Leaf Beet, Swiss Chard & Perpetual Spinach

Why Grow Leaf Beet?

Leaf Beet, also often commonly know as Swiss Chard or perpetual spinach, belongs to the same family as Beetroot but has been bred to be winter hardy to provide a green vegetable right through to early the next summer.

These sturdy plants come in a range of colours including red, white and yellow the colourful veins and stems are decorative enough to be included in the flower border. The leaves have the taste of spinach and beetroot; the stems are also edible and make a good substitute for celery in casseroles and vegetarian dishes.

Quick Facts
Botanical Name : Beta vulgaris
Sowing Time : April to August
Harvest Time : June to October
(November to May)
Hardiness : Semi-Hardy
Position : Full Sun to Light Shade
Soil Type : Rich and moisture retentive
Average Plant Height : 60cm / 24in
Spacing : 10cm / 4in between plants
50cm / 20in between rows
Spread : 50cm / 20in
Soil and Preparation

Leaf Beet will grow in almost any soil, but thrives in rich, well manured beds in a sunny spot. Dig over the bed in the autumn or early winter and incorporate some well-rotted manure, if the soil is known to acid add some lime at the same time.

Prepare the seedbed in autumn, creating a good fine tilth, incorporating some compost or well-rotted manure. 2 – 3 weeks before you intend to sow your leaf beet, rake in some Growmore type fertilizer, this will help give your seedlings a good start.

Seeds and Sowing

What we think of as a beet seed is actually a small cluster of several true seeds. Each cluster can potentially produce 3 or 4 seedlings and will therefore need thinning.

To sow your leaf beet create a drill 3cm / 1in deep, if you are planting more than one row of leaf beet leave 50cm / 20in between each of them. Sow your seeds at 10cm / 4in intervals along each drill, cover with a fine layer of soil and then water well.

Caring for your Crop

Seedlings may need protection from birds, try old plastic bottles with the tops and bottoms cut off if you have only a few plants, if you have more plants then it may be quicker and easier to use plant netting or fleece.

Keep your beds free from weeds, using a hoe is probably the easiest method, just be careful not to damage the roots. Remove any yellowing leaves on your plants, as if left, they can encourage disease and pests.

During dry spells keep your leaf beet well watered to avoid them going tough or bolting, mulching can help with water retention.

Covering the plants with a layer of straw or fleece in late autumn will help to keep them crop through the winter and into early spring.

Harvesting

Harvest the outer leaves as soon as they are large enough to use, allowing them to reach full size can make them bitter tasting.

Harvest carefully to avoid damaging the roots of the plant, regularly remove the outer leaves by twisting them away from the stem. Leave the inner leaves as these will form your next picking.

Storage

Leaf beet doesn’t store particularly well so it is best to use it straight away. If you can’t use it straight away then rinse the leaves off, place them in a polythene bag and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.