Peter Cun­dall:

If you’re plan­ning on grow­ing cau­li­flower, cab­bage or kale from seed, ready for win­ter/spring har­vest­ing then you’d bet­ter get them in quick, ad­vises PETER CUN­DALL

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

On how to grow beaut bras­si­cas.

If we don’t act fast this com­ing week, it’ll be too late to sow seeds of cab­bages, cauliflow­ers and kale for win­ter and spring har­vest­ing.

The aim is to get strongly-grow­ing seedlings with well-de­vel­oped rosettes of fo­liage by early win­ter – big enough to carry them through the cold.

Al­ready it’s too late to raise Brus­sels sprout plants from seeds – they should have been sown last De­cem­ber for plants to be fully grown by early May with sprouts al­ready form­ing. The first ones are usu­ally fluffy and ined­i­ble un­til win­ter cold ini­ti­ates those tight, nutty but­tons we eat.

All leaf veg­eta­bles need a rich, heav­ily-ma­nured, per­fectly-drained soil. This means mound­ing beds in ar­eas where cold, wet win­ter con­di­tions oc­cur. Speed seedlings along us­ing weak liq­uid ma­nure and fish emul­sion ev­ery two weeks. Don’t be tempted to ap­ply strong liq­uid fer­tilis­ers – this sim­ply stunts plants.

The most nutri­tious cab­bages for great win­ter-spring eat­ing in­clude the dim­ple-leaf

Kale is among the most nutri­tious of all veg­eta­bles and is a rich source of es­sen­tial min­er­als and vi­ta­mins

Savoy, con­i­cal Su­gar­loaf’and tight ball-head va­ri­eties such as Green­gold.

Win­ter broc­coli crops ma­ture more rapidly and can still be started from seed sown un­til late March. Frost-re­sis­tant Ro­manesque is a de­li­cious and highly-at­trac­tive va­ri­ety. Green Dragon seedlings also give non-stop pick­ing through win­ter even if planted in April.

Kale plants need to be well de­vel­oped by the end of April, oth­er­wise they will fail to pass through win­ter. Strong seedlings are avail­able at gar­den cen­tres now for plant­ing over the next cou­ple of weeks. The black Ital­ian La­ci­nato, Rus­sian Red and deeply-curled Half-tall Scotch thrive through the cold­est win­ters, pro­vid­ing drainage is good.

Kale is among the most nutri­tious of all veg­eta­bles and is a rich source of es­sen­tial min­er­als and vi­ta­mins. The coarse outer leaves are dis­carded and ten­der in­side leaves are a pick-and-pick-again crop. The leaf mid-ribs are too tough to eat. Even if all leaves are stripped off kale

plants, new ones ap­pear within a week.

Asian leaf veg­eta­bles such as Wong Bok and the Ja­panese Mizuma thrive best when seeds are di­rectly sown where the plants are to ma­ture. Au­tumn is per­fect for sow­ing be­cause th­ese plants pre­fer to grow into short­en­ing day­light hours and low­er­ing tem­per­a­tures.

Gar­lic is ex­pen­sive to buy, yet enor­mous yields can be ob­tained in our cool­cli­mate gar­dens. The big­gest clus­ters of bul­bous di­vi­sions (cloves), de­velop where soil tem­per­a­tures fall be­low 7C for about two months dur­ing win­ter. Th­ese con­di­tions are eas­ily ob­tained in all parts of Tas­ma­nia.

Cloves are pushed just be­low the sur­face – point up­wards - into cul­ti­vated, well-limed soil any time from early March to early win­ter. The later gar­lic is planted dur­ing win­ter, the smaller the crop in De­cem­ber-Jan­uary. Few fer­tilis­ers are nec­es­sary in rea­son­able, welldrained soil.

In Jan­uary, I sowed our win­ter car­rot crop, but made sure the rows were wellspaced at half a me­tre apart. Plants are grow­ing strongly and I can now plant gar­lic cloves be­tween th­ese rows as nat­u­ral com­pan­ions. Leeks seedlings can also go into th­ese spa­ces.

Spring onions are lime lovers which is why I mix sev­eral pack­ets of seed into a cup of dolomite. This mix­ture is then spread thickly along a 100mm-wide shal­low, me­tre-long drill and wa­tered in. The seedlings come up like grass to pro­vide con­stant win­ter har­vest­ing. Worth grow­ing are the highly-at­trac­tive Redlegs.

Other win­ter-hardy crops for sow­ing in au­tumn in­clude lime-lov­ing English spinach and sil­ver­beet. For best re­sults sow seeds into raised ridges of well-ma­nured soil for per­fect drainage.

Peas grow best in cool con­di­tions and crops can be started now in frost-free dis­tricts. Crops are not as pro­lific as those started in late win­ter, but valu­able yields can still be ob­tained.

Broad-bean seeds can be sown from March un­til late June and the plants thrive through the frosti­est con­di­tions, crop­ping heav­ily in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber. They too thrive best in well-limed, per­fectly-drained soil.

Avoid high-ni­tro­gen fer­tilis­ers such as poul­try ma­nure and fish emul­sion – but a gen­er­ous sprin­kling of sul­phate of potash over the seed-bed keeps plants firm and re­sis­tant to dis­ease and black aphids.

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