Growing Brassicas: The Cabbage Family
A fabulous vegetable, reasonable easy to grow as long as you are aware of the pests and potential challenges to ensure you are prepared. Otherwise a fairly easy crop to and with the differing vegetables available can provide crops ready to pick all through the year.
Alongside this they are exceptionally healthful and versatile. As a child they were not a favourite of mine yet now I grow various brassicas I have discovered my love for them. So they are definitely worth adding to your to grow list.
Brassicas include: Cabbages, kales, spring greens, calabrese, rutabaga, turnips, kohlrabi, cabbage, collard greens, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts rapeseed. The versatility is shown in the fact that many parts of the plants are used depending upon which species. As examples; including the root; rutabaga, turnips, stems; kohlrabi, leaves; cabbage, collard greens, flowers; cauliflower, broccoli, buds; Brussels sprouts, cabbage. One can however se leaf of all these stated above.
Black Kales, cabbage spring greens & Kohl Rabi young & more mature
When deciding which you would like to grow one must check sowing and cropping times to discover that cabbage for example is suitable to provide year round cropping. One could almost allocate an entire vegetable garden to brassicas. And there is nothing nicer than home grown and finely shredded cabbage in a fresh salad, especially if all the other ingredients were also picked from the garden.
From experience and allotment tuition from the weather worth gardeners it is best to prepare a firm bed for growing and sowing. Brassicas like a firm soil not light and fluffy. So do not over prepare. If you are adding in organic material ensure the ground is well firmed upon completion, this can be done by systematically treading side to side over the ground to firm. I carry this through as my soil is very light and quite sandy yet I have good crops of brassicas.
A dressing of lime is well received either a light sprinkling over the ground or the sprinkling being added into the hole for the plant if planting out pot grown plantlets. With a light mixing of the lime into the hole soil. Liming the soil can also help prevent club root which is a number one disease to affect brassicas.
A damaging disease which stilts the root establishment producing restricted plants, wilt and severe stunting. This can be imported by bought or given plants so it is best to sow into sterilized compost or soil and pot up to larger pots, then plant out when the plants are well established and strong. Boots, tools, disease and infected soil, compost, pots can all contribute t spreading the disease. So be thorough with your vegetable and brassica gardening. Spores can survive up to 20 years. Improving soil nutrient, fertility and the drainage so plants do not sit in water logged ground can all aid healthy plant growth. There are resistant varieties however if you are growing organic and heritage seed you may not be able to source resistant breed seed.
Red Cabbage young & beautiful Cauliflower
Birds & Caterpillars:
Large birds, pigeons especially, crows, black birds in my location specifically will peeked to death brassicas until there is little left, especially in the cooler months when little food is available. One you may have fabulous cabbages the next they could be stripped bare.
The best protection rout is to cover with netting which is also small enough to protect from cabbage butterfly which will happily lay many caterpillar eggs under the leaf. Again these will eat through your beautiful leaf quickly once they hatch into hungry caterpillars. Check with a netting supplier to ensure the net is perfect for both pests to your brassicas. Ensure all brassicas are protected; risk is at your own peril. It is best to construct a netting frame over the crops to prevent these 2 pests landing on the net pressing onto the leaf to prevent any opportunity of damage or contact to lay eggs through netting.
White Fly & Green Fly:
A number of green fly affect brassicas with the mealy cabbage aphid the most damaging which breeds rapidly. One noticed severe puckering of leaf with underside aphids. Further damage as leaf becomes yellow and drops. Enviromesh for aphids is the best barrier and then finger and thumb.
Whitefly cause spotting and sooty mould. Finger and thumb or an organic spray will keep this away or at bay. Humid conditions can support the flourishing white fly. Hard winters can kill them.
Cabbage Root Fly:
Burrows into the soil and damages the roots to diminish the plan growth, it can be devastating to crops. Wilting and blue tinged leaf is a sign. Digging over the soil to expose the pest to winter frost and fitting cabbage collars can prevent the fly laying eggs in the soil near to the stem.
Eats tiny holes into leaf of seedlings, fine dry soil over the leaf can deter this tiny beetle, organic sprays are available.
Regular watering yet not over watering can help to prevent mildew. Organic matter in the soil helps the roots retain moisture without water logging and ensuring plants do not become stressed during hot, dry spells due to lack of water. Over close planting can contribute to mildew issues.
Can look worse than it really is a fungus which distorts the leaf. Picking of affected leaf will help reduce attacks. Although young plants with an attack can be killed.
Finally nutritional deficiencies, minerals show as lacking with differing leaf colour or plant reactions. A regular check on leaf and plant vitality can prevent any deficiency during the seeding, establishment, growing and cropping season. Liming can help nutrient up take.
Whilst this looks like a long list of possible problems once you are aware it makes the process so much easier. Don’t be put off this fabulous vegetable. It is just too good to be excluded.
Enjoy Your Brassicas
And just for fun me with my new wheelbarrow & sheild for best Allotment Competition.
Laara Copley-Smith is a professional Garden Designer based in the UK with a passion for Kitchen Gardens and growing organically. Laara has been a vegan for over ten years is a raw foodist and is a keen photographer. Laara offers an extensive range of bespoke design services and creative consultancy.
- Published: 25 March 2014
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