Swiss Chard

Do you want to know more about Swiss Chard? Well, today’s episode is all about the ins and outs of this wonderful leafy green vegetable.

You’re listening to Fish Grow Plants—A podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.

Hello, and welcome to Fish Grow Plants! In today’s episode we’re talking all about one of, if not my favorite, greens. Swiss Chard!

I’ll be honest, I really like Swiss Chard, so I kind of felt bad that I did an episode on watercress before Swiss Chard. But I figured I could work some of the kinks out of my process and then do better with Swiss Chard.

I’m sure I’m biased to this wonderful crop, but I have such fond memories with it. Did you know it was the first crop I got to work well for me in my aquaponic system years ago? I know it’s listed as an easy crop to grow, but when you are starting out like I was, this was a big deal—having seeds sprout, then grow, and put on leaves, and more leaves, and even more leaves (if you kept cutting them!).

I ate a lot of Swiss Chard and eggs for breakfast back then—and loved it! (I still look back on those times fondly.) The chickens loved this stuff too! I’m not sure who ate more: me with the nice produce, or the chickens with the scraps!

I know I can tell you stories all day about how I feel about Swiss Chard, but unless you have a similar experience as I did, you may never feel the same about it. That’s ok, so let’s dive into what Swiss Chard is, specifically, how it grows, and some other good information that just might, just might change your mind about this incredible plant!

COMMON NAME: Swiss Chard

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Beta vulgaris

FAMILY: Amaranthaceae

LIFE CYCLE: usually grown as an annual but can grow as a biennial that can tolerate cold temperatures (it usually stops producing when it flowers).


HYBRID STATUS: open pollinated and hybrids

DAYS TO MATURITY: about 25 to 30 days for baby and 50-60 for bunching

COMMON USES: cut and come again leafy greens; i.e. salads, soups, and stir-fry

SOIL TEMPERATURE FOR GERMINATION: 40-100F (5-38C) is the germination temperature, so these seeds are pretty spectacular.

SEED DEPTH: ½”, be it in planters, soil, or your aquaponic system. Of note, if you don’t plant them deep enough, they get into a weird unstable state as they emerge, so keep them down!

SEED SPACING: 2-4” apart to start with.


THIN PLANTS TO: 4-6” apart once up and growing.

ROW SPACING: 18-24”if soil growing.


SEEDS PER GRAM: the average is about 50-70 seeds a gram but varies widely.

WATERING: keep routine and regular if not automated. No need to soak them, but don’t let the plant dry out.

TEMPERATURE: 86F/30C is optimum for Swiss Chard, but this amazing plant can handle the extremes: a little frost as well as over 100F (that’s air temperature, just to clarify)
again, this plant can take partial to full sun, but figure out the variety you have and match it with your local conditions.

pH: soil pH should be over 6.0 and under 7ish; and hopefully your aquaponic system water is around 7.0 as well!

TRANSPLANTING: start your seeds approximately 5-6 weeks before your anticipated transplant date.

COMMON INSTECTS: aphids, leafhoppers, leafminers, Lygus Bugs (Tarnished Plant Bug), and slugs.

INSECT CONTROL: keep your attention on them to be as proactive as possible. But if they do happen, spraying and hand picking them off, predatory insects, and drowning traps of beer (for the slugs) work. Remember to be careful about any pesticide use near your aquaponic system; what may be safe for the plant, may not be safe for your fish.

DISEASES: Basal Rot, Cercospora Leaf Blight, Curlytop, Damping off, Downy Mildew

DIESEASE PREVENTION AND TREATMENT: keep your work area and tools clean, rotate crops regularly, maintain good air flow around plants, and if you do get a disease, remove infected plants and destroy them. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out on your plants and remove any part (or whole plant) that looks like it’s having a problem.
HARVEST: take leaves from the outside of the plant, using care to not damage the inner leaves and stalks for a cut-and-come-again harvest method. Or simply cut the plant off at the base to harvest the entire thing. A plunge into cold water will be good to remove dirt, debris, bugs, and maintain crispness.

STORAGE: these greens are very perishable, so if you don’t eat them right away, make sure your entire harvesting/processing cycle kept the plant cold, so when you put it in the refrigerator, you’re getting the longest storage you can out of it.

TASTE & FLAVOR DESCRIPTION: crisp, tender, and bitter, and I’d add slightly saline (which might be my version of bitter) are all descriptors of Swiss chard’s flavor; although the bitterness seems to be debatable. When cooked, it tends to lose any bitterness and has more of a taste like spinach. The stems can be used as a substitute for celery and cooked similarly.

NUTRITION: Swiss Chard is considered a superfood and is high in vitamins A, K, C, as well as a laundry list of other vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. I guess I should eat as much of this crop as I can!

COOKING: I like to eat this stuff raw, use it as a wrap, or in a salad. Honestly, I probably eat most of it right off the plant! I like it as fresh as I can get it! But there are also many ways to cut it up and cook these greens into tasty dishes. If you can’t find anything on you own, check out the link on the Fish Grow Plants blog to Simply Recipes for plenty of ideas to get you going:

And don’t forget to share! Nothing like cooking up a wonderful dish of superfood to enjoy with friends and family!

Well, this has been great for me. I feel more informed about Swiss chard, just by doing this episode. Now I can start to make tweaks to raising it in my little aquaponic niche of the world to get all the benefits nutritionally in addition to the satisfaction of producing an amazing crop!

So, if you’re itching to get your hands on some Swiss chard seeds and get going, then I’d recommend you check out some seed suppliers. Here are ten companies I referenced while creating this episode:

Johnny’s Selected Seeds:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds:

Territorial Seed Co.:

Strictly Medicinal Seeds:

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:

Seed Savers Exchange:

Albert Lea Seed Co.:

High Mowing Organic Seeds:



Good luck, and happy aquaponic growing with Swiss chard!


Questions! Let me have them! Do you need clarification, more information, or maybe you just have a tangent thought—send all your thoughts my way. See the website for episode details, or just fire off an email to and I’ll get back to you.


So, was this episode good, bad, ugly, or other? Let me know! Comment, email, smoke-signals it doesn’t matter! I love to hear from you. Your feedback is immense, and I am always grateful for it. Likewise, thank you for taking the time to listen and share your thoughts. Have a wonderful day.

This has been another episode of Fish Grow Plants—the podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.

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