Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Spinach in Cloches

I was so happy to be able to harvest nearly 1 1/2 pounds of fresh spinach from the garden yesterday. My first attempt at trying to get spinach going for fall and winter harvests was a complete and total failure. I had set out 18 spinach starts back on October 6, already a late start, and then left for a week long vacation. When I got back I found not a trace of a single spinach plant remaining. No doubt the seemingly thousands of sowbugs that inhabit my garden found the tender young seedlings and if it wasn't them then the birds probably found a way into the not so secure mesh tunnel. Bummer.

But I'm always willing to test the limits of my relatively mild climate so I decided to sow another 2 dozen paper pots, each with 2 seeds. All but one of the pots had at least 1 seed germinate and I kept both seedlings in the pots where both seeds germinated. Those got set out in the garden on November 23, a ridiculously late date. This time I was determined that the sowbugs and birds would not feast before I could enjoy a single leaf. I spaced the seedlings out so that each one could be covered with a bottomless plastic gallon water bottle cloche. I placed them cheek by jowl to provide more stability in case of wind. Each bottle is pushed about an inch into the soil. The sowbugs don't seem to be able to climb  the sides of the plastic bottles so I left the tops of the bottles uncapped to allow for ventilation. Just in case I trapped some baddies in the bottles I place a bit of Sluggo Plus by each plant.

November 23
Look at how tiny the seedlings were. I really didn't have a lot of hope that they would produce much of anything in what was turning out to be a cold and wet November and the same was expected for the forseeable future.

November 23
The cloches provided some frost protection not long after the seedlings got set out and on a number of nights since.

November 26
The plants grew surprisingly quickly considering the cold weather and short days. The cloches must provide enough warmth during the day and protection at night to help the plants grow. I grew hopeful that I might get to harvest some baby spinach by the end of the year.

December 2
December 2
December 2

Less than 2 weeks later the plants had grown to a "baby" leaf size! I could have harvested then but I decided to let continue to grow.

December 14

December 14
Ten days later and some of the plants were starting to fill the cloches. I wasn't ready to harvest them then since I had other veggies in mind for holiday meals.

December 24
December 24
December 24
December 24
Yesterday was finally harvest day. The plants looked like they were about ready to bust out and I noticed a fungal infection on a leaf that was pressed up against the plastic.

December 29

December 29

December 29
The first unveiling. Not bad.

December 29
December 29
I harvested the oldest leaves and left a couple of young ones on each plant. It turned out that there were very few leaves with fungal infections, mostly on the oldest leaves that were in contact with the soil. I removed all the infected leaves and any remaining seedling leaves and then the shorn plants got covered up again.

December 29
Ta Da! A couple of baskets of beautiful fresh spinach.

Summer Perfection
Verdil

Last night I concocted a dish of the Verdil spinach wilted in homemade broth flavored with tomato conserva and sweet pepper conserva from my stores. The spinach was piled on top of garlic toasts in big wide bowls and garnished with seared red onion (from the garden), pine nuts, and crumbled feta cheese. A nice warm dish for a cold winter night.

It's going to be interesting to see how soon I'll be able to harvest again.

6 comments:

  1. That's wonderful - just goes to show that it's worth giving most things in the garden a second (third, fourth!) try if they don't work out at first. Love the water jug idea - it's funny how items made for other purposes are often better than those made specifically for the garden. I have a few plastic garden cloches and they are nowhere near as sturdy as water jugs would be.

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  2. That's some lovely spinach you got there! I'm guessing the leaves were especially tender since they were protected by a mini greenhouse environment. I've used the gallon jug cloches before myself, though I don't think I ever put them over spinach. I also used to use tunnel cloches made of corrugated fiberglass (a Victory Garden design). Your wilted spinach dish has my mouth watering!

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  3. Congratulations on the spinach. It looks wonderful. It's always hit or miss for me, but when it works it is a treat. Enjoy.

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  4. Interesting! Thank you for sharing this idea.

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  5. What a great result. I have never had much success with spinach, but to be honest I have usually grown it in Spring / Summer, and it just bolts before it produces a useable crop. I love the sound of the dish/recipe you created, btw - you are much more adventurous with food than most bloggers I follow! Happy New Year to you - and let's hope for a good gardening year in 2016.

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  6. does the jug tops stop snails?

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