There’s nothing like freshly harvested salad right out of your garden, but do you know how to harvest spinach without killing the plant? The fragile leaves are packed with benefits, nutrition, and freshness. Throw them in a bowl with some goat cheese and cherry tomatoes, and you have the perfect salad.
But once you set your foot out the door to pluck some leaves, you need to be gentle – don’t kill the plant on your first harvest. Here’s how to pick the best leaves and keep the plant thriving the whole season.
Best Time To Plant Spinach
Versatility when it comes to planting season is one of the main perks of spinach. You can plant it in spring, fall, and even winter. If you live in a warmer climate, you won’t even have to cover it during wintertime. Spinach seeds need around 6 weeks to sprout and grow into a plant, and temperatures no higher than 70ºF. You can start planting as soon as the soil defrosts or has softened enough to be worked.
If you want to harvest your spinach in early spring, you can plant it in the fall before the freezing weather arrives. Cover it with some mulch to protect the fragile plants from frost and uncover as soon as temperatures rise above 5°F.
You can’t plant spinach in summer – at least not the ordinary type. Seeds need cool weather to grow, so you need to wait for the soil to cool down.
When To Harvest Spinach?
Harvesting time varies depending on when you planted your spinach. Plant your spinach no later than the end of April for some early summer salad of leafy greens. Since spinach needs around six weeks to grow fully, you’ll be able to pick some leaves at the beginning of June.
Early spring harvest is available when spinach is planted no later than September. After that, the plant will have enough time to grow and go into dormancy to survive the winter. You can even fit a small spinach harvest but beware of killing the plant. You’ll also need to provide frost protection.
For fall spinach, plant the seeds around eight weeks before the first frost date. Depending on your zone, the first frost can be at the beginning of September or the end of November. Zones with no frost enjoy the advantage of planting spinach almost whenever they want.
How Is Spinach Harvested
So what’s so complicated about harvesting spinach anyways? You can fit 3 to 4 harvests of each spinach plant when picking the leaves correctly. Bad spinach harvest results in killing the plant on the first picking. The annual plant is fragile, so you need to be gentle.
Start by monitoring your plant until the leaves reach the optimal size. Sure, baby spinach is nice, but allow it to grow until somewhere in the middle. Don’t let it mature too much – older leaves become harder and bitter, so you want the midpoint. Get your gardening scissors and start cutting the outer leaves first, leaving out the center. Cut right at the stem.
The outer leaves are older and more developed. Leaving the center allows those leaves to grow some more and be ready for the next harvest.
You can also harvest the whole plant. Carefully cut the plant at the base but not too low to not damage the growing point. When cut properly, that plant can regrow and provide up to two more harvests.
Common Mistakes When Harvesting Spinach
The most common mistake home gardeners make is picking the leaves in the center or picking too much. Never pick more than 1/3 of the spinach plant and start with the outer leaves. Don’t add fertilizer after your harvest to make the plant produce again. All spinach need is water, and it will regrow.
Cutting or harvesting the whole spinach too low and damaging the growing point will lead to killing the plant. The growing point is the plant’s crown, the spot where the stems connect to the root system. Cut at least 2 inches above the crown.
Can You Harvest Spinach Without Killing The Plant?
It’s common to harvest a spinach plant more than once, but beginners might kill a few plants before finding the sweet spot. Make sure to follow our directions and monitor the plants a few days after the harvest. Once it starts showing signs of regrowth, you know you did a good job.
Will Spinach Grow Back After Cutting?
When cut correctly, spinach regenerates itself and provides a few more harvests until it flowers and dies out. Pick or cut as much as you need at the moment and leave the rest. When you go back for another harvest, you’ll notice the plant has grown some new additions!
Last Spinach Harvest – Is Killing The Plant Inevitable
Spinach is an annual crop, so by the end of its life, it starts bolting. Plenty of new arrowheads and bitter leaves appear. The plant grows in height and blooms. After the last harvest, you have a few options. You can pick the flowers in an attempt to stop the bolt, but it’s not very likely to happen.
You can cut and remove the whole plant and make room for new crops. Eventually, you can let it bloom and gather the seeds after. You can try and plant them the following season, but there’s no guarantee they’ll sprout.
Nutritional Benefits Of Spinach
If Popeye didn’t make it clear enough how beneficial spinach is in your diet, we’re here to help.
Just 100grams of the leafy greens have around 34% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C.
Due to the high amount of iron, calcium, and magnesium, spinach works wonders in supporting healthy skin, hair, and bones. It can also help in diabetes and blood pressure management.
Bottom Line: Harvest Spinach Without Killing The Plant
Spinach is an annual crop that grows in cooler conditions. It provides around three harvests per plant per season when picked correctly. Always cut above the crown and start with the outer leaves. You can even cut the whole plant, and it will regrow again.
Do you plant spinach? How many harvests per season do you get from a single plant?
Next up, learn more about The Ideal Brussel Sprouts Growing Season.
Mary is a passionate gardener who loves spending her days getting her hands dirty and nurturing her plants. She‘s an avid reader of gardening magazines and is always looking for new ways to make her garden thrive. When not outside tending to her plants, Mary can be found inside reading up on the latest gardening trends, comparing notes with fellow gardeners, and finding the perfect pottery planter for her next planting project.