Spinach is a staple crop in our garden. Growing spinach is simple, it just takes cool weather and some care to produce a huge crop!
This article contains some affiliate links. Clicking on these links does not cost you anything and allows Stoney Acres to make a little commission through the Amazon Affiliate Program!
The History of Spinach
Did you know that people have been cultivating spinach for over 2000 years? The first known uses of spinach date back over 2000 years ago to Persia (now Iran). It moved into China in the 7th century and by the 11the century it had shown up in Spain and it made its way to North America by the early 19th century.
Spinach is a very versatile little green. It can be used when the leaves are young or old. They can be eaten raw or cooked. It is great for salads, smoothies, or as a cooked green. Raw it has a very mild flavor, when cooked it becomes slightly more pungent.
Health Benefits of Spinach
Spinach is high in vitamin A and is a good source of vitamin C. Spinach also has riboflavin, B6, iron, and magnesium. Spinach is one of the best sources of iron in the plant world, but that iron is hard for our bodies to absorb. So it is a good idea to eat something high in vitamin C (think citrus fruit) along with your spinach to help with absorption.
Best Soil for Growing Spinach
Under perfect conditions, spinach would love to grow in rich well-drained soil with a pH of between 6 to 6.8. That’s the perfect condition. However, spinach is very tolerant of less than perfect soil and will do really well in many different soil types and even in containers. My one piece of advice (which I would give for any crop) is to add compost to the soil! By amending your soil with compost every year you will be constantly enriching the soil and improving your garden.
Spinach grows best in temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees F (15° to 24° C).
Once temperatures move much higher than 75° F (24° C) you will start to see your spinach plants “bolt.” Bolting is the process of the plant flowering and setting seeds. When a plant bolts it turns all its energy to growing seed stalks and developing seeds so the quality and quantity of edible leaves go down considerably.
You can begin planting spinach in the spring around 8 weeks before your average last frost. You can continue to plant every 2 weeks up until 2 weeks before your last frost. This is called succession planting and will help prolong your harvest, especially if you like younger leaves.
If you have something like a cold frame or a hoop house you may be able to start planting even sooner in the spring.
In the fall you should start planting spinach about 8 weeks before your average first frost. Again, you can plant every 2 weeks up until about 4 weeks before your first frost. Anything planted later than 4 weeks before your first frost will most likely not mature before winter weather settles in.
Plant Spacing When Growing Spinach
Plant spinach seeds ½ inch deep and about 1 inch apart. Once the seeds are up and established and are starting to produce “baby” leaves you should thin the plants to about 4 inches apart (eating the plants you thin, of course).
Ignore any row spacing advice on your seed package and instead plant your spinach in rows that are only 4 inches apart. This is the ideal spacing. It gives the plants the space they need to grow, but still makes use of all the available space in your garden.
Spinach that is planted too closely together will “bolt” prematurely so be sure to thin to that 4-inch spacing!
Care While Growing Spinach
Spinach appreciates a little nitrogen. So it is a good idea to amend your soil with compost before planting. Other options include adding an organic fertilizer or adding blood meal or alfalfa meal to the soil before planting.
If you really feel like your plants are struggling you could fertilize with some fish emulsion while the crop is growing. But if you have done a good job amending the soil before planting, your crop should be fine during the growing process.
Keep your soil moist. All leafy green crops like and need water, so be sure to water often. However, make sure your soil is not constantly soaking wet.
Spinach doesn’t compete well with other plants, so be sure to keep your spinach beds well weeded.
For crop rotation purposes spinach is related to beets and Swiss chard, so you should not plant in the same place where those crops have grown recently. Try to rotate so that spinach (and it’s family members) are growing in the same spot every 4th year.
Spinach can be harvested any time after about 40 days of growth. When the first “baby” leaves begin to size up you can begin harvesting these tender leaves for salads.
As the plant continues to grow you can harvest the larger leaves and use them in salads or as cooked greens. Start by harvesting the larger outside leaves first, leaving the smaller leaves to continue to size up. Harvest time will be shorter in the spring as the plants will start to receive stress from the increasing heat and daylight. In the fall, harvest times can last for several months, and adding some protection can be extended into the winter months.
Common Spinach Pests
The most common pests that infest spinach plants are Aphids, cutworms, flea beetles, leaf miners, slugs, and snails.
Most pest problems can be prevented by covering your crop with a light fabric row cover. This will also promote faster plant growth.
Slugs and snails can be treated in several different ways. You can read more about how to keep them at bay here.
Extending Your Spinach Growing Season
Spinach is a very cold hardy plant and will survive frost and freezing temperatures. This makes growing spinach in the fall and wintertime a great project.
All you need to do to have an extended winter harvest of spinach is plant a crop roughly 6 to 8 weeks before your first fall frost. Once the cold weather arrives you will need to protect your crop with a cold frame or a hoop house. A hoop house will be enough protection if you live in zone 7 to keep your spinach growing all winter. A hoop house might also be enough protection in zone 6, but a cold frame would be better. If you live in zones 3 to 5, I would recommend a cold frame.
Spinach will overwinter without protection in zones 8 to 10.
Spinach is one of the healthiest veggies out there and it is also quite easy to grow. I hope you make growing spinach part of your fall and spring gardening routine!
Is spinach easy to grow?
Yes, spinach is a fairly carefree and simple backyard vegetable to grow. All you need is some healthy soil and you need to make sure you keep the plants watered. Be sure to grow spinach in the cooler times of the year, in spring or fall.
How long does it take to grow spinach?
The first young “baby” leaves of spinach are ready to harvest in as little as 40 days. For full-sized leaves, you will need to plan on around 60 days.
Will spinach grow back after cutting?
No, at least not in the traditional “cut and come again” method often used when growing lettuce. Spinach plants will continue to grow all season and will add more leaves for a long growing season. However, you must harvest the leaves a few at a time. You cannot cut all of the leaves from a spinach plant and expect the plant to continue producing.
Can spinach be grown in pots?
Yes, spinach does very well in pots. Spinach plants only require 4 to 6 inches of soil so smaller pots are a great option. Just be sure to water them often!
Does spinach need sun or shade?
Spinach prefers to grow in full sun in the cool seasons of the year. As a leafy green, it can tolerate some shade, but it won’t produce well in total shade. Look for a spot that has at least part sun during the day.