New Zealand Spinach is a low-growing leafy plant that grows well in the heat of summer when regular spinach is struggling to survive, however it is not frost hardy like true spinach.
The two plants are not related in anyway but can be used fresh or cooked in the same manner. The flavor and texture are similar to regular spinach.
It can spread several feet wide and grow to one foot (30 cm) tall. It has succulent, almost triangular shaped leaves, smaller and fuzzier than regular spinach. They are pale to dark green and grow from 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) long.
The flowers of New Zealand spinach are yellow, and the fruit is a small, hard conical capsules covered with small horns. Within the capsule there are several seeds.
New Zealand spinach needs a sunny position but where summer heat is intense, plant New Zealand spinach where it will get partial shade in the afternoon. It requiring a minimum of 5-6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
New Zealand spinach like a well drained, sandy soil that is rich in organic matter, with a pH ranging from 6.8 to 7.0
Prepare planting beds with aged compost and or a good all purpose organic fertilizer. Because New Zealand spinach has a sprawling habit side dressing later on is difficult. This is where nutrient teas and organic liquid fertilizer are at their best. Fertilize ever 2-3 weeks throughout the growing season for high producing plants.
Soil temperatures and air temperatures differ greatest in the early spring. While air temperature might be in the range for planting or sowing seed it will take consistently warm temperature during the day and night for the soil temperature to follow suit.
Direct sow or Seedling transplants
Direct sowing New Zealand spinach seed - 1/2 inch (12 mm) deep 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) apart in rows 24-36 inches (60-90 cm) apart.
Some gardeners just prefer to grow plants from seedlings and New Zealand spinach is one plant that has no problem with special treatment.
Regular trimming and good fertilization of the plants encourages lush growth otherwise it can seed early.
The most important aspects of caring for New Zealand spinach are;
When seedlings are approximately 3 inches tall, transplant or thin seedlings to strongest plant, 12 to 18 inches apart.
New Zealand spinach is drought tolerant but produces best when watered regularly and the soil is not left to dry out. Mulch to retain soil moisture and control weeds.
2 weeks before sowing or transplanting apply 3-4 quarts per 100 sq feet (3.3-4.4 liters per 9.3 square meters) of All-Purpose 5-5-5 Organic Fertilizer.
When transplanting use liquid starter fertilizer.
Every 3-4 weeks after until 3-4 week before 1st expected fall frost apply liquid fish fertilizer to keep nutrient levels sufficient for good crop.
New Zealand spinach has no serious pest problems.
Usually few insects will bother it, even slugs and snails.
New Zealand spinach is relatively pest and disease free.
The first tender young leaves will be ready for harvest 55 to 65 days after sowing. Cut young leaves and tender leaf tips for the best flavor.
It is another cut-and-come-again harvest green, which encourages new lush growth and a longer harvest. New Zealand spinach can be eaten raw or steamed.
New Zealand spinach will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week, it can also be frozen or canned.
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