The Cabbage Family
These vegetables are also known as cole crops or the Brassica family, and include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. They are cold-hardy vegetables that produce a lot of food for the space they use and will grow in most types of soil. Cole crops also do well in containers so long as the container is large and deep enough (at least 16 inches of soil is recommended).
Most broccoli varieties will produce one large head averaging about 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Once this head is cut off, the plant will continue to produce side branches with smaller heads. Keep cutting these before they flower and you will be harvesting broccoli from one plant for several weeks.
Brussels sprouts are probably the most peculiar-looking vegetable plant. They look like little palm trees with lumps growing from the plant stem or trunk. The bumps, which are usually 1 to 2 inches in diameter, are the Brussels sprouts. They are often called baby cabbages, as the sprouts look like a miniature cabbage. Each plant should produce between fifty and 100 sprouts! This is a cool-season vegetable that is harvested in the late fall. The taste of this vegetable is improved by a light frost.
For harvesting winter vegetables, plant Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and sprouting broccoli in July and August. Transplants are available in the summer, making it easy to fill an empty spot in your garden or container with a new plant.
The mature cabbage forms a head from a rosette of thickened leaves. The cabbage head can be round, pointy, or flattened, depending on the variety, and can have richly colored and textured leaves. There are red varieties with purplish red leaves, green varieties, and a savoy cabbage that has crinkly leaves.
Cauliflower is said to be the most difficult vegetable in the Brassica family to grow. It is a cool-season vegetable; however, it is very sensitive to the frost as well as to heat. Sunlight will turn the white head a darkish-yellow color, which is not very appealing, so each head needs to be covered or blanched.
Kale has a high level of vitamin C and calcium, and has the highest levels of beta-carotene of all the green vegetables. Kale will survive over winter and the leaves are more tender and sweet once they have been touched by frost. But kale will easily go to seed and spread throughout your garden, so it is important to pull the plants out before the seeds spread if you want to contain it.
Make you own kneeling pad for the garden by stuffing an old hot water bottle with rags and pantyhose. Use just enough stuffing to give the water bottle a nice cushion effect.
QUICK TIPS FOR GROWING CABBAGE FAMILY VEGGIES
Botanical Name: Brassicaceae
Family Name: Mustard family
Edible Parts: Flower buds, leaves on kale
Location: Cool, well-drained area
Best Soil: Rich, moist loamy soil, pH 6.0–6.8
When to Plant: Transplants are available April to mid-July.
Companion Plants: For a positive effect, plant with beans, onion, potato, oregano, dill, sage, and nasturtiums. Planting with tomatoes and lettuce will have a negative effect on broccoli.
Weeding: Keep well weeded around base of the plant.
Watering: Water deeply at least once a week around the base of the plant. Hand watering or drip irrigation is best, because if an overhead sprinkler is used, the water is blocked from reaching the roots by the large leaves.
Fertilizing: Start to fertilize about three weeks after setting out the transplants, and again when the bud starts to form on the plant. If grown in containers fertilize with fish fertilizer or compost tea every ten days.
Pests and Diseases: Root maggot, cabbageworm, and club root are common. Crop rotation is essential for prevention of pests and diseases.
Harvesting: For broccoli and cauliflower, cut the head when it is about 5 to 6 inches in diameter or before the buds start to open. For cabbage, cut the head once it fills out and becomes firm, and with kale cut the outer leaves, leaving the center to produce more leaves. Broccoli will form side branches off the main stem. These branches will produce smaller heads, which need to be cut regularly or they will flower.
Storage: Cabbage family veggies will stay for a few weeks in your refrigerator.