Originated in Persia (now Iran), spinach has become one of the top superfoods popular around the globe for its richness in nutrients.
Whether you’re a natural food enthusiast or if your love for spinach is inspired by Popeye, growing your own spinach can take your spinach love to a whole new level.
You can easily grow spinach in a planter in your backyard. Spinach should be planted in early spring or autumn. While some varieties like New Zealand and Malabar grow in the summer, it is to a cool-season crop.
With spinach, it’s more like the earlier you plant, the more yield you’ll get. Spinach doesn’t require a whole lot of fertilizers. Usually treating the soil with compost beforehand provides all the nutrients your spinach will need.
Full sun or even partial shade combined with plentiful and consistent moisture in slightly alkaline soil is all you need to ensure a good crop. There are various ways to incorporate spinach in your diet – added to salads or soups, sautéed or stewed.
Culinary versatility is only one of its many features. An abundance of vitamin K in spinach enhances bone health. It is also rich in vitamin A, manganese, iron, copper and folate. Vitamins B, E, and C as well as calcium, some fiber, and potassium are also present in spinach.
It also provides antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer benefits.
Steps to Grow Organic Spinach
Things you’ll need:
- Organic Compost
- Bagged Potting Soil (preferably organic)
- Planter (6 inches deep & minimum 8 inches across)
- Coffee Filters or Landscape Fabric
- Garden Gloves (optional)
- Garden Spray Bottle
- Hand Trowel
- Plant Tag (optional)
Step 1. Prepare the soil
Start by preparing the soil for planting. Combine 2 parts bagged potting soil and 1 part organic compost. Mix well to ensure they are evenly mixed.
Work out the lumps in the soil by hand. A light, aerated soil provides better air circulation than clumpy soil. Spinach prefers a slightly alkaline soil (6.5 to 7.5 pH) with high organic content. A good quality bagged potting soil mixed with compost will provide all the nutrients your spinach needs.
Select a planter that will allow proper drainage. Cover the holes in the bottom with a piece of coffee filter or landscape fabric to keep the soil from spilling out of the drain holes
Fill the planter with the soil mixture. Be sure not to fill the planter up to the brim, as it will make the planter overflow when watering. Leave a space of about 1 to 2 inch from the top.
Step 3. Sow the seeds
The number of seeds you use depends upon how large your pot is. The plants need enough room to grow into full-sized plants. Start out sowing the seeds 1 inch apart in a grid on the surface of the soil mix, and then cover the seeds with another ½" of the soil mixture.
HINT: soaking the seeds in water overnight will help them sprout faster.
To get a long harvest, sow the seeds as early as possible. Spinach likes cool spring weather, so as long as the overnight low isn’t below 35 degrees and the daytime high isn’t above 75 degrees you will have success.
Planting seeds where they will be allowed to grow fully works better for home-grown spinach. Germinating the seeds and transplanting the seedlings later can also be done, but it reduces their chances of survival.
Step 4. Water the soil
Water the soil with a spray bottle. Spinach prefers plentiful and consistent moisture in order to produce a delicately flavored yield. Keep your pot covered with plastic until the seeds germinate. This helps keep them moist so they sprout faster.
Step 5. Track the growth of the plants
Once your plants germinate, water the plants regularly to keep the soil consistently moist. If possible, keep the planter in full sun, though spinach can tolerate partial shade. It is possible to grow spinach in a pot indoors, but the additional light will be needed from a good quality grow-light.
Temperature rise can make the leaves strong in flavor and bitter. Hot weather and lack of moisture may also give way to bolting, which you will know is happening when the plant starts growing tall sprouts with flower buds on them.
Thin out the plants as they grow to prevent crowding as it may be the cause of smaller leaves. Your individual plants need to be 4-6" apart to get the largest leaves.
Being a cool-season plant, spinach does not need much protection from pests. Flea beetles, spider mites and aphids are occasional culprits, which can be easily washed off with a harsh water spray.
Downy mildew, which occurs during cold and moist weather, and white rust are the diseases that may affect the plant.
White rust is characterized by white spots on the leaves, while downy mildew produces yellow spots on the upper surface and a moldy growth on the underside of the leaves. Affected leaves can be easily handpicked and destroyed. The cause of disease often comes from over-watering and over-crowding.
Step 6. Collect the tender greens
Spinach leaves become suitable for harvest in about 8 weeks. When you can see 4 to 6 mature leaves on a plant, consider the plants ideal for picking. We have harvested our leaves on Day 70. You may harvest your spinach by pinching individual leaves or cutting clusters of leaves with scissors while allowing the plant to remain in the soil to continue growing. This promotes fresh growth in the plant as well as provides a delay in bolting.
When the plants show any sign of bolting or blooming, harvest immediately as spinach leaves become bitter and strong-flavored upon blooming.
For the last harvest of the season, you can pull the entire plant out of the soil. Spinach is very easy to pull out. Cut the leaves with garden scissors at the base of the stem and discard the roots.
- If planting in the ground, work the soil loose at least 6-inches
- On the surface of the soil make a barrier of crushed eggshells around young plants to deter slugs.
- Instead of pulling out weeds, which can harm the roots of the adjacent plants, use cardboard or newspaper to suppress weeds. Do not use bark mulch around vegetable plants as it can leach nitrogen out of the soil as it decays. (1)
- Spinach leaves can also be stored for winter. A good yield can easily be steam blanched and frozen.
- Rinse spinach leaves thoroughly with plenty of water to remove dirt and external impurities. Add salt or baking soda to your rinse water to flush out insects from the leaves. Remove blighted or spoiled leaves. Store the healthy dry spinach wrapped in paper towels inside a plastic bag or storage container in the refrigerator. Spinach leaves can be stored in this manner for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Mulch Basics. UConn Home & Garden Education Center. University of Connecticut.
Summary of How to Grow Organic Spinach:
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