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Cabbage on my mind

Cabbage on my mind

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The subtle chill of an early autumn morning has PHIL DUDMAN in a planting frenzy of all things Brassicaceae.

The Brassicas are the perfect family to invite around for a warming winter dinner. What a delightfully interesting and varied bunch they are too. Organic broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, wombok and kale become the staples of our winter diet at my place, and we never get bored with them.

They thrive in cool temperatures, so as soon as autumn arrives, I madly start to prepare beds ready for planting. Brassicas are a hungry lot and tend to sulk if you don’t give them what they want, so I throw in as much compost and well-rotted manure as I can muster, adding a good handful of blood and bone per square metre along with a tight fistful of lime just to sweeten things up, which they like.

I have already started to sow seed, and I prefer to lay them down into punnets this time of year in my subtropical climate, so that I can move them around to protect them from the heat when we get a sudden autumn scorcher. They’re up and running now, and to keep them happy and healthy, I give them a little taste of half strength liquid seaweed and kelp fertiliser every week.

The biggest risks to their happiness are grubs and caterpillars, which are particularly gluttonous at this time of year, so I get in and check my babies daily to pick them off.  If you’ve ever grown cabbages, you know that these pests are an ongoing concern throughout the plants development, but this year I am better prepared with a new secret weapon that just arrived in the mail. It’s a vegie net… which is nothing more than a very fine weave synthetic fabric that acts as a barrier to adult moths and butterflies looking to land and lay their eggs on brassica crops, and because it is extremely light, it can simply be tossed over the plants without damaging them – no frame required. Fellow Organic Gardener blogger Simon Webster has reported great success with his vegie net over cabbage crops, so I can’t wait to get my babies in the ground and let the net do its magic!