GREEN COVE SPRINGS – With shorter days, cooler mornings, and the browning of our Florida landscape as plants go dormant for the winter, gardening is a topic that many put on the backburner and …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – With shorter days, cooler mornings, and the browning of our Florida landscape as plants go dormant for the winter, gardening is a topic that many put on the backburner and think about waiting until Spring to bring their landscape and garden back to life.
However, this is the key time for our brassica crops, which actually describes several varieties of the same plant Brassica oleracea but offer delicious and visually interesting additions to your winter vegetable garden.
Collards will grow year round in Florida but the cooler months from October through February provide the best flavor and quality. You may find seeds, but they are best started from transplants. Collards, and all brassicas, respond well to fertile soil so mixing organic matter in with your soil a few weeks before planting will greatly benefit your garden. Plant the transplants 6-18 inches apart.
The main issues with collards is damage from insects such as cabbage lopper or cabbage worm, which chew holes in the leaves. You may also see black rot, downy mildew, and alternaria leaf spot along with potential for damping off and nematodes.
After planting, wait 4-6 weeks to harvest your greens, either by cropping the leaves and leaving the bud to continue to grow or by taking up the whole plant. Once harvested, wash the leaves and cool them to 34 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, storing them in your vegetable crisper until you are ready to use them.
Another variety of the same plant, Kale is a great winter option for the garden. It can be grown from seed or transplanted between August and February and takes around 50-70 days from seedling to harvest. Kale is similar to collards and they are affected by the same issues. When harvesting, cut the outer leaves first and only take less than 1/3 of the plants leaves at a time.
Cabbage also is the same species as Kale and Collards, and is best between August and February in Clay County. After planting them 9-16 inches apart (for traditional cabbage, allow 14 to 18 inches for the larger Chinese cabbage), allow 70 to 90 days for transplants and 85 to 110 days from seed. Chinese cabbage produces more quickly, only needing about 60-70 days from transplant.
Make sure to check your plants before you purchase them for black rot disease as well.
Other Leafy Greens
Outside of the Brassica oleracea species (which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts) turnip and mustard greens are also popular fall and winter options. Lettuce and spinach are also very common and will be covered in next week’s article.
If you have any more questions about insect pests, any other landscape topics, or need plant or pest materials identified, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Office online at http://www.clay.ifas.ufl.edu, follow us on Facebook, or call by phone at (904) 284-6355.