Back in August we cleared the ground here of rubble and weeds, finished our stone wall and planted cabbages and kale. Just under a month later and careful hoeing between the rows, and a vigilant eye for weeds has produced a wonderful bed of brassicas for next spring. We were asked recently on our Facebook page to talk more about how to start a garden, so this is how we did it.
This patch once housed stacks of old turf which we grew pumpkins on, over the last few years that turf turned to loam and was used around the garden but what was once a thin, stony soil is now a deep luscious one. You can prepare your cabbage patch for next year now. Select a patch of ground that is sheltered, in full sun and which, if you need to, can get around to net. Cabbages take up space but remember you don't need forty cabbages - no one eats forty cabbages over winter, not even when we did the Wartime Garden, if we had we would have had no neighbours and you would have had to approach us downwind. Let's talk soil preparation then. This week get out and pull out every weed from the patch, removed any large stones and drop a good eight inch mulch of manure on top, add lime to raise the pH, water, cover with plastic and leave over winter.
Next spring use the bed for cash crops of fast lettuces and radishes. From March onwards sow your spring cabbages under cover; you can find a blog post on how to sow seed here. Put your full seed trays in a greenhouse or on a window sill and prick out into individual cells when the cabbages have true leaves. You do this by using a pencil to tease the roots out whilst holding the seedling by a leaf, never hold a seedling by the stem or you will kill it. Do not throw away your seed packet as you will need it to know your spacing for the final cabbage patch. Grow on undercover until the little plants have 4-5 leaves, then harden off. This is the process of leaving the small plants in a sheltered spot during the day and taking them back undercover at night, slowly over a week or two weeks, you leave the plants out longer and longer until they stay out all night.
Your new brassica bed should now be clear of that cash crop from July and August onwards, take time to weed again and firm down the soil by walking backwards and forwards in a shuffling gait, placing your weight on your heels. Plant your cabbage according to the spacing suggested on the seed packet, this can be anything from one foot to eighteen inches. Firm the cabbages in and if your plants are leggy (too much stem), plant them up to the first true leaves and firm around to stop the cabbages from being blown over. Water throughout autumn until it goes cold, you have the choice then of covering the cabbages with a fleece tunnel or allow them to face up to the weather. Next spring you will have cabbages and spring greens. As always grow as many as you want or as little as you want, don't be afraid to mix it up and plant them between perennials and annuals.