New Zealand spinach is a green leafy plant native to Australia and New Zealand. It needs warm weather to grow and is easy to care for and maintain.
If you like to eat spinach year-round then start growing New Zealand spinach today. Buy some seeds and start germinating them indoors.
Once they become healthy seedlings then transplant them in the outdoor garden after the last frost.
If you do not have a garden then you can grow it in containers or even in hanging baskets.
Read on for tips on growing and caring for this tasty spinach.
What is New Zealand Spinach?
As the name suggests it is a variety of spinach that is native to New Zealand. Here in the US, we grow it as a tender annual. But in its native place, it is considered a perennial vegetable. And it grows there for 12 months. We cannot say it another form of Normal spinach. But yes, it is a good alternative to Normal spinach in the summer months.
The normal spinach we grow in our garden does not survive in a warm-hot climate. Whereas New Zealand spinach starts thriving when days get warm. And continue to produce leaves even on hot days of summer.
It has all the nutrients that our regular spinach has like Vitamin A, C, K, Water, etc.
If you are living in zone 5 you can grow it year-round. But in other zones, it starts dying as the temperature drops down and cold winds start blowing. The perfect time to plant this amazingly tasty spinach is after the last frost.
It is best to start it indoors almost 24 days before the date of the last frost. This way you will have strong seedlings. That can easily survive the outer temperature.
You can also germinate more seeds if the first germinating batch of seeds is not sufficient.
It is easy to grow and care for. Just give it proper sunlight, water, and a handful of fertilizer. It will grow sweet and produce more green leaves.
This variety of spinach has thick leaves that is why on some places people call it Ice plant even it cannot tolerate the cold weather.
Growing New Zealand Spinach
Here you have two options first is you can grow it in containers. The second is you can start it indoors and transplant seedlings outdoor after the frost.
Starting from seeds
Get the seeds of spinach to soak in a fresh bowl of water for 24 hours. Remember that the bowl should be made of glass. Do not use steel made or plastic containers for germination. Seeds germinate well and fast in glass bowls.
After 24 hours of soaking put the seeds in a seedling tray one in each cell.
Or plant the seeds in a seed starting mix just half-inch deep. Make sure the soil remains moist until the plants seeds sprout and become seedlings. It will take few days to sprout. This spinach variety takes 55 to 65 days to get fully matured after seed planting.
Now you can transfer the seedlings to an outside garden. Or plant them in different containers to grow them inside with the help of grow lights.
200 to 300 watts Single LED grow light is enough for growing 3 to 4 plants.
Direct Sowing in Outdoor Garden
To sow seeds directly in the outer garden you need to wait until the temperature becomes stable. Once the temperature stays above 10 Degrees C you can sow seeds in the ground. It needs warm days to grow and spread.
Find a place in your garden where the seeds of spinach can grow without the interference of other plants. This way it can automatically grow in each warm season. You don’t have to sow the seeds again.
Choose a sunny location and fertile soil for planting seeds.
Sow the seeds after 24 hours of the soaking process. Sow them at least 5 inches apart in a row because the spinach plant needs room to spread. Maintain the 12 inches distance between rows of spinach for good airflow.
Caring for and maintain the plant is easy all you need to do is follow the below-written care guide.
Sunlight & Temperature
New Zealand spinach needs a minimum of 10 hours of direct sunlight. Direct sun rays help spinach to make its food easily. It also prevents fungus-like disease. But if you are growing it indoors still you need to give 10 hours of light. Plants cannot differentiate between sunlight and grow light. They just need the light that has all the light spectrums that are found in sunlight.
You will be happy to know that LED grow lights emit a full spectrum of light. In simple words, they emit the light waves similar to the sunlight wavelength.
As it a warm crop it needs a hot climate and high temperature to grow. The ideal temperature range for growing New Zealand Spinach is 15 to 28 Degrees C.
Water & Humidity
It needs low humidity as we have on summer days. So do not worry about the humid level. All you need to do is give it a good amount of water. In fact, water it regularly once the plant gets established. Regular watering help spinach to maintain its color and taste.
The lack of water will result in a wilting or a slightly bitter taste.
This variety of spinach had a 95% water content. Plants that are juicy and are rich in water content always need more water than other plants.
Before watering it check the soil conditions. On hot summer days give it water in the evening time. If possible, keep it protected from the hottest time of the day between 12 to 4 pm. Move the container in shade or use a cotton cloth to give shade to in-ground growing spinach plants.
Growing New Zealand spinach is easy in all types of normal soils. Even if you have little sandy soil. It will be not a problem for the spinach. The only thing that you need to make is the soil should be well-draining. And it should contain a good amount of organic matter.
Form organic matter we mean compost-like substances. This keeps the soil moist for long hours you need to water your plants less frequently.
Any home-made organic compost will work fine to improve the fertility and water retention power of the soil.
To make your plants strong and healthy you need to give them extra nutrients in form of fertilizers. Use spinach fertilizer or any normal plant fertilizer. It should have 10% Nitrogen, 10% phosphorous, and 10 % potassium.
10-10-10 is the balanced form of fertilizer for the growing ice plants. Fertilize the plants regularly but this does not mean daily. Once or twice a month depending on the type of fertilizer and age of plants.
Fertilization makes them strong and your growing spinach plants can tolerate the very light frost. Remember that if you amend your soil with the organic matter then you only use fertilizers twice in plant’s life cycle.
After each harvest gives it a little nutrient boost but makes sure to keep the gap of 15 days in each nutrient boost.
The nutrient boost means giving a very less amount of fertilizer to the harvested plants.
Harvesting & Storing
The plant will keep producing the leaves until the first frost or until the temperature drop below 10 degrees C. For harvesting the ice plants, you need to wait for 55 to 64 days. Then you can use harvesting shears and cut the outer long leaves.
Do not cut the baby leaves that the in the center of the spinach. Because they will encourage new growth. For long harvests follow the recommended guidelines of harvesting spinach.
Once you harvest a large number of leaves. You need to store them because you cannot eat all of them in a single day. Wash the leaves dry them with a cotton cloth and put them in the refrigerator. You can use the resealable bag to keep them fresh for more than 7 days.
But for less than a week store them without a plastic bag.
It can also be dried or canned for long-time storage. But this type of storage reduces the nutritional benefits.
Pests & Diseases
The plant does not get many diseases and commonly affected by pest attacks. Leaf miners are the common pests that are found on spinach plants. They do not kill the plant but eat the leaves, make holes in them. They do cosmetic damage to the plant.
Cabbage worms, aphids are other rarely seen pests that attack the ice plants.
If you do not pay attention to the soil and grow the plant in tightly packed soil. The growing spinach plants will show improper growth. This also triggers mildew. Before planting, seeds or seedlings make sure the soil you are going to use is a well-draining soil. The pH of the soil should be between 6 to 7.1.