On Brassicas

This week in the garden, we will be planting out the brassicas, cabbages and kales that we started off in modules in the greenhouse in our brassicas bed which runs parallel to the raspberry bed. These are now nice sturdy little seedlings with at least 5 leaves. We will plant cabbages ‘January King’ which is a savoy cabbage with green and red tinted leaves, Kalibos a pointed cabbage with distinctive red leaves, as well as the Kales ‘Cavolo Nero’ and ‘Pentland Brig.’

‘Brassica’ is the family name for a number of vegetable plants including cabbages, kales, and kohlrabi to name but a few. These plants are fully hardy and do not need any protection against the cold. However they are prone to a range of fungal diseases such as club root, downy mildew, leaf spot, and white blister, especially if you grow them in the same ground year after year. These diseases are usually transmitted on plant residues from the previous years crop and can effect the soil for a number of years which is why crop rotation is an effective way to break the cycle. Crop rotation is a widely used organic growing technique which in our situation simply means planting brassicas in a different part of the garden each year on a four year rotation. This year we are planting our brassicas in what was last year’s tomato bed. 

Brassicas do well in firm soil, and as they are heavy feeders they benefit from the bed having a mulch of well rotted manure in the autumn, (which we have already done.) 

Brassicas, when fully grown are large plants so it is important not to plant them too closely together. Ideally we aim to have about 35cm between each plant and 35cm between the rows. 

When planting we will make holes a few cm larger than the root balls with a trowel at the correct spacings and, after inserting the plants, firm them in well.

After planting we will give them a thorough watering to ‘water’ them in. We do this carefully to make sure the roots are not disturbed. If the soil is very dry it is a good idea to fill planting holes with water and allow this to drain before putting in the plants.

Once the brassicas are planted we will put up the closh hoops and cover the whole bed with enviromesh.  This is a very finely woven mesh which keeps out both cabbage white butterflies and pigeons. It is important to make sure there are no gaps in the mesh around the edges or else our pests will get in! The other good thing about environmesh is that you can water through it thereby avoiding the need to remove the nets whenever you need to water. 

Then all we need to do is keep our brassicas well watered in dry spells, particularly in the first month after planting, keep them weed free and just watch them grow!

Other jobs we will be doing this week involve more seed sowing and potting on in the greenhouse, plus work on our fern bank. 

The fern bank is becoming well established, and is now into its third year. It has attractive Fritillaria meleagris whose purple and cream flower heads can be seen amongst the fern fronds. However as with any establishing bed, some of our older ferns have grown quite large and are shading out other smaller or slower growing ferns, so we will be carefully moving a few ferns to ensure that all the ferns have sufficient growing space without being overshadowed. This also makes the bed look more attractive.

Our BPCG Friday afternoon volunteering sessions are being run as therapeutic sessions by Cat. If you are recovering from physical illness or injury, or from emotional stress and feel you would benefit from attending our wellbeing gardening sessions, please get in touch with Cat on garden@brockwellgreenhouses.org.uk giving her your telephone number so she can call you for a chat.

In other BPCG news, on Tuesday 13th April at 7pm, please join artist and art historian Lucy Gallwey for some virtual travels through Italy. Lucy will be giving an online illustrated talk about her journeys in Italy in search of the plants and landscapes Renaissance artist Giovanni Bellini may have travelled to, to create the setting for his famous painting ‘St Francis in the Desert’. Tickets (free or by donation) are here https://www.brockwellgreenhouses.org.uk/event/plants-and-landscape-journeys-in-the-renaissance/

In other news, thanks to Miranda who says she has always been very fond of the BPCG medlar tree in the orchard but wary of eating its bletted fruits – for sending us a lovely BBC article all about the wonderful world of Medlars https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210325-the-strange-medieval-fruit-the-world-forgot

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