May Plant Feature: Growing Spinach In Australia
Spinach is a quick, easy, cool weather crop that is packed full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. May is the perfect time to start growing spinach for the cooler months if you haven't started growing some already!
There are lots of different varieties of spinach - we'll tell you all about them and how to grow healthy, thriving spinach in this article.
Health Benefits of Eating Spinach
This green, leafy vegetable is full of minerals, vitamins, pigments and phytonutrients including iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium, calcium and vitamins A, B and C.
The important nutrients in spinach can help many vital functions of the body by boosting eye health, regulating blood pressure, strengthening muscles, helping to prevent heart disease, protecting the skin and aiding the digestive system. Its high antioxidant content is great for brain function, reducing inflammation and even helping to fight cancer.
How To Grow Healthy, Abundant Spinach
Most spinach is a cool weather crop and will go to seed as soon as the weather warms up. In many parts of Australia, including here in WA, we have to make the most of our short period of cooler weather! There are some Summer spinach varieties suited to warmer climates outlined in our Variety Guide below.
Spinach likes rich soil. Prepare your soil with compost, well-rotted manure and any other inputs. Our nutrient-rich Bioactive Cocopeat potting mix is a great option, or use our Nutrarich mature compost to boost your soil if you don't have time to make your own.
Spinach does not like acidity - add lime, crushed egg shells or wood ash to raise the pH if you're worried. Our pH soil test kits can be used to check your soil if you're unsure.
Seed Sowing & Planting
Sow seeds March-May by sprinkling them over the soil, covering with a thin layer of compost or soil and watering well. Keep the soil damp but not wet until the seeds germinate, which may take more than 10 days.
Spinach can be sown directly into the garden and also grows well in in pots - self-watering Greensmart pots or ECOpots are good options. Sow seeds in seedling flats or propagation pots if you'd like to grow strong seedlings to plant out in a few weeks or use succession planting (stagger planting out each seedling) to extend your harvest.
Once the seedlings start to grow their true leaves, thin them to be around 15-20 cm apart and eat your thinnings!
Plant seedlings out April-June but take care if you are transplanting to not disturb the delicate roots. Biodegradable propagation pots or newspaper pots are great options to minimise disturbances to the seedlings if you're planning on planting them into a garden bed.
Plant in partial to full sun.
Mulch around your seedlings to help keep the soil moist and cool. Choose organic mulch like our Nutrarich straw mulch.
Baby Japanese spinach growing with a Waterpot Olla to maintain perfect soil moisture
Care & Watering
Spinach likes lots of water. Keep the soil moist - you may need to water daily even in Winter on days where there is no rain. When the weather starts warming up in Spring, water to keep the soil cool in the middle of the day. Our Greensmart pots and Waterpot Ollas are great tools for keeping soils at the perfect moisture level without constant monitoring or work.
Pick spinach leaves continually throughout the growing season - harvest as much as you need as this encourages new growth. Remove any sick or damaged leaves as soon as you see them.
Spinach Pests, Diseases and Nutrient Deficiencies
- Being grown in cool, moist conditions, spinach can be susceptible to fungal infections such as downy mildew (blue mould) and fusarium wilt. Space/thin your spinach plants out for good air circulation and remove any sick leaves as soon as you see them.
- Be vigilant for aphids. If aphids are found on your crop, hose them off to avoid viruses being spread to your spinach. Grow plenty of nectar-producing flowers to attract aphid predators including ladybirds, lacewings and hover-flies. If viral diseases are common in your garden, use exclusion netting to protect young spinach plants from aphids.
- Slow growth and yellowing leaves indicate malnutrition. Feed with a water-soluble nitrogen-rich organic fertiliser (like No Frills HydroFish) every 2 weeks for optimum growth.
- Keep slugs and snails at bay. Copper Slug Tape may be an effective deterrent if you are growing in pots or raised garden beds. Crushed eggshells sprinkled on the garden's surface can also make traversing the garden difficult for soft slugs and snails.
Spinach Companion Plants
Spinach grows well in the shade of other plants which can help keep them cool when the weather starts warming up.
Spinach plants grow well near celery, eggplant, strawberries and radish. They also like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, kale and kohlrabi.
English spinach growing with strawberries in a Greensmart pot
Spinach Variety Guide
|American Curled||Large, glossy, crumpled leaves with large yield.|
|Bloomsdale Long||Buttery, nutritious leaves. Good yield and slow to bolt. Heat tolerant - sow all year.|
|Bloomsdale Long Standing||Hardy spinach with broad, thick leaves that are lightly crumpled. Compact grower. Traditional spinach flavour. Suitable for baby spinach.|
|Ceylon Running||Summer spinach substitute. Vigorous climber - grow up a trellis.|
|English Spinach||Traditional spinach. Edible green oval leaves and stems eaten raw or cooked.|
|Japanese Spinach||Sweet variety of English spinach. Fast growing, more cold & heat tolerant than traditional spinach.|
Summer spinach substitute. Fast-growing Asian vine with deep red stems and spinach-tasting leaves. Will climb a trellis or become a ground cover. Ornamental as well as productive - eat leaves and young stems raw or cooked.
This variety is a warm weather spinach - plant in Spring. Perennial in tropical climates.
|Malabar syn. Ceylon||Summer spinach substitute. Grows rapidly in warm weather. Thick, nutritious leaves eaten raw or cooked.|
|Perpetual||A relative of chard with long-lasting, tasty, shiny green leaves. Slow to bolt. Tender with a taste similar to traditional English spinach.|
|Warrigal Greens||Summer spinach substitute. Leafy groundcover also known as Botany Bay Spinach. Succulent-like leaves with spinach flavour. Sow in Spring.|
|Winter Giant||One of the best winter varieties. Hardy, nutritious, heavy yielding spinach with extra large, glossy, dark green, lightly crumpled leaves. Tender and tasty, Suitable for baby spinach.|
|Italian Bledon Spinach (Chard)||This "spinach" is actually in the chard family. Sweet, lime-green leaves. Great silverbeet or lettuce substitute.|
|Egyptian Spinach (Mallow)||Summer spinach substitute - sow in Spring. High protein, bitter leaves. Young leaves and young seed pods are milder in taste and are eaten raw or lightly cooked with garlic and coriander.|
|Spinach Mustard (Tatsoi)||Dark green, spoon shaped leaves.|