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Spinach Gardening

Spinach Gardening

General

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.

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Types/Varieties

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.

Planting

Spinach gardening is pretty easy, just make sure you have good PH, and watch the temperature

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.

Care

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.

Succession Planting

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.

Harvesting

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

Problems

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).

Slugs also feed on spinach.

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Flea Beetle Identification

General

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

Description

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.

flea beetle on eggplant leaf

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.

Territory/Habitat

Based on the many species of this bug, they are found worldwide.

Diet

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.

Life Cycle

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.

Treatment

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.

flea beetle damage on a leaf

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.

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