Want to eat healthier while still saving money? Then you should be growing spinach. You only need a tiny space, a bit of light, and some super affordable seeds.
Spinach used to have a reputation as a slimy, unappealing green that parents tried to force down their kids’ throats. However these days, most people know how delicious it can be.
When you’re growing spinach, there’s no reason not to eat your veggies. Here is how to get started:
Spinach Plant Info
- Hardiness Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
- Soil: Loamy, PH between 6.5-6.8, fertile, well-drained
- Sun Exposure: Full sun
- Start Indoors: 4-6 weeks before the last frost in the spring
- Start Indoors (in fall): 6-8 weeks before the first frost in the fall
- Hardening Off: At least 1 week before transplanting
- Transplant Outdoors: 3-4 weeks after sowing indoors
- Spacing: 6-12-inches between plants and 12-14-inches between rows
- Depth: ½-1-inch seed depth
- Best Companions: Eggplant, celery, cauliflower, corn, pea, strawberry, cabbage, kale, onion
- Worst Companions: Potato
- Watering: Water regularly, at least 1-inch every 7-10 days
- Fertilizing: Side dress with nitrogen fertilizer 2-3 weeks after first hilling
- Common Problems: Mosaic virus, white rust, fusarium wilt, downy mildew, damping-off, anthracnose, aphids, armyworms, bulb mites, cutworms, darkling beetles, flea beetles, earwigs, cabbage loopers, wireworms, nematodes, slugs, nematodes, seedcorn maggot
- Harvest: When the leaves are large enough to eat, 6-8 weeks after planting
Best Spinach Varieties to Plant
There are 3 main varieties of spinach (Spinacia oleracea): savoy, semi-savoy, and flat or smooth.
New versions of spinach are being developed all the time to improve flavor and extend their growing season.
Savoy is a sturdy spinach plant with good cold tolerance. Each leaf is covered in wrinkles and crinkles.
As you might imagine, this can make cleaning your spinach a bit more difficult, so instead of washing under running water, soak them in cold water to dislodge the dirt hiding in the folds.
- ‘Hammerhead‘ is a mildew-resistant type that matures in just 27 days
- ‘Bloomsdale‘ matures in 30 days, but it’s prone to bolting rapidly
Semi-savoy is another sturdy spinach option. Though they are cold-resistant, that isn’t the most important characteristic of this type of spinach.
It is known for being more disease-resistant, and being more bolt-resistant than savoy spinach.
Semi-savoy goes to seed a bit slower than savoy. It also is less crinkled than Savoy, which makes cleaning your leaves easier.
- ‘Kolibiri‘ is medium-slow bolting and matures in 29 days
- ‘Reflect‘ is disease resistant and mature in 28 days. It isn’t quick to bolt
- ‘Tasman‘ matures in 28 days and is quick to bolt
- ‘Tundra‘ has dark green leaves and is ready to pluck in just 27 days. It’s a medium-fast bolter
- ‘Acadia‘ has glossy, dark green foliage. It matures in 27 days and is a medium-slow bolter
3. Flat Leaf
If you want spinach similar to the one you most commonly see on the grocery store shelves, then this is your variety. The leaves are smooth which makes this type of spinach easy to clean.
Most types are slow to bolt.
- ‘Seaside‘ is slow to bolt and matures in 30 days
- ‘Lizard‘ is ready to be harvested in 28 days with dark green leaves. It’s slow to bolt
- ‘Woodpecker‘ is slow to bolt and matures in 28 days
- ‘Red Kitten‘ has green leaves with red veins. It bolts quickly and matures in 28 days
- ‘Flamingo‘ has pretty, dark leaves with an arrowhead shape. It’s medium-slow to bolt and matures in 27 days
4. Heat Resistant Varieties
Finally, I mentioned earlier that new versions of spinach had been created to ensure spinach can be grown any time of year in most climates.
These new varieties fall under 1 of the 3 types above, but they’re worth calling out separately because they can grow in places other spinaches can’t.
Two of the leading heat-resistant varieties are ‘New Zealand‘ and ‘Malabar‘ (Basella alba).
‘New Zealand’ is a heat-resistant option if you enjoy eating spinach raw. It has a great crisp. The downside is that when you cook it, the leaves turn mushy.
‘Malabar‘ is a unique vine-growing spinach relative that can grow up a trellis. It’s not a true spinach, but you can use it in a similar way. It grows in warmer regions like India, so it’s a good option if you have only a small space and live in USDA Zones 7-10.
How to Grow Spinach
Growing spinach is one of those garden tasks that seem positively effortless compared to some others.
1. Plan When to Plant
Depending on what zone you live in, you can potentially grow spinach 2 times per year. You can grow it once in early spring and again in the fall.
Plant spinach when it is still cold outside. Spinach can handle cold weather, but hot temps will end your harvest before it ever gets started.
Plant spinach 4-6 weeks before the last frost in the spring. Essentially, once you can easily work the soil in the spring, it is time to plant spinach. It needs around 6 weeks of cool weather to produce a decent harvest.
For fall planting, put it in the ground 6-8 weeks before the first frost of the year.
2. Where to Plant
Spinach needs full sun, but you can still get a great harvest in partial shade, especially if that shade happens in the mid-day heat.
Make sure that you’re planting in well-drained soil. I’m for a neutral pH around 6.5-7.
Work in some compost or fertilizer to the area you want to plant in to give the soil as many nutrients as possible. You should test your soil before planting to figure out what your earth needs.
3. Sow Your Seeds
You can start your seeds indoors, but it isn’t recommended because it’s difficult to transplant spinach seedlings well.
For that reason, you should sow the seeds directly into the ground. Put each seed about a half-inch to an inch into the soil.
Be sure that you only sow around 12 seeds per foot in the row to avoid overcrowding your beds, which encourages disease.
4. Keep Seeds Moist
From there, you need to make sure that you water the seeds without drenching them and keep the bed moist until the seedlings emerge.
Once seedlings begin to pop up, be sure to keep them well watered. You’ll know they need water when the soil around them is dry to the touch. When this happens, be sure to moisten them thoroughly.
Growing in Containers
Don’t have much space in the garden – or any garden at all? Spinach is an excellent plant for growing in containers. It can handle some shade, doesn’t get too big, and many varieties grow quickly enough that you can have several harvests each year indoors.
Pick a pot that is at least 6-inches deep and fill with a quality potting medium. Put plants in a windowsill that gets 4 or 5 hours of daylight, or put the container outside where it gets part to full sun.
Keep an eye on the containers to keep the soil moist.
Caring for Your Spinach
Taking care of spinach is simple to do. Follow these few tips, and you should have a bountiful harvest this year.
1. Water Well and Regularly
Spinach is like any other plant. It needs to be watered well and on a regular basis. Be sure that you check the soil around your plants.
When the soil is dry, then you need to add plenty of water. This ensures that the plants have what they need for a few days until you water again.
Fertilize your spinach when it is around 1/3-inch tall.
You can tell it is time to fertilize if your plants aren’t growing as they should. Also, if your spinach isn’t a vibrant colored green, then you’ll know it’s time to add nitrogen to the soil.
Most of the time, you’ll hear people warn against too much nitrogen in your soil because it will produce excellent foliage but harm your harvest.
That isn’t the case with spinach. Spinach is foliage. Therefore, you want a lot of nitrogen in your soil to make the leaves produce quickly and thus, making them more tender when eating.
3. Thin Out
When your spinach plants have reached 2-inches in height, you’ll know it is time to thin them out. You’ll have to put roughly 4-inches of space between each plant.
Then you let your plants do the work from there. You don’t need to cultivate the dirt from there because spinach roots are shallow.
If you mess with the soil and plants too much, you could disrupt the roots and end your harvest before it had a chance to start.
Finally, it is a good idea to mulch around your spinach plants. This will not only help to keep the weeds down, but it will help to keep needed moisture in the soil.
This is an easy step to make sure that your plant doesn’t get too dry.
5. Protect in the Fall
If you plant a fall crop of spinach, protect the seedlings when required. Spinach can withstand temperatures in the 10’s and low 20’s, but if a frost is on the way be sure to use row covers to protect your harvest.
Spinach Pests and Diseases
Every plant that you grow in your garden will have pests or diseases that they must battle. It’s just part of gardening.
However, knowing what you are up against and how to beat it, that’s the first step in protecting your harvest.
1. Leaf Miners
Leaf miners are the larvae of beetles. They lay their eggs on the leaves of plants and when the eggs hatch, the larvae begin eating the leaf tissue.
You’ll recognize this disease by yellow squiggly lines all over the leaves of your plant.
Leaf miners can be beaten by applying pesticides, using neem oil, or by purchasing beneficial bugs that will eat them. You can even just smash the leaves between your fingers along the trail of the tunnels.
However, don’t use all of those methods at once as pesticides will kill the beneficial bugs.
Bolting is when your spinach plants go to seed. You want some of your plants to do this to have more seed for the next time you want to grow spinach.
However, you don’t want all of your spinach to bolt, or you’ll have no harvest.
Plant your spinach seeds early. Heat is what causes the bolt to happen. Therefore, the earlier you plant, the easier it will be to avoid bolting
You can also choose a bolt-resistant variety as well.
3. Mosaic Virus
You will recognize the mosaic virus by the discolored spots on the leaves of your spinach. The spots will vary from light green to yellow to even white.
Also, you’ll notice that the spinach will not be growing as it should and will look stunted.
Sadly, there is no solution to the mosaic virus. You just have to pull the plants out of the ground and destroy them to keep the virus from spreading further.
4. Downy Mildew
Downy mildew also causes discolored spots on your plants. It’s to spot, and there are some simple steps you can take to beat it.
Apply a fungicide or a 1:1 mix of milk and water to your plants if you spot what you think is downy mildew. Make sure your plants have plenty of air circulation around them as well.
Also, you may want to use soaker hoses when watering instead of overhead watering to protect the leaves of your plants from having too much moisture on them.
Best Companion Plants for Spinach
There aren’t any plants that you should explicitly avoid planting near spinach.
However, there are quite a few plants that grow quite well around spinach. These are known as spinach’s companion plants.
These plants are:
- Brussel sprouts
How to Harvest and Store Your Spinach
Do you remember growing up and always being told to eat your vegetables? Back then, you probably stuck your tongue out and said, “Yuck!”
However, as you got older, you hopefully realized just how important those vegetables are to your health. Spinach, in particular, is a nutritional powerhouse.
Growing spinach is only half of it. Once it is grown, you have to know what to do with the harvest. There are multiple ways to store spinach. Pick which option works the best for you at the time of harvest.
Harvesting spinach is rather simple. You pick the leaves from the outside of the plant when the leaves have reached the size you want.
Keep in mind that if you wait too long to pick the leaves they may turn bitter.
Also, be sure to pick from the outside because this will allow the inner leaves to keep growing and the spinach plant to continue producing too.
Once the growing season is coming to a close, and you know the plants are going to begin to bolt, pull the whole plant out of the ground.
Then cut the base of the plant off and enjoy the whole thing. Just be sure to eat before the leaves turn bitter.
Once you’ve gotten your harvest, there are 3 main ways to store it:
1. Wash and Put in the Fridge
If you plan to eat your crop within a week, then you should just rinse the spinach leaves under cold water.
Next, pat them dry with a paper towel and place the leaves in a sealable storage bag. Place a paper towel inside the bag to absorb any moisture.
Then eat the spinach sometime that week, either cooked or raw.
2. Freeze Your Harvest
If you have more of a harvest than you can eat in a week, and you have the freezer space, then why not freeze it?
You’ll need to wash the spinach leaves and remove any dirt in cold water. Then pat the leaves dry.
Next, you’ll blanch the leaves in boiling water for about a minute.
From there, you place them in a sealable freezer bag and remove all of the air from the bag. Then seal the bag and freeze. You should eat it within 3 months.
3. Can Your Spinach
Canning spinach gives it a much more extended shelf-life. Plus, it doesn’t take up any extra freezer space. If you have a canner, some canning experience, or a friend who has the experience that is willing to help you, then you might want to consider canning your own spinach.
However, if you want to use your spinach right away, check out our collection of 34 fresh spinach recipes.