Brassicaceae

  • Grow at Home: Turnips


    3_turnips_purple_growing_in_ground
    Turnips are an easy to grow crop to grow at home.  And if you've been put off by the flavourless shop bought version, you may be pleasantly surprised by what a delicious and versatile crop it can be.

    Although the root is normally round, cylindrical root shapes are not uncommon in earlier varieties and colours can range from white to yellow and purple.

    Where to grow turnips

    Turnips thrive in firm, fertile soil that retains moisture. Dig in the autumn and incorporate plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost to help retain moisture.

    Grow best in a sunny position but can tolerate some degree of shade.

    As always, especially with root crops, rotate your planting to avoid soil-borne pests and diseases.

    Sowing Turnips

    For an early crop, start by sowing under cloches in late winter - Easy Tunnel or Lantern Cloches would both work well and will also help protect spring sowings from particularly harsh spells of weather.

    Sow thinly in rows 1cm deep with 20 cm between rows.  For the early crops and thin to around 15cm apart after germination. Successional sowing during spring and summer will ensure a steady supply.

    For turnips to be harvested in autumn or winter sow in late summer to the same depth but thin to 20cm between rows for a slightly larger root.

    Aftercare

    Water regularly to prevent bolting.  Keep rows weed free using a Speedhoe

    Harvesting and Storage

    Pick turnips harvested in summer when they are the size of a golf ball - don't allow them to become woody and they will taste better when picked young.

    bunch_of_harvested_turnips_on_bench

    Leave autumn and winter varieties in the ground and harvest when required.  Alternatively lift and store in moist sand in a shed or garage or even easier, in a natural jute bag such as the Haxnicks Vegetable Sacks. (Great for your potatoes and carrots too!)

    Turnip Pests and Diseases

    They are prone to the same pests and diseases as cabbages;  mainly flea beetle.  You should avoid growing in ground previously used for brassicas and cabbages, considering turnips in the same group when planning crop rotation.

    Violet rot and clubroot can be a problem which can be prevented by good crop rotation.  To combat it destroy any affected plants on the bonfire or dispose of away from the garden.

  • Grow at Home: Kale

    kale_grown_plants_rowKale is one of the easier to grow brassicas as it does not need full sun, tolerates cold weather quite well and is relatively free from pests and diseases.

    It is also highly nutritious and full of green goodness.  In times gone by it was used to feed cattle during the winter but now, cooked in the right way, it makes a delicious addition to your plate.  You can also eat the small leaves in a salad if you pick them when they are young and tender.

    Sowing Kale

    Indoor

    Sow seeds from March to May ½” (1cm) deep in 4"-5" (10-12cm) Pots in the greenhouse or on a windowsill.  When the seedlings appear prick out the weakest leaving only 1 strong plant per pot. Transplant the seedlings to their final positions from May onwards when they are about 3-6” (6-12cm) tall.

    Outdoor

    Or sow direct into the seedbed from April to August ½” (1cm) deep in rows 1'-2' (30cm-60cm) apart.

    Planting Out & Growing

    kale_close_UpWhen the plants are 6" (6-12cm) tall, and have 5 or 6 true leaves, plant them out placing the lower leaves at ground level.  Water well both before and after planting and mulch to retain moisture for best results.

    If you intend to eat fully grown kale, plant out in rows 2’ (60cm) apart.  But to eat earlier, when the leaves are younger and more tender, make the rows 1’ (30cm) apart.
    Cover with a Lantern Cloches or an Easy Poly Tunnel to protect them from weather and pests.

    Harvest

    Harvest the crop from November to April cutting the leaves off as you need them.  Sometimes they can grow again after they have been cut.

    Store in a cool place and they will last for about 10 days. Or blanch, cut up, place in a freezer bag and then put in the deep freezer.

    Eating

    Many people want to like Kale but find they just don't and this could be because they are not preparing it right.  So here are 3 top tips for making your Kale more lovable.

    • Remove the stems - the stems of kale are bitter, chewy and frankly not very nice.  So fold the leaves in half and slice out that stem before preparing.
    • Tenderise a little - the leaves are also tough so you need to massage them to break down some of those tough cell walls before you eat.  Just a couple of minutes of handling will make it far more palatable.
    • If you are using it for a salad rather than cooking then use an acidic dressing -including something like cider or balsamic vinegar.  This will help to break it down and soften it to make it nicer to eat.

    Pests

    Watch out for slugs when the plants are small and for caterpillars and aphid later on. Birds can also be a problem finding both the seedlings and the buds tasty.
    Prevention is always better than cure though.  So using cloches and tunnels to cover the plants is advisable.  Then it should be a small job to pinch off any pests that get through your defenses.

    Another good idea is to plant nasturtiums nearby as they attract white butterflies and keep them off your kale and other brassicas.

  • Grow At Home: Rocket

    Rocket_in_seed_trayWho doesn't love a little peppery rocket in their salad?  And who hasn't gone to the fridge and found a bag of sorry looking rocket that is more limp than lovely!  The solution is simple.  And that is to grow your own.

    Sowing

    Rocket can either be started off in small pots on the windowsill, in the greenhouse, or it can be sown directly outside.

    Sow seeds inside from March to June or outside from June to September.  Sow small amounts at regular intervals (say every 3 to 4 weeks) so that you don't create your own rocket glut and instead have a nice steady supply all summer long.

    Choose a sunny spot with rich, fertile well drained soil.  Sow thinly, 0.5-1cm (¼- ½in) deep in rows 20cm (8in) apart.

    Keep the seedlings covered with a Easy Poly Tunnel or a  Victorian Bell Cloche during the Spring and with a Easy Net Tunnel or a Easy Fleece Lantern Cloche  during the hotter months, This helps to protect them and speed up their growth.  When the seedlings are big enough to handle, thin them out a little and use the thinnings in salad.  Your first taste of home grown rocket!

    Care

    Mid _size_rocket_growing

    Rocket very quickly goes to seed once it has matured, keeping it watered well can help stall this and stop it bolting.  As flower buds appear, pinch them out to prolong cropping, unless you want the plants to set seed. The flower buds can also be used in salads.

    If you do turn your back for a moment and find your rocket bolted then you can always harvest the seeds for next year and tell people it was deliberate! This means the next sowing has cost you nothing which will make it taste even better!

    Provide some shade in really hot weather as too much sun will make the leaves tough and not nice to eat.  Also, try not to over water as this will dilute the taste.

     

    Pests

    Flea beetle are sometimes a problem on rocket.  The leaves will become covered in small holes and damaged areas turn brown. To prevent this use fleece, especially whilst its still young, and keep the soil moist. If you water in nitrogen-rich fertilser then the crop can recover from this .

    Harvest

    pasta_bowl_with_rocketHarvest lasts from April to November but you can pick your fist leaves around 4 weeks after planting.  Don't pick all the leaves form one plant as this will weaken its growth.  Instead, pick a few leaves from each plant and they will keep providing so you can ‘cut-and-come-again’ for much longer.

    Try to pick just what you need but if you do pick more you can store them in a paper bag (will work just as well as a plastic one without the environmental impact) in a cool place for 2-4 days. Don’t let the rocket get too cold or it will wilt as soon as it warms up.

    Rocket adds a great peppery taste to salads. It is delicious with a balsamic vinegar dressing, in a bacon butty or scattered over pasta.

    For grow a whole range of salads along with your rocket see our Grow at Home: Salad Leaves Blog too.

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