I absolutely love growing spinach, and a lot of new gardeners are curious about how to take the dive into Planting, Growing And Harvesting Spinach Successfully. Luckily, it’s an easy plant to grow and very low maintenance. The most important thing to keep in mind when starting spinach seeds is timing. Read on to find out the secret to a fantastic spinach harvest.
A Bit About Spinach
Spinach is a nutrient rich plant that can be consumed in a number of ways. Some people eat it raw while others cook it. Some people even juice it! I personally love a nice spinach salad or spinach dip! It’s even better when it’s home grown, ORGANICALLY! Organically grown crops are always the best as they’re full of nutrients from your ground and not tainted by chemicals.
Storing is simple, as well. Spinach freezes nicely, you can dry it, and you can even can it. Preparation and flavors all vary by seed. Some of my favorite spinach varieties to grow include 200+ Spinach Seeds- Organic Heirloom Variety by Ohio Heirloom Seeds and Butterflay Spinach from Seedz.
Growing Spinach From Seed
Growing spinach from seed is simple, if you time it right. The key to success is to actually start growing in the colder months. This may sound crazy as most plants require warm temperatures to start. However, many new gardeners often make the mistake of following this trend with spinach leaves, and by the time they try to plant them, it’s too late and they die.
Spinach is super sensitive to heat. They’ll flower as soon as they get a sign of warm weather. Then, if you plant the seeds too late, the spinach seeds won’t germinate, and then they won’t grow. It gets worse. Spinach doesn’t enjoy being transplanted, so the best way to counteract this is to plant it directly where you want it grow in the garden.
The nice thing about this is you don’t have to go through the hassle of growing them indoors and transplanting into the garden. This saves money and time! It’s part of why I love this crop so much.
Where to Plant Your Spinach
Growing Spinach doesn’t need a lot of space. This is super convenient: plant them literally anywhere. If you live an a more urban environment with a small space to grow in or on a large property with plenty of space, you can grow spinach just the same.
I like to grow them in out-of-the way spaces so that way the pickier plants can have prime real estate in my garden first. They also grow nice mixed in with other crops such as in the pumpkin or bean patch.
Spinach crops will be done early in the summer, so it’s ok to plant them with squash, tomatoes, or other warmth-loving plants. So, as soon as its time for them to grow, the spinach will be done, and the ground will be primed for them to start absorbing nutrients.
This crop can be grown in full sun or partial shade, but it loves protection from the hard sun. I like to grow them in areas with partial shade. You can also grow it in a pot or mixed containers with similar greens if you want. As for soil, spinach isn’t picky. It’ll grow anywhere it can get some nutrients. I like to grow my spinach in moist, well drained soil with plenty of organic material.
The best thing to do is make your soil nutrient rich first then plant your seeds in it. You can also add some organic granular fertilizer to it or just use compost.
When to Start Your Spinach Seeds
Because spinach prefers the cold, plant the seeds about 4-6 weeks before your last frost date or as soon as your soil is workable during early spring. It grows extremely fast, so you don’t need to plan early. You could also plant them in late summer if you want to harvest them in the fall.
The frosts won’t kill off these plants, but a heat wave will. So, only start them when you’re sure the weather won’t be returning to the high 80s and 90s. One really cool thing about this tendency is that you can have fresh spinach in the winter! How cool is that?!
how to plant spinach seedlings
Always look at your seed packets for instructions first on planting different spinach varieties. Many will say the same thing, but it’s better to be safe then sorry. Here are the basic steps that can be followed for all spinach!
Start by loosening up the soil. You can use a screen and shovel the soil into it over your bed to create light and airy soil. Mix in any soil amendments or fertilizer beforehand. You’ll have the best soil if you do this well in advance with compost and prepare it for your spinach.
Plant the seeds about 2” apart or more if you don’t want to thin them. The closer you plant them, the more thinning you’re going to have to do once they get bigger. The advantage of this is that you can select for the strongest crops and pick off the weak ones, so these get the most nutrients.
- Plant spinach seeds about half an inch deep and cover them with soil.
- Press the soil down over the seeds, but don’t compact it too tightly around them.
- Water the soil until it’s moist but not soggy. Mold will grow if it’s too wet, plus it essentially drowns them.
Caring for Your Crops and Growing Tips
Under cool conditions, spinach plants really don’t need much maintenance at all. They have a short growing season too, so you won’t have to look after them for long. However, to ensure the best harvest, there are some basic tips for spinach care.
Time to Grow Spinach
When you plant your spinach directly into the soil, they germinate quickly, and it takes about 5-9 days for this process to occur. Stagger their planting times through the spring for a longer harvest. They won’t take long to grow, so if you plant one batch every week, you’ll have consecutive harvests for weeks.
How to Water spinach
Spinach plants love water, but they don’t want soggy soil. Use fast draining soil, but never allow it to dry out completely. Part of the reason why these plants are so low maintenance is that they grow during wet seasons. In the winter, they have snow. In the spring, they have rain. They’ll generally also have water around. I don’t think I’ve ever watered my spinach plants.
fertilizer requirements for Growing Spinach
Spinach plants can eat a lot, and they’ll grow better and faster when you give them more food in the form of fertilizers. However, don’t use chemical fertilizers! Not only are they bad for your health, but they contaminate your soil and ruin your other plants. Stick with organic fertilizer or compost.
You can use a liquid fertilizer or granular one. Start feeding them the liquid fertilizer when the spinach seedlings start growing their first true leaves. Organic compost fertilizer is a personal favorite, such as liquid compost tea which is extremely nutrient rich. Compost tea bags work nicely as well! Spinach seeds appreciate fish emulsion and liquid kelp. I’ve used fish emulsion a lot and my spinach turns out strong and healthy with it.
Spacing is pretty important. They don’t need a lot of room, however when they become overcrowded, you can run into some serious problems. They do need room for light and nutrients, so when you overcrowd them, they have to compete for resources which produces some really weak plants and other really strong ones instead of a consistent crop.
As soon as your spinach seedlings grow their true leaves, just look at them and pick out the weak ones so that they are about 4” - 6” apart with only the strong left over. Cut the plants at the base. Don’t pull them out. If you pull them out, you’ll disrupt the roots of the healthy plants around them.
how & when to harvest spinach
Spinach is a vegetable that you can harvest many times which is awesome! As long as the plant hasn’t started bolting, you’re free to harvest from it!
All you have to do is pinch off the biggest leaves and leave on the smaller leaves so they can grow and you can use them. Just don’t let them get too old or they become hard and bitter. Too young, and you may damage the plant, so don’t pick them small.
Once your plant starts to bolt, you can just pick the entire plant clean. Catch it right away or you may have a nasty surprise when you get an old bitter spinach leaf. Basically, if you see flowers, you’ve let it sit too long. Don’t eat it.
As soon as you’ve picked your spinach, go ahead and eat them like that or cook them. You can even dry them or freeze them for longer storage. The key to spinach success is to grow as much as you need over the winter, freeze or dry it, then have it year round.
Growing spinach doesn’t have to be a hard process. If you time it right, grow them where they have space for nutrients and plenty of sun, and feed them lots of nutrients, you’ll have an abundance of spinach to eat all year!
Many gardeners make the mistake of starting the seeds way too late and get a nasty surprise when they see their spinach plants bolt right away and the leaves turn bitter. Follow these tips to have yourself a fantastic spinach harvest!
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.