Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Brassica Patch

Balmy weather today for working in the garden, after the storms, snow and frost the ground remains remarkably warm and is very easily worked.

The black plastic in the vegetable garden needed tidying up after the strong winds. It was mostly in place but smoothing it out brought me to the vegetable garden and the fact that the brassica bed for next year still needed working. Some of the plot (used for legumes this year) had been dug over and freshly manured with straw and sawdust from the hen and goose sheds. This has been protected by plastic and needed more weights on it to ensure it stays put, but other areas were still waiting to be dug over. The weeds are enjoying this warm (for the most part) late autumn and early winter. The vegetable plot is a favoured spot for buttercup and they are growing as vigorously as if it were spring. Digging them out is very satisfying, and nice and easy with no plants in the way.

Putting fresh manure on the brassica patch has always given good results. I only put it on the ground at the beginning of the winter, and not too thick, it is strong stuff. It is then protected under plastic. By the spring much of it has been worked down into the soil by the worms and I can plant directly into the soil without further digging. Each plant is pot raised and planted deeply with a dusting of lime to sweeten the soil. The plants grow huge and healthily, and I have no qualms about bacteria if the plants are to be cooked.

However I am more cautious if I want to grown leaves for salads. Many of the salad leaves are brassicas; rocket, mizuna, red mustard etc. To keep to your rotation plan they should be grown in the brassica patch; lettuce, beetroot, chard and spinach can be grown wherever space is available as they are not usually part of any rotation group. If you are growing one of the mixed salad seed packets on offer, for cut-and-come-again, these usually include brassicas and therefore should be in the brassica patch too. In the open plot I therefore need to keep a patch manure free, which can then be dedicated to these salad varieties. Near to the path is best for ease of access. Alternatively consider sowing these in a container, which could be outside. They don't need much depth of compost because the plants usually are harvested when very small. A grow bag can be used successfully for raising cut-and-come-again salad and can be put somewhere convenient and away from slugs etc.