Grow Cole Crops: Broccoli and Caulflower to suit every garden
Time to Start Cole Crops!
My greenhouse is filled with tomato seedlings, artichoke, onions and cole crops of all kinds. What is a cole crop you ask? “Prior to cultivation and use as food, they were used mainly for medicinal purposes,” according to a research paper out of Atlantic Canada.
A Cole crop is any cruciferous crop ( the packets I’m growing pictured above and more) including Cabbage, cauliflower, kale and broccoli. These are often also called “Cold” crops because they are hardy and can be planted out mid-spring. They easily handle freezing temperatures and snow. The only problem comes if they get too hot, too big, or too dry before they are planted outside this spring. This is why I start my own from seed instead of buying the robust looking plants at garden centres.
It seems like a mean trick but if seedlings of Cauliflower are too big they often fail. Cauliflower will “button” or form tiny heads too soon if they are too big when you plant them outside. They will also “button” if they are grown too warm or if they dry out after they are transplanted outside.
I usually start cauliflowers just three or so weeks before planting them outside so they are not too big or sensitive when planted.
So start sorting through your seed, order seed from a local garden centre (many have seeds on hand so you don’t need to go through a seed supplier directly- phone first to make sure you can pick it up), or ask friends and neighbours if they have seeds left over from last year.
Today, on April 3rd, I will start more kale and cauliflower from seed in my greenhouse or window shelf indoors. I already have broccoli on the go so will be transplanting some of that into bigger cell packs to let it grow on a bit before I plant it outside.
Even with all these pandemic hardships it is still spring, the same as always. The cole crops are still medicinal (eat your broccoli!) and the only difference this year is you have to be a little more canny and perhaps grow your own food from seed.
During World War II many of our grandparents grew “Victory Gardens” and in those days, 45% of the food we ate was grown in our home gardens. Today less than 1% of our food is grown at home. So let’s all up the ante and grow food this spring. Stay safe and let me know how I can help!
PS While cole crops include the whole cabbage family COLD crops include so much more. You can try spinach, leaf lettuce, green onions and radish early in the garden or cool greenhouse as COLD crops as soon as the ground thaws enough to seed. Radish take about 30 days from seeding to eating but they love continuous moisture so it is usually only a spring crop for me!
Donna Balzer is the Brand Ambassador for BCGreenhouse Builders and she has two greenhouses in her big backyard.
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