It’s your last chance to sow spinach seeds outdoors for a late harvest in October and even perhaps November. Sown at this time of year, they are less likely to bolt.

Superfood

"I'm strong to the finish, 'cos I eats my spinach" Popeye the Sailor Man sang, clearly demonstrating that he knew that spinach is a superfood before the hype. It is rich in vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin C and folate as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium and – of course – iron.

It is a perfectly versatile food with great flavour. Whether steamed or cut and come again, it holds its own but it is also an excellent accompanying ingredient in a myriad of dishes.

Straightforward

Spinach is easy enough to grow from seed and prefers cool to moderate temperatures with plenty of light. As summer passes and the heat recedes it’s best to sow it in full sun. Keep them well watered, especially when grown in containers and you may need to fleece them as cold weather comes.

When the outer leaves are around seven inches long harvest by cutting, not pulling to avoid pulling the plant by accident.

There is one problem or, rather, potentially a few problems as snug and snails adore spinach seedlings. Use your usual methods to manage this but avoid pesticide as you’ll end up eating it yourself - not very Popeye!

Top tip: Regular sowings, made every two to three weeks, will ensure a continuous supply. Pick young leaves regularly to encourage further growth.

Varieties

The following F1 varieties are bred to help reduce plant disease naturally. If you want to garden organically or use less chemicals, these modern disease-resistant varieties help as they greatly reduce the need for chemicals and taste delicious.

Spinach Cello F1

Smallholder:

Resistant to downy mildew and reliable in difficult conditions.

Outdoors: sow thinly, February-August, where they are to crop, 2.5cm (1") deep, directly into finely-prepared, fertile, moisture-retentive soil, which has already been watered. Sowings from July onwards should only be grown for baby leaves. Allow 30cm (1') between rows. Early sowings may benefit from cloche protection. Seedlings usually appear in 7-14 days. Water well and ensure soil remains moist to prevent plants running to seed. No thinning is necessary if only baby leaves are required. Thin to 10cm (4") apart to produce mature plants and add the thinnings to salads. Do not allow plants to dry out as this will make them bolt.

Harvest: May-October. Harvest unthinned as baby leaves. Take a few leaves from each plant, allowing them to regrow for two or three more pickings.

Spinach Emilia

Smallholder:

Resistant to downy mildew races 1-10 and slow to bolt. Fast growing, for baby leaf or mature plants.

Outdoors: sow thinly, February-August, where they are to crop, 2.5cm (1") deep, directly into finely-prepared, fertile, moisture-retentive soil, which has already been watered. Sowings from July onwards should only be grown for baby leaves. Allow 30cm (1') between rows. Early sowings may benefit from cloche protection. Seedlings usually appear in 7-14 days. Water well and ensure soil remains moist to prevent plants running to seed. No thinning is necessary if only baby leaves are required. Thin to 10cm (4") apart to produce mature plants and add the thinnings to salads. Do not allow plants to dry out as this will make them bolt.

Harvest: May-October. Harvest unthinned as baby leaves. Take a few leaves from each plant, allowing them to regrow for two or three more pickings.

Spinach Fiorano

Smallholder:

Quick, easy and disease resistant. Smooth round leaves, downy mildew resistant 1-10. Quick growing, so perfect for baby leaf salads.

Outdoors: sow thinly February-August, where they are to crop, 1.5cm (½") deep, directly into prepared, well-drained, fertile soil, which has been watered. For cut and come again baby leaves, allow 15cm (6") between rows, or sow thinly, directly into 25cm (10") pots. Early sowings may benefit from cloche protection. Seedlings usually appear in 7-14 days. No further thinning should be necessary. Keep moist. Regular sowings, made every two to three weeks, will ensure a continuous supply of leaves. Pick a few from each plant when approx. 10cm (4") high. They will regrow for up to 4 'cuts.' For mature leaves, allow 25cm (10") between rows and thin to 20cm (8") apart. Do not let plants dry out as this encourages bolting.

Harvest: April-October. Harvest whole plants from May.

Top tip: To grow as cut and come baby leaves, or as mature plants. Baby leaves can be grown in small spaces, or even pots, for the freshest selection of salad leaves all summer, whatever the size of your garden.

Spinach Samish

Smallholder:

Versatile for salads and cooked.

A small-leaved, very tender spinach for salads and cooking. Good mildew resistance and moderately winter hardy so it's good for late season cropping. Grow as baby leaf under glass throughout the winter.

Outdoors: sow thinly, March-September, where they are to crop, 2.5cm (1") deep, directly into finely-prepared, fertile, moisture-retentive soil, which has already been watered. Sowings from July onwards should only be grown for baby leaves. Allow 30cm (1') between rows. Early sowings may benefit from cloche protection. Seedlings usually appear in 7-14 days. Water well and ensure soil remains moist to prevent plants running to seed. No thinning is necessary if only baby leaves are required. Thin to 10cm (4") apart to produce mature plants.

Harvest: May-October. Harvest unthinned as baby leaves. Take a few leaves from each plant, allowing them to regrow for two or three more pickings.

Top tip: This versatile variety can be grown under glass from October until February to harvest fresh, baby leaves for winter salads.

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These varieties are available at mr-fothergills.com.