Cole Crops and Soil
by National Gardening Association Editors
Good soil makes for healthy cole crop plants and larger and sweeter harvests.
Cole crops will produce well in nearly any type of soil, as long as you take the time to till or spade the planting spot thoroughly two or three times before planting. These vegetables grow best in loose soil that's rich in organic matter. So, while you're preparing the soil, mix in plenty of old shredded leaves, manure, compost, straw or kitchen garbage to enrich the topsoil.
Spring cole crops thrive in sandy soils that drain well. Spring showers can sometimes waterlog roots in heavy soil. If you have mostly clay soil, use raised beds and work in some organic matter to loosen up the clay particles. Fall cole crops, on the other hand, actually prefer a heavier soil because it retains moisture better. Rainfall at the end of the growing season can sometimes be scarce.
Even if you've turned over your soil with a spade or tiller, always work your planting area one more time on planting day. This adds fresh air to the seedbed and loosens the soil there.
Like most garden vegetables, cole crops grow best in soil that's slightly acid with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. You should have your soil's pH tested every couple of years to determine its acidity or alkalinity, either by your county cooperative extension service or with a home soil-testing kit available at most garden centers.
If the test indicates that your pH is too high or too low, or that your soil is deficient in certain vital nutrients, you can remedy the situation by adding the prescribed corrective substances. This might be lime, sulfur or other minerals.
Autumn is the best time for soil testing and for taking necessary corrective measures. There's plenty of time for the additions to work their magic on the soil. Of course, you can test and add lime in the spring. However, because lime takes a few months to change the pH of the soil, it's best added in the fall. The new seasons' crops will be that much better if you take care of the pH four to five months ahead of planting time.
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