Take a bite into a newly baked phyllo pastry spinach and feta cheese triangle. Ah. Now that tastes good not so? If it does so anyway – how much nicer would it taste if you made them using your own home grown vegetables and herbs?
Heavenly. I know. So read on to see what you need to do to grow two of the ingredients for Spinach Pie - then go to the forum for a really good recipe for this delicious taste adventure.
Speaking about the recipe – the green ingredients include Spinach, Dill, Parsley and Spring onions! Should we grow them all? Why not? For this article we will look at Spinach and Dill – and in other writing, we will look at growing parsley and onions. You already know, that even if you only have one of these ingredients for your cooking, then that will be a prize in itself. Maybe your neighbour can help with the others, or the fresh shelves of your local foodmarket? Whatever – don’t let it stop your pleasure of harvesting what you do have and using it all in your kitchen.
So! Let’s get to growing them so that we can get to cooking with them!
Growing Spinach is easy. It‘s a good and healthy choice for a vegetable in a container; it is high in fibre, B-complex vitamins as well as vitamin A, plus other trace elements. It can be used extensively in the kitchen as it goes well in soups, salads and anything a la Florentine.
Choose your variety - for summer crops choose varieties that do not bolt like ‘Tyee’ or ‘Space’ ... these types can do with less sun and go for partial shade with good light. For cold weather crops, choose any of the savoy varieties like ‘Bloomsdale” and ‘Regiment.’ Other types include Nordic IV, Olympia, Melody or Wolter. Rather than be too fancy – I just buy whatever seedlings I find at the nursery ... it’s the spinach I want and I trust that they will have the suitable variety on sale. If you are offered a selection, then ask about which are better for your zone.
Choose your position - Spinach generally needs at least 6 hours of sunshine a day – and if you don’t have this, you can also use grow lights. Morning sunshine is best or any place that receives natural and diffused sunlight is also good. Always watch your lighting and turn your pots for even growth.
Choose your container – and this should not be smaller than 12 inches wide and say 8 or so inches deep. This size pot is good for one plant – so if you choose a larger pot than this, make sure you plant your seedlings accordingly – do not crowd them, they need space to grow. Best choices are light-coloured pots, probably plastic – just makes sure there are drainage holes, spinach hates wet feet.
Prepare your soil – Spinach likes a light potting mix that usually contains perlite or vermiculite and some good compost. Garden soil is not an option; it is not right for growing things in containers. The light potting mix is good not only for good drainage, but being friable will let the roots get air. Clay-like soils will just lead to root rot.
Care for your Pots – Spinach plants require plenty of nutrients – so feed them regularly with a good general or slow-release fertiliser (2:3:2) or, if you want to go organic, then make a compost tea and use that as a liquid food. Watering is very important – your plants should always be moist so go for about twice a week deep watering (let the water come out into the saucer; leave it for about 30 minutes...then use the remainder of the brown water in the saucer to water other plants you may have – don’t throw it away, it will have good nutrients in it.
Harvest time - Cut the bottom side leaves and leave the centre ones to mature and drop down; this way you will get a continuous harvest, and early morning is best for cutting your leaves, cut not tear please) Watering is very important – your plants should always be moist so go for about twice a week deep watering (let the water come out into the saucer; leave it for about 30 minutes...then use the remainder of the brown water in the saucer to water other plants you may have – don’t throw it away, it will have good nutrients in it.
Newbies and Oldies will find little trouble in growing this fantastic herb and we are lucky, as in the right conditions, it’s easy peasy to cultivate. It is pretty, flavoursome and almost all the plant parts are used for taste and enhancement of your cooking and baking.
Choose your seedlings - as you know by now I go for seedlings (I just don’t have the patience needed for waiting for seeds to germinate) and these I buy from the nursery when they are around 6 inches tall and turgid. Leave the soft or slimy ones behind – victims of overwatering and not enough light. Prepare your pot with soil that has been fertilized and watered well; then dig a hole at the centre and carefully remove the dill from its seedling plastic. Make sure you do not disturb the roots. Cover with soil after gently putting it to bed, keeping the same level of soil as you go. Water your seedlings well and use a diluted all-purpose liquid fertilizer. You should also keep them away from direct sunlight for a couple of days to help them settle in and, quite frankly, get over the shock of being transplanted. Dill must be a girl!
Choose your position - Dill needs around 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day; it needs to have an airy environment but needs to be protected from very strong winds.
Choose your container – Plastic is lightweight, does not absorb heat, and keeps the water in the soil during very hot days, so this is a good choice to start out with – but depth is also important. Select a pot that is at least 15 inches deep – dill has tap roots that reach down for the nutrients and balance a tallish plant. Start off with a big container – dill doesn’t like being disturbed or transplanted once it has been established. Make sure, as always, that your pot has drainage holes at the bottom; and then line the bottom of the pot with shards of ceramic or pebbles both of which will help with draining any excess water – don’t drown your dill.
Prepare your soil – your potting soil must also be prepared with slow-release fertiliser 2 weeks before sowing to make sure that the soil has ample nutrients for sustained growth. And similar to most planting in pots ... use one of those potting soil mixes that you can buy at the nursery made up of sterile soil, compost, peat, perlite or vermiculite. This mix is highly useful; it retains the water and nutrients yet remaining light enough for easy drainage of excess water.
Care for your Pots – dill, as with spinach, requires plenty of nutrients – so feed them regularly with a good general or slow-release fertiliser (2:3:2) or, if you want to go organic, then make a compost tea and use that as a liquid food, fish emulsion is a good choice. Watering is very important – your plants should always be moist so go for about twice a week deep watering but let the plants dry out in between watering (this will depend on your sunshine and warmth, so just use your commonsense. Good drainage and moist soil is best.
Harvest time - Dill can be harvested by snipping leaves every time you need them, and I don’t allow them to flower all the time. Some I keep only for the feathery leaves, others I will allow to flower as they are such delicate and pretty plants to have around - besides their culinary uses. Once they produce flowers, you may want to cut back and harvest the entire plant to around 2 inches above the ground and it will grow back. Bye the bye, the leaves can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months and they will still keep flavourful; I do the usual ice-tray trick as with many of my other herbs.
What do you want your container garden to do?