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Growing Swiss Chard: Greens for Gardens and Container Growing

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Growing Swiss chard in containers is a great way for urbanites to grow some greens. Of course, Swiss chard is a great addition to a full-sized 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.

Swiss chard growing in a container

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.

red-stemmed swiss chard growing in a garden

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 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. 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.

growing swiss chard in containers

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?]

growing swiss chard with yellow and pink stalks

How to grow Swiss chard from seed

To grow Swiss chard in containers, bury five or six Swiss chard seeds – spaced equally – 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. If you’re planting it out in a garden bed, space the seeds about four-to-six inches apart. The first sprouts should appear within a week.

If you’re growing Swiss chard in containers, you’ll likely need to water it daily, depending upon your weather. Soil in containers tends to dry out more quickly than an in-ground garden. The soil should be kept moist but not overly wet — much like a wrung out kitchen sponge.

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.

Even novice gardeners can handle growing Swiss chard. Go on now. Get your hands dirty!

fresh baby swiss chard greens in a wooden bowl

When to harvest 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.

As the plants get more robust, you can harvest more leaves – just make sure to always leave at least several leaves growing on each plant. Use scissors 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.

Swiss chard recipes

Swiss chard recipes are in high demand around here when it’s abundant. Give these recipes a try if you’re growing Swiss chard!

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.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

7 comments… add one
  • Karen Jun 16, 2016, 7:31 pm

    What a list of yummy swiss chard recipes! Thx for including my Cider Braised Swiss Chard with Apples recipe. But I’m going to try the Korean Pancake with Swiss Chard from my garden! Thx Kris!

  • Debby Jun 30, 2016, 9:17 pm

    Something is eating my Swiss chard, any ideas on how to save it?

    • Kris Bordessa Jul 1, 2016, 5:57 am

      First, I’d try to figure out *what is eating your chard. Look on the bottom of the leaves – caterpillars? Is there snail slime? Birds? Diatomaceous earth is a good all-around deterrent, but won’t do anything about birds.

  • [email protected] Oct 30, 2016, 4:18 am

    Thanks so much for including my “Caramelized Onions + Swiss Chard” recipe! Honoured to be included in this fabulous collection of delicious recipes. Chard is definitely one of my most favourite greens! I have a list now of ideas for new Chard adventures!

  • Toni Feb 18, 2017, 9:07 am

    You convinced me. Chard it is.

  • Meal5 May 22, 2017, 5:46 pm

    What a list of yummy swiss chard recipes! I like it!

  • Khaja Moin Sep 9, 2020, 11:48 pm

    I can replace spinach with swiss chard, am not sure. I’ve very little space in my backyard, so I think I may remove spinach and replace it with this plant. Thanks for the writeup.

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