In this article: Learn all about growing spinach in your backyard garden- including how to start from seed and when to harvest!
Spinach probably doesn’t get as much notice as other cool weather crops like lettuce or cabbage, but it is actually one of the more hardy vegetables that is perfectly suited for year round gardening.
Spinach is a rewarding, easy to grow, vegetable that is great for gardeners of all levels.
Everything You Need to Know About Growing Spinach at Home
Spinach is in the Amaranthaceae family along with swiss chard, beets, and amaranth. It is a cool weather crop that can be planted 4-6 weeks before your last frost in the spring, or earlier under certain conditions. You can also plant it again in the fall and with protection, it can last through winter!
Choosing Which Spinach Varieties to Grow
There are 3 basic types of spinach:
Flat-Leafed Spinach: Also called smooth leaf spinach, this is the most common type of spinach and is what you will find in most commercial frozen or canned spinach. The leaves are flat, smooth, and spade shaped. ‘Baby’ spinach is a flat leafed spinach that has been harvested early.
Savoy Spinach: Savory spinach has curly, crinkled leaves that are very dark green in color. It is crisp and somewhat bitter. Savoy spinach is best used in cooking.
Semi-Savoy Spinach: This spinach is very similar to savoy though with a less crinkled leaf. It is easier to clean. It is typically used for cooking.
Below are some of my favorite spinach varieties:
Amsterdam Prickly Seeded Spinach: This variety is more pointed and arrow shaped than most. Very hardy and is much slower to bolt in hot weather.
Giant Nobel: Large leaves make it easy to pick and clean. Holds up great to freezing or canning. Slow to bolt.
Winter Bloomsdale: One of the most popular varieties available. Good germination and quick harvest. Dark green savoyed leaves are sweet, tender, and have good flavor. Is slow to bolt.
Tyee: Dark green, semi-savoyed variety. Has resistance to bolt and downy mildew
Space: Smooth leaved variety with smooth round leaves. Slow to bolt and has downy mildew resistance. Freezes well.
Growing Spinach from Seed
Spinach is easily grown from seed, and can be started early indoors and planted out in early spring 4-6 weeks before last frost. Transplanting can be tough on spinach seedling so direct sowing is recommended.
Spinach seeds should be directly sown into the garden 4-6 weeks before your last frost date.
Sow your spinach seeds ½ to 1 inch deep, about 2 inches apart in rows.
Keep your garden beds evenly moist to encourage good germination rates.
Seeds should sprout within 7-10 days.
Tips to Growing the Best Spinach
Spinach can grow in full sun or part shade. It grows well alongside larger plants such as peppers or eggplant, which will provide needed shade in the afternoon and extend your spinach season a bit.
Keep your young seedlings and spinach plants well watered. Water will help them grow better and also keep the soil cooler. Do not over water and be sure that you have provided well drained soil. No plant roots like to stay wet!
Even though it is small, spinach is a heavy feeder. This means you should plant your spinach in prepared soil full of organic matter and compost. Sometimes it is beneficial to prepare you spinach beds in the fall so that you can plant the seeds as soon as the ground thaws in the spring.
Proper spacing is important for good growth. If you spinach plants are too close together this can cause stunted growth or early bolting. Thin your plants to about 4 inches as they grow. These early harvests are great to eat!
To extend your season, make successive plantings of spinach every 1-2 weeks all spring long.
Spinach does not like hot weather, once the soil has warmed try planting related leafy greens, such as New Zealand Spinach, for a summer harvest.
Begin sowing spinach seeds again in the fall. Direct sow the seeds beginning in Mid-August. Watering the soil can help keep the soil temperatures down to allow better germination in warm weather.
Spinach is hardy down to about 15 degrees. Spinach can be grown in cold frames or under floating row covers to protect them from frost and cold temperatures. Depending on your climate you may be able to grow spinach all year long this way.
Growing Spinach in Pots
Since spinach doesn’t take up a lot of room it grows great in containers. Try using a long window box type planter since spinach has shallow roots and doesn’t need a really deep planter.
Remember that spinach is a heavy feeder, so choose a good organic potting soil and fertilize as needed if your plants appear stunted.
Make sure your chosen container has good drainage holes and watch for draining water and unblock the holes as needed.
Container-grown plants dry out more quickly than those in the ground. Check your pots daily and water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist.
Spinach Pests and Diseases
Spinach doesn’t have too many pests and for the most part you should have no trouble with pests or disease in your spinach bed. That said, here are some of the problems you may run into:
Downy Mildew can occur in cool, humid conditions. The spinach leaves may have yellow spots and grayish mold on the underside. Good air circulation and planting resistant varieties can help prevent downy mildew.
Leaf Miners can burrow into your spinach leaves. Pick and discard any infected leaves. You can also companion plant with radishes to help deter this pest or use a floating row cover.
If you plants have yellowing leaves and are stunted you may be dealing with blight. This virus can be spread by aphids so controlling them in your garden can help prevent blight. Wet conditions are prime for blight- so avoid overcrowding, water from below, and don’t work or harvest when the plants are wet.
Bolting is probably the biggest issue for spinach growers. Bolting is simply the plant flowering and going to seed. This happens when the temperatures are too high and the days are long. It can’t really be prevented, but try planting slow bolt varieties, keep the soil moist and mulched, and use companion plants to shade your spinach.
When to Harvest Spinach
Spinach can be harvested whenever it is the size you prefer- usually by 40-50 days.
Spinach leaves are more tender and flavorful when they are small and larger leaves tend to be tough and bitter.
To harvest you can dig up the entire plant (great if you are thinning the plants) or simply harvest the outer leaves of the plant and allow the inner leaves to grow longer.
Continue to harvest until your spinach bolts.
What Can You Do With Your Spinach Harvest?
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© 2019, Sarah R Toney. All rights reserved.