Growing Swiss Chard in the UK: A Gardener's Guide
Hello today, we are diving into the wonderful world of Swiss chard, a nutritious and versatile leafy green that can be easily grown in the UK. We say 'green' but it is much more colourful than that!
Whether you have a spacious garden or a small balcony, Swiss chard is a fantastic addition to any home garden.
In this blog, we'll explore two different methods for growing Swiss chard: in pots and containers, and in the ground. So, let's get started!
Growing Swiss Chard in Pots and Containers
Choosing the Right Container
When growing Swiss chard in pots or containers, it's essential to select the right vessel for your plants. Look for containers that are at least 30cm (12 inches) deep and have drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. You don't need a very Using a deep planter will just waste compost so the something like the Shallow planter in the set of 3 Vegetable Planters is ideal. The large surface area will accommodate multiple plants and promote healthier root development.
Ideal Planting Time
In the UK, the best time to start growing Swiss chard in pots and containers is in early spring, around March or April. By this time, the soil temperature starts to warm up, creating a favorable environment for germination. But you can plant it right up until July for an Autumn crop.
Soil Mix and Planting
Swiss chard thrives in well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. Use a mix of equal parts compost, peat moss, and perlite for your container. Sow the seeds about 2.5cm (1 inch) deep and 5cm (2 inches) apart, watering the soil gently after planting.
Caring for Swiss Chard Plants
Swiss chard loves sunlight, so choose a sunny spot for your containers. Six to eight hours of sunlight per day is ideal for robust growth.
Keep the soil consistently moist but avoid overwatering, as Swiss chard doesn't tolerate waterlogged conditions. Water the plants at the base to prevent wetting the foliage, which can lead to fungal issues.
Once the seedlings reach a height of 5-8cm (2-3 inches), thin them out, leaving the strongest plant in each space. These thiniings can be added to your salads or stir fries.
Feed your Swiss chard plants with a balanced liquid fertiliser every two weeks to promote healthy growth.
Harvesting Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is a cut-and-come-again crop, meaning you can harvest it multiple times throughout the growing season. Start harvesting outer leaves when they reach about 8 inches in length. Be sure to leave at least 2-5cm (1-2 inches) of growth at the base to encourage regrowth.
Growing Swiss Chard in the Ground
Preparing the Soil
Before planting Swiss chard in the ground, prepare the soil by tilling it to a depth of at least 20-25cm (8-10 inches). Remove any weeds and add organic matter like compost to improve the soil structure and nutrient content.
Ideal Planting Time
Swiss chard can be directly sown into the ground from late March to early May. It's best to wait until the last frost has passed before planting to avoid any potential damage to the young seedlings. As with containers you can sow right up to July if you have a sunny spot.
Planting and Spacing
Sow the seeds about 2cm (1 inch deep) and 30-45cm (12-18 inches) apart. Swiss chard plants appreciate some space to grow, so be sure not to overcrowd them.
Caring for Swiss Chard Plants
Care for Swiss Chard growing in the ground in the same way as for those in containers (see above). To help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and keep the soil temperature more stable apply a layer of organic mulch around the plants. Ferilise using a balanced fertiliser midway through the growing season.
Harvesting Swiss Chard:
Harvest Swiss chard in the ground in the same cut-and-come-again manner as with container-grown plants. Pick the outer leaves when they reach a usable size, leaving the inner ones to continue growing.
Common Pests and Diseases of Swiss Chard Plants
Swiss chard is a relatively hardy plant, but like any other crop, it can encounter pests and diseases. Here are some of the most common issues:
These tiny insects feed on the plant's sap and can be identified by clusters of small, soft-bodied bugs. Watch out for these and remove by hand before they take hold.
Slugs and Snails
These pests can leave large holes in Swiss chard leaves. Use physical barriers or organic slug pellets to protect your plants. We find a twilight patrol of the garden and physically removing these critters and relocating them works wonders. Also check out this blog to discover how to water to reduce pest impact How to Water to Avoid Pests
Larvae of these flies create tunnels in the leaves, causing significant damage. Remove affected leaves and consider using covering them in an Easy Micromesh Tunnel to prevent egg-laying.
Downy & Powdery Mildew
These fungal diseases appear as yellow spots on the upper leaf surface and a white, fluffy growth on the undersides. Improve air circulation and avoid overhead watering to prevent its spread.
Using Swiss Chard in the Kitchen
Swiss chard is incredibly versatile in the kitchen and adds a lovely, earthy flavor to a variety of dishes. Here are some creative ways to use it:
Sautéed Swiss Chard:
Simply sauté chopped chard in olive oil with garlic and onions for a quick and delicious side dish.
Swiss Chard Chips
Baked or air-fried chard leaves seasoned with salt and your favorite spices make for a healthy and crunchy snack.
Swiss Chard Pesto
Substitute basil with blanched Swiss chard leaves when making pesto for a vibrant and nutritious alternative.
Growing Swiss chard can be a rewarding experience, whether you choose to grow it in pots or in the ground. With the right care and attention, you'll soon be enjoying the bountiful harvests and delightful flavors of this wonderful leafy veg. Happy gardening!
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