Growing up in rural Washington state, the job market was a somewhat lacking for those under the age of 16. Given this at the age of 14-15 I was sucked into the attractive and lucrative career of spinach rouging, also known as “The Worst Summer Camp Ever” The basic premise of the job was to walk down endless “female rows” in the hot sun and destroying any male spinach plants. For every 12 “female rows” there were 4 “male rows” of higher quality spinach plants which were desired for pollination. So in other words I was facilitating the hybridization of spinach plants.
Hoping to keep these memories behind me when I decided to grow spinach seeds this year, I realized I actually learned something which I thought I would share. In my case I am open pollinating so no rouging required though it is good to still know how to identify the boys and the girls since no matter how hard you try those boys will not be creating any seeds.
The plant on the left is a male plant, you can identify it by the little yellow balls under the leaves. As you may have guessed the one on the right is a female plant which only have green balls under the leaves. Not to over complicate things there is also monacious plants which are basically both male and female which I would normally just pull up since it will make things easier during harvest time.
Spinach seeds for the most part will wind pollinate on their own but if you garden is somewhat protected from winds it may be helpful to flick the male plants every week or so to help out the process.
Once the plants turn yellow go ahead and pull them up. If they are males throw them in the compost. If they are females hang them in a dark dry place. I chose to hang mine off my mountain bike’s brake cable.
After a few weeks of drying you should see the seeds brown and dry just like they came out of the package you planted them with. Store the seeds in a dry cool place (jar in refrigerator) and you should have a great stock of seeds for the next year.