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Holman's Horticulture: Savory spinach

Lucas Holman • Oct 8, 2018 at 8:36 PM

Growing up, I never fully appreciated spinach.  The only real way I had ever heard of spinach was through Popeye.  Now that I’ve realized how easy it is to grow, I could eat it every night either sautéed or fresh.  Spinach is packed full of nutrition, and we don’t fully appreciate it.  It can be prepared in so many ways that one should never be tired of it.  

Spinach is a cool-season vegetable, and it prefers the cooler temperatures of spring or fall. Once the temperatures get too warm for spinach, the plant will bolt and go to seed. Once the plant has gone to seed, the leaves turn bitter and the plant needs to be composted. In Wilson County, spinach can be sown in the early spring or early fall. It will have to be irrigated though in order to get good germination. Once you have sown the seed in the ground, be sure to cover lightly with a thin layer of soil to help prevent the seed from drying out. Be sure to watch for young weed seedlings that can prevent the spinach from germinating well, also. Spinach does not grow compete with weeds, so be sure to prevent weeds from growing around your spinach. Thinning spinach will probably need to be done in order to give the right amount of space to each plant. Typically, each spinach plant needs to be about 3” apart in order to get the largest leaves from your crop.  

All plants need water and the best way to water any vegetable is underneath. By not allowing water to sit on top of the leaves, you reduce your chances for disease, which is a great cultural way to prevent problems down the road. As a rule of thumb, all vegetables need 1-2” of water per week and should only be watered in the morning and not in the evening. Watering in the evening is also another good way to welcome fungal pathogens on your vegetables. So water underneath and water in the morning.

From seed, you can begin to harvest spinach leaves about 45 days after being sown. The good thing about spinach is that it regenerates new leaves every few weeks so the harvest is extended up until a hard frost. Spinach can handle temperatures down into the 20s and can even handle a few frosts. Using a floating row cover or a frost cloth can extend the season longer into winter by keeping the frost off of the leaves.  These need to be raised off of the plant with wires or supports to prevent them from lying on top of the leaves.  

One of the most popular varieties of spinach is ‘Bloomsdale Longstanding’, which came out in the 1920’s.  Some other varieties that seem to do well in Tennessee are ‘Tyee’ and ‘Melody’. I don’t think you could go wrong with any variety of spinach since they’re all so fast and easy to grow, though.  

If you have any questions regarding your spinach or any other horticultural matter in your garden or lawn, feel free to contact Lucas Holman, Horticulture UT-TSU Extension Agent, Wilson County at 615-444-9584 or [email protected] University of Tennessee Extension offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu.

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