Experimenting with Spinach
Spinach is one of those vegetables that I just couldn't seem to get right last year - I described all of my spinach troubles in my End of Year Review post.
So here we are, New Year, fresh start. I don't expect to solve all of my issues in one go this year, although that certainly would be nice. I'm hopeful, however, that I can at least resolve some of them. My goal right now is not so much to grow a large quantity of spinach, but rather to nail down the methods and/or a few varieties that do well (or at least better) for me.
|Spinach Selections for 2015|
I'm growing five varieties this year. Three of these I also grew last year but none of them performed very well. Since I had issues with every variety, I'm inclined to think that the more likely reason for their less than stellar performance was something that I did rather than the varieties themselves. At this stage, I didn't want to eliminate any of them, just in case.
New to me varieties are identified with an asterisk (*).
Galilee (45 days, The Cottage Gardener, 2014)
I barely harvested a handful of small leaves from this variety as it kept bolting on me, so I unfortunately have no good harvest photos. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here is a seedling that is already bolting before it was even transplanted outside:
|Bolting Galilee Spinach Seedling|
I did enjoy the flavour of this one enough to give it another try this year. My plan is to see if I can get an early spring crop out of it, before the days get loo long. I'm not overly confident that I'll be able to accomplish this, but I figure it's worth a try.
Viroflay (50 days, Pinetree, 2015)
|Small harvest of Viroflay spinach|
pictured with some radishes
Tyee (F1) (52 days, William Dam Seeds, 2014)
|August Harvest of Tyee Spinach|
*Space (F1) (41 days, Pinetree, 2015)
Photo source: Pinetree
*Renegade (F1) (43 days, High Mowing Organic Seeds, 2015)
Photo Source: High Mowing Organic Seeds
I decided to do a bit of experimenting with spinach this year on two fronts. Firstly, I am trying a couple of different pre-germination methods. One issue that I had last year was extremely slow and sporadic germination, specifically with Viroflay. When I did a bit of research, I discovered that this was not an uncommon issue.
I have also seen many gardeners indicate that they have better results with spinach when they sow the seeds directly vs. using transplants (or vice versa). So I will be trying both of these methods to see which one I prefer. In the garden, have allocated 10 squares to spinach, which works out perfectly for my little experiment. Since I am growing 5 varieties, I will give each variety 2 squares. One square will be for transplants and the other will be direct sown in April, using pre-germinated seeds.
The first step I take when pre-germinating spinach is a 24 hour soak. After this, the seeds are placed in damp paper towel & the whole lot goes into a sealed baggie. I'm planning on using a 6" spacing for the spinach, so I need 4 seedlings per square. I decided to pre-germinate 4 seeds per method (for a total of 8 seeds per variety).
As a side note, up until now I have generally used one zip lock baggie per variety when I am pre-germinating seeds. Dealing with all of those baggies when checking to see if the seeds have germinated is a bit tedious, especially when you have lots of varieties such as with peppers & tomatoes.
I decided to simplify things by colour coding each paper towel seed "packet" and placing them all in one bag. I use a different coloured paperclip for each variety and then note down the colour/variety on a piece of paper. Not only was it much simpler to check for germination but I was also less likely to mix up the seeds (as I would sometimes forget to put a packet back into it's bag before taking out the next one, especially if I had to sow some seeds before I moved on to the next variety).
In the case of my spinach experiment, I used 2 baggies, one for each germination method, and I made sure to use the same colour of paperclip for the same variety in both bags.
|Spinach seed baggies, all ready to go|
One baggie went into the cold cellar for 2 days then it was placed in the basement where the ambient temperature is 18-19C (64-66F). My cold cellar is nice and cold at 5C/41F, but more convenient for me than the fridge as it's right near my seeding area. The other baggie was simply left at room temperature in the basement from the start.
I started the seeds less than 2 weeks ago and the results are already in.
Simply leaving them in the cool basement was the most successful method for germination, by far. All of the varieties from this baggie started to germinate first (as early as one day later!) and, after 7 days, I had 100% germination from all varieties.
The cold cellar group, in comparison, had no germination on any variety until day 3 and by the 7th day, there were still 3 seeds left for Renegade and all 4 had not yet germinated for Space.
|Spinach seedlings - 9 days|
I was pleasantly surprised that the Viroflay variety that I had so much trouble with last year was one of the quickest germinators this time around. 3 of the 4 seeds in the "room temp. only" group germinated in only 3 days and even the cold cellar group had fully germinated after 5 days. Compare that to my results last year when I tried 3 different methods of germinating the Viroflay seeds that I purchased from Baker Creek (near the bottom of this "Spinach Update" post) - quite the dramatic difference, wouldn't you say?
So in the end, it seems that my struggle last year with germination was not because of something I did or didn't do. Sometimes, the blame can be laid squarely on the seeds.
Till next time...