Perpetual Spinach/Spinach Beet
Perpetual spinach, which actually is a type of chard, is very similar in flavour and looks to true spinach. It is however much easier to grow than true spinach. Despite preferring the cooler seasons it does not bolt in the summer as it can tolerate drier and hotter conditions as well as long days. It also has the benefit of constantly producing new leaves when picked so it is ideally suitable for your mini greenhouse!
Perpetual spinach is easy to grow from seed and can be direct sown or transplanted later. It is a perfect crop to sow in your Harvst as it can stay in there till it matures or be transplanted outside. It can also be harvested as baby leaves or be left to grow really big in the ground. One or two sowings can last you a year!
Seeds germinate in 7-14 days at 16-18°C, but can take up to 3 weeks to germinate if the soil is colder. They tend not to germinate if the soil is colder than 10°C.
Fill a tray with compost, a general peat free multi purpose compost will do as the seeds are quite big and do not need the more expensive seed compost. Water the compost first and then sow the seeds about 5cm apart and sprinkle 2-3cm of compost on top. Press down slightly to make sure that the seeds are in good contact with the compost. Carefully water again.
Keep the soil evenly moist until the seeds germinate because if they dry out they will most probably not germinate at all. This can be aided with a plastic dome over the tray but it is not a must. However, as a general rule , the colder the soil the less moisture you want because a cold and very wet growing medium often results in rotten seeds.
You can choose from one of the growing options below or do a combination of 2, 3 or 4! If you are transplanting to the garden wait till mid to late spring after the soil has warmed to at least 10°C. Worth noting is that Perpetual spinach can tolerate a crowded space quite well but they will not grow to their full potential if too close.
- Baby Leaves: Start harvesting the leaves when they are as big as leaves in a Supermarket baby leaf salad bag! If you pick one or two leaves of each plant from the outside, rather than the whole plant, it should keep on growing for a while and give you a few harvests!
- Grow till maturity in your Harvst: When the seedlings have emerged, thin them to about 15cm apart. This can be done by cutting the rejects with scissors (eat them in a salad!) or carefully using a stick/pencil to loosen the soil and lift the seedling up by its leaves and transplant to elsewhere. Make sure they are big enough to handle before you set out to do this. The compost will only have enough nutrients for a few weeks so you will have to feed the plants with an organic fertiliser throughout the growing season.
- Plant outside: When the seedlings have developed their true set of leaves (not the first set appearing but the second set) they can be transplanted out into your garden. Space them 20-25cm apart in a staggered pattern or in a row about 35cm apart. If you have problems with slugs or it is very cold still you can pot them on and keep them in your Harvst a little longer. A bigger plant can resist a slug attack much better! When planting outside it is best to make sure that your soil is great before planting by adding well rotten manure or other organic material so that it’s full of nutrients for your plants. If your soil is not great you can feed the plants with an organic fertiliser throughout the growing season. When transplanting seedlings, ideally plant out early morning or evening and/or on an overcast day. Avoid planting at peak sun times or on windy days as this can cause sun or windburn which can lead to death!
- Container Grown: Perpetual spinach can grow well outside in a container but try to choose one that is 15-20 cm wide and tall. Keep in mind that the compost will only have enough nutrients for a few weeks so you will have to feed the plants with an organic fertiliser throughout the growing season.
Generally Perpetual spinach grows best in full sun but can benefit from some shade if they’re grown in the summer. Also, as a general rule it prefers rich, moisture retentive soil with plenty of nutritious compost mixed in. However it will still grow well in any average soil so don’t despair!
Make sure that you water them well in summer to avoid a bitter taste.
Harvest the outer leaves once they reach your desired size and leave the center leaves to continue growing. Harvest by pulling the leaves off at the base or pinch off if the plant is still very small.
Perpetual spinach is generally pest free but aphids and leaf miners can attack. Aphids are best rinsed off with water but if the invasion is large it might be worth putting Harvst grown plants outside for a while to let natural predators such as ladybirds do the job. Leaf miners can best be treated by removing the affected leaves.
If the plants have grown too big or the leaves have started to taste bitter, cut them back to about 7cm above the ground and they will produce new tastier leaves in no time.
The botanical name of Perpetual Spinach is Beta vulgaris var. Cicla and it belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family. Other members include beets, spinach, quinoa, and sugar beets.