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
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.