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    Growing Fall Spinach | Fall 2015 Out Here Magazine

    Plant now to enjoy cold-hardy goodness through spring

    Story and photography by Theresa Martz

     

     

    Thinking of planting a fall garden? Don’t forget to include the spinach.

    Spinach is at its best in cool weather, because colder temperatures bring up the sugar in the plant, making the leaves extra delicious.

    Planting spinach into fall will allow you to enjoy eating it into early spring.

    Start spinach in early- to mid-August to give it ample time for good growth before your first frost.

    But if you’re late into the fall getting started, don’t let that stop you from planting. Although you won’t be eating spinach before frost when you plant late, the seedlings will put down roots and with a bit of protection — especially in colder areas — will give you spinach much earlier than anything you plant next spring.

    Spinach is cold-hardy and can survive frost and temperatures down to about 15 degrees F. In areas of the country with severe winters it still can be enjoyed through the winter if the plants are under the shelter of a cold frame or hoop tunnel.

    The main concerns from gardeners about spinach is spotty germination and the length of time it takes to germinate. Both of these problems easily can be avoided by giving spinach a cool place to germinate.

    The ideal soil temperature for spinach to germinate is 50 to 60 degrees. If weather in August is hot and your soil temperatures, even in shaded areas of your garden, are warm, start your spinach inside to provide the conditions it prefers.

    Inside, your seed starter mix probably will be closer to ideal temperatures. If not, try placing the planting tray on a towel laid over an ice pack. You’ll have to refresh the ice pack, of course, as it thaws and its temperature rises.

    Transplant your seedlings into good garden soil that has lots of organic matter in it.

     

    Another way to get faster germination is to soak the seed at room temperature for 24 hours before you plant. Try this whether you plant directly into the garden or start your seed indoors. Your seed should germinate within about five days rather than two weeks.

    Plant every week or 10 days to keep plants coming in all stages. That way, you’re sure to have spinach to eat in the fall, winter, and next spring.

    Spinach is classified into three major types: smooth leaf, semi-savoy, and savoy. Smooth leaf and semi-savoy is easier to clean than savoy with its crinkly, curly leaves.

    Savoy also is a bit stronger tasting than the others.

    Within each type of spinach are many cultivars, or varieties.

    You might want to start with the classic heirloom, Bloomsdale Long Standing, which does well in many areas in winter. Bordeaux spinach is a bit sweeter than most and is beautiful as well as delicious. Arrowhead-shaped leaves and red stems make it a real eye-catcher in the garden.

    The just-harvested taste of fresh garden spinach can’t be obtained any other way than by growing your own. Now that you know what spinach likes and how easy it is to give it the right conditions, why not grow some this fall?

     

    Theresa Martz is author of the book, Organic Gardening — Cutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Successful Gardening and writes about gardening at TendingMyGarden.com.

    Fall 2015 Out Here Magazine Home Page