Spinach is one of the most pleasing cool-weather crops to grow in your home. It produces large yields of dark green leaves that are rich in vitamin, which can be used for salads and for cooking.
It’s an excellent addition to soups, salads, stir-fries, and sautés. Spinach is a wonderful cool-weather crop that flourishes well in pots, and you can store it in low-temperature areas or shady balcony gardens.
Additionally, growing spinach in a pot is great because it gives you lots of time to harvest the leaves before they’re destroyed by insects.
The process of growing spinach in a container is easy and consists of preparing the pot, sowing the seeds, and harvesting your spinach plants.
That said, here’s a step by step guide on how to grow spinach in pots.
What is Spinach?
Botanically known as Spinacia oleracea, Spinach is a leafy green flowering plant native to western and central Asia. It is of the order “Caryophyllales,” and belongs to the family of “Amaranthaceae,” and subfamily of “Chenopodioideae.”
It produces edible vegetable leaves that can be consumed either fresh, or after storage using preservation methods by dehydration, canning, or freezing. It may be eaten raw or cooked, and the taste differs significantly.
Furthermore, spinach is loaded with a bunch of nutrients in a low-calorie package. Leafy, dark-greens like spinach are beneficial to human hair, skin, as well as bone health. They’re also rich in vitamins, iron, minerals, and protein.
Calcium is also found in spinach, which helps to strengthen the bones to fight against injury – and folic acid, vitamins A and C, fiber, and other essential nutrients in Spinacia oleracea fight against colon and breast cancers.
Finally, spinach equally helps to reduce damaging protein levels in the blood and is known to protect against heart disease and high blood pressure.
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Types of Spinach
There are basically 3 varieties/types of spinach, which include:
Savoy spinach grows best in cooler climates – and produces massively in the early summer but is liable to early bolting.
Savoy spinach generally has a longer production period in the fall and resists cold more than other varieties. Their leaves are heavily crinkled and deep green.
It’s sometimes hard to clean them due to the furrows in the leaves and for the fact that the plant is usually very low to the ground. Some well-known savoy strains include regiment and bloomsdale.
This is the most popular type of spinach to grow at home. It has high yields and is more resistant to early bolting and diseases.
Semi-savoy spinach leaves have fewer crinkles and grow higher above the ground, which made them much easier to clean than savoy spinach varieties. Some popular strains of semi-savoy spinach are Indian summer, tyee, Catalina, and Teton.
The leaves of flat/smooth-leafed spinach plants have little to no crinkles. Flat-leafed spinach varieties are the most common options for processed spinach products – and they’re perhaps what you’ll find in the produce department at your local grocery store.
The common strains of flat-leafed spinach include space and a red cardinal.
Alternative Spinach Varieties
While spinach does not grow properly during the summer months, there are still two spinach alternatives that have the same taste and can be prepared the same way.
These types do flourish very well during the summer period. New Zealand spinach is excellent raw in salads, and Malabar is better for sauteing or stir-frying.
How To Grow Spinach In Pots
Now that you already know what spinach is and the different varieties of spinach, let’s now talk about how to grow spinach in a container.
This section is divided into three parts, which include preparing your pot, sowing your spinach Seeds, and harvesting your spinach.
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Preparing Your Pot
1. Get a pot that has enough width and depth for your seeds
Growing spinach in a pot requires a width of at least 14 inches (36 cm) in diameter and a depth of about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm).
A pot that has a diameter of 14 inches (36 cm) can hold about 3 to 4 spinach plants.
2. Get a container made of wood, glazed ceramic, or concrete
These materials help with food growth. You want to avoid porous materials such as unfired clay and terracotta as they can leak water-soluble chemicals via their surface.
It’s also not advisable to use pots that might be contaminated with asbestos or lead. For instance, old containers are occasionally coated with lead-based paint. Before the 1970s, paints had extreme lead concentrations.
3. Buy potting soil if you won’t mix your own
This is always the easier and most preferred option; however, you won't have control over the ingredients. Use a high-quality potting mix that is very high in organic matter. Loamy and crumbly is the ideal texture.
Stay away from soil that clogs drainage, well-draining soil is vital to properly optimize the growth of spinach in pots.
4. Make your own potting mix if you have enough time
If you'll be making your own potting mix, then make use of ⅓ drainage material (perlite, composted bark, grit), ⅓ water-holding material (peat, vermiculite, coir), and ⅓ rotted down organic matter (compost, manure, worm castings).
Furthermore, sprinkle half-cup (120 ml) organic sources of nitrogen like alfalfa meal or soy meal into the center of your pot and then claw it into the bottom of the soil. Add 3 to 4 inches of potting mix.
You can equally add animal-based amendments such as fish meal, worm castings, composted manure, or feather meal. Add about a half-cup (59 to 118 ml) of bat guano to the potting soil to give it quality nutrients.
If you’ll be filling lots of pots, then it’s always better to mix your own potting soil rather than buying a commercial potting soil, this will help you to save a lot of money.
5. Test the pH level of your soil
Generally, spinach blossoms more in slightly alkaline soil with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5. And if the acidity comes down to less than 6.0, the plant’s stems and leaves may turn yellow. You can add limestone to the soil to adjust pH levels manually.
If the soil is high in magnesium, add calcitic limestone to increase pH – and if the soil is low in magnesium, you can also add dolomitic limestone to increase pH.
You can equally add finely crushed eggshells, wood ashes, or ground oyster shells to adjust pH levels.
6. Loosen your soil before planting your spinach seeds
Before sowing your seeds, dig into your soil about 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) using a small gardening shovel.
Fill it with the potting mix and organic amendments like manure, yard trimmings, and leaves from deciduous trees. This will help to create air pockets that allow water and air penetration.
How to Sow Your Spinach Seeds
1. For the best result, plant your spinach in spring and fall
For autumn spinach plants, your plant should be kept in a spot that gets lots of sun. Since the sun is less intense and the days are shorter, your plant should be able to absorb the rays as much as possible. For spring planting season, keep your plants in an area with some shade.
That said, if you're growing spinach in the summertime, you’ll want to select bolt-resistant varieties such as 'Space' or 'Tyee'.
Keep your pots in spots where they get partial shade from other structures or vegetables and they should be harvested before the day length gets to 14 hours. If you're in a tropical or subtropical climate, keep your containers somewhere with plenty of shade.
2. Drive your spinach seeds into the soil
Always drive your seeds at least a half-inch (1.3 cm) deep, and at least one inch (2.5 cm) deep during summer. After that, cover them lightly with soil.
Add about a half-inch (1.3 cm) of fine mulch when you’re done sowing your seeds to help with moisture retention. Then allow your seeds to grow in their permanent pot indoors for about 3 weeks before taking them outside.
On the other hand, you can also keep your pot outside after seeding, provided the ground has thawed. Although you’re not planting the plant in the ground, this is still a good sign that your spinach could also survive outside.
Spinach can generally endure temperatures as low as 15 °F (−9 °C) – and the best soil temperature for growing spinach is between 50 to 80 °F (10 to 27 °C).
3. Your seeds should be spaced apart for proper growth
Plant your spinach seeds around 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart to encourage proper growth. When they start to grow, trim them with scissors or garden shears so they're 3 to 4 inches apart.
You also want to keep the strongest seedlings and cut down the weaker sprouts.
4. Frequently water your spinach plants to prevent the soil from drying out
Spinach grows best with 1 to 1.5 inches of rainfall/week. Give them around 3 to 4 light soakings per week if you're not getting rain. Remember that pot-grown plants need lots of moisture. Always check to make sure that the soil hasn't dried out.
The soil should also be kept consistently damp, but never soggy as too much moisture can also affect growth negatively. Never allow your spinach plants to dry out during the summer because this will result in bolting and can harm growth as well.
Bolted spinach is still edible though, but it becomes tougher and has a more bitter taste.
5. Regularly fertilize your spinach plant's soil
The growth of your spinach plants will be encouraged by fertilizing them with constant-release of plant food or liquid fertilizer. You can use products with lots of nitrogen content.
Use slow-release fertilizer. Cottonseed meal and organic fish emulsion are two great alternatives.
6. Use a soil thermometer to monitor soil temperature
After putting your plants in their desired position, use your thermometer to monitor soil temperature. Spinach seeds germinate well in temperatures as low as 40 °F (4 °C).
However, the perfect range is between 50 to 80 °F (10 to 27 °C) – and the outright minimum is 20 °F (−7 °C) and 90 °F (32 °C) is the maximum.
It’s also worth noting that spinach is highly sensitive to heat. Whenever the soil temperatures are more than 75 °F (24 °C), take it into the shade for safety.
7. Overwinter your spinach
Carefully monitor the soil temperature. Spinach should be maintained properly over the winter period for an early crop the following year.
Don’t forget that nitrogen is limited when the soil temperature is low. Your spinach plants should be provided with water-soluble plant food immediately you notice new growth in the late winter.
How to Harvest Spinach
1. Remove your spinach leaves as early as possible if you want baby spinach
If you want baby spinach, start harvesting your spinach when your plants are about 2 inches (5.1 cm) long. You can easily pinch off the leaves from the stems with your fingernail. Use scissors or garden shears for tougher leaves.
It’s also important to always harvest full leaves with a little stem. This is because leaves without stems usually spoil very quickly.
2. Cut off your spinach leaves after 40 days if you want adult spinach
If you want to harvest adult spinach plants, make sure they have at least 6 leaves that are about 4 inches (10 cm) long. Cut the outside leaves using garden shears and make sure that the plant will continue producing in its pot.
When it has germinated a tall flower stalk, cut the main stem to harvest the plant. Bolting happens when the plants send up a seed stalk that flowers in the long run.
Additionally, flowering makes the leaves bitter and inedible. If mature plants start growing taller in a short time, it's an indication of bolting – in this case, pull up the entire plant and harvest its leaves.
3. Your harvested spinach should be stored in the refrigerator
If you won’t be using your spinach immediately, then your unwashed leaves should be stored in a plastic bag for about 5 to 7 days.
Your spinach can last for 10 to 12 months if you store it in your freezer at 0 °C (32 °F).
Spinach Diseases and Pests
Spinach leaf miners, aphids, caterpillars, and slugs can all give spinach gardeners lots of troubles. That’s not all, blight and downy mildew can equally affect the plants.
Growing spinach in pots in cool weather and taking adequate measures to keep the leaves dry can tremendously help to keep your greens healthy and out of harm.
You want to always check the underside of your leaves for aphids and leaf miners, and treat with a pesticide such as spinosad if the infestation gets out of hand.
In places where certain diseases or pests are especially prevalent, see if you can switch to varieties that are very resistant to the specific problem in your region. For example, tyee and Indian summer varieties are resistant to downy mildew.
How to Care for Spinach Plants
One of the best ways to properly care for spinach is to water it regularly, immediately soil appears to be dry, but ensure the pots have appropriate drainage, as soggy soil will result in pest and disease issues.
Additionally, spinach prefers soil that’s rich in nutrients, so you should either be prepared to feed often or use a slow-releasing fertilizer.
Spinach often grows well under healthy sunlight, but when temperatures are more than 80 degrees, tuck your spinach pots between some larger plants to give it partial shade.
That’s not all, longer days and heat can also kill spinach plants. Monitor the soil temperature during the summer period, and always keep your plants in the shade whenever necessary.
As I mentioned before, downy mildew and white rust are two dangerous diseases that can affect spinach plants, so you have to know how to control them.
Finally, spinach plant does not need any special care to blossom. Regular watering, proper fertilization, and nutrient-rich soil are all you need to ensure a nice harvest.