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Growing early summer cabbages
My wife and I have spent much of recent winters in warmer places. Before we go, the allotment is “put to bed” under Mypex and I make no attempt to grow Spring Cabbage, one of my favourite vegetables. To compensate for this I grow early summer cabbages. As soon as we return to Henley I sow a pinch of seeds in a small pot of seed compost in the greenhouse at home which has an electric fan heater on the lowest setting to keep frosts away. As soon as they germinate I prick out the seedlings into a small tray of modules and later plant into 3 inch pots. This process seems to encourage the formation of a good root ball and allows me to select the most vigorous plants at each stage. These are grown on in the greenhouse until they are ready to be hardened off on the patio and planted in the allotment a few days later under an enviromesh tunnel where they are left to mature.
In 2008 the seeds were sown on 4th February and the first heads cut on 13th May. The variety I use is an F1 Hybrid Hispi. This is the fastest maturing variety I have tried. The disadvantage of using an F1 hybrid is that the plants mature together and have burst by early June. For this reason I only pot up 10 plants, enough for my wife and I to satiate our taste for early summer cabbage.
I use the same procedure for summer cauliflower using the variety Candid Charm, which take a few weeks more to mature.
We expect to be back in Henley by the end of February so I expect a slightly later crop in 2009. If another Greencroft gardener tries this procedure do come to see me at Plot 16 to compare notes.
One of the questions facing all gardeners, and particularly new ones, is the spacing of crops. Too close and your crops don’t have space to reach a good size or to produce a good yield; too far apart and you are wasting ground.
Most seed packets and gardening books will give instructions about spacing and it is probably worth keeping a note-book/diary with planting dates and spacings to refer to later.
With potatoes my Dad always put his rows the length of a spade handle apart. One year when I had early blight, Peter Parr suggested that I had planted my potatoes too close. However, early potatoes can be planted closer in the row than main crop.
With carrots, sow the seeds thinly. This year I must have had nearly 100% germination and as I don’t thin carrots I have got a massive crop of mini carrots.
With beetroots harvest the larger ones first to give the smaller ones room to grow on. However with carrots, thinning can attract carrot root fly.
Find out what works best for you!
Happy Christmas to you all and happy planting in 2010!
Andrew Hawkins, November 2009