How to grow Spinach

How to grow Spinach - Description

A young, smooth-leaf  plant
  • Spinach is relatively easy to grow in cool climates and it is packed with nutrients such as iron, protein, vitamin A and chlorophyll.
  • Whether raw in salads or lightly steamed spinach is a suitable accompanyment to a wide range of dishes.
  • Spring Crop
    • Start sowing indoors before the last frosts, or outdoors after the last frosts.
    • As the weather warms, spinach plants will bolt more quickly. 
    • Expect to stop sowing spinach seeds sometime in May or June, depending on your climate. 
    • You can extend the season slightly by planting in the shade of taller plants and keeping your spinach plants regularly watered.
  • Autumn Crop
    • Spinach also grows well in the cool, short days of autumn. 
    • Start seeding again in the beginning of August. 
    • Keep the seedlings shaded and watered and in the summer heat they should be ready to harvest beginning in September.
    • The last sowing should be about 50-60 days before the first frosts.
  • Spinach is a member of the Beetroot Family, and it is recommended that it should not be grown in the same soil as other family members for at least three years.

How to grow Spinach - Site & Soil

  • Spinach prefers a well draining soil with a neutral pH and won’t be happy in a pH lower than 6.0. 
  • Dig the soil to around 30cm (1 foot) depth as this is how far the plants tap root can develop. 
  • Work some organic compost or manure into the soil to help provide the necessary nutrients for growth.
  • Because of the benefit of organic matter cover crops and green manure crops are beneficial prior to planting spinach.
  • Because it is such a fast grower, it is also a heavy feeder. 
  • A fertilizer high in nitrogen, the first number on the fertilizer package (N-P-K), will help produce dark, healthy leaves. 
  • Fish emulsion and soy meal are good organic choices.

How to grow Spinach - Sowing Seed

  • Germination of spinach seeds can take anything between a week and 2 weeks.
  • You can start spinach indoors or direct seeded in the garden as soon as the soil is workable. 

Sowing indoors

  • Spinach grows quite quickly, so don’t start plants indoors more than 2-3 weeks before you plan to transplant them out. 
  • Spinach also matures and goes to seed quickly, so it is better to re-seed every couple of weeks than to try and plant a large crop to harvest over time.

Sowing outdoors

  • Sow once the threat of frost is past.
  • Sow the spinach seeds thinly in rows spaced about 1 -1 ½ ft. apart or simply scatter the seeds in blocks. 
  • Cover lightly with soil, firm in place and water well. 
  • Keep the soil moist until germination. 
  • Once the plants have a grown their true leaves,  see photo right, you can begin to thin the plants to about 6" apart. Of course, you can eat your thinnings.

How to grow Spinach - Care & Cultivation

  • In the spring, plants will grow tall and start to break into flower (called bolting) as soon as the days are longer than 14 hours, see photograph right. 
  • Heat also speeds up bolting, since spinach prefers temperatures between 35 and 75 degrees.
  • Because spinach is grown when the weather is cool and damp, several fungus diseases, like downy mildew and fusarium wilt, can become problems. 
  • Space your spinach plants so they get good air circulation and try to keep water off the leaves in the evening. 
  • Grow disease resistant varieties, like: 'Melody', 'Nordic IV', 'Olympia', 'Tyee' and 'Wolter'.
  • Aphids pose a risk because they can spread viruses. Monitor for aphids regularly and hose them off immediately.
  • Several 4-legged pests, rabbits chief among them, will also raid your spinach patch. 

How to grow Spinach - Harvesting

  • Spinach can be harvested in the cut and come again method of harvesting lettuce. 
  • Cut individual leaves, starting with the older, outer leaves, and letting the young inner leaves remain and continue growing for a later harvest. 
  • You can also cut down the whole plant, for a larger harvest. 
  • If you cut about an inch above the crown or base of the plant, it is very likely the plant will send out a new flush of leaves. 

How to grow Spinach - Storing & Preserving

  • Spinach, especially the crinkled leaf varieties, hangs onto soil. Wash well before using.
  • Spinach leaves are very sensitive to the ethylene gas given off by many fruits. Don’t store in the refrigerator with apples, melons or tomatoes.
  • Spinach can be frozen for later use. 
    • Wash the leaves well and allow them to dry somewhat before placing in a resealable freezer bag. 
    • Then cook them for about 1 minute in the microwave, on high. 
    • Allow to cool slightly and place in the freezer. 
    • Best used within 3-6 months.
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