Swiss chard grows best in a raised bed 2 feet (60 cm) tall in full sun. These plants require well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Before planting, fertilize the soil using organic compounds rich in nitrogen. Then, plant seeds or seedlings, allow them to produce their first leaves, and thin them until the plants are 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) apart. As your plants grow, trim them back if they seem crowded. Swiss chard should be provided with 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water per week. You can harvest a few leaves off each swiss chard plant continuously so long as you only harvest once per week.
5 Steps to Growing Swiss Chard in Raised Beds
Key elements to growing swiss chard include proper soil composition, sufficient sunlight, regular trimming, and consistent watering. We will take a detailed look at all the necessities when it comes to growing this leafy green. Here’s the total guide:
Plan Your Raised Bed
To yield the best results, grow your swiss chard in a 2-foot tall (60 cm) raised bed. Although you can grow swiss chard in a raised bed as shallow as 1 foot (30 cm), your plants may produce smaller leaves. It is essential to plan your bed to accommodate the desired number of plants. Swiss chard must be planted at least 18 inches (45 cm) away from the walls of the bed and other plants. So, you’ll need a large bed to grow more than a few swiss chard plants.
- The raised bed should be no shorter than 1 ft (30 cm) tall.
- To grow your chard larger, use a bed that is 2 ft (60 cm) tall. The height allows roots to grow longer and helps keep rabbits from eating your chard.
- Rows need to be about 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) apart when planting and each row requires a width of at least 12 inches (30 cm) which is important to keep in mind when constructing a new bed or planting within a bed.
It is best to grow swiss chard in full sun. Swiss chard tolerates partial shade but won’t grow well in heavily shaded areas. The leaves produced will be much smaller when swiss chard is grown in insufficient sunlight. This reduces the size of your harvest. So, build your raised bed in a sunny area.
Prepare Your Soil
Swiss chard needs nutrient-dense soil that is well-draining. Fertilizers that provide an organic source of nitrogen such as compost, cottonseed meal, or feather meal should be mixed into the soil prior to planting. The pH of the soil should be between 6.0 and 6.8.
- Use well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
- Fertilize with compost, cottonseed meal, feather meal, or similarly nitrogen-rich organic matter.
- It is a good idea to add a 2–3 inch (5–8 cm) layer of mulch when growing swiss chard.
- Use natural mulch, such as this shredded straw or ground bark.
We recommend mulching before planting with a 2–3 inch (5–8 cm) layer of organic mulch. This will help keep the soil cool and moist. Mulch will also protect the plants from weeds and pests.
Plant Your Swiss Chard
The best time to plant swiss chard seeds is 2–4 weeks before the final frost of spring. If you are planting from seeds, space them 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) apart within a row. Leave at least 18 inches (45 cm) between rows. Seeds should be planted ½-inch to 1 inch (1.25–2.5 cm) deep. Keep the soil thoroughly moist while seeds are germinating. If you’re planting seedlings, space them 4–6 inches (10 and 15 cm) apart in rows 18 inches (45 cm) apart.
- Plant before the final frost of spring, ideally when the soil is between 50–75⁰F (10–24⁰C).
- Plant seeds ½ – 1 inch (1.25 – 2.5 cm) deep.
- Seeds in rows should be planted 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) apart.
- Rows should be 18 inches (45 cm) apart.
- When seedlings are 4 inches (10 cm) tall, thin them so they are between 4 and 6 inches (10–15 cm) away from one another.
- Swiss chard seedlings should be planted 4–6 inches from one another.
Once plants grown from seed are 4 inches tall (10 cm), thin them until you have 1 plant every 4–6 inches (10–15 cm). Pull out the weakest seedlings, leaving the strongest ones to keep growing. This will result in a good harvest.
Water Your Chard
Swiss chard requires even, consistent watering. Drip irrigation is a common method for watering chard but you can opt to water them by hand. On average, these greens need 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water per week, not including rain.
- Swiss chard requires approximately 24 fluid oz (0.72 L) per plant per week.
- While germinating, keep seeds and seedlings moist.
- Use this drip irrigation kit to water swiss chard in a raised bed.
- Water more often during dry periods in the summer.
- When watering by hand, be sure to do so at the base of the plant close to the soil so as not to ruin the leaves.
- To keep watering as consistent as possible, you can use this rain gauge to determine how much water your plants receive from mother nature on a given day or week.
Using a rain gauge will help you determine how much water to give your plants on weeks when they are watered by the weather. Try to water your plants at the same time of day, ideally in the morning, when watering by hand. This will help keep watering consistent.
Harvest Swiss Chard Consistently
Once your swiss chard plants have matured you will have a steady flow of leaves to harvest. Swiss chard can be harvested as soon as it has many large leaves. Harvest only the outermost leaves and give the plant time to do more growing before harvesting again. Usually, you should only harvest from each plant once per week.
- You can begin harvesting once there are many large leaves on the plant.
- Harvest in the morning when the leaves have the most moisture.
- Harvest leaves from mature swiss chard once weekly.
- Cut leaf stalks and harvest multiple leaves per plant to encourage new growth.
- Harvest the outermost (oldest) leaves and the center of the plant will produce more leaves.
You will have more leafy greens if you allow the plant to grow throughout the season and only harvest the outermost leaves about once a week. The best way to harvest is to cut the leaf stalks a little above where they meet the main plant. If you live in an area that does not experience a hard freeze, your swiss chard plants may live for up to a few years. This allows you to have an abundance of fresh greens.
Does Swiss Chard Grow Well in Raised Beds?
Many gardeners swear that swiss chard grows best in raised beds. This is because you can have more control over the soil and its moisture. You can load up a raised bed with the best well-draining soil, fertilizer, and mulch while avoiding outside contaminants that may leak into the soil at the ground level. The raised bed also provides a barrier between your plants and ground-dwelling creatures that want to eat them. Additionally, having a tall raised bed will provide more room for roots and allow your swiss chard to grow larger.
How Do You Grow Swiss Chard in a Raised Bed?
Growing swiss chard in a raised bed is easiest when you know how to supply the plants with everything they need. Start by either constructing a bed, purchasing one, or preparing an existing one.
- Grow swiss chard in a bed over 1 ft (30 cm) tall in full sunlight.
- Use well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8 and mix in nitrogen-rich fertilizer.
- Plant seeds or seedlings a few inches apart in the spring before the final frost.
- Grow swiss chard plants 4–6 inches (10–15 cm) apart within a row, keeping rows 18 inches (45 cm) apart.
- Each plant requires about 24 fl oz (0.72 L) of water per week, plus supplemental watering when it is dry in the summer.
- Water at the base of the plant, not onto the foliage.
- Harvest leaves by cutting their stems, not those of the main plant.
- You can harvest once a week after the plant has matured enough to have multiple large leaves growing from it.
- You can continue to harvest swiss chard throughout the growing season.
The ability to control water distribution and soil components makes raised beds an ideal place to grow swiss chard. The height of a raised bed also offers protection from rabbits, soil contaminants, and other garden nuisances. Plus, if it does not freeze in the winter where you live, your plants may live for a few years in the right conditions.