Salad Gardening
Published December 14, 2022 by Nicole Burke

5 Easy Steps to Plant Spinach from Seed

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leafy greens
salad garden
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spinach plant harvest

Let's Replace Those Plastic Boxes of Spinach from the Grocery Store with Homegrown Spinach

You know those plastic boxes of spinach leaves from the grocery store that cost four bucks each? What if I told you that for at least a couple months every year, you can grow your own fresh and delicious spinach leaves so you don't have to buy any from the store?

That's right! And there are just a few steps standing between you and homegrown spinach.

I plant up one 4ft. x 4ft. garden box with the goal of growing enough spinach to replace that weekly purchase of a plastic box from the store every spring and fall.

Just one package of spinach seeds costs the same as one of those plastic boxes (about $3 to $4), and I'll get so many spinach leaves that I can enjoy at the peak of their flavor and nutrition. No more wilting, slimy leaves! Sound good?

Follow these five steps to grow your own spinach from seed.

tips to get spinach to grow

An Overview of the Steps to Plant Spinach from Seed

  • Prepare the soil in your raised bed.
  • Plant your spinach seeds about two inches apart in rows that are staggered.
  • Press down on seeds to ensure good soil contact.
  • Plant garlic cloves or chives nearby to protect your leafy greens.
  • Cover your planting area with garden hoops and mesh to keep out pests.

My Favorite Spinach Varieties to Grow

My favorites are Bloomsdale spinach from Botanical Interests and Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach from Baker Creek. These spinach types grow delicious curly leaves that are so different from what you might find in the produce aisle. (Grocery stores prefer to carry smooth-leaf spinaches, which are easier to wash.) They grow well, are slower to bolt when the weather warms, and produce such glossy and tender leaves.

This is not a sponsored post—I just really love seeds from these two companies. You can always look for locally sourced organic spinach seeds.

Bloomsdale spinach leaves

When to Sow Spinach Seeds

Spinach is in the Amaranth family, along with Swiss chard and beets, and you'll find that all three of these nutritional superstars love cool weather.

The ideal temperature range for spinach is 45 to 75 degrees, though spinach can handle colder temps and even some frost. A little frost actually sweetens up the leaves (and helps deal with pests).

If you live somewhere with a cold winter, you'll likely grow spinach during your spring and fall. If you live somewhere warmer, then spinach will be your best friend when your temps finally cool off a bit in the winter.

Spinach does not like hot weather and will bolt, or go to seed, when the weather warms and the days lengthen. I recommend switching to more heat-resistant greens, like New Zealand spinach (which is actually not spinach but really delicious and easy to grow) for the next couple of months.

spinach plant

The Case for Direct Sowing Spinach Seeds Instead of Transplanting Spinach Plants

There are two reasons why starting your own spinach by seed directly in the area you plan to grow it just makes sense, even if you're a beginner gardener who may be a little intimidated by sowing seeds.

The first reason is cost. You can buy a whole package of spinach seeds for $3. Even if you only get one or two of those seeds to grow (which is way underestimating), you'll still save money over buying spinach plants at the plant store for $3 each. I just don't think buying lettuce or spinach plants at the store is ever worth it, especially if you don't know how old those plants are and how they've been grown.

The second reason is the robustness of the plant. I have a good friend who is a gardening pro (I'd say way better than me), and she starts her spinach by seed indoors. She saw my spinach plants one time and commented that mine still seemed to be thriving even though the weather was heating up. My theory is that my plants are more robust than hers because they were started in the garden and never transplanted. I think starting spinach indoors and moving it makes it bolt sooner. Spinach is a shallow-rooted plant, and those roots just aren't made for transfer.

That's why I strongly recommend direct sowing your spinach in the garden. It's super easy—just follow these five steps!

best time for spinach to grow

Step One to Plant Spinach from Seed

Prepare the Soil in Your Raised Bed

Spinach, particularly Bloomsdale spinach types, do grow well in containers, but if you want to replace that plastic box of spinach leaves for a couple months, you'll need to grow a lot of spinach plants (preferably the whole seed package). These instructions, therefore, will pertain to planting spinach in a raised bed, but you can always scale down.

Note: The soil in my raised bed is a sandy loam soil, which spinach loves.

Use a little hand hoe to loosen up the top layer of soil. Add some earthworm castings and a couple inches of compost. (I love mushroom compost, and I just found a great local supplier, which I recommend doing in your area.) Compost is the perfect medium to plant lettuce and spinach seeds directly into.

Once you've added nutrients, rake the soil flat. You don't want soil to be too uneven when you plant lettuce or spinach seeds because these tiny seeds can move around and slide down the little slopes you've created. Instead, you want the soil to be nice and level. I use my gloved hands to press the soil a bit to flatten it. You could also use a flat board and slide it over the top of the soil.

loosen soil for spinach to grow

Step Two to Plant Spinach from Seed

Plant Spinach Seeds 1-2 Inches Apart in Staggered Rows

One tool that I really recommend to make your life easier when planting small seeds is a little seed spacer. My own beloved spacer is from Burgon and Ball (again, not sponsored), but you could also make your own. This little tool keeps you from over-planting seeds. (The little green tools below are seed dispensers, which are also helpful for small seeds like spinach.)

Spinach seeds look like tiny pebbles. It's tempting to just scatter them like lettuce seeds, but you'll get better production if you space them out a little better. You can soak the seeds for a bit immediately before planting to make them a little easier to handle.

seed spacer to plant spinach

I use my seed spacer to press lightly into the soil, and then I place one spinach seed in every other hole so that they're two inches apart. Pressing the spacer lightly helps to compact the soil just enough, and it also gives you a good visual in the soil for where to place your spacer for the next row.

Stagger your second row so that seeds are placed between the seeds in the first row. I learned about staggering when I was a cheerleader (Are you shocked?); it was very important to stay in your window so that every performer could be seen by the crowd. Think about cheerleaders when you're sowing seeds and stagger your rows. Seeds in the third row should be in line with seeds in the first row, and so on. (Watch me sowing spinach seeds in a sped-up video here.)

Placing these seeds in the holes of your seed spacer is when gardening gets really meditative, at least it does for me. You don't have to think too hard about what you're doing and can just enjoy the sunshine on your back while you work. I hope you appreciate these moments in the garden!

planting spinach to grow at home with seed spacer

Step Three to Plant Spinach from Seed

Press Down on Spinach Seeds to Ensure Good Soil Contact

I leave all the seeds uncovered while I work so I can easily see the spacing and catch any missed spots. Once all your seeds are planted out, used your hands to pat each seed gently into the soil. I say gently because you still want the soil to have some air pockets—that's key for seed germination.

It's important that each seed have good soil contact. Without good soil contact, seeds might pop up when they're watered and then end up with a root growing above the soil, which makes for spindly plants that will never be very successful.

While you can cover the spinach seeds with soil, it's not required. If you choose to cover, use only a very light sprinkling of compost.

Give your seeds a nice watering in and keep the soil evenly moist while the spinach is growing.

best spinach types to grow

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Step Four to Plant Spinach from Seed

Plant Garlic Cloves or Chives Nearby Your Spinach

Steps four and five are optional but strongly recommended to ensure the success of your spinach plants—think of them as bonus steps!

There are two reasons to plant garlic or another member of the allium, or onion, family as companion plants for your spinach.

Reason #1: Garlic protects your leafy greens from pests

Many of the pests that like to munch on spinach leaves are repelled by the scent of garlic and onions. Organic pest control? Bingo! This is the reason I also plant chives in the corners of my raised beds.

Reason #2: Garlic will continue growing long after your spinach plants

Spinach plants will finish in a few months, but garlic will settle in for the winter and grow in the spring. By having fast-growing plants around the garlic, I know that this bed is full and won't plant anything new there to disturb the garlic. The last time I planted garlic, I really wished I had more greens growing around it because garlic and greens are the perfect combination.

For these reasons, I planted four cloves of garlic in my raised bed between spinach rows.

planting garlic near spinach as pest protection

Step Five to Plant Spinach from Seed

Cover Your Planting Area with Garden Hoops and Mesh

The garlic cloves will help with smaller pests, and now we need to do something to keep larger pests, like squirrels, rabbits, and deer, out of our spinach bed.

The final touch when planting spinach is to cover your raised bed immediately after planting to protect your greens.

To cover, you'll need one to three hoops like these to span across your raised bed (depending on the size of your bed), and then you'll drape garden mesh over these hoops. The cloth is porous, so it lets air, water, and sunlight in, while keeping pests out. I've found so much success using this simple form of organic pest control.

Use some pins like these to hold your mesh in place after tucking the edges into the bed.

You can use these same hoops to support frost cloth if you're getting frost this winter to extend the life of your spinach plants.

using hoops and garden mesh to protect spinach plants from pests

Common Problems Getting Spinach to Grow

Here's how to troubleshoot two common problems growing spinach:

Spinach Bolts Quickly

I often hear people say, "I have no luck growing spinach," or "When I try to grow spinach, it just attracts pests and then bolts." This typically happens because people are trying to grow spinach at the wrong time of year. Remember, summer is not spinach season. Many spinach problems are really just timing issues. Learn more about bolting spinach and how to extend your enjoyment of spinach in the garden.

Spinach Fails to Germinate

Keep in mind that spinach seeds are slow to germinate, or sprout, with most spinach varieties needing at least 15 days. You might think nothing is happening because you're not seeing anything pop out of the soil, but be patient. If the time to germination on the seed package has passed, then the answer is bad seeds, expired seeds, or seeds that were planted too deeply.

These are tiny seeds, and you never want to plant a seed deeper than twice the width of the seed. That's not even half an inch deep for spinach seeds. If you've dug a deep hole for spinach seeds, then those seeds might actually germinate, but their shoots will die before they ever find the surface and that much-needed sunlight.

spinach growing after germinating

My Favorite Ways to Enjoy Fresh Spinach Leaves

How do I use this much spinach, you might ask? Easily!

I drink a green smoothie made with garden-fresh kale or spinach leaves every morning—that's a health practice I started when I had little kids and a hectic schedule to guarantee I put at least one vegetable into my body every day. Smoothies don't take very long to make, and you can bring them with you out the door. Spinach smoothies are also great for clearing your digestive system, if you know what I mean.

I also love tossing these leaves into salads, especially when they're younger and smaller leaves. You could use larger, more mature spinach leaves for wraps in lieu of lettuce leaves. Another one of my favorite ways to enjoy spinach leaves in the winter is in frittatas. I got this idea from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle (the book that got me gardening in the first place). Frittatas are super easy to make, and if you have spinach in the garden, they're even easier.

That's the thing: it's so much easier to get your greens for the day when they're growing right out back. I've noticed during times that my garden wasn't set up yet between moves that I eat way fewer leafy greens, and when I do buy them, I spend a ton of money. It's not nearly as convenient to make green smoothies or juices when you don't have greens growing in your garden.

spinach leaves

Grow Your Own Spinach

And that is all that you have to do to replace your spinach box from the grocery store with a box of spinach that you grew yourself. You can look forward to tender baby greens in just 25 to 30 days. Here's how to harvest those leaves to encourage the plant to grow more.

Thanks for bringing back the kitchen garden with me, one spinach plant at a time!

Learn how to grow 6 months of your own gourmet salad leaves with Gardenary 365

Become a member of Gardenary 365 today to watch our online gardening course, 6 Months of Garden Salad. Skip past all the leafy greens at the grocery store for at least half a year!

5 Easy Steps to Plant Spinach from Seed

Some of the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission when you click on the link and purchase the product. The other links are not sponsored—they're just products I really like. All opinions remain my own.