The Cruciferae Family
Tasty Vegetable Garden Residents
The Cruciferae family has invaded our vegetable gardens and we probably invited them in.
Who Are They? This family has many varied and delicious members. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Rapini, Brussel Sprouts and Kohl Rabi are some of the best known and widely used. Although they vary somewhat in their growth habits and gardening techniques they have many more similarities. We can take advantage of these similarities to learn a few simple steps that will help us grow all of these crops.
What Do They Like? The primary feature is that they are all essentially cool weather crops. Because of this we can often grow two crops of most of them in one gardening season. The exception to this are the very long term Brussel Sprouts. They should all be seeded indoors about 4 - 5 weeks before the earliest planting out date. I seed mine in late March hoping to move them to the garden by the end of April. Mother Nature does not always agree with my timetable.
Starting Secrets! Despite their love of cool weather, I still use some bottom heat to get quicker and more uniform germination. They are also very high light plants and the seedlings will quickly stretch and become difficult to use. The moment that they start to germinate, remove the plastic humidity cover and keep them as close to the lights as possible. Once the first set of true leaves appears transplant them. You can eliminate a bit of the stretching by planting them a little deeper but, unlike tomatoes they will not root on that buried stem so this is not a cure all for previous mistakes. These are the transplants that I move to the high light and cooler temperatures of the cold frame as soon as they are established.
In The Garden? As soon as the soil is dry enough to work in, all of these crops get transplanted. The summer’s heat will finish off many of them but if you seed some more mid-June and get them to the garden in July they will produce reliably for you throughout the autumn. Broccoli is probably the best for this. If you choose a variety that produces lots of side shoots (picture right,) after the main head has been cut, and the seed catalogues will tell you this, then you will be able to continue to harvest Broccoli until severe frosts knock it down in the autumn. Then, of course, it’s time to pick and enjoy the frost sweetened, Brussel Sprouts (picture left above.)
Plant several batches of about six Kohl Rabi plants every 2-3 weeks through the gardening season and enjoy these delicious little bulbs when they are at their early, tender, sweet stage.
The Cruciferae family are always welcome to spend some time in my vegetable gardens.
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