Spinach is one of the best cool-weather crops that you can grow. A fast-growing plant, it yields many leaves in a short time in the mild weather of spring and fall. The huge yields of nutritious, delicious green leaves are a worldwide staple in salads, dips, sides, smoothies and hundreds of delicious dishes you can whip up in your own kitchen every day.
As the king of the salad greens, spinach is rich in vitamins, iron, manganese, and even fiber. It is one of the healthiest greens available to us and it’s easy to grow and simple to store. The trick to growing successful spinach lies in making it last as long as possible, especially in the spring, when lengthening days shorten its life.
Although it prefers full sun, spinach will still produce a respectable harvest in partial shade. It’s forgiving and grows quickly, ready to give you the nutrition and flavor you’re looking for.
Ready to get started?
Spinach grows most quickly in well-drained soil rich in organic matter such as compost or composted manure and with a pH of 6.5 to 7. Typically, this means you’ll need to add compost or fertilizer to the soil. It is important to give the soil as many nutrients as possible so that your spinach seeds will have what they need to begin producing right out of the gate.
Depending on what zone you live in, you can potentially grow spinach two times per year. You can grow it once in early spring, and again in the fall. When you can easily work the soil in the spring, it is time to plant spinach.
In order to grow spinach twice a year, plant it about 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in the spring, and again 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost in the fall. You need to plant spinach when it is still cold outside because the heat can end your harvest before it ever gets started. It needs around six weeks of cool weather to produce a decent harvest.
For best results, directly sow your spinach seeds into the ground. You could start them indoors, but it isn’t generally recommended because it is too difficult to successfully transplant spinach seedlings.
Plant each seed about a half inch to an inch into the soil and gingerly cover it with soil being sure not to cover it too deeply in the dirt. Don’t cover it too deep, it should be easier for the seedlings to poke through.
Most experts recommend only planting about 12 seeds per foot in the row. This will keep you from overcrowding your beds and gives you room for each plant to reach full size.
Using Pots:Yes, you can grow spinach in pots. Always fill pots with a premium quality potting mix, such as Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix, which will provide roots with just the right environment for strong growth.
Choosing which spinach variety to plant comes down to three main branches and different versions from those three. While new versions of spinach are being developed all the time, these three are the most common and reliable.
Savoy is a sturdy spinach plant. It is the best one for cold climates, but the leaves aren’t as pretty as other varieties. They have a crinkled surface, which requires extra cleaning and doesn’t quite look the same as the flat spinach you’re used to in the store.
Semi-savoy is another sturdy spinach option that is known for being disease resistant. They are also more bolt-resistant than other varieties. The downside to this variety is that is doesn’t grow quite as fast as other options.
3. Flat Leaf
If you want spinach similar to what you see on the grocery store shelves, then this is your variety. This is a great choice if you are new to growing and you want to stick with what is familiar.
Spinach needs water and nutrients to grow well. Most of the time you’ll hear experts warning about too much nitrogen in the soil. This is not the case with spinach. Spinach thrives on nitrogen. It helps the leaves produce quickly and make them more tender when eating. You can add nitrogen to your soil through continuous-release fertilizer products. If your plants aren’t growing as they should or if your plants aren’t a vibrant colored green, then you’ll know it’s time to add nitrogen to the soil.
Always keep spinach well-watered without drenching them. You’ll know they need water when the soil around them is dry to the touch. When this happens, be sure to moisten them thoroughly.
Next, when your spinach plants have reached two inches in height, you’ll know it is time to thin them out. Put roughly four inches of space between each plant and then let your plants do the work. You don’t need to cultivate the dirt from there because spinach roots are very shallow.
A little care is all it takes, if you mess with the soil and plants too much, you could disrupt the roots and end your harvest before it had a chance to start.
Bolting is when your spinach plants go to seed. This seems like a good thing, but it’s not. You’ll want some of your plants to do this to have more seed for the next time you want to grow spinach, but if all of your spinach goes to bolt, you have no harvest. Heat causes bolting, so the trick is to plant your seeds early while it’s still cool. You can also choose a bolt-resistant variety as well.
In cold climates:Plants are very cold-hardy, tolerating temperatures as cold as the teens to low 20s once they are well established. Spinach is one of the most cold tolerant vegetable plants, which makes them great for overwintering over in zones 8 and southward. However, if you know a freeze is on the way, cover them beforehand.
In cold climates, some gardeners plant spinach in a cold frame or cover plants with hay and leave them all winter; they’ll be first to produce a very early spring harvest.
· Spring: In the spring, plants will bolt as soon as the days are longer than 14 hours. Heat also speeds up bolting, since spinach prefers temperatures between 35 and 75 degrees.
· Summer: Warmer weather causes spinach to bolt. The leaves do not taste as good when the plant is flowering. When spinach begins to bolt in warm weather, it tastes bitter and is ready to be pulled. The plants look tall and spindly with thick stalks when they start flowering.
· Fall: Because it bolts in the lengthening days of spring, spinach is an especially popular crop for fall, when days are short and cool.
Pests that enjoy spinach include flea beetles, spider mites, and aphids, which feed on the leaves. Leaf miners can also be a concern with spinach. They lay their eggs on the leaves and when those eggs hatch, the larvae eats the spinach. You can recognize leaf miners by yellow squiggly lines all over the leaves of your plant. Most common pesticides should take care of leaf miners.
Diseases that attack plants are downy mildew (a mildew that may appear during cool, moist weather) and white rust (which causes white spots on the leaves). If you suspect downy mildew, apply a fungicide to your plants and make sure your plants have plenty of air circulation around them. Mosaic Virus can also attach spinach plants and leave discolored spots on the leaves. It stunts the growth of your spinach and unfortunately, there is no solution. If you find this on your plants the only answer is to pull it out and start again.
Harvest and Storage
Spinach leaves are ready to harvest as soon as they are big enough to eat. Harvest by removing only the outer leaves and allowing the center leaves to grow larger; this will allow the plant to keep producing. Picking the outer leaves also gives the advantage of briefly delaying bolting. In spring, when plants are about to bolt, pull the entire plant at once to enjoy the leaves before they become bitter.
Spinach is a very satisfying plant to grow. Follow these simple steps, and you should be well on your way to enjoying a bountiful harvest.
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