Q: Can you tell me the best way to get spinach seeds to sprout? I have tried using seed starting pellets and sowing them directly in the ground. Nothing seems to work.
A: Spinach is not the easiest vegetable to grow in Atlanta. It’s doubly hard where you live in south Georgia. The biggest inhibitor is soil temperature: spinach seed sprout best at a temperature of 50 – 55 degrees. You get that in late Oct, but then the nighttime air temperature gets chilly quickly in November – December so the plants don’t grow much. If you mulch very lightly with straw, spinach plants will survive winter fine and will grow rapidly in spring until they get too hot in May.
Likewise, if you plant in March when soil temps are up to 50, it gets so hot so soon that the plants go to seed before you get much to eat. This fall, try putting your seeds in a damp paper towel in the warmest part of your refrigerator for a day, take them out for a day, put them in a day and take them out for a day. By the fourth day, most of them will start to split and sprout. You can plant them immediately in a shady bed. You may get enough growth before November to have a couple of spinach salads. Next spring you will have lots more leaves to eat.
An alternative to regular spinach is Malabar spinach. It is a very ornamental vine whose leaves taste much the same as the greens in your spinach salad. Details at http://www.walterreeves.com/food-gardening/malabar-spinach/.