Growing Cole Crops

Posted: February 7, 2014

Cole crops are the family of vegetables that include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and kale...

They are cool season plants that grow well when planted in the early spring and again in late summer. 

Cole crops can be grown from both seed and transplants; however, most gardeners prefer transplants. Cole crops can be easily started indoors. Sow seeds in a 1” to 2” deep container about 5 or 6 weeks before you plan to transplant seedlings in the garden. Cover the seed with a 1/4" of soil and expose them to as much sunlight as possible. Two weeks before planting in the garden, begin to acclimate the transplants to outside conditions. Start by putting them in indirect sunlight  for an hour or two, and gradually increase the length and intensity of exposure. Do not expose a tender plant to strong wind. Typically the weather in our area has warmed enough by the first week of April and conditions are favorable for planting cole crops.

Plant your transplants 15” to 18” apart. Brussels sprouts need a little more room. A small amount of a soluble fertilizer will help your plants get off to a good start. If aged manure or compost was not worked into the soil before planting, then apply a small amount of fertilizer about 2 weeks after transplanting. Apply the fertilizer about 4” away from the stem.

The imported cabbage worm is the most destructive pest on cole crops. Watch for the adult white butterflies which lay their eggs on the undersides of the leaves. In 5 to 7 days, small green caterpillars hatch and chew irregular holes in the leaves.  Row covers, insecticidal soap and Spinosad, a biological insecticide,  work well for controlling cabbage worm.

A fall crop can be transplanted in early August.  Frost will not damage cole crops and will actually improve the flavor.




Contact Information

John Esslinger
  • Horticulture Extension
Phone: 570-316-6516