If you like to eat protein-rich food then you cannot miss the Quinoa seeds. They are a rich source of protein and your body can easily absorb this protein without wasting much energy. In this post, I will show you how to grow the Quinoa plants in your garden.
The good news is even if you are a beginner, you can still grow it without much effort. This plant produces green-silvery leaves and red, pink seed heads.
Later in this article, you will also learn how to take out the seeds from the seedhead.
Note: This plant is a hardy plant means it is resistant to drought and many common houseplant diseases. Autumn is the perfect harvesting time.
Now let’s start with the basic information.
What is the Quinoa plant?
People living in the mountain region of South America grow and use the seeds of this plant for centuries. They add the seeds in different dishes to make them protein-rich. For many years this was their primary source of natural protein.
The naturally found Quinoa cannot tolerate a temperature above 90 degrees F.
Nowadays we have Quinoa that can be easily grown in cold and hot weather. This variety is developed by the breeders.
All the common varieties of quinoa produce red, pink, or black seeds. In an ideal growing environment, this plant grows from 4 to 6 feet tall.
Container-grown plants do not grow this tall. They remain short due to a lack of space for the roots to spread. You can harvest the seeds in 100 days.
You will be surprised to know that we can eat the beautiful silvery green leaves of quinoa. They taste somewhat like spinach. You can add them instead of spinach in various salad recipes.
Note: People that have kidney stones should avoid eating leaves. Because they have a substance called OXALIC Acid that increases the chances of kidney stones.
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Common varieties of Quinoa
There are many natural and hybrid varieties of Quinoa. But there are 2 most common varieties that you can find in American gardens. Americans like to add them to their salad items. Below are a few words about those special quinoa varieties.
Normally these plants grow 4 to 5 feet in height. They produce very beautiful leaves that look similar to ornamental flower plants. Due to its small size, this plant is an excellent choice for containers.
Cherry vanilla quinoa produces a pinkish seed head that looks amazingly beautiful. You can grow it on the border of your garden.
This variety also grows a maximum of 6 feet tall but it produces different color seed heads. You will see pink, red, orange seed heads on this variety of Quinoa.
The unique thing about this plant is you can easily eat raw leaves. They taste better than cherry vanilla quinoa.
How to grow Quinoa?
Two grow quinoa you have two methods: one is to sow seeds directly in the outdoor garden and the second is to start them indoors under grow lights.
I prefer starting them indoors because of the weather in my area (it is unpredictable).
Once you have good-quality Quinoa seeds start them indoors. Sow them in aseed starting tray 4 weeks before the last spring frost.
Do not plant them deep in the seed cell.
Once you sow all the seeds mist water on the tray to keep the seed starting medium moist. Use fresh drinkable water for watering seeds and mature plants.
You will be surprised to know that this fast-growing plant has a very short germination period. The seeds start germinating in 5 to 6 days.
Once they show growth you need to give them proper care.
I turn ON my grow light for 15 hours per day to full fil their light requirements. Remember that every plant that needs direct sunlight needs long hours of exposure to grow lights.
You can use the timer to turn ON and OFF the grow lights on time.
Keep the seedlings moist and give them liquid fertilizer for the best growth. Then harden off the seedlings before transplanting them outdoors.
In Quinoa gardening, light is the main part that plays a very important role in germination and in the development of seedlings.
How to sow Quinoa seedlings in an outdoor garden?
Before transferring the seedlings, you need to harden off them so that they can tolerate the weather.
The second part is, preparing the soil for quinoa seedlings. When the outside temperature gets high and the soil temperature stays above 60 degrees F. Then you can transfer the seedlings to your vegetable garden.
Just make sure the place where you want to grow them is highly fertile. Less fertilize soil is not beneficial in the case of growing quinoa.
To make your less fertilize soil highly fertile you have two natural options one is composting and the other is aged manure.
According to my experience, organic compost works best. Because it has a high percentage of nitrogen. And plants need it from germination to the mature stage.
You can make compost at home but it will take months.
If you want to start growing Quinoa this year then you need to buy a bag of compost from the local garden store.
How to grow Quinoa with other Vegetables?
If you are growing it with other vegetables, you can follow the below tips to increase its yield.
For best growth, you need to think about the seedlings once they grow tall. There must be 12 to 20 inches of free space between two seedlings. If you are growing tall variety then you need to increase this distance by 5 more inches.
Add thinning to your salad and enjoy a fresh source of protein.
Water these plants regularly in the growing season. Because this plant is drought resistant you can limit the water application per week.
The best idea is to use mulch and reduce the evaporation of water from the soil. Use any kind of mulch that you have at home.
Because we are only using it to reduce the evaporation of moisture not for nutrients.
Stop watering Quinoa plants when they start producing seed heads in the summer season.
Quinoa plant grows tall in size and they produce heavy heads. This means they need support to stand firmly in the soil.
I use bamboo sticks to support my plants. But when it grows more than 6 feet them, I use a tomato cage. You can also make a structure like a cage from 5 to 6 bamboo sticks.
How to grow Quinoa in Plant Containers?
Do not use plastic containers or self-watering planters. They are useful when the growing plant cannot tolerate drought.
But your Quinoa can easily stand healthy in dry conditions.
I use fabric plant pots because they drain extra water from the soil in few minutes. 2 feet wide pot is enough to grow sufficient quinoas.
After a selection of pot locate a sunny place in your garden or in your home. Remember that this plant starts producing seeds in summer and it needs plenty of direct sunlight.
Now fill the pot with highly fertile soil and transfer the seedling in it.
Sow seeds 4 inches apart, once the seeds become seedlings thin them 12 inches apart.
Watering is a crucial part in the case of container-growing Quinoa. When people ask us how to grow Quinoa. We tell them to follow the correct watering routine.
Before watering quinoa check the top 2 inches of the soil. Insert your fingertip in the potting soil. If the top 2 inches are dry then you can give some water to the plant. Otherwise, wait until the soil gets dry.
Less watering will be beneficial but overwatering will cause root rot-like problems.
Quinoa and common pests
Aphids suck the sap of the plant cells. They can damage an entire garden in 2 to 4 days. To get rid of these tiny pests you can attack ladybugs in your garden. These bugs are good friends of your plants. Because they eat aphids and other harmful pests.
Hence save your plants from many common damages and infections.
Use a strong jet of water to kill them.
Pesticidal sprays are the professional choice over homemade solutions.
When to harvest Quinoa?
For Quinoa harvesting, Autumn is the best time. When the plant comes near to its harvest. The leaves of the quinoa start turning yellow and falling from the plant.
The seed heads start to dry and this means your plant is ready for the harvest. You need to do it immediately.
Take sharp shears, sterilize them, and then cut below the seed head. Collect each head in the container and hang them in the airy room for drying.
The drying seed heads lose seeds that fall on the ground. So, you need to use a newspaper on the ground to collect falling seeds.
Let’s say you are about to harvest the plant but there comes the frost. Then you can cover the plant with a plastic cover. Lift the cover in the morning so that the plants can dry in the hot sun.
How to collect seeds?
The good news is quinoa seeds do not have any kind of cover that you need to remove to collect the seeds.
This means you do not need any special tool for harvesting seeds.
Toss them in front of a fan to remove debris. Do not use water to wash them. After that use screen to clean protein-rich seeds.
Then take a clean tray and put all seeds on it to dry for more days.
This is all about how to grow Quinoa, if you have any confusion or more questions write us. One of our team members will surely contact you ASAP.