By Bernard Preston

How to grow spinach

How to grow spinach is as easy as pudding and pie; actually a lot simpler.

Every garden, yes, without exception should have a small spinach patch. 1m by 1m is adequate for the young family, cause it just keeps growing and growing and, unless you live in the frozen north, in the spring it'll shoot up again.

It may be legend about Popeye, but it's now based on sound science. Spinach is the richest source of magnesium, and a magnesium deficiency is one main cause of chronic arthritis; and heart disease too.

Research shows that ten percent of 60 year olds will have a magnesium deficiency, the major cause of chondrocalcinosis which causes chronic arthritis. Are you one of them?

Growing spinach is the easiest thing in the world; dinkum.

These days there are so many delicious spinach recipes to choose from. Today we enjoyed this FRESH SPINACH RECIPES Apples Avocado salad, not one blade was left uneaten.

One of the oddities in South Africa is that what we call spinach is in reality Swiss chard. If the leaves are mature, then I like to devein them. Here are more recipes for Swiss chard.

How to grow spinach

How to grow spinach because it's the richest source of magnesium; a deficiency causes chronic arthritis and also important in minimising homocysteine levels in the blood.

Mature spinach patch

Start by choosing a piece of empty ground in full sun. It could be a long line, in this case about 3m long (10'). Or it could be a square, say 3'x3' (one square metre). It takes no more than half an hour to get your spinach plants started.

Late spring or early summer is best to start growing spinach, and then perhaps plant spinach several times in the summer if you have the space.

Don't buy plants, it's dead easy to grow from seed, and transplanting seedlings is a fag.

Now, you want to know how to grow spinach. Get out your hoe and a rake, and clean off any weeds, or remains of plants from last season.

Next, if you have any compost available, deep a shallow trench (perhaps 6-9"). This is the only part requiring a bit of sweat, and if the ground hasn't been dug over for a long time, it will take a bit of time. But this trench took me no more than 5-10 minutes.

Last summer I was GROWING CHICKPEAS followed by a winter beetroot crop. Now it's time, using standard rotation methods, to plant a leafy crop. Spinach plants.

The nitrogen fixed in the soil from bacteria on the roots of the chickpeas, which are legumes, means we won't need to use inorganic fertilizers. The liquid that drips from the worms farms is a great help in that regard.

spinach plot in open ground

Upgrade: instead of digging trenches for the compost, I am now experimenting with a chicken tractor; it's a mobile chicken cage that can be moved about the garden, cleaning out the remains of the last crop, all the weeds, and dropping nitrogen rich manure onto the ground.

Digging that trench certainly gets harder as you get older and really the chooks do any even better job that we can; plus the golden yellow yoked eggs are for real and not dyed with some chemical.

Chicken tractor designs come in all shapes and sizes.

Spinach needs compost so dig a trench

When I announced last year in Holland that I was going into semi-retirement there were pointed remarks about going to sit behind the Cape Violas, a Dutch idiom for the life of a couch potato. For the record, I left these violas in situ, they are so lovely, and I'm digging in front of them, not sitting behind them! And tomorrow morning I have ten patients!

Viola flowers catch they eye whilst spinaching

You know what's really surprising? I too have lower back problems, and the more physically hard gardening I do, the less trouble I've had. But I do lower back exercises very faithfully every morning in bed before arising. And have a monthly treatment from my chiropractor, happily my daughter.

She's pregnant right now, our first grandson, and does this variation of the lower back exercises. First thing in the morning, before getting out of bed is the right time.

Then I half filled the trench with one wheelbarrow load of compost. Growing spinach isn't difficult, but they are heavy feeders, and if you want to grow organic, then you need rich hummus. You can toss a handful of inorganic fertilizer into the trench if you're not wholly committed to natural methods.

Well matured compost for spinach


If you don't have compost, don't despair. Spinach plants are very hardy, they just won't be quite so delic and healthy. Then use your garden fork to turn the sod, followed by the rake to get any clods out of the way.

Now cover the compost with the soil you dug out of the trench, and rake it smooth, making a small drill about an inch deep for the spinach seed. Growing spinach plants couldn't be easier. Just drop the seeds in about 1-2" apart, and about half an inch deep. They are very robust, and you don't need to be fussed over the depth.

Use your hoe to gently drag some soil over the seed in the drills, and gently pat it down. If the ground is very dry, and no rain is expected, then a gallon or two of water sprinkled over the seed will hasten the germination.

Planting spinach seeds


My forebear CS Lewis brought new meaning to the word pride.

"When you're proud you've already fallen!"

My spinach crop was a disaster! I'm not sure if it was old seed that was the cause, a very hot spell, or the fact that our dogs used that corner for a Indy 500 track until I put some sticks up - too late.

So this is last year's spinach patch, still bearing prolifically.

Update: New seed, cooler weather, whatever, the next planting was a great success. Why do I admit to a failure on a growing spinach site? Nothing works all the time, but really 19/20 times, planting spinach is a breeze.

Mature growing spinach plant

FRESH SPINACH SALAD RECIPES ... you could be too! This is now our fourth patch so we have spinach almost every day.

It may be coincidence, or nothing to do with the spinach, but I've been having a lot less of those miserable cramps in the calf muscle in the early hours. They are caused by a mineral deficiency, often magnesium or zinc, but it could be a host of minerals, and it's very difficult to determine which is the villain. How to grow spinach has much profit, aside from the taste.

One of those benefits is that the straining over "rabbit pellets" days are over. Going to the toilet is such a pleasure. Two minutes and you're done!

If a straight spinach salad seems a bit too much, soft butterhead lettuce makes your greens lighter.

Spinach benefits in a basket.


GOOD FOOD, MADE FAST is my motto, and nothing could be truer than how to cook spinach. Ten minutes from picking you can have your spinach plants on the table!

Follow me this morning as we have poached egg on spinach for breakfast... eggs florentine.

First wash the spinach...

Before cooking wash the spinach.

I confess to being less than partial to the stalks, so I quickly slice them our with a sharp knife. The dogs get them in their dinner... they eat healthily too!

Then slice the spinach leaves into smallish pieces, and drop them into the pot. They boil down to nothing, so pile them up.

Before cooking destalk the spinach.

Add just a tad of boiling water, and boil hard for about five minutes, with the lid on. How to cook spinach couldn't be easier.

Creamed spinach recipe starts with steaming

Eggs Florentine

Eggs Florentine is our favourite breakfast; we enjoy it almost daily. The rich green phytochemicals plus the protein and vitamin B12 in eggs makes for a perfect food. Plus it has zero starch if you're concerned about your weight, or are on the banting diet.

Then, if you want a divine, healthy breakfast, just drop a couple eggs onto your steaming spinach. With a dribble of lemon juice and a smidgen of garlic, on toast, it's called Eggs Florentine ...

Hollandaise sauce

Trust the Dutch to come up with a sauce so disgustingly delicious and UNhealthy as Hollandaise sauce! Bourgondisch eten is the phrase word in the Netherlands. Delic food, but this is seriously bad for you, if your cholesterol is raised. It's little wonder that "krans-ader klachten" (coronary artery problems) are so serious in the Holland.

On the positive side, though, you only need a tablespoon of Hollandaise sauce on your poached egg, and you don't need then to butter you toast. It's all in the sauce. How to grow spinach, how to make eggs Florentine, how to cook spinach; if I can do it, so can you! 

Hollandaise sauce on eggs benedict

Enjoy your Hollandaise sauce with a good helping of this sauteed mushrooms recipe on the side, or one of these fresh tomato recipes and then you can shed all your guilt. Eggs Florentine every Sunday morning, once a month with Hollandaise sauce. That you can justify.


Spinach is rich in phytosterols, the green stuff that prevents and cures prostate problems. Even better, though, is an avocado a day, guaranteed to prevent your husband's prostate problems. Just read all the research about beta-sitosterol, the phytosterol that does the trick.

Magnesium heart

Magnesium heart is a very interesting and important page, especially if you have coronary artery disease in the family.

The heart is just a specialised muscle, and has all the same requirements as any other muscle; I mentioned the calf cramps above. The benefits of magnesium for the heart are now well researched, and Popeye food is the richest source.

Bernie's healthy spinach dip

Every salad needs a dip or dressing. This is the one the family raves about. Bernie's of course, but the internet rants and rages against the humble apostrophe, and I for one am not contributing to its demise. Once you know how to grow spinach then you'd better learn to make BERNIE'S HEALTHY SPINACH DIP ...

Hot humid summers

Hot humid summers are not to spinach's liking; they get a fungal disease on the leaves making them inedible.

Rather then rely on the nutritional value of kale in summer; it seems to be more resistant to the fungal diseases, grow your spinach in the cooler, drier weather.

Mouldy spinach



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Hilton, KZN

South Africa


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Bernard Preston books

A family affair by Bernard Preston comes after the trilogy that starts with Frog in my Throat.

Consulting a chiropractor

Femoral nerve AP Xray from one of Bernard Preston's books.

Bernie's healthy choice foods

Cooking green beans Bernard Preston passion

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Bread machine loaf by Bernard Preston

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green beans and granadillas Bernard Preston

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Bees workforce in Bernard Preston's garden

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Chickens for free range eggs.

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Residential solar panels at Bernard Preston's home

Bernie's rainwater harvest

Harvesting rainwater to a reservoir in the garden means a steady supply that is unpolluted by environmental toxins.