Growing and Saving the Seed Of Swiss Chard
Latin name Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris, chard is a beet species grown for its leaves rather than its roots. The plants channel all their energy into creating large, tender leaves with succulent midribs in a rainbow of colors.
Although Swiss chard was known by the ancient Greeks, it is not always recognized in historical literature because of the enormous variety of names in various languages by which it is and has been called.
- Chard is usually direct seeded into the garden as early as a couple of weeks before the last frost. It can be sown anytime until mid-summer, since the plants tolerate both heat and moderate cold of late fall. In milder climates it can even grow into the winter.
- Ideal germination temperature is 50-75 F.
- Sow seeds ½ inch deep.
- Seeds germinate in 14-21 days.
- Swiss chard prefers rich soil, full sun and ample moisture.
- Side dress with compost for best leaf production.
- Keep plants properly spaced to promote good air circulation.
- Light brown patches surrounded by purple haloes on leaves indicate a fungal disease. Remove those leaves promptly.
- Surround chard plants with eggshells to help with slugs.
- Like other biennial plants, chard produces flowers and seeds in the spring of its second year, after it has been through winter.
- Chard is only winter hardy to about 15 degrees F, so in most areas, you must dig the plants in fall and replant them in spring if you want to save seed.
- Through winter, keep the trimmed plants packed in damp sand in the basement or another cool place.
- Set them out four to six weeks before your last frost date.
- Chard is wind-pollinated, so at least six closely spaced plants are needed for a good seed set.
- Look for greenish flowers followed by seed capsules clustered close to the stem. When the stems dry to brown, crush them inside a paper bag, and gather the largest seeds that fall to the bottom.
- Store them in a cool, dry place. Chard seeds will keep for at least three years, and often longer.