Once the weather cools down, most gardens are harvested and left until spring. However, if you want to continue your garden into the late fall and early winter months, Cole crops are a possibility.
Cole crops are also some of the first crops to go into the vegetable garden early every fall and early in the spring. These plants grow best in the cooler weather when temperatures are between 50-70 °F.
Cole crops belong to the ‘Brassica’ family, and are also called cruciferous vegetables. They are flavorful and wholesome vegetables that are well-known for their benefits all around the world. Some examples of Cole crops include:
Cole crops aren’t the most difficult plants to grow, but like all plants, they require time and effort. 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. You should check your climate zone to see if cole crops are a good option for you, and how long they’re likely to grow.
Here in Central Virginia, the best months to have your Cole crops outdoors are between September and December, and between March and May. In milder years like last winter, you might be able to grow Cole crops in January and February as well.
For the earliest possible fall crop harvest, you need to be planting seeds indoors in August. Initially, you can put the seeds in small containers or flower pots to make it easier to move them outside when they have germinated.
After about eight weeks, gently remove the plant from the container and try to avoid separating the stem from the roots. Plant the seedling 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.
Cole crops have shallow root systems, so don’t plant them too closely together, and make sure they’re planted deeply enough to protect those systems. 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.
Weed a Cole crop garden regularly, weeds will steal vital nutrients from your garden that it needs to grow quickly.
Most of the time, the goal with Cole crops is to get a large crop of vegetables as quickly as possible. Make sure you have the correct soil prepared, as well as fertilizing them regularly.
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 organic matter such as manure or a fertilizer applied before planting.
Grow them in compost rich soil and as they grow, feed them a 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 worst of the cold weather arrives and causes damage to your plants.