As a lifelong gardener in Wisconsin, I always seek ways to create a healthy, sustainable garden ecosystem. One technique I highly recommend is companion planting – choosing specific plant pairings that can benefit each other when grown together. In this article, I’ll share my experiences and advice on excellent companion plant matches for Swiss chard. With the right companion plants, you can improve your Swiss chard crop’s growth, flavor, and pest resistance.
- 1 An Overview of Companion Planting
- 2 Getting to Know Swiss Chard
- 3 Top Companion Plants for Swiss Chard
- 4 Plants to Avoid Pairing with Swiss Chard
- 5 How Companion Plantings Benefit Swiss Chard
- 6 Designing Your Swiss Chard Companion Garden
- 7 Enjoying the Companion Planting Harvest
- 8 Plant Some Companions for Your Swiss Chard
An Overview of Companion Planting
Before we discuss Swiss chard, let’s review the basics of companion planting. The key goal is to create biodiverse gardens full of plants that benefit and support one another. Well-matched companion plants provide nutrients, pest control, shade/support, and more for their plant neighbors.
- Enhancing flavor
- Boosting nutrients
- Controlling pests
- Improving crop yields
- Promoting biodiversity
Due to its hardy nature and diversity of cultivars, Swiss chard is an ideal candidate for companion planting. By intermixing Swiss chard with plants that enrich the soil, repel pests, and fill space efficiently, you can help your chard – and your entire garden – thrive.
Getting to Know Swiss Chard
Let’s start with an overview of this versatile green for readers unfamiliar with Swiss chard.
Swiss Chard Facts:
- Leafy green in beet family
- Thrives in cool weather
- Leaves stems, and roots are edible
- High in vitamins A, C, and K
- Available in colorful cultivars
To keep your Swiss chard happy and healthy, make sure to:
- Plant in cool weather
- Water consistently
- Provide fertile, well-draining soil
- Allow 4-6 hours of sunlight
- Fertilize occasionally
- Mulch around plants
- Harvest leaves regularly
Now that we’ve covered some chard basics let’s explore the best companion planting options.
Top Companion Plants for Swiss Chard
Through years of experimenting in my Wisconsin garden, I’ve discovered many excellent companion plants that benefit chard. Here are some of my favorites in different plant categories:
Leafy Greens and Herbs
Lettuce, spinach, arugula, parsley, cilantro, basil, and other leafy greens make great companions for chard. They have similar light and soil needs, so interplanting creates an efficient and lush landscape. Plus, the shallow roots don’t compete for space underground. Herbs like basil and parsley also repel pests, protecting the chard.
Success story: Lettuce provides shade for chard seedlings. Both mature around the same time for harvest.
Carrots, radishes, turnips, and beets work well with chard. Plant along border rows so substantial root growth doesn’t overwhelm Swiss chard’s shallower roots. They tend to repel each other’s common pests too. Also, root crops like radishes mature quickly, letting you plant a second crop in their place in succession.
Success story: Carrots and Swiss chard enhanced each other’s flavor when planted together.
Legumes & Nitrogen Fixers
Beans, peas, and clover put nutrients back into the soil through nitrogen fixation. This benefits nitrogen-loving plants like Swiss chard. Plus, they don’t compete much for space below ground. Some options also provide helpful trellising and coverage. Just be sure to provide support structures for climbing varieties.
Success story: Bush beans interplanted with Swiss chard added nitrogen to the soil, providing an extra edible crop without competing for space.
Don’t overlook cheery flowering plants like marigolds, nasturtiums, calendulas, and borage. They attract pollinators, which boost vegetable yields through better pollination. Certain flowers also repel common Swiss chard pests like aphids, mites, and nematodes. Splashes of blossoms create a visually appealing edible landscape.
Success story: Marigolds repelled nematodes and added a pop of color next to vibrant red Swiss chard.
Plants to Avoid Pairing with Swiss Chard
While many plants complement chard’s needs, a few options are too competitive. They rob nutrients, sunlight, and space for healthy Swiss chard growth. Through trial and error, I don’t recommend pairing your Swiss chard with:
- Broccoli family members
- Pole beans
Pay attention if your chard shows stunted growth, yellowing leaves, bolting, or low yields. This can indicate an incompatible planting scheme. Just adjust for the next growing season. Little garden experiments like this are all part of the fun!
How Companion Plantings Benefit Swiss Chard
Now that we’ve covered lots of potential plant matches with Swiss chard let’s examine why these companionships are so successful:
Enriching the Soil Together
You can enrich soil nutrition by pairing Swiss chard with legumes, dynamic accumulators like comfrey, and natural fertilizers like compost. This leads to better growth for the chard and all its plant neighbors. It also supports underground healthy microbial ecosystems – the “soil food web” essential for plant health.
Pest Control Through Diversity
A wide diversity of plants with different pest-fighting strengths makes it harder for invading bugs to take hold. Herbs like dill and chamomile repel damaging spider mites. Marigolds target nematodes. Borage attracts bees and predatory insects that eat aphids. A biodiverse garden is a resilient garden!
Efficient Use of Garden Space
When plants fill complementary niches above and below ground, you maximize productivity in every square foot. Shallow and deep-rooting plants can share space. Tall sun lovers can provide needed shade for shorter greens. Quickly maturing radishes let you succession plant heat-loving crops later. The possibilities are endless!
When grown next to Swiss chard, many fruits, herbs, edible flowers, and vegetables add delicious complementary flavors. The roots of my chard plants intermingled with hearty carrot companions, creating a dynamic sweet taste. Nasturtiums, borage, and marigolds provided peppery notes and visual delight. Kids love picking edible flowers to spice up their salad greens!
Designing Your Swiss Chard Companion Garden
Now comes the fun part – using this companion knowledge to design a thriving edible garden! Here are some tips:
Go Big with Raised Beds
For intensive planting, raised garden beds excel. They offer ample room for abundant plants while keeping pathways accessible for care and harvesting. When filling your raised beds each season, focus on water retention, drainage, and nutrient levels.
Think Outside the Box with Containers
Don’t have space for in-ground plots? No problem! Swiss chard and companions like herbs, lettuce, radishes, and bush beans thrive in containers together. Focus on soil quality, drainage, matcher watering needs, and sunlight access on patios, porches, or anywhere you want to grow.
Add Vertical Space with Support Structures
Make the most of small spaces by adding vertical growing space. Sturdy trellises for climbers like peas and pole beans allow you to stack multiple companion layers. This opens up precious ground-level real estate for chard and other low-growing companions.
Intercrop for Efficiency & Pest Protection
Intercropping means planting quick-growing species between rows of slower-growing ones, which increases productivity. For example, lettuces and Asian greens fill space while chard matures. You can also underplant beneficial insect-attracting flowers within chard rows.
Succession Plant for Nonstop Harvests
Succession planting prevents gaps in harvests by following quick crops with longer yields. For example, in early spring, plant radishes with chard. After harvesting radishes in 30 days, space opens up for replanting heat-loving crops like basil.
Seek Inspiration from Fellow Gardeners
Connecting with other gardeners provides a wealth of companion planting wisdom! Attend community workshops, volunteer at garden projects, join online gardening groups, take a class, and chat with neighbors. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Enjoying the Companion Planting Harvest
A thriving edible garden means more healthy, homegrown goodies to enjoy! Here are some ideas:
- Make a tasty pesto with Swiss chard, parsley, lettuce, and nasturtium
- Craft a vibrant salad mixing colorful chard varieties with spicy arugula and radish slices
- Serve Swiss chard steamed with fennel bulbs and carrots
- Sauté Swiss chard with beans, tomatoes, and basil
- Blend Swiss chard into fruit smoothies and green juices along with herbs
The possibilities are endless when you let your imagination run wild in the garden and kitchen!
Plant Some Companions for Your Swiss Chard
As you can see, companion gardening benefits Swiss chard and other fruits, vegetables, and herbs in many ways – when done right! I highly recommend trying it in your edible gardens. Start small by interplanting a few agreeable neighbors with your chard crop and build up from there. Customize based on your unique garden conditions. Most importantly – have fun with it!
Now, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below – what companion plants grew successfully next to your Swiss chard this season? Did you face any issues with incompatible pairings? Please share your own stories to help our gardening community learn!