in warm water to help speed germination.
Loosen the top 12 inches of soil and make sure to remove rocks and soil clods for a smooth seed bed. Spread a 1-inch layer of organic matter, like compost, over the planting area and work it in. A raised bed may give you more options for preparing a light, well-draining soil.
Without compacting the soil, plant chard seeds about 1/2-inch deep and about 4-6 inches apart in a row; space rows about 12-16 inches apart. Cover lightly with soil and give the seeds a light sprinkling of water. The first sprouts should appear within a week. As they grow, thin plants, using the young leaves, to about 12″ apart.
Requirements for Growing Swiss Chard
Chard does best with about 6 hours of full sun every day, though in very hot climates it will grow in partial shade.
Plant Swiss chard in a light, loamy soil that’s free of rocks, tree roots, soil clods or other debris. Prepare the garden bed by deeply digging in compost and well-aged manure.
A side dressing of a well-balanced fertilizer around 4-6 weeks after planting can give plants a boost. Sprinkle organic dry fertilizer on both sides of the rows and away from the root. Rake the fertilizer into the soil and then water.
Keep soil evenly and consistently moist. Plan for drip irrigation or a soaker hose to ensure uniform soil moisture.
In a garden bed, as the plants grow and become crowded simply pull an entire plant from the ground to harvest it (rather than trimming leaves as described below). A tighter spacing like this allows you to harvest more and shades the soil as the plants grow, which can fend off weeds.
Growing Swiss chard – in containers or in the garden – couldn’t be easier.
Swiss chard is a biennial, which means that it will often provide a second year of growth for you with no extra work. If your chard plant goes to seed, you’ll need to start fresh, since the greens turn bitter once that happens. Make sure you’re harvesting lots of Swiss chard to enjoy before that happens.
Even novice gardeners can handle growing Swiss chard. Go on now. Get your hands dirty!
Growing Swiss Chard in Containers
If you’re an urban gardener or limited on garden space, this is what I want you to do: Get some Swiss chard seeds and a container of some sort.
It doesn’t have to be a fancy pot, or a very big one. (The one you see above is about 12″ in diameter and came from a garage sale.)
Fill the pot with soil. Bagged potting soil works fine. Mix in a little compost if you like. [You made a worm bin like this, right?]
To grow Swiss chard in containers, bury five or six Swiss chard seeds – spaced evenly about four-to-six inches apart – under about half an inch of soil. Consider soaking the seeds prior to planting to give them a good head start. Sprinkle with water daily.
The soil in containers tends to dry out more quickly than in an in-ground garden. The soil should be kept moist but not overly wet — much like a wrung-out kitchen sponge.
At the end of the growing season, you can move the pot of Swiss chard to an area protected from frost to over-winter it. Come springtime, move it back out to your home garden area and it will give you one more season of harvests before it goes to seed.
When to Harvest Swiss Chard
When leaves reach about 4-6″ tall, you can start harvesting what farmers market growers call “baby chard.” You’ll do so by cutting off just a few of the outer leaves on each plant, allowing the plants to continue producing. You can also pull small plants to thin the crop.
As the plants get more robust, you can harvest Swiss chard leaves – just make sure to always leave at least several leaves growing on each plant. Use scissors or a sharp knife to cut leaf stems near the base of each plant.
Using Swiss Chard in the Kitchen
- Saute the greens as you would spinach.
- Chiffonade and stir several leaves into an egg scramble or frittata.
- Cook the stems like asparagus.
- Add to fresh green salads.
- Add a few leaves to your morning fruit smoothie.
- Chop the chard finely and add to soups or marinara sauce.
- Dice the raw stalks and add to tuna salad instead of celery.
Need more Swiss chard recipes? Consider using Swiss chard in recipes that call for kale. It will do just fine.
Originally published June, 2016; this post has been updated.