Department of Horticulture New York State Horticulture Study Guide for Youth 4-H Logo


Flowers &
Indoor Plants

Fruits & Nuts



Special Topics



Cornell University

Spinacia oleracea
(spin-ay-see-ah ol-er-ay-see-ah)

spinach spinach

What about it?

Spinach is a member of the Goosefoot family along with beets and Swiss chard. It is a cool season crop that is easy to grow. If the weather gets too warm, the plant will bolt and produce small leaves and seeds. However, a type called New Zealand spinach grows well in warm weather. It is a rather different plant in a different family, but still tastes similar to spinach.

What is it used for?

Spinach is grown for its dark green foliage. This is high in vitamins A, C, and calcium Spinach is eaten raw or cooked, and can even be frozen for winter storage.

Where does it grow? How do we grow it?

Spinach likes fertile, well-drained soil that is high in nitrogen. It needs at least 6 weeks of cool growing time before harvesting. Spinach is very tolerant of weather conditions and so it makes an excellent early spring or late fall crop.

What are its primary problems?

Watch out for the spinach leaf miner. Pick off and destroy the yellow, damaged leaves. These contain leaf miner larvae that may infest the rest of your crop. Downy mildew and spinach blight (cucumber mosaic virus) may also be a problem.

How do we propagate it?

Plant seeds outdoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost. Basically, begin planting as soon as you can work the soil. Soak them in water before planting to loosen up the seed coat. Plant the seeds an inch apart and 1/2 inch deep.

How do we harvest and store it?

Older leaves can be picked continuously throughout the season. Ideally, leaves should be 4 inches long, without the stalk. Don't pick the entire plant unless it has 10 well-developed leaves on it. Store in a refrigerated space for up to 2 weeks. Freeze if you are keeping for a longer period.

Previous Next

Copyright, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.