The Plants Must Go!

Since last week, I’ve begun to worry about my indoor nursery…that it’s getting a bit crowded. Particularly in the brassica department. The lowest shelf in the picture to the right is the brassicas about ten days ago. They’re in 2″ pots (which is small), but they’re growing up a storm. I planted the seeds Jan. 30, and by the time this picture was taken, their leaves were falling all over one another, and I’m sure they weren’t getting enough light that way. I wanted to spread them out, but there just wasn’t enough room on the shelf!

Thankfully, when I checked the weather forecast, it predicted a week of gorgeous weather for planting. Clear skies and temperatures in the 70’s (and low 80’s a couple of days, which admittedly isn’t quite as good for these cool-season crops, but doable). So I decided it was time for the brassicas to get pushed out of their nest and see the world.

I started five days ahead of time, putting the plants outside for a few more hours each day: 1 hour the first day, 2 the second, 4 the third, 6 the fourth, and all day the fifth day. By last Monday, it was time for them to go in the ground and stay overnight. (I made the mistake of also putting outside some basil that was growing on the same tray. Poor things. The cold wind didn’t agree with them, and several of their leaves turned brown. They’re safely back inside to await April 15.)

Green Cabbage

I prepared the bed the way I do for most of my crops: digging in a 1/4″ layer of compost and 5 qts. of homemade organic fertilizer per 100 sq. ft. Then I troweled out holes for the seedlings. I put a little extra fertilizer at the bottom of each (maybe a couple tablespoons), mixed it in, then put in the plant, poured in a couple of inches of Miracle-Gro-enriched water, and while the water was still in the hole, slid back in enough soil to fill it. My spacings I do on an extensive system, to minimize the need for watering and fertilizer and facilitate hoeing. Broccoli plants got 2′ x 4′ each. Cauliflower got 2′ x 2′. And the red and green cabbages got 16″ x 2′.

Red Cabbage

I was going to mulch the plants with straw, because I have a bunch of it on hand and I’ve read that brassicas really like their roots kept cool and moist. But I forgot to do it before I’d already put their little chicken-wire cages around them. (These individual cages are the best protection against deer, rabbits, and groundhogs I’ve found.) So for right now, they’re not mulched. And I’ve watered them every two or three days since planting, since we’ve had no rain worth speaking of. Hopefully the spring showers will be arriving soon…

Just a side note: Shouldn’t red cabbage really be called “purple”? I think we can all agree this is not the same color as a ripe tomato…

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6 thoughts on “The Plants Must Go!

  1. They look good & healthy! I haven’t had much luck with brassicas – too many things around here eating them. I’ll keep trying, though. I’ve found the best way of foiling snails is ash from the fire. In the UK I used to use gravel or egg shells, but the snails here can climb gorse bushes, so prickly stuff is no deterrent. The ash dries out their underside, so they really don’t like that!

    • Thanks for the tips! I’m not sure what the biggest pests for the brassicas are going to be around here, since I’ve only grown them once before, a long time ago, and I didn’t even use fertilizer then, so it’s hardly a good comparison. This year is a test run, and we’ll see what shows up!

  2. I started 1/2 flat of cabbage family plants indooors abou a month and a half ago and they all died. How do you get yours growning so big and strong? We used organic seed start mix for some and jiffy peat pellets for the others and kept them well watered with organic miricle-gro concentrate in their water… no luck. They got super leggy before they even got real leaves and then failed en masse right after getting the first set of real leaves. I wish the local stores would hurry up and get their greenhouses up before it’s too late for cool season. We were too late last year getting cool season in and the cauliflower and sprouts did nothing, just bolted some how without ever actually producing a flower.

    • Hm… Leggy plants usually mean not enough light. I keep mine in an east-facing window in the morning and a south-facing one from noon til sundown. On cloudy days, I put some aluminum-foil-covered cardboard panels behind them to reflect extra light.

      But another thing may be that your plants aren’t getting enough nutrition. Seed starting mix doesn’t have any fertilizer, and Miracle-Gro doesn’t have a lot of the minerals and bacteria that help plants thrive. I start my seeds in a mix of 2 parts garden soil to 1 part compost, with some homemade organic fertilizer added. I didn’t fertilize the brassicas any more after that, because they were already outgrowing their pots. If you want more details on how I started these seeds, you can look at my post “Seed Starting: Broccoli & Company” from Jan. 30.

      Also, a month or so before your last expected frost, you could try direct sowing brassicas in the garden. Hope you have some success!

  3. Your plants look so healthy…but I can see you put a lot of effort to make sure that they get enough light. I just planted tomato and pepper seeds today.

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