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How to Grow Spinach Sprouts

Growing Spinach as a Micro-green

The seeds of alfalfa, mung bean, radish, arugula, buckwheat, sunflower, and many other vegetables produce sprouts, or microgreens, when grown in flats or simply sprouted in jars. Spinach sprouts, however, are not very palatable when grown in this way. Some spinach seeds are treated with chemicals which inhibit fungal diseases, so if you want to grow them as a micro-green, be sure to use untreated seed.

The best way of producing ultra-small spinach seedlings and using them in a way similar to sprouts is by germinating the spinach seeds in the ground, or growing them in flats indoors, and then harvesting and eating the seedlings.

You will need:

  • Several packages of untreated spinach seed.
  • Seedling flats with water-catchment trays for each flat, or,
  • Well-prepared garden soil outdoors.

Spinach seeds germinate at temperatures between 40º to 75ºF (4.4º to 24ºC), but they will grow faster at the higher end of this temperature range.

If you are growing spinach outdoors, space the seeds 1 inch (2.5cm) apart in the rows, so you will have extra seedling to thin out and enjoy as a micro-green. Firm the soil over the seeds and water them regularly, not letting the soil dry-out between watering.

Once the seedlings germinate and develop their first set of true leaves, thin them to a spacing of about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20cm) apart, leaving some plants to grow and mature. Carefully wash the small plants you have pulled-out and use them as you would use other sprouts in salads, sandwiches, or stir-fry dishes.

Growing Spinach Sprouts Indoors

You can also grow tiny spinach plants indoors in gardening flats or pots by planting the seed 1 inch (1.3cm) apart in all directions. When the seedlings are about 2 inches (5cm) tall, harvest as many as you like, wash them carefully, and eat them as a micro-green.

Spinach is one of the most satisfying cool-weather crops to grow, producing large yields of vitamin-rich, dark green leaves that are excellent for salads and for cooking. Since both hot weather and long days trigger spinach to bolt (send up a seed stalk) quickly, the secret to success with this crop is to start sowing seeds as soon as possible in spring; to make small, frequent plantings during late spring and summer; and to concentrate on fall as the season for the main crop.

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Planting

Spinach does best when growing in moist, nitrogen-rich soil. Spinach plants form a deep taproot; for best growth, loosen the soil at least 1 foot deep before planting.

Sow spinach seed as early as six weeks before the last frost or as soon as you can work the soil. Prepare the soil the previous autumn, and you’ll be able to drop the seeds in barely thawed ground come spring. In areas with a long, cool spring, make successive plantings every 10 days until mid-May.

In warm climates, plant spinach in the shade of tall crops such as corn or beans. The young plants will be spared the hottest sun and be ready for harvest in fall or winter. Using cold frames or heavyweight row covers, you can grow spinach all winter in many parts of the country. In colder regions, try planting in fall (October) and protecting the young plants through winter for a spring harvest. In regions where the soil doesn’t freeze, try planting spinach in February for a March harvest.

Spinach seed doesn’t store well, so buy fresh seeds every year. Sow them one half inch deep and two inches apart in beds or rows. If the weather isn’t extremely cold, seeds will germinate in five to nine days. Spinach produces beautifully in cool fall conditions, but it’s tricky to persuade the seed to germinate in the hot conditions of late summer. Sow seed heavily, because the germination rate drops to about 50% in warm weather, and water the seed beds frequently — even twice a day — because watering helps to cool the soil.

We love planting spinach in raised beds — here’s our favorite design for building one:

Growing Guidelines

Overcrowding stunts growth and encourages plants to go to seed. To avoid crowding, thin seedlings to four to six inches apart once they have at least two true leaves. Fertilize with compost tea or fish emulsion when the plants have four true leaves.

Since cultivating or hand pulling weeds can harm spinach roots, it’s best to spread a light mulch of hay, straw, or grass clippings along the rows to suppress weeds instead. Water stress will encourage plants to bolt, so provide enough water to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Cover the crop with shade cloth if the temperature goes above 80 degrees.

Troubleshooting

Since most spinach grows in very cool weather, pests are usually not a problem. Leafminer larvae can burrow inside leaves and produce tan patches. Prevent leafminer problems by keeping your crop covered with floating row cover. For unprotected plants, remove and destroy affected leaves to prevent adult flies from multiplying and further affecting the crop. Slugs also feed on spinach.

Spinach blight, a virus spread by aphids, causes yellow leaves and stunted plants. Downy mildew, which appears as yellow spots on leaf surfaces and mold on the undersides, occurs during very wet weather. Reduce the spread of disease spores by not working around wet plants. Avoid both of these diseases by planting resistant cultivars.

Harvesting

In six to eight weeks you can start harvesting from any plant that has at least six three or four inch long leaves. Carefully cutting the outside leaves will extend the plants’ productivity, particularly with fall crops. Harvest the entire crop at the first sign of bolting by using a sharp knife to cut through the main stem just below the soil surface.

All About Spinach

Can I Grow Spinach?

Spinach is one of the few vegetables with beets and chard that prefers a neutral to alkaline soil (pH 7.0 or above). If your garden soil is sandy and acid, be sure to get a lime recommendation based on a soil test before planting spinach. Spinach is also a heavy feeder. Start by working 2-4 pounds of a complete fertilizer per 100 square feet into the soil at planting time and then side-dress every two weeks or as necessary to keep the plants growing vigorously. Be sure to keep fertilizer 4-6 inches from the base of the plants so as not to burn the roots and water thoroughly immediately after fertilizing.

There is no such thing as putting too much compost in garden soil. Mix at least 2-4 inches of compost in the row before planting. Commercial compost is sometimes little more than slightly decayed wood chips. Check to see that the raw material used to make the compost is mostly unrecognizable before buying it or better yet, make your own.

Spinach thrives in cool weather and short days so it’s best to grow it in the fall for most gardeners. Northern gardeners can plant an early spring crop followed by another in midsummer to mature before the first hard freeze. In southern gardens spinach easily tolerates a light frost, especially if it is acclimated. In case of a sudden or hard freeze (below 28 degrees), old blankets or polypropylene frost blankets can save the day and prolong the harvest.

Spinach Plant History

Should I Plant Spinach Seeds Or Plants?

Most gardeners start with seeds but transplants are often available at local nurseries. Germinating the seeds in the heat of late summer/fall can be a real challenge. The best soil temperatures for rapid germination (6-7 days) are between 68 and 86 degrees F. Keeping the soil constantly moist and covering the row with fiber row cover will help to cool the soil and get the seeds up. Be sure to remove the row cover as soon as the seedlings are visible. If its still too hot use hoops made from 1/2 inch polyethylene irrigation tubing to lift the row cover off of the small seedlings. A final spacing of 3-5 inches is best for most varieties. So either transplant them directly to this spacing or thin them.
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How Do I Cultivate Spinach Plants?

Spinach is grown commercially on deep, loam soils. If your garden soil is acid (pH below 7), then be sure to lime the soil based on a soil test to raise the pH to 7.0. Many gardeners opt for raised beds, 6-8 inches above the existing soil, especially if they have a heavy clay soil to deal with. Working 2-4 inches of compost into the soil prior to planting is always a good idea and while you’re at it incorporate 2 pounds of a complete fertilizer per 100 square feet.

Spinach Plant Growing Tips

Spinach Plant Insects & Diseases

Aphids or plant lice are fond of spinach. Usually a high-pressure water spray will knock them off or try one of the organic sprays like Burpee’s K+Neem. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Agent for other recommended pesticides.
Caterpillars love spinach, too. Use one of the biological worm sprays (Bacillus thuringiensis) to take out these pests without hazard to people, pets and beneficial insects.

Diseases are also a threat to spinach. White rust, blue mold (downy mildew) and the soil-borne disease fusarium wilt are the primary pests in this category. White rust is a common problem during cool, humid conditions. If only a few leaves are infected just remove them. Where this disease is a common problem, as it is in many areas of the South, check with the Extension Service for recommended fungicides.
Blue mold can also be treated by removing infected leaves (look for yellow spots on top of the leaf and a grayish-blue mold on the bottom of the leaf) or use a recommended fungicide.

Rotating spinach with unrelated crops for at least three years is the best control for fusarium wilt.
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Spinach Plant Recipes & Storage

See all our Spinach

My Spinach Is Bolting – Learn About The Bolting Of Spinach

Spinach is one of the fastest growing leafy vegetables. It is excellent when young in salads and the larger, mature leaves provide a fabulous addition to stir-fry or simply steamed. Later in the season, when I go out to harvest more of the delicious leaves, I usually see that my spinach is bolting. What does spinach bolting mean? Let’s learn more.

What Does Spinach Bolting Mean?

Spinach is filled with anti-oxidant properties. It is also high in Vitamins A and C, fiber, protein and a host of other beneficial nutrients. As an overall vegetable, this plant gets high marks as a versatile addition to recipes. Enjoying fresh spinach from the garden is an early season joy, but over time bolting of spinach will occur.

In fact, spinach prefers the cooler season and will respond to heat by forming flowers and seeds. This tends to make the leaves quite bitter. The bitter flavor resulting from spinach bolting early is enough to keep you out of that vegetable patch.

Spinach will begin to flower as soon as spring days begin to lengthen. The response comes when days are longer than 14 hours and temperatures creep above 75 F. (23 C.). Spinach will grow in most soils as long as they are properly drained, but it prefers temperatures between 35 and 75 F.(1-23 C.).

Cool season varieties or broadleaf species will elongate, get taller, produce fewer leaves and develop a flower head in warmer weather. Fortunately, I no longer worry that my spinach is bolting. Using one of the varieties developed to withstand warm weather prevents spinach bolting early.

Prevent Bolting of Spinach

Can you stop spinach from bolting? You can’t stop spinach from bolting in warm conditions, but you can try a variety that is bolt resistant to extend your spinach harvest.

Oregon State University conducted trials with some of the new cultivars during the heat of summer. The most resistant to bolting were Correnta and Spinner, which didn’t bolt even during the longest days of heat. Tyee is another variety that is low to bolt, but it produces more slowly than the early season varieties. Expect harvestable leaves in 42 days as opposed to the spring types that can be used in 37 days.

Other types to try are:

  • Indian Summer
  • Steadfast
  • Bloomsdale

All of these may be sown from late spring to mid-summer. Bolting of spinach is minimized but even the heat tolerant varieties will still send out seed at some point. A good idea is to practice crop rotation by planting the cool season varieties in early spring and late summer and using the low bolt types during the hotter season.

To further prevent bolting of spinach, know when to plant each variety of seed.

  • Plant cool season types four to six weeks before the date of the last frost in your region. You can also use these seeds six to eight weeks before the first frost in fall.
  • In cooler climates, you can plant seed in a cold frame in fall or cover late season plants with hay. Remove the hay in spring and you will have one of the earliest crops of spinach around.
  • The bolt resistant, heat tolerant types should be sown any time during the hotter months.

By following this plan, you can have fresh spinach from your garden all year around.

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