Sowing: Sowings from April to September will give young and tender leaves right through the summer and into autumn. Spinach can also be sown from October to December with protection.
Sowing for Baby Leaf: Sow All Year Round. The best growing technique for spring and summer crops is to sow direct into prepared seed beds in the kitchen garden or greenhouse border. Grow at closer density for baby leaf. Tip a small amount of seed into your hand, take a pinch and spread thinly along the trench. Cover with soil, label and water. If birds are a problem in your garden, spread netting to prevent them eating the seed. Sow every two weeks for a continual supply of tender young leaf. For autumn and winter crops, seed can be sown into pots or seed trays which can be grown on the kitchen windowsill or in a heated conservatory/greenhouse. Use a free draining compost, sow thinly and cover seed lightly after sowing. From sowing to harvest can be as little as 21 days, harvest using scissors. Although re-growth can be harvested, it is better to sow little and often for continual supply.
Sowing for Mature Crops: Sow October to March or April to June with protection. Spinach germinates and grows well in cool weather. The optimum germination soil temperature is 21°C and optimum growing soil temperature is 6 to 18°C. For a summer crop: sow from early spring to the middle of June. For a constant supply, try sowing a new row every three weeks. For leaves to pick over winter, sow spinach in late summer and early autumn. Spinach may be started in cells or flats indoors, three to four weeks before the last frost in spring. Or direct sow in the garden in spring as soon as the ground can be worked.
Choose a sunny or slightly shaded spot with moisture retentive soil. Dig the soil, remove big stones, weeds and incorporate plenty of garden compost or well-rotted manure. Rake to a fine finish. Make a trench 12mm (½in) deep with a garden cane and space seeds about 20cm (8in) apart. Cover, water and label. Subsequent rows need to be about 25 to 30cm (10 to 12in) apart. When the seedlings are 2cm (1in) tall thin out to leave the strongest seedlings plenty of space to grow – spinach needs 30cm between plants. Keep free of weeds and water plants when dry. Every two weeks, add a high nitrogen liquid fertiliser to the mix.
Harvesting: Spring sowings should be ready to be picked in 40 to 50 days. Harvest in the morning. Take what you need by cutting leaves from the outside of the plant, taking care to avoid damage to the roots. By picking often, plenty of new leaves will be produced. Cropping can be prolonged by picking of any seed heads that may appear.
Rotation considerations: Benefits all succeeding crops, but should not follow legume.
Good Companions: Cabbage family, celery, lettuce, onion, peas, radish.
Bad Companions: Potatoes
Other Uses: Spinach leaves give shades of green when used as a natural dye.
Health Benefits: Extraordinarily high in vitamin C and rich in riboflavin, one portion of cooked spinach also contains a very high level of vitamin A, folate, magnesium, potassium, as well as vitamins E, B6, and thiamine. The idea that spinach contained exceptional levels of iron originated in 1870 with Dr. E. von Wolf whose figures remained unchallenged until 1937, when it was discovered that the content was 1/10th the claim. The oversight resulted from a misplaced decimal point!
Origin: Spinach originated as a wild plant in Persia and East Asia and has been cultivated in China for over 2,000 years.
Catherine de Médici brought spinach from her home in Florence Italy to France after marrying the king, giving birth to the term 'à la Florentine', which is used to refer to any meal prepared on a bed of spinach.
"Summer Green": Japanese variety. A quick and sturdy grower, with dark green thick leaves. Harvest midsummer to midwinter. Sow seed from early summer at monthly intervals.
"Baby Boom": slow bolting, for spring, autumn and cool summer. Sow a small row every two weeks.