Monday, April 7, 2014

Growing Spinach and Lettuce {Watch My Garden Grow Series}

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When I first started a garden about 7 years ago, I was probably the most scared to grow spinach and lettuce. They seem so dainty and tender. I was sure I would mess this up. My husband's grandmother and grandfather are master gardeners, and they assured me that the lettuce and spinach would be easy. His grandmother even went so far as to tell me that I couldn't kill those things if I tried.

They were right! Lettuce and spinach are very easy. They are hearty and can survive the cold snaps very well. If you missed it, you might want to read about my Gardening: Getting Started Tips.

What you need:
  • Dirt
  • Seeds for what you want to grow. We grow spinach and then we buy a variety of lettuce seeds that grow red leaf, green leaf, romain, black...This is the lettuce blend I am currently using from Gurney's. I have also bought a blend from my local nursery and liked that, also. I don't have a favorite spinach right now. I like the kind I have used fine (it is from my local nursery), but I want to switch to a baby spinach variety next year.
  • Water
Also handy:
  • Hand shovel. This is not necessary.
When to plant:
I plant this the same time as I plant my peas. The rule here is you plant in the spring as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. Lettuce gets bitter-tasting in the heat, so you want it planted early enough that you beat the heat. We plant late March into mid-April. Remember to check to find out when you should plant in your particular climate. 

Where to plant:
I usually plant mine in full sun and that has worked well. Last year we were in partial shade and it was still fine, but the spinach didn't grow as much. I am not sure if it was the partial shade or not. This year, I am back to planting in full sun.

You can see the back half of this row is spinach and the front half is lettuce.
There isn't a lot here! It is more than enough for our family.
How to plant:
  1. Prep your soil. You want it loose. Again, we till in the spring (do not add compost in the spring--you want that in the fall).
  2. Mark your rows where you want your spinach and lettuce. We do a half row of spinach and  a half row of lettuce and it is more than enough for us.
  3. You want to plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep. This isn't very deep. What we do is use a finger or the end of a shovel and create a trench where we want to plant. Then we sprinkle the seeds in the trench. The seeds are super small, so we just sprinkle away. 
  4. Water after planting and water well after planting. Germination is in about 4-10 days, but can be longer if it is cold. 
How to care for spinach and lettuce:
  1. Once the plants are big enough that they touch, you can thin so they are 4-8 inches apart. You can use what you pull out in a salad!
  2. Keep plants well-watered. This will keep them alive but will also keep leaves tender. 
  3. Even though I live in a dry climate, I find my lettuce can get slugs. Ew. I treat around my lettuce and spinach with Escar-Go! from Gurney's. I do this once a month. Last year, I didn't put grass clippings around my lettuce and spinach. This made it so the slugs were not a problem. I didn't have to do Escar-Go! monthly. Another benefit I found for this was that I didn't have grass clippings in my lettuce when I picked it.
How to harvest:
  • You can pick spinach and lettuce leaves as soon as you want to. The amazing thing about these plants is that you don't have to harvest the entire thing at once. I just go to each plant and pick out the largest leaves from each (these are typically on the outside initially, then you work your way in). I keep going until I have as much as I want. 
  • A trick with lettuce is if you pick it, wash it, then put it in a plastic bag in your fridge, it will crisp up. We usually use ours freshly picked, and it is wilty then. If you want it crisp, pick some early and keep it in your fridge. 
  • Don't let your spinach leaves get too big. They get thicker as time goes. They definitely taste better when they are young and tender. 
  • By early to mid July, we typically pick all of our lettuce and spinach, wash it, and store it in the fridge. If we have more than we can eat, we give it away. It we leave it longer, it gets bitter tasting. 
Do you have any tips you have found for lettuce and spinach? Does it grow well in your area?

Growing Peas


Jessie said...

I just planted spinach yesterday! I go by soil temperature as to when to plant; for spinach, it's 35 degrees. Hopefully it will be warm enough this week to bump up the temperatures enough to plant the rest of my cool weather crops!

Caitlin said...

Thank you for this easy how to guide to gardening! I have wanted to garden for a while but been scared to try. You give me confidence! :)

Valerie Plowman said...

That is interesting Jessie! What do you use to check the soil temp? And what happens when you plant when it is too cold?

Valerie Plowman said...

You can do it!

Jessie said...

You can easily google soil temperatures or just check with your local extension office. If it's too cold, the seeds won't germinate. I'm not sure if they will eventually, or not though!


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