’ Tis the sea­son to be cauli

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Peter Cun­dall

IF the cabbages and broc­coli seedlings you planted in late au­tumn or early win­ter didn’t come to much and are now flow­er­ing fu­ri­ously, pull them out.

They’ve had it be­cause they’ve fin­ished grow­ing. Even if you keep cut­ting off flower heads they’ll still keep try­ing to pro­duce more.

The most com­mon rea­sons for fail­ure are ei­ther get­ting them started too late, or ex­tra­cold wet con­di­tions to­wards the end of win­ter.

It hap­pens to all of us. I’ve just up­rooted a bar­row- load, com­plete with a small pop­u­la­tion of cling­ing snails. So I had a crunch­ing good time as well.

Any bras­sica seedlings which were planted in late July and Au­gust should be well set­tled in now and with luck, and a weekly dose of weak fish emul­sion, you’ll be eat­ing them be­fore the white cab­bage but­ter­fly cater­pil­lars get a chance to start munch­ing.

Just the same, it’s a great time to plant a new lot of cab­bage, cau­li­flower, broc­coli and kale seedlings or even to sow seeds.

But not in the same bed where oth­ers of the same tribe have been grow­ing over the past cou­ple of years. And care­ful soil prepa­ra­tion for th­ese glo­ri­ously greedy plants is es­sen­tial.

Bras­si­cas love any kind of ma­nure, pro­vided it is well- rot­ted, as th­ese leafy veg­eta­bles have a spe­cial need for high- ni­tro­gen fer­tilis­ers and the best of th­ese is any kind of to­tally de­com­posed poul­try ma­nure or that smelly pel­letised stuff we can buy at most gar­den cen­tres.

A great way to pre­pare to en­rich any bras­sica bed right now is to first spread de­com­posed sheep or cow ma­nure in a thick, 50mm deep layer over the sur­face.

Then sprin­kle chicken ma­nure or pel­lets over the top a dou­ble hand­ful to each square me­tre and work the lot in deeply us­ing a strong fork.

If the soil is dry, give it a good soak­ing and leave ev­ery­thing to set­tle for a day or so.

A pun­net of cab­bage or any other kind of bras­sica seedlings costs about $ 3 and that’s bril­liant value. Just the same, don’t be tempted to se­lect the big­gest, flop­pi­est plants on dis­play. It’s those lit­tle, in­signif­i­cant ones that grow best. Big seedlings tend to sud­denly col­lapse, es­pe­cially when planted out dur­ing warm, sunny and breezy weather.

Small seedlings never look back no mat­ter what the weather is like.

Plant seedlings about three- quar­ters of a me­tre apart. They need space be­cause it gives them a chance to grow fast. I al­ways sur­round each newly- planted seedling with a ring of blood and bone.

This stuff will have bro­ken down and will be feed­ing the soil just when the plants are big enough to start de­mand­ing even more nu­tri­ents.

And ev­ery 10 days, ev­ery seedling should get a gen­er­ous dose of weak fish emul­sion as part of nor­mal wa­ter­ing. Some bras­sica va­ri­eties have spe­cial needs. Cau­li­flower plants usu­ally need a mi­cronu­tri­ent called molyb­de­num ( trace el­e­ment). This is in short sup­ply in most Tas­ma­nian soils but luck­ily, only the tini­est amount is needed. Just the same, if cau­li­flower plants are de­fi­cient, they grow in a re­ally weird way with leaves stretched and twisted, with small curds a dis­or­der known as whip­tail. We can buy sodium molyb­date at most gar­den cen­tres by the packet for a few dol­lars.

Di­lu­tion rate is enor­mous. Just two tea­spoons of this mi­cro- nu­tri­ent in 10 litres of wa­ter is plenty. I also add the same amount of mag­ne­sium sul­phate ( Ep­som salts) and sprin­kle the so­lu­tion over all cau­li­flower seedlings. The mag­ne­sium helps pre­vent the de­vel­op­ment of hol­low stalks.

If you are also grow­ing swedes or turnips, they ap­pre­ci­ate a drink of the brew too.

This treat­ment en­sures rapid, healthy growth for ear­lier har­vest­ing, even be­fore Christ­mas. That means ex­tra flavour and bet­ter nu­tri­tion be­cause of an ex­tra- high vitamin and min­eral con­tent.

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