Guide to Growing Spinach
Guide to Growing Spinach
Spinach – Spinacea oleracea
Of Persian origin, this plant was once grown almost solely for medicinal purposes. There are various kinds and by careful attention to sowing times spinach can be available throughout the year. Although not everybody’s favourite, this green vegetable undoubtedly has some health promoting qualities.
Summer spinach tends to run to seed quickly on light soils, so it is advisable to work into the ground bulky, moisture-holding material, decayed manure andbeing particularly useful. Quick growth is needed and it is helpful to apply liquid manure along the rows once tie plants are growing well. Summer spinach should be sown in very early spring, making the drills 25 mm deep and 30cm apart. Cover the rows well, firming them with the rake head. Thin early using the thinnings for salads. Make further sowings at fourteen day intervals and if the weather is very dry, first soak the seed in water for twelve hours. Once plants begin to run to seed they are best pulled up.
Winter spinach should be sown throughout mid-summer, preferably on raised well drained beds of about 8cm. Thin the plants early so they stand 13 to 15cm apart. While summer spinach can be picked quite hard, winter spinach must not be overworked. Pick outside leaves from all plants rather than stripping individual specimens. This ensures a regular supply of fresh tender leaves.
Summer varieties: Monstrous Viroflag. This is a fine round seeded variety with smooth round leaves. Victoria Long Standing produces thick dark green foliage. Nobel is a heavy cropper with large, fleshy leaves.
Winter Varieties: Giant Prickly, a hardy abundant cropper. Standwell. True to its name, hardy large succulent leaves are produced over a long period.
Spinach Perpetual, Spinach Beet
This is an excellent substitute for the true spinach. A perennial leaf beet, it produces green leaves but no typical beet root. The leaves are larger and more fleshy than those of summer spinach and easier to gather and cook. One sowing in spring and another in summer will usually ensure a year-round supply. On fairly richmake the drills 25 mm deep and 38cm apart. Thin the seedlings so there is 15 to 20cm between them. Make sure the roots do not dry out in summer. Keep the young leaves picked even if you cannot use them immediately. Left to grow old, production slows down with loss of quality.
Spinach, New Zealand – Tetragonia expansa
Not a true spinach, this plant has similar leaves and can be used as a substitute for summer spinach. It grows well on light, dryish soils. It tolerates heat and does not run to seed like ordinary spinach. It has a different habit of growth too, since it grows rather flat on the ground. The plants do not bolt and if growing tips are kept pinched out, an abundance of leaves are produced forming aand stifling .
Sow seed under glass in early spring, first soaking it in water overnight. Move plants to their final positions in late spring. Space them 60cm apart with 75 to 80cm between rows. While this spinach grows in dry soils, the leaves will be more succulent if plenty of water is given during dry weather. Alternatively, sow under cloches ‘in situ’ in spring. Harvesting will normally go on from mid-summer until frost kills the plants.