Brassicas enjoy a well-cultivated soil that’s rich in organic matter, such as homemade compost or well-rotted manure. If your soil is slightly acidic, a sprinkling of lime will help them grow better and help prevent the onset of the fungal disease club root.
For best results start them off in a seed bed and then transplant them into their final growing positions to help them form a healthy root system. When you transplant them, firm the soil around the stems, using your feet. The firmer the soil the better, as this helps the plants support themselves in windy areas and also helps cabbages form tight, compact heads.
There are three types of broccoli: white and purple sprouting, and calabrese. The sprouting types are hardy and can be left in the soil throughout the winter months; calabrese is less hardy and is harvested in autumn.
Sow seeds in April to May, 13mm deep in a seed bed in rows 15cm apart. Thin seedlings to 7.5cm apart. Transplant young plants into their final growing positions at 45cm stations for white and purple sprouting varieties and 30cm for calabrese.
Water plants well in dry weather and mulch the soil to preserve moisture. Net the plants when the heads are forming to protect them from birds. Harvest the spears when they are well formed but before they begin to flower. Cut the central spear first, to allow side shoots to develop, which will be ready to harvest as a cut-and-come-again crop for up to six weeks.
Growing Brussels Sprouts
From March, sow seeds in a seed bed 13mm deep in rows roughly 15cm apart. As soon as the seeds have germinated, thin them to 7.5cm apart, then transplant them to their final growing positions, at 75cm stations. Keep well watered. Protect young plants from birds and caterpillars using fine netting or fleece.
Pick mature sprouts when they are still tightly closed from the bottom of the stem, working your way to the top. A frost is said to improve their flavour.
Depending on which variety you grow, you can harvest cabbages in spring, summer or winter. Sow seeds thinly 13mm deep in a seed bed in rows 15cm apart. Thin seedlings to 7.5cm stations.
Spring cabbage is sown from July to August and transplanted in September and October. Summer cabbage is sown from late February to March under cover and transplanted in May and June. Winter cabbages are sown in April and May and transplanted in late June to July.
Transplant young plants deeply into their final growing positions when they have five or six leaves, ensuring the lowest leaves are at ground level. Puddle them in by filling the planting hole with water several times until the roots are covered. Firm the soil around the stems, using your feet.
Fit brassica collars made from cardboard around the stems to prevent cabbage root fly laying eggs in the roots. Use netting or fleece to protect plants against birds, caterpillars and white fly.
Harvest cabbages as and when you need them, by cutting through the stem at ground level. Cut a cross in the stump of spring and summer varieties to promote fresh growth of a second, much smaller crop of baby cabbages.
Cauliflowers aren’t easy to grow, however they are well worth the effort. Sow seeds from March through until May, 13mm deep in a seed bed in rows approximately 15cm apart. Thin seedlings to 7.5cm apart. Transplant them to their final growing positions, spacing summer and autumn varieties 60cm apart and winter varieties 75cm apart. Water regularly to avoid any checks in growth, and protect them from birds with netting or fleece.
Protect curds from the sun and frost by bending the plant’s own leaves over them, using a clothes peg to fix them. Cut the curds when they are firm and before the florets have started to separate.