Salad Gardening
Published June 21, 2022 by Nicole Burke

4 Tips to Help You Grow Giant Organic Swiss Chard in Your Kitchen Garden

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swiss chard
grow guide
swiss chard growing

The Beauty in Growing Swiss Chard

Before I started my business, Rooted Garden, I read a book by Ivette Soler called The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden. The author lists vegetables that look particularly striking in front yard gardens (I think she called them showstoppers or something like that), and guess what. 

Swiss chard was on that list. 

Ever since, I’ve grown swiss chard in all my gardens, I’ve put it in all of my clients’ gardens, and I’ve even made it a point to put it near the front of the raised beds to add beauty and color. The jewel-toned stems of Swiss chard are just as pretty, at least in my opinion, as flowers in a garden. 

swiss chard bright lights

You Can Enjoy the Entire Swiss Chard Plant

Not only is swiss chard beautiful, it’s also delicious and nutritious. It’s in the same family (the goosefoot or amaranth family) as beets and spinach and a bunch of foods known to be so good for you. Swiss chard is high in Vitamins A, K, and C. It also has magnesium and lots of antioxidants (including beta-carotene).

Swiss chard stands out in its own family for the size of its leaves. Good thing, because the leaves are definitely part of the plant we want to eat.

But wait! We can also eat the stems (they’re a bit like celery), so we can actually enjoy all parts of this nutrient-dense plant. 

You can expect to grow big leaves on your swiss chard plants, but follow these four tips to encourage your plants to produce endless harvests of huge leaves for you.

swiss chard greens

tip number one to grow giant swiss chard leaves

Start with the Right Setup for Your Swiss Chard Plant

Swiss chard grows best in raised beds filled with great, nutrient-dense soil.

I’ve grown swiss chard several different ways and found the most success in raised beds. Actually, not just raised beds, but tall raised beds. My attempts to grow swiss chard in a one-foot-tall raised bed were nowhere near as productive as the chard I consistently grow in my two-foot-tall beds. 

There are two reasons for this. The first is that the added height gives swiss chard roots plenty of room to grow down deep. When it comes to plants, what's happening above the soil line mirrors what's happening below. You can't expect to get giant leaves if the roots have nowhere to go.

The second is the extra protection from rabbits, which seem to think that lower beds are a free-for-all buffet. Growing swiss chard greens and other tender leaves in a higher-up space seems to discourage them.

Make sure your raised beds are filled with really rich soil so that swiss chard can pull all the nutrients it needs to grow big and healthy. You have to feed your food, you know? Swiss chard loves nutrient-dense soil so much you could even grow it in 100 percent compost if you wanted.

tip number two to grow giant swiss chard leaves

Grow Swiss Chard From Seeds

I find the most success with swiss chard when I grow it from seed instead of starting it indoors and transplanting it to the garden later. The same goes with purchasing a transplant from a nursery.

Here are three of my favorite swiss chard seeds to buy:

  • Fordhook giant swiss chard - The name itself promises you giant leaves. This tasty variety has large green leaves and white stems.
  • Five color silverbeet swiss chard - This rainbow chard produces stems in jewel-toned shades of pink, yellow, orange, red, and white. These leaves could hold their own when compared to any flower, if you ask me.
  • Bright lights swiss chard - This package is "the gold standard for multicolored swiss chard" stems. Stems grow in both bright and pastel shades of gold, pink, purple, orange, red, and white.

When to plant swiss chard

To grow swiss chard from seed, sow seeds in the spring as soon as your soil is workable, even before the threat of frost has passed. Your swiss chard seedlings might get a bit of damage if there’s heavy frost on the leaves, but they’ll survive. Your plants will thrive once the temperatures stay between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You can keep sowing swiss chard seeds until temperatures rise above 85 or so.

How to plant swiss chard

Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of fresh compost to your garden before planting swiss chard seeds and only bury your seeds at a depth of 1/2" (which is not very deep). Keep your seeds well watered while you're waiting on them to germinate.

swiss chard rainbow

tip number three to grow giant swiss chard leaves

Keep Your Swiss Chard Plants Clean and Well-Pruned

I sometimes find holes on the insides of my swiss chard leaves, and that’s how I know that some little caterpillar or hover fly or their other annoying pest friends have been munching on my leaves. When you see those holes, don’t let those leaves keep hanging out in the garden. Prune the bad leaves immediately. 

You know those bad leaves that you just pruned? Well, those are completely edible. Give them a good wash and enjoy them raw or cooked in a dish. 

Don’t be afraid of a little pest damage. Nibbled swiss chard leaves are not only perfectly harmless, they’re actually more nutritious because the plant sends lots of antioxidants to leaves affected by pests to help them fight off the attack. (Reason number 100 why we should all eat homegrown and organic.)

If any of your leaves are touching the soil, make sure to harvest those too so they don’t give the pests a nice little bridge to your plants. 

giant swiss chard leaves

tip number four to grow giant swiss chard leaves

Harvest Your Swiss Chard Leaves Often

Do a quick swiss chard harvest from your established plants once a week. When harvesting swiss chard stems and leaves, start with those leaves on the lower part of the plant (those are the older leaves) and cut the stem right where it meets the main stalk of the plant. Take at least two leaves from every single plant. This signals to the plant to keep producing new, healthy leaves. 

Swiss chard plants grow from the center, so baby leaves will form at the heart of the plant, and those leaves will be the healthiest ones. It’s the least healthy leaves on the outside that will get most impacted by pests, disease, and bad weather (which is why we harvest them first).

Learn more about the best way to harvest and store swiss chard leaves.

Enjoy Every Bite of Those Swiss Chard Greens

By following these tips, your plant will produce giant leaves and survive for more than a year in temperate climates. 

Enjoy a gourmet salad with swiss chard leaves (don't forget the chopped stems for some crunch) or give this delicious swiss chard lasagna recipe from Martha Stewart's Vegetables Cookbook a try.

You'll be amazed at how many giant leaves you can grow and how you'll look forward to eating every last colorful bite of this leafy green.

swiss chard stems
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4 Tips to Help You Grow Giant Organic Swiss Chard in Your Kitchen Garden