Spinach, Spinacia oleracea L., belongs to the Chenopodiacea family, a.k.a., Goosefoot family where it originated in Central and Southwest Asia. An annual in our garden where it prefers to grow during the cooler seasons of spring and fall. The leaf types of spinach are either “smooth” which is somewhat flat like in this picture, or “savoy” which is wrinkly looking. In the warmer months it will “bolt” which means it will quickly produce it’s flower to make seed, thus slowing down leaf production, which is the part of spinach we like to eat. If you choose to collect seed though, summer is the best time to do that. Whether prepared fresh (my preferred method) or cooked, Americans consumed about 1.8 pounds per person per year in 2004. As far as world production of spinach at that time, China grew the most, followed by the U.S. and then Japan. Spinach is made up of about 91% water, and nutritionally, per a 100 gram serving, spinach provides about 2.9 g of protein, 0.4g fat, 3.6 g carbs, 2.2 g fiber, 99 mg calcium, and 2.27 mg iron. Go Popeye! Long ago in England it was said that spinach was used as a dye for Easter Eggs.
You can plant spinach as soon as the soil is workable or right now if you have a cold frame or low tunnel. Seeds will germinate in 5-6 days with soil temperatures about 70 degrees, 12-23 days with soil temps at 40-50 degrees, and up to 63 days at 32-39 degrees. I like to start my spinach indoors to ensure quick germination and then transplant outside about 2-3 inches apart in rows 8-12 inches apart. When the soil temperature gets above 50, I’ll sow seeds directly in the soil. Lately it has been hovering around 40 degrees in my cold frame.
Spinach prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade. Maintain a soil pH of 6-6.8. Spinach prefers to grow with an air temperature ranging from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to a maximum of 75. It is not susceptible to chilling injury which makes it a good pick for a fall/winter/spring crop. When grown under ideal conditions, you will be able to harvest leaves when mature about 37-45 days. It is best to harvest in the morning, wash, and store what you don’t eat in the refrigerator. In Eliot Coleman’s book, Four-Season Harvest he recommends the varieties “Tyee” for spring, “Steadfast” for summer, “Space” for autumn, and “Space” or “Winter Bloomsday” for winter. I have grown “Space” and “Tyee” and have been very happy with them both.
Starting to plant my early spring crops means that the gardening season is beginning! Even though we are experiencing the coldest temperatures and the most snow we have had all winter, my head is busy in the garden. I wonder if this is a disorder of some type. My family would say so. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out the garden planning tools at GrowVeg.com