Successfully Grow Brassica Plants Broccoli, Cabbage & Brussels
How to Grow Cabbage, Broccoli and Brussels Successfully
Growing and then eating brassica plants is very rewarding. Getting the most from those plants so that you end up with a tasty meal at the end can be a bit of a challenge. If you are not prepared you can lose everything in a day.
I love growing my own things, and I love eating fresh grown cabbage and broccoli however I have no illusions that the world of nature is a cutthroat one and getting my precious plants to maturity will take time, effort and cunning.
Photos on this lens are by and copyrighted to the author
Start Growing From Plants or Seeds. Which is Best?
A young cabbage plant.
Deciding on plants or seeds is a personal choice. Last year I opted for plants due to time constraints. This year I have a combination of both plants and seeds. The Broccoli were grown from seeds, the others I got from plants.
Seeds are cheaper to buy, however then you need pots, potting compost and a greenhouse or window to grow them on.
Plants can be bought at most garden centers for a very good price and can save you the heartache of trying to grow from scratch. However there is nothing like seeing those seeds finally pop their heads from the soil and stretch out to the sunlight.
The advantages of seeds are that you can order from specialist companies that will offer varieties that you just can't buy locally. These will have many advantages over the trusty plants you can buy. The main one is that of taste.
My advice is if you are new to gardening start with small plants and see how that goes then branch out. Or if you are eager then either start out trying seeds and if you are not successful (this time) then you still have the option of getting plants later.
Preparing the Ground
I have a bit of trouble with this due to not being able to get manure etc to the allotment so have to improvise. I used a special addition to make the soil suitable this year. However brassicas need certain things to grow well.
You should always prepare your ground in the autumn before it gets too heavy to dig. Then you can add lots of manure. You know if manure is ready if it is black. If you can't get hold of this then you can either grow green manure or get alternatives from the store. The problem here is manure makes it more acidic and the poor little cabbages and broccoli really hate that.
Brassicas like the soil to be pH of 6.5-7.5 and not too acidic so if your soil is on the acid side you may need to add some lime. However don't do this when you add the manure as they will each cancel out the benefits of the other.
They also like a firm soil. They seem to love it where I am.
If you are crop rotating these plants should be year three plants in the cycle.
Which Do You Prefer Seed or Plant Poll
Do you prefer to grow your brassicas from seed or small bought plants?
Advice on Growing Your Purple Sprouting Broccoli
There is some great advice in this video about purple sprouting broccoli. Much of the growing advice is similar to other brassicas. Also she does the same as I do and covers the whole crop in fine mesh netting to keep out all pests (except slugs of course). Purple sprouting broccoli also has a longer harvesting period than normal broccoli so that makes it a good crop to grow.
Planting Your Precious Plants
A young broccoli plant.
When you are planting your plants make sure your plant is already well watered. Dig your holes to between 12 and 19 inches apart depending on which variety you have bought.
If you are square foot gardening you need to put one plant per one square foot.
You will notice that my plants are only about 10 inches apart. I do plant them closer together as I only have a small space and I start to use some plants when they are smaller. If you want to do this the best way is to stagger the plant rows.
If unlike me you are tidy keep your rows straight by using a string line.
Water your hole before planting. Then pop in your plant carefully.
Brassicas like it firm so firm in your plants. Then water again. Try to do this when the sun isn't high so they don't burn.
Label the row as you will forget what has gone where. Also keep a note of how many were planted, where and when.
You will need to feed throughout the season and water if necessary depending on your climate.
Which Do You Want/Like to Grow Poll?
Which of these do you like to grow best?
Enemy of The Plate! Keeping Pests at Bay
My ideal and my aim would be to be completed organic. The aim of the enemies, in this case mainly slugs, cabbage white, pigeons and cabbage fly is to take down my veggies before I get them.
These little creatures don't care about my plans all they care about it eating or breeding on my lovely new plants. They show no mercy, give no quarter and they will devastate plants in minutes given a chance.
Last year my allotment neighbors left their newly planted 150 winter greens for a day - ONE DAY! When they returned the next day they had exactly 150 stalks. Someone had seen about 200 pigeons ascend into the heavens from their plot.
While I think an allotment is harsher than a back garden there are other pests that can be equally ruthless.
Pest List and Options for Protecting Your Plants From Them
This is a list of pests that are enemies of the brassica. It may be that in your area of the world you are lucky enough not to have them or have others.
List of Pests
- The Pigeon
As I said before these can be lethal to your plants. Some form of small holed netting is essential to prevent them getting in. Note tie down the base or they will get in.
- The Slug
Removing of slugs seems to be something of an art form. There are many suggestions as to how to do this. Most of them don't seem to work. I am currently using slug pellets. Although I am not happy about it and am looking at alternatives I would be less so if I didn't get any crops. The pellets are under netting and the slugs die there so the small birds are reasonably safe. I understand that organic pellets don't work. Some pellets are coated so birds and pets won't eat them.
If you want to be pellet free there are other options. Put out fresh beer in the evening and they will go to that. This is great if your garden is out the back. I have a 25 minute walk to mine so won't be there every day hence not using this option. (That and I consider it a waste of perfectly good beer)
One that does work and one I intent to go over to next year when I rotate my plants is copper tape. You need to have your plants boxed in to do this and put the tape around the whole bed. You also need to wipe it with vinegar regularly otherwise dirt accumulates and the tape won't work.
You may have noticed eggshells in some of these pictures. My mum swears by them. I don't find they work. But then I have been told I haven't put enough down (raised eyebrows!) that you need to carpet the ground with them for it to work.
There are a lot of methods for getting rid of slugs only a few are here. Of course you could just go and pick them off and kill them.
- The Cabbage White
Small netting should prevent them getting to your plants. You should check beneath the leave regularly for caterpillars for that is where the butterflies will lay their eggs
- Cabbage Root Fly
These lay their eggs at the base of the stem of new plants. They then hatch and stunt the growth or kill the plant. The solution is brassica collars. You can see them in some of the pictures. You can buy them reasonably cheaply or you can make your own from cardboard etc.