Chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla) is a biennial. To save seeds from a biennial plant, it must over-winter, so that it will flower in its second year. In the Fall of the second year, you can collect and save the seeds.
You may recall that I have one chard plant that made it through this past Winter. This chard plant has been growing well, and I am looking forward to collecting its seeds.
Recently, even though it was blown over by our Kansas wind, the chard plant began to flower. Here are a few photos.
You might notice that the chard looks an awful lot like the beets that happen to be growing in the same bed. This is not a surprise, since they are merely variations on a theme. Chard is also known as “silver beet” after all.
Since chard and beets are so closely related, they can cross-pollinate. Chard and beets are wind-pollinated (thus the boring, un-noticeable flowers), and the pollen is very light. In fact, the wind can blow chard and beet pollen a distance of up to about 2 to 5-miles. Thus, if you want to keep the varieties separate, you can either cover the plants with wind-proof containers, separate them by more than 5-miles, or grow only one variety for seed each year (assuming that other gardeners/farmers aren’t also growing up seed).
For me, it is easiest to grow up one variety for seed each year. This year, it looks like this year I am growing chard seeds. This Fall, I will leave a few of these beets in the ground and cover them with straw. If any of them happen to survive the Winter, then I will grow them up and save their seed next Summer.
If you would like to learn more about seed saving, check out The Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook at howtosaveseeds.com.