Because chard’s seeds are actually small fruits that contain multiple seeds, seedlings often germinate in clusters. Gradually thin young plants to a final spacing of 8 to 10 inches apart; use the thinnings in salads. Fertilize chard when the plants reach about 6 inches tall, side-dressing with alfalfa meal or watering with fish emulsion. Mulch to maintain even soil moisture during the growing season, and place a row cover over the crop at the first sign of leaf miners tunneling in the broad leaves.
If your chard bolts in the heat of summer, pull out those plants and sow seeds for a fall crop of these leafy greens. Choose a spot in partial shade for starting chard in the summer or provide light shade to help keep young seedlings cool.
Ask Organic Gardening is edited by Deb Martin
Originally published in Organic Gardening magazine, February/March 2014