Hartley Magazine

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Growing Brassicas

Gardeners learn by experience, so everyone says, and if that is the case then I should be an expert on brassicas. I have had such calamitous experiences with brassicas that I have now reached the conclusion that they cannot even venture outside without the full set of belt and braces. They are the vegetable that – above all others – you have to tool up for. There is no getting round it. If you just pop a few cabbages out into the ground, all nonchalant and casual like, and you will return that evening to find a stalk and a few slimy leaves. They need both belt and braces: slug pellets, of course, but above all a cage covered in fine enviromesh. Not the cheaper, larger-holed, breezier netting – no, I have tried and failed with that too – it must be fine environmesh that lets absolutely nothing through.

Growing Brassicas
Everyone should be an expert on growing Brassicas

And this is why my greenhouse is acting as a nursery at the moment. I have the winter brassica plants, I just don’t have the time or the wherewithal to build them a cabbage-white proof, flea-beetle proof, pigeon-proof cage (with slug pellets). It will be done within a week or so but in the meantime it’s nice to see them growing so healthily. I know it is almost the worst way to grow Brussels sprouts, for instance. They should be grown hard and tough, so that they have the defences to cope with winter winds. Mine are growing soft and sappy, they will be battered come winter if I can’t get them out to toughen up soon, but they seem so happy (see also my rocket micro-leaves in the gutter at the front of the picture. Not a flea beetle nibble on them!), it seems almost a shame to thrown them out there into such a brassica-unfriendly world.