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Why can't I grow spinach?

Posted by dgkritch Z8 OR (My Page) on
Wed, Apr 1, 09 at 0:19

New to this forum, I'm usually on Harvest or Cooking.
I'm looking for advice or ideas on why I can't grow spinach.
I live in the pacific north west, Z8.
I live rurally and compost mostly just things from our property, leaves, chicken manure, coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, straw, etc. No chemicals.
Everything else my garden looks great.

I cannot grow spinach. For the last several years, I can barely get any to germinate, indoors or out in my compost.
I've tried planting earlier, later, in between.
The few (maybe 4 out of 60) that do germinate are sickly and bolt very early when the plant is less than 12" high.
I bought new seeds, I bought a different variety.

I'm out of ideas.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Why can't I grow spinach?


Hard to diagnose what the problem is. Here are a few ideas:
1) start with a sterile potting mix. Very important.
2) soak seed in warm water overnight (not longer). Put seed in tupperware-like container, get tap water hot (not scalding but hot), pour onto seeds, let them soak O/N (water will cool off as the container sits on your countertop, but that initial burst of hot water seems to help the germination). In morning, drain off water, plant same day, without letting the seeds dry out (I always cover the drained seeds with a moist paper towel)
3) spend the extra money to get a slow-bolting variety from a reputable company (I recommend Harris Seeds).
4) when seeds germinate, fertilize with fish emulsion (2 tbls. per gallon) every week until planting time.
5) I know its romantic to grow without chemicals, but that's probably your problem. Spinach requires much more iron than most plants. Go out and get yourself some granular ferrous sulfate, sprinkle it lightly in the row before planting (one big handful per 10 linear feet of row).

Hope this helps. Best of luck.

RE: Why can't I grow spinach?

Perhaps it is the climate in your area? Spinach requires cool soil and air temps to grow without bolting.
Soil temps should be ~50-60 degrees for germination and ideally about the same for growth.


RE: Why can't I grow spinach?

I get fabulous germination with winter sowing. Dash seems to a particularly early and vigorous variety. I will know more once these get going. So far just a couple of leaves each. They are much larger already than the Space and Bloomsdale.

Good germination won't help your problem with slow growth and bolting, though. Let us know if the fish emulsion and iron help.


RE: Why can't I grow spinach?

You have recieved excellent advice in the above posts.I direct sow with no problems with germination, Spinach like beets does like a more alkaline enviroment than most vegetables. I sprinkled wood ashes over the rows to accomplish this.
Since you are starting indoors, in addition to choosing a good starting mix, watch that they are not too wet or too warm, which can accelerate rots.
Spinach is not tall growing, so you may be expecting too much if you are waiting for it to get 12 inches high,

RE: Why can't I grow spinach?

Thank you all! I believe I'll try the wood ash first as I really don't want to use chemicals. We burn wood so no problem there. And I'll try soaking the seeds.
You may be onto something about the soil....I have heavy clay so garden mostly in raised beds filled with my compost. The only time my spinach ever grew fairly well was when the soil was poorer (i.e. more clay/alkaline).
I'm not growing exclusively indoors, I've tried it outside too.

My detail about bolting before 12" may have been miscontrued a bit. I'm not looking for giant plants, but I think Ishould be able to harvest more than just 4-6 leaves before it bolts. Bad wording on my part!!

Will try the ideas above and see how it goes.
Again, thank you!!


RE: Why can't I grow spinach?

  • Posted by alys Zone 5/6 - MO (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 1, 09 at 10:53

Perhaps you should just pre-sprout the seeds? I put mine in a damp coffee filter inside a baggie and in a few days I have sprouted seeds. Then I plant those in the garden.

RE: Why can't I grow spinach?

Direct seed, like most direct seed vegs., spinach does not transplant well. Plant the seeds any time since they will not germinate until the soil temp. is correct for them. Bolting is a result of heat not anything else. As stated in other posts, spinach is a cool season veg. That should do it for a bunch of random thoughts about spinach.

RE: Why can't I grow spinach?

Deanna, I, like you, have had the worst luck getting spinach to germinate and have tried all of the tricks: different varieties, direct sowing at different times of the year, soaking, soaking in combinaion with chilling, yada yada yada. If it's been recommended in print or on a gardening forum, I've tried it.

This past fall/winter (the best time for us in lower Alabama to grow spinach) I got a dozen or so plants after sowing (no joke) about a hundred seeds. :(

This spring I'm trying a Japanese variety meant for summer harvest--Okame from Kitazawa Seed Co. I sowed WAY more than I'd hoped to germminate (based on past experience) and I believe every last one of them has germinated!

As for spinach in the garden, mine this past season got a good dose of home made compost and biweekly fish emulsion and did fine. And not only did they transplant well from cell packs to the garden, when it came time to plant corn about a month ago, the spinach was still going strong so I moved it to another bed. A small hiccup in growth but it recovered really well and I'm STILL harvesting.

Good luck and below is a link the the Okame if you're interested..

Here is a link that might be useful: Okame spinach

RE: Why can't I grow spinach?

I don't really know if this is true but I heard someone say that if you put rusty nails in water for I few days then pour the water on the beds that would work for iron but like I say I don't know if there is any truth to it ( never had the problem to try it) I don't know if that is organic really but it is not chems i guess just a thought

RE: Why can't I grow spinach?

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 2, 09 at 21:07

Mostly agree with farmerdill. There are a few greens in my garden that get wood ash always, and spinach is one. The seed, though, will germinate in ground colder than 55. Spinach needs water, nitrogen, and wood ash to be happy.

RE: Why can't I grow spinach?

I'll second both the presprouting and wintersowing suggestions above! I tried both methods after having no success with spinach last year, and both batches are doing great.

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