Spinach is full of nutrients and is a popular choice with people experimenting with growing their own food. In practice, spinach can be troublesome, as it tends to run to seed quickly in hot dry summers. There are bolt resistance varieties that can help, and if you do not have the time to constantly water your spinach in summer, it may be more successful to grow winter varieties or a similar crop like chard. Summer growing New Zealand spinach is another option as it is more tolerant of dry soils. It grows so vigorously that you may end up chasing it around your plot for a few years, wanted or not!
Spinach will grow best in rich soils with well rotted organic matter mixed in, and this will also help keep moisture in the soil. Most varieties are fast growing, and in a few weeks you should have your first crop of baby spinach leaves as you thin your plants to the optimum spacing of about 15 centimetres or six inches per plant. The young leaves are more tender and can be eaten fresh in salad, whilst the more mature leaves are better cooked. There is no need to pick a whole plant. Taking individual leaves from several plants will encourage more leaves to grow and maximise the length of the harvest period.
Summer varieties are grown in the spring when the weather, and soil, start to warm. For an even earlier summer harvest, sow the seeds in early spring protected by a plastic cloche or grow tunnel. Sowing a few seeds every two weeks will help to prevent a glut and extend the harvest period. Winter varieties are sown later in the summer and will provide leaves through autumn and winter, although you may like to protect them with fleece. Birds will enjoy eating unprotected spinach, both when young and the mature plants, so using a net is advisable. Growing spinach through biodegradable fabric will substantially reduce the amount of weeding and help keep the soil moist.