Chard needs an open sunny site in rich, moisture-retentive free-draining soil, although it can tolerate some shade in summer.
Add organic matter the autumn or winter prior to sowing if necessary. Add 70g per sq m of Growmore or other general fertiliser.
Sow thinly 2.5cm (1in) deep, 10cm (4in) apart in rows 37.5-45cm (15-18in) apart, from April to July. Two sowings - one in April and the second in July – are usually sufficient. The July sowing provides leaves the following spring when growth resumes.
Alternatively, sow in modules or trays and transplant when large enough to handle.
Sow every two weeks to produce mini-leaves.
Sow in broad drills as ‘cut and come again’ crops from April to August.
Thin seedlings to 30cm (1ft) apart, or every 5cm (2in) for mini-leaves.
Water before the onset of drought; mulch when the soil is warm and moist.
Cover plants for overwintering in October with cloches or protect the crown with straw or similar material, then cover with fleece.
Cut off the outer leaves first when they are young and tender, working towards the centre. Don't wait until they reach maximum size.
Harvest regularly to ensure a constant supply of tender re-growth.
Harvest cut and come again crops at any stage when seedlings are around 5cm (2in) tall. The thinnings can also be used whole.
Gather mini-leaves as soon as they are usable. They should re-grow if a small stump is left.
‘Bright Yellow’ AGM: Bright golden-yellow petioles with mid-green puckered leaves.
‘Charlotte’ AGM: Striking red stems and veins, upright leaves and neat habit.
‘Fordhook Giant’ AGM: Attractive shiny green, puckered leaves with long succulent white petioles.
‘Lucullus’ AGM: Plenty of tender, light green leaves with long succulent white petioles.
Chard is relatively pest and disease free.
Downy mildew or grey mould (Botrytis): can be a problem in densely sown ‘cut and come again’ crops. Seedlings suddenly collapse.
Remedy: sow thinly and when conditions are warm.
Read more information on downy mildew
Read more information on grey mould
Birds: uprooting seedlings.
Remedy: Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover seedlings with horticultural fleece or mesh.
Read more information on damage by pigeons and other birds
Masterchef’s Greg Wallace pops chard into his delicious Frittata with Parmesan
Chard makes colourful parcels with a lemony cheese filling in this kids’ recipe
A-Z of grow your own recipes