Spinach Gardening is growing a cool-weather crop that if handled correctly will produce in the garden. The plant prefers a more alkaline soil – keep that in mind. If allowed to grow into the hot weather of summer with its longer days it may bolt – go to seed.
Spinach seed does not store well so you should not keep for more than a few years, I have had seeds germinate after two years but the seed will lose its virility quicker than other seeds – or so I believe.
There are both smooth-leafed and dimpled or savoy-leafed spinach varieties. Different varieties are grown by many seed companies including Burpees (my favorite) and High Mowing Seeds (A very close second)
Where to Plant
Select a planting site with full sun (at least 6 hours) and well-drained soil.
I have read that spinach plants don’t do well when transplanted. I have grown them both ways (direct sowing and transplanting) without much headache. Sow spinach seed as soon as the soil can be worked; however, if the weather turns cold or wet, the risk of having nothing sprout or a prolonged germination period may happen.
Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and two inches apart in rows 12 inches to 18 inches apart. One ounce of spinach seed should be enough to plant 100 feet of row. If conditions are good the seeds should germinate in about 1 to 2 weeks. As the seedlings emerge, thin to about 3 inches apart. When the plants become large enough that they touch each other, pull every other one to give the plants some space (eat what you pull) since overcrowding stunts growth and encourages plants to go to seed. If you want, at this point apply some 10-10-10 fertilizer around the plants at the rate of 3 ounces for each 10 feet of row.
Sunlight and Soil Requirements
Spinach does best when growing in moist, nitrogen-rich soil. Plants prefer soil pH of between 6.5 to 7.5. Spinach does not do well in acid soil. If necessary, add calcium to your soil around the spinach plants.
Water the new seedlings well in the spring. Roots are shallow and easily damaged so do not use garden rakes around the plants Keep soil moist with mulching. Spinach can tolerate the cold; it can survive a frost Cover the crop with shade cloth if the temperature goes above 80 degrees.
In the north, sow seeds weekly in the spring until 6 weeks before average daily temperatures are expected to be over 75°. In late summer, as soon as temperatures average below 75°, start weekly sowing until 6 weeks before temperatures are expected to start dipping into the 20’s. In the south grow spinach as a late autumn to winter crop or late winter to spring crop and use the same temperature parameters described above as a planting guide.
In six weeks to eight weeks, start harvesting any plant that has leaves 6 inches to 8 inches long. You can harvest the entire plant by cutting at the soil surface.
A good crop would be 3 to 5 lbs. per 10 feet of row. If you are a “12 month gardener” you will want to plant about 10 feet to 20 feet of row per person. The leaves contain iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B, and C
Spinach blight, a virus spread by aphids, causes yellow leaves and stunted plants.
Downy mildew, which appears as yellow spots on leaf surfaces and mold on the undersides, occurs during very wet weather. Reduce the spread of disease spores by not working around wet plants. Avoid both of these diseases by planting resistant cultivars.
Leafminer larvae can burrow inside leaves and produce tan trails (these are my biggest problem).
The flea beetle is a type of leaf beetle that can be found anywhere and on many different plants – vegetable crops; shrubs; weeds. Some species of these little beetles do good by eating invasive weeds while many of their relatives are known garden pests that can exact extensive damage to plants including radishes, broccoli, cabbage, turnips, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, spinach and melons to name a few.
Common types of Flea Beetles:
Crucifer flea beetle; crucifer flea beetle; striped flea beetle; western black flea beetle; potato flea beetle; spinach flea beetle
Most adult flea beetles are small, 1/16 –1/8th inch long. An exception is the spinach flea beetle, which is 1/4-inch long.
Since there are different species, flea beetles come in different colors such as: black, bronze, bluish or brown to metallic gray. Some even have stripes. They all have large back legs which they use for jumping (something like fleas) – this can make for easy identification.
Their eggs are very small and are white. They are laid in the soil. Unless you are trained and have a strong magnifying glass, don’t bother looking for any.
Larvae are small white grubs. They will be down at the root level. Again, unless you are trained and have a strong magnifying glass, don’t bother looking for any.
Based on the many species of this bug, they are found worldwide.
Plants, leaves, stems, fruit and the larvae of certain species are known to eat roots. These can be bad garden or crop pests. For gardeners, eggplant, corn, and cabbage family crops (i.e. cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower) are very susceptible. There are flea beetles that attack tomato, potato, pepper, beet, spinach, turnip, radish, plus almost every other vegetable to some degree.
Signs of Damage
Flea beetles chew irregular holes in the leaves that can look like small, scattered pellet shot. Severe flea beetle damage can result in wilted or stunted plants. They can attack and destroy seedlings. I have had eggplant seedlings so severely impacted that the harvest was basically nil. When damage is bad enough crop production will be adversely affected.
Flea beetles live through the winter as adults in leaf litter or other protected cover. They become active in early spring. Depending on the species, females lay single or clusters of eggs in small holes, in roots, soil or leaves of many vegetables as well as occasionally on flowers and ornamental shrubs and trees.
Small white larvae hatch from eggs and feed on the roots. Larvae then transform into pupae in the ground. There are usually one to two generations per year.
Flea beetles are best managed through a combination of methods. Since they are most damaging in spring, you will need to monitor for leaf damage. If there is damage – treat immediately!!
When closing up your garden for winter you can remove old crop debris or till it into the soil so that beetles will not be able to get protection in the winter.
First step during growing season is if you think you have flea beetles and damage indicates flea beetles, try yellow sticky traps you can place in your garden to catch some.
Use row covers to keep beetles out while seedlings are growing. As the plants mature, remove the row covers before the flowers bloom.
Some advice is to plant a favorite crop, such as radish, as a “trap crop” so you can draw in the beetles and treat. I personally don’t do that. The way I see it is all you are doing in ringing a dinner-bell for the bugs.
Microctonus vittatae, a native braconid wasp, and tachinid flies kill the adult flea beetle. The larvae of this wasp develop on the female flea beetle and prevent the beetle from reproducing. To encourage these insects, plant flowers such as caraway, herb fennel and coriander as well as flowers such as poppies, marigolds and yarrow.
To control the larvae try using parasitic nematodes in your garden beds. Install them in beds just before planting crops. If the larvae can be controlled or killed, you can almost eliminate local populations.
You can also dust plants and surrounding soil with diatomaceous earth.
There are many pesticides labeled for treating flea beetles. Check with your nursery to put together a program
Notes of Interest
Other flea beetle species are beneficial, feeding on weeds and similar nuisance plants. A few species have even been introduced to various locations as biological control agents against some weeds. One important example is in the control of Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula), an invasive weed in the United States. It has a toxic latex and is generally avoided by herbivores. Flea beetles of the genus Aphthona have been successfully introduced to control this plant.
Cabbage, made up of several types of Brassica, is a leafy green, red, or white colored biennial plant grown as an annual vegetable crop for its dense multi-layered leaved heads when cabbage gardening. The leaves are commonly smooth in texture, but crinkle-leafed savoy cabbages are also grown (my favorites). They weigh generally from 1 to 5 lbs. however there are varieties that grow much larger for. Cabbage heads are picked during the first year of the plant’s life cycle. Plants intended for seed are grown into a second year.
Cabbage contain the following vitamins and minerals:
Thiamine (B1); Riboflavin (B2); Niacin (B3); B5; Vitamin B6; Folate; Vitamin C and Vitamin K
Calcium; Iron; Magnesium; Manganese; Phosphorus; Potassium; Sodium and Zinc
It is descended from the wild cabbage and belongs to the brassicas, meaning it is closely related to broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Cabbage was most likely domesticated somewhere in Europe before 1000 BC. Savoy cabbage was developed around the 16th century AD. World production of cabbage and other brassicas for 2017 was 71 million tons, with China accounting for 47% of the world total.
Types of Cabbage
Early Golden Acre; a northern favorite that is ideal for smaller gardens. Round and compact, their heads average 2-3 pounds of sweet flavor – Ferry Morse
Early Jersey Wakefield; favorite with a distinctly sweet flavor – Burpee
Salad Delight; an early maturing red cabbage with a 3 lb. head – Burpee
Red Express; very nice color and early maturity, compact habit 2 – 4 lb. heads – High Mowing Seeds
Cabbage has been selectively bred for head weight and characteristics such as frost hardiness, fast growth and storage ability. The appearance of the cabbage head has been given importance in selective breeding, with varieties being chosen for shape, color, firmness and other physical characteristics.
Commercial breeding objectives are now focused on increasing resistance to various insects and diseases and improving the nutritional content of cabbage. Unfortunately, this means in too many cases GMO. In my opinion it is better to put up with pests and disease management than to grow anything GMO, I may be wrong but allowing scientists and others to create something that may very well be a plant-based-Frankenstein is unsettling.
Where to Plant
Cabbage plants can handle full sun to light shade, so at least 5 to 6 hours of sun. Since cabbage plants are not setting flowers or fruit, they do not need a full day of sun. Cabbage gardening in warmer climates will require some shade during hot months, so the plants do not dry out. If you can, rotate where you plant. Try to avoid planting where cabbage as well as other brassicas have been planted for at least 2 years.
When to Plant
There are cabbage seedlings available at every garden center in spring, but for the best variety you will need to start yours from seed. You can start seeds indoors, about 6 to 10 weeks before your last expected frost date. Cabbages can handle a little frost, so you can transplant seedlings outdoors close to your last frost date as long as the soil is able to be worked and if a hard frost is expected you can cover the plants. Just make sure that any plants started and grown under lights are given the time to acclimate to the sun before being planted into the garden.
How to Plant
Space plants about 2 feet apart in rows with approximately the same spacing. Later plantings can be direct sown in the garden for fall harvest.
Plants perform best when grown in well-drained soil. Different varieties prefer different soil types, ranging from lighter sand to heavier clay, but all prefer fertile ground with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. For optimal growth when cabbage gardening, there must be adequate levels of nitrogen in the soil, sufficient phosphorus and potassium. Temperatures between 39 and 75 °F prompt the best growth, and extended periods of higher or lower temperatures may result in plants “going nowhere”.
Cabbage likes even moisture to produce good heads. Mulch with compost, finely ground leaves, or finely ground bark to keep the soil cool and moist and to keep down weeds. Water regularly, applying 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week (including rain).
Fertilize plants with a 10-10-10 fertilizer after they begin to develop new leaves and when they start forming heads.
Cabbage worms and cabbage loopers are the main pest threats. They will munch holes throughout the leaves. Their coloring allows them to blend in with the cabbage, but they can be handpicked easily if you can see them. If you see small white moths around your plants, try and kill them. Check under cabbage leaves for small white (extremely small) nodes – these are the cabbage moth eggs. Crush them!! If you see wasps flying around your cabbages – leave them be, they are hunting the cabbage moth larvae.
Slugs will also attack your cabbages as will cutworms. Spread diatomaceous earth around the plants base. The diatomaceous earth will kill the insects but will not harm the plant and to top that, it is organic.
Root-knot nematodes and cabbage maggots attack the plant below soil level and produce stunted and wilted plants with yellow leaves. Predatory nematodes are a good organic solution to these pests.
Rabbits can also become a problem. If you have rabbits around, fence or net your cabbage beds.
One of the most common bacterial diseases to affect cabbage is black rot which causes lesions that start at the leaf margins and wilting of plants.
Clubroot, caused by the Plasmodiophora brassicae, results in swollen, club-like roots. If you have soil PH below 6.0 consider raising it with lime to 6.8 – 7.0, by doing so you may avoid the issues with clubroot.
Downy mildew produces pale leaves with white, brownish or olive mildew on the lower leaf surfaces.
For cabbage that head’s up check for “ripeness” by squeezing it. A head that looks solid and ready may still be flimsy and loose leafed on the inside. When it feels firm, cut the head from the base of the plant. I do let cabbages ready to harvest stay in the garden if I am backed up on work but ff a head cracks, cut it right away. When cabbage gardening is done and cabbages are harvested, remove the remainder of the plant. cabbage gardening lends itself to double cropping with other plants. After you clean up the bed try planting turnips, beets or spinach for extra crop. Heads will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.
The leek (allium porrum), a mild flavored member of the onion family, is a hardy biennial grown as an annual in the vegetable garden. However; unlike onions and shallots, leeks do not bulb, they are straight stalk plants. They are grown for their thick, juicy, mild flavored stems. The edible part being the lower stem.
If left in the garden, and if they survive winter weather, they will flower in year two and go to seed, as does parsley.
The top growth of leeks (the leaves), called the flag, are thick and strap like and are colored green to dark blue-green. The top growth does not die back as the plant matures.
Leeks contain the following vitamins and minerals:
Vitamins – Vitamin A, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic acid (B5), Vitamin B6, Folate (B9), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K
Leeks can require a long growing season—up to 170 days. They grow best in cool, mild weather.
They require little to no attention and are generally pest-free. In the kitchen, they can be substituted for onions. Leeks can be chopped and frozen for later use.
Types of Leeks
There are two types of leeks: short-season (non-hardy)and long-season (hardy).
Short-season leeks, also known as summer leeks, have thin stems. They mature in about 60 – 90 days and are harvested during the summer and early fall. They can be harvested and used like scallions when young. Summer leeks are not winter hardy and do not store as well as long-season leeks. Good varieties of summer leeks are:
Long-season leeks, also known as winter leeks, have thick, cylindrical stems. They take about 100 – 170 days to reach harvest. Long-season leeks are harvested late summer through the winter. They store well either inground or in cold damp sand. Good varieties of winter leeks are:
First, if you can, you should rotate the location of where you grow your vegetables – and that also includes leeks. Try to move them to a new bed to avoid sections where they, onions or garlic have grown in the past year. This helps avoid the pests and diseases that can cause problems or ruin the crop.
Leeks like full sun, however, they do tolerate partial shade. Plant in well-drained soil rich organic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
When to plant
Winter leeks take up to four (4) months to mature, if you live above zone 7, you should sow your winter leek seeds indoors in early spring. Start the seeds indoors about 2 – 3 months before the last expected spring frost – check the Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Transplant seedlings into the garden as early as 1 to 2 weeks before the last expected spring frost. Leeks should be in the garden no later than early summer for autumn harvest. They will survive light frosts even when young — and heavy frosts in the fall.
If you live in planting zone 7 and warmer, you can plant winter leeks directly into the garden about the time of the last expected spring frost.
Summer leeks can be sown directly into the garden about the time of last spring frost dates.
Unused seeds can be kept up to 3 years.
How to Plant
First, mark your rows and remove the top 6 inches of soil in each row to create trenches. Space leek transplants 6 inches apart when planting. They grow best in temperatures between 55° and 75°F. Growth will be slowed by hot weather. Planting beds should have well-aged manure and compost.
Sow leek seeds ½ inch deep. They typically germinate in 10 to 14 days at 70°. When the seedlings reach about 8 inches, thin to 4 to 6 inches apart. Rows should be spaced 12 to 16 inches apart. Stagger the plants in each row so they are not uniform, this will allow the plants more room to grow.
As the plants grow you will need to use the removed soil to back-fill around the stems (you may fill in 2 -4 times during the growing season). This will blanch the lower stems that get covered. Blanched stems will be white and tender. Another way to blanch stems and avoid playing with dirt is to use leaves and grass clippings. I tried this in 2020 and it worked fine – it also kept the plants dirt free.
If you start your leeks indoors keep the tops trimmed to about 4 inches tall to encourage stocky stem growth. When the weather is good, transplant into the garden.
Keep the soil around leeks evenly moist; water when the surface becomes just dry. Feed plants with compost tea or worm tea every four weeks during the growing season. If using normal fertilizing methods, you should spread 5-10-5 fertilizer every 3 to 4 weeks at a rate of 5 ounces of fertilizer per 10 feet of row.
Soil that tumbles into leaf folds can wind up trapped between skin layers in the stem. To keep this from happening you can slip a section of paper tube, such as from toilet tissue or paper towels, over the plants while they are still young as early as planting time. The tube will rot over the growing season but will help prevent soil from getting into leaf bases during early growth.
The closer together you plant leeks, the smaller they will be. Commercial growers usually place them about 6-8″ apart and don’t thin them. A good technique for home gardeners is to plant them just 2-3″ apart and achieve proper spacing by harvesting leeks as you need them. These young leeks are a good substitute for green onions in the kitchen.
After planting, mulch the bed with straw (I hate Straw) or other organic material (try shredded paper) to help soil retain moisture. Water plants as needed until they are established. Plants require an inch of water a week, either through rainfall or irrigation. Inconsistent moisture may cause tough stems.
On young plants, slugs can be devastating. Gather them at night, set traps, or use biological control.
If there is a lot of rain in winter or early spring, leaf rot can set in. Rot shows as white spots on leaf tips that eventually shrivel. At this point there is not much you can do except pull the rotted plants and thin the planting to increase air circulation.
In summer orange pustules on leaves indicate leek rust, which is worse in wet growing seasons. Remove affected foliage; later maturing foliage will be healthy
You can pull leeks any time. Typically, you want them at least 1 inch or larger in diameter, but you can dig young ones to eat like green onions / scallions. Leeks have large root systems so use a hand fork or garden fork to loosen the soil before lifting the plants. A 10-foot row can yield up to 15 to 20 mature plants.
In colder areas, extend the harvest season by mulching deeply around plants (up to 1 foot deep). You can continue harvesting leeks but when a hard freeze is expected dig them up.
In zones 7 and warmer, you should be able to harvest leeks all winter long.
Initially, when harvesting leeks, shake and brush off as much soil as possible then rinse the plant thoroughly. To freeze leeks, wash, slice, and blanch for 1 minute in boiling water. Drain, drip dry, and toss into plastic freezer bags.
Store leeks wrapped in a damp paper towel in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days. Smaller leeks store better than larger leeks. Trim the roots and wash the leaves and stem before refrigerating.
For longer storage in coldest zones, dig leeks with roots attached. Cut leaves back until just an inch of green remains on each leaf. Place stems in a box (root side down) and pack with sawdust, clean sand, or vermiculite. Keep the packing moist and store in a cool place. Stems will keep up to 8 weeks
These Frost Date Maps Derived from the 1981–2010 U.S. Climate Normals—30-year averages of climatological variables like temperatures—these maps show the time of year, on average, that areas across the nation can expect to see their temperatures dip to 32°F or below for the last time. The map reveals some interesting regional differences across the country. In the East, the last spring freeze date generally progresses through time as you move northward on the map. However, in the West, the changes are much more complex due to elevation and coastal influences.
Wondering what happened to Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico? The unique climates of these regions pose a problem in calculating the average date of the last spring freeze. Nearly all of Alaska falls into the “too cold to compute” category, meaning that the state is likely to see freezing temperatures year-round. At the opposite end of the spectrum, all of Puerto Rico and all but the highest elevations of the state of Hawaii fall into the “too warm to compute” category, meaning that they very rarely or never see freezing temperatures.
The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location, click here for the interactive map . The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones.
The USDA system was originally developed to aid gardeners and landscapers in the United States.
The map is available as an interactive GIS-based map, for which a for broadband Internet connection is recommended, and as static images for those with slower Internet access. Users may also simply type in a ZIP Code and find the hardiness zone for that area.
If you want an accurate map to not only provide general band guidelines for the USA but can also be so detailed that your town, down to the zip code, is reported on. The hardiness scales do not take into account the reliability of snow cover. Snow acts as an insulator against extreme cold, protecting the root system of hibernating plants.
The zones do not incorporate any information about summer temperature, thus sites which may have the same mean winter minima, but markedly different summer temperatures, will be accorded the same hardiness zone.
As the USDA system is based entirely on average annual extreme minimum temperature in an area, it is limited in its ability to describe the climatic conditions a gardener may have to account for in a particular area: there are many other factors that determine whether or not a given plant can survive in a given zone.