Friday, August 21, 2015

Brassicas for Fall and Winter

I've finally lifted nearly all of the alliums from Bed #1 and started the transition to fall and winter plantings. This is the space that was occupied by bulbing onions from the start of the year. Off to the left are the leeks that I had hoped to grow through the fall and into the winter, but I'll be pulling most of them sooner rather than later because they continue to bolt. Off to the right there's a glimpse of the wispy French Gray shallots which have been lifted since I took this photo.

One herb that thrives in my winter garden is cilantro. I had allowed a few plants to grow in the onion patch and I let them bloom to attract good bugs and then keep going to produce dry seeds. After prepping this bed for planting I shook the seeds off of one of those plants which you can see sitting on the soil in the photo above.  I'll rake these into the soil later on in the season so they can grow after our warm fall weather is just a memory.

We had a heat wave last weekend and as is typical here along the coast the temperatures swing in the opposite direction when the natural air conditioning, aka the fog, turns on. It seems like the hotter the heat wave the thicker the fog that follows. I don't mind the fog at this time of year, it rolls in in the late afternoon or early evening and departs by mid morning. It makes for some great sleeping weather if you like to sleep with your windows open. The cooler weather is perfect for setting out new plants.

My collection of brassica seedlings has been hogging space on the outdoor tables. During the heatwave they got moved to a different table that sits in the shade of a large umbrella. The tray on the left holds one pot of Di Ciccio broccoli seedlings that need to be potted up. There's three lettuce varieties - Italienischer and Jericho seedlings waiting to be set out and extra starts of Winter Density. I always sow far more than I need. The best seedlings get potted up or set out and even then I keep extras in case of an unexpected demise in the garden. I was nearly tempted to replace the Winter Density lettuce in the garden with the extras. I had set out the plants just before the heat hit and the poor things wilted, but they seem to be rebounding now so they're getting a reprieve. The other two pots are my Dorato D'Asti celery and Monarch celeriac starts.

Here's the fall/winter brassica plot set to grow. I put in three Romanesco broccoli plants which I blogged about long ago here and here. I should do a proper spotlight post about this veggie one of these days. There are also three Di Sicilia Violetto cauliflower plants which made funky but tasty heads this summer. I hope to get better results with this planting but I really have no clue how they will behave. Those 6 plants are in the foreground set out 44 inches apart in staggered rows about 10 inches apart. These plants get to be huge and will elbowing each other around in that space before long.

The other side of the bed is occupied by six Gustus brussels sprouts plants over on the right. Those are more closely spaced. I've never successfully grown brussels sprouts before so I turned to my garden bible - Golden Gate Gardening by Pam Pierce - where she recommends that a short-season variety such as this (100 days or less from transplant to maturity) be spaced 12 to 15 inches apart. To the left of the brussels sprouts are three Apollo brokali and three Batavia broccoli plants. Those are spaced a bit wider than the sprouts.

Next up in the fall/winter brassica lineup are Lacinato kale, Tronchuda Beira cabbage, and Amazing Taste cauliflower. I have to sow my seeds ASAP to get seedlings that will be large enough to be productive through the winter. If I can get them into the garden by mid to late September they should be ok. The end of this bed is where I plan to grow most of the other brassicas but it is fully occupied by the Delicata squash plants at the moment. The vines are full of squash and they are starting to turn from green to gold so I think they will be ready to harvest by the time that I need to set out the next round of brassicas in their place.

Maturing Candystick Dessert Delicata squash


  1. An interesting post Michelle. What is the function of the plastic bottles with the red ribbons? Scarecrows? I do have to say though that I grow Gustus, and 12-15" seems pretty close. Mine are like 20" apart and seem crowded.

    1. Yup, scarebottles - they clank around in the breeze and the ribbons flash in the sun which helps to keep the birds from feasting on the foliage. Well, if the sprouts are too crowded I can remove the two plants in the center row. It's all just an experiment at this point.

    2. My Gustus are 24" apart and pushing on one another. Though they have been growing since spring and are now about 4' tall. Soon they are going to push their row cover off if they keep growing.

      I wish I had grown lettuce starts indoors. The ones outside just aren't growing as fast as the indoor ones do. It would have given them a bitter jump start to fall.

  2. Looks like you are all set for your fall must be nice to be so well organized. Those transplants look amazing - I don't know what it is but my transplants haven't been the greatest this year.

  3. It looks like the Candystick Delicata is doing well for you. Mine petered out early, but the Honeyboat did better. I always try and have extra plants too because you never know what can happen in the garden!

  4. That's interesting; my brassicas are a long way ahead of yours - but then I suppose our Winter is probably more severe and comes earlier than yours. I hope your bird-scarer bottles work OK. I'm not sure our pigeons would be very impressed by them! I find that netting is required if my brassicas are to survive all the pests that attack them.

  5. What a great idea to add the ribbon to the scare bottles. That delicata looks wonderful, much larger than the variety I grew a few years back.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I value your insights and feedback.