Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Amaranths: Ancient and Modern (page 5 of 5)

by David Cavagnaro

Growing Amaranth

Most gardeners in North America can grow just about any kind of amaranth. Season length may prevent success with the long-season grain varieties for gardeners in northern, short-summer areas.

Grow all kinds of amaranth the same way. In a site that receives full sun, prepare shallow furrows, about 2 feet apart as soon as all danger of frost has passed. Scatter seed in the furrows, and cover it lightly with soil; seed will sprout in three to five warm days. Once seedlings are a few inches tall, thin by cutting for spinach or salad greens until the plants are spaced 8 to 10 inches apart. Control weeds early in the season, and water if spring rains are scarce.

Fertile soil increases yield but isn't required to grow a reasonable crop. Amaranth thrives in poor soils, and here in Iowa, summer rains usually bring more than adequate moisture. In rich soils, plants may grow larger and need staking. For gardeners in arid regions, Native Seeds/SEARCH carries several drought-tolerant varieties grown for centuries by indigenous peoples of the Southwest and Mexico, largely without irrigation.

In moist climates, damping off can affect seedlings. Early thinning and good weed control reduce the problem by keeping seedlings dry and well ventilated. Flea beetles may attack young plants, and tarnished plant bugs and amaranth weevils are problems in some regions. In general, however, amaranth is nearly indestructible.

Easy to grow, good looking, practical, and versatile beyond imagination -- I can't think of another crop plant that offers so much. This year, discover the charms of these ancient plants for yourself.

David Cavagnaro's stunning photographs appear in many gardening magazines and books. He lives and gardens in Decorah, Iowa.

Photography by Suzanne DeJohn/National Gardening Association

Growing Amaranth

Most gardeners in North America can grow just about any kind of amaranth. Season length may prevent success with the long-season grain varieties for gardeners in northern, short-summer areas.

Grow all kinds of amaranth the same way. In a site that receives full sun, prepare shallow furrows, about 2 feet apart as soon as all danger of frost has passed. Scatter seed in the furrows, and cover it lightly with soil; seed will sprout in three to five warm days. Once seedlings are a few inches tall, thin by cutting for spinach or salad greens until the plants are spaced 8 to 10 inches apart. Control weeds early in the season, and water if spring rains are scarce.

Fertile soil increases yield but isn't required to grow a reasonable crop. Amaranth thrives in poor soils, and here in Iowa, summer rains usually bring more than adequate moisture. In rich soils, plants may grow larger and need staking. For gardeners in arid regions, Native Seeds/SEARCH carries several drought-tolerant varieties grown for centuries by indigenous peoples of the Southwest and Mexico, largely without irrigation.

In moist climates, damping off can affect seedlings. Early thinning and good weed control reduce the problem by keeping seedlings dry and well ventilated. Flea beetles may attack young plants, and tarnished plant bugs and amaranth weevils are problems in some regions. In general, however, amaranth is nearly indestructible.

Easy to grow, good looking, practical, and versatile beyond imagination -- I can't think of another crop plant that offers so much. This year, discover the charms of these ancient plants for yourself.

David Cavagnaro's stunning photographs of plants and gardens appear in many gardening magazines and books. He lives and gardens in Decorah, Iowa.

Photography by Suzanne DeJohn/National Gardening Association

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