Commercial operations growing spinach confront challenges specific to the crop, and that is why many new varieties of the original Spinacia oleracea have been developed. The latest seeds are available to home gardeners but are not always obtainable from supermarkets. So it’s a good idea to source from specialist online seed purveyors.
The four types of spinach available are known as savoy, semi savoy, flat leaf and baby. Distinguishing features have to do not only with being either erect of prostrate, but also the extent to which the leaf is crinkled or plain. Erect, savoy types have crinkly dark green leaves whereas flat leaved types have unwrinkled leaves. Baby spinach has small flat leaves and grows close to the ground. In all cases the stalks of the plant can be eaten as well as the leaves.
Swiss Chard and various beet crops are also used as a substitute in many instances. Beet leaves are excellent tasting and colorful dishes and growers have the added advantage of being able to use the bulb after the leaves have been enjoyed.
Seed growers concentrate on three factors in their quest for improved food production: disease resistance, maturity times and shelf life. Where home gardeners are concerned shelf life is not such an important issue because the leaves will be eaten fresh and picked straight from the garden but for commercial growers shelf life is very important. A wilted spinach leaf in a supermarket will not sell.
In humid conditions there is a danger of infection by a fungal disease known as powdery, or downy, mildew. Once infected the only viable solution to this wind nuisance is chemical spraying with a fungicide. This is not always feasible where human consumption is concerned so the best solution is to plant strains that have been developed to be resistant to downy mildew.
The productive capacity of a crop can be affected when plants rush to reproduce as soon as possible. This can happen when conditions are humid or ideal for growing. The process is known as bolting, when the energy of plants goes into seed instead of leaf production. Commercial seed producers with online sites will advertise newly developed strains that are less prone to early bolting than others.
It has been shown that the optimal temperatures for growing this crop are between fifty three and sixty degrees Fahrenheit. It is best for soils to have a pH reading of between 6.5 and 7. Sowing usually starts in spring and continues at intervals throughout the Summer months with harvesting occurring as plants become ready. Well balanced sandy loams are best and some additional side dressing of nitrogen may enhance leaf growth.
In gardening and farming pleasure are usually attended by problems. When growing spinach much will depend upon the seed that has been purchased. It should germinate between six and ten days and the leaves should be ready for harvest between forty and fifty days. Once again, this will depend very much on the seed that has been chosen.
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