Best Advice for Growing Spinach
Continuous sowings from early spring through summer and autumn provide freshcrops for most of the year – for salads, vegetarian dishes and as a side vegetable that can be spiced up or dressed down.
Spinach is often considered to be an acquired taste. Although some find it rather boring as a side vegetable, there are various ways to serve it – such as tossed in butter or simmered in spices – which bring out the best of this vigorous leaf crop. It is delicious in mixed vegetable dishes, in quiche and with hot cheese, and makes a tasty soup. The young leaves are also much appreciated as a green salad item. It has a reputation for being a particularly nutritious vegetable, but is equally to be valued as a versatile cooking ingredient.
Selecting spinach for indoor growing
Spinach is categorized in two types: summer, or round-seeded varieties and winter, or prickly-seeded spinach. For indoor growing, it is not necessary to divide these types too strictly, as one or two of these cultivars can be grown at any time.
Longstanding Round is a round-seeded variety recommended for early sowing. Symphony is a large-leaved Fl hybrid which is also early-cropping. Sigmaleaf is a useful variety which may be harvested over a longer period and does not run rapidly to seed. This can also be grown as a winter variety.
Of the winter types, Broad-leaved Prickly is a standard variety for sowing in late summer to early autumn. Another good large-leaved prickly-seeded type which is said to resist bolting is Greenmarket; this can also be grown as a summer crop.
There is a third type of spinach known as New Zealand variety, which is actually a dwarf beet grown only for its mild-flavoured foliage. It is also described as perpetual spinach, or spinach beet.
Sowing and germination
Grow both summer and winter varieties in small batches, sown successionally, so that you have a series of manageable crops which can be used before the plants run to seed. For summer cropping, start sowings from early spring. Spinach needs a rich, deep; add some humus to proprietary brand potting mixture and allow a generous container size when the plants are potted on.
Sow seeds in trays spaced at lin (4cm) apart and 1/2-lin (1-2.5cm) deep, or sow in individual pots. If you cannot easily separate the seeds while sowing, wait until theappear and thin out the weakest growth.
When sowing New Zealand spinach, soak the seeds in water overnight beforehand and sow them to a depth of lin (2.5cm) in the soil. This is best grown for a single harvest, rather than by successional sowings.
When the young plants are large enough to handle, transfer them to larger containers. Space them at 3-4in (8-10cm) apart if you intend to harvest young leaves for salad use. If you are growing on the leaves for use as a cooked vegetable, 6in (15cm) apart is adequate. If growing the spinach plants in individual pots, make sure these provide a good depth of soil.
Keep the plants well watered and provide a light location, but shield them from direct sun, as this causes spinach to run to seed. Pinch out the growing tips of New Zealand variety as the young plants develop to maintain compact growth.
Harvesting can begin about eight weeks after sowing if you are taking young salad leaves. In some varieties, it may take a few more weeks to produce a useful crop. Do not remove more than half the leaves of a summer variety at one time, and take fewer from the winter types. Selective culling encourages further production. Harvest spinach beet by taking a few leaves from the base of each plant at every picking.