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Anne K Moore
Photographs Anne K Moore

Spinach likes it cool. Plant it early for a spring crop or late for a winter crop. If planted after the soil heats up, the seeds might not germinate. For a fall or winter crop, you may have to sow it indoors during the heat of summer where you can regulate the soil temperature.

Bloomsdale Long-Standing spinach is a reliable old-fashioned spinach. It is slow to bolt (a seed stalk shoots up from the center of the plants, turning the leaves bitter.) Use it anywhere the weather jumps from cool to hot with little “spring” in between.

New Zealand spinach and Malabar spinach make good hot climate spinach substitutes. In the South, you can sow both directly into the soil after all danger of frost has passed. Despite their names, neither are spinach but they taste much the same. Both can be eaten raw or cooked slowly as you would other greens.

New Zealand spinach seed should be soaked for 24 hours. It actually is a cluster of seeds (like beet seed) and will come up thickly and need thinning once it establishes in the garden. You can also use New Zealand spinach in a flower border to do double duty as a green edging plant and a vegetable.

You should scarify Malabar spinach seed (scratch it with a file or knife). This helps to speed germination, although my preferred speedup is soaking it, too (wrap seeds in a wet paper towel and place in a plastic bag for a couple days or until the seeds swell.) Malabar spinach is an attractive vine with red stems and glossy green leaves, showy enough to run up a trellis amongst your ornamentals. It will shoot up as soon as the summer heats up.

Grow any of the spinaches or substitutes in well-draining soil. Keep the seedbed moist until the seeds sprout. Then water whenever the soil dries out about an inch deep. If the plants wilt during the heat of the day, check the soil with your finger before you add water. Over-watering can promote root rot and fungus infections.

Posted March 1, 2013

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