(1) As brassicas require a well-consolidated soil, prepare the plot several months in advance of planting by giving it a dressing of lime if necessary. Get the seed bed ready for sowing by treading the soil really firm at a time when it is sufficiently dry so that it will not stick to your boots. Apply a top dressing of general fertilizer at the rate of 135 gm per sq m (4oz per sq yd) and rake the soil to produce a fine, crumbly surface.
(2) Make a shallow drill for seed sowing by using the back of the head of the rake and sow the seed very thinly. Insert a label in the soil with the name of the crop, the variety and date of sowing. Then gently rake sufficient soil back into the drill to cover the seeds. Dust along the drill with soil insecticide to prevent root fly. Finally rake the soil carefully to remove all trace of footprints.
(3) As soon as the seedlings can be handled easily, thin them out to leave the remainder about 2.5 cm (1 in) to prevent their becoming ‘leggy’.
(4) When transplanting, make a hole with a trowel. Then, if the soil is dry, fill the hole with water and allow to drain.
(5) Next, puff some Calomel dust (taking care not to breathe in any as it is very poisonous) into each hole to prevent club root, before planting each seedling at the correct depth (refer to the individual brassica concerned). Summer cabbages and summer cauliflowers are best sown indoors in a seed tray containing peat-based potting mixture. You can either keep the tray indoors, or, better still, place it in a garden frame until the plants are sufficiently large to be set out in their final positions. If the plants are kept indoors, it will be necessary to harden them off before transplanting by placing the seed tray outdoors in the shelter of a warm wall for a few days.
(6) If you want top-quality Brussels sprouts, calabrese and cauliflowers, sow three seeds to each peat block or 5 cm (2 in) peat pot containing peat-based mixture and thin out to leave just one seedling to each pot. The pots have to be kept indoors, in a greenhouse, or in a cold frame until they are ready for planting direct into the soil.
(7) Young brassicas require plenty of water if they are to make steady progress. You can either apply water from a watering can or by using a sprinkler. If you use the latter, make sure that you leave it on long enough to soak the soil. It is pointless and harmful simply to wet the top few centimetres (inches). In light soil which dries out rapidly, the maximum benefit from watering can be achieved by setting out the plants in a shallow trench.
(8) Hoeing is the best way of keeping down weeds. The action of the hoe also breaks down the surface into a crumbly texture which does not lose moisture so rapidly as soil which has been allowed to form a crust. When hoeing, push the blade into the soil so that it stirs the surface and does the minimum amount of damage to shallow roots.
(9) Birds can do enormous damage to seedlings and mature brassicas. The remedy is to cover the crop with netting before the problem arises.
(10) With Brussels sprouts, remove the lower leaves as they turn yellow to make harvesting easier. The sprouts should be picked, starting at ground level and working your way up to the top of the plant.