It’s Cole In Here!
Timing for fall vegetable plantings is really critical. As I’ve told you in Gardening This Weekend, several of the important warm-season vegetables (bush beans, cucumbers, squash and others) must be planted immediately. Cole crops have a little more leeway, but only by a couple of weeks.
What crops are included in this category…
These plants are all closely related. They’re all in the same plant family, some better known than others, some much more popular than others. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, Bok choy, Chinese cabbage, turnips, rutabagas, mustard greens, radishes and a bunch of others.
What it takes to succeed with the cole crops…
• Full or nearly full sun. The more sun the better. Shade in mid-afternoon in summer won’t hurt, but don’t grow these beneath your large trees or against the north side of your house.
• Well-prepared garden soil. Incorporate several inches of high quality organic matter 8 or 10 inches into the ground. If you’re amending a clay soil, also include 1 inch of expanded shale soil conditioner.
• Vigorous transplants. Nurseries should have good plants in stock now or within the next couple of weeks. Call ahead and ask when they’ll be arriving. It’s best to buy from local independent garden centers who buy from nearby growers. That’s your best chance of getting varieties recommended for your part of Texas.
• Fertilize the plants regularly (weekly) with a high-nitrogen, water-soluble fertilizer as you water them. Keep them growing vigorously. If they slow down, the produce may become bitter or off-flavored.
• Harvest when plants are half to two-thirds full, mature size. Letting them go beyond that point risks degraded quality. Broccoli florets, for example, may start to bloom. Cabbage heads may begin to split.
★ Above all, protect all cole crops from the ravages of cabbage looper caterpillars and the holes that they chew by spraying or dusting your plants with the organic pest control product Bacillus thuringiensis (“B.t.”). It can be used within hours of harvest, and it is the only effective control for these obnoxious larvae. They’re the immature forms of a seemingly “cute” white butterfly you’ll see hovering over your garden. Stop them as soon as you see the first hole chewed in your leaves.