by Connie Oswald Stofko
Maggie Koste Patz of West Seneca planted spinach last fall and by mid-March, the spinach was doing well.
“ I recall feasting on that patch around May 25,” Patz said.
If you want to harvest some food before you’ve even planted your tomatoes, use Patz’s trick: old milk jugs.
Patz planted the spinach seeds in a raised bed. She cut the bottoms off of old milk jugs and set them as cloches on top of the seeds, as you can see. (She had used nine milk jugs, but removed the one in the middle so we can see the spinach plants.) She staked a piece of wire mesh over the jugs to keep them in place.
“A word about milk jugs – most are opaque white,” Patz said. “I prefer the translucent kind that carry water and vinegar, though Aldi still sells milk in translucent jugs.”
She allowed a few of the spinach plants to bolt so they would reseed.
Spinach is a cool-weather crop. It doesn’t do as well with hot summer temperatures, so it’s better to grow it in spring or fall.
To grow it in fall, you want to plant it about two months before the first frost, which means you should have planted it in August.
To grow it in spring, you could start spinach seeds inside at the end of March. Or you could wait until the soil can be worked, which might be April– but it might be later if our weather is rainy. If you plant seeds now and use Patz’s tip of the milk-jug cloches, you’ll be all set for spring. You don’t have to worry if the weather is rainy or cold; the seeds will know when to sprout.
Patz shared this tip on the Facebook page called Vegetable Gardeners of Buffalo NY. It’s a great page; you should check it out.
Patz’s tip is similar to the tip we shared awhile back from David Clark, nationally known garden educator, who teaches horticulture classes at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. You can use milk jugs as mini-greenhouses. I tried it with opaque milk jugs and it still worked. See an explanation here of what seeds will work.