By Sarah Wilson published
It's one of the healthiest vegetables, and once you know how to grow spinach it will become indispensable in your grow-your-own patch.
Spinach is one of those easy crops that you can grow throughout the year (even in winter), and it thrives in even the toughest conditions, continually producing nutritious, tasty leaves all year round.
Did we mention the health benefits too? Spinach is particularly rich in iron and a good source of folic acid, particularly useful in winter when other leafy vegetables may be scarce. It works a treat in smoothies, salads, soups and stir-fries. And muffins too apparently.
It's a fuss-free little leaf so once it gets going there's no looking back. Something of an unsung hero, you'll soon find yourself with a bumper crop of leaves all year round. For young tender leaves for salads, grow your plants close together as a cut-and-come-again crop. Space more widely apart if you prefer to use the leaves for cooking rather than eating them raw.
There aren't a lot of varieties to choose from which makes things simple. Choose from early, summer, late season or perpetual varieties. Whichever one you decide on, remember two things: spinach needs rich soil and lots of water.
Keep reading to find out more about how to grow your own spinach. And if you want to grow other veg in your plot this year too, why not take a look at our guide on how to grow garlic?
Is it easy to learn how to grow spinach?
If you give your spinach the right conditions and choose the right varieties for the time of year, trust us - it's a cinch. Make successional sowings and you'll have fresh leaves all-year round too. No more supermarket bagged varieties.
Spinach can be a bit of a prima donna though if conditions aren't quite right. For best results when it comes to how to grow spinach, just remember to feed and water it regularly and all will be well.
One thing to bear in mind is that slugs and snails will head straight to your spinach seedlings, and birds are also likely to have a go. If this looks likely try covering your spinach with netting, and make sure you check out our guide on how to get rid of slugs.
Spinach can also be vulnerable to downy mildew, so make sure you leave enough space between your crops to let air circulate.
What is the best way to grow spinach?
It's fairly easy to learn how to grow spinach, as long as you remember to feed the soil. You will get stronger growth and better-quality leaves if you add lots of nutrients to it. You also need to keep your spinach patch well-watered as it's a thirsty beast. The only time of year when spinach will not grow well is in the heat of midsummer, when they are likely to bolt.
Perpetual spinach is the easiest variety to grow and the most heat-tolerant, but it doesn’t have the best flavor. Ordinary spinach is more likely to suffer in the heat, but its superior flavor and texture make it a must-have crop.
Perpetual spinach tolerates a little shade, particularly in summer, and grows well in moist soil. It puts up with drier conditions than ordinary spinach and thrives in winter.
Spinach likes growing in pots too so make it part of your container gardening ideas and put a couple of pots by the kitchen door for easy access.
How to sow spinach seeds outdoors
One of the easiest ways for how to grow spinach is to sow spinach seeds outdoors, directly where you want them to grow. This could be in your raised garden bed ideas, or if you're growing vegetables in pots then directly in a container on your patio.
- First add richness to the soil by digging in some well rotted garden compost then adding a general fertilizer. This also helps to take away any bitter taste from the leaves. You can find tips on how to compost in our guide.
- Next make a drill 3cm deep, and sprinkle the seeds thinly along it. If sowing more than one row, leave a space of 30cm between them.
- Alternatively sow seeds thinly in a large container for a cut and come again crop.
- Use a cloche to protect them early on in the season but they can be grown unprotected from mid-March onwards.
- Repeat sowing for summer varieties every two weeks to give you a constant supply.
- Hardy winter varieties should be sown in August and September.
Thinning out spinach seedlings
When your spinach seedlings look sturdy enough to handle, thin them so they're around 7-8cm apart.
A few weeks later, harvest every other plant in the row for use in the kitchen (you can add them to the salad bowl), giving the rest more space to bush up.
Keep an eye on your seedlings and make sure they are thoroughly watered during any dry spells.
Remember that if you're considering how to grow spinach in the cooler months, winter varieties will need protection from the middle of autumn onwards, unless you're lucky enough to live in a mild climate. Cover your seedlings with cloches or protect plants from frost with horticultural fleece.
How long does spinach take to grow?
You should be able to start picking spinach leaves a couple of months after sowing the seeds.
Whatever size of leaves you harvest, put them straight into a plastic bag to keep them fresh. Ideally pick them to eat as soon as possible or otherwise store them in the fridge until you need them.
How to harvest spinach
One of the best things about how to grow spinach is that you don't have to wait too long to harvest the leaves. You should aim to harvest spinach leaves regularly as soon as they’re large enough to pick, which is generally around eight weeks after sowing.
If you're growing summer varieties they can be picked from late May right through to the end of October.
Winter varieties should be ready for picking from October and you can continue right through to April. For other crops you can grow over winter, check our guides on growing lettuce in winter and how to grow winter brassicas.
You can harvest the smaller spinach leaves with a pair of scissors. Start with the outer leaves first (as these are the more mature ones) and work your way towards the middle of the plant as and when you need more for your cooking.
Will spinach grow back after cutting?
One of the best things about giving how to grow spinach a go is that more you pick the leaves the more they grow. Spinach bounces right back.
On large plants you can either cut the whole plant, or take a few leaves at a time. If you harvest the whole plant, take care not to cut too low down as you want the leaves to shoot up again, which it will do several times.
Smaller leaves can be harvested on a cut and come again basis. These tender baby leaves can be added to the salad bowl.
If you're cooking with spinach leaves they can be boiled or steamed. Spinach is best eaten when picked young and as long as the leaves are picked regularly they will remain tender and mild in flavor.
When cooking your home-grown spinach, the water left on the leaves after washing them is a sufficient amount for it to be cooked in.
Best spinach varieties to try
Now you know how to grow spinach, here's a choice of varieties to try out:
1. 'Red veined'
A decorative spinach that looks pretty in the veg patch or planted up in pots, as well as lovely on the plate. A great choice for growing as a baby salad leaf, as it can be picked a month after sowing. The leaf veining becomes more pronounced as the leaves get bigger.
Needs watering regularly during hot spells to prevent bolting. Optimum sowing time is from May to June and again from August to September.
2. 'Giant Winter'
As the name suggests, this is a hardy winter variety and the leaves are good for steaming. This one will shrug off anything the weather throws at it (including snow!) to keep you supplied right through the coldest months of the year.
Protect with a cloche in very bad weather to prevent leaves getting damaged by winter gales. Sow from June to September to harvest leaves from October to January.
A prolific summer spinach that produces generous harvests of deep green crinkled leaves with a nice savoury flavour.
The plants last through summer particularly well without bolting, even in dryer conditions, and two or three sowings throughout the season will give you rich pickings right into autumn.
Sow successively from March to July for harvesting from May through to September.
The thick-textured, crinkled, glossy, dark green leaves give you a continuous yield as this is a classic variety of perpetual spinach.
It's a hardy variety that's tolerant of winter freezes and the leaves grow very quickly. For a first crop, sow seeds in spring as soon as the ground can be worked and is frost free. Plant again in late summer.
If you live in an area that has mild winters, try autumn plantings to yield in early spring.
Where to buy spinach seeds
You can buy spinach seeds from a wide range of suppliers. Use our quicklinks below to head straight to leading suppliers where you can take your pick of the best that's on offer.
Where to buy spinach seeds in the UK
- Shop spinach seeds at Amazon
- Shop spinach seeds at Crocus
- Shop spinach seeds at Dobies
- Shop spinach seeds at Sarah Raven
- Shop spinach seeds at Suttons
- Shop spinach seeds at Thompson & Morgan
- Shop spinach seeds at Waitrose Garden
- Shop spinach seeds at You Garden
Where to buy spinach seeds in the US
Sarah Wilson has been a lifestyle journalist for many years, writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, as well as Country Homes & Interiors and Modern Gardens magazines.
Her own (small urban) garden is a work in progress - so many ideas, not enough space to cram them in. Hero plants include her ever growing collection of ornamental grasses, black bamboo and ferns, and the perennials like salvias and penstemons that come back reliably year after year. All very restrained though when in fact she'd love to pack her garden with gaudy dahlias and giant cannas, so these are top of her wish list for what to grow next.
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