In The Garden Now – Spinach
By Shelley Swenson, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, and Gohar Umar, Horticulture Specialist
Almost everyone has seen an old Popeye cartoon where the long suffering sailor gains super strength after consuming a can of spinach. Sure enough the benefits of spinach are enormous as it is loaded with important nutrients, but low on calories too.
There is minimal activity in local gardens during February, but spinach excels between the months of October and March. Modern science may even take this garden staple to new application which promote its reputation
Spinach being a leafy winter crop, leaves can extend about one to 12 inches long and one to 15 inches wide. It can be very challenging to grow in warmer winter, but typical cold and frosty nights of wintertime Wakulla County are an ideal environment.
Spinach is native to central and southwest Asia where it can grow up to three feet tall. In this rugged region which sometimes produces harsh weather, it figures prominently in many local dishes.
As the local temperature rise in spring, the spinach will start flowering. This activity will stop the leaf growth and end this annual plants useful life.
The best temperature is 70 degrees to germinate spinach seeds. It requires regular watering and keep the soil moist by mulching the beds after germination
The best time to sow spinach seed is six to seven weeks before frost. Prepare plant beds by loosening the top eight inches of soil and fertilize, only if necessary, with a high nitrogen fertilizer.
The seeds are planted about half an inch deep and two inches apart. Use eight inch row to row spacing for best results and be ready to thin after the germination.
There are only few insects, like leaf miners, which can cause damage during the cooler season. These only appear when the temperatures start rising.
Anthracnose can be a problem and occurs during excessively wet weather. Splashing water from sprinklers can add to the problem.
This disease looks like water soaked spots which grow and turn tan or brown. A copper based fungicide helps control this disease.