One of my early spring and fall vegetable garden favorites is spinach. It’s luscious green leaves are so full of calcium and vitamin C that it makes oranges look… well, weak. In fact, you can get 34% of your daily value of Vitamin C in just one serving of spinach. And with all that goodness going on, why wouldn’t you grow spinach in your spring or fall garden this year? I’ve got all the details on how to plant, grow, and harvest spinach in your backyard garden!
When to plant spinach
Spinach is a plant that typically enjoys the cooler temperatures. That means the early spring and fall are the best times to add it to your home garden. This can be in a garden bed or a container, whatever kind of garden you happen to be using.
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There are some varieties of spinach that can tolerate higher temps, such as Malabar Spinach, which actually grows as a vine. And you can always opt to grow spinach in partial shade during warm months to get more longevity out of the growing season. (See my full list of Shade Loving Vegetables!)
Plant spinach in the spring as soon as the ground is workable and up to six weeks before the last frost. A light frost may even improve the taste of young spinach leaves! In the fall, plant your spinach 6-8 weeks before the first “scheduled” frost. (We all know that weather certainly doesn’t work on a tight schedule!)
Where to grow spinach
- Location: Spinach does best in full to part sun, so there’s flexibility in where you place your spinach in the garden or where your containers are.
- Soil PH: Spinach prefers a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. If you’ve never had your soil tested, it’s something I highly recommend and is usually a free service provided by your local Cooperative Extension office. (Read my full post on Improving Garden Soil.)
- Soil Type: While spinach isn’t going to be a heavy feeder like tomatoes, they also don’t like depleted soil. Add in some fresh compost to the soil in advance of planting your spinach to give them the nutrients that they need.
Planting Spinach Seeds
I highly recommend planting spinach from seeds. Not only will you get more bang for your buck, but you’ll have a much larger variety of seeds to choose from. And since planting spinach seeds is so easy, the success rate is relatively high. Here’s what you’ll need to do to plant spinach seeds:
- Choose seeds based on desired size and flavor
- Amend soil based on recommendations above, adding compost if needed.
- (Optional: Soak spinach seeds the night before planting. This can help speed up the time it takes for them to sprout.)
- Plant spinach seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep in soil and loosely cover with soil.
- Space out seeds every 3 inches.
- Water lightly and keep soil moist (not soaking wet) until sprouts begin to break through.
- Spinach seeds will germinate in about a week, but this could take longer if the temps are below 70 degrees.
Caring for spinach
Spinach is a relatively low maintenance plant, which is why I love to grow it! Here are some tips for caring for spinach plants:
- Thin spinach seedlings if they are closer than 2 inches. You want the plants to have room to grow.
- Use a good organic fertilizer (I prefer Espoma brand) if you notice your plants aren’t growing or if you noticed on your soil report that your soil was lacking in nitrogen.
- Keep plants watered regularly, without overdoing it.
- Mulch around plants to help retain moisture and to keep weeds at bay.
- Pinch off any yellowed or dying leaves.
- Use your spinach! This is the best way to keep your plant growing and producing.
How to Harvest Fresh Spinach
I have to say there are so many uses for fresh spinach! We personally love spinach’s mild flavor in smoothies and soups, but it’s also a delicious side dish simply steamed with fresh garlic. And since harvesting spinach from the home garden is quick and easy, this nutritious green can go from garden to table in just 20 minutes.
To harvest spinach, use your fingers or some small snips and harvest the larger, outer leaves of the spinach plant. As spinach leaves get larger, they can also get tougher, so by taking these off, you’re allowing the smaller leaves a chance to grow, and you’re avoiding mega large leaves that may lack in flavor.
Once leaves are harvested, be sure to give them a good washing. This can involve filling a bowl with water and soaking the leaves for several minutes while swirling them around. Soil can easily get stuck to the undersides of spinach leaves and nobody wants extra grit in their salad or smoothie, am I right?
Popular Varieties of Spinach for the Garden
Whether you’re growing in a row garden, raised bed, or container, these popular spinach varieties may just turn out to be your new favorite! All of these seed recommendations come from True Leaf Market, who offers a full line of Heirloom, Non-GMO & Organic seeds of all types and has been since 1974! I have loved all of the products I’ve purchased from them!
- Giant Noble Spinach: Who says bigger isn’t better? This heirloom variety of spinach has large, delicious leaves that can spread up to 25 inches! The kids will love this variety.
- Bloomsdale Long-Standing Spinach: This is my personal favorite, and it grows consistently each and every year. Love this spinach!
- Viroflay Spinach- This french variety also has large leaves and is great for the fall garden. The leaves also won’t get bitter if left on the plant too long.
- Avon Hybrid Spinach– A fast growing very bolt tolerant savoy spinach variety best grown in spring. Long leaves and upright growth make this a good plant for harvesting young leaves.
Delicious Spinach Recipes
Now that you’ve grown all that spinach, how are you going to use it? Here are some great suggestions for recipes that use spinach.
- Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Candied Pecans
- Spinach, Orange, and Pomegranate Salad
- Leprechaun Milk (Spinach smoothie that kids love!)
- Spinach and White Bean Soup
I’d love to know if you’ve tried another spinach variety that you’ve enjoyed or if you have any other tips on growing spinach at home! Have a great week and happy gardening!