Growing Spinach in your Home GardenGrowing Spinach in your Home Garden
Growing spinach in your home garden is a great way to get healthy, pesticide-free, tender leaves to use in salads, side dishes, and entrees. Eggs Florentine is just one example of a tasty recipe that is most flavorful when homegrown spinach leaves are harvested just before preparing the dish. The leaves provide lots of necessary iron.
Planting from seed
Besides big muscles, Popeye likely had healthy eyes. Research has shown that spinach is one of the richest vegetable sources of lutein, a natural plant pigment that protects the eyes against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Nutritionists suggest that six to 12 milligrams of lutein be consumed daily; just one cup of cooked spinach contains 13 milligrams. The high folic acid content of spinach may help prevent heart disease. No wonder Popeye ate his spinach.
Spinach (Brassica perviridis) is a cool-weather crop originally grown in fall and winter in the fertile valleys of the Middle East. In North America, it grows best in the shorter days of early spring and fall, since days lasting 14 hours or more trigger spinach to go to seed. Hot weather speeds up the flowering process and makes the leaves tough and dry.
Spinach varieties have three different types of leaves: smooth, savoy (crinkly, curly), and semi-savoy. While some say the smooth leaves are tastier, others prefer savoy. The main advantage of savoy is that it’s more winter hardy.
For a spring crop, plant four to six weeks before your last frost. Choose varieties that are slow to bolt. Sow successive crops every two weeks until daytime temperatures rise above 18°C and days begin to lengthen.
Spinach needs fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of around 6.5. If the soil is too acidic, spinach won’t grow properly, and if it’s too alkaline, the plants may develop a magnesium deficiency. Prepare the bed by digging in generous amounts of compost or composted manure.
Plant the seeds 2.5 centimeters apart, one centimeter deep, in rows 30 centimeters apart. In heavy clay, cover the seeds with sifted compost to prevent the surface from crusting. Keep the seedbed moist. When the leaves of the seedlings begin to touch, thin them to 7.5 centimeters apart and later to 15 centimeters.
Plant care, harvesting, and storage
Keep the plants well-watered. Mulch with straw, hay or shredded leaves to help conserve moisture and keep the roots cool. Keep the plants well weeded; if using a hoe, just scratch the surface to avoid damaging the roots. Maximize air circulation by not overcrowding.
When the plants are half grown (three to four weeks), feed with compost tea, made by soaking a bag of compost overnight in a pail of water. If they’re growing slowly and leaves are pale, feed with additional compost tea or organic fertilizer. While spinach needs a good supply of nitrogen for heavy yields of dark green leaves, too much nitrogen can result in the production of excess nitrates, which could pose a health risk if too much is ingested.
Once spinach plants have bolted, pull them out, and replant the bed with a heat-loving crop such as beans. Don’t try to grow spinach in the long, hot days of summer. For fall crops, plant eight weeks before the first hard frost to produce good-sized plants before the days become too cold for further growth. Since spinach doesn’t germinate well in soil temperatures above 24°C, you may need to keep the seedbed cool by watering it daily, shading it with a cloth, or covering the seeds with a board until they germinate.
Harvesting and storage
Spinach is ready for harvesting six to eight weeks after planting, depending on the variety and the weather. The colder the weather, the slower the growth. Start picking when there are at least six large leaves on the plant, harvesting the outside leaves before they become too large. As it grows, up to half the plant can be harvested at once. Discard any yellow or wilted leaves. Wrap unwashed leaves in damp paper towels and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Use within three days.
Winter protection and pests
The growing season of spinach can be extended by overwintering plants to provide a spring crop long before a seeded crop is ready to harvest. The key is to grow the plants to the right size-10 centimeters in diameter; height will vary depending on type-before the coldest weather arrives. Plant four to six weeks before the date of your first hard fall frost and sow as you would spring and fall crops, providing the plants with all their needs to keep them growing steadily. Savoy types generally overwinter better than smooth-leafed varieties. ‘Bloomsdale Dark Green’, ‘Giant Winter’, ‘Tyee’, and ‘Melody’ are recommended.
In regions where winter temperatures fall below –7°C, mulch with a 7.5- to a 10-centimeter layer of shredded leaves, straw, or hay when the soil freezes. Use 15 centimeters in areas with severe winters. Where winters are milder, especially when there is also a lot of rain, don’t mulch or the plants will rot.
In spring, about the same time you sow your first spring spinach crop, pull back the mulch and side-dress the plants with compost. Allow the plants to start to grow again before beginning to harvest.
Diseases and Pests
Good gardening practices help reduce problems with diseases and pests. Build up your soil with compost and supplement poor soils with organic fertilizer. Do a thorough fall cleanup and use a three-year crop rotation. To discourage molds, don’t water in the late afternoon or evening. When removing diseased plants, remember that they must be destroyed, not composted.
Downy mildew: Leaves have yellow spots with fuzzy, purple growth on the undersides. Purplish lesions then form on leaves and stems, which become covered with a downy, white fungus. Plants soon die. Remove infected plants.
Spinach blight: Leaves turn yellow and curl; plants are stunted. Remove infected plants. Blight is spread by aphids, so control the population (see Aphids below).
Fusarium wilt: The disease is generally carried in the soil. Plants turn yellow and wilt. A brown discoloration appears in the veins. Remove infected plants.
Mosaic viruses: Leaves are mottled and plants are stunted. Most viruses are spread by aphids, so the control population (see Aphids below). Remove infected plants.
Leaf miner: Leaves develop irregular, light tan tunnels, or blotches. Inside the blister-like area are droppings and maggots, which are the immature stage of a fly that lays its eggs on the undersides of the leaves. Pick infected leaves. Where leaf miners are a serious problem, cover the bed with a row cover after planting the seeds. Spinach that matures late in the fall, over the winter or very early in the spring may escape damage.
Flea beetle: Tiny, jumping black beetles pock the leaves with small holes. A heavy infestation can destroy young seedlings. Cover the bed with a row cover after planting the seeds.
Aphids: Leaves curl, pucker, and become stunted. Aphids are visible on the undersides of young leaves. For light infestations, spray plants vigorously with water in the morning, every other day, for a total of three times. For heavy infestations, apply insecticidal soap, getting underneath the leaves. Repeat every three days until aphids are under control.
‘7-Green’ (40 days) Plain, moderately bolt-resistant, full downy mildew protection; can also be sown in summer.
‘Bloomsdale Dark Green’ (‘Bloomsdale Longstanding Dark Green’, 50 days) Savoy, good for overwintering.
‘Bloomsdale Savoy’ (50 days) Savoy, good for overwintering.
‘Giant Winter’ (55 days) Semi-savoy, a special variety for overwintering; can also be sown in summer.
‘Melody’ (45 days) Semi-savoy, tolerant of downy mildew and cucumber mosaic virus, bolt-resistant.
‘Olympia’ (45 days) Smooth, long-standing (four days longer than ‘Melody’ or ‘Tyee’), tolerant of downy mildew; can also be sown in summer.
‘Skookum’ (45 days) Semi-savoy, tolerant of downy mildew. Can over-winter in coastal British Columbia.
‘Space’ (40 days) Smooth, bolt- resistant, tolerant of downy mildew. It can also be sown in summer.
‘Spargo’ (40 days) Semi-savoy, bolt- resistant. It can also be sown in summer.
‘Tyee’ (45 days) Semi-savoy, most bolt-resistant savoy type. Tolerant of downy mildew and cucumber mosaic virus; good for overwintering; can also be sown in summer.
You’ll enjoy growing tasty spinach. The flavor of freshly harvest spinach is wonderful and you’ll find many ways to include your crop in recipes and salads.
Growing Spinach Indoors at Home
Spinach is an extremely easy plant to grow. Growing Spinach Indoors is possible as long as you can provide your plants with a few basic requirements.
Spinach is an extremely easy plant to grow.
Growing Spinach Indoors is possible as long as you can provide your plants with a few basic requirements.
Information to get started growing spinach indoors in your home
Choosing & Planting the seeds
What you need to know about which seeds you should pick for the best crop.
When you are choosing seed for spinach, to get the best chance of germination and healthy growth, you should choose a seed that is no more than a year old.
You will find that most popular varieties will grow well inside except, most specifically, the ‘New Zealand’ spinach variety, which is a completely different plant altogether.
You should ensure that the soil for growing your spinach is nitrogen-rich. You can do this by using a nitrogen fertilizer with the soil before planting the seeds.
Soil pH is crucial to spinach growth and it will only grow between 6.0 and 6.7.
Spinach seeds must be germinated in the refrigerator. Sprinkle your seeds over a damp paper towel and then fold over. It will take around a week for your seeds to start germination at which point you can transfer them to a pot.
Light & Temperature
How to provide the correct environment for your plants to ensure growth…
Generally, cooler temperatures are best for growing spinach and a cool temperature is very important for the young spinach plants.
For the first couple of months keep younger plants in a cool environment.
If temperatures rise above 15 degrees Celsius in the first few months then it will be almost impossible to prevent the spinach plant from bolting.
Tip – Bolting is when the plants grow bigger and faster than is preferred. This usually causes the leaves to become incredibly bitter and inedible.
After the plants get to about 6 weeks old, they can then be moved to an environment at a higher temperature. However, cooler temperatures are still preferred throughout.
Spinach does not need a lot of strong light to grow well. Too much light can cause leaf burn and around 9 hours or less every day is a good amount of light for a spinach plant. Try locating the plant in a window facing east or west to limit the amount of light it receives.
Watering techniques specifically for spinach.
Spinach is fairly unusual in the fact that it likes a lot of water. For healthy growth water your plants every 3 days.
Note – You could use a mulch to help retain moisture in the soil. But don’t use peat.
Feeding & Nutrition
How to make sure that your plants get all the nutrients that they need to survive and produce crops!
As well as providing nutrients in the soil for spinach before planting the seeds, spinach will need regular feeding throughout the growth period.
You should use nitrogen fertilizer every week and if you spot any yellowing on any of the leaves then you should increase the feeding to twice a week to provide extra nutrients.
How to ensure that your plants are productive in their indoor environment.
As we are focussing on growing spinach for its leaves, you will not need to worry about pollination.
How to collect your crop safely and how to maximize growth for the future.
When the plants are young, you must thin out the weaker plants to allow the best growth for the stronger plants. These thinnings can be used for cooking or in salads.
Spinach is considered to have reached its maturity when it is around 6 inches tall, however, the leaves of the spinach can be harvested when the leaves are tender and young.
To harvest a younger plant, just carefully trim the outer leaves. This will then allow the central leaves to grow and this cycle can be repeated multiple times before growth slows and the plant must be allowed to mature and harvested fully.
So there you go! You can now grow spinach indoors whenever you like!
Table of Contents
- 1 Growing Spinach in your Home Garden
- 1.0.1 Planting from seed
- 1.0.2 Spinach varieties
- 1.0.3 Planting seeds
- 1.0.4 Plant care, harvesting, and storage
- 1.0.5 Winter protection and pests
- 1.0.6 Winter protection
- 1.0.7 Growing Spinach Indoors at Home
- 1.0.8 Information to get started growing spinach indoors in your home