Summer Perfection is a new variety of spinach in my garden and I am impressed. But I have to admit, I am not an expert spinach grower, this is only the second time that I've been able to coax a good harvest out of a sowing of spinach, so perhaps I'm impressed because it actually is producing. The last time I successfully grew spinach was with a "winter" variety that I sowed in autumn for winter and spring harvests. I learned a lot about growing spinach with that experience, enough to convince me that winter spinach is the way to go in my climate. But, I just can't leave good enough alone, so when I spotted Summer Perfection in the Renee's Garden lineup of seeds I just had to try it.*
I won't bore you with repeat information if you read my previous post about my superstar spring greens, check out that post if you want to see how the planting has progressed from seedlings to first harvest.
I chose to sow the seeds into a flat of paper pots. The flat is shown below on the right, that's back on March 22, the seeds were sown on the 7th. It seemed like they took forever to germinate and get to that size. The germination rate was great, I sowed 2 seeds into every pot and there are very few pots with only 1 seedling and no pots with no seedling. I set the plants out before they got much larger than this and left the two seedlings per pot to grow together. I've found that the 2 plants will grow just fine together so long as they are spaced far enough apart from the other pots.
I am still very wary of setting out tender tasty young seedlings into the garden without protection from rodents and birds so I totally enclosed the spinach planting under some lightweight row cover.
I left a couple of gaps to allow some ventilation.
We've had a couple of warm spells lately and I was concerned that the spinach would overheat inside its enclosure so I opened up the ends to create a tunnel. The rest of the tender young greens nearby were unscathed so it seemed safe to leave the tunnel open 24/7.
A mere month after setting the seedlings out in the garden I harvested the first 18 ounces of leaves. You can see that I harvested everything from the first young leaves to the largest of the new leaves. I left at least 2 good sized leaves on each plant.
What truly impresses me about this variety of spinach is its eating quality. The first time I served it to my husband he noted how good it was. He really liked the tenderness and mild flavor. I thought - oh, ok, I dreamed up a good recipe (Beans and Greens 2.0). And my high opinion was clinched when he reaffirmed how much he likes the spinach when I prepared it using an entirely different recipe. And yes, I also thought it was very tender and tasty prepared both ways as well.
So there is just one last test of this variety that may or may not convince me to grow it again next spring - just how long will it keep producing before it bolts. Spinach is daylength sensitive - at some point the days will get long enough (technically the nights will get short enough) to give the plants the signal to bloom. Heat can also help to push spinach to bolt, which is one reason why I keep the plants lightly shaded by the row cover. I hope that this variety is as resistant to bolting as claimed. I'm happy to have harvested over 1 pound of leaves with the first harvest and am pretty sure that I'll be harvesting at least that much again in the next week or so. Will I get a third harvest before it bolts? For comparison, the winter spinach that I grew in 2011/2012 produced 6 pounds of leaves from November through January from fewer plants. (If you like, you can read my post about growing winter spinach).
One other note, I'm not sure why this is, but the spinach has been unmolested by aphids and leaf miners so far. I typically have problems with both of those pests in my spinach, especially in the spring. It probably isn't because of any special attributes of this variety of spinach because I also noticed that the aphids haven't infested the neighboring fava beans (yet) this spring. I'm not sure why that is, there don't seem to be any more beneficial insects than usual, although the resident Western Fence Lizard population seems to have increased so perhaps they are helping to keep the garden "clean".
I'll try to remember to update this post in the future once I've seen how this spinach performs through the rest of its growing season. Will it stay mild and delicious as the weather warms up? How long will it be before it bolts? Will the aphids and leaf miners finally attack... I also want to try starting some of this variety side by side with my winter spinach this fall and see how the 2 varieties compare through the fall and winter.
Is anyone else growing this variety? What is your experience with it?
I'll be linking with Liz's Saturday Spotlight series over at her blog Suburban Tomato.
*Full disclosure, I was doing a thorough perusal of Renee's seed lineup because they offered me a number of free seed packets of my choice as part of a media kit. Quite frankly I was happy to leap at the offer because I am a long time purchaser of their seeds. I've gravitated towards their offerings for a number of reasons, not least of which is because they are a locally based company and have a local trial garden so I can be pretty sure that the varieties they offer will do well in my climate. They are also very supportive of the local gardening community, something I experienced during my stint as a Master Gardener. The selection of seeds in their catalog may not be as extensive as other companies, but that seems to be because they only offer varieties that they have found to be the best both in the garden and in the kitchen. And indeed, a number of the "regulars" in my garden are from Renee's.