A member of the beet family, Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) is a biennial that sets seed in its second year of growth.This highly nutritious leafy green is most often grown as an annual, with plants sown in early spring and removed from the vegetable beds in fall.A touch of frost actually improves the taste, because the cold causes leaves to lose their bitter tones, revealing a milder, sweeter flavor.Reasonably sized pots and containers can be moved under shelter or snuggled into nooks and crannies against fences, foundations, and shrubbery for protection and extra warmth, effectively improving their ability to withstand the cold.But once daylight hours begin to increase around mid-February, new growth emerges rapidly, making chard one of the earliest of the leafy greens to harvest from the garden.Plants then provide a steady supply of leaves until they bolt and finish their lives after flowering and setting seed in their second season.But with late crops, it’s important that plants have adequate time to develop a strong, healthy root system before cold weather arrives.Swiss chard can easily withstand several light frosts without protection, and flavors sweeten when they’ve been kissed by cold temperatures.A blanket of snow provides good insulation, but if it isn’t consistent, roots can be exposed to freeze and thaw cycles, reducing their chance of survival. .
Can Swiss chard survive winter?
Swiss chard is a surprisingly hardy plant that can tolerate hot summers and cold weather, in fact, chard’s flavor might actually benefit from a bit of cold weather, as long as it doesn’t drop below 15 degrees F, which will kill the plant.First, you can sow cold-hardy Swiss chard in spring and again in late summer and the greens will be ready for harvesting after about 55 days.You can also take advantage of Swiss chard’s biennial life cycle to get two year’s worth of harvests from a single plant. .
There are many vegetables that will store in the garden, and there are some seeds that need a cold spell in order to germinate.When we overwinter some of our garden, we pay attention to these traits and take advantage of them.There are two basic types of vegetables that we overwinter, those that germinate well in the cool spring and the biennials.Spinach grows best in the early spring, and I have better luck with it if I plant it in the late fall.But they came up beautifully this spring and we harvested salads in early April, about the time I was planting my lettuce.We are taking advantage of the fact that these vegetables are programmed to survive a winter.These are wonderful early spring greens and are good to eat until the plant begins to send up a flower stalk.The first group of vegetables that I overwinter are the roots, carrots, beets, turnips and parsnips.They are grown to full size in the fall and stored in the garden over the winter.In the south, this is probably later and the shorter days and less light will probably be the thing that stops the root growth and not the cold temperatures.In colder climates, it is best to cover the plants with mulch in late fall, just before winter sets in.Straw or dry leaves will provide a protective blanket so that the roots don't get so cold that they rot instead of store.Kale is in the cabbage family and swiss chard is basically a beet green.The colored stalk varieties tended to rot more easily instead of overwintering.If your winter is moderate to mild, they store easily and can be harvested in the spring before they flower. .
Overwintering Swiss chard
Here in northern Virginia, it's snowed only once this season, and my row of Swiss chard is still alive. .
Top 10 Great Overwintering Vegetables
When temperatures drop and the soil cools below 5 degrees celsius in November there won't be any growth until March / April the following Spring.August and September are still very productive months in the vegetable garden with growth slowing considerably in October only to grind pretty much to a halt in November.Unless you have a greenhouse or polytunnel (which I'd highly recommend) once the Winter sets in there won't be any growth outside with short days and cold temperatures.Sprouts, for example will need to be sown before the end of April to ensure you can force feed them to your family and friends at Christmas time while the latest you can sow leeks is mid June though you probably don't think of them until the Autumn.Place stakes about a metre apart and join with twine to create a bean support frame as per image.Kale is a bit of an underrated plant as it's very easy to grow, highly nutritious and, if cooked properly (stir fry with lemon and tahini), a delicious vegetable.Kohl Rabi is what Klaus Laitenberger calls the 'Queen of Vegetables', it's relatively unknown in Ireland but produces a fresh, slightly nutty tasting bulbous stem.If you choose a quick growing variety like speedy Tokyo cross you can get an excellent harvest of clean white roots before the Winter.Growing turnips is quick, easy and relatively trouble free and is a perfect follow on crop when any beds are left bare.Turnips make a delicious gratin baked with milk, cream, salt and pepper and topped with a little gruyere cheese, fantastic as the nights are drawing in!Thin drill sown crops to 25cm between turnip plants with a spacing of 30cm between rows.Radishes are so quick to mature, you can harvest roots from about 4 weeks after sowing which makes growing radish perfect for the last dash before the winter.I'll have to admit I was never a huge fan but have developed a bit of a taste for them by munching the little rosy 'Short top forcing' we grow in our Quickcrop seedling trays.Growing onions from sets in Autumn results in an earlier harvest the following year but are not recommended if your garden is prone to water logging in Winter.When harvesting just pull up the whole bunch, cut all the ends to the same length and put a blue rubber band around them to pretend you bought them in a shop.In my opinion the real stars of the Autumn/Winter show are the Oriental salads because they grow much more successfully in cooler temperatures and are far less likely to bolt and run to seed than Summer sown plants.You are in for a real treat with varieties like mustard golden frills and ruby streaks which has to be one of the tastiest salad leaves around and pretty much impossible to grow in the Summer.We’ve all tried rocket but have a go at prolific ‘mizuna’ and ‘mibuna’, tasty mustards including the hot and spicy ‘Green in the Snow’. .
Swiss chard root storage over winter – Sustainable Market Farming
Those seeds are prima donnas requiring lots of external inputs (pesticides) and they come from giant corporations.As John puts it “After many organic farmers have been in the trenches for 15 or 20 years they increasingly developed sophisticated, sound farming practices” building soil fertility, structure and health through on-farm nutrient cycling and reducing machinery passes in their fields, they realized that many newer crop varieties didn’t fulfill their needs.The crop chapters include isolation distance, selection for disease-resistance and other desirable traits, and details of how to clean the seed: (“slotted screens remove immature flowerbuds.A gravity table can be used to separate light, less mature seed from good seed.” There are gems of detailed information useful to vegetable growers too: “Spinach flowering is initiated primarily by daylength.Most newer spinach varieties are considerably more bolt-hardy.” “Heat can play a role by speeding the metabolic rate” – accelerating flowering once it has been initiated.This paragraph alone could earn a grower a good amount of money, or save wasted effort trying to do the impossible.Each family has a different colored page header – like the sidebars, these are a nice design feature in a reference book, helping with speedy locating of the info you need.John’s recommended isolation distances are often greater than some seed growers believe necessary, so he explains “common misinformation.” The factors include whether the crop is self-pollinated or cross-pollinated (these are not two absolutely distinct categories, by the way).Having too few mothers leads to genetic drift, where a variety is changed over time due to chance.I have been selecting Roma paste tomatoes for earliness, yield and resistance to Septoria Leaf Spot (a disease that has plagued us in central Virginia) and Crimson Sweet watermelon for earliness, size and flavor.The chapter on stockseed basics describes the selection and maintenance of a higher quality seed, better than that sold to grow the food crop. .
Growing spinach & chard over winter -
Some autumn-planted veg grow nice and quickly, and if planted early enough in autumn they should reach maturity before the temperature drops significantly in November (obviously we are speaking very generally here as the weather in the UK is not exactly the most predictable) and will be ready to harvest in Nov/Dec.As soon as it hits, growth in the veg patch slows down and most plants take a bit of a breather from actually growing. .
Harvest Monday, November 23, 2015 – Overwintering Swiss Chard
Decided to harvest all but the 2-3 center leaves from each of the 10 spring planted Peppermint Swiss Chard and leave the leggy plants in the ground to hopefully survive in the garden over the winter.Sauteed in garlic and fresh ginger infused oil until tender, S&P to taste.If my plants survive the winter I will have a jump start on the growing season when I harvest tender Swiss chard early in the spring.Got another basket of Red Giant Mustard, the leaves have a darker maroon color due to the cold weather, so pretty.Harvested all the snow peas growing in the foam ice chest mentioned in my November 9, 2015 post.Container Bronze Mignonette Lettuce (left in photo below) continues to grow well and I am still harvesting outer leaves as needed.The lettuce on the right (not sure of the variety) in the above photo started to bolt so I brought in the whole head. .
Grow Swiss Chard
Swiss chard and beets are the same species, and they require a period of overwintering in order to set seeds.Downy mildew can be a problem for Swiss chard when grown close together as baby greens.Birds also enjoy the leaves, but protecting new seedlings under row covers can deter them.Swiss chard can also be harvested in closer plantings as baby greens, cutting the leaves about 3 inches above the soil and returning every week or so.At seed maturity, plants of this species take up a fair amount of garden real estate.Depending on the scale of seed collection, individual seedstalks can be cut or entire plants can be pulled from the garden and moved to a place where they can continue drying.Depending on the percentage of ripe seeds at harvest, 7 to 14 days should be a sufficient drying period.Small lots and cut branches can be processed by running a gloved hand along the length of the stalk with a container placed underneath to catch dislodged seeds; stalks should be discarded once they are stripped of seeds.Larger lots and whole plants can be placed in large tubs or on tarps and treaded upon.When stored under cool, dry conditions, beet seeds can be expected to remain viable for 5 years. .