Growing Greens


The origin of the cultivated cabbage is unknown, but it has been grown for many hundred of years and was highly regarded by the herbalists of old. The cabbage is known botanically as Brassica oleracea capitata, and is a member of the Cruciferae family. There are three main types, and with careful choice of varieties within these, cabbages may be produced all the year round. Spring sowing can be divided into two groups, producing heads from June to February. Autumn sowing will produce plants to overwinter and develop compact heads or greens in the spring.

Cultivation cabbages are gross feeders and require adequate quantities of manure dug in well before planting. Firm ground is essential. Apply 3 oz of superphosphate and 1 oz of sulphate of potash prior to planting. A slightly alkaline soil with a pH 7.0 or over is best. On an acid soil apply lime, but never at the same time as manure. Apply a good basic dressing for autumn planting, such as 4 oz of basic slag and 1 oz of sulphate of potash. A dressing of 1 oz of nitrate of soda per square yard in early spring will provide the necessary tonic to start the plants into active growth. The earliest sowing may be under glass in January or early February, and the seedlings pricked off into a protected cold frame 2-3 inches apart. Plant out when hardened off in early May and apply 1 oz of nitrate of soda six weeks later. Cutting should begin in late June. When the ground is in a suitable state in March or early Growing Greens cabbageApril make a main sowing, using two varieties, one for autumn use and the other for winter cutting. Sow thinly in drills 1 inch deep. Plant these out when ready in early June to 18 inches apart in the rows and 2 feet between the rows. Plants for autumn planting to produce spring cabbages should be sown from the middle of July to the middle of August depending on weather, soil, and locality. Two separate sowings a fortnight apart can prove helpful if the precise sowing time is doubtful. Plant out in September and firm well. Plants must be hard and sturdy. Distance of planting for spring cabbage should be 18 inches apart each way, or 18 inches between the rows, cutting alternate plants first as spring greens. A useful spring crop may be obtained by planting 12 inches between the rows and 9 inches in the rows using the crop as spring greens.


  • Early frame sowing, ‘Primo’ and ‘Greyhound’.
  • April sowing for summer and autumn cutting, `Winningstadt’ and ‘Wheeler’s Imperial’, or for winter cabbage ‘Christmas Drumhead’ and ‘January King’.
  • Sowing July-August for summer cutting, ‘Harbinger’, ‘Early Offenham’ and ‘Flower of the Spring’.
  • Red cabbage, also known as pickling cabbage, is usually sown in July or August, and thereafter treated in the same way as spring cabbage. Although it is better to plant out at 3 feet apart to get better heads. Alternatively it may be sown in March. There are few varieties: those that are available have ‘Red’ as part of their name e.g. ‘Red Drumhead’, Large Bloodred’, although Stockley’s Giant’ is an exception.


This is grown as an annual and has a relatively short season. It is essentially a summer vegetable, although cutting may extend until severe frost in the autumn. In appearance the heads are similar to those of broccoli but are more tender and delicate in flavour. It is not a vegetable to attempt to grow on hot, dry soils. A rich, deeply-dug soil with organic content to help retain moisture is essential; it does best on neutral or alkaline soils.


A deeply-dug well-manured soil in an open sunny position is best, but the ideal condition is when the crop follows a heavily manured one such as early potatoes. Apply a dressing of super-phosphate at 2 oz per square yard prior to planting. As for other brassicas the soil must be well firmed. The earliest cauliflowers for June cutting are raised from seed sown in boxes in a heated greenhouse in January or February. Prick off the seedlings into boxes, or pot up individually and gradually harden off until plants are ready for setting out in rows 18 inches apart with 18 inches between the plants in April or May as weather and locality permit. If heat is not available sow seed in a cold frame in September, prick out seedlings at 3-inch intervals and plant out in the spring. Caterpillars rarely attack this early crop.

Sow seed for the main crop in March in drills inch deep and 9 inches apart in a sheltered seed bed and plant out in May, 2 feet apart and feet between the rows. An adequate supply of water, and continuous hoeing to keep a surface dust mulch, will go a long way to ensure a good crop. As soon as a head or curd appears a leaf may be broken over it to provide shade from the sun, because otherwise the curd is likely to become discoloured.

As with broccoli there is a wide choice of varieties with varying periods of maturity, but careful planning is required to ensure a succession of heads throughout the season. Among the best-known varieties are ‘Early Snowball’ and `Delfter Market’, for cutting during June or July; ‘Early London’ and ‘Dwarf Mammoth’, which mature in August; ‘Majestic’, which is ready in September; `Walcheren’, an old variety, ready October to December; `Veitch’s Self Protecting’, for late October cutting; ‘Canberra’ a newer Australian variety, maturing in November and December.

Brussels sprouts

These compact little cabbages will stand up well to severe winter weather. They need a deeply-worked, rich, firm soil, plenty of room for development and a long season of growth.


To produce compact, firm sprouts, it is essential to have firm ground and an attempt should be made to follow a crop for which the ground has already been well manured. Alternatively, dig in well-decayed manure in the autumn. Late preparation, loose soil or fresh manure results only in lush growth and loose sprouts. If manure is not available apply 3 oz of superphosphate and 1 oz of sulphate of potash per square yard prior to planting. Even when manuring has been carried out the addition of half the recommended quantities of fertiliser will be found beneficial. For early or late varieties, sow in a prepared seed bed in a sheltered position in the middle of March. Transplant to permanent positions in late May and firm well. Under normal growing conditions allow 2 ½ feet between the plants and in the rows, but with vigorous growing varieties on good growing soil allow 3 feet between the rows and 2 feet between the plants. As a precaution against cabbage root maggot and club root disease, dip the washed roots of the young plants into a thin paste using 4 per cent calomel dust and water. Water the young plants if the weather is hot and dry. Hoe the soil frequently to keep down weeds. Apply 1 oz of Nitro-chalk in September or October. In open windy areas it is as well to stake plants in the autumn if growth is at all vigorous. Remove yellow leaves as they appear. Pick the sprouts as they are ready. Do not remove the tops until the end of the winter as this helps in the formation of sprouts and gives protection during severe weather.

Varieties ‘Cambridge No. l’ (early) – ‘Cam-bridge No. 2’ (mid-season) – ‘Cambridge No. 5′ (late) – `Harrison’s XXX’, a good heavy cropping early; ‘Jade Cross’, a newer F.1. Hybrid, very early, producing a heavy crop of dark green sprouts; ‘The Aristocrat’, an excellent mid-late variety producing medium-sized sprouts with perfect flavour, over a long period.


This hardy plant, a type of cabbage, has been grown in Britain since the seventeenth century. The leaves are quite distinct from those of other cabbages, being very puckered or crimped. Although there are early varieties, most gardeners prefer those which are of use during the winter and early spring. Successional crops are obtained by choosing drumheads for cutting between November and April. Its botanical name is the tongue-twisting Brassica oleracea bullata sabauda.


Cultivate as for winter cabbage — the seeds being sown in the seed bed in April for plants to be set out on fertile soil in June. Allow 2 foot of space between the rows, setting the plants from 15-18 inches apart. If the soil is on the dry side, water the planting holes and plant very firmly when the water has drained away. During July and August, hoe or mulch to prevent weeds. Particular care must be taken to prevent cabbage cater-pillars from establishing themselves in savoys. Varieties to grow to provide a succession for cutting include `Ormskirk Medium’, for cutting from November to February; ‘Ormskirk Late Green’, very hardy and the solid, medium-sized heads are cut between January and late March; `Ormskirk Extra Late’, a large, flattish, dark green savoy for use in March and April.


The edible parts are the round, swollen stem and the leaves. Because kohlrabi stands up well to dry soil conditions it is often recommended to the gardener who has difficulty in growing turnips. The plants are seldom affected by pests or diseases but, being a brassica, can suffer from club root (Plasmodtophora brassicae).

Being hardy and quick-growing, several sowings made be made in succession between late March and late July. No manure or garden compost should have been applied during winter digging where kohlrabi and root crops are to be grown in the forthcoming season. Lime should have been spread in late winter where necessary A pre-sowing dressing of a complete fertiliser, such as Growmore, may be raked into the soil at the rate of 2-3 ounces per square yard.

Sowings may be made on a prepared seed bed and the seedlings transplanted in the manner of cabbage. It is more usual to sow thinly where the plants are to grow at a depth of 1 inch with 15 inches between rows. Thin the seedlings to 3 inches apart when they are small and again a fortnight later, so that each plant has 8 inches of row space in which to develop. Keep down weeds and gather for use when the ‘bulbs’ are no larger than a cricket ball. Larger kohlrabis are coarse. This vegetable does not store well, but supplies are obtainable until November, at least because kohlrabi is not damaged by moderate frost. There are white to pale green and purple skinned cultivars.


It has been estimated that a 30foot row of spinach supplies just about the right amount for a family of four during the summer months. But one sowing is not sufficient. Fresh young foliage is demanded and where spinach is much appreciated, successional sowings should be made fortnightly between late March and mid July. For later autumn supplies and for pickings in the following spring, a sowing should be made in a sheltered position in mid-August.

Spinach needs a rich, well-dug soil and one which retains moisture during the summer months. For the leaves to be really succulent, the plants need soaking with water during dry spells. Some gardeners find that their plants need less water if rows sown in May, June and July are partially shaded by other, taller vegetables.

Well-rotted farmyard manure or garden compost should be used in the preparation of the bed. A suitable dressing for sandy soils is 1 cwt of manure to 6 square yards. Garden compost may be used more generously Provided the soil contains sufficient plant nutriments, no feeding of the plants is necessary. Rows of August-sown spinach are sometimes fed with nitrate of soda, applied at the rate of 1 ounce to each 10 feet of row, in early April.

Sow the seeds as thinly as possible in 1 inch deep seed drills spaced 9 inches to 1 foot apart. Thin the seedlings to 3 inches as early as possible and start harvesting the leaves as soon as they are of usable size. Do not wait until they are on the tough side. Regular hard picking is essential for summer spinach and almost all of the leaves of a plant may be removed at any one time. Plants from the August sowing should not be treated in this manner. Take only the largest leaves from them.

  • ‘Round Seeded’ and ‘Long Standing’ are popular kinds for spring and early summer sowings. ‘Long Standing Prickly’ is hardier and is sown in August. The word ‘prickly’ refers to the seeds and not to the smooth leaves.
  • Perpetual spinach or spinach beet is less well known. Those who know it prefer it for its larger leaves. Sow in April, allowing 15 inches between the rows. Thin the seedlings to 8 inches apart. Successional sowings are not necessary because leaves may be pulled from the plants on and off between early summer and September.

The cultivation of spinach consists of regular hoeing to keep down weeds. This work may be reduced by mulching the plants with sedge peat or chopped straw.

Spinach (New Zealand)

New Zealand spinach is not a form of true spinach. True spinach is S. oleracea (prickly-seeded) and Spinacia oleracea var. inermis (round-seeded). Spinach beet is Beta vulgaris var. cicla, and New Zealand Spinach is Tetra-gonia expansa. This is an annual producing leaves and young shoots which are used as a replacement for summer spinach. The plants might be mistaken for a very large-leaved form of mint. Sow seed under cloches in late March, or in late April to early May in the open. Sow very thinly because each plant needs 2 feet of row space. Up to 3 feet must be left between the rows. Hoe to keep down weeds until all bare soil is well covered by the plants. Although the plants can withstand far drier and hotter conditions than ordinary spinach the new growths are more succu-lent if water is given in dry spells.


Many people are puzzled about the difference between broccoli and cauliflower. Broccoli, known botanically as Brassica oleracea var. botrytis (Cruciferae), are frequently mistaken for cauliflowers, and although there is now little difference between them owing to hybridisation, they both have their own seasons of use. Broccoli usually have a stronger flavour, are coarser leaved and hardy, maturing between October and June, while the season for cauliflowers is roughly between June and October, although there are exceptions. The best crops are obtained on rather heavy soils. With careful timing of sowing, combined with choice of varieties to mature in succession, cutting may con-tinue from October to May or June.


Some of the finest compact heads are produced on loam or clay soils which have been well manured and deeply cultivated for the previous crop. The addition of fresh manure to the ground and the resulting spongy nature of the soil could cause open, poorly shaped heads and lush growth, more liable to damage from severe weather. On light, hungry soil incorporate well-decayed manure when winter digging, and apply a good compound fertiliser ten days prior to planting. Firm the ground well by treading. A constant supply of heads can be main-tained by sowing varieties from the different groups in succession during March and April, in a sheltered seed bed. Sow thinly in rows 10-12 inches apart, thin the seedlings when necessary to produce sturdy plants. Plant out in May and June 2 feet apart each way.

There are many excellent varieties but the `Roscoff varieties 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 produce a continuous supply until the cauliflower heads are ready for cutting in early summer. AlteMative varieties are ‘Veitch’s Self-Protecting’, November to December; ‘Snow’s Winter White’, January to February; ‘Knight’s Protecting’, April; ‘Late Queen’, May.

Broccoli, Sprouting

This is another variety, italica, of Brassica oleracea. Both purple and white sprouting produce a profusion of young shoots invaluable for prolonging the supplies of winter greens. Purple sprouting is the most hardy and will safely overwinter in most open situations. Young shoots may be produced for Christmas, but it is in March and April that the vegetable is most useful. White sprouting is perhaps a little less strong in flavour, not so hardy and can only be grown in sheltered gardens. The small curds which sprout forth in profusion are white instead of purple. Seed should be sown thinly in the open from the middle of April, in drills inch deep and 9 inches apart. Thin seedlings when they are large enough to handle. Plant out in June or July 2 feet 6 inches apart, in rows allowing 3 feet between the rows.

This is a useful crop to plant in July after an early crop of potatoes. The ground must be in good heart, preferably well manured for the previous crop. Otherwise, dig in decayed manure or compost with the addition of extra phosphate and potash, for example 3 oz of superphosphate and 1 oz of sulphate of potash. Really firm ground will help to keep the plants upright through spells of severe weather, but it may be found necessary to draw soil towards the stems to give extra protection or even to stake the largest of the plants. Varieties are named by type, such as Early or Late Purple or White Sprouting.


Also known as borecole, this hardy vegetable is a member of the brassica family. Varieties include the Scotch kales, cottager’s kale, thousand-headed and asparagus kale. All are grown for winter supplies of greens. They are particularly recommended to gardeners in very cold areas where winter cabbage and sprouting broccoli are difficult crops.

Sow seeds in the open on a well prepared seed bed in an open position in April or early May. The drills should be no more than an inch deep and 6 inches apart. If the plants tend to become rather large whilst in the seed bed, they may be trans-planted and set a few inches apart until being moved to their final growing posi-tions in June. Suitable spacings are 18 inches between the plants in staggered rows at 24 inches apart. Dwarf Scotch curled does not need such generous spacing.

Prepare the ground and plant as for winter cabbage. Kale does well on ground from which potatoes have been lifted. The plants may also be set between rows of early potatoes, provided that these are not too close. Where possible, the plants should be top-dressed with well-rotted dung or garden compost in mid July. Soil is then drawn from between the rows over the dung or compost to form a low ridge around the stems of the plants. This encourages good root growth and helps to prevent the plants from being blown down in winter gales.

As far as Scotch Kale is concerned, it is the leaves which are eaten, and picking should start at the base of the plants. With the other kinds, the plants are beheaded, following which short side-shoots are produced, as on sprouting broccoli. When these shoots have been harvested, more grow for use during the spring months. Unless the shoots are picked for use when quite young they are inclined to be rather bitter.

Swiss Chardswiss-chard

Not as well known as it deserves to be, this has two culinary uses and one decorative It is also known as seakale beet, Beta vulgaris cicla. This is a dual purpose vegetable. Although it is a form of beet, there is no edible root. Instead, the plants make handsome, large leaves from which the white mid-ribs are removed as a substitute for seakale. The green parts of the leaves may be cooked as spinach.

It is a hardy vegetable and, from a sowing made in early April, leaves will be ready to pull in batches between late June and October. The seed drills should be 1 inch deep and 15 inches apart. Sow thinly and thin the seedlings when they are quite small to 9 inches in the rows.

Except for hoeing, weeding and possibly mulching, the plants need almost no attention. In a very dry summer, the plants benefit from being drenched with water each week. Do not strip all of the leaves from any one plant when picking. If a light covering of straw is spread over the bed in November, leaves may be produced on and off during the winter with more in the spring.

There is a red form, known as ruby or rhubarb chard. This is more often grown for decorative purposes than for culinary use. It may be grown in the flower garden where the very bright red stems and red-dish, puckered leaves are very attractive.

Spinach beet or perpetual spinach can be grown the same way.

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