Saturday, 31 July 2010

Growing Spinach

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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.

1 comment:

  1. This is easily the best advice I've seen on growing spinach, many thanks for providing it free of charge.