An early start on Saturday morning with a little girl desperate to get up and go down stairs and with the sun sneaking through the bind in the bedroom, there seemed very little hope of having a lazy start to the day. So, down stairs we went trying our very best not the disturbed the rest of the house, the usual weekend routine of children's television and snuggles on the settee, it was time to discuss what we wanted to do with our day.
The previous week both Eva and I took the opportunity of the mild weather and have our first wander to the allotment, a good 25-minute walk from door to door, so for Eva's little legs she did very well. Throughout the walk, we talked about the allotment, what she liked doing and, probably more importantly, what she would like to grow this year. I should probably say at this point Eva is becoming quite fussy with food at the moment and we are working hard to vary what we all are eating, but I'm happy to report that broccoli is the flavour of the week at the moment with, newly introduced, cauliflower a close second. So, when we talked about what should go on the growing list this year, it was no surprise that these two were at the top of the list, closely followed by potatoes and eggs (...?)
This week I was keen to follow up with last week’s reintroduction to the allotment and I was in two minds whether to make the same walk again (to the allotment) and start with the spring tidy up around the plot or continue with sowing seeds. With many other jobs to do and time against us I opted for another seed sowing session to cross a few more plants off my list.
With Eva in the gardening mind set from the previous week I asked her if she would like to sow some seeds with me, after a little (gentle) persuasion she agreed, so a quick breakfast and off we set to the office. At the moment, the office window bottom space is proving quite useful, and with everything on hand it’s the best place to sow the seeds.
With quite a large list of things we would like to grow this year it is important that we get several seeds in the compost and counting the weekends before May, I know time is against us. Keeping Eva interested I decided that Brassicas would be a good idea, there are several them on my list, the sowing method is the same and if cause Eva's favourites are among them.
The varieties sown today
Again, like with the onions, I'm sticking with varieties that have been a success in the past, I've selected the following seeds for this season.
Cauliflower - Cauliflower Igloo seeds, by Kings Seeds
Broccoli - Calabrese Chevalier F1 seeds, by Kings Seed
Cabbage - Cabbage Red Drumhead seeds, by Kings Seeds & Savoy Best of All seeds, by Kings Seeds
Brussel sprouts - Evesham Special
Now when it comes to numbers, I always remember two things, how many plants will I need? And do I have enough space on the allotment for the plants to grow as they should?
With Cabbages, it's easy as the plants will begin to mature around mid to late July, so we can harvest 1 per week until early October, so aiming for 20 plants between Reg and myself is easy to accommodate for germination and the final planting area.
Brussel Sprouts are a little bit different as we only want them for Christmas, so 4-6 plants will be more than enough.
Cauliflower and Broccoli are the more difficult to judge, as they sometime start to bolt when the weather gets too hot and the water is harder to find for the plant. When I refer to ‘bolt’ or ‘bolting’, it's a term used when to plant decides to develop seed heads or grows long shouts for the seed heads. It's what the plant wants to do and completely natural, but the plant becomes less recognisable and the taste and texture may change, so realistically you need to harvest the plant before it gets to this point. With both Cauliflower and Broccoli your harvest window is quite short, maybe 2-3 weeks with Cauliflower and a week less with Broccoli. A way around this is to stagger your sowing, plant 8-12 plants now and then a second batch in 4 weeks’ time and maybe a third after that (depending on how many vegetables you need) You will probably find you are ready to harvest batch one as batch three are ready to go into the ground.
My Sowing Method for Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Brussel Spouts
As I mentioned before, I’m going to use the same sowing method for all five of my Brassicas, this method is using a Jiffy pellet to germinate the seeds and allow them to grow on strong enough before potting on to a cell pack and then finally transplanting to the allotment growing area. I feel there are a number of benefits to using this method, one, there is no pricking out seedlings, two, the young plant isn’t disturbed in the early stages of growing, and finally, I believe a strong root ball / system is developed within the pellet, which will only help in the fight against club root.
So, on with the sowing:
- Using a full seed tray with no holes, place your jiffy pellets (24mm) face up in the seed tray, remember 1 for each plant that you want to grow.
- Cover the pellets with approximately 1.5cm of water – Tip use luke-warm water, this will be to your benefit when handling the pellets.
- Leave the submerged pellets for 10 to 15 minutes, until all the water has been soaked up or (if you’ve used a little too much water) until the pellets are to full height (approx. 4.5cm) and moist.
- Take one jiffy pellet in one hand and a pencil in the other, with the pencil make a hole in the top centre of the pellet, I usually make the hole approx. 1.5cm deep (maybe the full tip of the pencil).
- With your dry fingers place one seed into the hole of your pellet.
- Using the pencil, cover the seed with the compost from around of the top of the pellet.
- Place the pellet in a seed tray, cell pack or trolley pack, to keep the different varieties separate – I have used a Trolley Pack 2, placing 6 pellets in each cell.
- Label the sown seeds up, and place in the propagator for germination on the window bottom.
- Repeat the same method for all the brassicas you are sowing.
If you have a helper (as I did) a good part for them to do is placing the seeds into the pellet, it keeps them clean and dry and they will get a great sense of doing the hard bit.