This shows how to grow Swiss chard in containers indoors year-round at home for baby greens and delicious, colorful stalks.
If you love this idea, also see indoor vegetable gardening for beginners.
Grow Chard Indoors
Before we get into the growing tips, it’s important to know that, unless you have extraordinary resources like a massive greenhouse with regulated lights and temperatures, growing food indoors at home is mostly just for fun.
As wonderful as they sound, claims that you can feed your family by growing all your vegetables indoors or significantly lower your grocery bill are just not realistic. Most of us cannot even manage this with outdoor growing.
But, what you will get is some delicious mini harvests throughout the year and a new found love for and understanding of edible plants. And, as much as I love houseplants, I find this far more engaging.
The main challenge with indoor vegetable growing is finding room for the containers in locations where you can provide adequate light—either natural (windowsill) or artificial (I use these LED lights)—or some combination of both.
From there, you have to ensure you are consistent with temperatures, watering, and feeding.
Swiss chard is a versatile crop to choose because it can be harvested throughout the growth cycle. Sow seeds and you will have baby greens in a matter of weeks.
Or, set a loftier goal and continue growing the plants until you have mature stalks and leaves. But keep in mind that a longer-term mature crop can take twice as long indoors as it would to grow it outdoors.
If you are impatient and like short-term projects, grow baby greens. If you’re in it for the long haul and like a challenge, go for the stalks!
- About Swiss Chard
- Indoor Growing Tips
- Starting Chard From Seed Indoors
- Ongoing Care
About Swiss Chard
Common Names: Chard, Swiss chard, seakale beet, leafy beet.
Botanical Name: Most of the chard we grow is Beta vulgaris var. cicla or another cultivar from the same species.
Chard is a biennial plant meaning it has a two-year lifecycle and will flower and form seeds in the second year. Indoors this simply means you’ve got a good amount of time to grow it.
Culinary uses include sprouts, baby greens, and/or leaves and stalks for salads, stir-fries, green juices, soups, and more. It’s edible any time before it flowers.
Nutritionally, chard has a lot to offer. It provides a good source of fibre and contains nearly 200 bioactive compounds and nutrients including beta carotene, vitamin K, potassium, magnesium, and more. It is also higher in sodium than many other vegetables.
Indoor Growing Tips
Overview of Setup
Chard is a cool season crop but needs plenty of light. This means it can manage with lower temperatures than warm season crops like tomatoes but still wants a sunny location.
Indoors, a typical room temperature of 70°F (20°C) is fine with moderate humidity around 50%. Chard can cope down to 50°F (10°C) but growth may be slow or halted.
Within that setting, the plants will need 10 to 16 hours of light a day. You’ll also want to run an electric fan on the timer to provide air circulation, strengthen the seedlings, and help prevent disease and pest problems.
How Long Does It Take?
You can start your chard indoors from seed or buy starter plants at a nursery.
With the right setup (this lists what I use for indoor seed starting), the seeds should germinate within a week or two.
Within a month or two you will have baby greens—beautiful, tender stems and leaves. You can harvest these as “cut and come again,” for salads and leave some to continue growing. If you started with plants from the nursery, they may already be at this stage when purchased.
If you love baby greens, my ebook on Growing Salads Indoors lists all sorts of other options including spinach, arugula, mustard, and more.
Any plants not harvested for greens will continue growing, gradually forming thick stalks with full leaves.
Outdoors it may take 50 to 60 days until stalks are ready to harvest but indoors it could be twice that long, depending on your growing conditions. That’s why I say this is mainly for fun: waiting 120 days for a couple of stalks of chard is not exactly a frugal time-saver!
Starting Chard From Seed Indoors
Varieties To Try
- ‘Bright Lights’ Rainbow chard (so pretty!)
- Yellow chard
- Peppermint chard (named for its appearance—it does not have a minty flavor)
If you plan to grow mature stalks, check the seed catalog descriptions for the expected size at maturity to ensure you’ll have room.
If you’re just growing for baby greens, any chard seeds will do.
Use a plastic pot or window box with drainage holes and a saucer or tray for drips and watering.
For baby greens, 6-inches deep is perfect.
For mature stalks, the larger and deeper the pot, the better. I use pots at least 12-inches wide and 8 to 10 inches deep (or more).
Use an organic potting mix intended for food crops. Fresh potting mix will greatly reduce the chance of pests or diseases while providing good drainage.
- Presoak your seeds in room temperature water for a few hours before sowing.
- Moisten potting mix with water so it clumps when squeezed but no excess water drips out.
- Fill container with moistened potting mix, leaving the top inch for watering.
- Sow seeds ½-inch deep and space them 6-inches apart or sow closer together and thin them out later.
Chard seeds can sprout in soil temperatures ranging from 50 to 85°F (10 to 30°C) and have a 75% germination rate (if fresh and viable). Sow extra to ensure you get the quantity you want. They can be transplanted later for better spacing.
The seeds do not need light to germinate but do require light once they have sprouted.
If you want a “continuous harvest” consider sowing a new batch of seeds every few weeks.
If you are new to growing from seed, Seed Starting For Beginners has everything you need to know to get started.
Natural: East or south-facing sunny window providing maximum light without scorching the leaves. You’ll need to gradually rotate your containers each day to prevent the seedlings from leaning toward the sun.
Artificial: For years I used fluorescent lights with full-spectrum T5 bulbs (or warm and cool bulbs) and run them on a timer along with an electric fan for 10 to 16 hours per day depending on how much natural light is also available.
I recently switched to these LED lights which I like very much.
It’s important to keep the lights just an inch or two above the tops of the seedlings to prevent the plants from become leggy (we want them stout and strong).
As you grow, you’ll get a feel for the appropriate amount of light based on how the seedlings grow.
Beware of Bolting
If the heat is too intense, chard can bolt. Bolting is a survival tactic where a plant jumps to the flower and seed production stages, deeming the plant inedible. It should not happen unless the room is too hot and/or the light is too intense. If there is any sign of this, decrease the light, either by placing the container farther away from the window or increase the distance between the top of the plants and your grow lights, and keep the room temperature around 70°F (20°C) or a bit lower.
Read More: What is Bolting & How To Prevent It
- Germination stage: ensure potting mix stays evenly moist. Use a plant mister or water from below by placing container in water for 30 minutes or until potting mix is sufficiently moist.
- Seedling stage onward: water as needed. Use a moisture meter or your finger tip to feel when the top inch of soil is becoming dry. If possible, water from below.
When leaves are 4 to 6 inches tall you can begin using a liquid, organic fertilizer when you water. Check product label for amount. I prefer to add small doses with each watering rather than whole doses occasionally.
Change of Plans?
With your seedlings well-established (a few inches tall with several true leaves), if the timing is right, you can always change plans and grow them outdoors. Continue growing them in containers or in the ground if you have a suitable spot.
Chard is edible at any time before it flowers.
If you have a bunch of plants started, taste some of the baby greens and discover which varieties you like best. You can cut them off with clean scissors near the base of the stem, always taking from outside the cluster. Chard is “cut and come again” so the plant should continue growing.
Don’t worry if the leaves wilt after harvesting, that’s normal chard behavior.
I hope you will try it. Growing various edible plants indoors has become a life-long experiment and hobby for me.
Indoor Kitchen Gardening | Elizabeth Millard
Seed Starting For Beginners | Empress of Dirt (ebook)
The Kitchen Propagation Handbook | Empress of Dirt (ebook)
LED Grow Lights
Recommended LED Lights
Seedlings | Barrina Super Bright White LED Lights | Amazon
These lights work nicely for indoor seed starting and growing young plants until it’s time for outdoor transplanting.
Indoor Flowering & Fruiting | Barrina Full-Spectrum LED Lights | Amazon
If you need lights for long-term growing including plants that can flower and fruit indoors, choose full-spectrum bulbs.
ListenNEW! Click play to listen:
Along with the chard, you can also grow carrots indoors.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛