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Gardening with Laurie: Time to plant Cole vegetables

Sept. 22, 2011 at 4:22 a.m.


By Laurie Garretson

At last, we are getting a break from the extremely high temperatures, plus many areas have received some much-needed rain. Cooler temperatures and rain have got to be two of the best gardening conditions that we long for.

All year, many gardeners look forward to their fall gardens. After the summer we've been through, I imagine everyone is looking forward to this fall.

Veteran gardeners know that fall vegetable gardens can be the best of the year. Many vegetables are at their peak flavor and quality when grown during the cooler days of fall. Cool, or I should say cole, vegetables are beginning to show up in many gardens. The word cole refers to a group of vegetables that are all members of the mustard family, other wise known as crucifers. Cruciferous veggies are all distant relatives of a wild cabbage that was once grown in the Mediterranean and parts of Asia Minor. Cole crops include broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, mustard, different root crops and numerous oriental vegetables.

Cole crops can be grown in fall or spring, but the cool fall temperatures bring out the sweetness in these veggies and help them taste better. Cole crops are considered easy to grow in well-drained soils that have been amended with lots of compost and organic fertilizer. Many of the cole crop veggies will tolerate more shade than many other types of vegetables.

Even though the temperatures are cooling down some, you still might want to keep a close watch on all your vegetable plants. It is still possible that we may have temperatures in the 90s for a few more weeks. Tender, young transplants will certainly appreciate a break from the afternoon sun. Devise some way to provide some afternoon shade for a few weeks for the plants to get acclimated.

Most cruciferous veggies will take winter temperatures down to the low 20s with little to no damage. Kale can even handle temps into the mid teens. Keep in mind that any plant's hardiness will all depend on the plants stage of development at the time of an especially cold night. Cauliflower and broccoli heads are actually much more susceptible to cold damage than the plants themselves.

When growing cruciferous plants, you need to know about two particular pests, cabbage loopers and cutworms. If not prepared, you could quickly lose young plants to these bad guys. Overnight, a beautiful broccoli or chard plant can look like Swiss cheese come morning once a looper finds it. Then there are cutworms that can sever a tender young plant right off at the soil line. Be prepared for these and all other worms and caterpillars by using your Bt products. Bt ( Bacillus thuringiensis) products are safe products to use on all edible crops to get rid of worms and caterpillars.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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