Saturday, January 22

Time to talk … of cabbages and Kings

Regular visitors may be aware that we have had problems with Brussels sprouts for the past couple of years. In the 2009 season we thought the sprouts were pathetic but at least we did manage to harvest something.

As sprouts are hungry feeders we thought that maybe the land was a bit lacking in nutrients. Maybe we hadn’t watered and fed the plants enough, so last year – 2010 - we tried harder. We did all the things that you are supposed to do to grow sprouts successfully. We added lime, we added plenty of fertiliser, we firmed the ground, during the growing season we fed and watered! The plants started to grow well, then they just seemed to give up and  suddenly go backwards to reward our efforts by failing to produce a single sprout!
It’s strange as in the past we have grown both green and red varieties but suddenly the production of sprouts seems to be beyond us. The whitefly don’t help but other people manage to have both whitefly AND sprouts. We are now wondering whether club-root may be an issue so this year we are going to try a club root resistant variety called Crispus to see whether that grows any better.
Most agree (except for one US president) that broccoli deserves a place on any plot – we have seed left of Early Purple Sprouting, Summer Purple and White Sprouting. We also have seed left for Calabrese Green Magic and Marathon.
We will be planting cauliflower – Kaleidoscope again. This mixture produces purple, green, yellowish orange and creamy white curds which seem to be quicker to produce curds that also hang on better than the white varieties. The purple heads turn a bit blue when cooked which takes a bit of getting used to! We are also going to try a club root resistant variety Clapton.
We grow a range of cabbages for most we have seed left from last year. Our chosen varieties are Kilaton (autumn), Huzaro (red cabbage), Primo (summer), Tundra (winter), January King (winter) and Flowers of Spring which will be new to us. We don’t really enjoy Savoy cabbages and so this type is absent from our list.

Finishing off our ‘greens’ list is Borecole Curly Kale Afros.

As we do have signs of club root on our plot we always start our brassica seeds (including turnips and swede) in pots or modules and grow them into small plants before planting them out so they have a better start if club root does affect them. Our method is explained here.

So why cabbages and KINGS - well a group of us on our allotment site are members of the NSALG and get about a 50% discount on seeds from Kings Seeds so we buy lots of our seeds from them. Their website catalogue isn't the fanciest but the company sell good seeds and offer a reliable service.

And just for those who wonder where they have heard this title before try here.


  1. Wow, that is an impressive collection of brassicas photos! (definitely fits the description of what I call "gastro-porn"!) I'm jealous now... :-( Who cares if you can't produce sprouts when you have so many other lovely veg to choose from? Perhaps you ought to try some of those new hybrids I wrote about recently, like Brokali and Brukale? They might succeed where more traditional things have failed.

  2. I agree with Mark. Fantastic photos of wonderful vegetables. Who would bother growing plain green or white when you can have a rainbow of veggies.

  3. Amazing cauliflower, Your January King took me right back to 1975 when I opened my greengrocer store in Aberdeen, this was the first cabbage offered to me by the growers. Broccoli, now does my memory serve me right, was that President Ford who made that expensive blunder.

  4. But I like sprouts Mark! We're having one last go but once you have trialled the hybrids and shown us the way we may grow them too.

    Hi Hazel - as I mentioned eating bluish cauliflower may not be to everyone's taste but you get used to it!

    It was President Bush Alistair.

  5. We don't have long cool weather for the brussel sprout. I really like your brassicas photos. I rarely take pictures of our brassicas because the pest has made a lot of artistic design on it. Sue, I can only find purple cauliflowers seeds other than white. Can't find any supply for the orange cauliflower curd yet. Does this cauliflower has a bit of different taste than the common ones?

  6. The cauliflowers all taste the same really Diana - they are just more interesting to look at!

    We have to grow our brassicas under net to try and keep off the pigeons and caterpillars. The large and small white butterfly cabbages soon devastate things. If you haven't ever watched them munch their way through brassica leaves then we took a bit of video which is on this page of our website.

  7. I am impressed with all the colors! I love the purple ones the most. My first try at growing Brussels sprouts was this year. I hoped to have them this winter, but they are just now starting to form sprouts. I hope they will be ready for harvest in early spring.

  8. Great review, Sue.

    Some vegetables seem to thrive on neglect. Brassicas don't normally fall into this catagory being greedy and lime loving, but just perhaps this is the case with your brussels.

  9. That's what we thought Mal which is why we thought that we'd done all the things to rectify this.

    The cabbages growing in the same bed were fine.

    Next year as well as trying the club root resistant one (maybe the roots being affected would have meant they didn't benefit form our attentions as much as they should -although I did foliar feed) we will try growing on one of the 'newer' parts of the plot!

  10. I didn't get any brussels this year either as they were devoured very early on by flea beetle...I have learnt that I have been planting my winter brassicas too early so I will remedy that this year.

    I have some sprouting broccolli in but I don't know how well it will do...I lost some plants to the extreme cold so it is a case of wait and see.

    I have lots of stuff I want to grow this year but as I have plenty of seed stock I am going to make sure this is used up so until I go through it I'm not entirely sure what I am growing.

    Hope you get better results with your brussels this year.

  11. I hope that you do as well Tanya. We do get flea beetle damage on our radish, swede and beetroot leaves but as we don't eat the leaves from those plants it hasn't been a problem

  12. Wow! They look so beautiful! Its really impressive collection.

    Keep on blogging!

  13. Thanks mj

    Sorry but non gardening related links have been removed - hope you understand


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