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It is an unusually warm year in Minnesota. I planted two rows of spinach around April 15th. Now (end of May) I have two rows of spinach about 2 inches tall, and it all started flowering.

  • Is it now inedible because of the flowering?
  • How do I prevent the flowering at such a tiny stage in future?
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It may be inedible, but it's worth giving a leaf a taste to see if it is not too bitter. If it doesn't taste too bad, harvest the whole lot and eat some baby spinach salads.

There may be some spinach varieties which are more resistant to bolting, but it's probably a better idea to simply let nature do what it's going to do. Some years are warm, and some crops (e.g. spinach) don't like warm weather. A few years ago it was very cold and wet in June here and everybody had trouble with strawberries and tomatoes; there's not much you can do about the weather.

Something you can try is to locate your spinach (and other cool-weather crops) in a microcliimate where it stays cooler: perhaps where there's shade from the midday sun, a low area that cools off quickly at night, or near water that helps to moderate the temperature. You could also try putting some shade over the rows of spinach, e.g. a lath screen as shown in this book:

Lath screen for shading beds

You can also hedge your bets: plant a variety of crops that are tolerant of different sorts of weather. For alternate greens, when you plant your spinach, start some lettuce (which still doesn't like heat, but is generally slower to bolt in my experience), and chard a couple of weeks later (which holds up really well to the summer heat).

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Your spinach has bolted, and is (probably) no longer edible.

To prevent this, predict warm years ;-) and plant earlier in them. Seriously, if you see that everything seems a couple of weeks ahead of normal, plant accordingly and hope for the best. If the weather turns cold against you, you can replant - better to be too early than too late.

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So when spinach gets warm, it bolts? And bolting is bad for eating? –  dfrankow May 30 '12 at 15:59
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Right. "Bolting" is when a leaf crop matures and starts flowering. Many/most leaf crops, including lettuce and spinach, become bitter then. –  Ed Staub May 30 '12 at 16:12
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I, too, live in Minnesota and have been frustrated by bolting spinach. This year I tried a variety called "Catalina" from "Rennee's Garden". I bought the seeds at Bachman's. I have a hoop garden so on March 15 I planted Catalina, along with "American" from Seed Saver Exchange. I have gotten an extra couple of weeks out of the Catalina, though they are pretty much bolted now. The Catalina flavor is also slightly better.

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