Vegetable farmers can now harvest up to 300 pods weighing 48kgs per year from a single spinach tree, thanks to the Swiss Chard ford hook spinach, a new variety in the Kenyan market by Amiran which can grow up to 2.5 feet.
Spinach is relatively easy to grow in cool climates and it is packed with nutrients such as iron, protein, vitamin A and chlorophyll.
Whether raw in salads or lightly steamed spinach is a suitable accompaniment to a wide range of dishes.
Germination of spinach seeds can take anything between a week and 2 weeks.
Dig the soil to around 30cm depth as this is how far the plants tap root can develop. Work some organic compost or manure into the soil to help provide the necessary nutrients for growth.
Because of the benefit of organic matter cover crops and green manure crops are beneficial prior to planting spinach. Check the soils PH and if necessary add lime.
This super variety yields 70 more pods than other varieties in the market which produces 218 pods per year on average. A part from high yield, the Swiss chard variety matures in up to 50 day after sowing, hence quick returns on investment. It can be refrigerated for up to 10 days, three days longer than other varieties hence commercially more viable.
Unlike most spinach varieties that require well drained loamy soils rich in organic matters, the Swiss chard ford hook spinach variety can also do well in sandy loam soil with soil PH value of 6-6.8. This means, the variety can be grow in various parts of the country especially western, Rift valley, Central and parts of upper Eastern region.
An acre of land requires 32,000-40,000 seedlings with spacing of 45 x 45 or 60 x 45 or 60 x 60cm. Closer spacing results into smaller heat but high yield per unit area while wider spacing gives bigger heat but low production per unit area. Although for hotter areas larger spacing is desirable to reduce moisture stress.
Use 200kg to 400kg of NPK fertilizer per acre in the ratio of 2:3:4 while planting depending soil fertility of the farm. This is followed by 70 to 90kg LAN per acre at four weeks and eight weeks.
According to Johnston Makau, an Agronomist at Amiran Kenya Limited, spinach rarely witness pests and diseases, however, farmers are asked to be on watch out for diseases like bacterial spot, downy mildew and pest like nematodes and cutworms.
Small spinach leaves can be harvested with scissors by simply cutting the leaves at the stem. One way to do this is start harvesting the outer, older leaves first and then gradually working your way in to the center of the plant as those leaves mature. You can also just cut the whole plant off at the base. Harvesting spinach by this method will often allow it to re-sprout and give you another partial harvest
Growing other types of Spinach
You can plant spinach in early spring. To stagger your crop over summer you can plant part rows every few weeks. The last planting should be about 50-60 days before the first frosts.
Sow your seedlings / seeds around 7cm apart in rows about 30-40cm apart.
Position your spinach plants in a position that does not experience high temperatures. Spinach grows well in partial to full sun.
Spinach likes a moist but not waterlogged soil. Using a mulch of straw or grass clippings can help to retain moisture levels in the soil.
The soil should contain a good amount of organic matter to provide the spinach with the nutrients it requires.
Spinach doesn’t like acidic soils, a good PH is around 6.3 -6.8. Add the appropriate amount of lime to the soil if necessary.
Make sure the soil is moist. An inch of water per week is adequate when there is little rainfall. Thin out your spinach seedlings as required but try not to damage the roots of the plants you leave in the soil.
Effects of an over acidic soil can be seen in the yellowing of the edges of seedling leaves, low germination rates and slow growth.
Spinach is ready to harvest at about 40-50 days after planting.
The spinach leaves can be harvested whenever they look big enough and ready for your salads etc. Make sure to start picking leaves on the outside of the plant, the inner leaves will then continue to grow and produce a new crop. Alternatively you can harvest the whole plant.
You should aim to eat the spinach straight after picking and washing in cool water. You can store the washed leaves in the fridge for a few days but the taste and nutrient content is best after picking.