National Spinach Day…and I almost missed it!

“Baker” spinach growing in the shade of climbing peas.

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.

“Gangbuster” spinach is my favorite for over-wintering.

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.

Spinach frittata for our National Spinach Day dinner!

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.

About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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7 Responses to National Spinach Day…and I almost missed it!

  1. bcparkison says:

    I do need to give this another go. never had much luck before.

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  2. Jo Shafer says:

    I had the same childhood spinach experience as you, Carolee. As an adult, I grew fresh spinach in my salad garden that was, then, more potager than herb, still located right off the courtyard patio. I remember eating fresh spinach with tomatoes and onions and grated carrots right from that little plot, my young family seated nearby, and looking out over the various vegetables growing there. I may try again this spring as I rework this 40-year-old garden. Thanks for inspiring me!

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  3. Plotchment says:

    Wow! You have a national spinach day!! We need one in Australia too! It’s one of my favourite crops because it’s so useful and so forgiving of my sometimes lax attention. I’m trying to get hold of some seed or seedlings at present to keep us supplied in the coming months. I’m not the only one with that idea. My favourite supplier sold out at our local farmers market last week, which is still operating (since it’s an essential food service) but with social distancing and other measures. Hopefully I’ll get there in time this Saturday.

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  4. Must try spinach again this year. Mine always goes to seed so quickly. Will try small successional sowing. TY for the inspiration 😁

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  5. sundaydutro says:

    I’m a total spinach head but haven’t tried to grow it before. Thanks!

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