I planted a package of mixed greens last fall and as usual with mixed plantings, had 3 “unknowns” that I wish I had names for.
In particular I fell in love with an arrow-shaped green with medium green leaves and wine-red veins and stems. Not only was it beautiful, it was delicious! I used it all fall in salads mixed with lettuce. Then when the weather turned so cold that most of the lettuce (and the little bit of my regular spinach that remained) died even under the hoop tunnels, this little arrow-shaped green kept right on going. It was one of 3 “unknowns” that survived the cold in the hoop tunnels and provided greens after everything else was frozen.
I really thought this delicate tasting green was a baby chard that I had ordered from Annie’s Heirlooms. But when I searched their site for it, I couldn’t find anything like it.
The happy ending to this mystery is: I think I have identified this little jewel of a green. It’s a newer variety of spinach bred for the baby leaf market and for inclusion in various mixes! It has a sweeter flavor and is more delicate than regular spinach.
It’s name is Bordeaux Spinach. I ordered a package for fall planting and can hardly wait to get it growing!
Spinach Can Be Finicky
If you’ve gardened and grown spinach for any length of time, you know it can be finicky depending on the time of year grown and the weather conditions.
Spring crops usually don’t last too long because when day length reaches 14 hours in May, that triggers flowering (stalking). And of course, unseasonably hot weather adds to the problem.
A fall crop is easier to grow and when the weather turns frosty the spinach is even more delicious.
Ideally, if you can get spinach started the first of August, you’d have an abundance to harvest for fall eating.
The more your spinach grows before you put your cold frames or hoop tunnels up, the more you’ll have to eat through the winter. (Winter growth is extremely slow if any.)
The later you get started the less harvest you’ll have before going into winter. But if you’re late don’t let that stop you from planting, because those late starts under a hoop tunnel will have you eating delicious spinach when you’re just beginning to plant your spring crops.
Succession Planting (Staggered Planting)
Usually, August is way too hot for starting spinach in my garden, but this year conditions are almost perfect. Although I missed the August 1st planting date, I’ll plant tomorrow and then once a week through the first week in September. That way I’ll have spinach at all stages; some to enjoy in the fall, winter and next spring.
Backing up Succession Planting with Diversity
Each variety of spinach performs a bit differently. To give me the best shot at having all the spinach I want, I’m planting 4 varieties. Bordeaux, Space, Donkey, and a Bloomsdale variety.
Germination Temperature for Spinach
All of us who’ve grown spinach for any length of time have had spotty germination and/or have waited a month for the spinach to germinate. This is because spinach is particular about the soil temperatures it likes for germination.
If temperatures are too cold it can take spinach as long as 2 months to germinate. If it’s too hot, you might get quick germination but only less than 50% of the seed planted might come up.
According to Tom Clothier’s chart (http://tomclothier.hort.net/page11.html) the best all around soil temperatures for spinach are from 50 to 59 degrees F. He shows 91% of seed will germinate in about 12 days at 50 degrees. And 82% of seed will germinate in about 7 days at 59 degrees F.
If you can possibly germinate your spinach in that range, you’ll avoid the problems we’ve all had at one time of the other with getting our spinach seed to germinate.
To get the most out of planting for fall and winter:
- Succession plant so you’ll have things over a longer period of time.
- Plant different varieties to see how each will perform for you.
- Check out Tom Clothier’s chart to see if you can provide the best soil temperature for germination.
But don’t let anything that’s not perfect stop you!
Your success rate will be greater by planting things in less than perfect conditions than it will be if you don’t plant. 😉
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