Spinach is a cool-weather vegetable related to beets and Swiss chard. A fast-growing plant, it yields many leaves in a short time in the mild weather of spring and fall. When growing spinach, the trick lies in making it last as long as possible, especially in the spring, when lengthening days shorten its life. One great way to do that is to start with vigorous young Bonnie Plants® spinach plants, which are already well on their way to maturity when you put them in your garden. Although it prefers full sun, spinach will still produce a respectable harvest in partial shade.
Quick Guide to Growing Spinach
- Plant spinach during the cool weather of spring and fall.
- Space spinach plants 12 inches apart in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0.
- Start off the growing season right by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter into your native soil.
- Check soil moisture often or consider using a soaker hose to keep moisture levels consistent.
- For tender and rapid leaf production, feed regularly with a water-soluble plant food.
- Harvest spinach starting with the outermost leaves once leaves are large enough to eat.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Spinach grows most quickly in well-drained soil rich in organic matter such as compost or composted manure and with a pH of 6.5 to 7. A simple way to improve your existing soil is to mix 3 inches of aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose In-Ground Soil with the top 6 inches of existing soil. In order to grow spinach twice a year, plant it about 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost in the spring, and again 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost in the fall. Space plants 12 inches apart; this gives leaves room to reach full size. Perhaps the easiest growing option is to plant spinach in pots filled with premium quality potting mix, such as Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose Container Mix which will provide roots with just the right environment for strong growth.
For the most tender leaves, encourage spinach to grow fast and without interruption by fertilizing regularly with a water-soluble fertilizer like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition that feeds the soil along with the plants for better growth. (Be sure to follow directions.) This plant food works in tandem with great soil to help you achieve the best possible spinach harvest.
In the spring, plants will grow tall and bloom (called bolting) as soon as the days are longer than 14 hours. Heat also speeds up bolting, since spinach prefers temperatures between 35 and 75 degrees. Our variety is slow to bolt, which is a real bonus for gardeners who don't have the luxury of long stretches of mild weather.
Because it bolts in the lengthening days of spring, spinach is an especially popular crop for fall, when days are short and cool. Plants are very cold-hardy, tolerating temperatures as cold as the teens to low 20s once they are well established. This quality makes them great for overwintering over in zones 8 and southward.
In cold climates, some gardeners plant spinach in a cold frame or cover plants with hay and leave them all winter; they'll be first to produce a very early spring harvest.
Heat and long days will end your crop, so plant as mentioned above. Pests that enjoy spinach include flea beetles, spider mites, and aphids, which feed on the leaves. Diseases that attack plants are downy mildew (a mildew that may appear during cool, moist weather) and white rust (which causes white spots on the leaves). For instructions on how to fight back against these pests and diseases, contact your local Extension agency.
Harvest and Storage
Spinach leaves are ready to harvest as soon as they are big enough to eat. Harvest by removing only the outer leaves and allowing the center leaves to grow larger; this will allow the plant to keep producing. Picking the outer leaves also gives the advantage of briefly delaying bolting. In spring, when plants are about to bolt, pull the entire plant at once to enjoy the leaves before they become bitter.
When is the best time to plant spinach?
In late winter or early spring for a fast crop and again in late summer or early fall, after the hottest temperatures have passed. Spinach is a cool-weather vegetable.
How can I know when my spinach is ready for harvest? What is the method of harvesting?
When the outer leaves are about 6 inches long, they're ready to be harvested. Or, if it is spring and plants are near the end of the season where they will soon bolt (bloom), you can pull up or cut the entire plant.
My spinach bolted, and I cut the plants just above the soil line. Will I get another crop from them?
No, they are finished. It is time to pull them up and replace them with a warm-weather crop. You can plant spinach again in late summer for a fall harvest.