Chard, also known as silverbeet, is a leafy green vegetable that is packed with nutrients and adds a pop of color to any dish. Growing chard at home is a simple and rewarding experience that provides you with fresh, organic produce and saves you money. Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a beginner, this guide will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to grow healthy and bountiful chard plants.
A Brief History
Chard (also known as silverbeet) is a leafy green vegetable that has been cultivated for centuries. It is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region, although it is now grown all over the world. Chard has long been used as a healthy and tasty ingredient in a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory.
Despite its long history, chard has only recently become popular in the United States. Its bright colors and nutritional benefits have made it a favorite of health-conscious cooks and gardeners alike. Chard is high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as many essential minerals. It is also an excellent source of dietary fiber.
In addition to its nutritional benefits, chard also adds unique flavor and texture to dishes. Its leaves are tender and mild-flavored, while its stems are crunchy and slightly bitter. Chard can be used as a substitute for spinach or kale in many recipes, but it also stands on its own as a flavorful side dish or addition to salads and soups.
Chard continues to grow in popularity today, thanks to its health benefits and versatility in the kitchen. With the right soil conditions and care, it’s easy to grow chard at home for a fresh supply of this nutritious vegetable all year round.
Chard (Silverbeet) is a highly nutritious vegetable, packed full of essential vitamins and minerals. Just one cup of cooked Chard provides over three times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin K. It is also a great source of antioxidants, with its high levels of vitamin C and A. Magnesium, iron, potassium and calcium can also be found in abundance in Chard. Fresh leaves provide 33% of recommended levels per 100g.
Eating Chard on a regular basis can help to reduce inflammation within the body, making it a great choice for those with chronic illness or allergies. As well as providing essential vitamins and minerals, Chard is low in calories and fat, making it an excellent choice for those looking to manage their weight healthily.
Chard can be easily incorporated into any diet by adding it to salads or stir-fries, roasting it with other vegetables or simply steaming it as a side dish. It also makes an excellent addition to soups and stews. With its versatility, there are plenty of ways to make sure you get your daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals from this superfood vegetable.
Common Varieties & Their Uses
Common varieties of chard (Silverbeet) include Beta vulgaris and Swiss chard. Each has its own unique flavor and texture, making them a versatile addition to any kitchen. Beta vulgaris has a slightly bitter taste and its leaves can be used raw in salads or cooked in stir-fries. Swiss chard is slightly sweeter, with a more delicate texture, and can be used as a substitute for spinach in dishes such as quiche, frittata or casseroles.
Depending on the variety chosen, silverbeet can be harvested leaf by leaf over a period of 12 months or cut to harvest in one go. By harvesting leaf by leaf, the plant will continue to produce new growth for at least 12 months. When cut to harvest, the plant will need replacing after 6-8 weeks.
Silverbeet can be used to add flavour to soups and stews; it’s also great for creating delicious side dishes. It can be served steamed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt or cooked slowly over a low heat with garlic, onion and herbs for an aromatic side dish. Silverbeet is also delicious when added to omelettes or frittatas, served as part of an antipasto platter or used in salads.
There are many different varieties of silverbeet available with different sizes, shapes and colours including green, red and yellow-stalked varieties. The choice of variety should depend on the intended use; generally speaking the more deeply coloured varieties are best suited to cooked dishes while the lighter coloured ones are best eaten raw in salads.
When choosing which variety to grow it is important to consider the climate conditions in your area as some varieties may require protection from extreme temperatures or winds. It is also important to consider how much space you have available for growing; some varieties may require more space than others due to their size and shape.
When To Sow
For successful all year round cropping, it’s best to do two plantings of silverbeet a year.
The best time to sow in cool zones is during spring and summer but in warm zones, seeds can be planted year round.
When sowing the seeds, spread them thinly on prepared soil and lightly cover with compost or soil. Seeds should germinate within 10-14 days and should be thinned to 40cm once they have sprouted.
Water the seedlings regularly during the growing period and ensure that the soil remains moist but not waterlogged. Fertilizing is usually not required, as silverbeet is a hardy crop that doesn’t need much additional nutrients.
Choosing A Suitable Location In The Garden
When choosing a suitable location in the garden to grow silverbeet (chard), it is important to consider several factors. Silverbeet can grow in full sun or part shade, but it is best grown in a sunny spot.
The soil should be well-drained and enriched with plenty of compost and organic matter. Additionally, it is important to protect the plants from strong winds by providing some form of shelter, such as a windbreak or sun-shade cloth.
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Before planting, assess the soil type and condition and make any necessary adjustments to ensure optimal growth. Work organic matter into the soil to improve drainage and add nutrients. If the soil is heavy clay, mix in some gypsum to help break it up and aerate it.
Choose a spot that is isolated from other vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and squash. These vegetables are prone to verticillium wilt which can spread quickly among other plants of the same species.
Be sure to check for any existing weeds or pests before planting silverbeet. Use mulch around the plants to suppress weeds and improve moisture retention. If necessary, cover the area with an organic-approved herbicide prior to planting silverbeet seedlings or seeds.
Preparing The Soil
To prepare the soil for Silverbeet, choose a spot in full sun or part shade with well-drained soil. Enrich the soil with plenty of compost and organic matter to ensure continuous lush green growth. Make sure the soil is rich and moisture retentive, as Silverbeet prefers this kind of environment.
Before planting, rake the soil gently to remove any weeds and large clumps of dirt. Next, dig holes for each seedling to ensure there is enough space for their roots to spread out properly. Add a light layer of compost around the seedlings after planting them in the ground.
Silverbeet also benefits from additional fertilization during its growing season. Use Yates Thrive Natural Fish Seaweed Plant Food Concentrate to help your plants reach their full potential. Apply the fertilizer every 3-4 weeks throughout the growing season, following package instructions.
Once you have prepared the soil and added fertilizer, it is important to provide your Silverbeet with adequate water. Moisten the soil around your plants when needed, making sure it is not too wet. This will help prevent nutrient deficiency and keep your plants healthy throughout their growth period.
Planting The Seeds Or Seedlings
Chard (Silverbeet) is an easily grown and highly nutritious vegetable crop. It can be grown from seed or seedlings, and when planted correctly in the right location with suitable soil preparation, it will provide you with a plentiful harvest.
When growing Chard (Silverbeet) from seed, it is important to sow the seeds 2-3cm deep and about 5cm apart. Direct sowing into the ground is best done when the soil is warm enough to ensure germination. But if the soil is too cool, then it is better to sow the seeds into trays or pots filled with a quality potting mix, with added compost. When planting seedlings, simply transplant them gently and water them in well.
Once your Chard (Silverbeet) has germinated, thin out the plants to allow for adequate air circulation and space for growth. If planting directly in furrows or rows in the garden, create furrows 2cm deep and cover lightly with soil.
Caring For The Seedlings
Once the Silverbeet seeds or seedlings have been planted, it is important to ensure that the seedlings are properly cared for. Water when needed, making sure that the soil is moist but not wet. Thin seedlings if needed and fertilize with Yates Thrive Natural Fish Seaweed Plant Food Concentrate. This will help to promote strong and healthy growth. If you are growing Silverbeet from seeds, it is also important to keep the soil evenly moist until the seeds have germinated.
Sunlight is also important for Silverbeet seedlings, so make sure that they get at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. If your seedlings are in a sheltered position and do not receive enough light, they may become weak and leggy, which can impact their overall health. If this is the case, consider relocating the seedlings to an area that receives more sunlight.
It is important to keep weeds away from your Silverbeet seedlings as they can compete with the seedlings for light, water and nutrients. To prevent weeds from taking over, regularly check around your plants and remove any weeds by hand or mulch around them.
Watering & Fertilizing
Proper watering and fertilizing are essential for successful growth of chard (silverbeet). The soil should be kept moist, but not wet. Water every two to three days, or more often during hot weather. Once the seedlings are up, give them a boost with liquid fertiliser diluted in tepid water.
It is also beneficial to apply side dressings of vegetable fertiliser every five to six weeks during the growing season. Additionally, improve the soil before planting by adding compost and organic fertiliser. Thinning seedlings and fertilizing with Yates Thrive Natural Fish Seaweed Plant Food Concentrate will also increase yields. By following these steps, chard (silverbeet) will be well-nourished and have improved yields.
When & How To Harvest
When it comes to harvesting chard (silverbeet), timing is key. The leaves are best picked when they are young and tender for maximum flavour and nutritional content.
The outer leaves can be harvested 8–10 weeks after planting. To harvest, hold the stalk and gently twist off the outer mature leaves, leaving a few of the younger ones to continue growing. This method of harvesting leaf by leaf will ensure that the plant keeps cropping for at least 12 months. It is important not to cut the leaves off to harvest as this can damage the plant and stunt its growth.
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Chard (silverbeet) can be harvested throughout the growing season, depending on local climate conditions. In cooler climates, chard can be harvested from spring through to autumn while in warmer climates it can be harvested throughout winter as well. It is important to note that chard plants are quite hardy and resilient, so they will generally tolerate light frosts without any damage.
When harvesting chard (silverbeet) it is important to take care not to damage the plant or its roots. It is also a good idea to provide additional nourishment from time to time by adding a liquid fertiliser or compost tea feed once every 4–6 weeks during the growing season. This will help keep the plant healthy and productive for a longer period of time.
Harvested chard should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place until it is ready for use. Chard can also be frozen for later use if desired.
Storing harvested Swiss chard (Silverbeet) is relatively straightforward. As with most vegetables, it is best to use it as fresh as possible. If you have a surplus, it can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator. Place the leaves in a plastic bag or container and make sure to remove any excess moisture. The greens should keep for several days when stored this way.
For longer term storage, it is possible to freeze the leaves. Blanch the leaves first by submerging them in boiling water for two minutes, then chilling them in cold water before draining them thoroughly. Once blanched and drained, place the leaves in an airtight container or wrap them in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. This method should keep them fresh for up to six months.
Alternatively, you can dry the leaves by spreading them out on a baking sheet and placing them in an oven set at its lowest temperature (around 50°C). Dry out until the leaves are crisp, then store in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag. This method will keep your Swiss chard fresh for several months.
It is also possible to save seed from Swiss chard plants. Collect seeds from fully mature plants when they start turning brown, then spread on paper towels to dry completely before transferring to an airtight container or sealed plastic bag for storage in a cool, dark place.
Common Diseases & How To Control Them
When caring for chard (silverbeet), it is important to be aware of common diseases and pests. The most common diseases are bacterial soft rot and powdery or downy mildew. Bacterial soft rot is caused by bacteria that attack the stems and leaves, leading to wilting and browning of the plant. Powdery or downy mildew is a fungal infection that causes a grayish fungal growth on the leaves, twisting them as well.
To prevent disease, it is important to practice good crop rotation and keep weeds away. Do not plant silver beet near older crops with the disease and avoid growing silver beet on the same land more than once every three years. When planting, use disease-resistant varieties if possible.
To control bacterial soft rot, remove infected plants immediately and discard them away from other plants. Avoid splashing water onto the plants when watering, as this can spread the disease. If necessary, treat with an appropriate fungicide according to label instructions.
To control powdery or downy mildew, remove any infected leaves immediately and discard them away from other plants. Apply a fungicide according to label instructions if needed. Make sure to water in the morning so that leaves are dry by nightfall, as dampness encourages fungal growth. If possible, choose resistant varieties of silver beet when planting.
Common Pests & How To Control Them
Chard (Silverbeet) is a popular vegetable, but it can be prone to infestations of pests, such as aphids, caterpillars, and slugs. Taking proactive steps to identify and control these pests is essential for a successful crop.
Aphids are small green or black insects that cluster on the underside of leaves and stems. They can suck sap from the plant and cause distorted growth. To control aphids, spray the plants regularly with a mixture of 1 part rubbing alcohol to 4 parts water.
Caterpillars are the larvae of moths and butterflies. They feed on the leaves of chard plants, causing holes in the foliage. To manage caterpillars, hand pick them off the plants and dispose of them away from the garden. Alternatively, use a biological pesticide such as Bacillus thuringiensis to control caterpillar populations without harming beneficial insects.
Slugs are slimy molluscs that feed on chard plants at night. They can cause extensive damage in a short time and can be difficult to eliminate. To deter slugs, sprinkle diatomaceous earth or crushed egg shells around the plants or use slug traps made from shallow dishes filled with beer or soapy water. Additionally, regular handpicking of slugs from the garden is recommended.
By taking steps to prevent unwanted visits and controlling infestations as soon as they occur, gardeners can grow chard (Silverbeet) successfully in their home gardens.
Beneficial Companion Plants
When growing Swiss chard (Silverbeet), it is beneficial to have the right companion plants growing nearby. These companion plants can help to deter pests, improve growth, and enhance flavor and aroma. Common companion plants for Swiss chard include bush beans, onions, lettuce, cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, sage, mint, rosemary, garlic, and thyme.
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Bush beans are especially beneficial when planted close to Swiss chard since they attract beneficial insects that prey on pests. Onions are also known to repel pests and can provide the soil with nitrogen. Lettuce is an ideal companion plant for Swiss Chard since it grows quickly and doesn’t compete with the Silverbeet for resources.
Cabbage is a good companion plant since it helps to protect Silverbeet from strong winds and it matures quickly so it doesn’t interfere with the Silverbeet’s growth. Kale is another traditional silver beet companion due to its ability to protect Silverbeet from pests and act as a living mulch. Broccoli and cauliflower are also beneficial because of their ability to repel pests like cabbage worms. Brussels sprouts can help conserve moisture in the soil while providing protection from strong winds.
Herbs like sage, mint, rosemary, garlic, and thyme also make excellent companion plants for Swiss Chard due to their aromatic properties that help repel harmful insects. It’s recommended that one plant per person of each of these herbs be planted near the Swiss Chard for maximum effect.
When planting these companions near Swiss chard it’s important to keep in mind that each plant will need its own space and resources in order to grow properly. To ensure success, space each plant at least 12 inches apart and provide them with enough water and fertilizer according to their individual needs.
Uses In Cooking
Once your chard (silverbeet) is ready to harvest, you can use it in a variety of delicious dishes.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat, and add the chopped chard to cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly wilted. For an added boost of green goodness, you can also wrap the chard in Swiss chard or cabbage leaves. The stems can be cooked with the leaves, or removed and cooked like asparagus or sliced and cooked.
You can also use chard in a wide range of recipes including soups, quiches, stir-fries, frittatas, and much more. Chard is a great addition to any meal, as it is packed with essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, iron and calcium. Additionally, it is low in calories and high in dietary fibre which makes it an ideal ingredient for those looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle.
With its versatility and nutritional benefits, chard is an excellent addition to any meal. So why not try adding some to your next culinary creation?