When to grow spinach?

I get a lot of questions from new gardeners about how to grow spinach in the garden, because it can be a tricky one. Spinach is a fast growing, low maintenance crop that is actually very easy to grow from seed. When it comes to growing spinach from seed, timing is everything! In this post, I’m going to tell you the secret to successfully growing spinach, and give you tons of tips for your best spinach harvest ever!

Spinach Information

Not only is spinach super healthy, it’s very versatile too! It can be eaten raw or cooked, used in tons of recipes (I especially love it with eggs or on pizza!), and it even makes the perfect addition to smoothies and salad mixes.

It’s super easy to freeze too, making it an even more valuable crop to grow in your garden. Some of my favorite spinach varieties to grow are Bloomsdale spinach seeds, Monstrueux de Viroflay and Matador.

Growing Spinach From Seed

Like I mentioned above, growing spinach from seed is all about timing. The key to successfully growing a good spinach crop is to grow it during the cooler months.

The biggest mistake that new gardeners make when trying to grow spinach is planting it way too late. Think of it this way… if you plant your spinach at the same time as your tomatoes, then it’s too late.

Spinach is very sensitive to heat, and will bolt (i.e.: flower) at the first sign of warm weather. Plus, if you plant the seeds too late, they won’t grow because spinach seeds won’t germinate if it’s too warm.

Spinach doesn’t really like to be transplanted either, so it’s best to plant the seeds directly in the garden rather than starting seeds indoors and transplanting them (which is so nice since you don’t have to worry about buying any extra seed starting supplies!).

Getting ready to start planting spinach seeds

Where To Grow Spinach

One of the things I love the most about growing spinach from seed is that it doesn’t need a ton of space, so you can tuck it in just about anywhere! It’s a double space saver when you grow it under a lean-to or an a-frame style trellis with vining crops growing on top!

Spinach crops will be done very early in the summer, so you can easily plant it in a bed with squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, or other warm hardy plants.

Once these heat loving crops start to grow larger, the spinach will be done, leaving plenty of space for other plants to fill in.

Spinach can be grown anywhere from full sun to partial shade. But, it grows best in a spot where it’s protected from the hot afternoon sun.

I grow spinach in my vegetable garden beds where it gets partial shade. Spinach also grows very well in a pot, or in mixed containers with other types of salad greens.

It can grow in many different types of soil, but spinach will grow it’s best in moist, well draining soil that is rich with organic material.

Before growing spinach from seed, I mix compost into my garden beds, and I also add an organic granular fertilizer to the soil.

Almost ready to start harvesting spinach

When To Plant Spinach Seeds

Since it prefers the cold, plant spinach seeds 4-6 weeks before your average last frost date, or as soon as your soil is workable in early spring.

Since it’s such a fast growing crop, you could also plant seeds in late summer for a fall harvest (spinach is cold hardy, so it won’t be killed off by fall frosts).

If you live in a warmer climate with mild winters, you can start your seeds once the weather cools down in the fall, and grow it through the winter (lucky you!).

Planting Spinach Seeds Step-by-Step

Check the seed packets for exact instructions for planting the varieties of spinach you want to grow. Most will be the same, but it’s best to check to make sure there aren’t any special instructions before planting seeds.

In general, here’s how to plant spinach seeds step-by-step…

  1. Loosen up the soil, and mix in any soil amendments and organic granular fertilizer
  2. Space seeds 2″ apart (or a 4-6″ apart if you don’t want to thin the seedlings)
  3. Plant spinach seeds 1/2″ deep, and cover the seeds with soil
  4. Gently press the soil down over the seeds
  5. Water the soil until it’s evenly moist (but not soggy)

Planting spinach seeds directly in the garden

Spinach Care & Growing Tips

Given the right growing environment, spinach is a super low maintenance and easy to care for plant. Since they have such a short growing season, spinach plants don’t really require any special care.

But to ensure a good harvest, here are some basic spinach growing tips for spinach care…

Spinach germination time – When planted in the right soil, spinach seeds germinate very quickly. It only takes about 5-9 days for the seeds to germinate. Sow the seeds at different times throughout the spring for a longer harvest.

Spinach seedlings starting to grow

Watering spinach plants – Spinach likes a lot of water, but it doesn’t like soggy soil. Make sure to grow it in a fast draining soil, and never allow the soil to dry out completely.

One of the reasons it’s so low maintenance is that, since it’s usually cool and wet in the spring, I rarely need to worry about watering my spinach plants.

Fertilizing spinach – Spinach plants are heavy feeders, and they will grow their best when you fertilize them. Don’t use chemical fertilizers though, it’s best to stick to using a natural, organic fertilizers in your garden.

I like to top-dress my soil with an organic granular fertilizer before I plant the seeds, then I feed the plants using an organic liquid fertilizer. You can start using liquid fertilizer as soon as spinach seedlings start growing their first true leaves. Organic compost fertilizer is one of my favorites.

You can buy liquid compost tea concentrate, or get compost tea bags and brew your own from scratch. Spinach seedlings also love being fed with fish emulsion or liquid kelp, which are another two of my favorite organic liquid fertilizers to use in my garden.

Spinach plant spacing – Spinach doesn’t need a ton of room, but overcrowded spinach seedlings can end up competing with each other for light, water and nutrients so it’s best to give them plenty of room to grow.

Once your spinach seedlings start to grow their true leaves, thin them out so they are about 4-6″ apart.

Make sure to cut the plants off at the base rather than pulling them out so you don’t damage the shallow roots of surrounding seedlings (you can eat the ones you thinned out, they’re microgreens!).

Spinach seedling growing first few true leaves

Harvesting Spinach

Spinach is one of those vegetables that you can harvest over and over again. As long as the plant hasn’t started bolting, you can harvest from it.

To harvest spinach, simply pinch or cut off the largest leaves from the plant. Don’t remove all of the leaves, make sure to leave the smaller ones to continue to grow and mature for your next harvest.

Technically you could start harvesting spinach as soon as the true leaves start to grow. But, it’s best to wait until there are several leaves before you start harvesting.

As soon as a plant starts to bolt, I will pull the whole thing and harvest all the leaves from it. Make sure you catch it right away though, spinach leaves turn bitter pretty quickly once the plant starts to bolt. If you allow the flower to grow, spinach will not taste very good.

Spinach freezes really well, and frozen spinach is perfect for smoothies and cooking. I make sure to grow as much spinach as I can during the cold months so I can stock my freezer and enjoy it year round.

Harvesting spinach from my garden

Growing spinach from seed can be tricky, and timing is everything. The secret to success is planting spinach seeds as soon as you possibly can in the spring.

The biggest mistake gardeners make is starting spinach seeds too late, only to watch the plants bolt before they can harvest spinach.

If you want to learn more about growing your garden from seeds, check out my online seed starting course! It’s a comprehensive online course that you can take at your own pace (and from anywhere in the world!), with lifetime access and step-by-step guidance so you can learn how to grow any plant you want from seed!

More Posts About Growing Garden Seeds

  • Planting Lettuce Seeds & Tips For Growing Lettuce From Seed
  • How To Grow Perfect Carrots From Seed
  • Growing Radish From Seed
  • A Beginner’s Guide To Growing Vegetables From Seed

Share you tips for growing spinach from seed in the comments section below!

Spinach Planting Guide: How To Grow Spinach In The Home Garden

When it comes to vegetable gardening, spinach planting is a great addition. Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a wonderful source of Vitamin A and one of the healthiest plants that we can grow. In fact, growing spinach in the home garden is a great way to get plenty of iron, calcium and vitamins A, B, C and K. This nutrient rich green has been cultivated for over 2,000 years.

Read on to learn how to grow and plant spinach in the garden.

Before Growing Spinach

Before you jump into spinach planting, you’ll want to decide which type you’d like to grow. There are two typical types of spinach, savoy (or curly) and flat leaf. Flat leaf is most commonly frozen and canned because it grows more rapidly and is much easier to clean than savoy.

Savoy cultivars taste and look better, but their curly leaves make cleaning difficult as they tend to trap sand and dirt. They also keep longer and contain less oxalic acid than flat leaf spinach.

Look for disease resistant varieties to ward off rust and viruses.

How to Plant Spinach

Spinach is a cool weather crop that does best in the spring and fall. It prefers well-draining, rich soil and a sunny location. In regions of higher temperatures, the crop will benefit from some light shading from taller plants.

Soil should have a pH of at least 6.0 but, ideally, it should be between 6.5-7.5. Before spinach planting, amend the seed bed with compost or aged manure. Direct sow seeds when outdoor temperatures are at least 45 F. (7 C.). Space seeds 3 inches (7.6 cm.) apart in rows and cover lightly with soil. For succession plantings, sow another batch of seeds every 2-3 weeks.

For a fall crop, sow seeds from late summer to early fall, or as late as 4-6 weeks before the first frost date. If need be, provide a row cover or cold frame to protect the crop. Spinach planting can also occur in containers. To grow spinach in a pot, use a container that is at least 8 inches (20 cm.) deep.

How to Grow Spinach

Keep spinach consistently moist, not soggy. Water deeply and regularly especially during dry periods. Keep the area around the plants weeded.

Side dress the crop at mid-season with compost, blood meal or kelp, which will encourage rapidly growing new, tender leaves. Spinach is a heavy feeder so if you do not incorporate or side dress with compost, incorporate a 10-10-10 fertilizer prior to planting.

Leaf miners are a common pest associated with spinach. Check the undersides of the leaves for eggs and crush them. When leaf miner tunnels are evident, destroy the leaves. Floating row covers will help repel leaf miner pests.

It doesn’t take long for spinach to grow, much like lettuce. Once you see five or six good leaves on a plant, go ahead and begin harvesting. Because spinach is a leafy vegetable, you should always rinse the leaves before using.

Fresh spinach is great mixed with lettuce in a salad or by itself. You can wait until you have enough and cook them down as well.

The trick to growing spinach is to grow it fast and harvest it fast, and use the right varieties in the right season. Spinach bolts as the days get long and when the weather gets hot. That’s why spinach is usually grown in early spring and fall, in low temperatures and short days. Some varieties ddo a little better in long day, hot conditions. Pick them promptly in hot weather. For summer harvests, try New Zealand Spinach. Follow along with this handy How to Grow Spinach from Seed Guide and grow food.

Latin
Spinacia oleracea
Family: Amaranthaceae

Difficulty
Easy

We Recommend: Monstrueux de Viroflay (SP713). Most of the spinach varieties we sell are hybrids that mature early and resist bolting. For growers, these may make the better choice. But we also love the open pollinated heirloom Viroflay, which stands apart from the rest for its sheer size. It’s enormous! And the leaves stay tender and delicious even when the plant is fully mature. This is a very nice spinach for the home garden.
For Urban Gardeners: Try Space (SP704) in containers or even window boxes. Space is very compact and upright, holding its leaves skyward for easy harvesting. Plus it’s super fast growing and very tasty.

Season & Zone
Season: Cool season
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Zone: 2-10

Timing
Spinach does best in cool weather. Direct sow March 1 to April 15. For late spring and early summer plantings use Tyee, and for quick harvest use Space and Olympia. Spinach will bolt once days get long and hot. Some varieties grow enough to harvest before they bolt. For continuous supply, plant every 3 weeks.

Sow again in the middle two weeks of August for a fall crop that, if cut at the soil level, will come back early the following spring. Shade summer-sown seed beds, keep very well watered, and sow more seeds than you need, as warm soil will reduce germination rates marginally. Thin seedlings, and use cloche protection as cold weather approaches. Late sowings like this can be harvested into December – in mild winters if cloche protection is provided.

Optimal soil temperature: 5-20°C (45-70°F). Seeds should sprout in 7-14 days.

Growing
Ideal pH: 6.0-6.5. This heavy feeder requires rich soil. Dig in ¼-½ cup complete organic fertilizer beneath every 1m (3′) of row. Overwintering spinach requires well drained soil.

Harvest
For baby greens, pick when the leaves are 7-10cm (3-4″) long. Individual leaves can be picked at anytime, until the plant has started to bolt. Cut the whole spinach plant just above soil level.

Seed Info
In optimal conditions at least 65% of seeds will germinate. Usual seed life: 3 years. Per 100′ row: 400 seeds, per acre: 174M seeds.

Diseases & Pests
Pale, soft tunnels on leaves are probably leaf miner damage. Prevent be covering with floating row cover. You can kill the little insect causing the damage by pinching it inside the leaf. Destroy any affected leaves. Downy mildew is a fungal disease that causes grayish mould on the leaves. To avoid it, provide ample ventilation and avoid overhead watering.

Spinach is a cool-season annual. Plant spinach before the weather warms in spring and again as the weather cools in early autumn.

Spinach doesn’t grow well during long hot summer days or in wet weather.

Where to Grow Spinach

  • Grow spinach in full sun. Grow spinach in partial shade in warm regions.
  • Plant spinach in well-drained, loamy soil rich in organic matter. Add two inches of aged compost or a commercial organic planting mix to the planting beds before planting then turn the soil to 12 inches deep.
  • Spinach prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
  • Spinach is hardy and thrives in cool weather; ideal spinach growing weather is 50°F to 70°F.
  • Warm weather and long days will cause spinach to bolt—that is it will flower and go to seed.

More tips: Spinach Planting.

Sow spinach indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last average frost date in spring.

Spinach Growing Time

  • Spinach is a cool-season annual. It needs 6 weeks of cool weather from seed sowing to harvest.
  • Spinach grows best when planted outdoors in early spring and then again in autumn. In mild-winter regions grow spinach outdoors in winter.
  • Sow spinach indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last average frost date in spring for transplanting out as early as 4 weeks before the last frost. However, seedlings may suffer transplant shock if the roots are disturbed at transplant time.
  • Direct sow spinach outdoors or set out transplants 4 weeks before the last average frost date.
  • In mild-winter regions, plant spinach in late summer or early autumn for harvest in autumn or winter; sow spinach for autumn harvest 6 to 8 weeks before the first fall frost.
  • Spinach can be grown through the winter everywhere in a cold frame or plastic tunnel.
  • Spinach started in autumn can survive the winter under thick mulch; plants will resume growing in the spring.
  • Plant succession crops of spinach every 10 to 14 days.
  • Don’t grow spinach through the summer in hot summer regions. Instead, grow New Zealand spinach or Malabar spinach which are heat tolerant.

Thin spinach to 12 inches apart; s[ace rows 12 inches apart.

  • Plant spinach seed ½ inch deep. Cover seed lightly with soil.
  • Refrigerate seeds 1 week before sowing to help germination.
  • Sow seed 2 to 4 inches apart.
  • Space rows 12 to 14 inches apart.
  • Spinach seed will germinate in 5 to 9 days at 70° Germination will take longer if the soil is cooler, about 21 days at 50°F.
  • Thin spinach to 12 inches apart when seedlings are 3 inches. Thin to the strongest seedlings. Remove weak seedlings by cutting them off at soil level with scissors.
  • Grow 15 plants per household member.

More tips: Spinach Seed Starting Tips.

Container Growing Spinach

  • Spinach will grow in a container. Allow one plant for each 8-inch pot; in large containers plant spinach on 10-inch centers.
  • Spinach is heat sensitive; move containers into the shade on warm and hot days.
  • Containers will warm more quickly than garden soil in spring.

Companion Plants for Spinach

  • Grow spinach with other greens and Plant spinach in the shadows of tall crops such as corn or pole beans.

Watering and Feeding Spinach

  • Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season to grow spinach quickly.
  • Avoid splashing muddy water onto leaves; mulch around plants with straw or chopped leaves to avoid getting soil on leaves.
  • Side dress plants with compost tea or a dilute solution of fish emulsion every two weeks during the growing season.
  • Side dress spinach with aged compost at midseason.

Mature spinach plants can tolerate temperatures as cold as 20°F.

Caring for Spinach

  • Keep planting beds free of weeds to avoid competition for light, water, and nutrients.
  • Cut weeds at soil level rather than digging them out; spinach has a deep taproot but shallow feeder roots that can be injured easily.
  • Mature spinach plants can tolerate temperatures as cold as 20°F, but it is best to protect plants from freezing weather by covering the bed with a portable plastic tunnel or row cover.
  • Spinach will bolt in temperatures greater than 75°F. If the weather warms, try protecting spinach under shade cloth set over a frame.

Spinach Pests

  • Spinach can be attacked by aphids, flea beetles, leafminers, slugs, and spider mites.
  • Knock aphids off plants with a strong blast of water. Pinch out heavily infested foliage.
  • Remove leaves in which leafminers are tunneling-. Look for the eggs on the underside of the leaves. Floating row covers can exclude leafminer flies from the planting bed.
  • Spray flea beetles and spider mites with spinosad.
  • Keep slugs and snails away from spinach by sprinkling a barrier of diatomaceous earth around plants.

More on pests and diseases: Spinach Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Spinach Diseases

  • Spinach is susceptible to mildew, rust, and mosaic virus.
  • Plant rust and disease-resistant varieties.
  • Mildew and rust are fungal diseases. Spray-mist leaves with compost tea to prevent fungal diseases.
  • Plants hit by mosaic virus should be removed from the garden. Mosaic virus will cause leaves to be mottled or streaked white or yellow.
  • Keep the garden clean of debris. Remove and destroy diseased plants.

Cut leaves 4 to 7 inches long from plants that have 6 to 8 leaves.

  • Spinach leaves can be harvested as soon as they are big enough to eat.
  • Cut leaves 4 to 7 inches long from plants that have 6 to 8 leaves. Cut the older outer leaves first. Allow the remaining young leaves to grow on to maturity.
  • If you harvest all of the leaves from a plant, cut the leaves 3 inches above the soil; new leaves will grow on for a second harvest.
  • Very large leaves and older leaves can be bitter; harvest leaves sooner rather than later.
  • Lengthening days (days longer than 14 hours) and warming weather (temperatures greater than 75°F) will cause spinach to bolt, flower, and set seed. Bolting will mark the end of the harvest.

Storing and Preserving Spinach

  • Wash spinach thoroughly to eliminate the grit that sometimes sticks to crinkled leaves.
  • Spinach can be refrigerated for up to one week.
  • Spinach can be frozen canned or dried.
  • Spinach seeds can be sprouted.

More tips: How to Harvest and Store Spinach.

Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach has crinkled leaves.

Spinach Varieties to Grow

  • ‘America’ (52 days): mostly heat and drought tolerant.
  • ‘Bloomsdale Long Standing’ (43 days): crinkled leaves, mosaic virus tolerant.
  • ‘Giant Noble’ (45 days): resistant to mosaic virus.
  • ‘Tyee’ (37-53 days): resistant to downy mildew.

Hot Weather Spinach Alternatives

  • Malabar spinach: vigorous climbing vines; native to tropical Asia and Africa.
  • New Zealand spinach: grows naturally as a trailing ground cover.

About Spinach

  • Spinach is a cool-season annual grown for its leaves.
  • Spinach forms a rosette of dark green leaves that can be flat or crinkled (savoy leaf spinach).
  • Spinach is related to beets and Swiss chard.
  • Botanical name: Spinacia oleracea
  • Origin: Asia

More tips: Spinach Growing Tips.

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Spinach Growing and Harvest Information

Temperature
Germination 45-75F
For Growth 60-65 F
Soil and Water
Fertilizer Heavy feeder, before planting apply compost
Side-dressing Apply 2-3 weeks after first hilling
pH 6.0-7.5
Water Light
Measurements
Planting depth 1/2″
Root depth 1′, tap root up to 5′
Height 4-6″
Width 6-8″
Space between plants
In beds 6-12″
In rows 6-12″
Space between rows 12-14″
Average plants per person 10-20
Harvest
Cut individual leaves when they’re large enough to eat. Continual harvest prevents bolting. When the weather warms, cut the plant to ground level. It’s leaves will grow back. For the best nutrition, harvest leaves in the morning.
First Seed Starting Date 56-64 days before last frost date
Last Seed Starting Date 59-69 Days before first frost date
Companions
Companions All beans, all brassicas, celery, onion, peas
Incompatibles potato

Where there is at least a month and a half of cool growing weather. Spinach is a cool-season crop, hardy to frosts and light freezes.

Recommended Varieties of Spinach

Winter Blomsdale; America; Viking. For hot weather “spinach” there are several substitutes: New Zealand “spinach” a plant discovered in New Zealand by Captain Cook, is grown as a summer crop. It has short, arrowhead-shaped leaves with good flavor. Malabar and Tampala are also succulent leaved summer “spinach.

For a heat tolerant alternative try: Amaranth

Soil for Growing Spinach

Spinach should have very fertile, well-drained soil that holds moisture readily. This will assure the fast growth needed for crisp, tender leaves. The pH should be close to neutral 6.5-7. Acid-type soils should be limed.

Seeds should germinate in 7-10 days.

When –

Spinach can be grown as soon as the ground is workable. The ground can be prepared in the fall and covered with plastic mulch so that it is ready early in the season. In some instances, a fall-sown spinach crop, well mulched will winter over and start growth again in spring. Fall crops usually taste better and suffer no leaf miners or bolting. Also, if you plant a late fall crop and mulch it, a very early crop will come up in spring.

How –

In rows 12 inches apart, space seedlings 3 inches apart. After thinning, cover the plants with row covers to keep the pests away. (New Zealand spinach is a large growing plant and needs 2 foot rows, 1 foot between plants. Soak seeds overnight before planting because it germinates slowly.)

How Spinach Grows

Clusters of heavy, deep green leaves, deeply crumpled or savored, from a central crown. Spinach bolts when there’s 14-16 hours of light, regardless of the temperature, although warmer temperatures will cause it to bolt faster. The exceptions are New Zealand and Basella Malabar “spinach,” which thrive in warm weather. They aren’t true spinach, but when cooked they taste like the real thing. Malabar is also a pretty ornamental vine that is easily grown on arbors where it provides summer shade and a constant supply of summer greens.

Cultivating Spinach

Be sure the rows are kept moist if spring or fall is dry, and side dress with a high-nitrogen fertilizer such as blood meal or fish emulsion when seedlings are 3 inches tall.

Storage Requirements
For freezing and drying, cut the leaves into thick strips. Blanch for 2 minutes before freezing. Its best to use only the smallest and most tender leaves for freezing
Fresh
Temperature Humidity Storage Life
32 95-100% 10-14 days
Preserved
Method Taste Shelf Life
Canned good 12+ months
Frozen good 8 months

45 days. Cut spinach plant off at the base when the leaves are fully developed. Once cut, they will not come back like chard and lettuce. New Zealand spinach sprawls vigorously; when the stems are about 8 inches long, the tip ends should be cut back several inches to keep it under control. Cook or use as leaf lettuce mixed in salads.

Aphids may be troublesome. In mild climates, nasturtiums nearby will help draw the insects away. Or use pyrethrum or rotenone dust.

Blights: Grow the modern resistant varieties.

How to Grow and Care for Spinach in Containers

Intro: Spinach, the nutritious leafy vegetable that most kids love to hate, is a popular food grown in small-space gardens such as balcony container gardens. This cool-weather crop grows well in plant containers and can provide great taste and healthy nutrients just 40 to 45 days after planting in the kitchen garden. The spinach plant does well in shady balcony gardens and in cooler areas, it is easy to harvest, and it is a beautiful and rich deep green color. What more could a balcony gardener ask for from a vegetable?

Scientific Name: Spinacia oleracea

Plant Type: Annual leafy vegetable

Light: Provide your spinach plant with full sun in cool weather and shade or partial shade in warmer weather.

Water: When it comes to watering the spinach plant, keep the potting soil moist but never soggy. Water extra on hot, dry days.

Zone: 5 to 10. For warmer climates, look for spinach plant varieties that do well in hotter weather. Provide shade if temperatures get above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fertilizer: Keep the pH at about 6.0 to 7.0. If the acidity drops below 6.0, the spinach plant’s leaves and stems may turn yellow. Potting soil above 7.5 is also not good for spinach.

Pests and Diseases: Leaf miners, slugs, aphids, caterpillars, blight and mildew can be a problem with spinach plants. Growing in cool weather and keeping the leaves dry will help ward off some insect pests and diseases.

Propagation: Grow spinach plants from seed. Spinach seeds often don’t store well, so you may want to purchase new seeds each year. Once the spinach plants have gotten their first two true leaves, make sure seedlings are at least 6 inches apart to get the best yield.

Misc. Info: Most spinach varieties are ready to harvest in about 40 to 40 days. Make sure the spinach plant has at least six leaves that are about 4 inches long. Cut the outside leaves so the plant will continue producing in its plant container. Once the spinach plant shows signs of “bolting” (meaning that the plant has grown a tall flower stalk), harvest the entire spinach plant by cutting the main stem. If you have a few spinach plants, you may want to plant successfully in the kitchen garden so not all of your spinach is ready to eat at once.

There are several spinach plant varieties. Salad varieties will have smooth leaves. Crinkly-leaved varieties (savoy) are better for cooking. If you live in a warmer climate, you may want to look for varieties that do better in hotter weather.

Mulch will prevent weeds and keep the potting soil moist.

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Spinach is one of the best cool-weather crops that you can grow. It produces huge yields of nutritious, delicious green leaves that are a worldwide staple in salads and most dishes you can whip up in the kitchen. But do you know how to grow spinach?

Rich in complex B vitamins, as well as vitamins K, A, and many more, spinach is one of the healthiest greens available to us. It’s rich in iron and manganese, and has a reasonable amount of fiber for a leaf vegetable. King of the salad greens, it is also a fantastic addition to most cooked meals, and can even be added to smoothies for an added vitamin boost.

Not only is it a phenomenal food, but it’s reasonably easy to grow, provided that you follow a few basic steps. So let’s talk about how to grow spinach, and the best ways to produce a big supply of this nutritional powerhouse!

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Good Products To Combat Spinach Pests:

  • Monterey Garden Insect Spray
  • Neem Oil
  • Monterey BT
  • Garden Safe Slug & Snail Bait

Good Products To Protect Against Spinach Diseases:

  • Bonide Copper Fungicide
  • Neem Oil
  • Safer Brand Garden Fungicide

Spinach: Quick Care Guide

A young flat-leaf spinach plant. Source: Shehan Obeysekera

Common Name Spinach
Scientific Name Spinacea oleracia
Germination Time 8-15 days
Days to Harvest 40ish, varies by variety
Light Full sun to part shade
Water About 1” per week
Temperature Cool-season, 60-75 degrees preferred
Humidity Can tolerate some humidity
Soil Well-draining, alkaline soil
Fertilizer High nitrogen fertilizer and compost
Pests Flea beetles, spider mites, aphids, cutworms, armyworms, leafminers, slugs, snails
Diseases Downy mildew, powdery mildew, white rust, anthracnose, cercospora leaf spot, spinach blight, fusarium wilt

Recommended Spinach Varieties

While there are many things that are called spinach, including some oddball things like chard, the spinach plant is known by the botanical name Spinacea oleracia. Believed to have originated in ancient Persia, it rapidly spread from there to India, then China, and then throughout most of the world.

Three basic types of spinach are currently being sold today. These are savoy or crinkled-leaf spinach, flat leaf spinach, and semi-savoy hybrid varieties.

Savoy Varieties

Bloomsdale spinach. Source: cafemama

When you go to the supermarket, it’s likely that savoy spinach is what you’re going to see in the produce aisle. Savoy types tend to have a crinkled or curled leaf shape, and work beautifully for fresh eating.

Variety Growing Time Description Where To Buy
Bloomsdale 50 days Heirloom savoy variety from 1925, extremely popular. Cold tolerant. Buy Seeds
Escalade 43 days Mild flavor, upright habit, mildew resistance, and a reluctance to bolt. Buy Seeds
America 43 days Thick green leaves perfect for freezing, canning, or fresh use. Buy Seeds
Palco 38 days Quick-growing savoy type. Bolt and disease-resistant. Buy Seeds

Flat-Leaf Varieties

Red Kitten spinach leaves with some arugula. Source: Lorika13

While these spinach varieties look much different from the savoy due to their smooth, uncurled leaves, they are still spinach! Easier to clean than savoy varieties, the flat leaf spinach types are often used for processing into frozen or canned spinach. They also work well in other cooked applications where the leaf shape isn’t as identifiable.

Variety Growing Time Description Where To Buy
Red Kitten 40 days Medium green leaves with red stems. High resistance to downy mildew. Buy Seeds
Akarenso 50 days Slightly serrated Japanese spinach variety with red-purple stems. Mild flavor. Buy Seeds
Baby’s Leaf 40 days Lots of leaf, very little stem. Early producer. Easy to clean. Buy Seeds
Renegade 42 days Succulent, round dark green leaves. Hybrid variety with consistent growth. Buy Seeds
Giant Nobel 48 days Heirloom from the 1920’s. Extremely large plant, spreading habit. Slow bolt. Buy Seeds

Semi-Savoy Varieties

Crocodile spinach. Source: Mark F. Levisay

Hybrids of the flat-leaf and savoy spinach types have produced a semi-savoy. It has some of the easier-to-clean benefits of flat leaf varieties, but works well in both fresh and cooked uses.

Variety Growing Time Description Where To Buy
Kolibri 29 days High downy mildew resistance, quick growing. Great for baby leaf production. Buy Seeds
Seaside 40 days Resistant to heat bolting, semi-smooth leaves. Downy mildew resistant. Buy Seeds
Responder 42 days Strong germination. Disease-resistant with uniform growth, great flavor. Buy Seeds
Carmel 25 days Quick-growing, very uniform spinach with high downy mildew resistance. Buy Seeds
Okame 50 days Slow to bolt and can take hotter temperatures. Downy mildew-resistant. Buy Seeds
Crocodile 45 days Extremely heat resistant. Great as both baby leaf and mature. Buy Seeds

Other “Spinach” Types

These other plants are often confused with Spinacea oleracia and referred to as spinach. While they may be similar in how they’re used culinarily, they aren’t the same plant. However, they can be quite popular. Seeds for these plants are often found alongside spinach seeds in catalogs or online.

Chard, also known as Swiss chard, is often called “beet spinach” or “perpetual spinach”. While unrelated, it is often grown for its leafy greens as well, although the stalks can also be consumed.

Strawberry spinach is a common name for Blitum capitatum, also known as Chenopodium capitatum or strawberry blite. This plant produces edible leaves, but is often grown for its bright red edible fruit.

Red Aztec spinach (Chenopodium berlandieri) is widespread as a weed plant. More commonly known as red lamb’s quarter or goosefoot, this particular plant produces edible leaves. It’s not a true spinach, but it has a similar flavor when cooked.

Planting Spinach

Base of spinach plants. Source: Zoe52

While it may seem simple to plant spinach, there’s a limited window of time which you should plant in. Here’s when, where, and how to plant your spinach for optimal growth conditions.

When To Plant Spinach

Early spring and in the fall are the two times of year when spinach is most likely to come to full maturity before bolting. Hot weather will rapidly cause most spinach plants to turn to seed production, which reduces the quality of the leaves for eating purposes.

Planting your seeds as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring is the best way to get a full crop before the weather starts to get hot. You can actually plant before the final frost in most areas, but the seeds won’t germinate unless the soil temperature’s above 40, and it may be a slower growth process.

If you want to have a consistent harvest and are in an area where a long, cool spring is likely, you can sow more seed every ten days or so to maintain regular new growth. Be sure not to crowd your plants.

In many parts of the world, a second fall crop is also possible, and most spinach is somewhat frost-tolerant. Depending on your typical weather conditions, you can sow fall crows from August through September and harvest well into the latter portion of the year.

Those who are in temperate California or other warm environments can actually grow spinach from fall all the way through winter and well into the spring!

Where To Plant Spinach

It’s best to plant your spinach in an area with well-drained soil that’s been worked at least a foot deep to relieve soil compaction. Spinach will grow well in raised beds, planters, or directly in the ground.

However, it’s important to note that spinach seeds do not germinate well at soil temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. As raised beds can increase the soil warmth quickly, be sure to check your soil temperature before planting. Also, pick a location where you can guarantee reasonably cool temperatures for the growing period, as this will help prevent bolting.

Spinach can be planted in most areas of the yard which get at least six hours of sunlight per day. If you have slightly-shady areas, that’s fine, but it’ll readily accept lots of sun, too.

How To Plant Spinach

For most spinach varieties, it’s recommended to plant in rows that are spaced 12″ apart. Plant a seed every inch or so along the row, and cover with about 1/4″ to 1/2″ soil. As the young plants come up, assess the young plants for hardiness and thin to 4-6″ apart.

If you’re growing to harvest baby spinach, you can seed a bit closer together and more aggressively, even broadcast seeding with 1/4″ of soil added over the top afterwards. Thin it to at least 3″ apart and harvest as the plant reaches 5-6″ in height.

Be careful: crowding spinach plants will result in weak plants, stunted growth, and quick bolting. Whenever possible, avoid overcrowding!

Caring For Spinach Plants

Savoy spinach leaves can collect a lot of dust and debris. Source: Suzies Farm

In the right conditions, spinach is a very hardy plant. But if the conditions are wrong, your crops will suffer. Let’s go over the best conditions to provide for optimal growth.

Sun

Full sun to partial shade is recommended for spinach. It can grow in shadier conditions, but it should receive no less than six hours of full sun per day for plant development.

Temperature

Conditions between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit are just about perfect for spinach growth. While some varieties of spinach are surprisingly cold-hardy and can handle chills down into freezing temperatures, their leaf production greatly slows down as the temperature drops.

Similarly, overly-warm conditions will tell your spinach that it’s time to produce seed and prepare to die of heat exhaustion. They can quickly bolt, resulting in bittered leaves and failing plants. Once the weather gets consistently over 85, your spinach is not going to be happy. You can sometimes provide shade cloth through the heat of the day to reduce the ambient temperature around your plant, but it won’t work for long.

Watering

Consistent moisture is important for spinach. Most plants will send down one deep taproot and a multitude of other thinner roots. The taproot will search deep in the soil for water, but the rest of the roots need moisture too!

About 1″ of water per week is ideal for spinach, but in slightly warmer weather you may want to bump that to 1.5″. Regular, shallow waterings are better than one heavy watering. Slow-drip irrigation is great for these plants.

Soil

Young Renegade spinach plants. Source: ecospc

A few days to a week prior to planting your spinach, work some compost and a slow-release, high-nitrogen fertilizer into the soil where you’ll be planting. This will get your plants off to a good start. With this plant, it’s best to prepare in advance rather than risk weak plants.

Well-draining soil is essential for your spinach plants, as they won’t tolerate much standing water. They also prefer soil that’s slightly alkaline, in the 7.0 or slightly higher range.

Fertilizing

As mentioned in the soil segment, much of your fertilization comes from the initial soil preparation process. However, once you’ve planted seeds and they’ve sprouted, watch for them to form at least four leaves. Once there’s four young leaves there, you can add an extra dose of a high-nitrogen liquid fertilizer around the base of your plant.

You can side-dress with slow release granular fertilizer in lieu of liquid fertilizers. Do so with caution, and be sure that none of the granules touches the plant or the root structure. The higher nitrogen content in these fertilizers can cause scorching. These fertilizers should be worked into the top inch or so of the soil a few inches from the plant itself, and should be thoroughly watered in.

Pruning

Typically, the only pruning you need to do for spinach is to harvest the leaves during its season. Spinach is an annual plant; once it has gone to seed, its lifespan is essentially over and other than potential harvesting of the seed the plant can be removed.

Like many other leafy vegetables, it’s advisable to regularly harvest leaves from the plant to encourage faster and bushier growth.

Propagation

A spinach sprout. Source: tinatinatinatinatina

Unlike many other green plants, spinach does not grow from cuttings, as the leaves and stems will not form new roots.

You should plant from fresh seed under a year in age. Spinach seed can be stored for a few years in normal seed storage options, but the tiny seeds lose their ability to germinate when they get too old. A two-year-old seed packet may have 50% or less plants germinate, where a new seed packet may have 95% germination.

Transplanting

It’s possible to transplant spinach… I just don’t recommend it if it was initially grown in a container!

Due to the long taproot that the spinach plant produces, it can quickly outgrow any starter containers. The taproot will continue trying to grow downward, and it can spiral around inside its container.

It’s better to just plant your spinach directly in the soil as seed and allow it to develop normally. As you’re thinning the plants, you may be able to carefully coax the extra plants out and replant them elsewhere provided that you get the entire root mass, thereby increasing the number of spinach plants that you have.

Harvesting and Storing Spinach

Once you’ve got a bunch of spinach plants, it’s definitely time to start harvesting your produce! But how do you harvest spinach for the best taste, and how long can you store it for? Let’s talk about that.

Fresh spinach leaves. Source: Yann Gar

As soon as your plant has a reasonable number of leaves, you can begin to harvest. Many people prefer to wait until their plant has developed some good leaf growth, but spinach can also be grown as a sprout or as microgreens.

To harvest baby spinach leaves, wait until it’s formed a rosette of at least five to six leaves, and then harvest. You can opt to either cut the stems off slightly below the leaf, or to snip off the entire top of the plant. If you remove all of the leaves, the plant will not grow to maturity, so if you plan to harvest baby spinach, regularly re-sow to maintain steady production.

Older spinach plants can be harvested by snipping off the leaves at the stem with a pair of scissors. You can also opt to use a thumbnail to slice through the soft stems. Be sure to leave at least a portion of the leaf stem on the leaf – removing all of the stem will cause the leaf to wilt more quickly.

Be very gentle while harvesting your spinach. The leaves can bruise easily, and bruising will cause them to decline faster.

It’s advisable to not wash your spinach immediately after harvest if you are going to attempt to store fresh spinach. Wash it just before use to prevent bruising or leaf breakage.

To clean it, fill a large bowl with cool water and place your spinach inside. Dunk it repeatedly under the surface of the water, then gently drain the spinach and refill the bowl. Repeat until no dirt or debris is visible in the water or in the bottom of the bowl.

You can use a salad spinner to dry your spinach or simply drain it thoroughly in a collander and then spread it out to dry in a cool, well-ventilated space. Do not store your spinach while it’s still wet, as that will rapidly accelerate its decay.

Storing Fresh Spinach

Some freshly-picked spinach leaves. Source: Emily Barney

Once picked, you’ve started the clock – fresh spinach does not keep well or for very long. Discard any damaged or discolored leaves, and get them into the refrigerator quickly.

If you’ve left a reasonable amount of stem on your leaves, you can use the stems to help bundle the leaves together. Place the cut ends into a paper towel to help absorb any excess moisture, and store your spinach in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Removing any excess air from the bag will help reduce the potential of moisture buildup inside, too.

Stored this way, your spinach may be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature of 41-48 degrees for around ten days. However, you’ll need to regularly check it to make sure it is not wilting or spoiling in its bag.

You can also preserve your spinach for later use by freezing, canning, or drying it.

Freezing Spinach

To freeze spinach, begin by thoroughly washing the leaves. Once they’re clean, remove any damaged, wilted, diseased or discolored leaves, and then dry the spinach leaves completely. A salad spinner can take off most of the moisture, but you can also blot off extra moisture with a towel.

If you plan on using your spinach within six months’ time, you do not have to blanch it before freezing. Simply place your washed and dried spinach leaves into a freezer bag, pressing out any excess air, and place it directly into the freezer. Larger leaves can be torn up if desired.

You can actually cram as much spinach into the bag as you can fit – as this spinach will only be used for cooking purposes, damage to the leaves is not going to be noticeable later. When reusing, you can just pull out handfuls of spinach and add it to whatever you’re going to cook.

For long-term freezer storage, blanch your spinach leaves before storing. Don’t blanch with boiling water as this will draw out too many of the nutrients and flavor of the leaves. Instead, place your greens into a resealable bag, and place them in the microwave for one minute, then directly into the freezer. Be sure to remove any excess air in the bag before freezing!

You can also blanch the spinach by steaming the greens for about one minute if you don’t want to use the microwave.

Canning Spinach

Flat leaf spinach is great for canning. Source: Zoe52

Spinach is a low-acid food, so must be canned with a pressure canner to avoid the risk of botulism.

Clean your spinach thoroughly, and discard any discolored, insect-damaged, diseased or wilted leaves. If there’s any tough stems, remove them. Then, place about a pound of spinach at a time into a cheesecloth bag and steam it until it’s thoroughly wilted.

Loosely fill your sterilized jars with the wilted greens and add boiling water, leaving about an inch of headspace. You can add salt if you want (about a quarter teaspoon per pint). Can as per your pressure canner’s instructions.

It takes about four pounds of fresh spinach to produce one quart (or two pints) of canned spinach.

Drying Spinach

Spinach can also be dehydrated or freeze dried. This tends to make the spinach quite brittle, so if you opt to do this, you should expect that you won’t be able to rehydrate the spinach into full leaves. However, for spinach bits to add to soups, or for powdered spinach to add to smoothies or other recipes or to make baby food from, this works extremely well.

To dry your spinach, follow the manufacturer’s directions on your dehydrator or freeze dryer. It’s advisable to use a fine-meshed tray if you are dehydrating your spinach. Freeze dryer trays tend to be solid, so any smaller pieces will not fall through the tray as they will on a dehydrator.

Troubleshooting Spinach Problems

Full growth of a savoy-type spinach. Source: Suzies Farm

As long as you’ve followed the steps mentioned above, you should be able to grow a good crop of spinach. But what about those unforeseen circumstances? Learning how to grow spinach will also require you to be ready for these potential issues.

Growing Problems

If you’re having germination problems, there are a few possible causes for these. Seeds that are buried too shallowly or too deep can fail to germinate – aim for 1/4″ to 1/2″ planting depth.

Weather conditions may also be to blame. If the weather is too hot, seeds won’t germinate, and if it’s too cold, they may germinate much more slowly.

Finally, keep your soil evenly moist, as too little or too much water can also stop germination. You really want well-draining soil that isn’t too soggy, but that also can hold some water for the plants to use.

Yellowed leaves can indicate nitrogen deficiency. Spinach is a heavy feeder! Side-dress your plants with compost tea or a nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer regularly, and be sure to work ample amounts of compost into your beds before planting.

Plants that bolt to produce seed are suffering from weather that’s just simply too warm. If you plant too close to summertime, it’s common for your spinach to go from seedling to seed stalk without producing many leaves at all. To prevent this, be sure to plant during the cooler months of the year.

Pests

Spinach that has been damaged by leafminers. Source: paix120

Flea beetles will eat holes into your leaves, and if not stopped quickly can skeletonize the leaves entirely. That doesn’t make for a good spinach harvest! Use a spinosad spray like Monterey Garden Insect Spray to wipe them out.

Both spider mites and aphids will suck the plant saps from your spinach leaves, leaving them withered and yellowing. Aphids are also a vector for diseases, and can spread things like spinach blight to your plants. Use neem oil to eliminate both of these sucking pests and to keep them at bay.

The cutworm can be a dangerous pest. These moth larvae will munch right through the base of young plants, causing them to topple over and die. Bacillus thurigiensis is the answer to these little caterpillars. Monterey BT is a spray that uses this natural product to kill off cutworms quickly.

Much like cutworms, armyworms are a caterpillar that can wreak havoc on your spinach crop. Thankfully, Monterey BT will help with these and other forms of moth larvae as well.

Leafminers are another larval form that will cause major damage to your spinach. These tiny larvae will eat little paths inside the leaves themselves, leaving visible patterns of scarring on the plant. The leafminer can be dealt with by using spinosad sprays much as flea beetles can, so get some Monterey Garden Insect Spray for these too.

Finally, we come to the slugs and snails. Common in most gardens, these little guys find spinach to be delicious just like we do, and will chew through leaves and plant stems. I use Garden Safe Slug & Snail Bait to lure them away from my plants. When they eat the poisoned bait, they die off and leave my plants safe from harm. There’s also some great DIY pest control methods that work against slugs and snails!

Diseases

One of the most prevalent spinach issues comes from the formation of downy mildew. This mildew develops in wet or humid weather and can be hard to control. Yellow or white patches may form on the top of leaves, while a greyish fungus appears on the underside.

It’s best to avoid downy mildew by ensuring good airflow around your plants and by watering the soil rather than the leaves. If necessary, use a copper fungicide like Bonide Copper Fungicide to treat the problem.

Powdery mildew can also become a problem on spinach, but it can be treated with repeated applications of neem oil. However, you will want to discard damaged leaves rather than eat them.

White rust can often be confused with downy mildew. It creates yellowish spotting on the top of leaves, but underneath the leaves will be white, textured blotches of fungus. This too can be treated with a fungicidal spray, and I recommend Safer Brand Garden Fungicide for this purpose.

Anthracnose and cercospora leaf spot can both cause blotches and spotting on leaves. Both of these can cause black, brown or yellow splotches to appear, and as the spots spread, they cause the plant to fail. You can treat both of these problems with Bonide Copper Fungicide.

Spinach blight is another name for the cucumber mosaic virus, which is spread by cucumber beetles and aphids. This can cause leaves to twist and curl inward, which is hard to notice on some varieties of spinach, but it also can cause yellowing of leaves and plant death. Growing resistant varieties and preventing aphids on your spinach are both essential protections. Plants that have spinach blight should be removed and destroyed.

Finally, fusarium wilt is another fungal disease like spinach blight which can be transmitted by cucumber beetles or aphids, but which also can live in the soil. Plants which yellow on one side, or which are experiencing stunted growth, may be affected by fusarium. Remove any diseased plants and destroy them. Remain watchful for other plants with similar problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

Mature spinach plants. Source: RaeAllen

Q: Are there good companion plants for spinach?

A: Absolutely! Radishes are one great option. These can be planted around the base of spinach plants and tend to do quite well tucked in there. Other good cool-weather choices include cauliflower, celery, cabbage, peas, or strawberries. Tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers are also good plants near your spinach.

Q: It’s starting to snow. Will my spinach die?

A: Most spinach is somewhat cold-hardy and can survive cooler temperatures, but it won’t tolerate hard freezes. If the temperature is cold enough that it’s snowing, you should protect your plants with a cold frame. Generally, anything below 40 degrees is best protected from the chill in the air, and with a cold frame you can extend your growing season quite a bit. Adding some form of heating element in the cold frame (like a string of lights) may help you grow spinach all the way through the winter months!

Even the cartoon character Popeye loved nutritious spinach, and with these helpful tips, you’ll love it too! What’s your favorite spinach variety? Let me know below!

Article updated 2/15/2018.

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