Helpful Advice For Growing Spinach
Growing spinach is relatively easy to do even for a novice gardener. There are basically two types of spinach being smooth-leaved and savoyed. The savoyed variety has darker leaves that appear to be crinkled and are extra crisp in colder weather which makes them ideal for winter growing. Smooth-leaved spinach is substantially lighter in color, the plants grow upright and they are traditionally gathered to be used as baby greens.
Spinach seeds can be germinated anywhere from one to two weeks prior to putting them in the ground. They are best planted either in the later part of winter or in the fall.
- Late Winter – Begin sowing the seeds approximately six weeks prior to having your last frost of winter. It is easiest to start the seeds indoors since you may have to really work the soil outside if the ground is still hard. You will also want to sow two more batches for spring, three weeks apart.
- Early Fall – Approximately six to seven weeks prior to your first frost, you will want to sow your primary fall crop. Then, about four weeks later, sow some winter spinach where they can be covered up with plastic or glass. These will mature in the early part of spring.
Ground spinach requires that you prepare your bed by first loosening up the soil to a depth of at least 10 inches. Thoroughly work in some compost as well as some soybean meal, alfalfa meal or some other type of organic, high-nitrogen fertilizer.
Sow the seeds about two inches apart and one half of an inch deep in rows that are no closer than eight inches away from each other. When your plants start to grow, trim the leaves of the neighboring plants gently so they don't overlap.
Six weeks after you start growing spinach plants, pinch a few leaves off as you need them but leave the central rosette untouched.
It is important to be aware that long warm days in the spring can cause spinach to flower and produce seeds. You can either save the seeds or you can pull the plant up once you notice a tall central stem developing. Thoroughly clean these stems, steam-blanch them and freeze.
You should know that spinach relies on wind for pollination and plants can be male or female. The males will grow extremely quickly and release clusters of pollen. They are easy to recognize because they are taller than female plants. If you do plan to save seeds, you should allow these particular seed-bearing plants to dry in the garden when weather permits.
If you are encountering wet weather and you wish to save the seeds, pull them up and allow them to dry somewhere warm and well-ventilated. Seeds can be stored for a maximum of three years in a dark, cool place.
Preventing Pests and Diseases
When growing spinach, keep the plants spaced wide to help eliminate the risk for problems that are often encouraged by wet conditions such as mildew and slugs. It is also recommended to not plant seeds where chard or beets were grown before. Since these crops are quite similar, they can leave the soil with diseases that can be shared with spinach plants.
If you notice leaf miners remove the leaves or squash them with your finger. These are the larvae from small flies and they feed on the leaves by creating tunnels. Also, if you notice slugs, reduce mulching.
Any new growth on plants that seem distorted or yellowed should be pulled up because leafhoppers and aphids can easily infect spinach plants.
Tips for Growing Spinach
- Overwintered plants should be fertilized with fish-based fertilizer as soon as they show any new growth in early spring.
- Spinach appreciates soil that has an almost neutral pH.
- Always clip away yellow or old leaves to reduce demands for moisture and nutrients from the plant.