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How to Grow Cruciferous Vegetables

How to grow Brassicas

Brassica Basics

The brassica family, also known as cruciferous vegetables, includes a wide variety of plants that are commonly grown for their edible leaves, stems, flowers, or roots. Here is a list of some of the most common brassicas:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips
  • Bok choy
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Mustard greens
  • Arugula
  • Watercress
  • Horseradish

These plants are all members of the Brassicaceae family and share many similar characteristics, including their distinctive four-petaled flowers and tendency to crossbreed with each other. They are all rich in nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, and contain various health-promoting compounds, such as antioxidants.

how to grow brassicas

Growing Brassicas:

Location:

Brassicas prefer cool weather and full sun exposure, but can also grow in partial shade. They also require well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter.

Planting:

Brassicas can be started from seeds or seedlings. If starting from seeds, sow them directly in the soil in early spring or late summer. Alternatively, start the seeds indoors in pots about 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Transplant the seedlings outdoors after the last frost date.

Watering:

Brassicas require consistent moisture, but not waterlogged soil. Water them deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather and soil conditions.

Fertilizing:

Brassicas require regular fertilization to thrive. Use a balanced fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content to encourage leafy growth. Fertilize every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.

Pests and Diseases:

Brassicas can be susceptible to pests such as aphids, cabbage worms, and flea beetles. Prevent infestations by practicing good garden hygiene and using natural or chemical control methods when necessary.

Harvesting:

Most brassicas are ready to harvest when the heads are fully formed and firm to the touch. Cut the heads off the plant with a sharp knife, leaving some stems attached. Some brassicas, such as kale, can be harvested continuously throughout the growing season.

Brassicas can be grown successfully in both the ground and pots, but there are some factors to consider when deciding which option to choose.

In the Ground:

Brassicas have deep roots and can grow quite large, so they generally do better in the ground where they have more space to spread out. Planting them in the ground also allows them to access nutrients and water more easily, which can lead to better growth and yields. Additionally, the soil in the ground tends to stay cooler, which is beneficial for brassicas that prefer cooler temperatures.

In Pots:

Brassicas can be grown in pots if you have limited garden space or poor soil conditions. However, it’s important to choose a large enough pot to accommodate their roots and provide adequate drainage to prevent waterlogging. Keep in mind that pots can dry out quickly, so you’ll need to water them more frequently than if they were in the ground. You’ll also need to fertilize more often to ensure that the plants are getting enough nutrients.

Ultimately, whether you choose to grow brassicas in the ground or in pots depends on your specific circumstances and preferences. If you have the space and good soil conditions, planting them in the ground may be the better option. However, if you have limited space or poor soil, growing them in pots can be a good alternative.

Here are some Brassicas that are Easier to Grow:

Here are a few brassicas that are generally considered to be relatively easy to grow:

  1. Radishes: These are one of the easiest brassicas to grow and are also one of the fastest to mature. They can be planted in spring or fall and are generally ready to harvest in just a few weeks.
  2. Kale: This is a hardy plant that can tolerate a range of temperatures and soil conditions. It’s also relatively pest-resistant and can produce a continuous harvest of leaves over an extended period.
  3. Mustard greens: These are similar to kale in their ease of growth and tolerance for different conditions. They are fast-growing and can be harvested as baby greens or left to mature into larger leaves.
  4. Collard greens: These are also quite hardy and can be grown in a range of conditions. They have a relatively long growing season and can produce a large yield of leaves.
  5. Arugula: This is a fast-growing green that can be grown in containers or directly in the ground. It has a peppery flavor and can be harvested as baby greens or left to mature.

While these brassicas are generally considered to be easy to grow, keep in mind that the specific conditions in your garden or growing environment can impact their success. It’s important to choose varieties that are well-suited to your growing conditions, provide adequate water and nutrients, and monitor for pests and diseases.

Harder Brassicas to Grow:

Growing Watercress:

Watercress is a semi-aquatic plant that naturally grows in or near flowing water, such as streams, rivers, or springs. While it’s not necessary to grow watercress in running water, it does prefer moist conditions and needs a steady supply of water to thrive.

If you’re growing watercress in a garden or container, you can simulate the moist, nutrient-rich environment of a stream or river by using a shallow container filled with a mixture of soil and sand and keeping it moist by watering it frequently. You can also place the container in a shaded area to help keep the soil moist and cool.

Alternatively, you can grow watercress hydroponically, using a system that delivers a constant supply of water and nutrients to the plants. This can be done using a water culture system, nutrient film technique, or other hydroponic methods.

Regardless of the method you choose, it’s important to keep the watercress well-watered and ensure it has access to nutrients, as this will help it grow quickly and produce tender, flavorful leaves.

growing watercress

Brassica Diseases:

  • Clubroot: A soil-borne disease that causes the roots of the plants to become swollen and deformed, leading to stunted growth and reduced yields. To control clubroot, avoid planting brassicas in infected soil, rotate crops, and amend the soil with lime to raise the pH level.
  • Downy mildew: A fungal disease that causes yellowing and wilting of the leaves. To control downy mildew, plant disease-resistant varieties, avoid overhead watering, and space plants to provide good air circulation.
  • Fusarium wilt: A fungal disease that causes yellowing and wilting of the leaves and stems. To control fusarium wilt, plant disease-resistant varieties, avoid planting brassicas in infected soil, and rotate crops.

Pests:

  • Cabbage worms: The larvae of small white butterflies that feed on the leaves and can cause significant damage. To control cabbage worms, use row covers, handpick the worms off the plants, or use an organic pesticide.
  • Aphids: These are small insects that feed on the leaves and can transmit plant viruses. To control aphids, use insecticidal soap, neem oil, or a strong spray of water to wash them off the plants.
  • Flea beetles: Small black or brown insects that chew small holes in the leaves. To control flea beetles, use row covers, rotate crops, or apply a layer of diatomaceous earth around the base of the plants.

It’s important to monitor your brassicas regularly for signs of disease or pest infestation and take action promptly to prevent the problem from spreading. You can also choose disease-resistant or pest-resistant varieties when planting your brassicas to reduce the likelihood of issues arising.

By following these steps, you should be able to grow healthy and productive brassicas in your garden.