Focus On: Cabbage, Broccoli & Cauliflower (Brassica)

Can I grow Cabbage, Broccoli and Cauliflower? (brassica family)
These classes are considered cool season vegetables and are best grown during periods of the year where daytime temperatures range from 65-85 degrees F. These temperatures make the growing of brassicas highly successful as a spring and late summer/fall crop. Brassicas grows well in soils that are well drained, but retain some moisture and soils high in organic matter are the best. Soil pH should be in the range of 6.0-7.0 for optimum growth. These are full sun vegetables, but can tolerate 2-3 hours of indirect sun, especially late in the day.

What is the best method to grow: Direct sown from seed or from seed-started transplants?
Brassicas will grow from direct sowing the seed into the soil, but are best grown as transplants. Start the seed in a seed-starting container or pot, and transplant the seedlings to the garden. Seed starting and transplanting will speed up the maturity and harvesting by 3 weeks. Allow 30 days from sowing to a finished transplant. The plants will respond well to transplanting, usually will put on a big flush of growth, and root development will be exceptional.

How to Grow/Growing Tips
Nutrition levels are important. Brassicas are heavy feeders, and if a soil test was not done, a safe application would be 2 pounds per 100 sq. ft. of 5-10-10 or a 1-2-2 ratio. Transplants will respond well to liquid feed in a balanced ratio of 1-1-1, ideally a 10-10-10 mix. Plant in rows that are 24-30" apart, and plant in the row at spacing of 18". Cauliflower are slightly larger growers; space them at 24" in the row. We suggest slightly wider in the row distance to enhance air circulation in and around the plants. When the head begins to form, it needs some protection by pulling the leaves up around the head of the plant. With soft twine, tie the leaves.

Plants require at least 1 inch of water per week for growth and assisting in temperature uniformity. Shallow cultivation is important to keep soil weed-free. Side dressing with a composted soil will add in-season nutrition about 2 weeks after planting, and then again 2 weeks later.

Harvesting Tips & Storage
Harvesting needs to be done frequently and at all sizes to keep a steady stream of vegetables coming into the kitchen. Smaller heads are very tender and exceptional for fresh eating, larger heads are best for cooking. After cutting, you'll frequently get a bonus of small side shoots that will form; they are young and tender, and will extend your harvest.

Want to know more?
Brassicas are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and the family represents many vegetables such as Brussel sprouts, turnips, kale, mustard, kohlrabi and bok choi. Cabbage has been in production for over 4,000 years and is a primary vegetable in Europe. Broccoli, native to Italy and Greece, made its way to Northern Europe and eventually to America. Cauliflower is a true Middle Eastern staple, and cauliflower seed was traded early on by farmers for other vegetables and tea.

There is not a family of plants that are as diverse in their culinary attributes as the brassicas, as well as being the healthiest to consume.