Gardening Articles: Care :: Soil, Water, & Fertilizer
Growing Cole Crops
by National Gardening Association Editors
Keeping weeds away, watering and fertilzing are ways to insure a strong cole crop harvest.
Away With Weeds!
Weeds aren't much of a problem with transplanted cole crops, especially if you plant in wide rows. Once the plants take hold and develop broad leaves, they shade the soil under the plants. Weeds -- like all plants -- can't grow without adequate light.
Watch out for weeds in your rows of direct-seeded plants for fall, however. The first few weeks your plants are growing is when weeds can damage the crop.
By working the soil and raking it four or five times before planting, you can prevent quite a few weeds. Stirring the top few inches of soil exposes or buries weed seeds that would otherwise sprout.
Once you've planted some cole crop seeds, you can continue this invisible weed-killing method by using a rake or weeding tool to scratch the top 1/4 inch of soil. Be careful, however, not to stir up the seeds you're trying to grow.
When the seedlings are well established, you can cultivate the soil near them as well as the walkways between to keep out weeds. Use a hoe or other weeding tool to disturb the top 1/2 inch of soil every four or five days. Cultivating also aerates the soil, permitting air to get down to the roots of the plants.
Don't ever use a hoe right under the shallow-rooted cole crops. No matter how shallowly you cultivate or how careful you are, you're bound to injure some roots. It's safer to pull weeds there by hand.
Make sure your cole crops stay moist as seedlings and receive a steady supply of water from the time they're up. They need about one inch of water per week.
If you have a rainy spring or fall, you won't have to worry about watering. Unfortunately, every gardening season seems to be drier at times than we'd like, so most of us have to supplement nature's watering occasionally.
Don't water out of sheer habit. If you have clay soil that retains moisture or if it rains hard every week or so, you may not have to water much. But, if you have light, sandy, quick-draining soil, you may have to water more often.
You can monitor rainfall with a rain gauge, or you can check the soil for dryness by digging down a few inches. If you find dry soil below three or four inches, water!
Water the garden thoroughly to a depth of five or six inches to encourage deeper root growth and to spread nutrients throughout the soil.
Evaluate your own garden and use every drop of water wisely; your plants will be healthier for it.