Growing, Maintaining and Troubleshooting Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is a great vegetable to include in most people's diet because it is full of vitamins and antioxidants. If you have eaten spinach and like it, you will probably like Swiss chard as well. For those who want to add it to your garden, you will find that Swiss chard is easy to grow. You will learn how to plant, maintain, harvest, and troubleshoot problems you may have Swiss chard.
What is Swiss chard?
Swiss chard is a colorful vegetable that belongs to the Chenopod family, which includes spinach, beats and quinoa. This leafy vegetable had its early beginnings in the Mediterranean, getting its name from a Mediterranean vegetable called, Cardoon. Cardoon is a celery-like plant with thick stalks.
The leafy portion of swiss chard is a nice dark green, while the stalk can be white, yellow or red. If you buy it at a farmers market or maybe in an organic store you may notice that it is called "Rainbow Chard". The "Rainbow" portion of the name comes from the different colors of the stalks. In other words, it is swiss chard, but the store or farmers market prefers to give it a more attractive name to catch a buyer's eye.
You can eat both the leaf and stalk. I have to admit, I am not fond of the stalk, but that is my and my family's preference.
Thus, you can use the younger leaves in salads. However, as the plant gets older the leaves are usually chopped and cooked. Swiss chard has a stronger taste than that of spinach. However, the strong taste can be tamed down with olive oil and spices when cooked.
Swiss chard and Your Health
Swiss chard is chock full of vitamins, ranking second only to spinach. A single cup of Swiss chard can provide you the following:
Vitamin K - help with blood clotting, preventing osteoporosis and helping to prevent cell damage. The Swiss chard provides an individual with over 700% of Vitamin K. That is why people who are on blood thinning medication cannot eat Swiss chard.
Vitamin A - 1 cup of Swiss chard can provide 200% of your daily requirements for Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps with vision and lung health.
Magnesium - helps to control nerve and muscle tone.
Other vitamins that it contains are Vitamin C, potassium, iron, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6 and manganese.
The leaves of Swiss chard also provide polyphenol antioxidants. There has been one flavonoid, which is found in the leaves of the vegetable that have been getting special attention in recent research, it is called syringic acid. Syringic acid has been shown to inhibit activity of an enzyme called alph-glucosidase. This enzyme inhibits fewer carbs from breaking down into simple sugars, allowing an individual's blood sugar to stay steady.
The stems of the vegetable contain betalain pigments, which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support for the body.
How to Plant, Maintain and Harvest Swiss chard
1. Before planting soak the seeds in warm water for 15 minutes, this helps to speed up germination.
2. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deeps and a few inches apart
3. After the seedlings have grown, thin the seedlings so that they are 4 to 5 inches apart if you are want to use the whole plant (stem and leaves). If you are only going to harvest the leaves thin seedling, so they are 8 to 10 inches apart.
4. Plant in full sunlight, they do not do well in full shade.
5. They can endure light frost in spring and moderate frost in the fall.
1. To discourage weeds, mulch with compost or grass clippings.
2. Use a natural fertilizer
3. Moderate watering is only needed.
Harvesting Swiss chard is very easy. It is what I call a "cut and grow again" type of plant. We usually take our fill of this vegetable, then we will freeze and share the rest with our friends, family and neighbors.
Bugs and Fungus that love Swiss chard
Many of the problems that you can encounter with Swiss chard can be remedied by a 100% natural and organic powder called Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. This all-around great organic powder can help many problems in your garden and it is safe around children and animals. However, because it is a powder, you should wear a mask when applying it to your garden, to eliminate the possibility of you inhaling this powder into your lungs.
Since this is a powder, you will have to reapply it on your vegetables if it rains. Please note: Do not put this powder directly on flower blossoms; it can kill your pollinators.
Below are some troubleshooting problems you may encounter with Swiss chard:
Damping off will cause the new seedling to wilt, mold and die. To control this problem you can reduce watering and increase the space between plants. You can use Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth.
Downy mildew affects the leaf. You know you have downy mildew if the leaf's upper surface will begin with small yellow or green translucent spots and then spread to the entire leaf. The underside will have soft, downy white growth. Eventually, the leave will brown. Downy mildew is a fungus and usually occurs under cool, wet conditions with high humidity, or it may be caused by the leaves being clustered to close together.
Thin out the Swiss chard so air can flow around the leaves, and water from the roots up. Do not water from leaves down because that can also increase your risks of downy mildew. Then treat the vegetable with an organic sulfur plant fungicide.
Cercospora leaf spot
Cercospora leaf spot is a fungus that will cause light brown spots surrounded by purple halos. Usually warm, rainy weather causes this problem. Remove the leaves and allow additional space so that air can circulation around them.
Blister beetles can destroy a garden in a manner of days. If they are attacking your garden, the first line of attack is Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. The last resort option for most organic growers is Liquid Rotenone-Pyrethrins Concentrated Spray, which is natural, but it is rather strong.
Aphids are small insects that are found on new stems and on the underside of the leaf. They will suck the fluid from the plant leaving a sweet honeydew substance behind. It will cause the leaves to turn pale yellow. Check out my article on different ways to get rid of, and control aphids.
Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails will chew away a large portion of young plants. Slugs and snails usually show up when soil surface is to moist. Thus, avoid too-frequent watering. This will allow the soil surface to dry out. Diatomaceous Earth Food will get rid of slugs and snails. If you do not want to use Diatomaceous Earth Food you can try using a saucer of beer to drive them away from the plants.
Cabbage worms, Cabbage Loopers
Loopers are caterpillars that are green. Since they blend in well with the Swiss chard, they may be difficult to see. These caterpillars eventually will develop into white or yellow winged butterflies, which are often seen fluttering around plants. The caterpillars feed on the underside of leaves, leaving ragged holes in the leaves. This can cause the plant to starve and die. Diatomaceous Earth Food will get rid of cabbage worms.
As you can see, Swiss chard is not only colorful, but it is also, easy to grow and great for your health.
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