Brussels sprouts are one of the hardiest and most valuable of winter greens.
Two rows of sprouts, say about 30 plants, will yield good, weekly pickings from October to March.
Like all the cabbage family sprouts are fairly greedy, but only moderate amounts of manure or compost should be dug in during the winter.
Over-feeding tends to produce lush, leafy growth which suffers in severe weather, and causes many blown or open sprouts.
The crop often does well on land that was manured the previous season, provided any lime deficiency is corrected and digging is done early to allow the soil to settle.
Loose ground produces poor sprouts.
Rake in 100g per square metre (3oz per square yard) of a general fertiliser when levelling the bed for planting.
You need an early start for sprouts as they need a long growing season.
Sow in February or March and plant in April to June.
You can sow in a seed bed in the open in March or in the greenhouse or frame in February.
Sow thinly in drills 2cm deep and 15cm apart, and thin to about 2.5cm apart as soon as possible. A couple of days before you know they are large enough to plant out, water and give a spray with Provado Ultimate Bug Killer. This will give them at least six weeks of protection from pests.
When growing Brussels sprouts use three different varieties. The first is Nelson which is a quick grower ready in September, then Revenge ready around Christmas and finally Wellington for January onwards.
If you haven’t already done so you need to warm up the soil in the vegetable patch using clear polythene.
Once the soil warms up the weed seeds with germinate and the slug eggs will hatch allowing you to get rid of a lot of work at once.
There is nothing worse than seeing a bed of seedlings and weeds making the gardener a lot of work.
Gardening is all about enjoying being out in the fresh air with exercise but without overdoing it so it becomes hard work and boring.
When I first started at the nursery one of my first jobs was to dig over a patch of ground that was used for growing spray chrysanthemums.
The rest of the staff went off to their various markets leaving me to carry on digging.
I was enjoying seeing the newly turned soil that I completely forgot the time and I was still digging away when the others returned. They were not only surprised that I was still digging but the amount I had dug.
To this day I still enjoy gardening and often help out in others’ gardens who may be too elderly to dig over patches.
With all brassica plants, as you dig the hole for the plants give each one a dusting with calomel dust as a precaution against club root disease.
On to cabbages and there is such a wide choice for both cooking and in salads. For example, Savoy, round headed, red and green.
It is possible to have cabbages ready all year round and Duncan is one variety that will suffice.
If sown every four to six weeks starting now it will crop from June to October.
Later sowings will give overwintering spring greens and if left to grow on will produce hearts through to June.
Gardening by the sea is both a battle and an adventure.
A battle because of the problems of high winds and salt spray, and an adventure because the proximity of the sea greatly reduces the risk of damaging spring frosts and makes it possible to grow plants considered too tender for inland gardens.
Sea spray is detrimental to some plants and beneficial to others so it is a question of knowing which plants to choose.
What must be mentioned is the importance of shelter in seaside gardens.
Many people today are building homes on the coast without any shelter at all from gales and drenching salt winds.
Unless a garden by the sea has some shelter from its prevailing wind the work undertaken over a long period can be destroyed in a single night.
I am not talking about putting up fencing but protecting certain plants with other plants.
Next week I will start our seaside garden by naming plants that offer protection, and what to do when the winds die down.