Spinach - Our tasty garden favorite!

spinachSpinach leaves are terrific in salads, If they're allowed to grow larger, they're delicious lightly cooked. Spinach suffers in summer and is not as good as chard for a year-round crop. If you give the plant the right conditions, choose the right varieties for your growing region, and make successive sowings, you can have fresh leaves year round.

Types of Spinach
Smooth-leaf spinach has light to dark green leaves that produces are roughly thicker, oblong rounder in leaves shape and Savoyed-leaf the leaf texture ranges from slightly creased to deeply crinkled. Some varieties that are slightly Ciinkled are known as semisavoyed. You can also find varieties with attractive, red leaf veins and stems, though these may be quicker to bolt than solid green spinaches. The smooth-leaf varieties are easy to clean, while the savoyed types have a crisper, crunchy texture. 

Where to Grow
Some gardeners think that spinach is a difficult, refusing to perform if conditions aren't just right. This is only partly correct. Breeders have worked for years to hybridize varieties that are slow to bolt in hot weather and that are resistant to disease Still, it’s true that spinach does need plenty of moisture at the roots and lots of nutrients, so apply a general fertilizer and do not attempt to grow it in dry soil with low fertility. Add plenty of well-rotted manure or compost to the soil before sowing. Providing a little shade in summer will help, as this will keep the ground cool and moist Also to consider intercropping with taller vegetables that will cast a dappled shade over the spinach during the midday heat. Spinach suffers from few soilborne problems and can be grown anywhere in your crop rotation. However, downy mildew can be troublesome: in warm, humid weather Avoid congested plants and use resistant varieties where possible.

Sowing and planting
lf you like spinach, be generous with your sowing so that you can gather great handfuls Sow the seed directly where it is to grow in drills about 1/2in. deep in rows 12in. apart. Because spinach will not easily germinate in hot weather, and tends to bolt if sown too early, make sowings from mid-spring to early summer for summer leaves, and then in fall for a supply of leaves into the winter. Despite this, it is possible, if you are determined, to get leaves year-round if you give plants the right conditions and choose suitable varieties. Make successive sowings of small amounts of seed every few weeks for a continuous supply of fresh leaves.

To grow large plants, sow small clumps of a few seeds at leat 6 inches apart. Thin to one seedling in each group once all have germinated. To grow small salad leaves, make a wide drill and scatter the seed thinly across it. You should not need to thin the seedlings.

Caring for your Spinach crop
Keep well watered at all times to stop the plants from bolting to seed at the expense of the leaves. Once a plant has bolted, there's not much you can do except pull it up and put in in the compost.

Remove weeds regularly, and apply a multch to lock moisture in the ground. If the vigor of the plants seems to be failing, then apply a nitrogen rich fertilizer like Grower's Secret Nitrogen.

Harvest Time!
Pick individual leaves as required, or cut the whole plant 2 inches above ground level and leave it to resprout from the base.

Storage & Cooking tips
Wash spinach leaves well to remove grit and any insects, which may like to hide in savoyed-leafe types. The soft-textured leaves of smooth-leaf spinach are particularly good raw; contbine them wiht green and red lettuce to add extra texture to salads.

Whatever size leaves you harvest, put them straight into a plastic bag to keep them fresh and succulent. Store in the fridge as soon as possible until you need them. Spinach canbe successfully frozen either cooked or raw.

Leaves can be steamed before being eaten or stir-fired. Because spinach has such a high water content, you don't need to add water to sauté or stir-fry them. If you enjoy cooked spinach, remember that the leaves collapse down to almost nothing once heated, so be generous with your sowing so that you can gather great handfuls when the time comes for the steamer or wok. For every pound of raw leaves, you can expect to get a cup of cooked spinach. 

Apart from the usual preventative measures against slugs and snails, which will devour emerging seedlings, other chewing insects such as earwigs, flea beetles, and caterpillars can attack spinach, along with aphids and leaf miners. Spinach is also vulnerable to downy mildew. Either give extra space to your crops to improve ventilation or grow a resistant variety. 




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