Cole crops belong to the ‘Brassica’ family, or, more commonly, the mustard family. They are flavorful and wholesome vegetables well-known for their benefits all around the world. You may know that cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and obviously mustard are cole crops, but did you know that swedes, kale, kohlrabi and turnips all belong to that family as well?
Cole crops are also some of the first crops to go into the vegetable garden early every fall. Why is that? Well, because cole crops grow best in the cooler months when temperatures are between 50-70 °F.
For the earliest possible fall harvest, you would need to plant seeds in August. Initially, you can put the seeds in handy containers or flower pots as it will be much easier for you to move the plant outdoors without having to transplant it.
At about eight weeks, gently remove the plant from the container and try to avoid separating the stem from the roots. Plant it out in a sheltered, sunny spot in your garden in order to provide the plant some protection from the wind. Strong winds can weaken the stalks, making the plant top heavy as it grows. If necessary, pinch the lower leaves from the stem to allow the plant to be buried deeper. You can also mound and tamp down the soil close to the stalk to support growth and to prevent air from drying out the roots.
Keep in mind that the secret to growing cole crops is to grow them fast. Cole crops like a well-prepared soil bed that contains plenty of manure or a fertilizer applied before planting out. For that reason, grow them in compost rich soil and as they grow, apply some well balanced organic fertilizer as well. You can use a liquid fertilizer instead and feed every two or three weeks depending on the instructions of the manufacturer.
All the fall cole crops should be harvested before the hard spell of cold weather arrives and cause damage to them. Learning to grow cole crops in the fall only means you spend a little less time doing maintenance than if you were when growing a spring or summer garden.