Family: Amaranthaceae

Countries: Asia, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

Spinach (also known by the botanical name Spinacia oleracea) is a tasty and fast growing, edible plant that is easily grown from seed.  This is a very versatile vegetable with an extended harvest period.  Spinach can be grown from seeds sown directly into large containers of good quality compost or seeds can be sown directly in the soil.  Spinach plants have a tendency to bolt; plants are most likely to go to seed if the weather is hot or if the plants’ soil or growing medium becomes too dry.  For best results when growing spinach, sow small amounts of seed every couple of weeks, during the sowing season, and remember to water your plants in dry weather.

Some forms of spinach are known as summer spinach; these varieties perform best when their seeds are sown from the middle of March until the end of May (from early spring to late spring).  Summer spinach is usually ready for harvesting from May or June until the beginning of October, depending on the weather.

Specific forms of spinach are known as winter spinach; these varieties favour being sown from the middle of August until the first week in October, (from late summer until autumn) as they grow best in the growing conditions and light levels found later in the year.  Winter spinach varieties are ready to harvest from December to March (from winter to spring).  Dual purpose spinach varieties, which can be sown in both springtime and from late summer to autumn, are also available.

It’s possible to successfully extend your spinach growing period by making earlier and later sowings of spinach seeds inside a cold frame, a glasshouse, or polytunnel.  Although this practice works well to extend the sowing season, protected sowings of spinach made during the main growing season are unlikely to be successful, as spinach favours cool growing conditions and these plants will bolt if the temperatures rise out of their comfort zone.  Save your precious glasshouse, polytunnel, or cold frame space for something that requires warmer temperatures and protection from frost.

Spinach can be susceptible to mildew.  Spinach varieties with some resistance to mildew are available but in wet weather mildew may be unavoidable.  When watering your plants, aim your watering can (or hose) so the water is deposited right at the base of your plant and do all you can to try and avoid getting your plants’ leaves wet.  Leaving adequate space between your plants to enable good air circulation and avoiding cramming too many seedlings into too small a space will also help to prevent mildew.

Pigeons and other birds can feast on spinach plants and slugs and snails can also decimate these tasty leaves.  Protect your spinach plants from birds by covering your crop with a tough and resilient, long-lasting netting; alternatively, make use of some old net curtains to cover and protect your harvest.  If you have concerns about mollusks, use my tried and tested methods of protecting plants from slugs and snails.

Spinach grows quickly; so it’s easy to grow a great harvest of spinach for salads, sandwiches, soups, and many other culinary dishes, just a few weeks after sowing seeds.  Baby spinach leaves will be ready soonest; these tiny leaves taste delicious!  Once your spinach leaves are ready to be harvested, remember to harvest your spinach regularly at frequent intervals; as these vegetables won’t wait around to be harvested and they may bolt.  For the best harvest of spinach, sow seeds every two weeks, during the sowing season.

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