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Step-by-Step Guide to Growing and Spacing Spinach in Your Square Foot Garden
Inside: How to grow spinach: square foot gardening advice.
Thanks to the popularity of square foot gardening, the idea of growing food in a small and efficient space has taken hold.
And spinach is one of the best vegetables to get you started with square foot gardening.
Spinach is an easy-to-grow salad green that produces large yields of vitamin-rich, dark green leaves.
Which makes it great for beginning gardeners!
But the biggest spinach growing challenges for new gardeners are getting it to germinate and growing it in warm weather.
If you’re a spinach growing newbie or have struggled to grow spinach, keep reading to learn how to grow spinach in your square foot garden or raised bed step-by-step.
What’s in this post:
To grow spinach in your square foot garden, you first must understand what spinach needs to thrive.
The key to success with spinach is choosing the right time of year to plant it.
Spinach is a cool-weather crop, so it won’t grow well in hot weather. Those juicy green leaves you got used to all spring suddenly turn bitter when summer comes along.
This makes spinach perfect for spring and fall gardens!
There are a few things you can do to extend your harvest into the summer months. And we’ll get to those in a minute.
First, let’s look at the best spinach varieties to grow.
Related: Getting started with square foot gardening? Learn more about proper spacing.
Here are some of my favorite spinach varieties:
Before you decide what variety to grow, check with your local Cooperative Extension office (U.S. only) to see what varieties will grow well in your area.
Bloomsdale This is an early 1800’s heirloom, an open-pollinated variety that is a dependable producer in spring and fall. You can start harvesting tender greens in as little as 28 days!
Matador This variety’s smooth, oval-shaped leaves are easy to clean. And it’s awesome in a fall garden! It has the perfect texture for your favorite fall and winter dishes such as soups, stews, and risotto.
New Zealand Spinach (similar to Malabar spinach) Not a true spinach, but a great way to have spinach flavor in your salads all summer. It loves the heat, is somewhat drought tolerant, and produces abundant harvests.
Botanical name: Spinacia oleracea
Spinach is a member of the beet (Chenopodiacea) family
Spinach is a frost-tolerant annual.
Spinach plant height: 4-6 inches.
When can you plant spinach? Plant it in late winter and early spring (for your spring garden) and mid-late summer (for your fall vegetable garden).
When can you harvest spinach? After sowing seeds, you’ll pick your first spinach leaves in about 28 days. Check your seed packet for the exact number of days.
Spinach can tolerate shade. Plant your spinach in an area that gets at least 4-6 hours of sun per day.
Spinach can be direct sown or transplanted.
- Plant your spinach seeds 1/8-1/4″ deep.
- Plant them when the soil temperature is at least 45°F (55-65°F is better).
- They should germinate in approximately 7-14 days.
Spinach germination tips:
- Spinach seeds not germinating? – If your seeds haven’t germinated, then your soil was too warm, or too wet, or the seeds were old, and not viable.
- Re-plant fresh spinach seeds in well-draining, cool soil (55-65°F).
- Check your soil temperature with a soil thermometer soil thermometer for the best results.
Transplant your seedlings when the soil is warm enough to be worked.
Can you succession plant spinach? Spinach is perfect for succession planting. You can succession plant spinach as often as every one to two weeks. You’ll get more (and better quality) spinach when you succession plant.
Companion planting: Kale and other greens are perfect companion plants for spinach since they share the same cultural requirements.
Fall planting: Work backward from your first frost date.
To find the planting dates for a fall crop,
Add the following together:
- The number of days it’ll take for your seeds to germinate.
- If you are transplanting, add the number of days it’ll take to reach transplant size. (If you’re direct sowing, skip this step).
- The days to maturity.
- Fourteen days (to adjust for shorter autumn days).
Take the total number of days you just added together and count backward from your first frost date to figure out when to start your seeds for a fall crop.
Watch a video from New Garden Road about growing spinach in your square foot garden
Spacing for spinach in a square foot garden is 4-inch or 6-inch spacing – 9 (or 4) plants per square foot.
9 plants per square foot
4 plants per square foot
- Use closer spacing for smaller, tender leaves and wider spacing for larger, more mature leaves (better for freezing).
- Wider spacing also works better in cold frames and over the winter.
- This plant spacing works for square foot gardens and raised beds.
Once you know the proper spacing, it’s time to mark out the holes in your bed and transplant your seedlings or plant seeds.
You don’t need any special tools or equipment to set out your transplants or seeds. I use a measuring tape and a small trowel to plant each seedling or seed.
Spinach growing tips
How much sun does spinach need?
Spinach can tolerate shade.
- Plant your spinach in a spot that gets at least 4 hours of sun per day (4-6 hours of sun is best). Its shade tolerance makes it perfect for partly-shady vegetable gardens!
- If you’re growing spinach during the winter, choose an area that gets 5-6+ hours of sun.
If you can provide shade during hotter weather by either using shade cloth or by surrounding it with taller plants, you may extend your harvests during the summer.
Keeping your spinach well-watered will also help to prevent it from bolting.
How much water does spinach need?
About 1″ of water per week is best for spinach. But in warmer weather, bump that number up by half an inch. Regular, shallow watering is better than one deep watering per week. Pro tip: Keep track of how much water your garden gets with a rain gauge.
How do you fertilize spinach?
- Spinach will grow and produce leaves in most soils but does best when planted in nutrient-rich, fertile soil.
- Spinach rarely requires fertilizer unless the leaves are pale green. If your spinach isn’t a healthy green color, give it a light application of high-nitrogen fertilizer.
What pests are a problem for spinach?
Spinach isn’t bothered by too many pests and diseases. The most common are aphids, cabbage loopers, and leaf miners (which can be excluded by using an insect barrier row cover before the insects become active in the spring).
Can you do anything with bolted spinach?
- When spinach begins to bolt (forms a central flower stalk) harvest what you can and pull the plant.
- Once it starts to bolt, the flavor declines or becomes bitter.
- You can replace it with a warm-weather crop.
You can harvest spinach in a few different ways. Do what works for you!
- Pick individual leaves when they’re big enough to use. You’ll get enough spinach for salads by harvesting this way (assuming you’ve planted enough square feet of spinach).
- Harvest the entire plant (cut at the soil level) when the leaves are large and succulent. This works well for freezing spinach since you’ll harvest a larger quantity all at once.
- To encourage more spinach to sprout, you can cut the entire plant an inch or so above the soil. Water it well and give it a bit of high-nitrogen fertilizer. This encourages spinach to regrow more leaves.
Wash and dry your spinach with a salad spinner (here's my favorite).
Store fresh spinach, wrapped with paper towels, in a clean container to keep it crisp for up to ten days. This keeps the delicate leaves from getting crushed or bruised as they would in plastic bags. And paper towels absorb excess moisture and help preserve your spinach so you can enjoy it later!
How long does it take for spinach to germinate?
Spinach seeds will usually germinate in 7 to 14 days, but spinach seeds struggle in soil that is too hot or cold. Plant spinach seeds in cool soil (ideally 55-65°F). For the best results, check your soil temperature with a soil thermometer soil thermometer.
How much spinach should I plant per square foot?
Spacing for spinach in a square foot garden is as many as nine or as few as four plants per square foot. See: spinach spacing in a square foot garden for more info.
Will spinach grow back after cutting?
Yes, if you cut the entire plant about 1″ above the soil line, water it, and give it a light feeding of high-nitrogen fertilizer, the stub should regrow, giving you a second harvest about a month later.
How many times can you harvest spinach?
As long as the plant hasn’t bolted, you can harvest the outermost leaves as soon as they’re big enough to eat. Picking it this way results in an extended harvest season.
How much space does a spinach plant need?
Space your spinach plants or seeds 3-5 inches apart. Five inches will give you enough space to grow mature spinach plants. Space the plants closer (three inches apart) if you want to grow baby spinach greens.
Does spinach grow back every year?
Unfortunately, spinach doesn’t grow back every year. Spinach is an annual vegetable, which means it grows for a single season. To grow more spinach, you must start new plants at the beginning of the growing season.
Download your free square foot gardening chart
It’s easy to always use the right spacing for your vegetables. Just download the Square Foot Gardening Chart and:
- Print it.
- Put it in a handy spot.
- Pull it out when you’re ready to plant seeds or transplants.
It really is that easy!
Here’s a sneak peek of your chart:
Your turn: Growing spinach in your square foot garden or raised bed
Have you used square foot spacing for your spinach before?
Tell me how it went! Share in a comment below.