Sunday, 8 August 2010

Growing Strawberry Spinach

  • Strawberry spinach belongs to the plant family Chenopodiacae, which  is otherwise known as the goosefoot family. 
  • The goosefoot family include spinach, Swiss chard, beets and many others. 
  • Tolerates heat well and is often used as a summertime spinach-replacement.
  • Grows to 2ft tall.
  • Whilst usually grown as an annual it can overwinter if weather is not too severe and is perennial in habit.
  • When preparing your soil to grow strawberry spinach, you will want to pay some attention to your soil pH (a measure of how acidic or alkaline your soil is). 
  • Chenopods like their soil to have a pH of about 6.0 to 6.8, which is only slightly acidic. 
  • They can also tolerate slightly alkaline soils that have a pH of 7.5 or so. 
  • In areas where soils tend to be very acidic they will need to have lime applied to them. 
  • Lime, which is calcium carbonate, is a soil amendment that you can use in an organic garden.
  • Plant in soil that hasn't been used to grow a member of the goosefoot family in the last three years.
  • 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 strawberry spinach.
  • 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.
  • Sowing outdoors.
    • Wait until the threat of frost has passed.
    • Sow thinly, the seed is very small, in rows 50cm (18") apart.
    • Thin plants to 30cm (12") apart when larger
    • Protect the seeds with a cloche as soon as they are planted to help guard against weather and insect problems.
    • Keep the soil moist but not soggy until the seeds germinate. 
  • Sowing indoors.
    • Seeds can also be started early in a cold frame or indoors in average room temperatures. 
    • Or raise in seed trays (flats) and transplant May onwards. Use a good-quality starting medium. 
    • Keep the soil moist but not soggy during germination. 
  • Before transplanting outside, harden seedlings off by gradually exposing them to direct sun and cooler temperatures, which will help them survive light frosts. 
  • Plant at 15 cm apart.
  • Dig a hole a bit larger than the root ball and work in compost and organic fertilizer. 
  • Plant the seedling, firming the soil gently around the stem.
  • Keep weed clear, and apply a liquid feed at 3-4 week intervals.
  • Water regularly; do not over-water.
  • Self-sows freely; remove all berries if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
  • Strawberry spinach is ready to harvest when its leaves have formed. 
  • The fruit should not be picked until they are a deep-red colour.
  • Store unwashed leaves in sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to five days.

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