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Leaf Beet

UK Garden Centre - Information about Leaf Beet

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Many people who like spinach find it a difficult vegetable to grow. If the soil isn’t right and the weather is dry it can quickly run to seed, and so it gets crossed off next year’s seed list. It is surprising that these gardeners do not turn to the leaf beets. Both types (Swiss chard and spinach beet) are very easy to grow, succeeding in ordinary soils and refraining from bolting when the weather turns dry. There are other benefits. A spring sowing will enable you to pick from July right through to the following June if you cover the plants with cloches or straw during winter. Furthermore, the leaves of Swiss chard are attractive enough for it to be grown in the flower border, and also versatile enough for it to be used as a dual-purpose vegetable.

Seed facts
Leaf beet ‘seed’ is really a fruit, each corky cluster containing several true seeds.
Expected germination time: 10-14 days
Approximate number per ounce: 2000
Expected yield from a 10ft row: 7lb (3.5kg)
Life expectancy of stored seed: 3 years
Approximate time between sowing and picking: 12 weeks
Ease of cultivation: Easy

Soil facts
· Rich, well-manured soil is the ideal but any reasonable soil in sun or light shade will do.
· Dig the soil in autumn and incorporate a liberal amount of compost or well-rotted manure. Rake in Growmore fertilizer 2 weeks before sowing.

Seed sowing
Sow 4in (10cm) apart 1in (2.5cm) deep and cover with soil. Rows should be 15in (37cm) apart.

Calendar
Sowing time: April; less usually from mid March to mid May.
Picking time: Usually August to November; can extend from mid July to the end of June.

Looking after the crop
· Thin the seedlings to 1ft (30cm) apart when they are large enough to handle.
· Hoe regularly to keep the land weed-free. Bolting is most unlikely, but remove any flower-heads which may appear.
· Water at fortnightly intervals during dry spells. Mulching will help to conserve moisture.

Harvesting
· Pull off outer leaves when they are large enough for kitchen use – do not wait until they have reached their maximum size. Harvest carefully (do not disturb the roots) and regularly, leaving the central foliage to develop for later pickings.
· Cover the plants with cloches or straw in late autumn to ensure winter and spring cropping.

Varieties
Swiss chard: Other names – silver chard, seakale beet. This attractive plant grows about 1 ½ ft (45cm) high and bears distinctive foliage – the leafstalks are white and fleshy, and the white veins stand out against the crumpled, green spinach-like leaves.
Ruby Chard: Other name – rhubarb chard. Similar in growth habit to Swiss chard, but the stalks are thinner and red. A striking plant for the border, but the flavour is inferior to the white variety.
Rainbow Chard: The leaf beet for the gardener who must be different – plants are produced with red, purple, yellow or white stems.
Spinach Beet: Other name – perpetual spinach. Similar to spinach, but the leaves are larger, darker and fleshier.

Troubles
Both Swiss chard and spinach beet are virtually trouble-free, but slugs may attack young plants in spring. Sprinkle Slug Pellets around the plants.


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