The steps for growing spinach somewhat resemble those of growing lettuce. Spinach leaves can be eaten either cooked or raw. This type of plant grows best during a cool climate, either in pots or the ground. This vegetable contains healthy sources of antioxidants (Vitamins A and C), carotenoides (nourishment for the eyes), and iron.
Cold weather makes the leaves flourish and develop a sweeter taste. However, the young plants cannot tolerate too much cold and can die from frost. Start them indoors if it is still too cold outside, and plant them at least a couple of weeks after the last frost.
Because spinach does not produce any fruits, it needs plant food with a high percentage of nitrogen to increase the green foliage. Blood meal is a good source, or check the label of packaged fertilizer for high nitrogen content. The percentages of nutrients are expressed in a three number code, with nitrogen as the first number. Look for a label with a high number like six at the beginning. This means that 60% of the plant food is nitrogen.
Gardeners need to break up ground at least eight inches down. Plant the seeds in raised rows with grooves on each side for water. The seeds should be planted an inch deep and about an inch apart. It is important to keep the soil moist so the plants will germinate. They can be planted with a mechanical seeder as well.
Some may prefer to use containers, sometimes mixed in with other plants and flowers. This not only saves space, but also helps keep certain pests away. Containers can help keep away snails and rabbits.
Unfortunately, problems like insects and molds may be unavoidable. Prevent mold by making sure to water the soil only instead of wetting the leaves. However, it may be necessary to rinse off some aphids from time to time. There are also some organic sprays that will make the leaves undesirable to bugs. Caterpillars can be removed manually. Holes in the soil near the plants are found is a sign that caterpillars may be hiding in the foliage.
Many species are available. The heartiest are the many hybrids produced to resist disease. They all come from two basic forms: smooth or Savoy (coarse). Sizes range from the baby, used in salads, to larger leaves best served cooked.
When harvesting, pick the older leaves from the outside by hand or scissors. This allows the younger foliage in the middle to mature and produce more. Sometimes gardeners prefer to cut off the entire top of the plant. Leaving about an inch of it in the soil makes more leaf growth possible.
Spinach lasts in a refrigerated container for about a week. For longer storage, dried leaves can be frozen for three or four months. Crops can be rotated with warn weather, fruit bearing vegetables that require smaller percentages of nitrogen. Plants like spinach deplete the nitrogen levels, and a rotation gives it a break before the next season.
Growing spinach properly can provide prolific and nutritious greens. Provide ample nitrogen and plant during cool seasons.