Growing Brassicas in the Shade – Diary of a Rocket Gardener

Well, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a successful looking bunch of brassicas in my veg patch. It’s very exciting to see (I hope these are not famous last words! If they get destroyed by caterpillars this weekend, I will know why!!)

Having planted out in early June, I am already seeing some whopper swede roots – I have grown swede a couple of times before but only ever harvested small roots. These are a very respectable size and just at the right time as I’ve got a lot of Cornish pasties to make for a friend’s birthday bash coming up in a couple of weeks. Also, the cabbages are looking so great. They were planted at the same time, in early June, and I can see some nice looking hearts forming on the Savoys already. Meanwhile, the broccoli plants are looking very healthy and I’ve harvested loads of kale. The one crop that doesn’t seem to be doing as well in that bed is the Brussels Sprouts, and I think I know the reason for this… The sprouts are growing in the sunny end of the bed, and all the others are, for a fair chunk of the day, in shade.

Growing the kale, cabbages, swede and broccoli in the shade means that the soil is much, much cooler, and I’m sure this is why the plants have done so well this season by comparison to the sprouts. I’ve barely even watered them (I’ve barely watered anything, but up until this week it has all done surprisingly well because of heavy mulching – see post below) and yet they are growing extremely well, to the point that I think I shall mulch this bed quite heavily before next spring to replenish the soil, and plant them in the same place again. This goes against all crop rotation advice, but sometimes I think you have to go against the grain, and if I manage to get a good crop of tight cabbages, then I’m going to go for it!

Other crops that have done well in this bed over the years include wild rocket, mizuna and lettuces – I do think it is sometimes good to use the shade to our advantage, bearing in mind that there is often more moisture in the soil and cooler temperatures too.

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