Before sowing, ensure good growth by digging in up to two bucketfuls per square metre (square yard) of well-rotted organic matter such as garden compost, and raking in 150g per square metre (5oz per square yard) of general fertiliser. Sow seeds 2.5cm (1in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart, or in a large container. Sow seeds of summer cultivars every few weeks from February (under fleece or cloches), or outdoors from mid-March to the end of May. Sow winter cultivars in August and again in September.
Thin seedlings to 7.5cm (3in) apart when large enough to handle. A few weeks later harvest every alternative plant for use in the kitchen.
Keep well watered during dry periods in summer.
Winter cultivars will need protection from October onwards - unless you live in a mild area. Cover with cloches or protect the crown with straw or similar material and cover with fleece.
Summer cultivars: pick between late May and the end of October.
Winter cultivars: pick between October and April.
Harvest the leaves continually once they're large enough to pick. To prevent the leaves tasting bitter make sure the soil is rich and contains plenty of organic matter.
‘Atlanta’ AGM: Hardy, for winter use.
‘Monnopa’ AGM: Autumn or summer, slow to bolt, thick leaves.
‘Palco’ AGM: Slow to bolt and mildew resistant.
Birds: A potential crop can be ruined by birds grazing on spinach seedlings.
Remedy: Prevent birds from pecking up seeds and seedlings by covering beds with fine gauge netting or better, horticultural fleece, until the crop is established.
Bolting: Crops start to flower and produce seeds prematurely, making the leaves unusable. This is most often caused by dry soil or hot weather.
Remedy: Ensure the soil or compost in pots is kept moist, especially during hot, dry spells. Using a temporary shade screen or sheets of shading material will help during very sunny weather.
More information on bolting
Spinach downy mildew: Spinach downy mildew attacks only spinach and is worst in mild, humid weather. Well grown plants in gardens are not usually badly affected except in wet weather. The felty mildew makes the leaves unappetising.
Remedy: You can help to prevent this disease by making sure there is plenty of space around plants to improve air circulation, watering the soil at the base of the plants, and by choosing mildew resistant varieties.
More information on downy mildews
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