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Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Transplanting Cole Crops

by National Gardening Association Editors

At last! You're ready to transplant your broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seedlings. If you have a choice, pick a day that's overcast and moderately cool; too much hot sunshine or cold wind will be hard on the plants. Planting late in the afternoon also helps protect them.

Readying for Transplanting

Have everything ready before you lift a single transplant: well-worked soil; your rows marked off; water; fertilizer; two-inch-wide newspaper strips to use as cutworm collars; trowel or spade for making holes; seedlings.

Water the seedlings thoroughly while they're still in the tub, pots or flats. This causes the soil around their roots to adhere to the roots, protecting them from exposure to air and light.

Prepare each row step by step, rather than starting and finishing one transplant at a time. This way the plants get uniform amounts of fertilizer, even spacing and water, and the rows are generally neater.

First, make all the holes for the seedlings. Cole crop roots need large enough planting holes and loosened soil around them to take hold quickly. Use a trowel to dig 4- to 8-inch-deep holes. Space the holes 10-to 18-inches apart, depending on the crop.


  • Broccoli -- 5-to 18-inches apart for transplants; 4-to 8- inches apart for seeds.
  • Brussels Sprouts -- 8-to 24-inches apart for transplants; 4-to 8-inches apart for seeds
  • Cabbage -- 10-to 12-inches apart for transplants; 4-to 8- inches apart for seeds
  • Cauliflower -- 10-to 12-inches apart for transplants; 4-to 8-inches apart for seeds
  • Chinese cabbage -- 4-to 5-inches apart for seeds
  • Kohlrabi -- 3-to 4-inches apart for seeds

Next, drop a small handful of compost or fertilizer in each hole and cover it with one to two inches of soil. This prevents the nitrogen in the fertilizer from burning any roots that touch it.

Do use the hole with water. By making it muddy and soupy, you create a complete moisture seal around the roots that helps each plant take hold.

Carefully lift a seedling from the flat, cupping the roots in your hand to protect them. The ideal transplant has more roots than leaves. You can create this situation by pinching off some of the big outer leaves on each transplant, making certain to leave the center "mouse ear" leaves.

Place a cutworm collar around the stem of each seedling, then place the seedling in the planting hole. Remember to put it at the same depth as it was in its original container. Scoop soil into the hole to fill it back to level ground. Firm the soil around the plant and water it well before moving on to the next one.

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