Growing Swiss Chard Hydroponically – A Full Guide

Growing Swiss Chard Hydroponically.
Growing Swiss Chard Hydroponically.

Introduction: Hello hydroponic lovers, we are back with a great guide of growing swiss chard hydroponically and requirements for hydroponic swiss chard. Swiss chard belongs to the Amaranthaceae and it is an annual cool-season, a green leafy vegetable that is eaten raw. Swiss chard is used in salads because of its appealing flavor and delicate texture. The stalks should be eaten because they are still tender. This is a long day plant that is prone to bolting during summer.

In this article as part of growing swiss chard hydroponically, we cover all the following topics;

  • Conditions for growing hydroponic swiss chard
  • Hydroponic nutrient solution for swiss chard
  • Optimal pH for swiss chard growing hydroponically
  • Advantages of the hydroponic system
  • Bucket hydroponic system for growing swiss chard
  • Swiss chard seeds to germination time
  • Soaking swiss chard seeds before planting
  • Tips for growing hydroponic swiss chard

A step by step guide to growing swiss chard hydroponically

It is an extremely easy vegetable to grow and chard looks as good as it tastes. The glossy, crinkly plant leaves come in a multitude of colors and keep growing as you harvest individual leaves.

Process of growing swiss chard hydroponically

Plants grown hydroponically can use 10% of water compared to field-grown ones. In this hydroponic method, water is recirculated. Plants will take up the required water, while run-off ones will be captured and return to the system. Plants’ roots generally expand and spread out in search of foods, and oxygen in the soil. And this is not the case in Hydroponic, where the roots are sunk in a tank full of oxygenated nutrient solution and directly contact with vital minerals. This means you can grow plants much closer, and consequently huge space savings.

The main advantages of hydroponic systems over traditional soil based growing are cost and control. Little loss of nutrients means a lower cost of fertilizer, while plants produce faster resulting in a higher yield.

Swiss chard is a popular hydroponics plant and is one of the fastest hydroponics plants. Swiss chard will survive in soils or nutrients with a pH level of around 6.2–7. Swiss chard can be grown through to maturity and the complete plant harvested by cutting at the base. However, in hydroponics, it is commonly grown as a longer-term plant and the outer leaves removed as required.

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Process of Growing Hydroponic Swiss Chard.
Process of Growing Hydroponic Swiss Chard.

Swiss chard is a common ingredient in microgreen mixes or baby leaf salad cropping where its unique color combinations add variety. Bright Lights, Ruby Red, Bright Yellow, Ford hook Giant (green), and Magenta Sunset are chard cultivars often grown hydroponically, mainly for baby leaf production.

You can harvest Swiss chard plants at around 35 days. Even after harvesting, it will continue to grow and prosper and give the heavy harvest. The plant is versatile and can tolerate most temperatures but thrives in cooler weather. It’s hardy and can handle some light freezes and frost. Swiss chard seeds should sprout in 7-14 days. Soak Swiss chard seeds in warm water for 15 minutes to speed up the germination process before planting.

Seeds for Swiss chard should ½ to 1 inch deep, and around 3 to 6 inches apart. Much like beets and other chards, it will make more than one plant from the seeds, so it will require a little maintenance to ensure the plant can grow freely. Swiss chard loves full sun, and seeds can be saved for 5 years, so it’s easy to collect the seeds and save them for future planting. Swiss chard has high levels of vitamin K not seen in any other plant.

Water conservation in hydroponic

As water becomes scarce and important as our source, the use of hydroponic systems and other water-saving technologies for crop production is needed now and is poised to popularize in time. The hydroponic system uses substantially less water as compared to soil farming.

In soil farming, most of the water that we supply to the Swiss chard plants gets leached deep into the soil and is unavailable to the plant roots. Whereas in the hydroponic system, plant roots are either submerged in water or a film of nutrients mixed in water is constantly encompassing the root zone, keeping it hydrated and nourished. Water is not wasted in this procedure, as it gets recovered, filtered, replenished and recycled. The waste nutrient solution can be used as an alternative water resource for Swiss chard growing under hydroponic.

Savings in irrigation water, fertilizer, and increase in vegetable and water productivity under hydroponic as compared to conventional agriculture. NFT based hydroponics can reduce irrigation water usage by about 70% to 90% by recycling the run-off water. It is possible to effectively produce high value, good-quality vegetables under controlled hydroponic conditions using 85 to 90% less water than traditional soil-based production. Water sources from groundwater or river water commonly contain factors that can influence plant yield and affect plant conditions, including salinity, dissolved solid sand pathogens. While some of these factors can be useful to crops, others need to be minimized.

Crop health in hydroponics

Hydroponics system type, plants don’t have to work hard to get what they need and are far less likely to experience stresses like drought, mineral imbalances and similar.  This means less chance of insects or diseases that harm plants and that could require pesticides or fungicides.  A healthy hydroponics crop grows fast and healthy that the window of opportunity for problems becomes very narrow.

Ease of gardening – Hydroponics can be automated and operated at waist height.  No weeding, digging, guessing when to water and time-consuming laborious tasks are required. Keeping crops up and off the ground means fewer chances of insects or other predators getting to your crop and making work or headaches for you.  On a commercial level of hydroponics, the labor savings and faster cropping times can add up to considerably higher profit margin potentials.

Hydroponic swiss chard growing conditions

Ideal conditions for swiss chard will be given below;

Growing Swiss chard is fairly simple, and the crop is so resilient that we find it to be a great crop for beginners. Swiss chard is easiest to grow from seed and germinates within 1–2 weeks. We plant Swiss chard seedlings at 8 to 10 inches, as the plants grow quite large and can shade each other out if too close.

Swiss chard is a fairly tough crop. In our systems, we have rarely experienced pests, with only the occasional aphids and (very) occasional powdery mildew problem. And although high or low temperatures will affect the taste, the Swiss chard crop is overall very tolerant of stressful conditions.

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Here are six considerations for achieving optimal hydroponic Swiss chard growing conditions;

Water – pH level measurements between 6.2 and 7.0 are a rule of thumb.

Light – Direct sunlight exposure or supplemental lighting is required on average of 8 to 10 hours per day.

Nutrients – The primary nutrients necessary for plant growth are Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium.

Temperature – Consistent temperatures between 50 to 70 degrees for fall plants and 60-80 degrees for spring plants.

Oxygen – Supplemental oxygen supply is requiring for optimal nutrient uptake.

Structure & Support – Stakes and strings are generally needed to support plants as they grow.

Bucket hydroponics for growing swiss chard

Swiss chard plants started from seed.  Seeds sowed in 1.5-inch rock wool cubes in 2-inch net-pot and then used 2 rock wool cubes, with 2-3 seeds per cube. Then, moistened with Seedling Blend, a dilute blend of fertilizers.

The seeds have germinated and were located directly under a fluorescent light (spiral bulb, 23W, 6500k) for 18 hours per day.  The bulb is positioned 3 to 4 inches above the plants.

Plants are now being put into a sunny window for 3 hours per day, and then back under the fluorescent light for an additional 15 hours. Swiss chard plants transferred to small plastic jars containing 3 cups of Regular-Strength blend.

Installed the Swiss chard plants into two 5 gallon buckets using the Master Blend-based Regular-Strength Blend. Swiss chard plants will continue to grow indoors, placed in front of a sunny window where they will receive 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. Then, installed white PVC couplings around the base of the Swiss chard plants to help them stand upright and began to harvest lower leaves.  Then added more Regular-Strength Blend to each bucket.

The leaves of the plant on the left are turning brown color, possibly due to a fungal infection on the roots.  Before the leaf quality can deteriorate any further, the entire Swiss chard plant was harvested at this time.

Benefits and limitations of hydroponics

Plants growing hydroponically need 20% less space than plants grown in soil. This means you can grow more plants in a defined space or can grow plants in small spaces where it would not be practical to grow soil-based plants.

The main reason is that hydroponic plants require less space than soil-grown plants and the plant roots do not have to spread out within soil to search for nutrients and water. Water and nutrients are delivered to the roots directly, intermittently or constantly, depending on the individual hydroponic technique. Roots are more compact as a result and can produce closer together. Because less space is needed, growers can produce significantly higher yields, with fewer infrastructures.

One method of reducing the water demand for vegetable irrigation besides using recent irrigation technology is through hydroponics. Hydroponics is a technology of growing many plants in the nutrient solution (water containing fertilizer) with or without the use of artificial media in the absence of soil.

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The nutrients required by plants are supplied by the nutrient solution. Pesticides and chemicals used in conventional agriculture have an adverse environmental impact on the runoff from these chemicals contaminating groundwater supplies. Commercial hydroponics eliminates these toxic chemicals and contributes substantially to keeping groundwater free from contamination. The main advantage of growing vegetables in hydroponics includes the extension of the growing season, improved and consistent vegetable quality and elimination of the use of pesticides and herbicides.

Recently hydroponic system is becoming popular because this is a clean and relatively easy method and there is no chance of soil-borne disease, insect or pest infection to the crops thereby reducing the use of pesticides and their resulting toxicity. Besides, plants need less growing time as compared to crop grown in field and growth of the plant is faster as there is no mechanical hindrance to the roots and the entire nutrient is readily obtainable for plants. This technique is useful for the area where environmental stress (cold, heat, and dessert, etc) is a major problem.

Crops in the hydroponic system are not influenced by climate change so, they can be cultivated year-round and considered as an offseason. The hydroponic system saves a large amount of water as irrigation and another type of sprays are not required and waterlogging never occurs. The problem of pest and disease can be controlled very easily while weed is non-existent.

Higher yields can be obtained as the number of plants per unit is higher compared to the conventional agriculture system. Although soil-less cultivation is an advantageous method some limitations are significant. Technical knowledge and the higher initial cost is a fundamental requirement for commercial-scale farming. Plant in hydroponics is sharing the same nutrient, and water-borne diseases can simply spread from one plant to another plant. Hot weather and limited oxygenation could limit production and can result in the loss of crops. Maintenance of pH level, EC and proper concentration of the nutrient solution is of prime importance. Finally, light and energy supply is necessary to run the system under a protected structure.

Caring for hydroponic swiss chard plants

Keep the plants well-watered and harvest regularly, to maintain them rejuvenating and extend the harvest.

Mulch will keep the soil moist and the plant leaves clean.

Swiss chard can take a light frost, but you will lose plants if it dips below about -15F. Swiss chard is a biennial, so plants will need to be overwintered if you plan to save seed.

Preventing pests and diseases in growing swiss chard hydroponically

Aphids are small insects that feed on young plant growth, causing it to appear puckered.

Flea beetles are small and change in color from black to bronze to metallic gray. They feed on leaves, creating small, irregular holes. Excessive feeding can cause leaves to wilt.

Downy mildew looks like fine white cotton or frosting and often infects lower leaves first. It can spread quickly and kill plants in cool conditions.

Cercospora leaf spot causes small halo-like spots on leaves. As the disease progresses, spots enlarge, ultimately resulting in small holes before plant leaves turn brown and die.

Tips for harvesting hydroponic swiss chard

  • Cut plant leaves near the base, being careful not to cut the stems of the inner leaves.
  • Harvest the mature leaves first, and leaving smaller leaves for continued production.
  • Pick no more than 3 to 5 mature leaves from a plant at a time and harvest often, as this encourages new growth. Remove old plant leaves that have lost their glossy sheen.
  • Harvesting Swiss chard is best done with a clean and sharp pair of garden scissors or a knife. Sever leaves at the base of the plant and new leaves will grow quickly.

That’s all folks about growing swiss chard hydroponically. Try for hydroponic swiss chard for healthy leafy greens. You may be interested in Growing Leafy Vegetables in Pots.

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