PLANT EARLY FOR
the best chard
Easy to grow, colourful and great in a whole range of dishes, the key to growing this wonderful vegetable is to plant in early spring
Sow every two weeks to produce mini-leaves. Chard is becoming more popular, partly thanks to the cultivars with brightly coloured leaf stalks and the revival of interest Water before the onset of drought and mulch when the soil is in growing ornamental vegetables, as well as its suitability to warm and moist. provide mini-leaves. HARVESTING It is similar to, but easier to grow, than spinach as it is less Cut off the outer leaves first when they are young and tender, likely to go to seed in dry weather and one sowing produces a working towards the centre. Don’t wait until they reach crop that lasts many months. maximum size. These wonderful plants produce many large, dark leaves that Harvest regularly to ensure a constant supply of tender can have red, white or yellow stalks. re-growth. One of the best tips for growing swiss chard is to plant the Harvest cut and come again crops at any stage when seed early. seedlings are around two inches. The thinnings can also be By early, this means getting the seeds planted in early to mid spring. used whole. There are no planting dates that are exact and no exact rules Gather mini-leaves as soon as they are usable. They should on how to grow chard. re-grow if a small stump is left. Just make sure all signs of frost are over because the soil has to be at least 50°F. (10°C.) for the seeds to germinate. It should also be loose and well draining. Downy mildew: Worse in mild, humid weather, the felty mildew makes Locate the plants in a full sun to partially the leaves unappetising. Well-grown plants in gardens are not usually shaded area of the garden. badly affected except in wet weather. Another tip is to plant seeds directly into the Sow thinly and when conditions are warm. You can help to prevent this ground about half an inch deep. You can put disease by making sure there is plenty of space around seedlings and eight to ten seeds per foot of row planted. plants to improve air circulation, watering the soil at the base of the Once the plants grow and are a couple of plants, and by choosing mildew resistant varieties. inches tall, thin them to about four to six Grey mould can be a problem in densely sown crops, especially ‘cut and inches apart. come again’ veg crops. Seedlings suddenly collapse. This is a problem Chard needs an open sunny site in rich, normally in wet conditions, and is usually worse on weak or damaged moisture-retentive free-draining soil, although plants. The mould usually enters through a wound but, under the right it can tolerate some shade in summer. conditions, even healthy plants will be infected. Add organic matter the autumn or winter Hygiene is important in preventing the spread of grey mould. If you see it, prior to sowing if necessary. remove the infected material and destroy. Grey mould is encouraged by Two sowings - one in April and the second in overcrowding, so make sure you plant your seedlings, plants and squashes July – are usually sufficient. The July sowing at the appropriate distance apart. provides leaves the following spring when Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating growth resumes. seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables. Alternatively, you can sow in modules or Remedy-protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting trays and transplant when large enough to or fleece. handle.
The April 2018 issue of Devon Country Gardener Magazine