Tuesday, 16 December 2014

How to Grow Best Flavors & Sweet Carrots

If you pull up a Queen Anne’s lace plant growing along the side of the road, you’ll find that its root is a little white carrot. This wild carrot is the species from which our modern hybrid carrots were developed. Indians ate the wild ones, and so can you. But for most gardeners and cooks carrots have come a long way. The main goal in breeding has been to develop better flavor and sweetness by reducing the size of the pale core in the middle, where less sugar and vitamins are found. As a result the best ones are a good rich orange red, crunchy and sweet.
Carrots are now come in all shapes and sizes; the traditional long, tapered ones; short stubby ones; tiny fingerlike ones; even little round ones. Such variety does more than just make life interesting. Carrots of different lengths are suited to different soils and different lengths of seasons.
Carrots do not grow well in very hot weather. Coolness keeps them from turning woody and seems to bring out their color and flavor, too. So in warm areas you must grow them during fall, winter and spring. In the north you can plant them in early spring, then start more every few weeks until August 1 or so, so that there’re carrots in the ground even in early winter. They’re one of the few vegetables that you can actually leave growing straight through the hard freezes of winter, to pick them in early spring. To a northern gardener in mud season these seem like a real prize.
Select a Site
The best site would be sunny and well drained. But carrots will grow in partial shade. I have grown carrots in raised beds with great success it is the best way to maintain the fluffy soil they like. But I find that I have to be extremely vigilant with my hose, since carrots need consistent moisture, and these beds dry out quickly.
Carrots like a deep loose sandy loam the classic beautiful soil. But there’s some latitude here. If your soil is a little heavy, even after adding organic matter, you can still grow the shorter carrots usually an early crop. If your good topsoil is shallow these shorter ones are also the right choice. For late season crops you can get by with poorer soil, and a little less moisture and coolness, by growing the longer carrots that root well below the hot, dry soil surface. But for the carrots to get down that far with any kind of grace, the soil has to be light and airy to the full depth of the carrot root. If the soil is not free of obstacles stones, roots, clay lumps, old horse shoes, etc., the carrot will bend, fork, twist or even stop cold. The closer to the surface, the more the soil should be pulverized, even sifted.
The second most important soil factor is moisture. Digging in organic matter such as compost or manure will help the soil to stay moist. Well-rotted manure will improve the texture and will add nutrients too, but if you use manure, dig it in at least six months before you plant the seeds. (Fresh manure, or even rotted manure if recently applied, can cause carrots to fork and send out little side roots). Mulching will also help to keep the water content steady. Since carrots are a root crop, the soil should be relatively low in nuitrogen, higher in phosphorus and potassium. Potassium is especially important to carrot health, and adding wood ashes is a good way to provide it (but screen out chunky cinders that might impede root growth. The idea pH is around 6.5
Carrot seeds are sown directly into the garden. The first ones can go in about three or four weeks before the last expected frost. I prefer single rows because they’re much easier to mulch, for maintaining the moist soil surface carrots need. I wet the seed bed or furrow very thoroughly before I plant, to speed up germination. I try to space the seeds about an inch apart, although this is virtually impossible to do because they are so tiny. Some people say that mixing them with sand or coffee grounds makes distributing them evenly easier. You can also buy pelleted seeds of some varieties; these are easier to plant. I cover the seeds with a half inch of loose, pulverized soil made airy with organic matter a whole inch for summer plantings; the seedlings won’t come up through a hard crust. You can cover them with sifted compost, a nonsoil medium such as vermiculite, or whatever mixture suits you, as long as it is very light.
When the seeds are in, I water the bed with a fine spray and lay a layer of salt hay over it to shade it and keep it moist. Some gardeners even lay wet burlap over the seeds, especially if they plant to be away for a few days and won’t be able to water. The burlap must be removed as soon as the seeds have germinated. Others sprout the seeds between wet paper towels in the refrigerator. Another trick is to sow them together with a fast growing radish variety. The radish seedlings will emerge first and shade the slow, spindly carrot seedlings. They’ll also mark the rows and help break the soil crust, if any. The radishes will be harvested long before the carrots produce their major root growth. But like it or not, carrot seeds just take a long time to germinate, and the best thing to do is keep them moist without washing them away and be patient.
It is best to thin carrots several times, first when they are one to two inches high, then later on whenever they are starting to look crowded. In the first thinning eliminate any seedlings that are closer than half an inch to another seedling. Snipping them off with scissors is one way to do it without damaging the seedlings still growing. The second thinning is more fun, because you are pulling up tiny carrots to toss in salads. When you are finished thinning each plant should have a space to grow in that is at least the size of a mature carrot, plus a bit more.
So far I have probably made carrot culture sound like pretty picky work. It is at first but once the carrots are off to a start they take care of themselves quite well. The only supervision they might need is a soaking in dry weather loose mulch around the plants, and perhaps a liquid fertilizer then they is about six inches tall. The last succession crop really repays you for your trouble. Mulch it heavily and leave it in the ground for a spring harvest. If you see flowers resembling Queen Anne’s lace in your carrot patch, it means that the carrots have bolted (produced flowers in order to make seeds). This has never happened to me, but if it happens to you plant bolt-resistant varieties and stick to cool weather plantings. 
Pests and Diseases
Carrot problems are usually minimal. Carrot diseases are not common, but most, including “carrot yellows” can be avoided by crop rotation. Rotating the crop will also deter the one serious pest, the carrot rust fly. And the will not bother your late plantings. Flea beetles may bother your late ones, but not the early ones.
Give carrots a good twist when you pull them up so that the leaves do not break off in your hand, but once they are up, cut off the leaves right away. Carrot tops may look pretty on carrots, but they keep growing and draw moisture and nourishment out of the roots, leaving them limp, wrinkled and tasteless.
Stored in boxes in mulched pits or trenches outdoors, in moist sand in garbage cans in the cellar, or just in the refrigerator, carrots keep a long time. Freeze the small, tenderest ones, but use the heavy duty “keepers” in soups and stews or simmered in butter and a little brown sugar until all the cooking liquid has evaporated. Good short, early varieties are “Danvers Half-long” the Chantenay varieties such as “Red Cored Chantenay” and the sweet Nantes types such as “Scarlet Nantes”. Good long carrots are “imperator” a great keeper “Gold Pak” “Orlando Gold” which resists bolting and cracking and A Plus, which is especially nutritious. Ball shaped carrots include “Kundulus” and the old fashioned “Oxheart”. Good midgets are the three inch “Little Finger” lady Finger and short in Sweet. 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Apricots: The World's Healthiest Fruit

Apricots are native to the mountains of Asia and need freezing weather during their dormant period. Though quite cold hardy, they are happiest in long-summer areas in Zones 6 – 8, especially the west coast. Since they bloom very early in spring, they don’t thrive in areas such as New England where spring weather is erratic and can kill the tender flower buds, thus keeping the trees from fruiting. The tangy fruits are very rich in vitamins and are grown on 20 foot trees that are very long-lived in favorable climates. Apricots are beautifully orange colored fruits with full of beta-carotene & fiber that are one of the first signs of summer. However dried and canned apricots are available throughout the year. Fresh apricots with a plenteous supply of vitamin C and are in season in North America from May till August. Therefore any fresh fruit you see during the winter months have been imported from either South America or New Zealand. Relatives to peaches, apricots are small, golden orange fruits, with velvety skin and flesh, not too juicy but certainly smooth and sweet. Nearly describe their flavor as almost musky, with a faint tartness that lies somewhere between a peach and a plum.

Select a Site

Though southern slopes are good in mild climates, avoid them in areas where early bloom can be frost nipped, choosing a northern exposure so bloom will be delayed. Don’t plant apricots near tomatoes or any other members of the Solanaceae or near melons, raspberries or strawberries, all of which can transmit disease. It is even best to avoid places where these plants have grown within five years. Plant the trees a good 25 to 30 feet apart unless they’re dwarfs. The branches spread wider than the tree is tall. 


Soil should be deep, with no interference from subsurface rock. Fertile, well-drained loam is ideal; clay soils are all right if not too heavy; sandy soils, because they warm quickly in spring, can cause too early bloom.


Buy one-year old trees and plant in early spring while dormant (fall in mild climates). Cut the top back to 2 to 2 ½ feet.


Since apricots are deep-rooted they need to be thoroughly watered, especially when the fruiting buds are developing. Don’t over feed them, though, and avoid high nitrogen fertilizers that can produce soft fruit with pit burn. Too much growth too fast can also produce weak branches. Thinning helps produce larger fruit, reduces strain on the branches and keeps the fruits free of disease. Often late frosts will drop some fruit on its own later; but if it doesn’t thin fruits to about three inches apart when they’re thumb sized. Prune apricots as you would apple trees, heading back the top when it reaches the desired height and keeping it open enough to let in sun to ripen the fruit. Fruiting spurs will stop producing after a few years and should be pruned out to favor new growth.

Pests and Diseases

Several diseases can plague apricots. Brown-rot fungus covers the flowers with gray spores; if you can catch it at this stage and prune out affected areas it may not injure the fruit later. Bacterial canker (black spots on fruit, purplish spots on leaves) should also be pruned out. Black heart, a verticillium fungus, may appear as wilting leaves in early summer and as black streaks within the wood. Avoid growing apricots with the plans mentioned above. Pit burn makes the flesh near the pits turn mushy. Keep the roots cool with mulch in hot weather, and avoid overfeeding. Wounding trunks can cause crown gall, so protect them.

Cankerworms that attack the trees may be deterred by a sticky material wrapped around the trunk (commercially available). Fight borers by promptly removing all dead or diseased wood, including any lying on the ground. Some pests that bother plums and peaches, such as plum curculio and peach-tree borer, also affect apricots.


You can expect to start harvesting some fruits three or four years after planting. A healthy mature tree can produce as much as 250 pounds of apricots. Pick when fruit is ripe and can be picked easily but before it loses its firmness.


Most apricot trees are self-pollinating, so the time of bearing is less important in selecting varieties than is the area in which you live. The late-bearing “Moorpark” and the early “Goldcot” are the most popular varieties in prime Apricot County. Other good varieties include “Hungarian Rose” “Early Golden” and “Perfection” (the last is not self-fertile). In colder climates you’ll do better with “Moongold” “Alfred” “Chinese” “Sungold” and a series bred for both hardiness and disease-resistance that includes “Harcot” “Harglow” and “Hargrand”. There’re also varieties such as “Erligold” developed for low-chill areas like southern California.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Grapes Are Immensely Vigorous & Sturdy Which Give Them Basic Care & Outlive You.

Grape growing isn’t what it used to be. No more do voluptuous bacchantes run madly through the forests of Greece to celebrate the fruits of the vine. No more do the village lads and maidens of the French countryside roll up their pantaloons and hitch up their petticoats to tromp on the newly picked grapes. The tales told of modern grape culture have to do with calculating how many buds to leave on the vines and interpreting pruning diagrams complex enough to drive anyone back to peas and petunias.

Even in our scientific age, however, grape growing is not that difficult especially if you choose the right kind of grapes for your region. And to my eye grapes are among the most beautiful of plants; the vines, the broad leaves, the tendrils, the ripe bunches of fruit. Furthermore, your grape harvest can give you so much jams and jellies, juice grapes for fresh eating, and even wine if you are adventurous. Grapes grow on immensely vigorous and sturdy plants which, if you plant them correctly and give them good basic care, will probably outlive you.
The most famous wine regions of the world are warm, sunny places with long growing seasons, but there are grapes native to cold, short season areas as well. After all, when leif Eriksson landed in North America, he named the new continent “Vineland” because of the abundance of wild grapes he found growing there. These were native species such as fox grapes (Vitis Labrusca), gapes whose skins slipped off the flesh easily, quite different from the grapes brought over in colonial times, hybrids, of the European species V. Vinifera. The European imports failed to thrive in the New World but were eventually crossed with American grapes to produce the fine hybrids such as “Concord” that we grow today. In return, American grapes have been bred with those growing in Europe to impart resistance to grape phylloxera, so most grapes now grown have some parentage on both sides of the Atlantic. The predominantly American types are the best for cooler climates, but the European types are grown very successfully in California. Gardeners in the southeastern and Gulf States can grow hybrids of the native muscadine grapes (v.rotundifolia), which are tasty and grow on extremely vigorous, heavy-bearing vines. Well, most grapes are self-pollinating. For those that are not, you must plant a suitable variety should advise you here. Since grapes are pollinated by wind, not by bees, the two varieties should be no farther than 50 feet apart.
Select a Site

Where you grow your grapes depends partly on what you are growing them for. Two vigorous vines are perhaps ample for the table grape consumption of most households, since each can produce up to 15 pounds of grapes. Vines grown for table grapes can be made part of your landscaping plan. They might be trained against an existing wooden fence, along a garage wall or even across the top half of a window so that the grapes dangle down and are visible from indoors. You might also grow a vine or two on a sturdy arbor over a terrace or grassy area, forming a canopy that you can sit under in summertime when it’s hot, watching the clusters of grapes ripen as summer progresses. You should be aware, though, that grapes grown on an overhead arbor are difficult to take care of, and if your goal is strictly grape production, not decoration, you had best use a trellising system closer to the ground. If you are making a lot of juice or if you just want to try a lot of different varieties, you’ll also want more vines than you can put on an arbor unless it is an extended pergola, and you’ll probably want to create a small vineyard. This means finding a cleared area with plenty of space.

Grapes need full sun to ripen, so the best spot for them is a gentle slope that faces south, southeast or southwest,. Sometimes grapes are planted on a north slope so as to delay spring growth and thus forestall damage from late frosts. The site should also have good air circulation. Air circulation is very important for grapes and can often mean the difference between a disease ridden and a healthy crop. You should also protect vines from strong, cold winds. Having the rows run in the direction of the prevailing winds will cut down on their impact and will allow the winds to blow down between the rows to circulate the air freely.

Select a Soil

In several parts of the world grapes can be seen growing in perfectly dreadful soil, dry and gravelly. Their long, deep roots do wallow grapes to adapt relatively well to conditions such as these, but for your own grapes you’ll probably want to do a bit better. A soil on the sandy side that warms up well in spring is preferable it will also give grapes the good drainage that they require. But it must be deep, and if possible, well supplied with organic matter to retain the moisture the vines need when they are getting established. In general grapes like a fertile soil, but too much richness can weaken the vines and make them more vulnerable to disease. The ideal pH is 6.0 to 6.5 but 5.5 to 8.0 is also acceptable. The soil must be well prepared, preferably starting in the fall before spring planting. Since grapes are permanent crop, be sure to remove rocks and any perennial weeds that will compete with the vines and be difficult to remove after the grapes start growing. And prepare the soil with organic matter dug in throughout the planting area, not just in the spots where individual vines will be planted. The roots will soon spread out in a radius of at least eight feet from each plant.

How to Planting Grapes

Buy first-grade, one year old stock (older plants will not produce grapes and faster) and plant them while they’re fully dormant in early spring, as soon as the ground is workable. Fall planting is done only in areas where there’s no danger of winter injury. The root system should be healthy and fibrous, and should be cut back to six to eight inches long. The top of the plant should be cut back so that only two nodes are left on the stem. Even though your vines will be quite small the first year or two and will need fairly minimal support, it is a good idea to figure out at the beginning how you are going to support the mature vines and set up the appropriate structure then, so you don’t have to disturb the plants and their roots with future construction. There are many ways to train and support grapes. The four arm Kniffin system is probably the support used most universally for grapes as a food crop and the easiest for you to start with. At each end of the row, set a stout 4 by 4 inch post at least 2 ½ feet into the ground. Brace these end posts with a diagonal piece of wood, or even set them in concrete, especially if you cannot sink them very deep. Then set posts in a row between the end posts, spaced 24 feet apart. You’ll need 24 feet to grow two grape vines, so if two are all you are planning to grow, you’ll only need the two end posts, spaced 24 feet apart. The posts set in between need not be buried more than two feet, but all the posts should extend about six feet above the ground. Then string two strands of heavy wire at least 10 gauge tightly along your row of posts, stapling it securely at the end s and running it through screw eyes attached to the row posts. Put the first strand 2 ½ feet, the second 5 feet, above the ground. You can install a turnbuckle on each wire near an end post so that wires can be tightened as needed in years to come. If you are planting more than one row, make the rows at least 10 feet apart.

Now you’re ready to plant. Space vines 8 feet apart: this gives you room for two vines between posts, (less vigorous varieties might go as close as 6 feet; highly vigorous ones as far as 12; muscadines need about 20 feet for each vine). Dig a hole a foot dep and a foot wide, adding some well-seasoned compost or moistened peat to the hole. Place a 2 by 2 inch stake about 4 feet tall in the hole as a temporary support for the young vine if the vine grows upright it will produce better laterals. (An alternative method of encouraging upright growth is to tie a string from the young plant to the first wire). Then spread out the roots in the planting hole and fill it with soil, watering when the hole is half full and setting the vine at the same depth at which it originally grew, or an inch or so deeper. Then you may spread some compost, rotted manure or fertilizer on top of the soil in a circle about a foot from the plant’s stem. If rabbits are a problem in your area either fence the whole planting or use the guards described in this article. Then mulch the whole planting with an organic material like straw, salt hay or shredded bark to keep weeds down and conserve moisture.

How to Grow Grapes

While the grape vines are growing they will not need much feeding or watering. You may find that good mulch takes care of your watering needs, though if you need to warm up the soil early in spring to promote growth you may want to pull the mulch aside at that time and replace it in early summer. Although some growers never feed their grapes at all, grapes do in fact like some nitrogen. Moreover top dress the soil with well-rotted manure or a fertilizer in early spring, gradually widening the dressed circle to about eight feet for a mature vine. I can’t give an exact formula for feeding, not knowing your soil or which grapes you are growing, but try working in up to one bushel of manure and perhaps a pound or two of granite dust or half a pound of 10-10-10 for each mature plant, increasing the amount only if the foliage lacks a good green color or the vines are not growing as vigorously as they should be.

The most important things to do for your grapes are the initial training and after that, annual pruning. Grapes that are left untrained and unpruned turn into a mass of tangled vines that are mostly old and unproductive wood. You’ll get a much better crop if you prune regularly; even a vine grown on an arbor for ornament will be healthier and more attractive and will put les strain on its support structure if it’s pruned each year. Pruning is always done while the plants are dormant; if you do it after the buds start to swell you may break off the buds. In warm areas, prune any time the plants are dormant; in cold ones you must wait till after the dormant vines are no longer frozen and hence breakable late winter or early spring. Spring pruning will also let you see wood that has been winterkilled so you can remove it.

Essentially in pruning a grape vine you maintain a sturdy main stem, called the “trunk” from which new lateral fruiting canes are allowed to develop each season. Since the grapes crop will be borne on these canes th second year, you need both a supply  of bearing canes, trained along horizontal wires, and some renewal canes coming along for next years.

The initial training is done in the winter following the first summer’s growth. That little stick you planted will have grown canes from those two nodes and probably some other side shoots as well. Pinch off all but the strongest cane this will be your trunk and tie it loosely to the supporting stake. When the trunk is tall enough to reach the first wire, let two good canes (with at least four nodes each) develop at the height of the wire. (If the trunk doesn’t get as high as the wire the first season, prune it back to two or three nodes the following spring and let it start over.) When it’s time for the first spring pruning, remove everything but those two horizontal canes and the central trunk, which will continue to climb upward. Tie the two canes or “arms” to the wire, one to the left, one to the right. During the next spring pruning cut each arm back to three nodes. When the trunk reaches the second wire possibly not till after the second growing season, select another pair of good canes and train them to left and right the same way. Then cut off the top of the trunk just above them. All other canes coming off the trunk at this point, and any suckers coming up from the base should be removed during spring pruning.

During the second growing season it is best to remove flower clusters so the vine will put its energy into growth, letting the lateral branches produce a number of long canes. During the third spring leave one long cane from each side of the trunk for both the top wire and lower wire four in all. These will become the first “fruiting arms” and should be cut back so each has about ten nodes. Also leave four more canes close to the trunk. These, which are pruned back to two nodes, are your renewal spurs; they will produce fruiting arms for the following year. During the third growing season you can let the arms produce clusters of grapes from shoots that form at the nodes, and the renewal spurs will grow to form a nice long cane for next year’s crop.

In future years all you need to do each spring is remove each old cane that has borne fruit and cut the cnew ones back to about ten nodes, although you can leave the canes longer if the vine is a vigorous one. A few years of experimental pruning with each variety you grow should set you on the right track.

Pets and Diseases

If you give your grapes good air circulation, keep them will pruned, clean up all pruning’s fallen leaves and fallen fruit, and don’t overfeed them, it’s quite likely that you won’t have any disease problems at all. Nevertheless you might encounter some of the following troublemakers. The black rot fungus turns the fruits hard, black and shriveled. It can be a problem in warm, moist areas and is best fought by good air circulation. There’re also rot-resistant grape varieties available. Anthracnose which produces spots on the fruit can occur in wet spring weather and is best prevented by the sound grape culture summarized just above. Downy or powdery mildews most often affect the European-type grapes, but any grapes can get them in areas where mildew is a problem. You may have to resort to fungicides such as benomyl or copper sulfate to get rid of mildews.

The grape berry moth is best identified by the little silken webs with which it ties leaves or grape clusters together. If you spot these, be sure to clean up all fallen leaves or fruit in fall, then from mid to late spring cultivate the first inch or two of the soil (Carefully, since grapes have roots near the surface) to expose overwintering pupae to the air. Japanese beetles love grapes; they can be controlled with milky-spore disease, but in cool climates this takes a few years to work. In the meantime it may be necessary to pick beetles off by hand to save your crop. Grape leafhoppers can also do considerable damage; control them with insecticidal soap or by planting blackberries among the grapes these harbor a tiny parasitic insect that attacks the leafhoppers. Grape phylloxera is a serious insect pest that sucks the juices from the roots. You can see pea-sized galls on the roots and on the undersides of affected leaves. Phylloxera almost destroyed the entire European wine industry many years ago. The grapes were saved by the introduction of American species into the breeding these are immune. You can avoid phylloxera by growing American grapes or by growing European grapes grafted onto American root stocks.

How to Harvest Grapes

Grapes must be fully ripened on the vine in order to reach the peak of flavor and sweetness. Don’t go by looks; taste a grape near the tip of the cluster. If it tastes ripe and the seeds have turned brown, you can pick. Grapes should be cut off the vine with a sharp knife or a pair of “grapes shears” not pulled off. Pick them on a dry day and they’ll store better. They don’t keep a long time but can be held for a few weeks at just above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The European grapes types store better than the American Type.


The varieties of grape you will find listed most often in catalogs are of predominantly. American parentage, among these, some of the most versatile and easy to grow are “Concord” the classic blue grape, which matures fairly late in the season on a vigorous, healthy vine; “Niagara”, sometimes called a “White Concord”, which is white and a bit earlier, “Fredonia”, a big early blue black table grape on a vigorous, disease resistant vine; “Golden Muscat”, a late white; “Steuben”, another good blue black table grape; “Delaware” a good midseason red grape; and “Catawba” an excellent late red. In general these grapes do well in both warm and cold regions. Others do well only in the south, such as the sweet red “Flame” and the muscadine types. Southern grapes include “Scuppernong”, the classic muscadine that is bronze green colored and tart sweet. Most muscadines need a male and female plant for pollination, but “Carlos” a big bronze-colored grape, and the large blue-black “Cowart” are both self-pollinating.

Seedless grapes do not always have the richness of flavor that the seeded, slip skin types have, and so are not as good for cooking and preserves, but they’re popular for easy eating. The hardiest are the white “Himrod”, the pinkish “Reliance”, and red “Canadice”. Other good ones are “Seedless Concord”, which is like “Concord” but smaller, blue-black “Venus” and “Glenora”, and the moderately hardy red “Suffolk” and white “Interlaken”.

Juices can be made from any grape, but there’re varieties bred expressly for juice. Grapes are a rather specialized topic about which much has been written. In general, gardeners in climates like that of California can grow just about any juicy grapes, including the European ones; in colder climates you can grow the newer “French” hybrids, such as the red “Foch” and “Baconoir” or the white “Aurora” and “Seyval”, which are more suited to climates such as that of New York state. Source: Charismatic Planet

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Spinach; How to Grow the World's Healthiest Foods

Spinach is regaining its popularity as a garden vegetable because more people are using it in salads. I still love it best cooked just long enough to wilt it, with some olive oil in which I’ve crusted a clove of garlic. It also freezes will. It is not hard to grow, and it is also a quick crop forty to fifty days to harvest and even less if you eat the thinning when you thin your rows.
The problem most gardeners have with spinach is that they try to treat it like lettuce, but even more so. It bolts in hot weather just as lettuce will but does so more quickly. Spinach is really a spring or fall crop, though you can edge a bit into the summer months if you grow a “long-standing” type. Though heart and dryness are factors, it is the lengthening days that cause spinach to bolt, or to send up a tall, useless seed stalk and stop producing. The lengthening days approaching midsummer signal the spinach to go to seed. In warm climates it is grown in late fall, winter and early spring. Even in the north, some gardeners sow seeds in late fall that come up in the spring not fool proof, but worth a try.  
Spinach is regaining its popularity as a garden vegetable because more people are using it in salads

There’re two kinds of spinach. The most familiar is the dark green, crinkly leaved sort; the other is a lighter colored, flat-leaved version. New Zealand spinach and “Malabar Spinach” are not really spinach, though both taste something like it when cooked and are sometimes grown as spinach substitutes in warm climates or warm weather.

Select a Site

Plant spinach is full sun or part shade the later if the crop will be growing in warm weather. You might start a fall spinach crop between rows of a tall crop such as corn or beans, which will have been harvested once cool weather comes. Spinach for salads needs only a few square feet of space for the whole crop. For growing spinach to cook, however, I recommend a good 40 square feet at least, because it loses so much volume in cooking or freezing.

Select a Soil 

Spinach prefers a light soil, but with plenty of organic matter. Otherwise the soil will not retain the moisture the plant needs. As a leafy crop it thrives on very fertile soil, and it is almost impossible to overfeed it. Nitrogen is especially important. If you’re using commercial fertilizer for it, 10-10-10 is a good choice. You do not need to fertilize the soil to a great depth, though, because the plants are shallow-rooted   They’re a little fussy about pH, preferring the 6.0-7.0 range, so add lime if your soil is acid, but don’t go overboard because it doesn’t like very alkaline soil either.
Spinach is sown directly into the garden or cold frame. Purchase new seed each year because it does not stay viable for very long.  For spring planting you can start as soon as there’s some ground in your garden that has thawed.  This might be as early as eight weeks before the last frost. Some gardeners even get the furrow ready in the fall, so all they need to do the following spring is drop the seeds in and not worry about working the soil while it is still muddy. 
Spinach leaf miner larvae burrow inside the leaves and produce tan patches.
Plant single rows 12 to 15 inches apart, or plant several rows close together about 6 inches with a space of 1 ½ feet on either side, or plant in a block so that plants will all be I foot apart each way after thinning. Seeds should be ½ inch deep and if possible 1 inch apart. They’ll germinate in five to nine days, or a bit more if it is very cold. When where are two true leaves on the plants, they should be thinned to four inches apart, then thinned again so that the plants are eight to twelve inches apart. Use the discarded young plants in salads.  Unless you want a great deal of spinach all at once for cooking or freezing, it is best to save half a packet or so, then sow one or more extra crops at intervals of about ten days. But stop sowing around mid-May the idea is not to have spinach maturing during the long warms days of July and August. May sowings should be of a long standing type, as an extra safeguard against bolting. 

Start fall sowings in the late August, even later in warm climates. These should be sown a little thicker and deeper than spring crops, because germination is less reliable in warm weather. It helps to keep the soil moist with frequent watering and r a light layer of salt hay.


Mulching will help to keep the soil moist, but I would avoid very acid mulch such as sawdust, bark or peat moss because these can lower the pH below the plants tolerance. Salt hay or straw is better. If you’re over wintering a crop by keeping young plants dormant, it is best to mulch them heavily after the ground freezes to keep it frozen evenly. Alternate freezing and thawing can damage the plants. Cultivating or weeding is important if you do not mulch, but do it carefully, so as not to harm the spinach plants are four to six inches tall, a top dressing with a high nitrogen fertilizer such as fish emulsion or bone meal will spur growth. With spring crops remember to keep the growth going to bring the plants to maturity before they can bolt. 

Pests and Diseases

Home gardeners generally do not have many problems of this sort. Spinach leaf miner larvae burrow inside the leaves and produce tan patches. The easiest control is to pick off affected leaves and destroy them. Keeping the garden free of debris and weeds will help. By growing very early or late crops, you might avoid this bug’s season. You can also cover young plants with a very fine mesh or cheesecloth so that the fly that lays the eggs that produce these larvae cannot land on the plants. 

Spinach blight or “Yellows” is a mosaic virus spread by aphids. The leaves turn yellow, and the plants are stunted. You can control the virus by controlling the aphids, or you can grow resistant varieties. Also practice good garden hygiene. If there are yellow spots on the leaves and a moldy substance underneath the problem is the disease called the blue mold? It appears occasionally in very wet weather. Best defenses are weed control good drainage, and vigorous, well-fed plants. If they still get blue mold, throw them out and try again in better weather. Fusarium wilt can affect spinach, but there’re resistant strains you can grow. 


You can reap your spinach two different ways by cutting the outside leaves and letting the centers keep producing or by cutting the whole plant just at soil level, like a head of lettuce. I think the best approach is to cut some outside leaves as you need them but not to leave the plant growing too long. Always cut the while plant f you see buds starting to form at the center; otherwise it will bolt and become useless. Sometimes the roots will send up some new leaves after the plant is cut but not enough to warrant leaving them there if you need the space. 


Long standing Bloomsdale, a savoy, or ruffled type, is probably the most popular bolt resistant spinach. But also try “Popeye’s Choice and America”. For falls crops grow the cold-resistant “Winter Bloomsdale”. Melody and Hybird Number 7 are more disease resistant than most. “Giant Nobel” is good smooth leaved spinach. 
Plant spinach is full sun or part shade the later if the crop will be growing in warm weather