Lost in the grocery search of yesterday, was the fact that it was National Spinach Day! How could I fail to celebrate the one crop that has produced week after week over the entire, gloomy winter. This vitamin and iron-packed green (and green is entirely apt for this dark-leaved vegetable) survived both in the poly-tunnel and totally without protection in the potager. It’s now rapidly growing new leaves, despite fluctuating temperatures and deluges of rain (with 2″ more inches in our forecast for this weekend!)
Spinach is one of the easiest crops to grow, and will provide nutritious food quickly. Thinnings only 1″ tall can be sprinkled over salads or omelets or added to soups. Plant it now, in early spring. I’ve often just sprinkled seeds in a row across a raised bed even when it is too wet to properly work, and then covered the seeds with a layer of potting soil. Before you know it, you’ll have spinach to harvest! It is a heavy feeder, so a side dressing of compost or a drink of manure tea is always appreciated if you want big, luscious leaves. Harvest the larger outer leaves continuously for the most yields.
Succession crops can be seeded here in north central Indiana (Zone 5) through the end of May. I’ve found that later ( late April and May as opposed to March) plantings of spinach appreciate a little shade, so they go on the east side or north side of taller crops. After that, it’s better to wait until the heat of summer has passed, and resume seeding in late August. This year, I’m trying “Summer Perfection,” a variety (also from Renee’s Garden Seeds) that is supposed to stand up to heat a bit better without bolting as my last May planting.
I plant my last crop around the 20th of September for over-wintering. The variety I like best for over-wintering is “Gangbusters” from Renee’s. However, since spinach seed has extremely low storage-ability, ANY spinach seed that I have left come September is put into the ground, and usually most do surprisingly well. If you’ve had issues with low success with spinach in the past, old seed (be sure spinach seed comes from a reliable source, not seed that has sat in the hardware store for a couple of years!) is likely the problem.
Supposedly the smooth-leaved varieties are good for early crops, while the savoy-leaved (wrinkled) ones winter over best so they are used for fall plantings. There are many varieties of both types of spinach available on the market, as well as new varieties developed just for “baby” spinach, where the entire crop is sliced off early in its growth, rather than an outer leaf harvest. All types are good candidates for container growing.
As a kid, we only had canned spinach as part of our school lunches. For some reason, neither my grandmother or mother grew it, so I didn’t find out what a delight it was raw, or just lightly sauteed until I went to college! Since then, I’ve collected lots of recipes that include spinach, especially various salads. It plays well with berries of all kinds, citrus, Asian ingredients, and well as roasted squash and grilled asparagus. Do plant some spinach! In these troubled times it will produce a quick crop that will provide lots of nutrition in a small space. Soon you will be as strong as Popeye (do today’s kids even know who Popeye is?) and a strong body is better able to fight off germs.