Fordhook Giant Chard is an easy to grow and versatile crop. For an early harvest, start seeds indoors March 15th (at 80°). Once leaves appear, grow plants at 72°. Transplant outside May 1st, 6-8” apart in rows 20” apart. Or, sow chard seeds outside anytime May 15th – Aug 1st. Sow seeds ½” deep, 3” apart in rows 20” apart. Keep seeds consistently moist until germination. Days to germination: 5-7. Thin plants to 6-8” apart. Chard can also be grown for baby greens – broadcast sow seeds May 1st – Aug. 1st. Protect chard plants from deer and groundhogs who love them. Keep chard plants watered throughout the summer. Plants are cool weather hardy and can be harvested into the fall.
Mature Plants: Harvest individual leaves with pruners or a knife as plant matures. Do not take more than 1/3 of the leaves at any one time. Baby Leaves: Cut entire plant with scissors 1-2” above soil level so that you don’t damage the growing crown. Plants will regrow.
Chard is a fairly difficult seed saving crop in northern climates because it is a biennial so plants need to survive the winter (in a hoophouse or root cellar) in order to flower in year two. Dig plants in fall, select best plants for the seed crop, trim off leaves, and store in moist sand or sawdust at 34-40° 95% humidity. Plant outside 5/1, 30” apart and they will flower and produce seed over the summer. Chards are wind pollinated and cross-pollinated crops (isolation distance from beets is 1-2 miles). But since beets & chard don’t normally overwinter and flower you won’t usually need to worry about crossing unless 1) neighbors are saving beet/chard seeds or 2) you live near sugar beet fields which are usually GMO (sometimes sugar beet plants will bolt). Minimum population size: 25 plants.