Fun Fall Container Gardening
Swiss chard, or Beta vulgaris subspecies cicla, is a marvelous ornamental edible with amazing glossy, crinkly leaves and colorful stems or petioles. It is a leafy green from the beet family and has the unique quality of being both heat- and cold-tolerant. Grown for its green or burgundy leaf which has pronounced stems which can be red, yellow, orange, white, striped or magenta and hold their color – and taste – all season.
They have made a gorgeous statement in my front lawn vegetable garden for many years and when planted in extra fertile soil they can easily grow over their 30 inch size expectation. Swiss chard is delightful in living walls and container gardens as well and will stay smaller when its roots are contained in a smaller home. When using for ornamental purposes, harvest by picking a leaves from the outside of each plant because new leaves come up through the crown. When plants are completely cut down early in the season, they will return with a passion for a second harvest.
As an ornamental plant, Swiss chard is beautiful, but it is also very nutritionally sound. Vitamins found in chard include iron, vitamins A, C, K and potassium.
Swiss chard can be planted in spring for summer harvesting or early fall for a fall display. Grow from seeds or transplants in well-drained soil that is richly amended with rotted manure or compost for sturdy growth. Transplants can be planted 3-4 weeks before the last frost free date. Seeds are planted one to two cm deep and require 5-6 weeks to reach a good planting size. Plant in part-sun to sun for the strongest performance, although Swiss chard will also grow in shady conditions and can be mixed in containers with shade annuals such as coleus or begonia. Another fantastic color combination is to plant blood beets and dinosaur kale with Swiss chard in what I like to call a “Three Musketeer Combination” – the bold colors of the leaves are all you need for a gorgeous container garden.
Swiss chard likes consistent watering. Mulching the area around Swiss chard enables better moisture retention and protects against weeds. If Swiss chard bolts, simply cut off the flowering stem at the base of the plant as the flower can get quite tall, but is not attractive. Cut stems off at the base of the plant in fall and you might be surprised by returning plants in the spring. I have had Swiss chard return the following season in mild winters – add a little fresh soil or rotted manure around the plant in the spring for a boost of fresh energy.
Shawna Coronado is a successful author, blogger, photographer, and media host who focuses on wellness by teaching green lifestyle living, organic gardening, and anti-inflammatory culinary. Most recently Shawna has written the books, “Grow a Living Wall” and “101 Organic Gardening Hacks”. Shawna campaigns for social and community good – her garden, food, and eco-adventures have been featured in many media venues including television news programming, radio broadcasting, and PBS television. You can learn more about Shawna at www.shawnacoronado.com.
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