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Pre-Germinate Spinach for a Fall Harvest

Fresh Spinach Organic Garden Vegetable Farm Food
Spinach is usually considered a spring vegetable, but you can also grow it in the fall. Photo: Max Pixel

Most of us sow spinach directly in the garden in March or April for a spring/early summer harvest. However, as days become longer and temperatures rise, spinach starts to go to seed and is no longer edible. So we yank out the now-useless plants … and have to get along on frozen spinach for the rest of the season.

However, it’s also possible to sow spinach in August for a bountiful fall harvest.

There is just one catch, though: spinach seed germinates poorly or not at all at temperatures over 70 °F (21 °C). And in most climates, conditions are far hotter than that in August!

Start Them in the Cold

Luckily there’s an easy way out. You can pre-germinate (prime) your spinach in the fridge (spinach seed will germinate at typical refrigerator temperatures of about 40°F/4°C), then transplant it to the garden. Here’s how:

20170808BPlace the seeds on a damp paper towel, then fold the towel in half to cover them. Now, slip the folded paper into a plastic bag and seal it, then put it in the refrigerator.

After a week, remove the seeds and sow them in the garden. In general, they’ll have already started to germinate! Having undergone a thorough cold treatment, they’ll now quickly grow to become full, luscious plants.

In addition, spinach is less likely to go to seed prematurely under the shortening days of late summer and fall, nor is it in the slightest bit harmed by the cooling temperatures of autumn. That means you can continue to harvest your spinach until severe frost finally puts an end to the growing season. In fact, in regions with mild climates, you can keep spinach growing right through the winter!Fresh Spinach Organic Garden Vegetable Farm Food

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “Pre-Germinate Spinach for a Fall Harvest

  1. Bary Langille

    I planted spinach on August 1st and it all came up three days later – It’s been cooler here with cool nights. Thank you for the tip though – it may come in handy if we have the usual hotter weather next year.

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