Spinach is a rewarding plant to grow and is celebrated as being a superfood. This dark, leafy green is packed with nutrients and provides many benefits for healthy bones, skin, and hair. Spinach is a fast-growing crop that produces many leaves in a short period of time during the cooler temperatures of the spring and fall. Check out our guide to growing spinach, planting the best spinach varieties, and getting the most out of your spinach harvest all season long.
Best Soil Composition and pH for Growing Spinach
Spinach thrives in soil that has a neutral pH with a target of around 6.0. Spinach grows best in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. Amend your garden soil with rich organic materials and well-decomposed compost and provide one to two inches of mulch around plants.
How to Plant Spinach
Start seeds indoors two to three weeks before the last frost or sow seeds directly into the garden bed as soon as the ground has thawed. Spinach traditionally has a short maturation period, so there is no need to get too much of a head start indoors before transplanting.
If sowing spinach directly into the garden, plant seeds ¼ inch deep. Cover seeds with a sprinkling of seed starting soil or sifted small particle soil, pat down firmly, and water in well. Continue to keep the soil saturated until the seeds have germinated.
Plan to reseed spinach every two to three weeks from early spring through early fall to ensure a continual crop of delicious, dark, leafy greens.
Growing Spinach in Spring
Spinach is an annual plant that can handle cool temperatures. You can extend your season and plant earlier by utilizing protective gardening devices such as row covers, greenhouses, or cold frames. Growing spinach in containers or in raised beds can also keep the soil warmer and allow you to plant seeds and seedlings earlier in the spring.
Growing Spinach in Summer
As temperatures rise in the summer, spinach plants will tend to bolt quickly. You may choose to stop sowing your spinach seeds in June, depending on your grow zone.
However, it is possible to extend your growing season by planting your summer spinach crop in a shadier spot. You may also choose an area of the garden bed where plants can receive some shade from taller crops like corn, tomatoes, and peppers or in the shade of trellised climbers like beans and peas. You can also protect spinach plants with a row cover or shade cloth for additional shade as temperatures climb.
Planting Spinach in Fall
Spinach is a great addition to fall gardens since mature plants can handle a frost. For a robust fall crop, sow spinach seeds about eight weeks before the first frost date in your area. Spinach plant leaves can withstand below-freezing temperatures, so don’t count them out if the temperatures take a dip. Spinach actually thrives in the chilly and shortened days of fall.
Spinach isn’t just a superfood; it is a super plant too. It can even be overwintered in many planting zones if appropriately protected. This makes it possible to sow spinach seeds well into late fall, being overwintered in colder regions and winter harvested in warmer climates. To overwinter your spinach plants, cover plants with 8 to 12 inches of straw or mulch or grow cover spinach with a cold frame.
Growing Spinach In Containers, Raised Beds, and In-Ground
One of the benefits of spinach plants is that it can be grown in containers, in raised beds, and even in-ground. Planting in containers and raised beds can allow you to start planting earlier, because you do not have to wait until the ground thaws in order to get plants started. Gardeners also have more control over the soil quality of raised garden beds and containers, which is a considerable benefit for heavy feeders like spinach.
Spacing and Thinning Spinach Plants
Sow the spinach seeds in rows spaced about 12 inches apart. When seedlings have sprouted their first two sets of leaves, thin them to about 6 inches apart.
Spinach Light and Temperature Requirements
Plant spinach in full sun or partial shade. Spinach grows at its best when temperatures fall between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures soar higher in the heat of the summer, spinach plants can tend to bolt quickly, turning plants bitter as they quickly push themselves to produce seeds.
How to Water and Fertilize Spinach
Because spinach matures so quickly, this leafy crop is a heavy feeder. A fertilizer high in nitrogen will ensure the plant’s production of rich, dark, healthy leaves. Consider a fish hydrolysate as a soil amendment in addition to garden soil that is with rich organic matter and well-decomposed compost.
Water spinach plants regularly, especially as temperatures rise in the summer months. Add a couple of inches of mulch around spinach plants to help regulate moisture levels and keep roots cool.
Spinach Companion Plants
- Brussel sprouts
Common Spinach Pests and Diseases
- Rabbits – Garden fencing can help keep rabbits and other wildlife from munching on your crops. If fencing is not an option, consider sprinkling blood meal around the perimeter of your garden bed to deter them.
- Aphids – A sharp spray of the hose should be enough to shoo damaging aphids away from your lettuce crop. Utilize companion planting to organically deter these pests. Planting parsley next to lettuce plants can attract aphid predators like wasps. Growing nasturtium in the garden bed will lure aphids away from your tender spinach leaves.
- Powdery Mildew – Avoid soggy conditions and be sure to space your plants appropriately to ensure proper airflow.
- Fusarium Wilt – Prevention is the best defense against fusarium wilt. Sterilize your garden tools regularly and remove spent leaves and debris from the garden bed.
Recommended Spinach Varieties
- ‘Riverside Hybrid’ is a West Coast favorite. The plant has small dark-green leaves and is bolt resistant. Its smooth leaves make for easy washing, and it is mildew resistant. Plant maturation is approximately 30 days from seed to harvest.
- ‘Malabar’ is a climbing spinach variety that not only gives visual interest but also thrives in the summer heat, producing edible glossy leaves that are wonderful in salad and stir-fry. This variety has a maturation period of a bit longer, 60-80 days.
- ‘Bloomsdale’ is a classic spinach variety that produces rich dark leaves with a nutty flavor. It is slow to bolt, making it a great addition to summer gardens and warmer growing zones. Plants mature in 35-40 days.