Boost your health by sowing spinach and silverbeet for a homegrown harvest in just 10 weeks
Colour up the vegetable patch with the bright stems of rainbow chard. Image: Getty Images
True or English spinach, Spinacia oleracea, is a fast cropper that is mostly grown in cool or cold regions. In warm areas it tends to bolt to seed so is grown as a winter crop.
Silverbeet, or Swiss chard, actually belongs to the beetroot family and its botanical name is Beta vulgaris cicla.
It’s often mistaken for spinach but has thicker stalks and larger, darker, coarser, more crinkly leaves.
Silverbeet also has a longer cropping period than spinach and does better in warm areas. Rainbow silverbeet, or rainbow chard, is a coloured variety with striking red, pink, orange and yellow stalks.
Spinach likes a position in full to part sun in well-drained soil enriched with well-rotted compost or manure.
Cool soil temperatures are needed for successful germination, so soak seeds in cold water overnight before planting to speed up the process.
Sow seeds thinly to 12mm deep in rows 300mm apart. For a constant supply, sow seeds every three to six weeks, depending on the variety.
Water spinach regularly so that the plants don’t dry out, and apply a liquid fertiliser every two weeks to encourage fast growth.
Pick young outer leaves for salads or harvest from 10 weeks by cutting off the head or pulling the whole plant.
TIP Pale green, limp leaves indicate the soil is low in nitrogen.
Choose a spinach variety
- Large, crinkled, rich green leaves
- Compact growing habit
- Heirloom variety
Bloomsdale spinach has a compact growing habit
- Thick, rounded, dark green leaves
- Sweet and earthy flavour
- Reliable cropper
Medania spinach has a sweet and earthy flavour
- Tasty dark green leaves
- Grows best in a shady spot
- Slow to bolt to seed
Viking spinach grows best in shady spots
Silverbeet can be grown any time of year in a frost-free location but it does not like hot, dry conditions.
SOW seeds thinly to 12mm deep in rows spaced 300mm apart, thinning to one plant every 400mm.
WATER silverbeet plants regularly, especially in dry weather.
MULCH to help retain soil moisture and keep plants weed-free. Spreading a layer of lucerne hay will also prevent the leaves getting gritty from soil splash.
FEED with a seaweed liquid fertiliser every two weeks to encourage fast growth. If plants are slow to grow they can taste bitter.
HARVEST the outside leaves when the plant has at least six leaves, cutting or twisting them off from the base. Picking young leaves in this way encourages more to grow and keeps the plant cropping for months.
Silverbeet is a low-maintenance vegie that is ready to pick in weeks. Image: Getty Images
How to sow seeds in a drill
Planting vegetables and greens in straight rows in drills, or grooves, makes it easier to locate emerging seedlings and distinguish them from weeds.
Step 1. Mark the rows
Mark the rows using landscape pegs to secure garden string in straight lines the correct distance apart. Make
a shallow V shaped groove with a hoe.
Step 2. Sow the seeds
Sow the seeds in the drill grooves by hand, cover lightly with soil and water in gently. Always sow more than needed and thin out later.