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
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
Ease of cultivation: Easy
· Rich, well-manured soil is the ideal
but any reasonable soil in sun or light shade
· Dig the soil in autumn and incorporate
a liberal amount of compost or well-rotted manure.
Rake in Growmore fertilizer 2 weeks before sowing.
Sow 4in (10cm) apart 1in (2.5cm) deep and cover
with soil. Rows should be 15in (37cm) apart.
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.
· 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
· Cover the plants with cloches or straw
in late autumn to ensure winter and spring cropping.
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
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.
Both Swiss chard and spinach beet are virtually
trouble-free, but slugs may attack young plants
in spring. Sprinkle Slug Pellets around the plants.