Harvesting spinach without killing the plant is actually easy. I swear, it’s nothing complicated. But the journey to a healthy spinach harvest—that’s the tricky part.
I’m not saying that growing spinach is best left for expert gardeners alone. Nope. Beginner gardeners can take on this challenge.
When I say tricky, I’m referring to the timing when it comes to planting spinach (which I’ll discuss more on later), but besides that, you’ll have no problem growing this leafy vegetable.
Just make sure you give them the best growing conditions as much as possible and you’ll have Popeye stealing your beautiful spinach harvest in no time.
So let’s talk spinach—since I’m assuming you’re about to harvest a fresh batch if you’re reading this article. Do you know just how nutritious this vegetable is? Most people consider it a superfood and I’m one of them.
Not only does it effectively restore energy and improve blood quality, but it also boosts vitality! Boosts vitality . . . does that remind you of something? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure Popeye has that same power-up in his show.
Well, now you do too.
Okay, okay, I know you’re itching to know how to harvest spinach without killing your plant and I promise we’ll get to that later.
For now, let’s just recap the growing conditions for spinach plants so you can gauge the quality of the batch of spinach that you’ll be harvesting later.
Spinach Growing Conditions
Spinach is kind of a finicky plant to grow mostly due to the timing that you need to follow. Timing is very essential when growing spinach since if you start too late, you will only be rewarded with failed bolting plants that you can’t harvest.
You don’t want that.
So for a successful harvest, you need to sow spinach seeds as soon as you can in the spring. By doing so, you’ll remove a big chance of your crop failing. After you aced your planting time, growing spinach will no longer be complicated.
I’ve prepared some key points below to make your spinach plant life happy and healthy!
Here are some of the growing conditions you should remember:
Spinach is a cool-weather crop that thrives in early spring and fall. You’ll have a hard time growing this plant in summer and will face extreme heat as an obstacle.
See, the increasing day length in warm temperatures causes the spinach to bolt. Bolting is when the spinach forms flowering stalks and goes to seed, resulting in a failed crop.
Trust me, when it bolts, your crop will become tough and bitter.
The cool weather, on the other hand, with its shorter days, creates a perfect climate for the spinach to grow healthily. Especially when the daytime temperature remains consistently below 75°F– which happens commonly in spring or fall.
Basically, Spinach is generally suitable for the USDA hardiness zones 2 through 9.
Spinach grows best in full sun or partial shade. A leafy vegetable like spinach needs about four hours of sunlight per day. However, prolonged exposure to sunlight, especially in hot climates, triggers them to bolt.
In the afternoon or when you observe the temperature goes above 80 degrees, cover the crop with shade cloth.
This plant develops effectively and faster in well-drained, moist, light and nitrogen-rich loamy soil. Use soil rich in organic matter (compost/composted manure) and with a pH of 6.5 to 7.
Spinach thrives in evenly moist soil not soggy or wet ones. I’m emphasizing this because water stress can cause your plants to bolt. So make sure you’re not overwatering them—just enough to keep the soil moist.
Ideally, you should water spinach every other day, making sure that the soil is moist.
Consistent moisture will guarantee healthy growth and prevent the spinach from bolting. If you are in a warm region, mulch around plants to slow the evaporation of the soil’s moisture.
Like I’ve said before, spinach plants are low maintenance crops so I suggest that you fertilize your spinach plants only if necessary—when you observe a slow growth or when your soil pH is inadequate.
Following these basic growing conditions will help your spinach plants in the long run. Trust me a happy plant will give you a generous and healthy yield. Once you see how lush your spinach will become in the end, the sweeter the harvest will be!
Spinach Harvest Period
One thing I love about this leafy vegetable is how fast it grows. Look, if the spinach plants are given the growing conditions I’ve mentioned above, you will only be needing six weeks of cool weather from seed sowing to
Your precious spinach will be ready for picking in just about 40 to 52 days! That time will fly in no time. Plus, you can even harvest earlier if you like baby spinach. Baby spinach leaves are tender and sweeter compared to normal spinach
When is the best time to harvest spinach?
Now that you know the approximate growing days of Spinach the question now is ‘When is the best time to pick spinach?’. The best time actually depends on your taste. Do you want fully grown spinach or baby spinach?
When to Pick Spinach (regular and fully grown)
You can start harvesting when you see your spinach plant having at least six leaves that are about 4 inches long. This usually happens in six to eight weeks in most varieties.
This is important: Don’t wait too long to harvest your spinach. Don’t even wait for the leaves to get larger. It’s not worth it, I promise you. As the leaves mature and get older, the bitterness will just get stronger.
Don’t waste the time and effort you’ve given your plant just to end up with bitter-tasting spinach.
When to Baby Spinach
Once the spinach leaves are about 2 inches long, you can start cutting your baby spinach. These tender and sweet leaves are perfectly eaten raw. Salads, sandwiches, or wraps—baby spinach will fit just fine!
Just a quick reminder though, the growing days are just approximation. Depending on the variety you’ve chosen, the harvesting period and time will vary. Just to be sure, check the length of the leaves of the spinach plant that you want to harvest.
Once they’ve reached the ideal length, then just start harvesting.
Process Of Harvesting Spinach
By now you know the best growing conditions you can give your spinach plants as well as how long you’ll have to wait to start harvesting them. We’re finally here on the proper way of harvesting spinach!
How to Harvest Spinach without Killing the Plant
Carefully pick and cut the outer leaves first when they’re large enough to eat so the inner leaves will continue to grow. This will extend the harvesting period and encourage your plants to produce more leaves, particularly with fall and winter crops.
Take note of the ideal size of the spinach for harvesting. When I say large enough, I don’t mean large per se. Remember what I’ve mentioned before about delaying harvest and waiting for the leaves to get bigger?
That’s a big NO when harvesting spinach.
Bitterness will set in quickly after maturity so harvest at the proper time. This goes to show that timing really is everything with this plant.
Always keep an eye on your crops. Harvest spinach when leaves reach the desired size. Lucky for you, spinach is a crop that you can harvest over and over again! Even if you strip most of the leaves from the plant, the crop will grow new leaves in no time at all!
As long as the plant hasn’t started continuously bolting, you can harvest from it.
How to Harvest the Entire Spinach Plant
Alternatively, you can always choose to cut the entire plant just below the soil level with a garden knife if you want to harvest the whole plant. Or if you see signs of bolting.
By harvesting the entire spinach plant, you will encourage the plant to regrow giving you a fresh start. This will only work if there are enough cool weather days left for them to thrive.
Storing And Using
Spinach can keep really well. If you plant and harvest during the cold months then you’ll have enough that will last you for a long long time. The long-time part is actually due to the fact that spinach freezes so well! They’re perfect for long term storage.
I hope you’ve tried adding frozen spinach to your smoothie, because if you haven’t, then you’re missing out. I promise it’s the perfect sneak vegetable to add so your kids won’t know what hit them.
Store your harvested spinach cold and moist, 32°-40°F (0°-5°C). Make sure there is 95 percent relative humidity. Place spinach in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper section. Spinach will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 10 days.
If you store your spinach for too long or place it somewhere too cold, it will develop brown spots on the midrib and the leaves will wilt and turn yellow.