By GEOFF MIERS
With temperatures soon to drop conditions become ideal for planting a range of brassicas in the home vegetable garden. Planting soon will guarantee quality produce and excellent yields.
Amongst the most popular brassicas are cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts and broccoli. Nutrient rich are these vegetables and can be prepared in a variety of ways to suit a diverse range of dishes.
While this week’s string of 40 degree days might not make ideal gardening, plant earlier here than you would if planting a garden in the southern states and your rewards will be much greater.
Cauliflower and brussels sprouts are long maturing crops, taking anywhere from 16 to 20 weeks to fully develop and produce. Planting late can lead to disappointment Sometimes if waiting well into Winter, they often don’t mature before Spring.
Planting cabbage and broccoli now will allow you to plant 2-3 crops over their growing season providing the home gardener with a continuous supply of produce over an extended period.
With all these brassicas if planted late they will not be maturing until August when the aphides will descend in their thousands, spoiling these vegetables. Planting early you will escape the aphides and often also the cabbage butterfly grubs. Additionally, your plants are less likely to bolt and go to seed.
All these crops are easy to grow with limited preparation and non-strenuous on-going maintenance.
This doesn’t mean you can be lazy as to grow healthy, juicy, sweet crops you need to meet their needs.
Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts all require similar growing conditions. They love a good soil structure with lots of well rotted organic matter blended into the soil. A pre-planting fertiliser should also be blended into the soil prior to planting.
Well rotted cow manure broken down into fine particles or the organic Grow Better or Blood and Bone fertiliser will provide a good basis initially. Ideally fresh cow manure should be composted down prior to introducing into the garden or allowed to mature over many weeks prior to planting.
Over use of rich fresh manure is often resented by many vegetables and can cause stunted growth.
Proof can be found in the many times the home gardener has dug in a trailer load of manure to be disappointed with that seasons crop, only to be rewarded with an excellent second season crop later.
Don’t be stingy with the water as they hate being stressed. As with most quick growing or large leafy plants these plants, all use considerable water.
Mulch around plants with a soft mulch such as pea straw or lucerne as this will limit water loss through evaporation, moderate soil temperatures and lessen weed growth.
All these vegetable varieties appreciate regular side-dressing applications of a nitrogen fertiliser, it’s the nitrogen that promotes the leaf growth. A relatively new product on the market called Slow Release Nitrogen will provide long term nitrogen for your leafy crops and produces wonderful results quite quickly.
Using a water soluble liquid fertiliser such as Thrive or Aquasol, or, an organic liquid fertiliser like Seasol, Nitrosol or Charlie Carp or any of the other organic liquid fertilisers available weekly or fortnightly will stimulate strong healthy growth.
Regular feeding and watering as required will promote quick growth and lovely crisp sweet tasty heads.
Cabbages are very adaptable plants and can be grown over a long period. You can make successive plantings delivering a continuous supply over many months. Plant smaller cabbages 40-50cm apart while the larger growing varieties should be at least 60-70cm apart as they can grow to quite a large size.
Three plantings of broccoli, each planting 6 week apart will give you a continuous supply of produce. Unlike cabbage and cauliflower that only produce one head, broccoli once the main head has been harvested will continue to produce smaller but tasty side heads. Plant broccoli 45-60cm apart for best results.
Brussels sprouts take much longer to produce, harvesting generally occurring 4-5 months after planting. It is thus critical that Brussels sprouts are planted early to ensure they fully fruit before the weather has warmed again.
Several customers claim the best time to harvest and eat brussel sprouts while they half size — they are then oh so sweet!
Cauliflower also take much longer to mature than cabbage and broccoli and need to be planted immediately. Depending on the variety they can take from 16 to 24 weeks to mature.
Cauliflower maturing seems to dependent on the time they are planted but also the weather. Even when planted early sometimes they seem to take forever to mature.
Sometimes planted in February or early March they can be mature ready for harvesting when the show rolls around.
All these vegetables can be sprayed with Dipel, the biological control, if grubs become a problem or can also be dusted with Derris Dust to deter grubs and aphides if they are a problem later in the season.
With Dipel, a very safe biological control that is only harmful to caterpillars and grubs, it needs to be applied every 12-14 days to keep the cabbage moth at bay.