Kitchen Garden|June 2020
What’s not to like about chard? It provides oodles of nutritious leaves for months on end, is easy to grow, attractive enough for the flower border or a mixed container and, unlike its annual summer counterpart, won’t throw up flower spikes at the first sign of a hot, dry spell.
Perpetual spinach or leaf beet is a biennial plant, which means that it will grow to full size in year one after sowing and overwinter to flower the following season. With care, you can be harvesting all year round. This can be done either from garden-grown plants allowed to reach full size, harvesting whole plants or simply selecting individual leaves, or you can treat the plant as a salad leaf and sow regularly virtually all year round on the windowsill to harvest as a cut-and-come-again crop in pots and containers.
Overwintered plants offer fresh pickings when there is little else available and if moved into or planted in the protection of a polytunnel or covered with cloches, the hardy leaves will remain in good condition for much of the winter.
Sow from March to July either in containers or direct into the ground. Sowing the colourful ‘Rainbow Chard’ in containers allows you to see what colour the stalks are going to be – red, white, yellow or bright pinky-orange – so that when planting you can make sure you have a good range of colourful stems. This also keeps them out of harm’s way from pests such as slugs in the early stages and gives them a good start, especially early in the season. However, all varieties can be started this way.
Fill cell trays with fresh multi-purpose or sowing compost and bury the large, corky seeds 13mm (½in) deep; alternatively sow thinly in rows in the open garden 2.5cm (1in) deep, in a sunny, well-drained spot.
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