English spinach

Botanical name:

Spinacia oleracea


Spinach grows about 30 cm tall. It shows green oval to rhombic, curly or smooth leaves up to 30 cm long 15 cm wide. The leaves (including the stems) are the vegetable.

Spinach doesn’t like acidic soil and needs soil temperatures not to be higher than 25 C.

It is reported to be a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A and folate. Spinach is a high oxalate plant which can be of concern for people with a tendency to kidney stones, but is considered save if not eaten excessively.

How to grow:

Sow 12 mm deep into seed beds. The seeds come in a lumpy rough and in a smooth variety. Soaking the seeds a few hours before planting gives them a good headstart. In the lumpy variety it also allows to separate the seeds that come in little clumps and are prone to a lot of competition if left stuck together. Seedlings appear after 10 days. Grow until 5 cm high.

Transplant into single pots and grow to a 15 to 20 cm plant, lightly feeding with seaweed fertiliser. Transplant to the garden bed into light, well drained soil enriched with compost. Aim for a 30 cm spacing.

Spinach grows in partial shade and shade and needs consistent watering to avoid shooting.

Mulching the beds helps to keep the soil moist and cool.

Doesn’t need much fertilising.

8 to 12 weeks to harvest.

Growing in the neighbourhood

Companions are broad beans, members of the cabbage family, eggplants, onions and peas.

Pests and other problems and how we deal with them:

Spinach is pretty pest resistant. Slugs and snails like the leaves, they turn up in wet conditions and can be picked off and also deterred by sprinkling the bed’s surface with coffee grounds.

Yellowing leaves and slow growth indicate a hungry plant. Spray with a liquid fertiliser solution.


Autumn to early Spring


Spinach cross pollinates with other plants of the amaranth family. In order to collect useful seeds the mother-plant would need to be kept isolated.

How to harvest and use:

Pick leaves. Please always cut stems at the bottom of the plant. Cutting off leaves and leaving the stems on the plant makes it vulnerable to pests and mould. After the growing season is over, the base and the root are good for compost.

Young, small leaves are good as an addition eaten raw in salads. Mature leaves can be blanched or stir-fried.

They make a great side dish of leafy greens and are great fillings in pies and frittatas.