Do you want to grow your own greens, but don’t have a yard or balcony? No problem! With the right container garden and proper lighting, you can still grow your own food inside. Urban and vertical gardening has changed the stakes in recent years, and you can use a variety of small containers to help you feed your family by growing spinach indoors. The options are endless, and the process is easy!
Spinach Varieties to Grow Indoors
The best spinach variety for you may depend on how much sunlight you can provide. Don’t worry if your home doesn’t offer much natural light either (more on this later). Spinach is a healthy veggie that can grow in the shade, making it great for containers.
You may need to consider your climate when selecting a variety. If you live in a tropical or hot location, for example, a heat- or humidity-tolerant variety will perform better. Varieties that perform well in hot weather include New Zealand and Malabar spinach. Likewise, colder climates may require a more winter-tolerant variety. These tend to grow in late summer and early fall for harvest in the winter months.
The main difference between spinach varieties comes down to taste. They’re broken into:
- Savory: Handles the cold well but requires regular leaf cleanings. Bloomsdale is a classic savory spinach with thick leaves and a large yield.
- Semi-savory: Better at resisting diseases and bolting, semi-savory varieties are a great choice for a home garden. There are four main varieties: Tyee (can grow all year-round), Catalina, Teton, and Indian Summer.
- Smooth-leafed: As the name suggests, these varieties have smooth, flat foliage that’s easy to keep clean. It’s a top choice for processed spinach, with varieties including Space, and the fast-to-harvest Red Cardinal.
How to Plant Spinach Inside
With the right care, even beginners can learn to grow this delicious plant. You can begin growing spinach indoors just before the weather warms, after the last frost. Cultivating 15 plants or so is ideal to feed every person in your family.
Spinach is easy to grow indoors on your kitchen windowsill, as long as it doesn’t receive a lot of direct sunlight. Although planting the veggie indoors allows you to control its environment, spinach grows best in USDA planting zones 3-11. As a result, if you live in a tropical climate, you’ll need to put the containers in the shade.
Where you put your spinach plants may be determined based on when you want to grow the plants. Autumn plants, for example, require a sunny location because the days are shorter, and the sun is less intense. Summer and spring sunlight, however, will require you to place your potted plants in a slightly shady location. Afternoon shade is vital.
As you well know, sunlight is important for all plants. If your spinach isn’t getting enough sunlight inside your home, you can use lights to help it grow. Some gardeners only use grow lights during the winter months, while others prefer to use them for indoor gardens year-round. You can build your own grow light shelving system, or purchase a pre-made set.
When growing spinach in containers, select a high-quality potting mix made for indoor plants. Make sure it’s rich and well-draining soil, with a loamy and crumbly texture and neutral pH balance. Container-grown spinach won’t grow well if it becomes waterlogged.
Space Between Seedlings
Sow your spinach seeds about 1/2 an inch deep, pushed directly into the container or a seed tray. Leave around 3 inches of space in between seeds for the best results. Alternatively, 2 inches of space is okay if you want to harvest your leaves earlier in the season.
Expect to see the seedlings germinate around 5-14 days after planting, depending on the variety. In the right growing conditions, most seeds sown into a seed tray will display about 2 or 3 leaves per plant. At that point, it’s time to carefully transplant them into a pot.
You can grow one plant per 8-inch container, or several plants in a large container. Because the plants are sensitive to the heat, stay away from ceramic or metal containers. These will heat up quickly and may need to be moved into the shade during the hot summer.
Planting Spinach in Vertical Wall Gardens
If your home is really small or you don’t have much growing space, you can grow spinach in vertical wall gardens or spinach towers as well. This technique normally involves stacking a series of small containers or tiered containers so you can grow plants upwards.
Vertical wall gardens can help you grow more in less space, and planting Malabar is especially great if you want to grow indoors. This type grows on a vine, allowing it to reach up to 30 feet long. Unlike most varieties, Malabar grows well in hot temperatures, but still tastes like traditional spinach. Use it in a stir-fry or salad for the best results.
How to Care for Spinach
There’s no special care required when growing in containers versus a vegetable bed, but you’ll need to water and fertilize regularly if you want a perfect harvest.
When growing any plant in containers, it’s important not to overwater. Stagnant water can cause a range of problems, all of which are harmful to your spinach. In fact, this is why your container needs proper drainage holes. You’ll want to also avoid pouring the water directly onto the leaves. Instead, water the plant at soil level and keep it moist, but not wet.
Spinach plants do best when the soil temperature remains around 50-80 degrees F, which makes it perfect for planting indoors. While the seeds are germinating, temperatures can drop as low as 40 degrees without damaging them. While there are some types of spinach that can tolerate colder temperatures as low as 20 degrees F, most plants won’t survive over 90 degrees.
Nitrogen is essential to growing spinach indoors, and for most potted plants as well. The soil in containers is infamous for requiring nutrient replacements, as the plants pull nitrogen from the soil so fiercely. When you plant, mix in a time-release fertilizer with the soil, or use a rich compost mixture. Then, feed the plants again during mid growth using compost, fish emulsion, or a homemade compost tea. Or, you can use a liquid fertilizer every so often instead.
Even when growing spinach indoors in containers, you’ll want to mulch the plants using organic matter. This will help retain moisture.
If you live in a tropical climate or don’t harvest your plants for a while, you may notice tiny yellow and green flowers forming. This means your spinach is bolting, which makes the plant taste more bitter. You’ll want to harvest the plant before this can happen or remove the flowers you see appear.
Common Problems to Growing Spinach Indoors
Spinach’s biggest issue is rust. For this reason, you’ll want to keep debris from the containers and find a rust- or disease-resistant variety to plant. If your plants receive too much water ,or the foliage remains wet too long, spinach can also suffer from fungal diseases and rot. These issues can in turn lead to pests like fungus gnats.
When growing spinach indoors, you don’t really need to worry about pests as much. That said, you may want to keep on the lookout for leaf-eating insects, including caterpillars or slugs. Common pests that plague indoor plants, such as aphids, may also be a nuisance.
Spraying your spinach plants with neem oil will keep away pests and help you fight off issues with moist soil, such as powdery mildew. It’s totally safe for use on edible plants, so no need to worry.
Best Companion Plants for Spinach
Spinach looks great when paired with other leafy greens, herbs, or annual flowers. The varieties that will grow the best side-by-side with this vegetable include:
Never grow spinach near pole beans or corn.
How to Harvest and Store Spinach
After 40-50 days, your plant should have produced a minimum of 5-6 decent leaves (around 3-4 inches in length). You can now harvest to your heart’s content.
Begin with the outer leaves first, leaving the newer leaves in the center so they can continue to grow. You may also harvest an entire plant at once by cutting it off at 3 inches above the base with a knife or shears, and the plant will re-sprout when the time comes.
To store or preserve spinach, all you need to do is rinse off the leaves and place them in the refrigerator for no longer than a week. This vegetables is easy to store dried or frozen for year-round use as well.
Even if you don’t have much space, you can easily add more healthy greens into your diet. Spinach is incredibly cheap and easy to grow from seed, as long as you find the right variety for you and adequately care for your plants.