How to Grow Malabar Spinach
Malabar spinach is a vining tropical plant that is grown for its edible stems and leaves. It is a great substitute for spinach when the hot weather sets in.
Spinach comes in two main types, smooth leaf varieties that are sweet, tender and perfect for salads, and crinkle leaf types that have thicker, crinkly leaves that hold up better to cooking. Spinach is normally grown directly from seed, but transplants can greatly speed up the process. Look for sturdy, compact plants that are a deep green color. Avoid tall, leggy plants with weak, thin stems.
Spinach prefers full sun, but it is one of the few vegetables that can also tolerate some shade. Using a hoe, work in 3 cups of blood meal per 50 square feet of garden. Spinach loves nitrogen, but too much can give spinach a tart, metallic taste.
Spinach loves cool weather and dislikes the heat of the summer. Plant spinach in early spring and again in fall to avoid the plants from going to seed, which causes the leaves to taste bitter. Sow seeds across the top of the garden and lightly cover with soil. Water well.
As plants begin to sprout, thin seedlings so that none are closer than six inches apart. Use garden snips to cut off the tops of the plants rather than pulling them, which can disrupt the roots of nearby seedlings.
Spinach requires a lot of moisture, at least one inch per week. It is best to water in the morning so that the foliage is dry before dark. Little additional fertilizer is required for adequate growth, though compost can be added sporadically throughout the growing cycle.
Floating row covers provide great protection from predatory insects. They also block out the brutal summer sun, which causes the plants to go to seed. Secure the edges of the row covers with bricks to keep them from blowing away.
Spinach can be harvested in as little as six weeks after planting the seeds. Begin harvesting when the spinach has put out about 6 to 8 good size leaves. Use fingertips to pinch off just the leaves you care to eat, or a small pair of shears to cut out the entire head. Continue harvesting until the plants go to seed.
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