Growing Spinach in the Home Vegetable Garden
Spinacia oleracea varieties and Tetragonia tetragonoides
In catalogues the Spinacia oleracea varieties are often listed as round-seeded (summer) and prickly seeded (winter) spinach; the seasons refer to their times of harvesting, although the round-seeded form will in fact also grow in winter. New Zealand spinach, Tetragonia tetragonoides, is a much larger plant, producing triangular leaves, and crops from late summer onwards; it is useful because it grows well in hot, dry weather and on poorer soils that are adequately moist. When growing spinach, round-seeded spinach is successionally sown at fortnightly intervals from March into early summer; prickly seeded is sown successionally from July to late September; New Zealand is sown in May-June (or, in pots, in March and then hardened off for planting out in June). Sow two or three seeds at each growing point at a depth of 12-20 mm (½ – 3/4in), and thin later. The round- and prickly seeded growing points should be 200 mm (8 in) apart, the New Zealand 500 mm (20 in) apart, staggered in either rows or blocks.
When growing spinach, early crops can be obtained if you halve these spacings, taking alternate plants when they are young and leaving the rest to grow on. New Zealand seeds are hard and you will aid their germination by soaking them in water overnight before sowing.
Early sowings need an open but sheltered site; later sowings will benefit from partial shading by other crops to prevent bolting; New Zealand will grow in a hotter, sunny site. The round-seeded varieties need deep, rich, moisture-retentive soils; prickly seeded need rich, well-drained soils; New Zealand need light, well-drained soils.
Harvest when the leaves are large enough. Remove only two or three leaves at a time from each plant from round- and prickly seeded; New Zealand may be more heavily cut.
SOWING: SUMMER SPINACH
Sow summer spinach seed in early March in the south and late in March in the north, choosing a well-sheltered position. Make three successional sowings at 14-day intervals. Take out drills l in. deep and 1 ft. apart with the corner of a draw hoe and sow the seed very thinly in these drills. Three weeks later thin the seedlings to 6 in. apart. If the plants are first thinned to 3 in. apart and thinned again three weeks later, the second thinnings may be cooked and eaten whole.
Do everything possible to grow the crop quickly. A ½-in.-thick layer of lawn mowings on either side of the rows for a width of 6 in. will help, but do not put the mowings on deeper or they will heat up and damage the plants. Water and hoe regularly and feed with liquid manure. Top dress the rows with nitrate of soda at the rate of ½ oz. to the yard.
SOWING: WINTER SPINACH
Sow the winter spinach seed during the second week of August, and make successional sowings every 14 days until about the third week of September. Choose a shadier position than for spring sowing and soak the seed in a cup of water the day before sowing. If theis heavy clay it is advisable to prepare a 3 ft. wide: dig the soil out 3 in. deep to a spade’s width on either side of the bed and throw this evenly on top. Such a raised bed keeps drier in the winter and allows excess rain to drain away. Winter spinach needs some protection from mid-November onward, either by putting bracken or straw between the rows or by covering the plants with cloches.
Always pick summer spinach when the leaves are young and tender; it is possible to remove most leaves from the plants leaving only a few in position to continue the growth. When harvesting winter spinach, however, pull only the largest leaves, and then only a few leaves, of each specimen. At the end of the winter the plants will die.
Goliath, large leaves of dark green. Gives heavier yield than most strains.
Monstrous Viroflay, a large, round-leaved variety. Mid-green. Apt to go to seed.
Reliance, very large, thick leaves, dark green in colour.
Victoria Long Standing, dark green leaves. Slow to go to seed.
Long-standing Prickly, a hardy, large-leaved plant. It stands a long time before running to seed.
Perpetual, gives supplies throughout autumn and winter when ordinary spinach is not available.
ROUND-SEEDED: ‘Clearleaf’, a ‘Viking selection;
‘Dominant’; ‘Longstanding Round ;
PRICKLY SEEDED: ‘Broad Leaved Prickly’ (’Giant Prickly’)
NEW ZEALAND: No varieties
Site: Open early, shaded later
Soil: Deep, rich for prickly and round-seeded; light for New Zealand
Sow: Round-seeded, March to early summer; prickly seeded, July to late September; New Zealand, May to June
Harvest: When ready