Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables
Bountiful Fall Spinach (page 2 of 2)
by John Navazio
Planting in August was a bigger success in all three locations than any of us had imagined. Even though we all had hot weather in August and early September, yields were terrific, with several varieties producing succulent leaves as big as dessert plates by October.
A number of surprises occurred with the seven varieties. 'Tyee' was the biggest surprise. It is the standard variety for spring sowing because of its ability to resist bolting in early summer, but 'Olympia' and 'Coho' usually outperform it in spring. However, the tables were turned in both of our August plantings, with 'Tyee' clearly outperforming these varieties. It yielded delicate baby leaves by the end of August and full-sized ones by mid-September. Tied for second place were 'Olympia', 'Indian Summer', and 'Coho'.
With cooler temperatures by mid-September, the August plantings of 'Olympia' and 'Space' started to really grow in Washington and Iowa. While the growth rates of both 'Tyee' and 'Indian Summer' started to subside for us, they stayed the top performers in northern Vermont, with its more extreme fall weather. At this time, Charlie and I noticed the August 1 plantings of 'Coho' and 'Indian Summer' starting to bolt, while in David's garden the August 1 planting of 'Long Standing Bloomsdale' bolted. This may have been due to variety differences and day length being at or above 14 hours in all three locations until August 15.
By the end of September, our August plantings were producing lots of leaves The last surprise came in October for David and me after fall's real chill started to fill the air. While the growth rates of all other varieties slowed down seriously, the August 15 sowing of 'Coho' kept on growing, becoming the top-yielding variety in October. We also noticed that the dependable 'Winter Bloomsdale' was still putting on some cold-weather growth; its beautiful dark green color also stood out. The September 1 plantings of all varieties never really produced leaves as large and as numerous as the August plantings and, as indicated earlier, seemed to be better for overwintering rather than fall harvest.
Overall, the best planting date for all of us was August 15. Our August 1 plantings, while good for some varieties, did produce some bolting spinach. All of our September 1 plantings grew respectably, giving us silver dollar-size baby leaves, but not like the yields of our August plantings.
Amazingly, we all had similar results with the varieties. The most successful ones for August growing conditions were 'Indian Summer' and 'Tyee'. With cooler conditions in September, the smooth-leafed varieties such as 'Olympia' and 'Space' started to shine. The cold winds of autumn showed us how well 'Coho' could grow--right until December in my Northwest climate. So, for a continual fall harvest of delicious spinach in a northern area, try a combination of these high-performance varieties.
Dr. John Navazio is a vegetable breeder in Bellingham, Washington.
Photographs by David Cavagnaro.