IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY to plant spinach, and in fact I often feel as if I am running behind on that score. Even though there are snow squalls predicted for later this week in my area, it’s time. Last September through Thanksgiving would have been even better. If I’d sown then, the little plants would have taken advantage of every thaw over these last months to put on a bit of growth, and I’d have harvested spinach in April (which is when most Northeners like me first sow theirs, much delaying gratification). In case there isn’t snow cover to insulate the babies, I put a floating row cover over the planting to tuck them in for the winter. Spinach loves the cold, and germination is patchy at best when the soil is hot.
I broadcast my seeds in blocks, but a more orderly effect can be had by spacing 4-inch-wide bands of seed about an inch apart, and repeating with some more bands every week or so. Baby leaves for salad can be clipped with scissors (after three weeks to a month from an early spring sowing) or harvest the whole plant, roots and all, once the plants mature (in just under five weeks for some varieties to about six for others). Careful, though: don’t let them go a moment too long. Spinach that has bolted isn’t a pretty sight. One kind I always grow is ‘Space,’ which resists the temptation to self-destruct that way longer than most. If you prefer Savoy leaves to smooth, try ‘Tyee’ instead.