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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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It is anything but cold in Texas now, but the time to plant and transplant cole crops has arrived. The terms "cold" and "cole" are pronounced the same but have different meanings.

"Cold", of course, refers to temperature. "Cole" refers to any of various plants belonging to the Cruciferae or mustard family. Even though you might not be familiar with the impressive scientific name, or enjoy eating mustard, you are certainly familiar with other members of this family which furnish Texas gardeners with many gourmet delights during the winter months.

The mustard family includes cool season crops such as Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, broccoli, turnips and watercress. All of these familiar garden crops can trace their history to a common ancestry of wild cabbage originating in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor area.

The close kinship of these crops enable diversified usage of plant parts. For instance, Brussels sprout plants are grown by most gardeners for the miniature heads (sprouts) which develop in the axils of the leaves. However, the leaves of Brussels sprouts are considered by some to be milder and sweeter than those of the collard, which is grown especially for leaf production. Most gardeners are familiar with the fact that turnips can be grown for the greens (leaves) or for the turnip roots. In other words, when growing a member of the Cruciferae family the saying "what you see is what you get (to eat)" truly applies!

This group of cole crops enjoy cool seasons and are somewhat cold tolerant. Cabbage, for instance, can withstand frost down to 20 degrees or even 15 degrees F. Cauliflower and chard are more sensitive to cold than broccoli, collards, kale, kohlrabi, or mustard. The conditioning of the plants as influenced by weather conditions prior to exposure to cold temperatures determine plant survival. Maturity of the plant also has much to do with the amount of cold that cole crops can survive. When broccoli plants have produced buds, even a light frost may cause considerable damage since clusters freeze, turn brown and ultimately rot.

The cole crops grow best at a monthly mean temperature of 60 to 70 degrees F. This occurs when temperatures are 80 degrees F. or less during the day and 60 degrees F. or less during the night. In Texas these ranges occur in October.

In order to produce the best quality of the slower maturing cole crops such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, transplants should be planted in gardens in late August or early September. These crops could have been directly seeded into the garden area in early August, but now it is too late to plant from seed.

Faster maturing, cold-tolerant, cole crops such as collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, and turnips can still be directly seeded into the garden area.

Of course, with any good news there always seems to be a nemesis. The horror of cole crop producers is the green looper. This worm, or more appropriately, caterpillar, can make your plants holeyer than thou can imagine faster than thou can believe it! The more common insecticides such as sevin, malathion, diazinon are ineffective against this inevitable demon. The only effective control is an organic insecticide called Bt. The initials are used because very few people can say Bacillus thuringiensis. Bt. is easier! Bt. is sold in local nurseries as Thuricide, Dipel, Bactus, Biological Worm Control, Leptox, SOK, Novabac or Tribacture.

To be effective Bt. needs to be handled properly. Bt. is a naturally occurring pathogen that is biodegradable in the environment. Exposure to sunlight may cause Bt. spores and crystals to lose their viability over time. To receive maximum benefit from this product, apply late in the evening.

As mentioned, Bt. must be ingested by caterpillars before it will be effective. Caterpillars can actually swim in it without being affected but one bite will insure their demise. To insure that all feeding caterpillars will get a bite of Bt., the product must be evenly spread on all surfaces of the plant to be protected. Cole crops such as broccoli and cabbage have a waxy-leaf surface which causes water to bead and run off of the plant. The water containing the Bt. spores must wet the surfaces of the plant evenly to be effective. This can be accomplished by adding one teaspoon of liquid soap per one gallon of mixed spray. The soap breaks the surface tension on the leaf's surface and allows the Bt. product to spread and dry evenly. This allows more of the leaf area to have Bt.'s protection.

Another hint to successfully controlling loopers is to annihilate them when they are small. A smaller individual looper is easier to kill than a large one. Periodically, examine the bottom surface of leaves. Look for areas that look like they have been scratched with a fingernail. Upon closer examination, you will find a tiny looper. Spray or dust then with the Bt. product. Take action before the holes become large enough to fly an airplane through!

When growing fall broccoli and cole crops, don't concern yourself with the question of IF you're going to be pestered by loopers. The question is WHEN will you have loopers? When they do invade, don't let them go to your heads (of broccoli and cauliflower, that is)! Use Bt.

For more information about growing cole crops, see these websites: collards/collards.html turnips/turnips1.html publications/vegetabletravelers/broccoli.html


September is the IDEAL time to plant or transplant the cold weather champions such as beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, collards, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, parsley, radish, spinach and turnip.

Listed among the cold tolerant vegetables which can be planted now are some "strangers" to many home gardens. Not all "strangers" are acceptable, but I can assure you that some not-so-commonly-planted vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and collards are among the most nutritious in the plant kingdom. You may want to try some of these this fall -- and fall IS the best time.

Brussels sprouts need a long, cool growing season that our fall and winter weather provides. They can withstand hard freezes and lower temperatures than almost any other member of the cabbage family. I always say that when Brussels sprout plants freeze, your house will probably crumble and fall from the cold!

The Brussels sprout is one of the newest forms of cabbage--one dating from the middle ages. It originated in Northern Europe with Kohlrabi and rutabagas. Our present strain was derived from a Savoy (crinkled) cabbage type. Brussels sprouts are so named partly because the plant is supposed to have been grown for a long time in the vicinity of Brussels in Belgium.

The Brussels sprout (Brassica oleracea gemmifera) is a variety of cabbage or oleracea. The genus Brassica includes 40 or more species, originating in the Old World. They include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, pe-tsai, rape, rutabaga, turnips, and others. The genus Brassica is part of the Cruciferae, or mustard, family. The Brussels sprout is a biennial that produces its "sprouts" in the first year and bears seeds the second.

Brussels sprouts need a long, cool growing season. The plant can withstand considerable freezing. Best quality sprouts are produced during a fall when there are sunny days and cool nights. The Brussel sprouts plant is of particular value because of its adaptability to the fall and winter season, and its hardiness to cold weather. The plant will withstand lower temperatures than almost any other member of the cabbage family. Brussels sprouts should NEVER be planted in the spring since they do require such a long growing season and will not produce firm sprouts when spring temperatures begin to rise.

Harvesting begins usually in 3 to 3- ½ months after transplanting. Early sprouts should be picked over several times, with the lowest sprout on the plant taken each time. Otherwise, they will open out and become yellow. The first picking should not be delayed after the lower leaves begin to turn yellow, since the sprouts get tough and lose their delicate flavor. In picking, break off the leaf below sprout and remove the sprout by breaking away from the stalk. As the lower leaves and sprouts are removed, the plant continues to push out new leaves at the top, and in the axil of each leaf a bud, or sprout, is formed. All lower sprouts should be removed even though they may fail to make solid little heads.

One of the delicacies of Brussels sprouts which has been overlooked for years is the taste of its leaves. After a frost, the young edible leaves are sweeter and milder than its famous cousin, collards, known for edible foliage. However, a gardener must decide whether he wants foliage or sprouts since pruning lower leaves before sprouts are ready for harvest greatly reduces total sprout productivity.

The Brussels sprouts plant is really a tall-stemmed cabbage in which many tiny heads ("sprouts") form along the stem at the bases of the leaves, instead of making one large head at the top of a short stem. After a head of common cabbage is cut from the plant, numerous tiny heads often will grow from the remaining stem in much the same manner as in Brussels sprouts. Plant transplants in an out-of-the-way section of your garden since these will need your attention for several months.

Brussels sprouts may be served boiled, baked, steamed, lyonnaised, French fried, au gratin, a la brigoule, buttered, creoled, or almondined. Also, they may be served in casseroles, salads, or soufflés, or with hollandaise, peanut butter, mustard, cheese, béchamel sauce, paprika and sour cream, tomato, or parmesan sauces. They may be prepared with chestnuts, grapes, mushrooms, celery, sweet potatoes, ham, squash, carrots, and tomatoes. To boil Brussels sprouts, trim them as needed and cook in one-inch boiling salted water or stock. Let sprouts cook without a cover for about 5 minutes, then cover and cook about 10 minutes longer, or until just crisp tender.