Is growing spinach hard?

keepitlow(6)November 4, 2010

Spinach is one of the plants I've had very little luck with.

I grow in full sun. Maybe I should be growing in the shade or something. But 90% of the time either nothing happens or just a few little sprouts with nothing developing.

I've tried about 9 types and all the same results.

Any advice?

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Dan Staley

Very hard to tell with scant info provided. WAG with paucity of info is try a liquid hi-N fert (e.g. 12-6-6) ~week after sprouting if soil temps in plant range. Just a WAG.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 10:37AM
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Keepitlow -- tell us more about when and how you're planting it. And what you mean by "poor results." Then we can probably help you figure out what is going on.

The biggest thing I can think of without more information is either 1)soil, nutrition, and moisture issues or 2) timing issues.

Some plants truly don't like some of us, I know I've struggled with beets for various reasons, and it can be frustration.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 10:59AM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

Spinach is a cool-weather plant. Try putting out seedlings a few weeks before your last frost. You can throw a sheet over them overnight if it gets really cold, or grow them under heavy row covers for a couple of weeks.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 12:05PM
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Tried all season from spring to late summer. Most don't grow or they grow like micro greens and do nothing. A few grew taller but didn't develop anything that big to eat as spinach leaves. Tried many seed packs so it is not bad seeds unless they are ALL bad.

Last year some spinach grew bigger, but the leaves were discolored with some wilt disease.

RE beets:

Same problems as you denninmi...with all the odd ball beets. But I do OK with Detroit dark and Crosby Egyptian with 4 1/2 to 5 hours of sun. I don't even thin and the seed cluster pods grow up fine into huge beets.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 12:42PM
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Dan Staley

I grow spinach all winter and thru spring, then again start in Sept. here on Front Range. Spinach likes rich, loose soil and consistent moisture (and of course cool temps). I fork in compost or manure about 3 wks prior to seeding and side dress with blood meal at seeding, and usually 2x a liquid 12-6-6.

If you do not have rich, loose soil or do not provide consistent water or adequate N, you aren't going to be happy.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 1:34PM
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The seeds can be difficult to sprout if your soil isn't at the right temp. If they're not coming up through the soil, then maybe you can pre-sprout them in a paper towel. I had to do this last year and that was the only way I could get them to sprout. Also, someone recommended I scratch up the seeds and that helped.

So if you take a nail filer, gently rub the seeds to take away some of that coating. Don't go too crazy with it, just scratch it. Then put the seeds in a moist (not soaking wet) paper towel, put the paper towel in an open zip lock bag and you can just leave it on the counter at room temperature. Check in about 2 days and every day after until you see a little white root come out of the seed. When you see the root, sow the seeds in your soil (root side down), and wait for it to come up. Don't bury the seed too deeply. Also don't leave them too long in the paper towel if they have roots because they can become tangled and you'll damage the roots trying to separate them. Hope that helps.

I don't know if this is a no-no but it gets too hot in my climate so I usually let them come up in a peat pot or yogurt container and then transplant when they have a few true leaves. I know some people follow the seed packets religiously when it comes to direct sowing but I am not one of those people. I even start turnips in peat pots and I still get turnips that are not deformed. So experiment with what will work for you.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 4:13PM
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If you do not have rich, loose soil or do not provide consistent water or adequate N, you aren't going to be happy....

I guess it is touchy stuff then. I try to water consistent daily for the first week or two to get them going. Then get disgusted and water 2 x a week or so. Soil not loose or rich either.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 8:08PM
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Weren't we working on this same problem last year ??? ;-)

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 8:26PM
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I could have mentioned this earlier, but didn't think of it -- I haven't had the best of luck growing my spinach in ground. When I switched to growing it in large planters in Pro-Mix All Purpose, and using some MG or equivalent on it a few times, my results improved dramatically.

Also, if spinach just refuses to do well for you, try growing orach instead. Very similar to spinach in flavor, but much less fussy, IMO, and more heat tolerant with a longer season.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 10:07PM
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keepitlow Where I live the very fast changing of the seasons makes growing spinach a pain with out a cover system of some sort. I find it a lot easier to just grow chard. Next summer I will experiment with oriental amaranth. I do however have spinach in the high tunnel. Two harvest since sowing on 9/17 and it is bolting now.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 10:36PM
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Thanks for the feedback.

Yep, same issue last year. Except I did get a few crappy leaves to put in my salad.

Actually my 1st year produced the best spinach I ever grew. Same with green beans. Then both went downhill after that. (Rabbits at all my beans this year...I got 1 serving!)

So no guarantee that 3 years of growing one will do better than years 1 or 2 for the beginner.

orach? Never heard of it, but will check it out.

I like easy to grow, low bugs and low problems.

My 2 kings in this area are sorrel and flat leaf parsley (2nd year parsley) They have both saved my salads this season when lettuce refused to grow for months on end during a heat wave and the bugs ate all my tendgreen mustard, red Russian kale and mazuna.

After that it is dandelion and purslane, but their season is shorter, so they are only 'princes' compared to the kings.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2010 at 9:56AM
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I'm going to vote with Dan. It sounds to me like fertility might be a problem. Years ago, somewhere, I read that spinach is day length sensitive and needs to be in the ground as early as possible. Since it's a vegetable that can survive cold, here in NH it went in the same time as my sugar snap peas. I think that was April 9.
But I had not added composted horse manure to that bed. It did very well but I got my manure on the rest of the garden and planted a second area for spinach. Same seed. Tyee. This grew much bigger. I was very pleased and it taught me how important that spring layer of compost is. The horse manure I get has barn shavings and kitchen scraps added to it during the winter and it beautifully black when I go to pick it up. I think the horse owner turns the pile during the winter.

john hughes, that's a great looking garden and vegetables you have there.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 12:54PM
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Keepitlow, buy a roll of 1x2 wire fencing and cut it in rings to go around your bean plants. If you have beans in a row or block, staple chicken wire to stakes to push in and ring the entire area. Keeps the rabbits out of mine.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 1:09PM
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Have you ever eaten fresh rabbit with a side of garden green beans?



    Bookmark   November 14, 2010 at 9:33AM
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gandle(4 NE)

Spring sown spinach is impossible here because of leaf miners. We get a couple of nice pickings and then -leaf miners-so, sowing about Sept. 1 in a loose well fertilized bed and wintered over lets us enjoy spinach very early in the spring and it is ready to go to seed about the time leaf miners hit.

Suppose I'm too lazy to use row covers, guess they would work O.K but fall sowing has worked for the last 60+ years.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2010 at 10:10AM
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merrygardens(z5 MI)

I remember an article many years ago in Organic Gardening which said spinach loves manure and cool weather. So, high fertility, especially nitrogen. I'm going to take that to heart myself next season. I have some small seedlings started in August which is now sleeping under straw, and I'm hoping will take off early next season. I'll have to put blood meal or ur*** on it and see what happens.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2010 at 2:56PM
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I read somewhere long ago to refrigerate your spinach, lettuce, radish seed overnight just before planting. This is obviously not necessary for early season planting, but after years of disappointing results I finally did a test for my late plantings of all three (August, Zone 4b). I planted two rows of each, one with regular seed the other with pre-chilled seed. Kept all watered properly. The rows of pre-chilled seed came up much better and more consistently than the others. Don't know what to make of it but will be doing it from now on.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 12:36PM
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