Spinach is tasty, nutritious and easy to grow. You can even enjoy harvests all year round if you grow several different types. Winter cultivars need a sunny position, while summer varieties benefit from a little shade.
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Before sowing, enrich the soil by digging in up to two bucketfuls of garden compost per square metre (yard) and raking in a general fertiliser at a rate of 150g per square metre (5oz per square yard).
Sow outdoors, directly where they are to grow. Make a drill 2.5cm (1in) deep, then sprinkle the seeds thinly along it. If sowing more than one row, space them 30cm (1ft) apart.
You can also sow seeds thinly in large containers.
Sow summer cultivars every few weeks:
under fleece or cloches from February
unprotected from mid-March to the end of May
Sow hardy winter cultivars in August and again in September.
Thin out the seedlings to 7.5cm (3in) apart when large enough to handle. A few weeks later, harvest every alternate plant for use in the kitchen, giving the rest more room to grow.
Keep well watered during dry periods in summer.
Winter cultivars need protection from the cold from October onwards, except in mild areas of the UK. Cover with cloches or protect the crown with straw, or similar material, and cover with fleece.
Harvest the leaves continually once they’re large enough to pick:
Summer cultivars – pick from late May to end of October
Winter cultivars – pick from October to April
To prevent the leaves tasting bitter, make sure the soil is rich by digging in plenty of organic matter, such as garden compost, before sowing.
Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.
Protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting or fleece. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover plants with horticultural fleece or mesh.
Plants flower and set seed prematurely.
Unless growing for seed sow bolt-resistant varieties. Sow or plant at the correct time and keep the soil or compost moist.
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.
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.
Gregg Wallace, judge on TV’s Masterchef, thinks everyone should try his spinach and Roquefort tart.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.