A cool-weather loving green, spinach is a fast-growing relative of beets and Swiss chard. You can plant spinach in either spring or fall, or both if you want to produce a biannual harvest! Spinach tastes delicious raw or cooked and is absolutely packed with iron, calcium, antioxidants, and essential vitamins like A, B, and C. Follow the steps below to learn how to plant your very own spinach crop.
EditChoosing a Variety
- Grow spinach in USDA Hardiness Zones three through nine. Spinach is extremely cold-hardy and fares well in these mild to cold climate zones. This cold-weather crop prefers temperatures between 35 and 75℉ (1 and 23°C).
- Choose savoyed and semi-savoyed varieties to plant in the fall. Savoyed varieties are characterized by their dark green crinkly leaves. They are best for planting in the fall because they become especially crisp in cold weather.
- Choose smooth-leafed spinach for a faster growing time. Smooth-leafed spinach grows upright and produces leaves lighter in color than those produced by savoy spinach. It grows quickly and easily and is the perfect addition to any summer salad.
EditPreparing Your Planting Area
- Choose an area with full sun. Though spinach prefers a mild climate and will not do well in extremely hot temperatures, it does like full sun. Spinach will produce in partial shade, though the yield may not be as impressive, nor the plants as productive.
- Make sure that your soil drains well. Spinach likes a moderately moist habitat, but will not do well in soil that floods regularly or does not drain well. If you cannot find an adequate plot in your garden you can make a raised vegetable garden bed or plant your spinach in a container.
- If building a raised vegetable bed, use cedar wood planks if possible. Cedar resists rot when exposed to water.
- Because spinach is a small plant that does not grow extremely deep roots, you will not need a large growing space if you are only growing spinach.
- Test the pH of the soil. Spinach prefers a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0. You can add limestone to the soil to adjust the pH level manually.
- Evaluate the soil’s calcium and magnesium levels in order to determine what type of limestone to add to your soil. If the soil is low in magnesium, add dolomitic limestone. If it is high in magnesium, add calcitic limestone.
- Add the limestone two to three months before planting when possible to allow the soil to absorb it. After the limestone is incorporated, check the pH again.
- Fertilize the soil well. Spinach likes soil rich in organic matter such as manure, alfalfa meal, soybean meal, cottonseed meal, blood meal, or any other high-nitrogen fertilizer. Be sure to mix a few cubic feet of organic material into the soil to ensure adequate richness.
- Make sure to remove any rocks or hard clumps of soil before adding the organic fertilizer. You can use a bow rake to check for and remove any unwanted objects.
- Pull any weeds or voluntary plants that are growing in the planting area. These may compete with your spinach plants and crowd them and/or transfer disease to them.
EditPlanting Your Spinach
- Decide whether you want a spring or fall harvest, or both. Plant your spinach four to six weeks before the last spring frost for a spring harvest or six to eight weeks before the first fall frost for a fall harvest.
- During a spring harvest, plants will grow tall and small flowers will bloom as soon as the temperature increases and the sun is out for longer than 14 hours per day. This process is called bolting and it disrupts the production of spinach leaves. Be sure to harvest your plants before bolting occurs.
- As a result of the bolting process, it is generally advised that planting a fall harvest crop is more reliable than a spring harvest crop.
- If you live in a particularly hot climate, consider using cold frames or heavy row covers to keep the soil cool when the daily temperatures begin to rise. Also be sure to sow extra seeds and water twice daily if growing in hot weather.
- Sow seeds ½” (1cm) deep and two inches (5cm) apart. Make sure the rows are spaced at least eight inches (20cm) apart if planting in rows. Doing so allows the seeds to mature without having to compete for space. Make sure to buy fresh seeds for planting each year, as they do not stay viable for long.
- If you are transplanting seedlings, space spinach plants about apart. This allows the seedlings to grow and expand their roots without competing with each other for space.
- You can either purchase seedlings at your local nursery or garden supply store or start them indoors in peat pots. However, it is recommended that you grow spinach from seed if possible as seedlings are difficult to transplant and the roots can be damaged in the process.
- Cover the seeds with soil and pat lightly. The soil does not need to be compacted over the seeds; in fact it should be rather light and fluffy. Just be sure that the seeds are not exposed to the air and are entirely covered by soil.
- Spread mulch over the planting area. Cover the soil of the planting area with a few inches of hay, straw, leaf, or grass mulch to prevent weeds from sprouting. Pulling unwanted weeds may harm the fragile spinach roots, so mulch is a good alternative for weed control.
- Water the planting area thoroughly. Make sure to use a watering can or a light shower setting on your hose. A strong setting can disrupt the newly planted seeds or even wash them away.
EditCaring for Your Spinach Plants
- Thin your plants. As your spinach plants grow into seedlings, thin them lightly to prevent the plants from competing for space. You want the plants to be spaced far enough apart that the leaves of neighboring plants barely touch, if at all. Remove entire plants if necessary to achieve this spatial balance.
- Keep your planting area moist. You want the spinach to grow in soil that is continually moist but not overly drenched. Depending on the climate, you should water your spinach crop on average once or twice per week.
- Cover the soil with a shade cloth if temperatures climb above 80℉ (26°C). Again, spinach does not do well in hot weather. If temperatures begin to climb, you can cover the soil with a shade cloth to lower the temperature of the soil and keep the plants cool.
- Fertilize your plants only when necessary. If your spinach plants are growing slowly, you may want to add more nitrogen-based fertilizer. As mentioned above, spinach likes soil rich in organic matter such as manure, alfalfa meal, soybean meal, cottonseed meal, and blood meal. Add a few inches and water thoroughly.
- Harvest your spinach. As soon as the leaves grow big enough to eat (usually about three or four inches in length and two or three inches wide), you can harvest your spinach leaves. It generally takes about six to eight weeks from planting to harvest.
- In the springtime, make sure to harvest spinach leaves before they begin to bolt. Once the plants bolt, the leaves become bitter.
- Harvest the spinach by carefully removing the outer leaves. Either pinch at the base of the petiole with your fingers or use gardening shears to snip the base of the petiole.
- Alternately, you can harvest the spinach by pulling the entire plant out of the ground. Because spinach does not have very firm roots, it is easy to pull a plant out of the ground entirely.
- Removing the outer leaves is preferred to uprooting the entire plant as doing so allows the inner leaves to grow larger, ultimately producing more mature spinach than if the plant is entirely uprooted.
- Always wash spinach before eating.
- Be aware that spinach shrinks when cooked.
- Be wary of flea beetles, spider mites, and aphids. These may feed on spinach leaves.
- Heat and long days will kill your crop. Do not try to grow spinach in the hot summer months.
- Downy mildew and white rust are two diseases that may plague your spinach plants.
- Grow Healthy Plants
- Keep Fresh Vegetables Fresher Longer
- Grow a Tomato Plant
- Grow a Pumpkin
- Make a Spinach and Strawberry Salad
- Plant Parsnips
EditSources and Citations
- Videos provided by Rainbow Gardens
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How to Grow Spinach
Source: How To Of The Day