Second on the Dirty Dozen list, learn how to grow spinach at home
March 24, 2017
The 2017 Dirty Dozen list has been published and spinach is listed 2nd. On average it had twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop. Spinach tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce. Frightening results! It consistently tested high levels of chemical residue. The Dirty Dozen list is published annually by a US based organisation. It is considered a valid study to apply to Australian produce. I believe it is the most comprehensive report of it’s kind available for consumers to reference. I added a link to this year’s report to the A Fresh Legacy Facebook page yesterday because I passionately believe that everyone, particularly children, should have access to food that is free from chemical residue. The more people who become aware of the presence of these substances on our food, the greater the chance of a shift in demand to cleaner food. By highlighting this information I hope to influence your family’s purchasing decisions, or even better in the instance you decide to start to grow your own, influence your lifestyle habits.
If you are looking for a reason to start to grow your own fresh food at home, spinach is a great place to begin. Autumn is the perfect time to grow spinach.
Spinach is easy to grow from seed. I prefer to start mine in trays, rather than direct sow them. Once the plant develops a few leaves it is ready to go into the garden. It is tasty snail food once it goes into the garden so protect newly planted seedlings by sprinkling dried egg shells and coffee grinds around the plants.
Water with seaweed solution when the seedlings are moved into the garden, if you are raising the plants from seed.
Spinach may be grown in a pot, or in the garden making it the perfect vegetable to grow at home, even if you have limited space.
I created this video some time ago that steps you through the process of planting from seed. You can watch it here.
Position: Plants prefer a semi-shaded position, they will do well planted below a larger plant such as kale or broccoli.
Timing: Avoid planting spinach too early in autumn as they prefer cool conditions.
Watering: It is important for spinach plants to remain moist. If spinach plants experience irregular watering, or dry out completely the plants become stressed and will go to seed. This means they will stop producing leaves and prepare to flower and produce seed.
Companions: Spinach is said to grow well* near strawberries, eggplant, celery, peas, beetroot and onions.
Care: Once the plant becomes established and is showing good new growth, add compost around the base of the plant.
It sounds strange I know and not at all scientific but I have found that if I plant seedlings in an area and they fail I don’t replant in that area again. I try another set in a different area of the garden. It may be a small shift but it is often what is needed for the plants to take off.
Autumn is usually the start of pest season. They seem to prefer the damp coolness over the heat of summer.
As the plant grows check under the leaves and around the base for snails and slug hiding. These pests will come out in the protection of the dark and feast on your beautiful plants. Pick them off the plant and remove them from your garden in a manner that suits you. Also check under and around any nearby pots as they like to shelter and breed under, or behind those.
A cloche may be required until the plants become established. I’ve just lost 6 little plants that were doing beautifully last week that I left uncovered… I need to take my own advice as I plant the next set…
Spinach leaves should be picked often to encourage new growth, this includes early in the season when the plants are young. Don’t wait, pick a leaf here and there as the plants develop as this stimulates new growth.
Spinach is a versatile ingredient to have in your kitchen. Once the plant becomes established it is prolific across Autumn and Winter and can be eaten raw or fresh.
These are a few of our family favourites that appear on our meal table each year as the spinach harvests commence. These include the first listed recipe which is the MOST popular recipe on this site
I shared this post at Blah Blah magazine last year, it is an Action Plan on avoiding chemical residue in the food we eat. Read it here.
I hope that this knowledge will help you and your family to seek out local organic options of the foods listed, or even better, start to grow your own. If you are yet to start a vegetable garden, my book Grow Just One Thing will remove the overwhelm and step you through the process with a focus on minimal time commitment and fuss.
Companion Planting, Sustainable Gardening Australia: http://www.sgaonline.org.au/companion-planting/ , accessed 23/03/2017
Companion Planting Guide, Yates: http://yatesau-production.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/3189/Yates_Companion_Planting_Guide.pdf , accessed 23/03/2017
Companion Planting, The Greenlife Soil: http://www.greenlifesoil.com.au/sustainable-gardening-tips/companion-planting , accessed 23/03/2017
Companion Planting for Vegetables, Vegetable Gardening Life: http://www.vegetablegardeninglife.com/companion-planting-charts.html , accessed 23/03/2017
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