Brassicas from October to March*
Short of time and space to sow my own veg for winter, I trialled D. T. Brown’s Winter Greens Collection – 20 plants, five of each variety, an ideal amount for my limited raised bed space.
For August planting, there are pickings to be had from October-March – here are the varieties:
Cauliflower Amsterdam F1: Good cold tolerance and strong growth, providing tasty caulis from October-November.
Kale Reflex F1: A new strain, which is tastier and more succulent than many older varieties. It can be picked as required from October to February and is very hardy.
Cabbage Tundra F1: One of the hardiest winter cabbages, standing in good condition from November to March, with large, solid, crisp heads which are full of flavour.
Sprouting Broccoli Rudolph: Start picking deeply-flavoured young spears from November until March.
*Ignore this timescale – all mine were much later.
Potted guide: cabbage
- SOWING TIME: February-September.
- HARVESTING TIME: Almost all year round, if successional varieties are planted. Cut through the stem just above ground level with a sharp knife. Cut a deep cross in the stump of spring and summer varieties for a second crop of smaller cabbages.
- PLANTING DISTANCE: Compact varieties 30cm (1ft) apart, larger varieties up to 45cm (18in) apart. Plant spring cabbages 10cm (4in) apart in rows 30cm (1ft) apart – thin out to 30cm (1ft) apart in late Feb/March.
- ASPECT AND SOIL: Full sun, well-drained. If your soil is acidic, lime before planting.
- HARDINESS: Very hardy.
- DIFFICULTY: Easy – unless attacked by cabbage root fly or club root.
There’s a huge variety of cabbage seeds, and naturally, some of their seasons overlap, especially for multi-purpose types like Duncan and Pyramid.
WINTER CABBAGES: Protovoy (Savoy); Alaska (Savoy); Holland Winter White; Kilaxy; Marabel; Tundra; Duncan; January King 3 (Savoy); Savoy Spinel; Noelle; Tourmaline (Savoy); Brigadier; Supervoy (Savoy); Siberia (Savoy) Caramba (winter sweetheart); Jewel.
SPRING CABBAGES: Duncan; Sennen; Pixie; Greensleeves; Winter Jewel; Durham Early; April; Wheelers Imperial; Duchy; Pyramid.
SUMMER CABBAGES: Kilaxy; Candisa; Bourbon; Mozart; Primo; Duncan; Greyhound; Mila (Savoy); Kalibos (red); Red Rookie (red); Pyramid; Surprise; Red Jewel; Hispi; Elisa; Jersey Wakefield; Duchy; Sir; Savoy King: Caramba; Derby Day.
AUTUMN CABBAGES: Consul; Picador; Winnigstadt; Duncan; Resolution (Savoy); Lodero (red); Kalibos (red); Red Rookie (red); Minicole; Surprise; Mohykan (red); Savoy Spinel; Red Jewel (red); Brigadier; Duchy; Attraction; Sir; Savoy King: Kilaton; Pyramid.
Club root: Brassicas (including Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflowers, turnips, swedes and radishes) can suffer from this infection of the roots by Plasmodiophora brassicae, a soil-dwelling micro-organism, leading to massive swelling, distortion and severely retarded growth.
It can also affect Cheiranthus (wallflowers), Matthiola (stocks), Aubrieta and cabbage-family weeds such as Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd’s purse).
Attacks happen when the soil is moist and warm, mainly from mid-summer until late autumn and spores can infect soil for up to 20 years.
Symptoms: Stunted growth, purplish foliage and wilting in hot weather, which may recover under wetter conditions; root system becomes massively swollen and distorted; growth and yield are severely reduced; plants may die.
Organic controls: If you buy plants, make sure they come from a guaranteed club root-free source.
If you know your soil has the disease, give plants a head start by growing them on in healthy compost to a larger size before planting out, so they begin growth in the affected soil with a larger healthy root system.
Don’t spread contaminated soil on tools, wheelbarrows or shoes.
Raise the soil pH by liming. On acid soils, lime at the rate of 500g per sqm, with lighter dressings of 270g per sqm in subsequent years.
Improve drainage, or make raised beds and keep down susceptible weeds.
Partially-resistant cultivars: Brussels sprouts Chronos and Crispus F1, calabrese Trixie, cauliflower Clapton, cabbages Kilaxy and Kilaton, kale Tall Green Curled and swede Marian.
Cabbage root fly: White larvae approx 5cm long feed on surface roots, stunting growth and causing plants to wilt and die.
Organic control: Grow under insect-proof mesh/horticultural fleece, especially seedlings.
Caterpillars: Cabbage white butterflies are the most common, caterpillars boring holes in leaves and cabbage hearts.
Organic controls: In mild attacks, pick off by hand. Insect-proof mesh or fine netting (5-7mm) can prevent egg-laying.