Spinach Week: How to Grow Spinach

Last growing season, two of the biggest weeks on Minnesota Locavore were dedications rhubarb and pumpkin. This year I’m planning to continue these week-long tributes to local produce, starting with spinach. I’m giving it the first nod mostly by default. It’s the only green veggie I saw at the farmers’ market this past weekend and it’s the only thing that’s really cropped up in our patio garden so far. With all the frost and temperature swings we’ve had recently it should tell you one thing about spinach: it’s REALLY easy to grow. Green thumb or not, any locavore can add spinach to their garden plans. Here’s how:

How to Grow Spinach

1. Select a growing spot.  Spinach needs two basic things: well-worked fertile soil and cooler weather. In the spring it’s best to start it when temperatures are between 60-65° F and the danger of hard frost has gone. We’ve had ours in the ground for a few weeks now and it’s doing well despite some cooler nighttime temperatures. A second crop can be added for fall if started in August or September when temperatures begin to cool again. No garden space? No worries. Spinach’s short roots do well in small shallow containers with good drainage. Easy to grow in small spaces.

2. Select a seed. Spinach can be found on nearly every seed rack and most varieties will thrive in Minnesota weather. I choose heat-tolerant and long-producing varieties with large, sweet leaves. Most have a 30-45 day to harvest range, well within the growing season here. The U of M extension recommends Indian Summer, Malabar, Tyee, Bloomsdale Longstanding, and Correnta for Minnesota gardens. I’d check Renee’s Garden and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds as well.

3. Start Planting.  Don’t bother starting spinach seeds indoors. Like me, they don’t like to be disturbed while enjoying the sunshine. Transplanting will likely cause more harm than good. When sowing direct, the best plan for spinach is to use your index finger or garden tool to dig a trench 1/4- 1/2″ deep and space seeds 3/4″-1″ apart in the row.  Pinch the sides of the row to cover the seeds being careful not to pack the dirt tightly. I’ve also seen spinach seed broadcast out over a container or raised bed that grows well. Water and wait.

4. Harvest. Spinach can be picked at whatever point seems to make your taste buds happy. Some camps say baby spinach is the best–plants harvested when the leaves are only 3-4 inches long. Others wait until the spinach plant is fully grown (4-5 inches tall with broad, full leaves) and cut off the entire plant at the base. A third group allows the plant to continue growing and picks only the outer leaves first.  The inner 4 or 5 leaves are then allowed to grow, cut and repeated until the plant begins to bolt. Spinach can also be successively planted over the spring for a harvest every few weeks.

6. Now eat it!  Stay tuned all week for recipes and tips on how to make spinach.


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