Brassicas: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties

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If growing healthful vegetables is high on your list, collards is the crop for you. This nutritional powerhouse is full of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Closely related to kale, collard greens have traditionally been thought of as a Southern crop. But they grow well in many parts of the country, both as spring and fall crops.

About brassicas
Even though Brussels sprouts have been a mealtime tradition for hundreds of years, many people dislike them. You may change your mind, however, if you grow your own. The difference between frozen supermarket sprouts and your own, fresh from the garden, is unbelievable. Brussels sprouts improve in flavor after a light frost.

About brassicas
Broccoli prefers cool temperatures. In many regions it can be grown as both a spring and fall crop. Choose varieties touted for their abundant side shoots to extend the harvest; once the central head is harvested, these side shoots will continue to produce small heads for weeks.

About brassicas
Compared to kale purchased in the grocery store, homegrown kale is considerably more tender
and succulent as well as infinitely sweeter. It is also a nutritional powerhouse, loaded with iron,
vitamins A, B and C, not to mention calcium and potassium and cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Easier to grow than many of its cabbage family relatives, cold-hardy kale will continue to
provide a delicious fresh harvest even as the weather cools. In fact, a few frosts will even
improve its flavor.

About brassicas
The bulbous stem of the kohlrabi plant may be white, pale green or purple, depending on the variety. 'Early Purple Vienna' and 'Early White Vienna' are open-pollinated heirloom varieties. Some of the newer hybrid varieties are more heat and cold tolerant than these older varieties. Pale green 'Winner' and purple 'Kolibri' are heat tolerant selections that mature quickly.

About brassicas
Cabbage can be enjoyed in numerous ways. It can be eaten raw in cole slaw, as well as steamed, stir-fried, and pickled. Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. Cabbage leaves can also be stuffed, using large leaves to wrap around a savory filling. Cabbage is grows best when the heads mature in cool weather, so plan to harvest before the onset of hot weather in summer or in the fall.

About brassicas
Unlike broccoli, cauliflower produces only one head per plant, called the "curd." The heads of most varieties need to be blanched for the best white color and flavor, although there are some that develop orange, green or purple heads that don't need blanching and are a little easier to grow. To produce a good head of cauliflower, you need to keep in mind that stresses such as temperatures that are too high or low, or water or nutrient stress can lead to poorly formed heads. So it's especially important to give cauliflower the best possible growing conditions.



'Snow Crown' and 'Early Snowball' are both popular strains of early cauliflower, reaching maturity in 50 to 60 days. Both are white, self-blanching types and are heat tolerant, so will do well in the South. 'Purple Head' is an unusual cauliflower variety that doesn't need blanching. The head matures in 80 to 85 days, and it really is purple. It turns green when you cook it and is an interesting variety for freezing or pickling.

About brassicas
Three to four collard plants per person will give you a plentiful harvest of this non-heading relative of cabbage. 'Georgia' and 'Vates' are two varieties that have been grown for many years. Some of the newer varieties, such as 'Champion' and 'Flash' have improved heat tolerance.

Choosing a site to grow brassicas
Select a site with full sun to light shade and well-drained soil. Prepare the garden bed by using
a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch
layer of compost.

Choosing a site to grow brassicas
Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Adjust the soil pH to 6.0 to 6.8.

Choosing a site to grow brassicas
Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.

Choosing a site to grow brassicas
Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.

Choosing a site to grow brassicas
Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.

Choosing a site to grow brassicas
Choose a spot in full sun, with rich soil and pH between 6.5 and 7.0. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12-15 inches, then mix in a 2 to 4 inch layer of compost.

Choosing a site to grow brassicas
Plant collards in full sun, in well-drained soil high in organic matter with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.

Planting Instructions
For a spring crop, start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected spring frost; move
hardened off seedlings to the garden 2 weeks before the last frost. Or sow seeds directly in the
garden as soon as the soil can be worked. Start seeds for a fall crop 8 weeks before the first
expected fall frost. In mild winter areas, sow seeds in late fall for a winter and early spring
harvest.



Sow seeds ?- ? inch deep, 4 inches apart in the row. When plants are a couple of inches tall,
thin to a 12-18 inch spacing.

Planting Instructions
Kohlrabi is a quick-maturing plant whose harvest season can be extended with successive plantings in spring and fall. For a spring crop, sow seeds about 4 weeks before the last frost date, making successive sowings while the weather stays cool. Plant in wide rows or beds, sowing seeds ? inch deep and 3 inches apart. After the seedlings are a couple of inches tall, thin to a final spacing of 6 to 8 inches.


This fast-growing vegetable also makes a good fall crop in many parts of the country. Sow seeds directly in the garden 8 to 10 weeks before the first expected fall frost date. In warm winter areas (Zones 9 and 10), you can make repeat sowings during the fall for harvest in the winter and early spring.

Planting Instructions
Start spring transplants indoors six to eight weeks before the last spring frost date, or buy nursery transplants three weeks before the last spring frost date. Where the weather is warm, select a variety that is bolt resistant. Set out hardened off transplants two weeks before the last spring frost. Space plants 18 inches apart. Protect transplants from hard frosts with newspapers, plastic cones, paper bags, or baskets. Provide a windbreak to reduce transplant shock and moisture loss. For fall crops, direct seed the broccoli in the garden 85 to 100 days before the average first fall frost date.

Planting Instructions
For a spring-planted crop, buy transplants at a nursery or start seedlings indoors 50 to 60 days before the last spring frost date. Harden off transplants over the course of a week or two, then plant them in the garden two or three weeks before the last expected frost date. Space early-maturing cabbages 12 to 15 inches apart, either in beds or single rows; later types, 18 to 24 inches apart. For fall crops, sow seeds directly in the garden. Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep, 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart, thinning plants to the proper spacing.

Planting Instructions
Fall-harvested crops are generally more successful than summer-harvested crops. Date of maturity varies, depending on variety, location, and season. Count backward from the first fall frost date to figure out the best time to start plants. Plan to start seeds in flats or pots four to six weeks before planting in the garden, or buy nursery transplants if available. You can also sow seeds directly in the garden four months before the average first fall frost date.



To start plants indoors, sow seeds 1 inch apart in flats. Transplant into 2-1/2 inch pots after the first two true leaves appear. When roots are established, transplant to the garden, spacing the plants 14 to 24 inches apart. To sow seeds directly in the garden, plant four to five seeds per foot to a depth of 1/4 inch.

Planting Instructions
For a spring crop, start seeds indoors 5-6 weeks before the last expected spring frost; move hardened off seedlings to the garden 2 weeks before the last frost date. Start seeds for a fall crop about 75 days before the first expected fall frost, hardening them off to full sun exposure before planting in the garden. The ideal day time temperatures for cauliflower plants are in the 60s, so gardeners in many parts of the country may find it easiest to ripen a successful crop in the cool weather of fall. In mild winter areas (Zones 8-10), cauliflower can be grown for winter harvest.


Sow seeds ?-inch deep in peat pots. Set seedlings in the garden 18-24" apart.

Planting Instructions
For a spring crop, sow collard seeds directly in the garden 3 weeks before the last spring frost date. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep and 3 inches apart. When seedlings are a few inches high, thin to 6 inches apart; as plants grow, thin to 12 to 18 inch spacing so they have plenty of room to develop. To get a jump on the season, you can start collards early indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost date, moving hardened-off seedlings to the garden about 2 weeks before the last frost.


Tolerant of cool conditions, collards make a good fall crop in many parts of the country. Sow seeds in late summer or early fall, about 10 weeks before the first expected fall frost date. In warmer parts of the country, late summer and fall sown collards can be harvested through the winter and into the spring.

Ongoing Care
Mulch the soil around your kale plants and be sure to keep it consistently moist. While kale is
less troubled by insects and disease than other members of the cabbage family, floating row
covers will help to exclude pests such as cabbage loopers, cabbageworms and flea beetles.
Contact your local county Extension office for other control methods.

Ongoing Care
Be sure to keep the soil consistently moist; mulching is helpful. Your kohlrabi plants will appreciate a dose of fish emulsion fertilizer when they are about a month old. Floating row covers will keep away many of the pests that trouble members of the cabbage family, such as cabbage loopers and cabbageworms.

Ongoing Care
Mulch plants to help keep soil moist, and water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Contact your local County Extension office for controls of common broccoli pests such as flea beetles, cabbageworms, and cabbage loopers.

Ongoing Care
When cabbages are 4 to 5 inches tall, thin or transplant to stand 18 to 24 inches apart. Apply a thick layer of mulch to retain moisture. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Contact your local county extension office for controls of common cabbage pests such as aphids, root maggots, cabbageworms, and cabbage loopers.

Ongoing Care
Thin the healthiest direct-seeded plants to stand 14 to 24 inches apart when they are 4 to 5 inches tall. Mulch to retain moisture in summer heat and to control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.

When sprouts reach half the desired size, remove the lowest leaves on the plant to enable the sprouts to attain maximum size. To induce early maturity, pinch out the growing tip when sprouts have formed on 10 to 12 inches of the stem. This directs the plant's energy into making earlier, larger sprouts. Contact your local county extension office for controls of common Brussels sprouts pests, such as aphids, flea beetles, cabbageworms, and cabbage loopers.

Ongoing Care
Mulch the soil around your cauliflower plants and be sure to keep it consistently moist. Floating row covers will help to exclude pests such as cabbage loopers, cabbageworms and flea beetles. Contact your local county Extension office for other control methods.


When the developing heads are about the size of an egg, begin blanching cauliflower by gathering up the leaves loosely over the head, securing them closed with a rubber band or long twist tie. Be sure to leave enough room for the head to increase in size. This also provides some protection against light frost for fall crops.

Ongoing Care
The secret to tender, succulent collard greens is rapid, even growth. Keep soil moisture consistent for the sweetest crop; mulch will help to conserve moisture and keep down weeds. Add a complete organic fertilizer before planting and sidedress with fish emulsion monthly to provide the nitrogen needed for quick growth.


Collards are prone to many of the same pests that trouble other cabbage family members, although not usually to the same degree. Place floating row covers over the seedbed or transplants to keep pests such as cabbageworms, aphids and flea beetles at bay.

How to harvest brassicas
To harvest early, cut individual leaves as soon as they are big enough to eat, about 3 inches
long. Continue picking outer leaves or harvest the entire head when it is about a foot tall. Cool
weather and light frost improves the flavor of kale, so you can harvest over a long time in the
fall. Harvest spring plantings before warm weather toughens the leaves.

How to harvest brassicas
The best advice about harvesting kohlrabi is not to wait too long. Most varieties are ready for harvesting just 6 to 7 weeks from planting and are the most tender and flavorful when the bulbs are 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Fall crops that ripen in cool weather don't get woody as readily and can be picked a little larger, up to 5 inches.

How to harvest brassicas
Harvest for peak quality when the buds of the head are firm and tight. If buds start to separate and the yellow petals inside start to show, harvest immediately.

How to harvest brassicas
Start harvesting when cabbage heads are firm and softball size. Cut the head from the stem with a sharp knife and discard the outer leaves. To keep cabbage as long as possible, harvest late in the season before hard freezes and keep heads in a cold, moist area.

How to harvest brassicas
Harvest the heads when they are 6 inches or more across (some varieties develop larger heads), but before the curds of the head begin to separate, usually a week or two after the heads begin to form. Cut the heads away from the plant at their base with a 1-2 inch stem.


Store cauliflower in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, although its flavor will be best and nutrients highest if eaten soon after harvesting. It also freezes well.

Harvest
You can begin harvesting leaves of collards as soon as they are big enough to use. You can also cut the entire plant when half grown or mature. You may choose to delay harvest of your fall crop until cool weather and light frost improves its flavor. Store collard leaves in plastic bags in the refrigerator. They will keep best if they are cooled quickly right after harvest by immersing them briefly in ice water.

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