How To Grow Spinach In Pots With Great Success
A small plant pot can produce a prodigious amount of spinach. Growing in a pot gives you the option of having fresh spinach all year round, even in the depths of winter. With proper care, one plant pot of spinach will give you great flexibility in the garden and a bountiful harvest.
Successfully growing spinach in a container starts with choosing the right pot. Select a pot that is at least 15cm to 20cm (6-8inches) deep, and large enough to accommodate the number of plants you want to grow.
Spinach is a great plant for container gardening. It has shallow roots and can be grown quite close together without crowding out its neighbours. Growing spinach in containers is a great addition to a vertical garden, or even if all the space you have is a balcony or window ledge. In this article, we will look at:
- Choosing a pot size
- Providing good soil and nutrients
- Sowing spinach seeds in pots
- Caring for your potted spinach
- Having a continuous harvest
1. Choosing A Pot Size
Spinach has a fairly shallow root system, so it can be grown in many different sized pots. You want to provide a soil depth of about 15cm to 20cm (6-8inches). Also, you want the pot large enough that the roots will not become rootbound, which is when the roots take up all the space in the soil and often circle around the pot in a dense mass. This can be detrimental to the plant.
Spinach is a cool season plant, and it will easily bolt in the summer. A plant bolts, or goes to seed, when it is stressed and produce seeds for self-preservation. Most spinach plants bolt in temperatures over 23°C (73°F), when the days are longer than 14 hours, and when there is not enough water.
Growing your spinach in a pot that is small enough that you can carry it can be beneficial to keep the plant from bolting. You can move it around to different locations to keep it cool or out of the sun when the weather turns warm. You can also bring it indoors if the situation calls for it. If you want to grow your spinach in the early spring or late fall, you can move the pot to a spot where it will make the most of the waning sunlight. That being said, spinach also grows very well in large pots or containers. It can also be grown in combination with other plants.
Spinach grows in most places around the world. If you live in a subtropical or tropical climate, make sure you position the pots where are almost exclusively in the shade.
2. Providing Good Soil And Nutrients
Spinach is a hungry plant and is especially fond of nitrogen. Since you are growing it in a pot, the plant’s growth is limited by what you put in the pot. The more you provide, the better growth (and the subsequent harvest) will be.
Start off with good soil. You can use soil from your own garden, or you can buy bags of soil. If you are buying soil, potting soil is preferred over topsoil, as topsoil has the tendency to compact in containers, and spinach does better with loose soil that drains well.
Next, add a generous amount of compost or manure. Both of these will add organic matter and improve soil texture and aeration, as well as add valuable nutrients for the heavy-feeding spinach. Horse or chicken manure is particularly beneficial as it is high in nitrogen. Make sure the manure you use is well-rotted or else the nitrogen can burn the roots.
As your spinach grows, you might want to add additional nutrients or fertilizers to feed the plant. This is especially true if you plan on taking multiple harvests from a single plant as this will continually drain the soil. Compost tea is easy to make and it will feed your plants as well as water them. If you choose to use fertilizers, here is an article outlining many different organic fertilizers that will feed your plant and help the planet.
3. Sowing Spinach Seeds In Pots
Thankfully spinach seeds are large enough that they can be planted one at a time. If you are going to harvest smaller leaves, space your plants 5cm to 8cm apart (2-3inches). Leave 12cm (5inches) between the plants if you want to let the plants grow larger. Keep the plants about the same distance from the side of the pot to give the roots enough room. Using your finger (or a pencil) make a hole about 1.5cm to 2.5cm (1/2-1inch) deep and place one seed in each hole. Lightly cover each seed by filling in each hole with soil.
As we discuss in another article, spinach germinates well in temperatures between 1°C to 23°C (33-73F). Germination will be slower with the cooler temperatures (maybe up to three weeks), but you should still have good success. In more temperate conditions, the seeds can germinate in one to two weeks.
4. Caring For Your Potted Spinach
One of the best things about growing in pots is that it simplifies, if not eliminates, the chore of weeding. Unfortunately, there will always be a few weeds that manage to sneak in, so make sure to pull them right away.
The most important thing your spinach will need is water. Soil in pots will dry out faster than in the garden so make sure that the soil does not completely dry out. As a guideline, if the top of the soil feels dry it can use some water. Mulching the soil will help retain moisture. You can use straw, wood chips, or shredded paper. The latter is a great way to upcycle your old invoices, bills, and bank statements. Remember that lack of water is one reason your spinach will bolt, so keep the soil moist.
Spinach grown in containers is much less likely to be destroyed by pests or diseases than when it is grown in the garden. However, it is not immune so it is good to keep an eye on your plant health to nip any potential problems in the bud.
5. Having A Continuous Harvest
As your spinach grows, you can harvest the leaves as you need them, and the plant will continue to produce. In fact, the more you pick the more growth you will stimulate. Alternatively, you can use scissors or a knife and cut off the plant about 2.5cm (1inch) above the soil, and the plant will send up more leaves. Without harvesting, the plant will develop a tall, thick stalk covered in a bountiful harvest of leaves. If left long enough, seed pods will develop and you can harvest seeds for next year’s crop.
Spinach is a great crop to grow in pots. You can have a bountiful harvest from a single pot, or you can decorate your yard and house with pots for an edible, and portable, landscape.