Spring in New England often can be considered “winter-lite”, with warm days followed by brutal cold snaps. Just as we put away our winter coats and hats, the mercury dips down and we wonder if Spring is really here to stay. This phenomenon can be especially tough on the gardener, who has been planning all winter to get into the garden with ambitious plans for new crops and plantings, only to be foiled by a cool spring.
But lovers of broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage can take heart. These plants, commonly referred to as “cole” crops, love cool springs. Gardeners can take advantage of milder weather and begin planting their cole crops in April and early May, allowing harvesting as early as June. Many cole crops actually taste sweeter and grow sturdier the longer the weather stays mild. So bring on the cool weather!
Planting – In the Spring, it is ideal to grow cole crops from seedlings transplanted into the soil (It is best to wait until mid-Summer to direct sow cole crops from seed).
Site – Especially in the Spring when heavy rain is more common, cole crops will do best in well-drained soil. If you have soggy, dense soil, consider planting your cole crops in raised garden beds. However, when planted later in the summer, cole crops may actually perform better in a traditional vegetable garden.
Sunlight – Cole crops can tolerate some shade, but will do best in full sun. Pick a site with at least six hours of full, direct, sunlight.
Feeding – To grow optimally, cole crops may benefit from a balanced fertilizer like Espoma Organic Garden-tone. Otherwise, be sure to plant them in soil that has been enriched with organic matter, like composted manure.
Spacing – Most cole crops must be spaced at least 18 inches apart. Consult your local cooperative extension or speak to a nursery specialist where you buy your seedlings about proper spacing for different varietals.
So don’t let a little cold get you down. Get your vegetable garden started this Spring with cole crops before it’s too warm!Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassica https://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource000605_Rep627.pdf http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/brassicas.htm http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/spring-outlook-six-more-weeks/22312537 Northeast Nursery Horticulture Specialists