Flying Blue Dog
Farm & Nursery
Willow Creek, Ca
These cool season growing vegetables are some of the easiest and most nutritious to grow. Full of Vitamins A, C with the minerals of calcium and iron they also help fight cancer. Historically they can all be traced back to a wild cabbage that grew on the coasts of Europe and Africa.
This is where it all begins so this is where most of the preparation takes place. A garden bed in full sun is the best site. Cole crops like rich organic soil that drains well. Prepare the garden bed by digging in well rotted manure or compost. This will provide the rich humus texture you are shooting for.
Carefully take the seedlings out of the 6 pack cell, try not to disturb the roots while doing this. Dig a hole big enough for the transplant and add a dose of a good organic fertilizer and mix it into the bottom of the hole. We use Dr. Earth #5 for veggies, use the amount recommended on the package. Organic fertilizers break down slowly over time and help feed the microbial life in the soil. It is these little critters in the soil that make nutrients available for the plants to absorb so it's a good idea to keep them happy. Spacing is crucial, too close and the plants won't grow or produce well, too far apart and you are wasting valuable garden space. Cole crops can grow 2-3 feet tall and 2 feet wide so a good spacing would be 18 inches apart in the row with at least 2 1/2 feet between rows. Place the transplant in the hole you have just fertilized. You can place it deep enough that the soil surface is even with the first pair or leaves. Fill the hole in and firm it down around the root ball of the transplant. Water the plants in and you are done....for now!
Cole crops grow fast so it's imperative that they have enough water and nutrients to grow well. How often to water depends on your soil and the weather. The goal is to keep the soil around the roots moist. The only way to know this is to do a little probing with your fingers. Stick them into the ground around the plants and feel the soil. If it is dry several inches down it's time to water. If you soil is really rich it may not be necessary to fertilize again but if you have any doubt about your soil it's a good idea to fertilize again in about 3 weeks. An application of well rotted and composted chicken manure around the plants, scratched in to the top couple inches of soil and then watered in supplies a fairly quick dose of nutrients. This could be followed by another application in another 3 weeks.
Those crops that make heads should be harvested while they are still tight and firm. Broccoli and cauliflower are immature flowers and if allowed to continue growing, they open into thousands of tiny yellow flowers. Many broccoli cultivars will form sprouts after the main head has been cut. these can be harvested once they are big enough to easily identify and before they open. All the leafy Cole crops can be harvested a leaf at time starting when they are young or all at once when they have matured, usually in about 50 days.