Autumn and Winter are brassica planting seasons and this article is a quick growing guide to getting the most out of these beautiful, nutritious and delicious veggies.
The most common eating types of brassicas are;
They have plenty of fibre and contain vitamin C as well as anti-cancer properties. Nearly all of them are big leafy plants and that means you must make sure that your soil is well prepared with plenty of compost and manure. Organic nitrogen materials like watered down coffee ground, human urine and chook poo are all welcomed by brassicas. I also plant nitrogen fixing plants like broadbeans and peas nearby.
During their very early stages of life, brassicas can be annihilated by pests. White moth in particular like to lay eggs on the under side of brocolli and the caterpillers feast on the tender leaves. There are a couple of non-pesticide ways of minimising this illicit harvest this and one insecticide way.
1) A chilli and garlic chopped up and added to 1L of water and allowed to diffuse over night. Spray every couple of days both on top and under the plant leaves.
2) A soapy water mixture applied in a similar fashion can also help.
3) Companion planting bug attractors like marigold and daisies can bring beneficial bugs to the party.
4) Don’t plant all of your cabbages in a row. It makes it easier for the white moth to identify the leaves. But if you break it up a little with other companion plants (see broadbeans above), your plants will have fighting chance.
5) Daily inspection by a human underneath the plants leaves. Look for little oval shaped eggs and brush them off. Also look for the green caterpillars and signs of munching.
6) Broken up eggs shells around the base of younger plants can help deter snails and slugs.
7) A physical netting or barrier will help control flying pests, but not so much slugs.
8) If none of these work, then pyrethrum can be an option. It is an insecticide and it will kill beneficial bugs, but it does break down quickly (particularly in sunshine) and I’m really only mentioning it, rather than recommending it.
Once you have gotten your brassicas past the pests and bugs, there are few tricks that you can use to get good flavour and bounty from your veggies.
1) Brocolli – for cultivars like Green Dragon, you can slice the middle flower of when it is about the size of a twenty cent piece and that will start the plant producing shoots or brocolli. These can mean you have a plant that is producing lots over a longer period of time
2) Cauliflower – when the first signs of a curd (the bit you eat) you need to protect it from direct sunlight as this leads to a bitter tasting curd. If the curd isn’t holding a nice tight head, this is usually because of under watering. Watch out for dry spells, especially if you have planted late in winter.