All The Gardening Tips You Need On How To Grow Spinach

Popeye was a beloved cartoon character with superhuman strength who would eat an always-handy can of spinach. The little seaman showed those bulging and strong forearms the moment he cracked open that can. What’s the strange part about it? The popularity of Popeye helped skyrocket spinach sales. Did he get it right? Well, the Popeye effect is a real thing and for a good reason.

Wooden bowl with fresh spinach on wooden table

As one of Britain’s trendiest foods, along with kale, cabbage, celery and chillies, it has always been seen as a healthy vegetable to consume. This dark, leafy green is often celebrated as a superfood and is high in nutrients with a number of health benefits for bones, skin, and hair. Spinach is a fast-growing crop that produces a large number of leaves in a short amount of time during the cooler months of the year. So, if you’ve been interested in getting healthier greens in your diet, check out our guide below on how to grow spinach and optimise your experience from start to finish.

Recommended varieties

Not only is spinach branded as a healthy food with loads of nutrients, but it is also an edible plant that is easy and fast to grow up to 30 centimetres in height. The seeds develop as tiny fruits, with a 10 mm radius and can grow all year round if you choose the right varieties. Below are some of these varieties that are adaptable to the UK climate.

1. Amazon

This variety is an F1 hybrid, which is resistant to bolting as well as mildew. The leaves are deep green, round, and glossy, and they develop quickly. They are best harvested when they are young and thin, as they grow back quickly and can be harvested again. The RHS awarded it with the AGM (Award of Garden Merit). Plus, keep in mind that 500 seeds would cost less than £2.00.

2. Barbados

It is another F1 variety, which is one of those lightweight growers with leaves that remain off the ground by staying upright. It is mildew-resistant, with smooth, round leaves, which you can pick while they’re mature or baby leaves. It was also given the AGM award by the RHS back in 2008.

3. Lazio

It is a modern spinach variety that produces bitter-free leaves in a short amount of time. This variety is suitable for harvesting both baby and mature leaves. Lazio is also an F1 seed that received the AGM award by the RHS. The leaves are rounded and dark green. This is the baby leaf spinach variety that you would most commonly find in your local corner shop and supermarkets.

Red veined spinach

4. Red Veined

This variety’s red veins make it an excellent choice for salads as well as cooking. Harvest five weeks after sowing for tender leaves. If the red veins are allowed to expand, they will become more visible. This variety has been bred for British weather conditions and is mildew resistant.

5. Perpetual Spinach

Perpetual spinach, which is also known as Swiss chard belonging to the beet family, has a flavour that is very similar to true spinach. It is much easier to grow and much more vigorous than true spinach, which is why it is favoured here. It also has the advantage of growing a new crop every time it is picked, making it suitable for small-space gardening. It’s a biennial with large crinkly leaves which is grown annually. The stalks are red or white and have broad, dark green leaves that can be used in the same way that lettuce is.

6. Winter Bloomsdale Spinach

It has dark, green leaves that grow more slowly and spread more widely than other varieties. Since it tolerates temperature extremes better than other hybrids, it is recommended for planting in the early spring and autumn. It is also one of the resistant varieties against bolting.

7. Violin

This variety tastes great both in baby leaves-state or when fully grown, with good resistance to downy mildew. It will continue to grow leaves well into the autumn, and if covered by a cloche, it will do so for much longer.

When is the right time for planting spinach

Consider the following whether you are heading for a summer or winter crop:

Farmer planting spinach

For a summer weather crop, spinach can be sown from early spring to mid-June. Sow seeds 2.5cm apart in 1cm deep trenches. Then cover, and water them.

Do you know what to plant in August for a flourishing garden? Sow spinach in late summer and early autumn for winter harvesting. The spacing between new rows should be about 30 cm. Try sowing a new row every three weeks to ensure a steady supply. Cover the young plants with a cold frame or thick mulch, then remove it when the temperature of the soil hits 5 °C.

How to choose the right planting site for your spinach plant

You should plan your garden before sowing anything. There are a few things that you can do:

  1. Grow spinach in direct sunlight. In hotter climates, grow spinach in partial shade.
  2. Plant in loamy, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. Add about 5 cm of aged compost or a commercial organic planting mix to the raised beds.
  3. Maintain good pH levels as spinach grows best in rich soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
  4. Spinach is a hardy plant that thrives in cool temperatures; therefore, optimal growing temperatures should be 10 to 21°C.
  5. Keep in mind that because of the hot weather and long days, spinach may bolt or flower.

Step-by-step guide: How to grow spinach

You need to keep in mind the importance of having moist but well-drained soil as well as full sun (or partial shade) prior to seeding. Once those conditions are met, you are all set to dive in. 

  1. Spread your spinach seeds thinly, about 1.5cm deep, in a shallow drill in well-prepared, moist soil and a sunny location.
  2. Cover the seeds with soil and water thoroughly.
  3. Make sure they are 40 cm apart if you are sowing in rows.
  4. Cover with cloches or protective clothing if there are cool weather conditions.
  5. For a consistent supply during the cool season, be sure to sow a batch every three to four weeks.
  6. When you are faced with slow growth, consider fertilisation. You may use a supplement too if your soil pH is too poor.
  7. If you consider planting in pots or large containers, sow seeds three centimetres apart and wait three weeks before transplanting them outside.Fresh leaves of spinach in the garden

Caring for your spinach

The most important bit here is to keep your spinach well-watered in warm weather. It grows best if you keep the soil moist, fertile but not soggy. Make sure that it doesn’t dry out quickly. Place it in a partially shaded spot when the weather is hot to prevent the soil from drying out.

Watering

After sowing the seeds, give them water right away. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. The soil should remain moist after seed germination because seedlings need more moisture. Thin the seedlings and leave a space of 7-12 centimetres between them if you want your plants to mature better. There is no need to thin them if you want to harvest them as baby spinach at an early stage. Check the moisture level of the soil with your fingertips. If you stick your finger in the top of the soil and it feels dry, water it.

Fertilisation

Fertilise your plants only when necessary. If the leaves are yellowing, apply more organic matter or use organic fertiliser. To keep weeds out of the raised bed, use organic mulch. Plus, it can reduce water evaporation and, at the end of the season and it can decompose and become fertiliser for the following growing season.

Hands picking spinach from the garden

Most common spinach pests

It might be rich in vitamins and nutrients, but it is also tasty when eaten raw or cooked. Unfortunately, there are a number of pesky insects that enjoy it just as much and would feast on it. The most common pests are:

1. Cutworms and wireworms 

Cutworms sever young seedlings at ground level, while wireworms feed on foliage and roots. Tender seedlings seem to be more appealing to such insects than the mature parts. Plant full-grown carrots every 0.7 to 1 metre in the garden to catch wireworms. Pull up the carrots every two or three days and remove the wireworms that have become stuck. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and Spinosad spray are quite effective against cutworms as well.

2. Flea beetles

The harm that flea beetles can cause -to put it simply- consists of small holes that make leaves appear to have been struck by a shotgun blast. The leaves may also have bleached and pitted spots. The insects are so small that you can barely see them. You may consider placing sheets of aluminium foil or reflective mulch under the plants. Insecticides such as carbaryl and pyrethrum can also help minimise severe infestations.

3. Slugs and snails

Slugs and snails eat spinach leaves and leave holes in them. The size of the hole can be used to distinguish the two. The most effective methods of controlling these insects are baits and traps.

4. Aphids 

Aphids are the most common pests on spinach. Use insecticidal soaps or neem oil to combat these pests and save your plants.

5. Leaf miners

Leaf miners leave tan trails on the leaves. Given that they feed within the young leaves, contact insecticides are simply ineffective. Remove and get rid of any infected leaves before the odds become high for the larvae to mature.

Snail on spinach leaves

Common spinach diseases

Other problems can also occur in the garden. Spinach diseases are among the most often seen of those, such as:

1. Damping-off

To help prevent the disease, plant high-quality seeds and avoid overwatering. Before putting compost in the garden, process it thoroughly in a hot pile.

2. Downy mildew

Yellow or light green patches on the upper surface of leaves are the signs. There is no solution, and removing contaminated plants is the safest course of action. Plants should be spaced at the recommended distance for good air circulation, and water should be applied directly to the soil to keep the foliage dry. If you have such issues in a given year, don’t plant spinach in the year to follow.

How to harvest and store spinach

It takes anywhere between 40 to 65 days for spinach after sowing to be ready for picking. As soon as the leaves are tender and large enough to eat, that is the right time to harvest.
Garden scissors or a serrated bread knife may be used to cut it. Remove spinach leaves one by one, starting with the outer leaves first as this would allow the inner leaves to grow larger. Alternatively, you can cut the whole plant 2.5 centimetres from the soil. As long as the temperatures remain cool, the plant will continue to produce new leaves.

How to clean and store spinach 

The ruffled leaves of spinach are prone to soil adhesion. To clean leaves, swish them around in lukewarm water, then raise them and place them to drain. Repeat again if some soil remains. Before storing, let the leaves air dry or pat them dry with a cloth or paper towel.

Store spinach at 0°-5° C and around 95% relative humidity to keep it cool and moist. Place it in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the fridge. Spinach can be stored in the fridge for up to ten days. Leaves that have been kept too cold or too long may grow brown spots on the midrib and will potentially wilt and yellow.

Hands holding a bowl with spinach

So, perhaps you may be someone who enjoys eating nutritious foods and you’ve heard that growing a few vegetables in your home garden is cost-effective. Well, spinach is not only cost-effective but also easy to grow, given that you can also plant indoors. Add to that you will enjoy harvests all year round when you grow different varieties and maximise the numerous health benefits that only come along with fresh spinach.

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