Vegetable Garden Hints: Cole Crops

Cole Crops: Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, and Kohlrabi

Quality crops is the mark of a great gardener. These vegetable garden hints will help you produce great quality yield. 


Due to their shallow root system, cole crops require fertile, moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter and nitrogen. 


Apply a plant starter fertilizer at planting, at three weeks, and at five weeks. This is necessary because cole crops are heavy feeders of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. 


Cole crops are poor competitors, meaning they need mulch to stabilize moisture and control weeds. While using black plastic in the early spring can help warm cold soils, in the warmer weather this plastic becomes too hot. When the warm weather arrives, a grass clipping mulch will cool the soils. 


The preferred growing temperature for transplants is 60°F to 70°F. Higher temperatures result in rapid growth which can cause your plants to become tall, weak and easily broken off in transplanting. The ideal transplant is four inches tall and roughly four weeks old. 


For these vegetables, yield is based on plant size as the head starts to develop. 


Bolting: rapid head formation

  • Broccoli and cauliflower are prone to bolting when they are exposed to cool weather prior to having three or four pairs of leaves develop. Also, broccoli is prone to bolt and go to seed during long, hot summer days while cauliflower curds develop a red-purple discoloration. 
  • Cabbage bolts if planted too early in the spring. If it is exposed to two to three weeks of weather below 50°F it will bolt.

Buttoning: small heads on immature plants

  • In order to avoid buttoning, it is important to follow practices that will result in rapid vegetative growth. Factors that restrict early plant growth include: nitrogen deficiency, cold temperatures, shock to young transplants, and drought stress. 

Blindness: produce no head

  • Low temperatures, cutworms, and damage or rough handling of transplants will damage the terminal growing point of the plants and will cause blindness. 

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