brassicas

  • Grow at Home: Cauliflower

    Growing Cauliflower

    cauliflower_purple

    Cauliflower can be a tricker crop than many to succeed with, but the effort is well rewarded, with beautiful white or purple heads (also known as curds) that taste delicious and leave the shop bought versions behind.

    Soil and Aspect

    Cauliflowers need a well-consolidated soil which is deep, fertile and moisture retentive, so best to dig several months before planting, incorporating well-rotted manure or garden compost.  Alternatively plant after a crop of nitrogen-fixing green manure.

    Best planted in an open sunny site, it is important to avoid frost pockets if growing winter varieties.

    Sowing Cauliflower

    Sow the seeds of summer varieties in a cool greenhouse in mid-winter for an early crop. Prick out the seedlings when they are large enough and harden off for a couple of weeks before planting out in rows 50cm apart with protection in early spring.

    Autumn and Winter varieties can be sown outdoors in the late spring.  Sow thinly in nursery beds before planting in a permanent site. Thin to 5cm apart and transplant seedlings when they are 10cm tall and bearing 5 to 6 leaves - take care in lifting them.  Remember to water in well.

    Depending on the variety the final spacing should be 60-70 cm apart.

    Aftercare

    After planting, mulch the crop with garden compost - quick to produce in a Rollmix Composter.

    Water in dry periods with occasional feed and cover with netting to protect from birds - Giant Easy Net Tunnel will help shade from the sun too.

    Fold the leaves up around the head to protect from rain and frost.  Then use collars around the stems to protect from cabbage root fly.

    Harvesting and Storage

    Start harvesting when the heads are small so that not all of the crop is taken at the same time.  Florets separate or turn brown when they are too mature.  So better to opt for smaller specimens than leave it too late.

    Cauliflowers can be stored on the stem, hung upside down in a cool dark place for up to three weeks - mist occasionally.

    Pests and Diseases

    Cauliflowers are susceptible to the issues as cabbages - pick up some tips in our Spring Cabbages Blog.

     

     

     

  • Grow at Home - Pak Choi

    Pak_Choi_cut_on_white_Background

    The standard Pak Choi (sometimes known as Bok Choy) is juicy, crisp and fast-maturing with a really good, strong flavour, good resistance to bolting and fast growth.  A welcome green leaf in any winter kitchen garden.

    The green-stemmed cultivars tend to have a better flavour than white-stemmed varieties.  They can  also be eaten raw, stir fried or lightly steamed and served with soy sauce.

    Soil and Aspect

    Grow Pak Choi in full sun or part shade in well-drained but moisture retentive soil rich in organic matter. Add  compost to  beds before planting and mulch with compost again at mid season to help with moisture retention.

    As it is shallow-rooting Pak Choi is ideal for container growing - try growing on a patio or balcony in Vigoroot or Patio Planters 

    Sowing Pak Choi

    Pak choi is a versatile plant that can be cultivated as a cut-and-come-again crop - ready to harvest in as little as 30 days - or harvested as a mature plant.

    It is best sown before or after the hottest part of the year, either around April, just after the last frost date in your area or in August for a late-season crop.

    Cut and come again seedlings can be sown any time from April if you use bolt-resistant varieties and offer some shade in the hottest weather -  Easy Net Tunnels will help reduce bolting.

    Sow seeds in situ as soon as the soil is workable (early crops should be sown under cloches) and continue sowing until late summer.

    Space 15cm apart for small varieties, 20cm apart for medium-size and 35cm apart for large.

    Aftercare

    Pak choi has shallow roots so needs watering little and often in dry spells rather than drenching.

    A nitrogen rich liquid feed will help produce a bumper crop and shade from Easy Net Tunnels will prevent bolting.

    Harvesting and storage

    Pak_Choi_flowersA Cut and come again crop can be harvested at any stage from 4-13cm high.

    Depending on conditions, this could be within three weeks of sowing and two or three cuts should be possible. A headed crop (ready after around six weeks) can be lifted entirely.  Alternatively, you can cut 2.5cm above ground level and leave to re-sprout.

    Less likely to go limp than lettuce, Pak Choi is best kept cool and eaten within a week.

    Pest and Diseases

    Pak Choi is susceptible to all of the brassica problems.  Flea beetle, aphids, cabbage whitefly, caterpillars, root fly, slugs, snails and birds.

    But don't be put off!  As it is so fast growing, it is perfectly possible to avoid most issues with some protective netting and regular watering. This will keep the plants in top condition.

    Companion planting with Onions or Garlic can be very effective.  A row of sacrificial radishes is also good to draw the flee beetle away!

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