The last few days of warm weather have kicked the spinach in the low tunnel into high gear. It had been loitering along, barely growing, but the leaves have leaped up in the last half week, and show every sign of being able to put out as much spinach as we care to eat for the next two months until they bolt from the summer heat.
This is spinach that was sowed last fall, early September to be exact (although precisely when is of less help to most of you than the simple idea that you can do this), and this technique of sowing spinach and, to a lesser extent, lettuce, is one of the best tricks I know of for producing quality greens in your garden year round. Depending on how you protect them, you can be eating out of a hoophouse every day of the winter if you have enough space and a second layer of protection in the form of a row cover, and if you get the timing right with sowing. But even if you don't meet any of these criteria, you can still have a bed of spinach seedlings that, come early spring, will go nuts growing months ahead of when you would have anything else from your garden.
All you have to do is remember to sow them in the fall, and then cover them, with a hoophouse, low tunnel, or even a thick straw mulch. Wind and water are a bigger threat to the baby plants as they go into winter than cold, and they will actually freeze and thaw each day without problem in the greenhouse and low tunnel (under the mulch they more go into stasis). By late fall, it is a good idea to start keeping them slightly underwatered, to help the cells be able to freeze without bursting. And that is it!
I know it's not something you can do right now to begin gardening, but it's something to keep in mind and plan for in the fall, because this time next year you will be very happy you did. Early spring spinach feels like one of the greatest luxuries in the world.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.