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If you have planted spinach, but it isn’t sprouting, you certainly aren’t alone. I have had that happen many times, so I decided to do some research to figure out why it happens and what to do about it. I have written this article to share what I learned.
The most common reason spinach doesn’t sprout is that the soil the seeds are in is too wet. Spinach seeds need consistent moisture to germinate, but if the soil is too wet, the seeds can rot and will never sprout. While this is the most common reason for spinach not sprouting, it is not the only one.
In this article, I cover all the reasons I could find for spinach not sprouting as well as explain what you should do differently to get your spinach to sprout. I also share a bunch of tips for increasing the germination rate in your spinach seeds and explain how temperature and other factors affect how fast spinach will sprout.
Most Common Reasons for Spinach Not Sprouting
A very common issue people run into when they plant spinach is that the seeds never germinate or the plants never sprout. There are several potential reasons why this can happen, but also some relatively simple things you can do to make it work.
I have written this article to help you figure out why your spinach isn’t sprouting and teach you what to do differently to make it work.
First, I cover the most common reasons why spinach doesn’t sprout, and then I share some simple tips you can follow to make your spinach much more likely to sprout successfully. Let’s get into it.
Birds eating the seeds
Some species of birds love to eat young spinach seedlings or even seeds that haven’t even sprouted yet, which they will pick out of the ground. Depending on where you live and, of course, how many birds there are, this could potentially be the reason why your spinach isn’t sprouting.
You can tell if birds are eating your spinach seeds or seedlings by looking at the soil where you planted them. If birds are eating them, you can usually see that they have been digging in the soil with their beaks.
This might not be the most common reason (again, depending on where you live and the bird situation there), but if you live somewhere with a lot of birds, there is a pretty high chance that some of them will come and eat some of your spinach seeds or seedlings when you look away.
I have two solutions for you if you suspect birds are the reason why your spinach isn’t sprouting.
The first and probably most effective solution is to put up some bird netting to physically prevent the birds from reaching your spinach.
The other solution (which my father-in-law seems to have success with) is to use a product called flash tape. Cut some strips about a foot (about 30 cm) in length and hang them up in nearby trees or bushes. You can also put some sticks or similar in the ground around your spinach and hang the flash tape on them. When the tape moves around in the wind, the sunlight will hit it from different angles, creating flashes of light that the birds will associate with movement, making them stay away.
The seeds are too old
A pretty common mistake people make when sowing spinach (and one I have certainly made before) is to use seeds that are too old. If the seeds are too old, they are very unlikely to ever sprout.
According to High Mowing Organic Seeds, spinach seeds are usually good for 2-3 years if you store them properly (meaning keeping them in a dry place out of direct sunlight).
The germination rate will go down already after a year but will generally still be pretty high until after those 2-3 years have passed, at which point the seeds most likely won’t sprout.
You can usually see the expiration date of your seeds on the seed pack. If they have expired, your best bet is to get some new ones.
The soil is too warm
Spinach seeds have a higher germination rate in cooler soil than in warm soil, so if your soil is warm, that might be the reason why your spinach isn’t sprouting.
To see if your soil is too warm, touch it with the palm of your hand to see if it feels warm, or even better, use a thermometer to measure the temperature.
Spinach seeds germinate at temperatures up to 75°F (about 24°C) but will start to have trouble if it is warmer than that.
Spinach seeds also germinate faster at warmer temperatures, but the germination rate is higher at cooler temperatures, according to Urban Farmer who also writes that the germination rate may be as low as 30% at high temperatures.
If it is warmer than those 75°F (about 24°C), I recommend that you start your spinach indoors and put it outside (either in the ground or in pots) once it has sprouted. In that case, I recommend getting some biodegradable seed starter pots and a seed starter soil mix to sow your seeds in.
The soil is too wet or too dry
Keeping the soil too wet or too dry is probably the most common mistake people make that causes their spinach to never sprout. I have certainly done it before.
Spinach seeds need to be in soil that is consistently moist to germinate. If the soil is too wet, the seeds can rot, and if it is too dry, the seeds also can’t germinate since they need some water to do so.
I have three tips for your that can help you keep the soil at a good moisture level.
Firstly, I recommend that you water the germinating seeds at least once per day (they might need more on sunny days), but in very light doses to keep the soil moist but not too wet.
Secondly, I recommend using a seed-starter soil mix for starting your seeds. Just plant them in the seed-starter mix as you would in any other soil type. Once your spinach sprouts, you should move it to some soil with more nutrients though, such as some regular gardening soil.
Thirdly, I recommend using a pot that has proper drainage unless you grow your spinach in the ground. I always go for terra cotta pots with a drainage hole at the bottom because they allow the water to escape both through the drainage hole at the bottom and through the sides because of the material.
If you want to plant your spinach in the ground, make sure the soil is not full of clay but instead somewhat loose and sandy (although still rich in nutrients) since that allows the water to drain through easier.
5 Tips to Increase the Germination Rate in Spinach Seeds
I have collected a handful of really useful (and easy) tips you can follow to increase the germination rate in your spinach seeds. Try to follow these tips as much as you can, and your spinach will be much more likely to sprout.
1. Sow your spinach seeds in cold soil
Not too cold, though. Ideally, between 40-50°F (about 4-10°C). It will take the seeds longer to germinate at these cold temperatures than at warmer temperatures, but the chance of successful germination will be higher.
2. Keep the soil consistently moist
The easiest way to do this is to water the soil and the seeds frequently with light doses of water. One watering per day is usually enough, but on warm and very sunny days, the soil can quickly dry up, so you might need to water it a few times.
3. Make sure the spinach seeds are not too old
Spinach seeds are generally good for 2-3 years but will have a lower germination rate already after the first year. See if you can find some fresh spinach seeds if yours are too old. If they are close to expiring, plant 3-4 seeds together and remove any extra seedlings if more than one of them sprouts.
4. Use a seed-starter mix for germinating spinach seeds.
Seed-starter mixes make it easier for seeds to germinate, but once your spinach has sprouted, you should move it to another type of soil with more nutrients. Regular gardening soil or a potting mix will usually work very well.
5. Soak the spinach seeds in water for 2-3 days before sowing
I usually don’t do this because the rest of the tips seem to be sufficient, but people seem to have great success with soaking their seeds before planting them. According to Gardening Know How, soaking seeds before sowing them helps make them germinate faster.
If you are still having trouble getting your spinach to sprout, or this all seems too complicated (which is totally fair), then I recommend checking out this article I have written about a method for growing spinach without seeds.
How Long Does It Take for Spinach Seeds to Germinate?
How long it takes for spinach seeds to germinate varies a bit since it depends on a couple of things. Here is what you should know.
As a general rule, spinach seeds germinate in about 1-2 weeks, however, it depends on the temperature. Warm temperatures make the seeds germinate faster, although it also reduces the germination rate. The best temperature for germinating spinach seeds is 40-50°F (about 4-10°C) which can take up to a month.
According to Urban Farmer, it can take up to a month for spinach seeds to germinate at 40°F (about 4°C) and as little as five days at 75°F (24°C). The germination rate will only be around 30% at those warm temperatures though, so see if you can sow your spinach in cold soil but be prepared for it to take a bit longer.
How old the seeds you sow are also affects how fast they sprout. Old seeds generally take a bit longer to sprout than new seeds.
If you have sown some spinach seeds and they still haven’t sprouted after a month, chances are they won’t sprout at all. In that case, I recommend reading the tips I shared earlier in this article and trying again with some new seeds.