Tag Archive | The Four Season Harvest

Growing Spinach through the Winter in Wisconsin


“There is a fellow around here who plants bulk spinach in his garden each fall and then harvests it in early spring. I’ve only heard about this guy; I’ve never actually met him, so I can’t ask any questions. Do you know whether it actually is possible to plant spinach in the fall? If so, which variety would you suggest? We have a 20 foot X 20 foot plot we plan to plant out. I usually plant it with winter rye to prevent erosion, but this alternative sounded really nice.

John Mueller”

 

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Hi John,

Thank you for the post regarding spinach.  Yes, it is possible to grow spinach in Wisconsin during the winter, but you have to have a few tricks to get around old man winter.

I’m not sure if you and I are thinking of the same farmer, but there is one down by Paoli or Monroe that does this as a business and sells spinach through the winter at the Madison Farmer’s Market.  I want to say the lady’s name is Judy Hagman or Hageman or something similar, because she spoke to our organic horticulture class when I was in graduate school.
winter-spinach
The way that spinach can be grown here is by using a high tunnel, which is a form of hoop house.  If you are not familiar with them, they are pretty much like a poly-plastic greenhouse.  The heating inside comes from the sun and there usually is no mechanical equipment like fans and heaters involved.  Depending on the parameters of a farmer’s operation, they may be stationary or moveable.  They can be used to extend a growing season (planting corn or tomatoes in April inside) or to use over the winter.

Spinach planted in the autumn can be harvested with repeated cuttings through the winter and into the spring. Autumn planting date is critical to winter harvests.  Through the short cold days of winter spinach continues to grow, but at a much, much reduced rate.  This growth reduction takes effect around mid-November around here.  Autumn crops must grow vegetatively before this time to carry the crop through the winter.  Usually a good time to plant to get crop to the proper stage of growth is in September.

If you are interested in having your own high tunnel, I recommend first checking out a book called “The Four Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman.  You can get it from your local library or you can purchase it online or in person at Barnes and Noble (because they usually have at least one on the shelf when I’m looking for new books in that area. Coleman is from Maine and he is VERY knowledgeable about how to grow just about everything in high tunnels — and even has one attached onto his house.  Definitely a good read.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

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