Spinach is a really wonderful vegetable that has a variety of uses; young leaves are ideal for summer salads with the larger autumn and winter leaves being perfect for boiling or omlets.
When it comes to growing your own spinach there a few things that you need to watch out for but with some careful planning it is possible to get a crop of spinach almost all year round. Bolting is a very common problem with spinach but in this article you’ll learn how to prevent this happening in even the hottest weather.
How To Grow Spinach From Seed
When growing spinach the first step is to select the variety that suits your needs. Modern F1 hybrids often are very quick growing but produce a crop over a short period. Heritage varieties are usually slower growing and produce a crop of leaves over a longer period. I’d always recommend growing an old heritage spinach variety with the view to saving seeds from the plants at the end of the season.
Spinach likes to be sown in soil that is rich in organic matter and holds moisture. Add an 1 inch (2.5cm) of rotted manure to the bed at least two weeks before planting.
Seed sowing can begin as early as February if some protection in the form of cloches or a fleece is provided. The main sowing season begins in March and continues until late September. A break from sowing should take place in June and July as plantings in these months will go to seed quickly.
The seeds should be sown thinly less than 1 inch (2.5cm) deep in rows that are 8 inches (20cm) apart.
Germination should take 5-7 days. Keep sowing seeds every 4 weeks to get a year round crop.
Spinach Plant Aftercare
After germination the plants should be thinned to 3 inches (7.5cm) apart.
Small spinach plants are like a magnet for birds who will eat the seedlings to the ground, covering with a net for a few weeks after planting to prevent any problems is worth the effort.
Bolting quickly becomes a problem in very hot conditions, this can be prevented by keeping the plants damp, planting in shade or providing a shade net.
Four weeks after germination is usually a good time to weed the plants. The leaves should at this stage have grown a canopy which will stop any new weeds growing.
Harvesting Your Spinach Plants
Harvesting can be done in two ways, either by picking individual leaves or harvesting the entire plant.
If picking leaves individually harvesting small leaves can begin after 4 weeks. Plants will continue to produce leaves for several months or more if they are harvested regularly, kept moist and prevented from bolting. This method is ideal for salads or small continuous harvests.
Harvesting the entire plant was very common in the past. If you are wanting to harvest a large number of leaves for steaming or boiling this is the best method. The plants are usually ready for harvesting at 8 weeks. Do not allow the plants to remain in the ground much longer than this as they will begin to take on a bitter taste.
Following these steps should allow you to get a crop of spinach almost all year round. With a cloche it’s possible to get spinach for harvesting every week of the year.