Chard, Beta vulgaris var. cicla, is also known as Swiss chard, leaf beet, silver chard or sea kale beet is popular in ornamental vegetable gardens, thanks to cultivars with brightly coloured leaf stalks. A closely related cultivar is spinach beet, also called perpetual spinach. Whatever the name, it’s easier to grow than spinach, as it is less likely to go to seed in dry weather and successional sowing is not necessary, as one sowing will produce a crop that lasts for months.
It’s highly versatile, as the leaves can be steamed and used like spinach, while the midribs (also called stems or chards) can be steamed, boiled or braised and used as you would celery. Chard can also be grown as mini-leaves for salad. Unlike most leaf vegetables, larger leaves don’t get tough, so there’s less waste. Leaves or midribs marry well with a host of flavours, from Italian and Chinese to a cheesy gratin. Read more
How to grow Chard
Chard grows well in a sunny site in rich, moisture-retentive free-draining soil, although it can tolerate some shade in summer.
Sow direct outdoors from April-July 2.5cm/1in deep, in rows 40cm/16in apart. Keep well-watered and thin out to one plant per position, 30cm/1ft apart. Two sowings, one in April and another in July will provide crops during summer/ autumn and the following spring when growth resumes
If you have a cold, heavy soil or live in a colder part of the country, sow in modules and transplant when large enough to handle and after being hardened off. Sow every two weeks to produce mini-leaves and thin to 5cm/2in. Water before the onset of drought and cover plants with cloches or straw and fleece for overwintering in October. Show less