Growing Spinach in Flower Beds and Containers
If you're a gardener with limited space to do your "thing,"
you may want to consider planting your vegetables in flower beds
around your home this fall. A number of the more productive and
popular fall vegetables will do extremely well when planted in
Leaf lettuce, one of the more popular and attractive fall vegetables,
makes an ideal border plant and will grow in many areas around
the home that receives only partial sunlight. Even though leaf
lettuce can be successfully grown in flower beds, the experience
of eating the quinine?bitter foliage is not a happy experience
for most gardeners—pill bugs won't even eat it. Unless lettuce
is grown in a stress?free environment, i.e., plenty of fertilizer,
uniform moisture and moderate temperatures, the leaves will be
Texas gardeners can produce a leafy salad crop that is more
nutritious than lettuce and grows here optimally. The best of
the salad crops is spinach. Nutritionally speaking, spinach is
a super?champ of the vegetable garden—much better than lettuce.
The real bonus is that spinach grows just as well in a container
or planter box as it does in a garden.
Young spinach seedlings are sensitive to hard freeze (below
20 degrees F.) damage, so it's important to plant spinach seed
at least 5 to 7 weeks before the anticipated first hard freeze.
A common mistake in planting spinach is to plant the seed too
deep. For instance, the package instruction may suggest that it
be planted 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Then, when the seed does not
come up, you blame the seed company for bad seed that actually
was good. The best technique for planting spinach seed is to simply
sprinkle them on the soil and lightly scratch them into the surface
with a rake. The spinach will come up within a week if kept moist.
They will then need to be thinned. This is difficult for most
gardeners to do but it is absolutely necessary. Tightly spaced
plants don't produce good quality spinach and don't produce as
much as thinned plants. Spinach seedlings are also easy to transplant,
so if you want, you can do some of your thinning by spreading
the seedlings around. Spinach plants should be 4 to 6 inches apart.
Transplants of spinach are much easier to grow. Spinach transplants
should be planted in rows on top of raised planting beds. Planting
in rows is preferable since weeds that emerge near the spinach
plants can be more easily removed. Because most people will want
a continuous supply of garden?fresh spinach salad, many transplants
will be required. To save some money on the purchase of transplants,
shop around for a cooperative nurseryman who will sell transplants
cheaper if you buy in quantity or by the flat (96 transplants).
Approximately 6 to 8 weeks after planting, depending upon the
weather, it's harvest time. You'll note that as the weather cools
down your spinach will take a little longer to fully mature and
will grow more upright. Generally, spinach that matures when temperatures
average between 50 to 60 degrees F. will be fuller?bodied with
thicker, more tender leaves.
Periodic harvesting can occur by removing the older, outer leaves
that stimulates the plants to initiate more leaves, and ensures
a continuous supply. A mass?harvest method that works quite well
is to harvest all spinach plant foliage above the crown with a
sharp knife, leaving the crown or growing point of the plant and
roots in place so that the same plant can produce a second crop.
A light application of fertilizer (19-5-9 slow-release) and watering
should follow this type of harvest to encourage new leaf growth.
Water and fertilizer are necessary during the growth of spinach
if you plan to have good quality produce. When the tiny plants
are about 6 inches, side dress with a slow-release formulation
fertilizer. It only takes about 1 tablespoon per 2 feet of row.
Lightly sprinkled the fertilizer around the plants, making sure
it doesn't touch the base of the stems, and then water it in.
Side dressing again several weeks later will result in beautiful,
high quality spinach.
To complete your salad, consider intercropping onions in your
flower beds. Onions and their close relatives—chives, leeks,
and garlic—will all do well in areas that receive limited
amounts of sunlight. Another crop that makes ideal border planting
is parsley, which can be harvest throughout the winter in most
areas of Texas.
Growing fall vegetables in flower beds and planter boxes requires
a little extra care over that which is given to the same vegetables
grown in a typical back yard garden. Water stress should be avoided,
especially immediately after planting. Adding small amounts of
fertilizer around the plants during the season will help insure
high yields of good quality, tasty fall vegetables.
It goes without saying that planting vegetables in flower beds
in no way protects them from the various types of garden pests.
Pillbugs (sowbugs) and snails should be eradicated, even if transplants
are used, by applying garden-approved baits at planting time and
for several weeks in 7 to 10 day intervals thereafter.
So, regardless of whether you have a flower bed or huge vegetable
garden, now is the time to insure a healthful harvest of sweet
salad greens. Plan spinach NOW!
For more information about spinach, see:
For recipes using spinach see:
Cream of Spinach Soup (for 150 people)
Sweet Spinach and Yam Pie