Spacing Cole Crop Plants
by National Gardening Association Editors
There's a simple rule of thumb for spacing cabbage; the closer you plant them, the smaller the heads. Commercial growers have started planting these vegetables closer because most shoppers prefer a 3- to 4-pound head to a larger one. You can plant cabbages closer than most seed packets instruct, and you can save space by staggering the plants in 10- to 20-inch-wide rows.
Start by planting the first two cabbages on each side of the row, 10- to 12-inches apart. Then measure down 10 inches and place the third cabbage in the center of the row. Continue alternating two plants, then one plant, until the row is complete. The row ends up looking like a domino design of cabbage plants. You can also plant wider rows with a 3-2-3 arrangement.
There are other advantages with this method than just saving space. The plants in staggered wide rows mature at different rates, so the harvest is stretched over a number of weeks. You'll also notice that the leaves of closely planted cabbages shade the ground, keeping it cool, moist and weed free. This saves some gardening headaches like weeding, mulching and frequent watering.
Spacing Other Cole Crops
Cauliflower takes up about the same amount of space as cabbage, and can be spaced the same in staggered wide rows.
Broccoli and Brussels sprouts need a fair amount of room because their broad leaves extend a foot or more. Plant them in single rows, one behind the other, 15- to 18-inches apart, leaving 2 feet between each row.
Kohlrabi and Chinese cabbage are exceptions in the cole crop family; it's easiest to plant them right from seed in the garden. Plant kohlrabi like root crops: Sprinkle the seeds in 15-inch-wide bands with 3- to 4-inches between seeds. Here again, you can grow lots of food in just a small amount of space, and the closely spaced plants keep the soil cool and moist. It's almost a matter of just waiting until they're ready to harvest.
Plant Chinese cabbage the same way, spacing the seeds 4- to 5-inches apart in the wide row.
It's perfectly all right to plant all the cole crops in conventional single rows. Just leave the same amount of space between each plant as suggested here for staggered or wide-row spacing.
No matter which spacing method you choose, allow 16- to 24- inches between the rows, depending on the vegetable and your method of cultivation. You need more room if you use cultivating equipment than if you rely on hand-cultivating.
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