Popeye’s favourite iron supplement is not that easy to grow and tends to go to seed early. That’s why lovers of spinach prefer to grow spinach beet or ‘perpetual spinach’ as it is much more forgiving of soil and weather.
Soil and position
True spinach prefers dappled shade and is best grown between other taller plants. Spinach beet prefers a sunny spot. Both types do best on soil that has had manure or garden compost dug in for a previous crop. If your soil lacks organic matter, dig in some Levington Organic Blend Coil Conditioner and enrich with an organic fertiliser such as Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Plant Food.
True Spinach: ‘Sigmaleaf’ is one of the few varieties that will grow a summer crop and can also be sown again in autumn for a winter crop. For attractive red stems and veins for salad use try ‘Bordeaux’. ‘Fiorana’ is said to be less prone to running to seed.
Spinach Beet: Usually marked on seed packets as ‘Perpetual spinach’
Sow seeds very thinly in a shallow drill about 2cm (½in) deep and seeds spaced 10cm (4in) apart. Cover with soil and water well. When the seedlings are 20cm (8in) tall and have produced some useful leaves, pull out alternate plants for kitchen use.
Slugs and snails can be a problem at the seedling stage and protection with SlugClear control is advisable. Spinach beet plants that are overwintered will become a natural home for plenty of snails that will ruin new leaves before you can pick them.
Keep the plants well watered and during the summer add some Miracle-Gro All Purpose Soluble Plant Food to the watering can every fortnight. If you’re watering using a hosepipe, a Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed All Purpose Starter Kit is a convenient way to feed and water at the same time.
After plants have been thinned, pinch off outer leaves as they become large enough for the kitchen. Don’t yank the plant or you will disturb the roots and hamper future growth. Continuous picking is beneficial for producing fresh young leaves that are not bitter.