Garden crops in the Brassica family–cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, etc–are some of my favorite plants to grow every spring.  They allow me to get in a crop before I am ready to plant my warm season veggies like tomatoes and peppers, helping to maximize my space.

 

When to Plant?

The biggest question every year is: when should I plant (insert any garden crop here)?  With the brassica family planting them early, but not too early, is key.  They thrive in the cooler temperatures of May and June.  I aim to plant most of my brassicas between May 7th-May 14th.  My favorite cauliflower variety “Clementine” matures 55 days from transplant. If I am able to transplant into the garden on May 7th, that means I should be harvesting around the first week of June.  This leads me into my next tip…

 

Plant varieties that mature quickly…

…Especially if you are working with limited garden space.  Many varieties of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage mature in 45-60 days.  A few of my favorite varieties are:

 

  • Broccoli: Di Cicco (45 Days)
  • Cabbage: Early Jersey Wakefield (60 days)
  • Cauliflower: Clementine (55 days); Early Snowball (60 days)

 

Fertilize! Compost alone will not be enough…

Brassica family plants are heavy nitrogen feeders.  While compost is beneficial, it’s often not enough. Apply a “grow” type of fertilizer at planting time per the instructions on the label or recommendation from a soil test.  I like to use Down to Earth’s Bio-Fish along with Xtreme Gardening Mykos to give my plants the best start possible.  I reapply Bio-Fish every 2-4 weeks while the brassicas are growing.  By the end of May when temperatures have warmed slightly, they will grow very quickly and be more demanding for nutrients.  

 

Don’t garden for the cabbage worms….

Have you ever seen those delicate white butterflies fluttering around your garden? They may seem harmless but their eggs hatch into green caterpillars that have a voracious appetite for brassicas.  These caterpillars can skeletonize your plants and ruin your harvest in a matter of a few days.  I control cabbage moths by spraying Monterey B.t. every 14 days after transplanting.  Monterey B.t. is approved for organic gardening. Nobody loves spraying their plants with pesticide; however, B.t. is far more gentle than many other pesticide options that are used by large commercial agriculture.

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to a thriving Brassica patch in your garden, providing you with a delicious early harvest and maximizing your gardening space efficiently.

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