Plant cold-loving cole crops now

Cole crops are members of the brassica, or mustard, family and grow best in cooler weather. Among these heat-hating plants are broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, kale, collards and kohlrabi. Lettuces and radishes also can be planted in the fall.

The tomatoes, peppers and other summer crops are coming in from the garden, and this is the payoff.

But we still have an opportunity window to plant cole crops.

Cole crops are members of the brassica, or mustard, family. They love cooler weather (60 to 70 degrees) and hate heat. I am talking about broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts as transplants, and Swiss chard, kale, collards and kohlrabi as seeds. You can also plant lettuces.

I was in the store when I saw on sale the most beautiful plant — rainbow Swiss chard. I brought it home and we had us a feast. It was yellow, red and magenta, and tasted wonderful.

Start by working up the soil where other spring / summer crops were growing. The soil is still warm, so the seeds will emerge quickly and the plants will take off quickly.

As the nights turn colder, this cooler weather is exactly what they need to grow. If you tried to plant these plants earlier in summer, they would have “bolted,” that is to grow up like a stem and flower. When this happens, plants are bitter and cannot be eaten. Sometimes broccoli will bolt and bloom like this when planted early.

You want rounded, deep green heads of buds for harvesting.

Normally, cole crops can withstand the early frosts. In fact, Brussels sprouts are harvested after frost has “touched” them. They are sweet and flavorful this way. Heads of cabbage are harvested when they are big yet not too big as they will split.

Kale and kohlrabi are both fast-growing cole crops, each taking 50 to 60 days to harvest from planting seeds directly in the garden. Radishes are the fastest, though, as you can harvest them in 21 to 35 days after planting.

These crops provide all kinds of health benefits, in addition to simply being fresh produce from your own garden. Our colleagues at Texas A&M University tell us that all veggies provide protein, with legumes containing about as much protein as meat. Also, their factsheet notes that Brussels sprouts, kale and collards have more protein than milk.

All cole crops are sensitive to overwatering, so be aware. You may have to dig a trench to direct water away from these tender new plants if there is significant rainy periods yet this growing season.

I have planted mine in a flat that I can move until they are big enough to transplant into the garden.

AND then I am going to feast on them!

For details, seeding date details and more, go to http://go.osu.edu/colecrops .

Hughes is an Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Mahoning County.


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