How to save spinach seeds from your garden

 

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.femaleSpinachPlant
maleSpinachPlant

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.

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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.

12 Responses to “How to save spinach seeds from your garden”

  1. Melissa Says:

    I have a New Zealand spinich plant, actually 6 that are still in this late season going crazy! I have been very surprised by their resillance in this Bend, OR weather. As it is still in the upper 80's in the day and nearing freezing at night. I am waiting and waiting for them to go to seed, but alas they are still producing leaves. I now fear I am going to turn into Popeye! I am wondering if the process you have described will be the same for the New Zealand variety… Do you know? There are teeny tiny yellow flowers that appear inbetween the leaves but never amount to any thing.


  2. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Well technically New Zealand spinach plants are not really spinach plants, they look and taste like spinach but are an entirely different species. Their great property (as it sounds like you have been experiencing) is they are great for growing normally cool season spinach during the summer months since their resistance to bolting. Honestly I am not entirely sure what causes them to bolt (lack of water/cold?) though they are actually a perennials if you are lucky enough not to have a hard freeze.


  3. Jessica Says:

    This is very informative… thanks a bunch!

    This is our first year growing spinach and we’re growing Giant Noble. I was wondering if you could give me an estimate on the amount of seeds I would get from each spinach plant?


  4. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Jessica, I do not know about that particular variety, but in my case I would say I got a good 100 on each plant. So in my case one plant and I have enough for a few years.


  5. Beth Fishburn Says:

    Wow! I picked spinach too, in Skagit county in the summers of 1979 and 1980. Where did you do it? I’ve never met another person other than my sisters and the people on our crews, who picked or rouged spinach.


  6. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    I was rouging spinach around 1990 to 1992


  7. karen Says:

    my spinach plants have all bolted but are still green. do you have to wait until the female plants turn yellow before pulling them out and hanging them if you want to harvest the seeds?

    thanks


  8. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    Short answer, no.

    Long answer…You want to give the plants as much time as possible to gestate the seeds, given that is their personal purpose to reproduce (not to be eaten by us) once they have done everything they can for their offspring they will die off (turn yellow/brown) which is an appropriate time to pull them before then you will be potentially affecting your germination rate of your seeds.


  9. Kevin Says:

    Do I have to hang the plants or can I pull the seeds off right away and let them dry? (The seeds, for the most part, are already brown) Thanks!


  10. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener Says:

    For the best germination results you will want to wait for the plants to turn brown. You can leave them in the ground or hang them upside down to do this.

    Shawn


  11. Gillian's Garden Says:

    […] going to do with the spinach plants I started last fall, which are now ready to go to seed: How to save spinach seeds Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in […]


  12. Kelly Says:

    WOW! Great website to learn about when to harvest seeds. I had a crop that bolted and went to seed; pulled the plants while they were still green; dried them in my garden shed; threw a handful of seed out this fall; no germination!!! Back to buying OP organic seed to try again!


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