Growing Chinese Spinach (Bayam) at Home
Chinese spinach, or more commonly known to all as Bayam or Amaranth leaves, is a wonderful pick as a staple vegetable to grow at home. Besides being quick and easy to grow, it is also one of the vegetables that continue growing (new shoots) despite having been harvested previously.
This beautifully soft and leafy variety of spinach which can come in both its green or red varieties. The red Bayam tends to be a more popular choice among growers as it has a sweeter, more intense flavour profile, and is commonly believed to be more nutritious because it has more protein, calcium and phosphate than its green counterparts.
For its soft texture and ease of digestibility, Chinese spinach is often a choice food for parents feeding their babies their first mouthful of vegetables. Packed with nutrition, easy to grow and cook (cooks in soups, such as the Tri Eggs Spinach in Superior Broth,三蛋菠菜上汤 within 2 or 3 minutes), pleasant in taste – It is no wonder that this vegetable is a highly recommended choice of grow amongst growers.
Similar to growing Kang Kong (Water spinach), Chinese spinach is also a very forgiving plant that thrives without much TLC (tender loving care) in our local hot climate. With sufficient sunlight exposure and plenty of water, the leaves of Chinese spinach (bayam) can be harvested in as little as 25 days from sowing.
How to grow from seed?
The seeds of Chinese spinach are readily sold by most local seed sellers. Alternatively, old plants that are allowed to mature may yield a lot of seeds in the flower inflorescences.
Being one of the tiniest seeds, almost finer than a mustard seed, you may find it a little inconvenient to plant the seeds one by one (as a single pinch to pick up the seeds could carry more than 10 seeds between your fingers).
A *PRO TIP* for sowing these tiny little seeds would be to scoop a teaspoon of seeds onto your palm; and facing your fingers towards your germination slots or planting plot, gently blow the seeds to spread them across the moistened bed of soil. By blowing the seeds, the seeds gently fly off your palms one after another reducing the chances of seeds “bunching” in a single spot on the soil. Keep in mind, you always want to give room between each seed or you would risk having the seeds contend for survival resources such as water, nutrients, and sunlight, and space for the roots to extend.
After scattering the seeds evenly across the planting plot, sprinkle a thin layer of fresh soil over top to bury the freshly sowed seeds. Continue watering if the soil is not moist enough. Afterwhich, expose the sowed seeds to at least 4 hrs of direct sunlight daily and protect it from rain. As these seeds are small and light-weighted, falling rain or too much water in the plot can easily dislodge the seeds from their sowed spots. Therefore, in the first few days of germination, it is critical to protect the seeds from too much external motion.
How to grow from cuttings?
If you do not have access to Chinese spinach 9bayam) seeds, you may choose to grow them from cuttings as well. Simply choose a healthy bundle of spinach leaves when you buy them at the market (Typically wet market sellers tend to sell chinese spinach with their roots still on; for ease of packaging and convenience, the supermarkets tend to have them chopped off). You can use the top leafy portions for cooking, but leave the bottom 15cm portion, approximately up to the 4th leaf node for planting. Soak this lower portion of the cuttings in water for a week, noting to change the water every couple of days. Transplant the cuttings to the ground or a container filled with soil as soon as the roots appear.
Water plenty and keep in the shade at the beginning till the plant stabilizes. Afterwhich, you may expose the kang kong plant to full sun. Continue watering good amounts of water -these bayam plants thrive in the moisture and heat!
Soil types for optimal growth:
Chinese spinach (bayam) plants thrive optimally in well drained soil, rich in organic matter. For optimal plant nutrition, add compost and/or mulch occasionally to replenish nutrient level in soil.
6.5 – 7.5
Chinese spinach (bayam) plants once germinated need plenty of sunlight (more than the 4 hours of sunlight required in germination stage). For mature plants, you would be looking at providing at the very least 6 hours of sunlight to the plant.
While germinating, keep soil moist – not over soaking in water such that seeds dislodge from their sowed spots; or over soak, soften and rot (die). After seeds have germinated, go ahead and water plenty! Water good amounts of water – Chinese spinach (bayam) thrives in the moisture and heat!
By the window where plenty of sunlight is available would be a good spot to position your plant. If not, any other positions that receive good amounts of sunlight (especially morning sunlight) can work too – HDB corridors, balcony, verandas, etc.
Chinese spinach is a garden staple because it is one of the vegetables that continue growing (new shoots) despite having been harvested previously. That is to say, you can get multiple harvests from sowing one time! How wonderful is that?
The key to having many more harvests besides the first one is to know when and how to harvest – how tall must they grow before cutting, where to cut so that more shoots can continue to grow, etc.
A simple rule of thumb to follow is to always cut leaving at least a leave (or 2) on the main stem. Leaves help the plant make food, and therefore continues to nourish the plant for continued growth!