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); apply a little fertilizer; and apply 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 on 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 from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension. 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 1, it would also be crazy to transplant broccoli in Texas on June 1. Talk to your local extension service about planting dates —or use historical average temperatures for your area to make an educated guess.
You May Also Enjoy: “6 Reasons You Should Call Your Extension Office Today”
This publication is definitely oriented toward 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. The Wisconsin publication says 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.
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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.
What Do You Think?
What are your best tips and tricks for growing Brassicas? Let us know in the comments section below.
Many thanks to Joseph Masabni, assistant professor and extension horticulturist, and Patrick Lillard, extension assistant, with 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
This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on February 2, 2016. The author may not currently be available to respond to comments, however we encourage our Community members to chime in to share their experiences and answer questions!
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