At our farm, our African keyhole garden has provided us with a variety of cold season vegetables. Beets, kale, brussel sprouts and swiss chard are still providing us with food at temperatures below -10 degrees Celsius (as of January 14, 2016)!
Why Choose The Chard?
Unlike most salad crops, Swiss Chard is tolerant of heat as well as cold. In fact, Swiss Chard is at its best in cooler temperatures offering a winter harvest that can extend into late December and early new year if you provide protection such as a cold frame or a mini polytunnel hoop and monitor accordingly.
Chard makes an excellent intercropping plant along with spinach and beets (all members of the goosefoot family) and acts as an ornamental crop because of the range of its shades of colour that it provides. You can succession-plant chard for winter in early August, eight weeks before the first frost as long as you provide a mini polytunnel hoop around mid to late November depending on the temperature fluctuation. This plant is also seasonally pest and disease free. Chard can be planted indoors, six weeks before transplanting into your garden or direct-sown outside as early as a month before the last frost. Mature Chard takes around eight to ten weeks to harvest after seeding. Because Swiss Chard is a biennial, this crop may overwinter to produce the following spring before it bolts (produces a flowering stem).
Swiss Chard is a vitamin enriched plant, providing a good source of vitamins A and C as well as Calcium and Iron in its leaves and stocks. Stocks can be steamed or fried and served like asparagus and leaves cookes and served like spinach.