Name: Silver beet, silverbeet, swiss chard, mangold Beta vulgaris var. cicla Description: Silver beet usually has large, dark green leaves which may be crinkly or smooth.
Most varieties have dark green leaves
Silver beet usually has white to cream coloured stems but there are varieties of chard with yellow, pink, red or orange stalks. Ruby chard has red-black leaves with red stalks. Silver beet is of the same species as beetroot.
Silver beet is rich in antioxidants, vitamins A,C, and K, fibre, iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. However, due to its high level of oxalic acid it is recommended that excessive quantities are not consumed.
Size: Silver beet grows to a height varying from 40 to 75 cm depending on the variety.
Conditions: Silver beet grows well in sub tropical, temperate and cool temperate climates. It usually lasts for one year before going to seed but this varies with the variety and the climatic conditions. It is sometimes classed as biennial.
Silver beet grows best in full sun. It prefers frost free regions. Silver beet produces best in well drained soil which has plenty of well rotted manure dug through. Dig deep as the roots go down deep. Silver beet does not like highly acidic soil.
Propagation: Silver beet can be grown from seed. Slow bolt varieties such as Compacta Slo Bolt and Success are available. Plant 2 or 3 seeds together in clumps, at a depth of about 12 mm. Keep the soil moist. Seeds take from 10 to 14 days to germinate.
Packet of silver beet seeds
Once the seedlings are established, weed out the weaker ones to leave one plant per clump. Leave 30 to 40cm (12 to 16 inches) between each plant. Rows should be at least 30cm (12 inches apart) apart.
Seedlings can be bought from nurseries and transplanted into the garden.
Seedlings can be bought at nurseries
Onion, garlic, cauliflower and broccoli are said to be good companion plants.
Silver beet will be ready to start harvesting approximately 8 to 12 weeks after planting seeds. Harvest by removing the outside leaves first. Pull the leaves downwards and sideways. Leave 4 or 5 central stalks and apply liquid fertiliser fortnightly to encourage regrowth.
When to Plant: Seeds can be planted in autumn and spring in all climatic regions and in summer everywhere except arid regions.