By Les Harrison, UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Director and Shelley Swenson, UF/IFAS Wakulla County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent
January is not typically considered a gardening month in Wakulla County, but there are some vegetables which flourish in the first months of 2013.
Spinach is a prime example of a popular cool season leafy vegetable which grows well in Florida’s Big Bend region. This native of western Asia handles the mild days and occasionally frosty nights with few problems.
Propagating this plant is relatively simple, inexpensive and will reward the grower with an ample supply of tasty and nutritious greens. No more than 60 days is required from planting to picking.
Insect problems are few this time of year, but will increase as the days lengthen and the temperatures rise.
Disease and molds can be a problem if the plants remain damp and cool for too long a period. There are treatments for these conditions, but many times the expense outweighs the benefits.
The variety being grown in the UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Demonstration Garden is Regiment (Bejo 2561) and is offered by Bejo Seed Company. It was planted in early November 2013.
Locally grown spinach can be used fresh in salads and in a variety of recipes. It is an exceptionally good source of vitamin A and iron.
Preserving excess production is possible through several basic methods. Blanching and freezing is possible and requires few specialized tools. Canning is another preservation method, but requires more tools and attention to detail.
To learn more about spinach production and preservation, contact your UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco/.
To get hands on gardening experience, sign up for the 2013 Master Gardener Class the UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office. Classes will begin in February.