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HOMEGROWN- carrots, broccoli and cabbage

by Susan Simons

HUERFANO- There is no store-bought carrot that tastes as good as a homegrown carrot.  Carrots like deep loose soil.  John Jeavons in his book, How To Grow More Vegetables, recommends double digging soil for all vegetables, and this would be an especially good technique for carrots.  Here is the double digging method in a nutshell.  Dig the first 8-12 inches of topsoil in a row and set aside in a wheelbarrow.  Then loosen the soil in the 8-12 inches beneath.  Next, shovel the topsoil from the adjacent section of row into the first hole, on top of the loosened base soil.  Move to the new hole, and loosen the base soil a foot down.  Repeat until the original soil in the wheelbarrow goes into the final hole.

    Now is a good time to plant carrots.  Sow thickly and thin to one inch apart later.  Expect to wait 1-3 weeks before you will see the sprouts.  Keep the soil moist but water gently now and all through until harvest.  When you have seedlings, start to mulch.  Increase the mulch as the carrots grow.  Pull them as you like or before the first frost.

    Broccoli  and cabbage are in the same family and they like well-drained soil with plenty of compost.  You can even dig in aged chicken manure for extra nitrogen.  Broccoli seedlings are ready for the garden when they are about 6 inches tall with 3-4 leaves.  Set them deep and leave a foot between plants.  Broccoli needs water.  It will thrive if you fertilize every three weeks with fish emulsion or kelp or your favorite nitrogen-rich fertilizer.  Put down a thick layer of mulch to cool the soil.  When you cut the main head, side heads will form and you can keep harvesting until weather is too hot or too cold.

    This year, I chose an early variety of loose-leaf Chinese cabbage, started it indoors from seed and put it out around May 1.  If you plant cabbage now, probably you would buy seedlings.  Plant six inches apart and harvest every other one for eating or plant 12 inches apart.  Fertilize and mulch after three weeks and fertilize again at midseason.  Cabbage is shallow rooted so water consistently and try not to wet the leaves.

     For head cabbage, start with transplants, and make sure they are not infested with aphids.  Protect your transplants from cutworms by cutting both ends out of a tuna or catfood can, placing it over your seedling and pushing it halfway into the soil as a collar.  Mulch two inches deep, and keep plants lightly moist – they need water to develop heads.  Choose a cabbage variety that will mature within the time you have – they can range from 55 to 130 days.  Heads are ready to harvest when they are firm, not springy to the touch.

    Broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and kohlrabi are all in the same family, and they should not be planted in the same spot year after year.  Some companion plants are beets, onions, and herbs like rosemary, sage or peppermint.  They don’t do well near pole beans or tomatoes.­

    The soil and night temperatures are almost warm enough to plant bush beans, pole beans, tomatoes and peppers.  If you have tips on these to include in columns coming up, please email