Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why does my Spinach bolt to seed?

I was talking to Deb at Frankston recently and she said "that Peter Cundall doesn't like seedlings does he!".  Um. errr. I don't know. Deb is a dead keen, practical gardener and she was looking for advice on vegie growing, including Spinach. Old Pete has a regular column with the Weekly Times and he knows what he is talking about having practiced the fine arts of gardening for a lot longer than I've been breathing.

Here's a great, simple recipe for preparing fresh spinach.

Anyway, Pete has published an article on growing Spinach full of practical information. Timely of course because Spinach is one of my favourite vegetables at it loves cold weather. The flavour and texture are much more subtle than Silverbeet which I find can taste like dirt. (How do I know what dirt tastes like? I'll let you decide). Spinach also has that wonderful feature: continuous cropping. But here's the thing! "By the way spinach seedlings, even tiny ones, can rarely be successfully transplanted. They may look lovely and healthy but cannot stand even the slightest transplant shock. They don't just die, merely bolt to seed even after a few weeks so are a waste of space" WHAT!!!

One might say that Mr Cundall is a bit of a zealot, at least a purist. Yes Spinach will bolt to seed at the slightest shock, that's why it is so difficult to grow outside of the cold months (Spinach likes hot weather as much as I do... not at all). But have you ever tried to germinate the stuff?  Spinach seed is as temperamental as Spinach seedlings. It can 'come up like hair on a cat's back' as Uncle Robert would say or it can easily go dormant. Chilling for a few weeks is the standard dormancy breaker but I find it is far from fool proof. As with Carrots I think a novice gardener is more likely to be successful with young seedlings than with seed, we just have to make sure they understand the basics of minimizing transplant shock and how to avoid stressing their plants. I think next week I'll have to type out my garden club talk about minimizing transplant shock.

So keep planting Spinach at least until the end of July for tasty vegies that will flourish through 'til the end of September. Try sowing your own seed it really is very rewarding but growing your vegies from seedlings is nearly as fulfilling and just a little more reliable (if you handle them with care).

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