Spinach is a popular cool weather crop that’s grown in many garden beds and homes. Gardeners looking to branch out into growing from seed will find that every type of crop germinates differently, and how long it takes spinach to germinate won’t necessarily be the same as the length of time your corn seeds take. They need different conditions to be met, but when done well, germinating your own spinach seeds is quite rewarding. Plus, germinated spinach seeds can be grown both in soil and hydroponically, making it a much more versatile crop.
Spinach germination occurs in three stages: absorbing moisture, growing new cells, and sprouting. Each stage needs to happen in an environment that’s between 40 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit for germination to be successful. Although never guaranteed, it’s possible that you’ll have more sprouts at the end by slightly prolonging the second stage.
This is done through a process called priming. For spinach seeds specifically, you’ll want to soak them for about 24 hours in room temperature water, then place them on a paper towel. Leave them there to dry for one to two days before moving them to an airtight container and storing them somewhere cool for about a week. Because of the priming, the seeds will have enough moisture to do the first two stages of germination before being planted, after which they should germinate in about five days.
When planting your spinach seeds, make sure you use a moist, nutrient-rich soil. Spinach doesn’t like to be soggy, but it doesn’t like to be dry, either. Keeping the soil and seeds moist increases the chances of successful germination. The soil should be loosened about a foot deep prior to planting, as the spinach will form a deep taproot as it grows.
Spinach seeds can be sown as soon as you’re able to work the soil, which is often up to six weeks before the last frost of winter. (Remember that it’s a cool weather crop, so as long as daily temperatures are mostly above that 40 degree range, you’re good to go!) If you know that you’re going to want to grow spinach from seed during the next growing season, it won’t hurt to prepare the soil the fall before while it’s still easily workable. This lets you drop the seeds in when it’s time with little hassle.
As the spinach plants grow, you’ll want to take care maintaining them. A crowded spinach plant is more encouraged to go to seed early on, so you should thin out the seedlings once they have at least two true leaves. The remaining plants should be roughly four to six inches apart to allow for sizable growth.
Can you grow spinach hydroponically?
If you don’t have a garden bed or are interested in growing some crops hydroponically to make things a little easier, you’re in luck! Growing spinach hydroponically is fairly easy, made easier by varieties like the Bloomsdale or Noble Giant that are better suited for hydroponic systems. Seeds for these varieties can be purchased online or possibly at a local gardening store. If you have a variety you like, though, give it a try! Most spinach varieties can be grown hydroponically.
Spinach, whether grown hydroponically, in containers, or in a garden bed, can be harvested roughly six to eight weeks after planting as long as the leaves are three to four inches long. When you go to harvest, start by cutting the outside/older leaves first to give newer leaves more time to grow and mature. Once the plant starts to bolt (or go to seed), you should harvest the remaining leaves. A plant that goes to seed starts conserving its energy, which will result in more bitter-tasting leaves.
Pests usually aren’t a problem since spinach grows during colder parts of the season; however, it’s possible that leafminer larvae will burrow into the leaves. You can identify them by the tan patches they leave behind. If you notice any leafminer damage, you should immediately remove and dispose of the affected leaves to prevent any adult pests from causing more harm to the crop. To prevent future leafminer infestations, you can cover your spinach seedlings and plants with a floating row cover.
Spinach blight is also a concern and is spread by aphids. Plants that have been affected will have stunted growth and yellowed leaves. And if you notice yellow spots on the surfaces or mold on the underside, chances are your spinach has been affected by downy mildew. Luckily, there are varieties that are resistant to both these diseases that you can plant if you don’t want to take the risk.
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