Growing English Spinach

Latest Update 16th July 2016.


English Spinach
  • English spinach is a cut and come again vegetable. Similar to silverbeet but much more compact and slower growing.
  • Despite its high nutrient value, like most organic gardeners in my climate zone, I prefer to grow silverbeet because its more productive, less likely to run to seed in warm weather and we prefer the taste.
  • Some gardeners may prefer to grow spinach because of its compactness and because the taste may be to their liking.
  • Both spinach and silverbeet have excellent nutritional value but spinach has an edge in some areas.
  • They both have a low calorific value which helps control weight.
  • Spinach has just about double the fibre content and is very high in Beta Carotene, which is a strong anti-oxidant and helps to protect against eye damage when exposed to the sun. It also protects against heart disease and cancer.
  • Spinach is significantly lower in sodium. Important in a low salt diet.
  • They are both excellent sources of folate, which experts say(1) helps prevent heart disease, cancer, neural tube defects in infants and degenerative nervous system diseases in adults such as Parkinson and Alzheimer. It also helps to strengthen the immune system.
  • Spinach and silver beet are both high in iron and many vegetarians depend on vegetables like these to maintain iron levels in their diet.
Details.
  • Binomial Name:                                            Spinacia oleracea.
  • Family:                                                          Amaranthaceae.
  • Variety:                                                         English Spinach.
  • Crop Rotation Group:                                     Light Feeders.
  • Garden Bed Type:                                          Garden Ecobed.
  • Plant Spacings (centres x rows):                     400 x 350mm. 
  • Recommended pH:                                        6.0 - 7.5.
  • Minimum sun per day:                                    4 hours.
  • Weeks to harvest:                                          18 weeks.
  • Good Companions:                                        Beans, beetroot, sage, onion, potato, nasturtium.
  • Climate:                                                        Warm temperate.
  • Geography:                                                   Southern hemisphere. 
Nutrition.
  • This food is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. 
  • It is a good source of thiamin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, and a very good source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate and manganese. 
  • More from nutrition data.self.com.
    Growing Conditions:
    • They grow best in full sun in cooler months, but need heavy shade in spring and summer to prevent bolting.
    • A 75% rated shadecloth should be used in hot weather.
    • Spinach prefers well structured, firm, moist soil containing plenty of organic material.
    Soil Preparation. 
    • In Summer, clear space for spinach and apply a 60mm layer of thermal compost and a cover of fresh straw mulch.
    • Leave the bed for 4 weeks to build up worm and microbial activity before planting a crop.
    Growing Instructions.
    • In February sow a few spinach seeds in Jiffy pots filled with good quality organic propagating mix.  Sow them about 10mm deep.  Bury the jiffy pots in a propagator's compost layer up to their rims.
    • When they are in fourth leaf pinch off the weakest seedlings at ground level leaving only one seedling in each pot.
    • Clear spaces in the mulch, and when the seedlings are about 100mm tall plant them, still in their jiffy pots, in the prepared bed.
    • Water them well with dilute seaweed extract (suppliers dilution rate), and return the mulch so the soil is covered..  
    • Apply a foliar spray of aerated compost tea every 4 weeks when all the other edible plants are sprayed.
    Repeat Sowings.
    • You can sow spinach any time from February to April (inclusive).
    Harvesting and Storage.
    • English Spinach can be harvested continuously from the end of July, a few leaves at a time.
    • You can store any surplus in your freezer.
    • Simply wash dry, roughly chop the leaves, and pack them in large plastic zip bags in the freezer.
    Organic Pest Control.
    • Slugs and snails.
      • Spinach should be protected against slugs and snails using self adhesive copper tape bonded around the base of your Ecobeds.
      • If these molluscs get into your Ecobed as eggs laid in your compost, kill them with organically acceptable iron based snail pellets as soon as you discover them.  You should only need to use a small number of pellets.
    • Cabbage white butterfly caterpillars.
      • The best deterrent for caterpillars is exclusion netting. 
      • If the butterfies get past your defences, spray the crop thoroughly with Bacillus thuringiensis (Dipel in Australia)  This natural soil dwelling bacterium once ingested by the caterpillars produces toxins which paralyses the caterpillar's digestive system causing it to stop feeding.  It dies within a few days.
    • Greenhouse whitefly.
      • Aerated compost tea strengthens the plants foliage against whitefly damage.  
      • Exclusion netting is effective against whitefly but they are very small and will occasionally breach your defences, so you will need to check your crop regularly. 
      • Control any infestations by spraying your crop thoroughly with organic horticultural oil (Eco-oil in Australia).
      • Spray again in a few days to ensure second generation whitefly do not survive.
    • Aphids (greenfly).
      • Use the same method as described above for whitefly.
    • Root knot nematodes.
      • 4 year crop rotation plan is the best cure for root knot nematode.  They do not prosper when their host plant is removed to another bed, and after 4 years, their effectiveness as a plant pathogen is substantially reduced.
    • General:
      • Regular applications of aerated compost tea boost the natural defences of plants by colonising the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes.  They defend the plant against airborne pests and diseases.
      • Similarly, proper soil preparation including regular applications of home made compost boosts the community of beneficial microbes, which defend the plants roots against plant pathogens.
      • Exclusion netting stops birds digging up worms in your Ecobed.
     Footnote.
    1.  Perth Diet Clinic.