How to Grow Water Spinach – A Step by Step Guide
Most of the people would be wondering what is water spinach? Well, water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) or kangkong is a member of the Convolvulaceae or Morning glory family and the same genus as the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas). Growing water spinach is very popular as a vegetable, particularly in the Southeast Asian region.
Water spinach is a semi-aquatic, tropical plant which is essentially grown as a vegetable for its tender shoots and leaves. Water spinach is known by different names such as kangkong, water convolvulus, Chinese watercress, river spinach, water morning glory, Chinese convolvulus, Chinese spinach, and swamp cabbage.
Requirements of production:
You may also be interested in How to Grow Mung Beans.
Growing water spinach or kangkong needs moist, wet and nutrient-rich soil of pH level around 6.0 to 7.0.
Water spinach is not adapted to climates with mean temperatures below 10°C and the optimal temperature is around 20°C to 30°C. It is grown year-round in the tropics. Tree flowering occurs under short-day conditions and commences from mid-summer onwards. Water spinach is perennial in warm climates, although, an annual under cooler growing conditions. It tolerates high rainfall, but not frost.
You may read about Briquetting Process.
Water spinach grows in a warm and humid subtropical and tropical climate, so it is essential to provide it full sun. However, Water spinach also grows in partial shade.
What kind of fertilizers should be applied:
If growing Water spinach on the ground you don’t need to fertilize it often but in containers fertilize it with high in nitrogen liquid fertilizer every other week.
Water spinach plant care:
The water spinach plants are easy to grow and they generally require less care. Although taking additional care will be good for the growth of the plants.
Growing water spinach or Kangkong is very easy, as long as the soil is moist consistently.
Propagation of water spinach is either by seeds or by cuttings. Sow the seeds in clean potting soil (sow about 0.5 centimeters deep). Ensure that you keep the seeds consistently moist. Also that the temperature should remain around 68°F (20°C). Germination occurs within a couple of weeks. To speed up the germination then soak the seeds overnight in water.
Growing water spinach from cuttings is the easiest method to propagate it. Just cut several 30 to 40cm long cuttings from young growth and plant 15 cm deep in potting mix.
Water spinach can be grown from seed, often soaked for 24 hours before sowing. Can be easily propagated from cuttings just below a node; Water Spinach freely roots at the node. One source that commercial operations will take cuttings approximately 12 inches (30 cm) in length (which will have 7-8 nodes) and plant them 6 to 7.5 inches (15-20 cm) deep.
Water spinach can be raised from stem cuttings, 30 to 40 cm long, taken from the young growth just below a node, and planted about 15 cm deep. To make sure earliness, growers in China sometimes lift roots at the end of the season, store them carefully in winter, and plant shoots from them in spring.
Water spinach plant is a frost sensitive plant. Optimal temperatures for development are between 75° and 85° F and chilling injury can occur below 50° F. Direct seed or transplants can be used. Many Asian growers in Massachusetts will soak the seed until germination to ensure the seed is possible. Growers plant in beds with 6 to 10 seeds per foot in rows that are 6 to 8 inches wide. Plant stems are not strong, but plants grown in beds support each other and generate longer stems with less branching, which is what the market prefers.
Water spinach needs much more water than other vegetable crops. This increased irrigation can leach out readily obtainable nutrients, so it is recommended to use slow-release forms of fertility. Harvest of the entire plant can be made 50 – 60 days after planting. Plants are harvested by cutting the stem close to the ground and then nitrogen is useful to encourage re-growth. Shoots regrow readily and in Massachusetts, growers will obtain two to three cuttings of water spinach before frost.
When planted in the right soil, water spinach seeds germinate very quickly. It takes about 5-9 days for the seeds to germinate. Sow the plant seeds at different times throughout the spring for a longer harvest.
Water spinach can be grown in a pot or on the ground. You can also plant Water spinach near the edge of a pond or other water bodies.
When rainfall is low, frequent heavy irrigations are essential for high-quality shots. To generate strong seedlings, seed should be sown 5-10 mm deep in trays with potting mix deep enough to allow the plants to increase a good root system. Transplanting must take place when plants are 10-15 cm high, with four true leaves. Highest yields can be obtained by spacing plants at 15×15 cm. They can be grown in rows about 30 cm apart with plants at 20 cm spacing within rows.
How to plant water spinach:
In moist soil culture, the crop is grown on raised beds 60 to 100 cm wide. Water spinach seeds are sown directly or nursery-grown seedlings are transplanted into the beds. The water spinach plants readily root from cuttings. So planting the cuttings is the easiest approach for growing water spinach. While you can plant seeds for growing water spinach. The seed must be no more than 2 years old and can be soaked for 24 hours before sowing to encourage germination. This will help to germinate the seeds very faster. Then scatter the seeds in your prepared bed, and transplant later when the seedlings reach 4 to 6 inches height. Planting the seedlings in rows will be good for additional caring. Plant the seedlings to at least six inches apart. Soil temperature requirement for germination is about 20°C.
Some points will be considered while growing water spinach;
- Select a planting garden site with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil.
- Prepare the garden soil with aged manure about a week before planting, or, you can wish to prepare your spot in the fall so that you can sow the seeds outdoors in early spring after the ground thaws.
- Although seeds can be started indoors, it is not recommended, as seedlings are hard to transplant.
- Sow seeds half an inch to one inch deep, covering lightly with soil. Sow about 12 seeds per foot of row, or sprinkle over a wide row or bed.
- Water the new plants regularly well in the spring.
Water spinach doesn’t need a ton of room, but overcrowded water spinach seedlings can end up competing with each other for light, water, and nutrients so it’s best to provide them plenty of room to grow. Once spinach seedlings start to grow their true leaves, thin them out so they are about 4-6 inches apart.
Using a container to grow Kangkong:
Growing water spinach in a pot or container is ideal. Growing water spinach in a pot will also thwart nematodes and other soil-borne pests and diseases.
When planting water spinach in a container, use a rich loamy soil mixed with compost. Select a container with at least 12 inches in depth and diameter. The plant can grow well in partial or full sun, but at least four hours of sunlight is ideal for it to grow more leaves. Maintain the soil moist by regular watering. Water deeply to make sure the deepest roots are reached. Daily watering is required during the hot and dry summer months.
You may also read the How to Grow Moringa Tree from Cuttings.
How and when to harvest:
When you are harvesting water spinach, just harvest the bigger leaves. Use a pair of scissors to cut the spinach leaf off from the main plant. Do not pull with your fingers as it may affect the uprooting of the plant. It does take a little more time when harvesting spinach with a pair of scissors, but it protects the plant from any kind of root shock. Once you have harvested the mature leaves the smaller leaves will start growing fast and new leaves will appear.
Water spinach must be harvested before it flowers. A first harvest date of nutritious water spinach is generally 4 to 6 weeks after planting and depending more on the temperature and growing conditions. Cut only a few leaves or entire plant with leaves and stems leaving only three inches of growth, the plant will regrow again. Both water spinach stems and leaves can be eaten.
Some facts about water spinach:
- Water spinach or Kangkong grows rapidly and they are among the very fast growing vegetables.
- In subtropical and tropical climate you can grow water spinach anytime but in cooler climates plant it between late springs to early summer.
- Kangkong is one of the very familiar green leafy vegetables used in the South and South-East Asian cuisine.
- Actually, water spinach is a member of the Morning glory family and the same genus as the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas). It is an herbaceous aquatic or semi-aquatic perennial plant of the tropics and subtropics. It has a creeping growth habit but could grow erect in water.
- Growing hydroponic spinach versus soil grown spinach means to harvest more crops per year, with consistent quality and yields. If you seed every 2 weeks and have a few different areas in your system you can harvest mature and full crops every two weeks.
- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has issued more than 50 active permits in Rosharon for increasing water spinach or Kangkong plants, an extremely regulated, invasive plant that the federal government considers a noxious weed, creation it illegal to sell across state lines without a permit.
- Water spinach will grow all year long in hot, humid weather.
- Generally, water spinach can be grown outside in summer. In cool areas, it can be grown in unheated greenhouses in summer but will need heated greenhouses for a spring crop. It prefers full sun but where summer temperatures are high, it is sometimes grown as a ground cover beneath climbing plants. Water spinach must be sheltered from strong winds.
- Water spinach is very perishable. It stores well in the refrigerator for about a day but occasionally can make it 2 to 3 days.
- A single water spinach plant can grow to over 70 feet long, attaining this great length at a rate of 4 inches a day.
- Propagate kangkong or water spinach easily from seeds or through stem cuttings. Sow the seeds in a seed tray or directly into a medium sized container or pot. Make sure to allow a minimum of three inches of distance in between the seeds. They germinate easily in a matter of days. In a few more days, move the seedlings to a sunny spot outside.