Growing Cole Crops – Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, and More

Everything You Need to Know About Growing Cole Crops (or Brassicas)

We haven’t put much effort into any of our Brassicas this year. We’re just getting back into the swing of things after taking a few months off from the garden. So, every little thing we can harvest right now is much appreciated. And at this time of year the Brassicas are one of the few things we can harvest.

The few things we’ve managed to do for the Brassicas were to spray Bt once (a couple of ounces in a handheld spray bottle), we applied a little fertilizer, and applied seaweed twice when the temperature got very low.

The recommended time window for transplanting Brassicas in our region just opened, but we got an early start. Which meant we had to cover the plants with floating row cover a few times on very cold nights. No big deal.

Boy, we’re glad we started early because broccoli, cauliflower, and kale have been finding their way to the table – and a few cabbages are close behind! We stagger the planting dates for Brassicas for a slow but steady harvest, so we’ve started a few rounds already, and we’ll do one or two more plantings before it gets too hot and the harlequin bugs arrive to wipe them out.

Strong Seedlings – Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbage

We had taken a few months off from actively gardening, while we focused on a more important project. During the downtime, I made some changes to the beds and pathways, and revitalized the soil with compost tea and some other goodies.

Then, as soon as we finished planting in the fall, our little garden got hit with a torrential downpour and most of the direct-seeded seedlings were drowned. I was out of town but my wife described it to me over the phone like this, “There’s a waterfall in the garden! Oh no, there are many waterfalls in the garden!”

Calendula, lettuce, spinach, and beet seedlings all disappeared. But the Brassicas hung in there and they ended up doing just fine. I love tough plants! Plants really win me over when they overcome adversity and/or neglect and then go on to flourish – especially when they feed my family.

Easy Gardening with Cole Crops

This toughness got me reading about Brassicas, and while I was reading through some information about Brassicas, I came across this helpful PDF from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service at Texas A&M:

Read and/or Download the Original PDF File here: Easy Gardening – Cole Crops

This document contains some good information about all the basics you need to know for growing Brassicas. And it’s oriented toward the home grower. Some of you may be thinking, “It’s crazy to be talking about cabbage right now – there’s snow on the ground.”

Of course, the varieties mentioned, the planting dates recommended, and some of the pests mentioned are region-specific. You should seek out planting dates and recommended varieties from your local extension service.

A Fresh Market Grower’s Guide to Growing Cole Crops

Then I found this guide is from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension. And this document is oriented to the market grower, rather than the small-scale home gardener.

Read and/or Download the Original PDF File here: Growing Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Other Cole Crops in Wisconsin – A Guide for Fresh-Market Growers

Just as it would be crazy to transplant broccoli in Wisconsin on February 1st, it would also be crazy to transplant broccoli in Texas on June 1st. Talk to your local extension service about planting dates – or use historical average temperatures for your area to make an educated guess.

This publication is definitely oriented towards a larger growing operation – it’s meant for farms instead of gardens. But there’s some great information here about growing conditions, and some in-depth information about pests and diseases. And there’s an extensive “Additional Reading” list at the end.

Controlling Pest and Disease in Brassicas (or Cole Crops)

When it comes to dealing with pests and diseases, you have to “pick your poison,” so to speak. According to the Texas A&M publication, for example, you can deal with aphids by using pyrethrins – or garlic juice. In the Wisconsin publication you can deal with black rot by using calcium hypochlorite – or hot water.

Generally, try to choose the mildest solution you can find, unless your situation calls for something more drastic. In a small garden, you can probably control an aphid infestation with nothing more than a pressurized stream of water. Do some searching and you’ll likely find good solutions that are natural and sustainable.

And finally, when you’ve got diseases, or infestations, your best course of action is usually to contact your local extension office. The specific pests and diseases you’re likely to have are much different depending on where you live. And the solutions that worked for someone in another area might not work well in your area. Your local extension service should be able to point you in the right direction – and then if you don’t like their recommendations, you can research more options on your own.

There is one thing that every source I checked agrees on – definitely use crop rotation when growing Brassicas. Brassicas are heavy feeders, and many of their pests and diseases are soil-borne. So rotate your Brassicas around the garden, and try not to use the same planting space again for several years.


Many thanks to Joseph Masabni, Assistant Professor and Extension Horticulturist; and Patrick Lillard, Extension Assistant, The Texas A&M System of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

Many thanks to K.A. Delahaut, Horticulture Outreach Specialist for the Integrated Pest Management Program and A.C. Newenhouse, Horticulture Outreach Specialist for the Wisconsin Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project of the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension.

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