Spinach

By Lisa Ray, The Garden Advisor, And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden… Gen. 2:8 

Get Your Spring Vegetable Garden Ready

Finally, it’s spring again and time to get your garden plot ready.  The mail boxes are overflowed with garden seed catalogs.  Select your favorite varieties and order those summer seeds now.  There are a few stores in Stone County that have seeds, blubs, and plants available.  But it is always wise to select seeds and plants that have been grown in our zone 6.

Spinach

Yes, the greens that made Popeye strong.  Spinach growing in the garden is a welcome sign of spring. It is a source of Vitamin A, rich in iron, calcium and protein. Spinach can be grown as a spring and a fall crop.  Sow seeds as soon as the soil can be prepared in the spring.  Sow 12 to 15 seeds per foot of row. Cover 1/2 inch deep. When the plants are one inch tall, thin to 2 to 4 inches apart, with rows 6 -12 inches apart.   Spinach grows best with ample moisture and a fertile, well-drained soil.   If growth is slow or the plants are light green, side-dress with nitrogen fertilizer.  The plants may be harvested whenever the leaves are large enough to use.  Cut the whole plant or just the outside leaves. 

Tips – If you’re a beginner vegetable gardener, remember to start small.  Plan carefully; a big garden can be frustrating.  Keep in mind some simple tips that can make you an expert gardener in no time at all.  Vegetables love the sun.  They require six hours of sunlight each day.  Never have a garden close to a tree; the tree will steal all the nutrients.  The plants require good, loamy, well -drained soil.  Have your soil tested at the county extension office if you’re not sure about your soil.  The test can tell you what nutrients or additives is needed.  For a great growing environment for the plants, turn the soil with a shovel or tiller when the soil is dry, and remove all stones.  Plants need lots of water, at least one inch of water a week, so located your garden near a water source.  If it rains, you don’t have to water.  If you have an animal problem, you may need to build a fence around your garden.

Calendar – According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, my trusty reference book, it’s time to plant spring seeds and bulbs in the ground now.  The dates for March are:  beets (seeds), Mar 22-May 3; broccoli (seeds), Mar 22-29; carrots (seeds), Mar 7-22; onion (sets), Mar 15-22; snow peas (seeds), Feb 28-Mar 15; spinach, mustard, and turnips (seeds), Feb 28-Mar 15.  These seeds require cool soil to germinate, so don’t be afraid to plant them at the dates listed.  We can continue to expect some cool weather, even a few frosts, and showers until Easter, which is in late April this year.

Question – How big is big enough?  A good-size beginner vegetable garden is 10’x16’.  This plot can feed a family of four for one summer, just the right size for a busy family to care for.  Plant varieties that your family likes, and will enjoy growing.

Recipe – Chicken and Spinach Casserole

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
2 cups shredded cooked, skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½  teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Lightly grease a 9-by-9-inch baking dish and set aside.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add spinach and cook until wilted and bright green, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, add chicken, and toss well.   

 In a separate large bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper, salt, and cheeses. Transfer half of cheese mixture to chicken mixture; toss well to coat, and spread into prepared dish. Spoon remaining cheese mixture over the top.  Bake 45 minutes, until bubbling and lightly browned. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

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