There are several great overwinter spinach types that are easy to grow when sown in the fall. Erika Gutierrez of Old Milburnie Farm, recommends the following cultivars: space, python, tyee, red cardinal and red kitten. “They do not need much special care since they are cold tolerant,” said Farmer Erika. “Last year it snowed several times, and they survived and produced heavily without row cover.” Spinach plants should produce until April.
Do you garden? Or do you dream about it? Whether you start with one item or mix a few together, you don’t need to be an expert to dig right in. To get you started, WakeMed dietitians, local farmers and chefs will weigh in on one featured item in upcoming issues of Families First.
Sweet & Nutritious
Cold weather enhances the sweetness of the spinach. Green fruits and vegetables get their color from a natural plant pigment called chlorophyll.
Amy Bowen, WakeMed dietitian, encourages families to include leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli in meal planning. Spinach is high in dietary fiber, and it’s an excellent source of folate (one of the B vitamins), vitamin C, beta carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium and potassium.
Spinach also contains lutein. “When sources of lutein are combined with zeaxanthin (found in corn, red peppers, oranges, grapes and egg yolks), they could help reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration that can lead to blindness if untreated,” said Bowen. “So think about the colors of the rainbow and get creative in the kitchen with spinach!”
Tips from Old Milburnie Farm
Soil & Seed Use a well-balanced loamy soil and direct seed as early as October and into November. Make sure to water regularly since NC tends to be dry in the fall. Farmer Erika recommends mixing compost such as Black Kow or mushroom compost into the soil. Avoid potting soil since it is more expensive and compost is more nutritive.
Sunny & South Farmer Erika recommends choosing a south facing location in full sun. If it is a cold November, you can add ag fabric, a sheet, row cover or use a cold frame to speed up germination. When planning the timing for your spinach, remember that it will take the spinach a longer time to get to maturity once the daylight is under 10 hours. “However, unlike kale and cabbage, spinach will grow and grow in the winter and make a huge comeback once the daylight increases in mid-January for a few months until April.” The benefit of fall planting is having spinach at maturity late winter and early spring.
Make a Cold Frame You may want to make a cold frame to protect your plants. An easy way to make a cheap cold frame is to use an old window or door with glass panes. Mount it on a wooden frame (nail together 2x4 pieces of untreated wood). If you can't find a door or window, you can staple clear plastic instead.
Since the bottom of the cold frame is open to soil, you can direct seed spinach inside, and it should be safe from snow, wind and ice. If you search online, there are some video tutorials for building a cold frame.
Old Milburnie Farm, a joint venture of Daniel Dayton and Erika Gutierrez, is located at Beaver Dam Lake. They grow vegetables using sustainable, organic methods. Learn more about the farm at OldMilburnieFarm.com