Did you know spinach, kale, lettuce, chard and many other greens thrive in small spaces? Spinach is one of my favorites to grow because it’s so easy and so good. If you’re looking for details on how to grow spinach in pots, read on!
Whether eaten fresh in a salad, pureed for a delicious green smoothie, or sautéed and served up with some pasta, spinach is a tasty green that works well in almost any dish. But the beauty of spinach goes far beyond its versatility in the kitchen.
Rich in vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin C, A and K, this powerhouse plant is one of the simplest vegetables to grow in containers too.
I like to grow spinach in a big fabric grow bag or container, alongside other greens like butter lettuce and kale. They do so well together, and it’s fun to have a little salad garden so close at hand!
Read on for helpful tips for how to grow spinach in pots in your own container garden this season!
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How to grow spinach in pots
Relatively compact in size, easy-care spinach is just the sort of plant that makes a perfect addition to a small container garden or patio planting.
Provide your spinach with plenty of full, direct sun and regular, consistent watering and you’ll have a healthy crop in about six weeks.
Spinach does best in full sun, which can help leaves develop a slightly sweeter flavor. But because spinach is a cold season crop, it will tend to bolt as temperatures rise.
For this reason, it can help to move your spinach into partial, afternoon shade in the hottest part of the season to ward off premature bolting.
How to grow spinach from seed
Spinach can either be directly sown outdoors or indoors in early spring, but sowing outdoors (or in the pot they’re going to stay in) is ideal. Spinach has a deep taproot that doesn’t love being transplanted.
Additionally, because spinach prefers cold weather and grows relatively quickly, you can sow an additional crop in late summer for an autumn harvest.
If you direct sow your spinach outdoors, plant three seeds every 6”, as early as 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost date.
After planting, cover your seeds with ½” good quality potting soil and keep them well watered until they germinate.
Once your plants have developed their first true leaves, thin your plants out so each plant has about 6” of growing room.
On the other hand, if you want to start your seeds indoors, start them about 6 weeks before your last frost date.
When planting, if you’re trying to decide how many spinach seeds per 2”, a good rule of thumb is to start with two seeds and thin them to one seed per pot or planting cell after they’ve developed their first true leaves.
Your spinach seeds should germinate within five days to two weeks after planting, depending on the variety and ambient temperature.
After germination, thin your seedlings out so plants are approximately 6” apart or one to four plants per planter, depending on your planter size.
If your spinach seeds seem like they are taking too long to germinate, check your moisture levels and adjust accordingly – both overwatering and underwatering can cause issues with germination.
For indoor seeds, you can also try adding a heat mat under your seedlings to speed up germination, especially if your grow room is bit on the cool side. I use the VIVOSUN heat mat and swear by it for helping seeds get off to a good start.
When to transplant spinach seedlings
For seeds started indoors, prepare to transplant your spinach seedlings outside when they are about 2” to 3” tall and have three or four true leaves.
As spinach is frost tolerant, you can plant them outdoors as early as 4-6 weeks before your last frost date; however, be sure to harden them off first.
(Check out my post about how to harden off seedlings for full details on the process!)
Best varieties of spinach for containers
- Baby greens spinach: fast-growing, very cold hardy
- Lavewa: excellent flavor, heat tolerant and mildew resistant
Best containers for growing spinach
Just keep in mind that while most of its roots are shallow, spinach has a deep taproot and will need a pot at least 8” to 10” deep.
A pot 8” deep and 14” in diameter can support up to three to four spinach plants, which will help you maximize your harvest.
Although spinach will grow in different sorts of pots, fabric grow bags are the ultimate because they give your plants plenty of room to grow a healthy network of roots and, because they are breathable, they help prevent common issues like overwatering and root rot.
The larger fabric bags also give you room for succession planting, to keep a supply growing strong all season. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
- 5-gallon fabric grow bag: 12.5” diameter X 9.9” depth, just right for one spinach plant
- 15-gallon fabric grow bag (my recommendation): 20” diameter X 12” depth, gives you lots of room for multiple spinach plants or companion planting
Growing spinach in containers
Because it bolts when temperatures rise, it’s generally recommended to grow spinach in spring and fall.
In milder climates, you can try to extend your spinach harvest by succession planting seeds every two weeks throughout the growing season.
Spinach prefers regular watering and should be watered when the top 1” to 2” of soil feels dry to the touch, which amounts to about 1” to 1 ½” of water per week. Mulching around the base of your plants can help retain moisture better, meaning you won’t have to water quite as much.
Frequent watering, particularly in the warmer months, can help your spinach plants resist their tendency to bolt.
For this reason, frequent, small drinks of water, rather than a weekly, deep watering, often works better for spinach plants. This also helps keep the shallow feeder roots hydrated.
As a leafy green, spinach prefers nitrogen-rich fertilizers, which help boost foliage and give your spinach plants develop their characteristic dark green color. I recommend Fox Farm’s Grow Big fertilizer, with a 6-4-4 NPK.
Water soluble or liquid organic fertilizers often are best for spinach and should be applied every two to three weeks throughout the growing season, to support your plants’ abundant growth.
Common spinach pests
Tasty, tender spinach leaves make a popular snack for many garden pests, including deer and rabbits — avoiding them is one of the upsides of growing spinach in a container garden on a patio or deck!
However, some pests can be a problem no matter where you grow it:
Cutworms are the larvae of certain moth species that live underground and have a penchant for nipping off seedling roots and tender stems, particularly when plants first sprout.
- Slugs and snails
Voracious slugs and snails will happily bore holes in tender spinach leaves or even chew entire branches down to nubs.
To combat these common garden pests, try placing “slug pubs” around your plants, by filling up old bottles or plastic containers with a bit of beer or old orange juice. Attracted to the sweet scent of fermentation, slugs will crawl into your homemade “pubs” but won’t be able to exit.
- Flea beetles
Flea beetles are tiny, black jumping beetles that love feeding on garden produce, like broccoli, cabbage and, of course, spinach. Signs of flea beetle feeding include tiny holes in plant leaves, often with a characteristic white or brown margin, and leaf stippling.
Best companion plants for spinach
Undemanding as it is, spinach works nicely as a companion plant with many other veggies; however, certain plants work particularly well when planted along side this tasty green.
Excellent companion plant options for spinach include:
- Brassicas, like broccoli, cauliflower and kale. These cold-season vegetables all have similar care requirements to spinach. They also have different root depths, which means they won’t compete with spinach for soil nutrients.
- Strawberries love moist soil and have a sprawling growth habit that can help shade the soil from hot afternoon sun. Pairing these two plants together can provide spinach with the cool environment it needs to resist early bolting.
- To help your spinach naturally resist common pests like flea beetles, pair your spinach with fragrant herbs, like alliums (garlic, leeks, onions and chives) and mint, which pests find naturally repellant.
While spinach does well when planted with most garden plants, there are exceptions:
- Potatoes don’t work well with spinach. This is mostly because potatoes are heavy feeders and will outcompete spinach for the nutrients it needs to thrive. Potatoes also often attract wireworms, which love munching on spinach and may find their way into your leafy crop.
Spinach growing time
- Once planted, spinach takes anywhere from five days to two weeks to germinate, depending on the variety of the spinach and how warm it is.
- Spinach started indoors is ready for transplant when it has several true leaves and is about 2 to 3” tall.
- For tender baby spinach leaves that are perfect for spring salads, harvest your spinach when it is about three to five weeks old.
- Larger leaves take a bit longer to mature but are ready to harvest roughly 45 days after sowing.
How to harvest spinach
Tender, baby spinach leaves are ready to harvest when they reach a usable size, which can take anywhere from three to five weeks.
For mature leaves, you’ll want to wait a few more days to harvest, usually about 45 days after sowing for most varieties of spinach.
You’ll know your spinach is ready when the center of the plant begins to form a rosette of five to six leaves.
To harvest, gather just a few leaves by snipping off the outer spinach leaves with a sharp, clean pair of garden shears.
Alternatively, if you plan on using a bunch of spinach at once, cut off the entire plant at the base. When you harvest all at once, spinach plants will still normally resprout, providing you with a secondary harvest.
How to store spinach
- Spinach begins to rapidly decay after it is harvested, so try to harvest only as much spinach as you need for a given recipe.
- If you do need to store spinach, wash and dry your leaves and compost any brown or mushy bits.
- Next, loosely wrap your spinach in some paper towels and place it in a Ziploc bag or plastic container in your crisper drawer.
- When stored properly in your fridge, spinach will keep for about 10 days after harvest.
More container gardening tips and ideas:
- How to attract pollinators to your container garden
- How to attract dragonflies to your container garden
- Small compost bins for container gardens
- Best edible flowers for container gardens
- Dirty Dozen foods you can grow in containers
- How to grow bell peppers in containers
- Growing pumpkins in containers
- How to grow garlic in pots
- Growing jalapeños in pots
- Growing corn in containers
- Growing beets in containers
- How to grow edamame