It's not only Popeye that likes spinach. It is now a popular salad leaf, as well as a cooked vegetable and can be grown all year round. Spinach beet is similar, and often crops better than spinach.
True spinach prefers dappled shade and can even be grown between other taller plants. Plants grown for winter crops will need a sunny position. Spinach beet prefers a sunny spot.
They need a fertile, deep soil with lots of added bulky organic matter to hold plenty of soil moisture, and help prevent the leaves tasting bitter. Spinach can run to seed prematurely (called bolting) if the soil dries out.
True Spinach Sigmaleaf is one of the 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, try Bordeaux. Fiorana is 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 13mm (½in) deep and space them 10cm (4in) apart. Cover with soil and water in well.
When the plants are 20cm (8in) tall and have produced some useful leaves, pull out alternate plants for kitchen use.
Keep the plants well watered at all times, especially in summer, and during the summer feed with a liquid plant food every fortnight.
Plants grown for winter cropping will need protection from frost and cold from October onwards. Cover the plants with cloches.
After plants have been thinned, carefully 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 and harvests.
Continuous picking is beneficial for producing fresh young leaves that are not bitter.