Learning Download: How to Grow Spinach
From Seed to Harvest: A beginner’s guide to growing spinach.
Nutrient-dense, brilliant green and a quick growing crop which yields leafy pickings during multiple seasons, spinach is a great choice for beginning gardeners. Spinach is known as a cool-weather plant, meaning it excels in the spring and fall months. During the summer, the plant will produce a flowering stalk and bitter leaves. This is called bolting. Different varietals of spinach can be used to create a colorful bouquet of varying tastes in one’s garden.
For a spring crop, spinach can be planted as early as four to six weeks before the last frost date, or as early as the soil is able to be worked. Plant seeds in a shallow rut about a quarter-inch deep and an inch apart. Cover the seed with soil and press gently.
For a fall crop, plant seeds up to two months before the first frost. Soil that is too warm can hinder the plant’s growth. As spinach grows quickly, it is suggested to not plant indoors more than two to three weeks prior to moving the plant outdoors.
During its growth, fungus can become an issue in cooler months. Space your plants far enough apart to allow for air circulation. If plants grow crowded together, thin them to allow two inches between each crop. Rabbits and other critters will feed on the spinach, so take action such as setting up plant cages or netting to protect the leaves. Water regularly, and keep soil moist with mulch.
Fertilization can include blood meal, cottonseed, composted manure or liquid fertilizer, though spinach is a quick grower and gardeners may want to only revert to fertilization if their spinach is experiencing slow growth. Radishes planted nearby spinach will attract leaf miners away from spinach leaves. The leaf miners don’t harm the underground radish.
To harvest your spinach, begin by removing outer leaves first. Leaves are ready once they are large enough to eat according to each individual gardener’s taste. Picking outer leaves first also delays bolting. Once the plant begins to bolt, gardeners can pull the whole plant to harvest the leaves before they become too bitter. It is also possible to cut the plant about two inches above the soil when it begins to bolts and it may produce again. In colder climates, gardeners can cover their crop with hay, and it may sprout again in early spring.
What spinach craves:
Spinach grows best in temperatures between 35 and 75 degrees. It also prefers full sun but can survive in partial shade. Spinach thrives in a well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.
Where to buy spinach seeds:
You can find many varietals of spinach, ranging from traditional plants to Malabar Red Stem, a climbing spinach at Urban Farmer.
Learning Download: Common pests and diseases: Spinach
Common pests and diseases: Spinach
When growing vegetables, it is always exciting to care for the plant throughout its growing phase and then harvest it for delicious recipes later on, but one thing to watch out for is pests and diseases. Different plants are susceptible to different types of pests and diseases, and it is important to make yourself aware so you can keep a watchful eye and also take any preventative methods to keep your plants safe throughout their lifespan.
Spinach can fall victim to several different pests and diseases.
The most common pests affecting all different types of greens, spinach included, is the aphid or the leafhopper. Aphids and leafhoppers both can easily spread diseases amongst plants.
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects and they come in colors green, yellow or purple. Leafhoppers will be green-yellow and small. If you notice either of these pests on your greens, spray them with an insecticidal soap every 10 days to discourage them. To help prevent an infestation, continuously weed your greens because unwelcome weeds may serve as the home to leafhoppers.
Another common insect problem comes from leaf miners. These insects feed mostly on spinach, but also on chard, beet and turnip greens. The larvae tunnel between the leaves’ tissue, and it causes tan-colored splotches on the leaves’ surfaces. Cover your crops with screens to control this pest.
Some of the most common diseases affecting spinach plants include anthracnose, damping off, downy mildew and fusarium wilt.
Anthracnose will cause small, water-soaked spots on leaves which can become enlarged. If the infection is severe, it may cause severe blighting. To prevent this problem, only plant disease-free seed and avoid overhead watering.
Damping off will cause poor germination rate, new seedlings can die, plants can become yellow and appear stunted and older plants may wilt and collapse. This is often spread by overwatering plants. To manage this disease, plant spinach in well-draining soils and avoid overwatering.
Downy mildew will cause yellow spots that become larger over time and also become tan. A purple fungal growth will be present on the undersides of the leaves. Leaves can become curled or distorted. To manage this disease, plant varieties that are resistant and be sure to apply the appropriate fungicides upon planting to protect your spinach.
Fusarium wilt will cause older leaves to become yellow, plants may reach maturity too early or die early, and there may be a reduced seed production. For seedlings, the symptoms may appear similar to damping off. To manage this, don’t plant spinach in the soil that is infested with fusarium, and be sure to practice crop rotation. Plant early and avoid overwatering during flowering stages.
Learning Download: Spinach Comparison Chart
Spinach Comparison Chart
|Leaf Type||Variety||Days||Color||Bolting||Disease Resistance|
|Smooth||Red Kitten||30||light, red veins||fast||DM 1-13, 15|
|Smooth||Olympia||45||dark||slow||DM 1-3, 5, 8-9|
|Smooth||Malabar Red Stem||85||dark, red stem||slow|
Disease: DM (Downy Mildew)
*All American Selection Winner