Many people believe that spinach is hard to grow but it isn’t if it is grown in the correct season. The secret to a sustained spinach harvest is in understanding the nature of the green. It loves cool temperatures and does not grow well during summer months; therefore, this vegetable must be planted for harvest during the cool of the spring or fall months.
Spinach has the most vitamin A and B2 of any common vegetable. In addition it supplies the body with significant amounts of iron, calcium and protein. It is an excellent ingredient in salads and can be served as a cooked green.
Spinach should be planted in early spring and again in early autumn for a fall harvest. During the summer, plant New Zealand spinach as a substitute. Soak seeds overnight and plant them one half inch deep in two inches apart in rows and keep it well watered. The seeds will germinate in 5-9 days and mature plants can be harvested in 6-8 weeks. Make successive plantings every ten days for a continuous supply.
Spinach should be planted in soil that has plenty of organic material, moisture and nitrogen. It has a deep taproot and needs soil that is at least twelve inches deep so it is not a good choice for container gardening. Plant the seeds as early as eight weeks before the last spring frost because as the days lengthen, spinach is more likely to bolt. For the best results, prepare the soil in the fall so the seeds can be planted in soil that has barely thawed. In areas where springs are long and cool, successively plant it every ten days until mid-May. In warmer climates, spinach does better when planted in the partial shade.
If the weather isn’t extremely cold, spinach will germinate in 5-9 days. Thin it so there is a plant every 4-6 inches when the plant has two true leaves. The removed plants don’t need to be wasted and can be used in salads. Once spinach is thinned, dust between the plants with kelp powder and place a light mulch of fresh grass clippings with another light mulch of aged sawdust or straw on top of that. Spinach does best when it receives about 1 ½ inches of water per week. If temperatures go above 80 degrees F, cover it with shade cloth.
Regular spinach usually grows during cool weather and rarely has insect pests. Any insects that do attack can often be controlled with a light dusting of wood ashes. To avoid diseases, never work around the plants when dew or rain is still on the leaves. In addition, as with all annual vegetables, never plant it in the same soil that you planted it in the previous season.
Because it contains saponin, this plant is good as an early crop that is planted before other crops. It cleans the soil of many disease problems associated with other plants. In addition, it does well between strawberry plants.
Spinach can be harvested about 6 – 8 weeks after it is planted when the leaves are about three to four inches long. Cutting the outer leaves rather than the entire plant will extend plant productivity. If it shows signs of bolting, cut the entire plant.
If you can only grow during the hot summer months, New Zealand spinach may be a solution. Unlike the regular variety, New Zealand spinach is light green and has smooth leaves. It is not actually spinach, but tastes similar and can be grown in warm climates. Plant it and extend your harvest into the summer months.
Soak the seeds for 24 hours before planting. The seeds should not be planted outside until after the final spring frost or they can be started as transplants inside 3-4 weeks before that date. Plant it in the same manner and type of soil as regular spinach. However, if you are planting transplants, place them one foot apart. Growing plants that were planted as seed should also be thinned to one foot between each plant.
New Zealand spinach is drought tolerant, but for the best flavor water it consistently and provide plenty of nitrogen in the form of compost tea. Mulching helps maintain moisture and control weeds.
To get a fall harvest, plant in late summer. Spinach germination decreases by half in warm weather so plant the seeds more thickly, or to increase the germination rate, freeze the seed for a few days, then dampen and refrigerate it for few days longer before planting. If possible plant the seeds in the partial shade of deciduous trees.
In many warmer climates, this crop can also be planted in cold frames or greenhouses for a winter harvest. Often, no additional heat is needed in either the cold frame or the greenhouse. Even in the harsher northern climates, you don’t need a greenhouse for a winter crop; you can grow it in several pots in a well-lighted kitchen window.