Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Starting Spinach Indoors

2 years in a row I tried to grow spinach from seed and failed miserably. I resorted to buying plants from the garden center to grow spinach in the garden. After a great deal of research I am surprised by the wide range of contradicting advice there is on the subject. One thing for sure is that spinach is one of more difficult seeds to start indoors.

Most seed charts I found recommend a germination temperature of anywhere from 40-75 degrees.
Some people have had success with presoaking seeds and then germinating them in the refrigerator.
I decided to experiment and try 2 different methods with my seeds this year to see if I could get them to germinate.

The first batch were started directly in seed starting mix. 3 seeds were placed in each space and covered with a thin layer of soil. after watering the flat was covered in plastic and placed on an area of the kitchen counter near a heat vent. 6 spots were planted. After 6 days 2 spots had germinated. After 14 days no additional seeds germinated. 18 seeds= 2 seedlings. Not good.

The second batch of (40) seeds were soaked in warm water (from the faucet) for 2 hours. They were then wrapped in 2 layers of damp paper towel and placed into a zip lock bag. I put the bag into the vegetable drawer or the fridge overnight. The second morning I removed the bag from the fridge and put it on the warm area of the counter top. It was put back into the fridge that night, I repeated this on the second day. Each day I checked to see if any of the seedlings have sprouted. Today is day 3 and when I opened the bag 4 seedlings had germinated. Tonight I checked again and another 8 had germinated! I will keep up the routine for several more days, but this method seems to work better for me than the previous method.

At the first sign of sprouting carefully remove the seedling from the paper towel. If you wait too long the roots will grow into the paper towel. You can use tweezers or the tip of a spoon to pick them up.

I like to mix the starter mix and warm water with my fingers. It helps me to gauge how much moisture to add.
The mix is then put into containers. Plant the seeds and cover with a thin layer of mix. Put the potted seedlings in a warm dark place until the sprouts emerge. Then put them under florescent lights to grow.

UPDATE: Today is the 6th day and 30 of the 40 seeds have germinated. I'm stopping the experiment today because I would have no room for 40 plants under my lights or in the garden! I'll definitely use this method from now on.


  1. I never had problems with spinach but I also presoaked them in light kelp solution before placing into seedcups. One thing to keep in mind is that spinach doesn't tolerate freezing temperatures and seeds don't hold well if they're more than 1 yrs old :(

    1. Thanks for the tips Jenny :) I'm going to try to use up the rest of my spinach seed with a second planting in the fall.