Growing Spinach | Monumental Greens Guide - Green Thumb Gardener

Growing Spinach | Monumental Greens Guide

growing spinachDid you grow up watching Popeye squeeze a can of spinach into his mouth to gain some strength?  Maybe learning how to grow spinach will help you with your muscles. Probably not, but learning about how easy to grow spinach will flex your Green thumb.

Growing spinach is a vegetable that is extremely versatile to grow.  You can grow spinach in a traditional vegetable garden or plant in a container or pot.

Spinach is a superfood that you can add to your salads or tuck it in phyllo dough for a delicious treat.  It is no wonder why adding spinach to grow in your garden will help you to accumulate all these benefits.

You don’t have to be a wiz to get spinach to grow.  Just have to plant them in the right conditions and give it the care they need.  Let’s find out exactly what you need to do to get started.

You don’t have to be a wiz to get spinach to grow.  Just have to plant them in the right conditions and give it the care they need. Click To Tweet

Spinach History

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) can be traced back to ancient Iran or Persia as it was called during those times.  Eventually, spinach made its way east towards China and India.

During the 12th century,  spinach made its way to Spain.  Spinach was called the raʼīs al-buqūl or ‘chieftain of leafy greens’ in Spain as it was regarded as the boss of the greens.  Spinach must have been the greens to choose there.

The migration of Spinach descends to England and France in the 14th century where it was one of the few vegetables that grew in the spring.  During the 16th century, the queen of France, Catherine de’ Medici, put spinach on the map.

The queen enjoyed it so much that it was prepared at every meal.  Spinach dishes that we now associate with “Florentine” was derived from the queen’s love of it since her birthplace was Florence.

Spinach made its way to the United States in the 19th century and finally ended up on Saturday morning cartoons with Popeye.

growing spinach guideGrowing Spinach for Healthy Skin & Hair

There are so many benefits to grow spinach and add to your diet.  Muscles are certainly one of them as it does provide a small amount of protein.  Spinach provides about 5 grams of protein per 1 cup of cooked spinach.

Here are a few other benefits of growing spinach:

  • Vitamin A – Spinach is known to have huge amounts of vitamin A.  This helps to moderate the oil production of the follicles in our hair and pores in our skin.  
    • Consuming spinach is a great way to help keep the skin moist for this very reason.
    • Vitamin A also helps with healthy growth of body tissue that includes skin and hair. Who knew that growing spinach would also help to grow hair.
  • Iron – Eating spinach helps your body use your energy efficiently through its iron contents.  Consuming a serving of spinach will provide about 1 gram of iron
  • Vitamin K – Even a low consumption of vitamin K helps to prevent good bone health.
    • One serving of raw spinach provides approximately 145 mcg of Vitamin K
    • The Daily Value of vitamin K is 80 mcg, so just a cup of spinach provides 181% of your recommended daily intake.  BOOM.

Step by Step Guide on How to Grow Spinach

These steps are best used when you direct sow your spinach seeds in your garden plot or raised beds.  We have a comprehensive guide on growing spinach in containers that you can find in this post here.

Materials Need for Planting Spinach

  • Loamy soil – The best soil is very loose, full of hummus or compost, packed with a moderate amount of NPK
  • Spinach seeds – You can’t grow spinach without these.  Sheer will doesn’t work. Click here for the type we grow that does well in our garden.

Steps to Grow Spinach

  1. Amend your garden soil with a healthy mix of compost or fertilizers that you want.  Spinach requires a balanced supply of nutrients.  Growing spinach does well if you add in all of your nutrients prior to planting so many supplemental feedings are not needed.
  2. Sketch out where you want to plant your spinach seeds.  Plant spinach in wide rows or condense your plantings into a square-foot area.
    • A minimum of 9 Spinach plants can be planted 1 square foot space.  This is a good plant to really pack in, so try dense planting them.
    • You want to place the spinach seeds about 4 inches (11 cm) apart.  You can draw a grid and mark a spot in the middle to help you get a good placement strategy.
    • Refer to the back of your spinach seed packet for some specific guidelines.
  3. Place each seed in the about 3-4 inches apart in either the rows or square foot area you sketched out.  The spinach seeds should be at a maximum depth of about 1/2″ (13 mm).
  4. Water them generously.  Spinach seeds take about 7-14 days to germinate.  Germination times will vary depending on the soil temperatures.  Warmer temps promote faster germinations
  5. You don’t need to add any fertilizers as long as you added your slow release fertilizers when you first planted.  Spinach can taste metallic if you add too much nitrogen as it grows.  Just let your compost do its thing.

Here is a video showing how to plant spinach:

growing spinach guideWhere is the Best Place to Grow Spinach

Growing spinach is definitely easy to do as long as follow a few simple rules on where to plant it.  Spinach does prefer full sun but still grows well in part-shade. Just be aware that spinach may take longer to grow with less sunlight.

Spinach thrives in many different places, so you have many options to choose from.  Here are some of the places you can grow spinach:

  1. Container– Growing spinach in containers is a great place to plant these greens.  Keep in mind that you want to make sure that you have the right soil for your container.
    • Spinach loves loamy soil that is teeming with lots of organic materials like compost or other nutrients.
    • Ensure that your container soil has a fairly neutral pH (around 7.0) for optimal growth
    • Check out our post for more about Growing spinach in a container here
  2. Raised Bed – Spinach thrives in raised beds.  You can direct sow your spinach seeds in beds that are spaced about a foot wide so you can harvest them.
    • Spinach can really be packed in together pretty tightly.  We love to really plant a heavy amount together, so don’t be afraid to get at least 12 seeds in a square foot area
    • Spinach does not transplant well.  We have largely ignored this advice that you may see.  Just be aware that you don’t want to wait too long to plant after the seeds have germinated and grown to transplant and be careful handling the roots.
  3. Traditional Garden Plot– Growing spinach in a traditional garden area is perfect for those that have space and good soil.
    • Ensure that your soil is not too compact like you may find with clay.  Work in lots of organic materials and compost to help loosen and enrich the soil.
    • Make sure your area also drains well.  Spinach does not do well if the soil is too soggy.  This is especially super vital for this during the early spring crops since it is typically damper.

When is the best time for Growing Spinach

The best time to grow spinach is definitely during the cooler times of the year.  The spinach plants do not tolerate the heat and longer days.

You want to ensure that your spinach plants are planted in early spring for late spring to early summer harvest.  Be sure to look for slower bolting varieties of spinach if you plant later in the spring.

You can start them in seed trays or sow directly in your garden space.  The spinach does well when transplanted. The fall period is also perfect to plant spinach.  Direct sow your spinach seeds in your garden or container or start them in seed trays.

Spinach is also an excellent winter growing vegetable.  The plants will grow slower since the sunlight hours are less, but can survive freezing weather under a row cover.  You will be amazed when you harvest fresh spinach with snow all around it.

These are not true spinach plants, but make excellent substitutions to grow after the traditional spinach plants bolt.

The exception to the cooler weather planting times is the spinach-like plants such as Red Malabar and New Zealand Spinach.Click To Tweet

Companion Planting for Spinach

Plants that can assist each other go a long way to promote harmony in your garden.  This natural bond can help in many ways including repelling insects and other critters..  It is worth it to take the time to learn to promote nature’s balance.

One way to do this is to utilize companion planting.  Here are some recommendations for spinach plants.

Good Companion Plants for Spinach

  • Strawberry
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots

Bad Plants to Grow near Spinach

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Sunflowers

Caring for your Growing Spinach

Spinach Water Requirements

Spinach requires light but even watering throughout its growing season.  It grows during the cooler times of the year, so water evaporation is much lower than during the summer.  It is key to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

You also want to make sure that the soil never gets too dry as it will encourage the spinach plant to bolt.

Spinach Fertilizing Requirements

Spinach does not require much fertilizer during its growth period as long as you have a good base of compost or slow release fertilizers worked into the planting hole.  

You also can give the young spinach plant feeding of fish emulsions like this one here.  The other option is to give it a feeding of watered down compost tea.  Don’t use too much fertilizer for your spinach especially nitrogen as it can give the spinach leaves a metallic taste.

Check out some information about fertilizer in our series found here.

Pest/Diseases of Spinach

One of the best things about growing spinach is that it is a cooler weather vegetable.  There is much less chance of pest and plant diseases during the cooler weather. You still want to keep an eye on your plants as there are some that may pop up especially towards the late spring or early fall periods.

Here are a few of the little pest that can affect your Spinach:

  • Leafminer –  These are a variety of insect that feeds off of the leaf during its larvae stage.  They include insects such as moths, flies, and beetles.
    • The larvae burrow its way into the actual leaf which can make it difficult to control once they spread.
    • Row covers can help to prevent the adult insects from laying the eggs on your plants if your area is known to have issues
  • Aphids – These little green pest can suck the life out of your plants. Fortunately, they are easy to control and usually can be sprayed off your plants should you notice a small colony.
  • Slugs – Don’t let these guys fool you.  You may think they are slow, but they will devour your entire plant stem and leaves if you notice them.  Typically, they come out in the darkness, so check at night or early morning for these little buggers.

Here are a few diseases that can affect your Spinach:

  • Spinach blight – This disease is also known as cucumber mosaic virus.  The spinach plants turn a yellow-brownish color. It is usually spread by aphids, so keeping those pests off your spinach plants will help prevent or spread this disease.
  • Downy Mildew – This fungal disease typically appears as a white purple color on the underside of the spinach leaf.  It is spread through water and sometimes seeds if you aren’t careful.

growing spinach guide

Harvesting & Storing your Spinach

Bolting Spinach

Spinach does not tolerate the heat and longer days.  The plant knows that its life cycle is ready to reproduce at this point.  There is no real way of preventing this from occurring.

Bolting is a term that means the flowering stalk is forming.  This is how the spinach plant reproduces. You want to see this if you plan on saving seeds, but not so when you want to harvest the spinach.

You want to watch for signs of this.  The spinach plant will send up a stalk that emerges from the very center of the plant.  

You want to harvest as much of the leaves as you can when this occurs.  The leaves may have a more bitter or sharper taste at this point, but still, taste fine when cooked.

Spinach Harvest

There are several ways that you can harvest your spinach plants.  The way you do depends on your use for spinach.

  • Baby leaves– you can begin to harvest smooth leaf spinach when after the leaves start to emerge and the plants have several leaves on them.  Typically, when they are about 4 inches long
  • Cut off the entire plant – You can cut off the entire plant and leave part of the stem above the soil.  This will encourage the plant to grow more leaves.
  • Pull up the entire plant – This method is perfect if you have a large crop of spinach or your plant is just starting to bolt.

Storing your Spinach

There are a few options for storing your spinach plant leaves.  You can either store the fresh spinach in your fridge or store the spinach leaves in your freezer.

Fridge storage of Spinach

The big enemy of spinach leaves is excess moisture.  You really need to make sure that the spinach leaves are completely dry before you store them away in your fridge.

Here is a simple procedure to do before placing your spinach leaves in your fridge:

  1. Remove any spinach leaves that have yellowing or have any signs of spoiling from the freshly picked bunch
  2. Rinse off the remaining leaves to remove any accumulated dirt.  You can also place the leaves in a bowl of water and let the dirt fall to the bottom.
  3. Using a salad spinner (something similar to this here), remove as much moisture as you can.  Follow up with dabbing the leaves with paper towels or leave out to dry a bit more
  4. Once the leaves are completely dry, wrap the leaves in dry paper towels and place in a ziplock storage bag.  
  5. Place in the dry spinach leaves in your fridge, preferably in the crisper drawer away from light

Freezer Storage of your Spinach

This way to store spinach is perfect if you know that you won’t use all of your harvests right away and don’t want to risk it spoiling.  Here is the method we use:

  1. Remove any spinach leaves that have yellowing or have any signs of spoiling from the freshly picked bunch
  2. Rinse off the remaining leaves to remove any accumulated dirt.  You can also place the leaves in a bowl of water and let the dirt fall to the bottom.
  3. Place the rinsed spinach leaves in boiling water for about 30 seconds using the method called blanching.  Blanching stops the enzymes that cause the loss of flavor & color.
  4. Immediately plunge the spinach leaves in cold ice water to stop the cooking process.
  5. Using a salad spinner (something similar to this here), remove as much moisture as you can. You can even squeeze the water out of spinach if you use a kitchen towel.
  6. Place spinach in a ziplock storage bag.  It is not necessary to get it completely dry but helps to get as much moisture out as you can.

Monstrueux De Viroflay Spinach - 50 days to harvest.  Produces big, long and smooth leaves that are about 10 inches long. Very tender leaves with a gourmet flavor. Best grown in the fall timeClick To Tweet

Varieties of Spinach to Grow

Here is a list of the different varieties of spinach that you can plant.  They are grouped into 3 main varieties of spinach: Smooth Leaf Spinach, Savoyed Leaf Spinach, and Other Spinach.  

The Other Spinach types are not actually spinach, but varieties of plants that taste and look like spinach.  Typically, they can be grown in the summer.

Smooth Leaf Spinach Types

  • Monstrueux De Viroflay Spinach – 50 days to harvest.  Produces big, long and smooth leaves that are about 10 inches long. Very tender leaves with a gourmet flavor. Best grown in the fall time
  • Galilee Spinach – 35 to 40 days to harvest.  Very slow to bolt and heat resistant as long as planted in spring or fall seasons.  An Israeli variety with dark green colored leaves that are triangular in shape. Excellent variety for baby spinach or fully matured leaves.
  • Indian Summer– 50 days to harvest.  Crunchy, sweet dark green leaves that are very slow to bolt during hot weather. Leaves are attractively savoyed and taste great

Savoyed Leaf Spinach Types

  • Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach – 50 days to harvest.  Glossy and deep green leaves and an old stand by in many gardens throughout the generations.  It is slow to bolt is
  • Merlo Nero Spinach – 40- 50 days to harvest.  A big plant that has bright green crinkled leaves and has an excellent flavor.  
  • Gigante d’ Inverno Spinach – 40 -50 days to harvest.  Very flavorful variety from Italy. This spinach has deep green large leaves and does well in late fall & winter.
  • America Spinach – 45-50 days to harvest.  Similar to Bloomsdale spinach that yields 8-9 inch tall plants.  Slow to bolt.

Other Spinach Types

  • New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia) – 55 days to harvest.  Not a true spinach, but has an excellent flavor that is perfect for salads.  Perfect to grow on a trellis.
  • Malabar Spinach – 85 days to harvest. This is also not a true spinach, but it tastes, cooks, and looks like spinach.  The best part is that it thrives in the heat. Best grown on a trellis.
  • Strawberry Spinach (Chenopodium) – 60 days to harvest.  The bright green leaves are super nutritious with red-mulberry like fruits.  Perfect during warmer weather.

Spinach Planting & Growing Guide

Sowing Spinach

  • Planting Depth: 1/2″(13 mm)
  • Soil Germination Temperature: 50-75°F (10-24°C), germinates best at around 70°F (21°C)
  • Germination Period:  Approx. 7-10 days
  • Sow Outdoors: Early spring as soon as soil can be turned and worked over; late summer for a fall crop
  • Sow Indoors: 3-4 weeks before last frost date

Growing Spinach

  • Range of pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Best Growing Soil Temperature: 60-65°F (16-18°C)
  • Spacing in Beds: 12-18 inches (30-45cm)
  • Square Foot Spacing: 9 per square
  • Water Requirements: Light Watering
  • Light: Full sun is optimal for the best yield, but does tolerate partial sunlight
  • Nutrients Requirements:
    • Nitrogen (N)= moderate;
    • Phosphorus (P) = moderate;
    • Potassium (K) = moderate
  • Seed to Harvest/Flower Period: 7 Weeks

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kylene

Fantastic article!

kylene

Love this article!

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