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FROST ALERT! aka How to save my spinach?

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  • FROST ALERT! aka How to save my spinach?

    Help! There's frost in the forecast for tonight, with lows getting down to 30 degrees here in southern NJ! My spinach is doomed! It's already sprouted, but the leaves are tiny, only an inch or two long at the most. Will my spinach endure the frost, die back and then continue to grow next spring or is this a failed crop? I planted the seeds in mid September thinking that they would grow well in cooler temps since Jersey summers are very humid, but after sprouting their growth rate has been very slow. Did I plant too late, is there anything I can do now to save my spinach?

  • #2
    Spinach can usually take mild frosts. Anyhow, if in doubt about how cold it's actually going to get, you might want to put a blanket or some row cover over it just to be safe.

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    • #3
      Another method you can use is to put straw over and around the plants. Can work for carrots, beets, lettuces, etc. Floating row cover will help keep the aphids at bay, however. Hope you chose a winter hardy variety (not the new zealand types, commonly known as summer spinach).

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      • #4
        Thanks for the suggestions. It's Monopa Spinach...is that a summer or winter variety? Any advice on how to speed up the growth? I'll probably use some straw, but right now the plants are still so small. It's been several weeks since I planted them and I thought they would have grown bigger by this time so I could harvest them before winter. If by chance they don't get any bigger does that mean they'll over winter till spring? In that case should I cover them completely with straw or just surround them with it between the plants?

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        • #5
          Spinach loves the cold and most varieties will easily over winter with straw mulch or row cover over top. Don't worry, your spinach not only is not doomed it is likely happier now that the frosts have come to your garden.

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          • #6
            I have had spinach over-winter in my zone 4 garden with very minimal protection. The following spring you have very nice, early spinach!

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            • #7
              If you don't have floating row cover, use an old white (cotton) sheet. Put in some support (wire hoops/pvc) so the material does not rest right on the plants. Daytime temps will get up to 10 degrees warmer than unprotected, depending on how cold/warm temps are. Obviously the colder the day is, the lower your temps even under the cover. Cotton means you don't have to worry about venting unless temps are in the mid-forties and a strong sun shining. Don't use plastic! Even a modest sun can fry your plants in short order!

              Even though spinach is a cool season crop, these are the days when it will appreciate a little more warmth to put some growth on. If you planted too late for winter growth, your plants might be done for. You can sow some more seed and cover with a little straw - when the temps are warm enough in the spring, your seeds will sprout. A cover will speed this time up - according to Eliot Coleman, for every layer of protection you move your plants 1-2 zones south. It works in Zone 5!

              Good luck.

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              • #8
                Spinach wants to be a biennial, but if you don't let it bloom and go to seed, some varieties can survive several years, and the plants should get bigger each year. Also, if you use a large cloche, you may be able to harvest well into the winter.

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                • #9
                  Spinach is one of the few crops I have found that does not mind row covers sitting directly on top of it-you do not need hoops. I over winter a lot of spinach for spring farmers markets and CSA sales and all of it gets the minimal protection of medium weight row covers sitting directly on top.

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