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Brassicas - The Cabbage Family - How to grow them! 

The right conditions for Brassicas - The cabbage family.

The right conditions for Brassicas - The cabbage family.

Savoy Cabbage - A Brassica

All members of the Cabbage family are classed as Brassicas. This group also includes some ornamental plants as well. Wallflowers (Erysimums) are also Brassicas. You only have to crush the stem or foliage of a wallflower to release the typical 'cabbage' smell!

Generally Brassicas need a good fertile, non-acid soil, slightly on the heavy side. They like to have their roots firmly embedded in the soil.  For instance, you could plant Brassicas - Cabbages - in an un-dug soil - well firmed in at planting - and they would be happy! (The original no-dig gardening!)

If the soil is acid, then it will need to be limed, for Brassicas prefer a slightly alkaline soil, and this also discourages the Brassicas disease - Clubroot.

If you have a light soil and you want to grow members of the Brassicas family, plant the seedlings in a shallow drill - around 75mm deep - and gradually earth up the stems as the plants start to grow.

A typical Brassica family menber - Savoy cabbageIf you plant the young plants at ground level, don't be afraid to 'heel' them into position - as long as the soil is not wet and muddy. You should not be able to pull out a seedling after you have planted it firmly. All members of the Brassica family need to be planted firmly. (So many ornamental wallfowers - which are Brassicas - fail because the gardener does not plant them firmly enough!)

Brassicas are a little bit choosy with the company that they keep. For instance, they are not too happy growing near to Lettuce, Strawberries or Runner Beans. On the other hand, they are happy to be planted next to Peas Onions and Potatoes.

People tend to either like – or dislike – the taste of Brassicas – not only the sprouts. This is dependent upon your own particular genetic makeup. Depending upon which type you are, the cabbage family will either taste bitter to you, or not as the case may be. So now you know why Johnny does not like sprouts!

General problems with Brassicas include

Newly planted brassicas wilting Without exception, all of the cabbage family need to be firmly planted when transplanting seedlings. It is not just a matter of filling the small planting hole with soil. they have to be well firmed into the soil. Tis also includes ornamental wallflowers, which are also members of the cabbage - brassica - family

Cabbage Rootfly – at transplanting times. The Cabbage fly will relish the loose soil around the newly planted brassicas and lay its eggs there. Use brassica collars which can be bought at any garden centre worth its salt, or make your own from a bit of felt carpet underlay.

Clubroot – virtually impossible to get rid of once it is in your plot.  Be extra careful when buying young plants, as they can bring the disease in with them. Always go for sterile compost units - yes peat based - to minimise the risk.

The Cabbage White Butterfly did not get its name by chance, and the caterpillars can wreak havoc once entrenched. Either spray with a vegetable-friendly insecticide, or pick the little caterpillars off by hand. My grandfather used to get in before that, and make me inspect the undersides of the leaves every few days aftyer seeing a white butterfly, then squash the clusters of yellow eggs between index finger  and thumb.

Cabbage Whitefly – especially on the loose leaved Brassicas – such as Brussels Sprouts. One of the best emergency treatments I saw on a crop of mature cabbages, was to suck them up with a portable CarVac. It really worked!

Cabbage All the Year Round - Oh yes you can! There are a number of different varieties that can be planted at different time of the year to give you fresh cabbage in any month of the year.

Cabbage Tops - Just a few more cabbages from your plant.

How to grow Calabrese - That which we normally call Broccoli in the supermarket, is in fact Calabrese.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli - is different to Calabrese.

Green Sprouting Broccoli - Looser in habit to that which we know as Broccoli

How to grow Cauliflowers and how to grow. There are a few trick to learn in order to grow nice firm heads of cauliflower.

Brussel Sprouts - Takes time and space to grow this crop. But the taste of freshly picked sprouts is very different to the 'fresh' ones you get at the greengrocer!


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