Now that fall has officially arrived, many gardeners have already prepared their gardens for a variety of cool-season vegetables; if you have not prepared your garden yet, you still have time as there are still a variety of crops that can be planted. Some of the more popular vegetables that are planted in September and October are cole crops; crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, and kale are all members of cole crops, or the cabbage family. These are very good crops to plant in the fall and these vegetables can add color to the garden during times that most gardens are not planted. With the benefit of added color, these vegetables can also provide you with a plentiful harvest. Some of the cole crops that will be briefly discussed are broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
Broccoli is a very popular vegetable that is grown throughout the cooler months. Direct seeded broccoli should have started earlier in September and the plants should be preparing to be transplanted into the garden during the month of October (approximately 5-6 weeks to produce transplants from seed). It is important when transplanting broccoli to remember to not damage the roots on the transplants as well as do not damage the plant. If growers are still trying to direct-seed broccoli, it is important to remember the optimum soil temperature range for germination is 45°F - 95°F, the correct depth in which the seed is to be planted is ¼ inch to 1 inch, and to also remember that it take 7 – 14 days for the seed to germinate. When planting transplants, it is important to plant the transplants 9 inches - 12 inches apart, this will allow for the broccoli head to have room to develop and grow. This shallow-root vegetable responds very well to high rates of fertilizer. About four to six pounds of 8-8-8 or three to four pounds of 8-24-24 per 100 feet of row will benefit the plants growth and maximize yields. An additional side-dress of about a pint of ammonium nitrate per 100 feet of row 2-4 weeks after transplanting and additional side-dressings in two week intervals, two to three more times, has shown to be very beneficial. There are some recommended varieties that seem to fare well in south Louisiana; varieties like Packman, Windsor, Diplomat, Patron and Gypsy tend to be the more popular varieties.
Cabbage is another cole crop that does very well in south Louisiana. This vegetable can be direct seeded through the month of September and early October. Usually once the middle of October has arrived, direct-seeded has halted for the season and transplants are being put in the garden. If gardeners are still direct-seeding cabbage, the seeding rate is about 2 ounces of seed for every 10,000 transplants; this equals to about 2/10 ounces of seed for every 100 transplants. When direct seeding, the optimum soil temperature should be between 45°F to 85°F, the seeds should be planted at a depth of ¼ inch to 1 inch, and it usually take anywhere between 7 – 14 days for the seed to germinate. On average, direct seeded cabbage takes 90-140 days to harvest from the time the seed is planted and transplants take 70-110 days to harvest (the days from planting to harvest will vary with the different varieties, planting methods and time of year planted). Soil pH is also very important when growing cabbage. Cabbage likes soils that range from 6.0 – 6.8 in pH. If growers have recently done a soil test and the pH is too high, adding sulphur to the soil will drop the pH; if growers need to increase the pH in the soil, adding lime to the soil will raise the pH (it is important to know what the growers target pH is so the correct amount of sulphur or lime can be properly added). Recommended varieties for cabbage during the fall and winter are Bravo, Rio Verde, Silver Dynasty, Thunderhead, and Emblem.
Cauliflower is also a very good vegetable to grow; this vegetable is also known as “heading broccoli”. Although very similar to broccoli, it is a little harder to grow but a good source of vitamin C. This vegetable needs rapid and continuous growth throughout the growing season in order to properly develop the cauliflower head, or curd as it is called. Applying fertilizer at the same rates as broccoli will ensure the rapid growth occurs. Cauliflower will mature in about 2 months, depending upon the variety. Cauliflower, like broccoli, is direct-seeded or transplanted in September to early October. If growers are still direct-seeding, it is important to space about 12 inch – 18 inches apart and the seeding rate is the same as broccoli and cabbage, about 2 ounces of seed for every 10,000 transplants which equals to 2/10 ounces of seed for every 100 transplants. For the seed to germinate, the optimum soil temperature needs to range from 45°F - 85°F, the planting depth should be ¼ inch - ½ inch and it usually takes 7-10 days for the seed to germinate. The time from planting to harvest will vary based on varieties, but transplants usually range from 55 days to 90 days and direct-seeded plants range from 75 to 120 days. When the head, or curd, is about 3 inches in diameter, the leaves are usually tied up around the curd to protect the curd from sunlight, this is called blanching. Blanching is done in order to keep the curd white in color because direct sunlight will cause the curd to turn yellow. Since cauliflower is blanched, the curd will not be available for viewing so knowing when to harvest is important. From the time the vegetable is blanched and harvested, will depend on the temperature. In warmer weather, cauliflower usually reaches a harvestable stage 3-4 days after being blanched; if the temperatures are cooler, this time is extended to 7-10 days. If home gardeners are not sure if the cauliflower is ready for harvest after it has been blanched, gardeners can untie the leaves and view the curd to see if it is ready for harvest. If the vegetable is ready for harvest, it can be harvested then; if it is not ready for harvest, it can be re-blanched.
Vegetable gardening during the fall can be very productive when planning cole crops. Knowing what crops are being planted, whether the crops will be direct-seeded or transplanted, and also knowing the pH of the soil and fertilizer rates can make fall gardens very plentiful. Cole crops are crops that tend to be very popular in gardens during the cooler months and this allows gardeners the benefit of gardening year around.