- Germination Days: 14-21
- Hardiness Zones:3-9
- Planting Depth: 1/4“ - 1/2”
- Plant Spacing:2”
- Row Spacing:12-18”
- Growth Habit:Upright
- Soil Preference:Rich, moist and well-drained
- Temp Preference:Cool to warm
- Light Preference:Full sun to partial shade
- Days to Maturity:55 days
- Pests/diseases:Aphids and grasshoppers
Orach also known as Mountain spinach, French spinach, Giant Lambs quarters. Touted as a warm-season alternative to spinach, orach is actually a cool-season plant that just doesn't go to seed (bolt) as quickly as spinach. Harvest leaves that are less-bitter than spinach into the summer. Purple varieties in particular make good ornamental plants, though can reach 4 to 6 feet tall. Also popular as a micro-green, purple orach has a deep purple upper leaf with the shimmering underside characteristic to all orachs.
During the middle Ages, orach was one of the mostly commonly grown vegetables in Eurasia and by the 17th and 18th centuries it had “conquered” the Americas and Australia as well. It is grown in Europe and the northern plains of the United States as a substitute for spinach either fresh or cooked. The flavor is reminiscent of spinach and is often combined with sorrel leaves. The seeds are also edible and a source of vitamin A. They are ground into a meal and mixed with flour for making breads. Seeds are also used to make a blue dye.
- Prepare soil by adding aged manure or organic compost. Orach loves to grow in fertile soil and adding compost is the best way to help your growing Orach get off to the best start!
- Sow seeds in full sun about 2-3 weeks after the last frost in spring. Orach is best when planted early spring through to mid-summer and seeds can be started indoors up to 3 weeks before the last frost then hardened off.
- Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and about 3 inches apart in seed tray using a good quality seedling potting soil or direct in the growing bed. You will need to plant your seedlings after they get their first set of leaves so they are about 6 inches apart. Thin out your seedlings if you sowed them directly into the garden so there are 6 inches between each seedling.
- Keep plants moist by mulching and regular watering and begin harvesting leaves when the plants are about 6 inches tall. Although the plant is drought tolerant, it can make the leaves taste bitter so keep the soil moist for the best-tasting leaves.
- Pinch out flower buds to encourage more leaves and sow every 3-4 weeks to have succession planting to continue harvesting. This also makes the plant product new branches and more leaves to pick.
Pests / Dieseases
Orach is generally disease and garden pest resistant. Occasionally there may be aphids gathering on the underside of leaves. Use garden hose water to blast off aphids early in the morning. Keep an eye out for the larvae of lady beetles and lacewings. Though not common, you may have to pull a few of them out of the soil occasionally.
If the orach plants are tightly spaced, harvest them all the way down to one or two inches above the soil. Once they grow back up, you’re ready to harvest again for fresh salads and greens. If you thinned out your rows up to 12 inches apart early during grow period, you could now choose to thin them up to 18 inches, or you can keep them as they are.
When harvesting from fully grown orach plants, wait until the plant has fully matured, then leave the older leaves in place and begin regularly harvesting the younger leaves so that the orach stays healthy and focused on new growth. Pinch off flower buds to encourage branching and promote new growth.