Spinach: Direct Sow Vegetable
How to Sow
- Sow in early spring for the first crop, again in late summer for a fall crop.
- Sow in average, well-worked soil in a sunny location.
- In rows 1 ½-2 feet apart, sow seeds evenly and cover with ½ inch of fine soil. Firm lightly and water gently.
- Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days depending on soil and weather conditions.
- Thin gradually to stand 6 inches apart starting when seedlings are about 1-2 inches high. Do not thin baby leaf spinach.
How to Grow
- Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating. Avoid disturbing the soil around the plants when weeding as spinach is shallow rooted.
- Keep plants well watered during dry periods to promote rapid, uninterrupted growth. Plants need about 1-1 ½ inches of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
Harvest and Preserving Tips
- Harvest the outer leaves when 3 inches long.
- Snip baby leaf as needed when the leaves reach about 2 inches.
- When the warm weather arrives and seed stalks start to develop, harvest the entire plant immediately.
- Leaves can be sautéed or steamed as well as eaten raw.
- Wash, dry and store in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Common Disease Problems
Anthracnose: Small, circular, water-soaked lesions appear on new and old leaves. Lesions enlarge and turn brown or tan in color. Black fruiting bodies form within the lesions. Burpee Recommends: Avoid getting water on the foliage. Remove infected plant parts and do not work around wet plants. Provide plenty of air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Bacterial Leaf Spot: This causes brown water soaked spots on the foliage which eventually makes the foliage turn yellow. It thrives in cooler temperatures. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants. Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Do not work around plants when they are wet.
Damping Off: This is one of the most common problems when starting plants from seed. The seedling emerges and appears healthy; then it suddenly wilts and dies for no obvious reason. Damping off is caused by a fungus that is active when there is abundant moisture and soils and air temperatures are above 68 degrees F. Typically, this indicates that the soil is too wet or contains high amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. Burpee Recommends: Keep seedlings moist but do not overwater; avoid over-fertilizing your seedlings; thin out seedlings to avoid overcrowding; make sure the plants are getting good air circulation; if you plant in containers, thoroughly wash them in soapy water and rinse in a ten per cent bleach solution after use.
Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish gray patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet.
Stemphylium Leaf Spot: This disease causes small, circular to oval gray-green leaf spots. Spots enlarge as the disease worsens and turn tan. Old spots dry up and become papery. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected leaves. Do not water overhead. Allow proper spacing to increase air circulation.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Cabbage Looper: These worms are green with a white stripe on either side, about 1-1.5 inches long. They tunnel through the heads. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick. Floating row covers can help prevent their laying eggs on the plants.
Flea Beetles: These small hopping beetles feed on plant foliage and spread diseases. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different plant family. Use floating row covers to prevent damage to young foliage.
Leafminers: These insects bore just under the leaf surface causing irregular serpentine lines. The larvae are yellow cylindrical maggots and the adults are small black and yellow flies. They do not usually kill plants, but disfigure the foliage. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected foliage.
Slugs: These pests leave large holes in the foliage or eat leaves entirely. They leave a slime trail, feed at night and are mostly a problem in damp weather. Burpee Recommends: Hand pick, at night if possible. You can try attracting the slugs to traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.
Can I grow spinach in a container? Yes, spinach is great for containers. Be sure to use a commercial potting mix rather than garden soil.
My spinach is blooming, can I still harvest it? It sounds like your plants have bolted, which can happen when the weather becomes hot in spring. At this point the plants should be pulled up.
Why does my spinach taste bitter? Spinach will taste bitter right before it is about to bolt in hot weather.
What is New Zealand spinach? New Zealand spinach may be used as a spinach substitute when the weather is too warm to grow spinach successfully.
Is spinach shade tolerant at all? Yes, spinach can be grown successfully in partial shade.