16) Tips about kohlrabi, cauliflower and broccoli

In this tip:

  • A)# Sowing cabbage plants in the garden soil (in a small seedbed)
  • B)# Growing kohlrabi
  • C)# Growing cauliflower
  • D)# Growing broccoli

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Cabbage plants (cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, curly kale, Brussels sprouts) grow well outside in your garden at a temperature between 10 and 20 C (50 to 68 F). The plants like a wet, cold climate. They grow best at a windy place in the garden. There they suffer least from plant diseases and insect attack.

Advice: always sow and replant cabbages at a windy place in the garden soil.

In a greenhouse, the air is warm and moist and damp so diseases or insects or plagues easily can strike.

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A)# Sowing cabbage plants in the garden soil (in a small seedbed)

You can sow cabbage plants outside in the garden soil. It is easy to sow in a small seedbed. Below a description.

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  • Use a fork or a garden scoop to loosen the garden soil.

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  • Use a rake to flatten (level) the garden soil again.

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  • Put a wooden frame on the loose garden soil. This frame surrounds the seedbed. More info about this frame in tip 2, nr 69.

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  • Use a small wooden board to shove garden earth against the outer sides of the frame.
  • Push the garden soil against the outer sides of the frame. In this way you make firm dams.

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Cauliflower, broccoli and kohlrabi need much nutrients (manure) when growing. Curly kale plants and Brussel sprouts plants need less nutrients. When you mix the soil with agricultural lime there is less risk of the plant disease “Clubroot” (see further in this tip).

Mixing manure and lime through the garden soil goes well when you do it this way (no photos yet):

  • Use a spade or a garden scoop to dig some earth from the garden within the wooden frame. Put the digged out garden earth in a bucket.
  • Continue digging until the soil level within the frame is about 5 to 7 centimeters (2 to 3 inch) lower than the garden level.
  • Add manure (or compost) and agicultural lime to the garden earth in the bucket.
  • Mix manure (or compost) and agricultural lime with the garden earth in the bucket. You can shake or turn or roll the bucket for mixing.
  • Use a spade or a garden scoop to flatten the bottom of the lowered part within the wooden frame.
  • Empty the contents of the bucket in the lowered part.
  • Use a wooden board to spread the mixture and to flatten the upper side of the mixture in the frame.

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  • Spray cold water on the soil in the seedbed. Use a watering can with a sprinkler head (with small holes).
  • Hold the sprinkler head close to the garden soil during watering. So “soft watering”. The garden soil remains “loose” during watering. That is better for seeds and plants.

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  • Wait until water has dropped in the soil.
  • Lay a placemat with sowing holes on the moist garden soil. At this placemat there is 6.5 centimeters (2.5 inch) between the holes. More info about the placemat in tip 2, nr 70.
  • Put 4 iron fixing pens in the small holes (near the corners of the placemat) to fix the placemat to the soil. More info about these pens in tip 2, nr 70.

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  • Use a sowing stick (with rubber band) to make sowing holes in the soil. In tip 37 there is a description of this sowing stick.

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  • You can make a sowing hole at each hole of the placemat. Depth of each sowing hole is about 0.5 to 1 centimeter (1/4 to 3/8 inch).

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  • Drop 3 cabbage seeds in each sowing hole. You can use the shift fall tray of tip 33. Or put seeds in a (white plastic) tray and use tweezers to pick up the seeds and to drop them in the holes.
  • After sowing, remove the placemat.

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  • Sowing holes in the garden soil, each hole with 3 cabbage seeds in it.

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  • Strew a thin layer of moist garden soil on the sowing holes. You can use a plastic flower pot with holes in the bottom for strewing. Layer thickness is about 0.5 to 1 centimeter (1/4 to 3/8 inch). After strewing the sowing holes are invisible.

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  • Carefully remove the wooden frame. Make sure that the dams remain intact.

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  • Lay a wooden board (a stepping board) over the seedbed. This keeps the soil in the seedbed moist.  And at heavy rain, no seeds will flush away.
  • You don’t have to water the seeds under the wooden board. Under the board the soil remains moist and the seeds will germinate well.
  • Remove the board when first cabbage plants are visible.

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  • Thin out when the cabbage plants are a few centimeters (about 1.5 inch) high. At each group of 2 or more cabbages, remove the smallest plants until one plant is left.
  • You can pull the plants out of the soil. Ore use scissors to cut the stems just above the soil.
  • At “groups” with only one plant, no thinning is needed, of course.
  • Spray water on the soil and on the plants after thinning.

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  • On this photo cabbage plants have been thinned out. At each sowing spot there is 1 cabbage plant (or no plant when no plants did shoot up). Distance between two plants is 6.5 centimeters (2.5 inch). This distance is required when using a “replanting tube”, see tip 41.
  • Regularly water the plants in the seedbed.
  • Let the plants grow in the bed untill they are big enough to replant.

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B)# Growing kohlrabi

Kohlrabi needs a well-fertilized moist soil. When you mix the soil with agricultural lime there is less risk of the plant disease Clubroot.

You can grow kohlrabi in a shallow furrow or in shallow holes in the soil. When watering, the water will not flow away from the plants then. Often watering the kohlrabi plants during growth (with much water) results in soft, delicious kohlrabi “balls”. When kohlrabi temporary grows in dry soil, the kohlrabi “ball” is hard, thready and not well tasting.

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B1) Sowing Kohlrabi

B1a) Sowing kohlrabi directly on the desired spots in your garden

You can sow kohlrabi directly at the desired spots in your garden. Sow at the spots where the kohlrabi plant may grow into a big plant. So no replanting needed. That is the easiest way. And it works well most of the time. Decide how many kohlrabi plants you’re gonna sow and where in your garden.

Photos will be here later.

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B1b) Sowing kohlrabi in a small seedbed and replanting later

You can sow kohlrabi in a small seedbed as described above at chapter A)#. The shot up plants grow close to each other in the seedbed. Too close to grow into big plants. When the plants are about 10 to 15 centimeters (4 to 6 inch) high, you replant them at the desired spots in your garden. You can plant the kohlrabies in shallow holes or in a shallow furrow in the garden soil.

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B2) Planting kohlrabies in shallow holes

When the kohlrabiplants in the seedbed are about 10 to 15 centimeters (4 to 6 inch) high, you can replant them in the garden soil. Plant them in shallow holes or in a shallow furrow

Replanting in shallow holes is described below.

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  • Needed:
    • One short PVC tube, 100 millimeter (4 inch) diameter, length is about 40 centimeters (1 ft 4 inch). There are 2 or 3 rubber bands over he tube, about 8 centimeters (3 inch) from one end. One rubber band easily shifts. Two or three twisted rubber bands do not shift or only a little.
    • Some plastic flower pots, bottomless (bottom has been cut away). Top diameter is about 12 centimeters (5 inch), height is about 8 centimeters (3 inch).

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  • At the desired spot, push the PVC tube in the garden until the rubber bands touch the soil. Depth is about 8 centimeters (3 inch).
  • Wobble the tube in the soil to make the hole some wider at the top.
  • Remove the tube (with garden earth) from the soil.
  • You have made a round hole in the soil, about 8 centimeters (3 inch) deep and about 12 centimeters (5 inch) wide at the top.
  • Use a stick or a garden scoop to tap against the outer side of the tube. Drop the garden earth somewhere else in the garden.

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  • Push a bottomless flower pot in the hole. Top of the pot is at soil level.

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  • Use a “plant hole tube”. More info about this tube in tip 41.
  • Or use a PVC tube of 6 centimeters (2 3/8 inch) diameter and about 0.5 meters (1 ft 8 inch) long.
  • Push this tube in the soil in the (bottomless) flowerpot until the rubber bands touch the soil. Depth is about 7 centimeters (3 inch).
  • Remove the tube from the hole.
  • There is a small round hole in the garden soil in the bottomless flower pot.
  • Use a stick or a garden scoop to tap against the outer side of the tube. Drop the garden earth somewhere else in the garden.

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  • Strew some agricultural lime in the hole in the soil. The lime prevents the plant from the plant disease Clubroot.

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  • Transplant a kohlrabi plant with root ball from the small seedbed into the small hole in the flower pot in the garden soil. You can use a “replanting tube”.
  • The replanting tube is described in tip 41.

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  • Pour cold (tap) water in the bottomless flower pot. This makes garden earth flowing around the root ball. So the kohlrabi plant gets rigid, tight in the garden soil.
  • Put a layer of (cow) manure on the garden soil in the bottomless flower pot. The manure prevents the garden soil from drying out too fast. And during watering, nutrients flow from the manure towards the roots of the plant.
  • Let the kohlrabi plant grow big.
  • Regularly (often) water the kohlrabi plants in the (bottomless) flower pot with much water. This results in soft, delicious kohlrabi “balls”.
  • Kohlrabi plants are (almost) never attacked by the maggots of the cabbage fly. So no cabbage collars needed. In chapter C1b) more info about cabbage collars. The layer of manure on the soil prevents the maggots from getting into the soil and eating the roots.
  • If there are caterpillars (White Cabbage Butterfly) on the leaves, take (grab) them from the leaves. Or hit against the leaves so the caterpillars fall on the garden soil. Pick up the caterpillors (with a garden scoop). Put the caterpillors far away on another plant or….
  • A kohlrabi “ball” can burst due to too little water supply or a growth stop after replanting. Remove that plant from the garden.

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B3) Planting kohlrabies in a shallow furrow

Replanting in a shallow furrow is described below.

These photos show kohlrabiplants growing in a furrow. The top photo is right after planting out. The middle and lower picture is before the harvest.

  • If the kohlrabi plants are 10 to 15 centimeters (4 to 6 inch) high, replant them in another spot in your garden.
  • Make a shallow furrow, about 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inch) deep. Use a garden scoop to loosen the soil in the furrow. Mix some manure and agricultural lime through the soil in the furrow.
  • Plant the kohlrabies into the furrow. Spread a thin layer of manure on the soil between the plants. Pour water in the furrow.
  • Make sure that the soil in the furrow does not dry out, so water regularly.  The manure in the furrow reduces drying of the soil and it provides fertilizer during watering.  In this way you get kohlrabies with soft well tasting balls (and not woody or fibrous).
  • Kohlrabi plants are (almost) never attacked by the maggots of the cabbage fly. So no cabbage collars needed. In chapter C1b) more info about cabbage collars. The layer of manure on the soil prevents the maggots from getting into the soil and eating the roots.
  • If there are caterpillars (White Cabbage Butterfly) on the leaves, take (grab) them from the leaves. Or hit against the leaves so the caterpillars fall on the garden soil. Pick up the caterpillors (with a garden scoop). Put the caterpillors far away on another plant or….
  • A kohlrabi “ball” can burst due to too little water supply or a growth stop after replanting. Remove that plant from the garden.

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C)# Growing cauliflower

Cauliflower and other cabbage plants are treated by plant diseases and insects. Below a list of the common ones.

  • Clubroot. Clubroot is a very serious disease. The root expands into a turnip. There is much info about clubroot on teh internet. Action: before sowing and replanting, mix the soil with “agricultal lime” (Dolokal) to make the soil less acidic.  This minimizes the risk of  “Clubroot”.
  • Cabbage Fly. These insects lay their eggs at the trunk of the cabbage plants. The maggots crawl into the ground and eat the roots of the cabbage plant. Action: apply “cabbage collars” around the plant stem. Or lay pieces of (cow) manure on the soil arund the stem.
  • “Cabbage White” (butterfly). The caterpillars of this butterfly eat cabbage leaves. They eat the cauliflower and broccoli itself too. Action: shielding the plants against the butterflies using wire mess and net. Plant the cabages in a “cabbage cage” (see further in this chapter).
  • Infestation of cabbage crops by larvas of the the cabbage gall midge. On the internet found as Contarinia nasturtii damage on cauliflower. Internet info see    here   . Inner leaves of the plant are turned. A few days later the “heart” of the plant is attacked. There are flies or eggs or maggots or larvae on the heart. This midge lays eggs on cabbage plants that grow at sheltered, calm places in the garden. So you better plant the cabbages at a windy place in the garden.
  • Too dry or too poor (bad) garden soil. Many cabbage plants (cauliflower, kohlrabi, broccoli) need an airy, well manured and moist soil to grow on well. When the growing stops for a short time (due to drought or lack of nutrients), later on the plants grow on in a different way. The plants remain small or a small loose cauliflower is growing.     Advice: plant the cabbages in well manured moist garden soil. Lay some manure on the soil around the stem. Never let the rootball dry out. Water the plants often and use much water during growth and formation of the cauliflower. Each time you water the plants, nutrients flow from the manure around the stem towards the roots of the plant.

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You can sow and grow the small cauliflower plants yourself. In chapter A)# there is a description of sowing and growing cabbage plants in a small seedbed. Later you can replant the self grown cabbages with large root balls in big plant holes in your garden.

Or you can buy small cauliflower plants in a garden shop or at a plant nursery. These plants often grow in cubes of compressed potting soil, they have small root balls or there is hardly any soil hanging on the roots.

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C1) Planting cauliflower plants in the garden soil.

In this chapter info about:

  • C1a) A “cabbage cage”. A construction made of wire mesh at 4 sides and a net on top protects the plants against the Cabbage White butterflies.
  • C1b) Planting cauliflowers in the garden soil. Cauliflower plants with big root balls, or with cubes of compressed potting soil, or with hardly any soil hanging at the roots.

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C1a) A “cabbage cage”

You can plant cauliflower plants in a butterfly free cage. In this cage no butterflies can come inside, so no eating caterpillars on the cabbage plants.

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This cabbage cage is about 2.5 meters (8 feet) long and 1.5 meters (5 feet) wide. The side of the cage has been made of wire mess, 70 centimeters (2 feet 4 inch) high. The green net has been mounted in a frame. The frame has 3 rectangular shaped screws at each long side. The frame can be lifted at 2 sides or it can be removed completely. The cage is opened at hoeing, planting, watering or harvesting. The rest of the time the cage is closed and butterfly proof.

In    tip 31)   there is a description of the cabbage cage.

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C1b) Planting small cauliflowers in the garden soil

Below is a step by step description of planting a cauliflower plant in the garden soil. With info about watering pots, cabbage collars and putting (cow) manure on the soil.

1. Needed:

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  • cauliflower plants (in a seedbed or plants in a plastic tray)
  • watering pots (lowered bottomless plastic flower pots)
  • (cow) manure (in the green flower pot)
  • agricultural lime (in the margarine box)
  • cabbage collars (2 little black rectangular plates, each with a V-groove and 2 holes)
  • bamboo satay skewers or bent iron wire pens
  • a stepping board (to stand on during planting)

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2. Loosening the soil before planting:

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  • Use a garden scoop or a fork to loosen the garden soil.

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3. Usage of watering pots

A good idea is putting a watering pot (bottomless plastic flower pot) around the plant. The watering pot makes watering the cauliflower much easier. With a watering pot, all water drops in the soil towards the roots of the plant.

You can put the watering pot in the soil before of after manuring the soil. That makes no difference. Both methods are just as good. Below there are 2 descriptions.

“Pot in before manuring”:

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  • Push a watering pot a few centimeters (about 1 inch) into the garden soil.

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  • Scoop some garden soil “out of the watering pot” and drop the soil next to the watering pot.

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  • Add some manure and agricultural lime in the hole in the watering pot.

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  • Put some garden soil back into the hole in the watering pot.
  • Mix manure and agricultural lime with the garden soil in the watering pot.

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 “Manuring before pot in”:

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  • Make a hole in the garden soil.
  • Put manure, agricultural lime and “some” garden soil into the hole.
  • Mix these materials in the hole.
  • Each time add some garden soil in the hole and mix the materials in the hole. Go on until the hole is full.

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  • Put a watering pot a few centimeters (about 1 inch) into the garden soil at the spot where you mixed manure and lime through the soil. This pot is used for easy watering.

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4. Plants wit big or small root balls

When you buy small cauliflower plants in a garden shop, mostly they have their roots in small cubes of compressed potting soil. Or the plants have hardly any soil hanging at the roots. These plants with small root balls are planted in small holes in the soil.

When you have sown your own cauliflower plants in a small seedbed, with enough spacing, you can take the plants out of the soil with big root balls. These plants with big root balls are planted in big holes in the soil.

Below there are 2 descriptions about planting cauliflower plants; one about plants with small root balls and one about plants with big root balls.

 

“Planting a cauliflower with a small root ball”:

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  • Grab a cauliflower plant with a small root ball. This is a plant growing in a cube of compressed potting soil or a plant with little soil at the roots.
  • Remove the 2 seedleaves (the 2 lowest leaves).
  • Use your hand or a garden scoop to make a small hole in the garden soil (in the watering pot).
  • Put the roots of the cauliflower plant in the small hole.
  • Fill the small hole with garden soil until the “heart” of the plant is about 1 centimeter (0.5 inch) above the soil level. This “heart” is where the stem splits into 2 or more stems with leaves. When needed you can use your hands to lift or to lower the garden soil with the plant in it.
  • In this way the cauliflower plant is planted rather deep into the soil. This prevents the plant from toppling during a heavy wind.

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“Planting a cauliflower with a big root ball (from your own plant bed)”:

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  • Make a hole in the soil in the watering pot. Diameter and depth about 6 centimeters ( 2 3/8 inch). Making the hole goes well when using a “plant hole tube”. More info about this tube in tip 41.

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  • Take a cauliflower plant with a big root ball out of the soil (of the small seedbed). Put the plant into the hole in the soil in the watering pot. You can use a garden scoop for this replanting. Replanting also goes well when using a “replanting tube”. More info about this tube in tip 41.

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  • Put some garden earth and some agricultural lime in the watering pot on the soil and around the root ball.
  • Continue until the “heart” of the plant is about 1 centimeter (0.5 inch) above the soil level. This “heart” is where the stem splits into 2 or more stems with leaves
  • In this way the cauliflower plant is planted rather deep into the soil. This prevents the plant from toppling during a heavy wind.

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5. Protection against the Cabbage Root Fly

To protect the plants against attack by the Cabbage Root Fly (maggots) you can put a cabbage collar around the stem of the plant. Or you can put a layer of (compressed) cow manure around the stem of the plant. Both methods work well. Below a description of each method.

A cabbage collar around the plant:

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  • Put a “cabbage collar” around the stem of the plant.
    • The cabbage collar has been made of 2 plastic small rectangular discs or plates. These plates have been cut from the side wall of a big plastic flower pot. Each disc has a V-groove and 2 small holes. More info about these plates in tip 2, nr 9.
    • Lay 2 plates on the soil, a little overlapping. The stem of the plant is in both V-grooves.
    • Use bent iron wire pens to fix the collar plates to the soil. Without these pens the collar plates will float (away) during watering in the watering pot.

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  • Or use satay skewers to fix the collar plates to the soil. Without these skewers the collar plates will float (away) during watering.

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A layer of cow manure around the plant:

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  • Use “dried cow manure plates”. You can take them from a few months old manure heap.

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  • Lay the “manure plates” around the plant in the watering pot.

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When you don’t have dried cow manure plates:

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  • Fill a bucket with fine-grained manure and hay (with short stems).
  • Mix the manure and the hay in the bucket.
  • Test the composition; take some mixture, make a layer on a flat (paving) stone and push on the layer. Use a stone, or shoes or gloved hands to push. Check if it forms a “plate”. If not, add some hay or manure to the bucket.

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  • Lay the “flattened” mixture of hay and manure on the soil in the watering pot around the stem of the plant.

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6. Effect of manure on the soil

It is very good to have a layer of manure on the soil around the cauliflower plant. The manure on the soil minimizes drying out of the garden soil. Each time you water the plants, nutrients flow from the manure towards the roots of the plant. Thanks to the layer of manure the soil remains open and airy and the soil does not clog by watering or rain.

When you have manure on the soil already (against the maggots of the Cabbage Root Fly), everything is okay. See the photos above.

When you have a cabbage collar around the stem against the Cabbage Fly, you better also put a layer of manure in the watering pot. See below:

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  • Put a layer of manure between the plant (half on the collar) and the edge of the watering pot.

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7. Bottomless plastic pot against heavy wind

When plants are small, cauliflowers can be damaged by heavy wind. You better protect the plants against the wind using a bottomless plastic pots.

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  • After planting, you can put a high “bottomless edge of a plastic flower pot” upside down over the plant.
  • Remove this “wind shield” when the cauliflower plant has grown bigger.

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8. Watering the plants

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Cauliflower plants need regularly (= very often) much cold water to keep on growing. Below some watering info;

  • Water right after planting; pour cold water in the watering pot.
  • A plant with a small root ball can be flacid, pathetic looking for many days after replanting. Later on the plant will grow on again.
  • Plants with big root balls are more firm after replanting.
  • Water the plants twice a week during growth. Water with cold water.
  • Water 3 or 4 times a week when the cauliflower is formed. Water with cold water.

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9. My experience:  “manure plates” or cabbage collars.

Manure plates (or a layer of compressed cow manure) around the stem of the plant works well against the maggots of the cabbage root fly. The maggots can not pass this manure layer. These manure plates work just as well as cabbage collars.

Using manure plates means less work (no cabbage collars to be made) and at the same time the advantages of manure around the plant:

  • During watering, nutrients flow from the manure towards the roots of the plant,
  • The garden soil remains open and airy and the soil does not clog by watering or rain.

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C2) Harvest

Planting in March (early spring) can result in a big cauliflower in July (mid summer). After harvesting the cauliflower, remove the (whole) plant from the garden soil. You can put the leaves of the plant on your own compost heap.

Attention: You better put the stem and the roots of the plant at the municipal waste container. Not on your compost heap. For there can be organism on or in the roots or the stem of the plant that can cause plant diseases or plagues later.

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C3) Remarks

C3a) Planting date

Cauliflowers that have been planted between mid March and end of April (early to mid spring) will give a good harvest in June – July (early to mid summer). Cauliflowers that have been planted at a later date can have more diseases.

C3b) One crop

Never plant cauliflower or another cabbage plant twice at the same place in the garden (within one year). When you do so, there is more risk of Cubroot and other plant diseases.

C3c) Planting later

In a garden shop or at a plant nursery you can buy small cauliflower plants until early June (mid to late spring). After that time there are no plants for sale.

After buying, you can “store” small cauliflowers to plant them later. Below a description.

After buying, put the cube root of the cauliflower plant in a small (plastic) tray. Pour a little water in the tray. Keep the tray with plant outdoors in a cold place in the shadow. Water the root ball now and then. Do not let the root ball dry out. In this way the plant stays alive but it will not grow very fast. You can store the plant for about 4 weeks.

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End of June: On this photo a cauliflower plant stored for 4 weeks after buying.

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End of June: The same cauliflower plant, taken out of the tray. After 4 weeks of storage the root ball looks still okay. The plant is still “small”.

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End of June: The same cauliflower, planted in a mixture of garden soil, cow manure and agricultural lime. Use a watering pot, use cabbage collars and put some manure on the soil (between the cabbage collars and the edge of the pot).

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From planting on: frequently pour much cold water in the watering pot.

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End of September: The cabbage plant has grown much bigger. There is a cauliflower at the plant. The cauliflower has been covered with leaves to keep it white. In sunlight, the cauliflower gets yellowish.

Caterpillars of the Cabbage White” (butterfly) have eaten from the leaves (holes in the leaves).

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End of September: the cauliflower can be harvested. On the bottom photo the cauliflower lays on a stepping stone of 30 centimeters (12 inch) square. Cauliflower is undamaged and big enough.

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Growing broccoli

For growing broccoli you can use the same tips and conditions as for growing cauliflower.  After harvesting a big broccoli from the plant you can let grow small broccolis in the leaf axils.

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