The name may be odd, but this nutritional powerhouse is easy to grow, even in heavy clay (though it prefers lighter soil).
One of the nicest things about growing chard is that outer leaves can be removed frequently and the plant simply produces more inner leaves, creating a long term supply of easy to grow, highly nutritious food. Chard is so nutritious that just under half a cup of fresh chard provides 122% of the Daily Value of Vitamin A, 1038% of Vitamin K, and 50% of Vitamin C, and all with only 19 calories! Research has also shown that Swiss chard provides tons of antioxidants and even type 2 diabetes protection. If that weren’t reason enough, the brightly colored petioles of Swiss chard make it a lovely addition to your edible landscape.
Like parsley, chard is a biennial plant. While it can tolerate light frost, exposure to too much cold will trick it into thinking it has experienced a winter and can cause bolting.
How to grow Swiss chard
Chard can be grown as a summer or winter crop. In areas with scorching hot summers, Swiss chard will perform better as part of your shade gardening plan. Chard seeds should be planted 1-2 to 1 inch deep when temperatures are between 40 F to 95 F. Mature plants can be spaced 6 to 12 inches apart, with rows 15 inches wide, but keep in mind that the plants will grow 1 to 3 feet tall, with a spread of 1/2 to 2 feet wide. Mulching around each plant with aged compost will help stabilize soil temperature and add nutrients to the soil.
Chard is a very satisfying plant to grow. Germination occurs in only 5 to 7 days and you can begin harvesting very early in the plant’s life. There are two approaches to harvesting chard: leaf-by-leaf or cut-and-come-again. The leaf-by-leaf method mentioned earlier simply means outer leaves are removed as needed. The cut-and-come-again method refers to cutting the plant down to just an inch or two above the soil line, avoiding the growing point in the middle. New leaves will emerge from this point.
Aphids and leaf miners will cause the most leaf damage, while leaf spot and downy mildew can impact each plant’s overall health.
To keep yourself in year round chard, these plants can also be grown indoors in containers. Because chard has a taproot, a 5-gallon planter is recommended.
There is far more beets that the canned, pickled variety. These easy to grow, sweet tasting vegetables love the Bay area’s mild winters, making them an excellent autumn crop.
How to grow beets
Beets grow well in full sun or in shade gardens and they absolutely love raised beds. Beets can be sown directly into the ground as temperatures begin to cool. Seeds should be planted 1/2 inch deep and 12 to 18 inches apart. It is a good idea to mulch around the plants to help retain moisture. Once you discover how delicious fresh beets really are, you will probably want to start planting them in succession, for a ready supply.
Leaf miners, leafhoppers, and cutworms are common pests. Row covers can be used to protect young plants.
In addition to the traditional purplish red beets, there are yellow, white, and even beets with red and white concentric circles. Every part of the beet plant is edible. In fact, the above ground greenery holds a lot of nutrition. Young leaves can be eaten raw and older leaves can be cooked similarly to spinach.
Your beets can be harvested at any time, but most people wait until the beet root’s “shoulders” have pushed their way above ground.
I hope this information inspires you to grow more of your own food. You can ask your garden questions on my Home page.