Spinach is one of the tastiest vegetables to plant in a garden. It is easy to grow, super cold hardy, chocked full of vitamins and minerals, crisp and sweet, easy to harvest and great in almost any recipe. This is definitely one of my go-to veggies. There are three types of spinach: Savoyed, Semi-Savoyed and Smooth. These types describe the structure and texture of the leaves. Savoyed leaves are crinkled and wrinkly, smooth spinach varieties obviously have smooth leaves and semi-savoyed is somewhere in between. Savoyed varieties are the best to grow when temperatures are cold while the smooth varieties prefer warmer temperatures and my even tolerate summer!
From September – March; directly sow seeds in succession (enough for one week’s harvest plus a little more as a contingency) and repeat weekly. Sow Spinach seeds in soil that is between 55-65o F at 1/4” depth. During the cool temperatures of Fall, Winter and Spring, use a hot bed to increase soil temperature and/or black plastic mulch. It will take anywhere from 3-7 days to germinate, depending on bed temperature and amount of available light. For greater consistency in germination times, sprout the spinach seeds by soaking the seeds in cool water for 8 hours, drain and rinse twice per day for three days. Plant the sprouted seeds.
Spinach prefers a temperature of 60-65o F to grow. The pH range should be between 6.5-7.0. Plant in rows giving 1” spacing (or thin the seedlings to…) between each seedling and 4-6” staggered, between each row. Do not plant Spinach next to, or after, beets or swiss chard. Plant Spinach in fertile soil. Plant in soil with a high nitrogen content… fertile soil is necessary for a healthy crop. Water regularly. Spinach does tolerate, and flavor is improved by frost. But continued exposure to frost or snow will kill the Spinach plant. So, use a little frost protection.
Harvest Spinach early for tender, fresh leaves destined for a salad in about 15-20 days. Harvest Spinach after about 50 days if you wish to cook the spinach. It will have more flavor and the texture will stand up to the heat better.
Let your spinach continue to grow throughout the warm months of summer.
The heat triggers the plant to “bolt”. When temperatures increase, the center of the Spinach plant will send up a tall stalk with few leaves and the top of the stalk will develop flowers. The pollinated (by wind) flowers develop into seeds. Spinach plants flower at various times, this means that the seeds mature at different rates. Pull off a seed and check for seed maturity. Break open the seed, if it is milky, it is immature. If the seed is waxy and greyish in color, it is in the middle of maturity. If the seed is white and chalky, it’s ready. Once ready, cut the stalk and place in a paper grocery bag and allow the seeds/stalk to dry in a warm, dry place for 4-10 days. Carefully flail them in the bag to separate the seeds from the debris – not too hard. Winnow away the debris using your fingers for the stalks/stems and a fan for the leaves, then store in paper bags. Seeds last about 3 years. *Plant excess seeds in your pasture for extra goodies for your livestock.