Success with Spinach for Fall, Winter and Spring

January spinach from our second hoophouse sowing.
Photo Pam Dawling

Success with Spinach for Fall, Winter and Spring

Spinach is a much-loved crop for us. We sow outdoors and in the hoophouse in early September for harvesting from fall through to spring (April). We sow outdoors in late September for a crop to overwinter as small plants and be harvested in the spring. We also sow in our coldframes in mid-September. These are more sheltered than the beds outdoors, and the spinach makes faster growth. We sow more spinach in the hoophouse in October and November. We sow in the hoophouse in January to transplant outdoors and in the hoophouse in February for spring harvests. We are able to keep harvesting spinach (leaves, not whole plants) from October 15 to May 25, all the way through the winter. Central Virginia is too hot to have spinach during the summer (we switch to chard).

Spinach over-wintered in our cold frame
Photo wren Vile

Unsurprisingly, I have written about spinach several times.

Spinach Variety Trials Conclusion in May 2019. Our top general favorite is Acadia, although Reflect does better outdoors overwinter. This post includes links to earlier posts about spinach varieties, including Spinach Trials Update, April 2018.

What causes spinach leaves to turn yellow, in May 2019

yellowed spinach in May. We had transplanted too soon after tilling under some big weeds.
Photo Pam Dawling
A bed of healthy green Reflect spinach on May 3
Photo Pam Dawling

What makes vegetable crops bolt and how can I stop it? March 2021

Spinach Varieties

Choose varieties that do well in climates similar to yours, in the conditions you have when you plant and harvest. We used to grow Tyee for all plantings, and were very happy with it. But it has been pulled from the market because it had disease problems in the Pacific North West, where spinach seed is grown. We have tried and not continued Chevelle, Corvair, Renegade (grows fast, but has thin leaves and bolts early in spring), Avon (Downy Mildew in winter).

Also see the 2015 Greenbank Farm Spinach Variety Trial. The farm is in Washington State. They evaluated 10 varieties of savoyed and semi-­‐savoyed spinach with two side-­‐by-­‐side replication in spring. Abundant Bloomsdale, Bloomsdale Long Standing, Butterflay, Giant Winter, Dolce Vita, Longstanding Bloomsdale, Lyra, Solstizio, Tyee, Winter Bloomsdale. The overall star of their trial was Solstizio from Nash’s Organic Produce.

Spinach plants on February 5. left to right: Avon, Renegade, Escalade, Acadia.
Photo Pam Dawling

Paul and Sandy Arnold in Argyle, New York, made a great slide show reviewing Spinach Varieties in High Tunnels.  I think it’s no longer available online, but I did learn that in 2019, their top Winter Spinach Varieties were Escalade, Carmel, Whale, Space, Reflect; top Summer Spinach Varieties: Banjo, Seaside, Woodpecker.

In 2011-2012, High Mowing Seeds in northern Vermont did a spinach variety trial with 24 varieties. Three farmers in Iowa conducted a 2021 trial of spinach varieties and seedling methods. They compared yield, bolting and yellowing among three spinach seeding methods: seeder (1x rate), seeder (2x rate), hand-seed (2x rate); and between two varieties (Kolibri, Kookaburra). Two of them found no statistically significant difference of seeding method on yield; one found no difference in yields between the two varieties, but using a seeder at a double rate produced significantly higher yields than the other two methods.

When to sow fall spinach

Spinach does not germinate in hot soil! Use a soil thermometer and wait for the soil to cool to 68F (20C), or see the next section about sprouting spinach seed in a cold place. If you have no soil thermometer, see my post chickweed, hen-bit and dead-nettle, and use the info that was originally written with lettuce in mind, for spinach! There are photos there of these three plants at seedling stage. These are winter annual weeds here, that don’t grow in summer. Once we see their seedlings emerging in late August (a cool summer year like 2023) or September (most years) we know the soil has cooled enough to sow lettuce and spinach directly in the ground.

A trick for getting good timely germination of spinach seed is to put it (in sturdy resealable plastic bags or jars) in the freezer for about two weeks. Take the seeds out of the freezer the day before you want to sow (or start sprouting them), but – important – do not open the bag or jar. Leave it to warm to ambient temperature before opening. Otherwise the warm humid air will rush in and coat the cold seeds with condensation, reducing the shelf life of whatever seed you have left over for another time.

See our Spinach Variety Trials and Planting Plan, in February 2018:

  • September 6 is our first sowing (sprouted seeds) in the hoophouse for winter harvest 10/30-2/15, or later if it doesn’t bolt.
  • We sow outdoors on September 7 (sprouted seeds) for growing under rowcover and harvesting in fall and winter.
  • September 18-20 we sow in our coldframes and outdoors for harvest in early spring, until late May.
  • October 24 we make our second hoophouse sowing, to feed us November 25 to May 7.
  • On November 9,we make a third hoophouse sowing, intending to use these plants to fill gaps in our hoophouse as other winter crops come to an end.
  • January 16 we make more sowings in the hoophouse, some to continue to fill gaps there along the edges of the beds where they won’t fight with the tomatoes and so on, which we transplant starting March 15. Most of the spinach sown on this date is for transplanting outdoors on February 21.
  • January 29 we sow in flats in the greenhouse if we see we haven’t got enough bare-root transplants in the hoophouse.
  • February 10 If we don’t have enough transplants, then on this date we sow outdoors with rowcover, for spring harvests until May 25 if we’re lucky. We have backup plans on backup plans for this!
  • In the hoophouse we continue transplanting spinach to fill gaps until March 31.

 

Sprouting seeds before sowing is a way to success in hot or very cold weather.
Photo Pam Dawling

Sprouting Spinach Seed

This very easy work-around involves soaking the spinach seed in water overnight, draining it, and putting the jar on its side in the fridge for a week. If you remember, give the jar a quarter-turn each day to even out the moisture. You are not growing bean sprouts! A little neglect will not cause harm. The ideal is to have short sprouts, not long ones, as those break off more easily.  Sow the seed in the furrows gently, by hand. If the sprouts have got tangled, add some water to float them apart, drain them, spread them on a tray, or a layer of rowcover, to dry a bit, then mix with some inert dry soil-friendly material like uncooked corn grits or bran, which will help them not stick together.

Sowing Spinach in Speedling Flats and Floating them in Water

Another option is to start the spinach in flats and transplant it all. That’s a lot of work, but we found we could save on the daily attention time and the transplant time by using 120-cell Styrofoam Speedling flats. Sow one or two seeds per cell, then float the flats all day in water. Depending on your scale, this could be a baby bath or a stock tank. Remove the flats each evening and let them drain all night (while it is hopefully cooler). With just twice a day visits and no hand-watering, this is a big time saver, and we have got good germination rates.

Transplanting spinach from a Speedling flat. Butter knives are the tool of choice for easing the little wedges out of the tapered cells.
Photo Denny Ray McElya

When it comes time to transplant, the tool of choice is a butter knife. Use the knife to wiggle a wedge-shaped hole in the bed. Slide the knife down the sloping side of the cell, and, holding the base of the plant with one hand, use the knife hand to lift and flick the plug out. If all goes well, the plug will be then be resting on the now-horizontal knife, and you can slide it into the pre-made hole and firm it in.

Growing Spinach

Spinach makes growth whenever the air temperature is 40F (4.4C) or more. So any winter protection you can provide, in the way of cozy microclimates, rowcover, coldframes, or a hoophouse, will increase your yield. Spinach is more cold-hardy than many people realize. It dies at 0°F (-18°C) unprotected outdoors. Savoyed varieties tend to be a little hardier than smooth-leaved types. Large-leaved savoyed spinach outdoors with no protection can get seriously damaged at 10F (-12C). Small-leaved plants are OK down to 5F (-15C).

Weeding rowcovered spinach in winter.
Photo Wren Vile

Our outdoor spinach gets hoops and thick rowcover (Typar, 1.25 oz/sq yd spunbonded polypropylene, with 75% light transmission, and about 6 F (3.3 C) degrees of frost protection). It can last for 6 years or more. When we got 0F (-18C) the spinach leaves that touched the rowcover got big patches of beige/tan dead cells, but the plants recovered to produce more leaves.

Ben Hartman (author of The Lean Farm) wrote Testing the Limits of Cold Tolerance in Growing for Market magazine in February 2014. He reported that his young hoophouse spinach in Goshen, Indiana, with mid-weight rowcover survived -16F (XXX). Ben points out that spinach less than 1″ (2.5 cm) tall is very cold-tolerant. Bigger plants need more protection if it’s going to get that cold.

 You can read more about growing spinach in my Cooking Greens monthly series.

Growing bare root spinach transplants

Small spinach seedlings for bare root transplants. Photo Pam Dawling

We grow our spring spinach transplants (as well as kale and collards) in the soil in our hoophouse, sowing them in late January. See bare root transplants . You can find more links and info in that post. Growing bare root transplants saves a lot of work and a lot of greenhouse space.

Harvesting Spinach

Our goal is sustainable long-season harvesting. This is important for winter crops, as making a new sowing during cold dark days will not produce much food until spring comes around. It’s like the goose that lays the golden eggs – keep the leafy “golden eggs” coming

We harvest spinach by cutting individual leaves and leaving the plant to continue to produce more.

Our rule is “Leave 8 for later” – cut off large outer leaves close to the base of the plant, being sure to keep at least 8 of the inner leaves growing on each plant. Over-harvesting leads to decline.

When we finally pull up the bolting plants in spring, I’m always amazed to see how many leaf-scars there are on each plant, showing just how much we’ve harvested.

Hoophouse spinach. Far row: bolting Renegade; Near row: Escalade.
Photo Pam Dawling

For those relatively new to this blog but living in a similar climate zone, I want to point you to The Complete Twin Oaks Garden Task List Month-by-Month. It includes a link for each month’s task list. I notice from the site stats that some of you are finding your way there, but now there are so many years’ worth of posts it’s perhaps harder to find. Happy browsing!

Spinach variety trial conclusions

Outdoor spinach on the Spring Equinox (with peas interplanted).
Photo Lori Katz

Spinach Variety Trial Conclusions

Unable to buy our long-time favorite spinach variety, Tyee, we have tried various other varieties. This winter and spring we compared Avon, Reflect, Acadia, Escalade, and Renegade, in the hoophouse and outdoors. We are looking for a dark-leaved savoy type, with good cold tolerance and good bolt-resistance once spring arrives.

Hoophouse plantings

Sowing #1 9/7/17, all pulled up by 4/24/18, after a productive winter.

Sowing #2: 11/8 (normally 10/24, but we failed to water, and had to resow)

In November and December, Renegade had the largest leaves, so its advantage in central Virginia hoophouses is probably as a faster-growing type.

1/10/18:

  • Reflect is growing bigger/faster than Avon.
  • Renegade is faster/bigger but paler than Avon.
  • Acadia has more leaves than Avon, Reflect, Renegade.
  • Escalade is also faster and bigger than Avon, Reflect, Renegade.

4/3/18: Bolters pulled: Reflect 2, Avon 1 , other varieties zero bolters

4/10/18: The plants have not changed much in the last month, although in comparison with the February photo, you can see the leaves are starting to become pointed in shape. We are waiting to see which of the varieties bolts first. 

4/24/18: Reflect, Avon, Acadia, Escalade, Renegade. All are now growing thinner pointy leaves and starting to bolt. Renegade has large leaves, but the color is paler than the others and the texture is less exciting to us.

Counting bolted plants along the rows, I found

  • Avon 10 bolters
  • Acadia zero bolters
  • Escalade 4 bolters
  • Renegade 6 bolters.

Acadia and Escalade both had thick, well-textured leaves.

5/1/18. On My final tally date of the spinach in the hoophouse, I counted bolters:

  • Avon was much more bolted than Reflect
  • Acadia had 12 bolted, 18 not. 60% resistance
  • Escalade had 13 bolted, 17 not. 57% resistance
  • Renegade had 20 bolted, 6 not. 23% resistance
  • Avon had 19 bolted, 2 not. 10% resistance
  • Pity I did not directly compare Reflect and Acadia!
Hoophouse spinach variety trial Avon Renegade Acadia Escalade in February. (Note long shadows!)
Photo Pam Dawling
Hoophouse spinach variety trials in early April (note some cold damage). Left-Right Avon, Acadia, Escalade, Renegade.
Photo Pam Dawling
Hoophouse spinach variety trials in late April. L-R Avon, Acadia, Escalade, Renegade.
Photo Pam Dawling
Hoophouse spinach variety trials. Comparing bolt-resistance. May 1. L-R Avon, Acadia, Escalade, Renegade.
Photo Pam Dawling

Sowing #3 11/9

4/25/18: Avon – all pointy

Sowing #4 1/15 (for transplanting inside the hoophouse).

4/25/18: South side Avon – pointy; North side Reflect – bigger than Avon, less texture, also pointy.

Sowing #5 1/16 (for transplanting outdoors).

4/25/18: North side Reflect – a bit pointy, smaller than Avon and Acadia; South side Renegade, Escalade, Acadia. Acadia is bigger than Escalade, darker and more textured.

We transplanted from #4 and some #5, mostly not labelled. All look good 4/25. Avon transplanted 3/14, looks great. Big textured leaves. Reflect transplanted 3/16 – also good.

2018 conclusions for hoophouse spinach:

  • Renegade made fast early growth in November and December
  • Acadia and Escalade win on early harvests (December and January).
  • The smoother-leaved Renegade definitely has thinner leaves 4/10, and would yield lower weight (if we were weighing them).
  • Acadia and Escalade win in the hoophouse on 4/24, for bolt resistance and thick leaves
  • Acadia wins on bolt-resistance in the hoophouse on 5/1. Escalade is not far behind.
  • Reflect wins on 4/25 over Avon in the 4th hoophouse planting.
  • Acadia wins on 4/25 in this 5th hoophouse planting.
  • No clear better variety between Reflect and Avon in the late hoophouse transplanting from the 4th and 5th plantings.

We don’t like smooth-leaved spinach as much, so will maybe drop Renegade – it doesn’t shine on anything else except being earliest, but then becomes less productive.     Acadia did very well, Escalade not far behind. Perhaps drop Avon for hoophouse too. Perhaps continue Reflect, Acadia and Escalade, and do comparisons of the 3 only. Or just grow Acadia in the hoophouse.

Hoophouse spinach variety trial on May 1. Top: bolting Renegade; bottom: Escalade.
Photo Pam Dawling
Hoophouse spinach variety trial on May 1. Left of driptape: Acadia, right: Avon (see arrowhead leaves).
Photo Pam Dawling

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Outdoor Plantings

Reflect spinach in the snow in January.
Photo Pam Dawling

Outdoors we had overwintered Avon and Reflect. Both did well.

2018 conclusions for outdoor over-winter spinach plantings: Grow Avon or Reflect. Both did equally well. For simplicity, maybe drop Avon.

Outdoors in early spring, we transplanted 4 beds with Avon, Acadia, Escalade, Renegade, Reflect:

3/21/18: Reflect looked really good. Acadia, Escalade, Renegade not so good.

4/26/18:

  • Bed 15W all Avon looks good. Good size, good color.
  • Bed 16W has 3 rows Avon, 1 row Renegade (north). Renegade is smaller and lighter color – a more yellowish cast.
  • Bed 20W mostly Reflect, doesn’t look that good, partly because of lots of weeds. Avon the same.
  • Bed 23W 2 rows Reflect (south), 1 row Acadia, 1 row Escalade (north). Escalade is smaller 4/26.

5/2/18:

  • Bed 15W all Avon Good size, but all yellow, especially south edge. May have drowned. Only slightly pointy.
  • Bed 16W has 3 rows Avon, 1 row Renegade (north) Both varieties are very yellow (drowned?)
  • Bed 20W all Reflect, less yellow than Avon in the other beds.
  • Bed 23W 2 rows Reflect (south), 1 row Acadia, 1 row Escalade (north).
  • Reflect is really good where not drowned, if a little pointy.
  • Acadia is even better than Reflect, also a bit pointy.
  • Escalade is still smaller than Reflect and Acadia, also less pointed.
  • Both Acadia and Escalade are a darker color than Reflect.

2018 conclusions for outdoor spring spinach plantings:

  • Avon wins over Renegade on 4/26
  • Reflect wins over Acadia, Escalade on 3/21 and 4/26.
  • No winner between Avon and Renegade on 5/2
  • Reflect wins over Avon on 5/2.
  • Reflect and Acadia win over Escalade for current productivity on 5/2. Of the two, Acadia has better color.
  • Escalade may win later as more bolt-resistant.

We don’t like smooth-leaved spinach as much, so maybe we’ll drop Renegade.

Reflect and Acadia did well for spring outdoor plantings. Maybe drop Avon. Maybe grow mostly Reflect and some Acadia for May harvests? Escalade may be more bolt-resistant, and warrant growing one bed of four. If not, drop Escalade for spring outdoor planting?

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My earlier blogposts about spinach variety trials

Oct 4, 2016: Three spinach varieties (Tyee, Avon, Chevelle)

October 2016:  Sowing Tyee, Avon, Chevelle

Feb 21, 2017 : Spinach overwintered in a coldframe; Transplanting the last Tyee, alongside Reflect and Avon this spring.

February 6, 2018: Spinach Variety Trials (Tyee, Chevelle, Avon, Reflect, Renegade, Escalade and Acadia) and Planting Plan. Details of the varieties.

April 10, 2018: Spinach Trials Update

 

Spinach Trials Update, National Ginger & Turmeric Conference, FLAG Organic Farmers in Disasters, Organic Broadcaster

Hoophouse spinach trial 3 April. Avon, Acadia, Escalade, Renegade just harvested.
Photo Pam Dawling

Spinach Trials Update

The spinach trials in our hoophouse continue, with a lot of harvesting! I’m always amazed to see how many stumps of cut leaf stems there are on each plant, showing just how prolific the spinach is being when we harvest it one leaf at a time like this. When I say one leaf at a time, I mean by cutting individual leaves and leaving the plant to continue to produce more. Our rule is “Leave 8 for later” – cut off large outer leaves close to the base of the plant, being sure to keep at least 8 of the inner leaves growing on each plant. Over-harvesting leads to decline. Our goal is sustainable harvesting. In the photo above, the area shown has just been harvested. In the second photo the section further down the bed from the labels has not been harvested for maybe a week. Reading from left to right, the varieties are Avon, Acadia, Escalade, and Renegade.

Close up of hoophouse spinach trials 3 April before harvest.
Photo Pam Dawling

The plants have not changed much in the last month, although in comparison with the February photo below, you can see the leaves are starting to become pointed in shape. We are waiting to see which of the varieties bolts first. The smoother-leaved Renegade definitely has thinner leaves now, and would yield lower weight (if we were weighing them). There was a stage at which it had the largest leaves, so its advantage in central Virginia hoophouses is probably as a faster-growing type.

The same spinach plants as in the top photo on February 5.
Photo Pam Dawling

National Ginger & Turmeric Conference, October 17-19, 2018, Richmond, Virginia will focus on the production, marketing and health benefits of ginger and turmeric. Click the link to see beautiful photos of Virginia farmers and their ginger and turmeric. Save the date!

With growing interest in ginger and turmeric, many health professionals, researchers, farmers, and food and beverage professionals are turning their attention toward these healthy spices. In order to cultivate new ideas and further grow the industry, Virginia State University is hosting the first National Ginger & Turmeric Conference in Richmond, Virginia this fall. The three-day conference is targeted at the agricultural, health, and culinary professionals who work or are considering working with ginger and turmeric. It will showcase the latest science and technology related to production, product development and health, as well as feature success stories and marketing strategies.

The organizers (Virginia State University and  Virginia Co-operative Extension Service) are sending out a Call for Abstracts at this point, to all individuals and organizations that may have information to share on the medicinal and nutritional, sustainable production methods and/or sales side of the industry. Abstracts are now being accepted for oral and poster presentation Submit your abstract now.

Ginger growing in our hoophouse.
Photo Kathryn Simmons

FLAG Farmers’ Legal Action Group

Farmers’ Legal Action Group is a nonprofit law center dedicated to providing legal services and support to family farmers and their communities in order to help keep family farmers on the land.

FLAG has produced a new resource that is intended to assist organic farmers in time of disaster. It looks at two important issues. First, the extremely challenging effects of a flood on an organic farm. Secondly,  a relatively new form of crop insurance —Whole-Farm Revenue — that could benefit organic producers going forward.

Download FLAG’s  Organic Farmers in Disasters – Flooding and Whole Farm Revenue Crop Insurance

 

Laughing Loon Farm

Photo courtesy of Organic Broadcaster and MOSES

The March/April Organic Broadcaster is out.

There’s a great article by Matt Leavitt on planting spring cover crops. An article by Kelli Boylen advocates for integrating livestock into cropping systems to improve soil health, spread farm risks (eggs in more baskets) and improve efficiency by reducing waste and other losses. Bailey Webster writes about the Food Safety Modernization Act, fondly known as FSMA (Fizma).

There’s an article on conducting on-farm variety trials by the Organic Seed Alliance, who have published a 55 page Grower’s Guide to Conducting On-farm Variety Trials which can be downloaded at the link. Working together to discover which varieties work best under organic cultivation can help us all.

There’s much more besides: news, events, politics, items for sale, employment opportunities

Spinach Variety Trials and Planting Plan

Avon spinach in our hoophouse October 25.
Photo Pam Dawling

For years we grew only Tyee savoyed spinach. It did very well for us in central Virginia. It survived our zone 7a winters outside under rowcover. It could survive without the rowcover, but given that spinach makes growth whenever the air temperature is above 40F, and that the air under rowcover reaches that a lot more often then the air outside, we got much more growth using rowcover. We also got much better quality leaves, as they didn’t get battered by the weather.

Tyee is bolt-tolerant too but tended to yellow, slightly tough, leaves in the fall.

Tyee was dropped as a variety by the growers because (as I understand it) it suffered from a disease that is prevalent in the Pacific Northwest, where spinach seed is grown. It’s a hybrid, so we can’t just save our own seeds. We set out to try other varieties in order to find something to replace our beloved Tyee.

I wrote about spinach varieties here  in October 2016.

We tried Chevelle and Avon. Chevelle didn’t do that well for us. Part of the problem was poor germination, which could have just been that one packet of seed. But the pressure was on to find a productive variety, so we gave up on Chevelle.

We strongly prefer savoyed spinach over flat leaf spinach, because it has more loft in salad mixes and is more wilt-resistant after harvest. Apparently the East coast prefers savoyed spinach and the West coast the flat leaf kind, for what that’s worth. And of course, that takes no account of the millions of people between the coasts!

Reflect spinach from a September 12 sowing, outdoors under rowcover after the -9F night in early January.
Photo Pam Dawling

Next we tried Avon and Reflect, and they seemed pretty similar, both have good flavor.

Avon (42 days mature, 20 to baby leaf) semi-savoyed F-1 hybrid with upright growth, https://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/search?item=2538. Fedco likes Avon as a replacement for Tyee, but cautions

“We found Avon’s DM [Downy Mildew] resistance is not adapted to overwintered protected culture. Otherwise resistant to DM1,2 and CMV [Cucumber Mosaic Virus].”

Sounds like it might not do as well if water supplies run short once it gets hot. Bolting is initiated by heat, crowding and day-length over 14 hours. Avon claims strong bolt resistance.

Reflect (38 days to mature) semi-savoyed hybrid is recommended by Johnnys as a good alternative to Tyee. It has much more resistatnce to various Downy Mildew strains (1-11, 13, 15, 16), but is “slightly” faster bolting than Tyee. This factor could be set against its very fast growing rate. Its color is a medium-green, less dark than some other varieties.

This winter and spring we are trying Avon, Reflect, Renegade, Escalade and Acadia.

Renegade (43 days mature) smooth leaf hybrid. Slower growing than Corvair, which it resembles in flavor. Does well in chilly damp conditions (our winter hoophouse?) Has resistance to DM 1-7. Bolt-resistant, dark green leaves.

Escalade (43 days mature) slightly savoyed hybrid, with upright growth, claims high bolt resistance. Resistant to DM 1-14, 16. Slower growing than some. Expected to handle temperature and light variability. Good for baby leaf production (not what we do). The flavor is mild (not a good thing, for those of us who love spinach!) Will it grow fast enough in our short springs to give high yields before it bolts? We’ll let you know.

Acadia (45 days mature) slightly savoyed hybrid with upright growth. Resistant to DM 1-13, 15, 16. Even slower growing than Escalade, even more suited to baby leaf production

Our second sowing of hoophouse spinach. Left row Avon, then Acadia, then Escalade, with Renegade nearest the plastic. Sowed 11/8, photographed 2/5.
Photo Pam Dawling

Paul and Sandy Arnold in Argyle, New York, made a great slide show reviewing  Spinach Varieties in High Tunnels

The winners (in order) in terms of yield were Pigeon, Space, Giant Winter, Tyee, Palco. These were followed, after a noticeable drop in yield, by Raccoon, Renegade, Donkey, then another noticeable drop to Corvair, Regiment, and a plummet to Bloomsdale Longstanding and Samish. Giant Winter and Bloomsdale Longstanding are the only OPs in the list. We grew Giant Winter once. It did grow enormous leaves, but was very quick to bolt. Unsuited to repeated harvests in our climate.

In 2011-2012, High Mowing Seeds in northern Vermont did a spinach variety trial with 24 varieties, assessing productivity, color and harvest time. The 24 varied a lot in earliness, upright growth habit or not, flat or savoyed leaves, and level of pest resistance.

On color, America, Corvair, Crocodile, Donkey, Emilia, Lazio, Menorca, Queen, Raccoon, Red Kitten, Regiment, Samish, Seven Green, Space, Spargo, St Helens and Tyee scored 7 out of ten or better. Tyee only scored 7, Reflect only 4-5. The best were Corvair and Crocodile.

  • Corvair had a good color and upright growth (clean leaves, easy to pick).
  • Donkey was dark and productive.
  • Emu was an early producer with a better color,
  • Giant Winter was a great early producer although poor on color (and terrible on bolt-resistant when we grew it in Virginia).
  • Lombardia was good on yield and flavor,
  • Raccoon was one of the easiest to pick,
  • Red Kitten (red stems) was pretty and heavy but not high yielding,
  • Reflect was a good survivor in heavy rains,
  • Regiment gave high yields and had a good green color.
  • Space was one of the highest for yield,
  • Samish was good on yield and OK to pick,
  • Tyee had good savoy-ness but lower yield, although many other good points.
Our first sowing of spinach in the hoophouse, photographed in late September. Reflect on the left, Avon on the right.
Photo Pam Dawling

Here’s our spinach planting plan:

We are able to keep harvesting spinach from October 15 to May 25, all the way through the winter.

September 6 is our first sowing (sprouted seeds) in the hoophouse for winter harvest 10/30-2/15,

We sow outdoors on September 7 (sprouted seeds) for growing under rowcover and harvesting in fall and winter,

September 18-20 we sow in our coldframes and outdoors for harvest in early spring, until late May,

October 24 we make our second hoophouse sowing, to feed us November 25 to May 7. In 2017, we failed to water this planting enough, and had to resow November 8.

November 9  we make a third hoophouse sowing, intending to use these plants to fill gaps in our hoophouse as other winter crops come to an end.

January 16 we make more sowings in the hoophouse, some to continue to fill gaps there along the edges of the beds where they won’t fight with the tomatoes and so on, which we transplant starting March 15.

Most of the spinach sown this date is for transplanting outdoors February 21.

January 29 we sow in flats in the greenhouse if we see we haven’t got enough bare-root transplants in the hoophouse.

If we don’t have enough transplants, then on February 10 we sow outdoors with rowcover, for spring harvests until May 25 if we’re lucky. We have backup plans on backup plans for this!

In the hoophouse we continue transplanting spinach to fill gaps until March 31.

Hoophouse spinach #2. Front row (bottom of the picture) Acadia then Escalade then Renegade.
Photo Pam Dawling