My Advice on Growing Spinach
Abundant in vitamins and minerals, spinach is not only good for health but is easy to grow. It can even be grown indoors in a pot under the right conditions.
Spinach is green, leafy, cool weather vegetable, famous for withstanding frost and snow. Indeed, some gardeners claim that frost makes spinach leaves taste sweeter, much like it does for kale, another green leafy vegetable.
Because it’s a cool weather plant, planting spinach when the weather is too warm encourages it to bolt, or go to seed before it has a good amount of leaves. Indeed, spinach tends to bolt if it gets 14 to 16 hours of light a day no matter the temperature. Keep this in mind when deciding on a planting location.
Spinach seed needs to be sown directly into the soil starting four to six weeks before the first frost. Plant them about 1/2 inch deep. Seeds shouldn’t be started in pots with the goal of transplanting outdoors, for spinach seedlings don’t transplant well, and transplanting encourages the plant to bolt. For a good harvest, seed should be planted every 10 days or so. Fall is the best time to plant, because the spinach won’t be troubled as much by pests during the cooler weather.
Spinach needs a lot of fertilizer, so add compost to the area before sowing the seeds. It prefers soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. Mulching with rotted leaves, pine straw or wood chips helps keep the soil cool and holds in moisture.
Seeds sprout after about 10 days if the ground is cool. When the seeds sprout, thin them to about 4 to 6 inches, then cover them with row covers to keep pests away. When the leaves start to touch, the plants should be thinned to about 6 to 12 inches. The space between the rows should be between 12 to 14 inches. The plants should be side dressed for about a month after planting then side dressed every two weeks or so. Side dressing is the application of a little bit of fertilizer. It’s especially useful if the soil is poor or if the gardener has just begun to add amendments to the soil.
Ways to Side Dress
Use a corner of the hoe to dig a furrow about 2 inches deep in a line beside a row of spinach. The furrow should be about 5 inches away from the plants. Add fertilizer into the furrow, and cover it. Make sure it’s well covered so that any rain doesn’t splash it onto the plant’s leaves and burn them.
With top dressing, the gardener sprinkles natural fertilizers such as compost over the rows then scratches them into the soil with a weeder. Besides compost, good fertilizers for spinach include manure tea and fish emulsion.
Unlike fertilizer, spinach only needs light watering. However, the soil needs to be kept evenly moist.
Another good thing about spinach is that continuously picking the leaves keeps the plant from bolting. The leaves can be picked when they’re just large enough to eat, and they’re best picked in the morning. If there’s a warm spell coming, cut the stems down to the ground. The leaves will grow back.
Growing Spinach in Pots
Spinach seeds should also be planted 2 inches deep in pots. The pots do not need to be very deep, but it’s best if they’re wide enough to thin the plants out to about three inches. Pots need to be able to drain well. If the spinach is being grown during the cooler months, place it in a bright window. If it’s being grown in the warmer months, be sure it’s given shade for some hours of the day. Use a rich, loamy potting soil with a neutral pH. A neutral pH is 7.0. As with outdoors, the soil should be kept evenly moist.
The indoor temperature should be kept within 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the house is hot, be sure to give the plants lots of shade.
Mulching is recommended even if the spinach is grown indoors.
Unfortunately, spinach does seem to be subject to a lot of pests, including aphids, slugs, snails, flea beetles and cabbage worms. Some of these pests spread diseases such as curly top and the cucumber mosaic virus. Pests are easy to take care of indoors. Interestingly, the leaves of spinach are their own pesticide. Boil a pound of spinach leaves for a half an hour in a quart of water, strain, cool, and add a bit of non-detergent soap. Spritz the bugs, and they’ll die a quick death from the oxalic acid in the solution.
Fresh spinach can be kept in the fridge for about 10 to 14 days at high humidity. The leaves can be frozen, but they need to be cooked first. Cut them into strips and blanch them for two minutes. The best leaves to use for freezing are the youngest and most tender.