Spinach is a wonderful, healthy leafy green that you can grow throughout the year, even if you don’t have a traditional garden or a lot of space to work with. Thanks to its compact size and consistent production, it makes a fantastic container crop.
In this article, you’ll learn how to grow spinach in pots, from the prep stage all the way through storing your fresh spinach harvest. Let’s jump in!
Spinach comes in two main types: Smooth leaf and savoy.
Smooth leaf: This is what you typically find in the produce section of your supermarket or grocery store. It looks like this:
It’s usually called “baby spinach” or flat-leaf spinach. This one is good to eat raw in salads, wraps or throw into fruit smoothies.
Smooth leaf varieties are popular commercial crops because they usually produce well, grow quickly and are easy to clean.
Savoy spinach: This variety has crinkly leaves and is usually called curly leaf spinach.
You’ll find it sold in a bunch in your produce section. Savoy spinach varieties usually don’t produce quite as much as their smooth-leaved relatives, but they often have a stronger, more appetizing flavor and have a longer fresh storage period.
Between the smooth-leaf and savoy types, there are a multitude of different cultivars (varieties) of spinach known in the gardening world. For a sample of the different options out there, the Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension offers a great list.
You can grow spinach from either seed or established seedlings. Even though seeds take a little longer to see results, the planting process is easy.
You also have far more options of unique and interesting varieties to grow from seed. And after all, one of the best aspects of gardening is experimenting and experiencing new flavors for yourself!
Botanical Interests is one of my favorite sources for high-quality seed. Here are some spinach varieties that are especially suited for growing spinach in containers:
- Lavewa: Savoy type. Slow to bolt (leaves turn bitter from seed production) and ideal for warm climates.
- Matador: Smooth leaf type. Tolerant of both heat and frost and resists bolting.
- Bloomsdale: Savoy type. Enthusiastic grower, resists bolting and has outstanding flavor. (I grow Bloomsdale, and it’s the best-tasting spinach I’ve ever had!)
- Baby Spinach Greens: Smooth leaf type. Very cold hardy and excellent for small containers.
- Anna: Another variety intended to be a baby green. Frost tolerant, and resists bolting and downy mildew (a fungal plant disease).
No matter which variety you choose, make sure to use seeds within two years of the date on the packet. Spinach seeds don’t always keep well, so buy new ones if you’re unsure how old the seeds you have on hand are.
What Kind of Location Does Spinach Like?
Spinach will grow wherever the conditions are right, and you can grow spinach in pots or containers on your porch or your kitchen windowsill.
To produce an abundant harvest, spinach needs at least four to six hours of sunlight each day. You may even consider using a grow light, like this one, if you don’t have a sunny enough spot indoors for growing spinach in containers.
But although spinach needs sunlight for photosynthesis, it’s also a cool weather crop (45o F to 75o F) that is sensitive to certain amounts of sun and heat. Too much sun and warmth can burn the tender leaves, so choose a location that will provide enough sunlight without adding too much heat to the mix.
Here’s a couple of pointers for picking the optimal location for planting your spinach in pots:
Spring or summer planting: Put your spinach in partial shade to protect leaves from heat.
Late summer or fall planting: Choose a sunny spot since there’s not as much heat to protect leaves from, and you may be able to extend your harvest later into the autumn season.
Choose the Correct Pots
The best type of materials for growing spinach in pots are:
- Terra cotta
Make sure whatever pot your choose has at least one drainage hole at the bottom, but if you can use a pot with two or three drainage holes, even better!
Choose a pot that is at least 6 inches across and 6 inches deep. You could choose to use several round pots or even a window box. As long as each spinach plant has at least 3 inches of space on either side to produce good-size leaves, the choice is yours!
- A round pot with a 14-inch diameter can accommodate up to four spinach plants.
- A window box that is 12 inches long can also accommodate up to four spinach plants.
Avoid using old pots that may contain asbestos, lead-based paint, herbicides or other potentially harmful substances. Soil tends to leech these types of compounds, and this is not good for eating!
This brings up our next topic…
Prepare Your Soil
Spinach grows best in crumbly, well-draining soil. I recommend mixing compost (organic is best) with coconut coir or peat moss, which you can pick up on Amazon. To make things a little easier, you can buy organic potting soil like this one from Miracle-Gro.
Spinach isn’t overly picky about soil pH, as long as it’s neither severely acidic or alkaline. If you want, you can use a soil pH tester to ensure the pH is 6-7, which is ideal for growing spinach in pots.
Make sure the soil does not clog your pot’s drainage hole, which can lead to overwatering your spinach. Drainage hole screens work well (like this one) as do leftover pieces of broken terra cotta or ceramic pots.
How to Plant Spinach in a Pot
One great thing about spinach is that it’s pretty easy to get started, so you can feel like an expert gardener even as a beginner!
Always consult the directions on your seed packet or seedling cup for any variety-specific instructions. But here are some general recommendations for planting spinach seeds or seedlings:
Seeds. Spinach seeds usually do well when planted about 1/2 inch deep and spaced about 2-3 inches apart. Cover them lightly with soil, and water well. Seedlings should germinate (break through the soil) within a few days, but cold weather may slow the process down a bit.
Once your seedlings grow to about 1-2 inches tall, thin them to be about 6 inches apart to avoid overcrowding.
Seedlings. If you buy established seedlings at the nursery or home store, dig holes of about equal in depth to the soil in the plastic cups. Make sure to space your holes about 6 inches apart.
Place your seedlings into the soil, fill the holes with soil and press gently to firm the soil around the plants. Water your seedlings well, and watch them grow!
Growing Tips for the Best Spinach Harvest
As long as you’ve followed the tips above, your spinach should grow in pots or containers very well. However, here are a few tips to help you maximize your spinach harvest:
Fertilizer: Use a fertilizer high in nitrogen to feed your spinach and help it grow even bigger. This organic one from Miracle-Gro might be a good option.
You can also use organic compost, manure tea, or cottonseed meal to enrich the soil about halfway through spinach growth.
Watering: Keep the soil moisture consistent, but don’t water so much that the soil is constantly saturated. Stick your finger in the soil to test moisture: If the soil feels dry down to about 1 inch below the surface, it’s time to water. Otherwise, wait a little longer.
Proper sunlight: Monitor your spinach leaves for signs that they may be getting too much (or not enough!) sun and warmth:
- Drying up
- Brown spots
- Yellow leaves
If you see any of these occurring with your container-dwelling spinach plants, start making some changes in the sun exposure they’re getting. That’s the really great thing about growing spinach in pots: You can move them easily if needed!
Harvesting: It may be difficult, but wait until your spinach is at least 4 inches tall with half a dozen or more leaves before cutting with clean scissors.
Don’t wait until there are flowers growing-this will lead to bitter and unpleasant-tasting spinach!
Storing Your Fresh Spinach Harvest
So now that you’ve got this bountiful harvest to enjoy, how long does spinach last? A few days at best, but here’s how you can keep your fresh spinach in peak condition during storage:
Firstly, always wash your spinach before use!
After rinsing in cool water, drain the excess water and allow it to air-dry. You could also use a salad spinner to speed the process up a bit (this one’s a fan favorite!).
Once your spinach leaves are dry, seal them in a plastic bag in your refrigerator (vegetable crisper drawer usually works best) for up to three days. If you have a vacuum sealer or a straw, you may use that to get the air out of the plastic bag, but be careful not to crush the spinach.
Another option is this Rubbermaid produce container that keeps larger amounts of spinach fresh for longer.
Also, I like to freeze some spinach and add it to my morning smoothies. So yummy and healthy!
Why Spinach Deserves a Spot in Your Garden
According to WebMD, spinach contributes to the following health benefits:
- Low in calories
- High in water (super hydrating!)
- Curbs the appetite (lots of fiber)
- Prevents osteoporosis (calcium and phosphorus)
- Prevents iron deficiency anemia (it’s super high in iron!)
- Immune system support
- Prevents birth defects (contains folate)
- Supports eye health
- Prevents free radicals and some illnesses
- Supports cardiovascular health
Besides that, homegrown spinach tastes far better than anything you can buy at the store (in my opinion!). I’m blown away by the incredible flavor and juiciness of leaves and stems.
And you can’t beat the convenience of walking out to your containers and picking off the fresh leaves you need!
Frequently Asked Questions about Growing Spinach in Pots
When planting from seed, spinach takes anywhere from 1-2 weeks to germinate. If the weather is warm, it may not take this long. Be sure to keep seeds and seedlings moist to encourage growth. From seed planting to harvest is generally about 6 weeks.
Unfortunately not! Spinach is one of the only green plants that will not grow from cut leaves or stems. Seeds are the only way to grow spinach, and the best way to start them is using seed packets that are less than a year old.
As long as you do it properly, you can harvest your spinach up to four times per growing season. Be sure to use clean scissors and cut spinach leaves within 2 inches of the ground.
Don’t cut the growing point (the node where stems join roots near the soil surface) to prevent damage to the spinach plant. Then in about four weeks, you should be able to harvest again.
There may be too much water in the pot if:
1. Your spinach plant has limp leaves and stem
2. The leaves feel soft to the touch
3. The lower leaves are turning yellow
4. The shallow roots start to rot
This can set your plant up for disease or pests, so always stick your finger in the soil to check the moisture level before watering.
Spinach is an annual, meaning that it completes a full life cycle in one growing season and does not come back the next year. This means that you’ll have to start spinach from seeds or purchase seedlings every year to grow crops.
Spinach is such a fantastic plant to grow in containers! It’s so versatile, packed with health benefits, and you can harvest it multiple times in a year. As long as you’ve got the ideal container, environment, and harvesting methods, spinach is a great vegetable to add to your home and kitchen.
Do you have a favorite recipe for spinach, or do you have any other questions? Let us know in the comments!