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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Time to Plant Cole Crops for a Fall Harvest

ALBUQUERQUE - Gardeners should plant cool season cole crops, like broccoli and cauliflower, in July for the best vegetables in the fall, said a New Mexico State University horticulture specialist.

"Most gardeners plant cole crops in the early spring when it's cool," said George Dickerson, Extension horticulture specialist. "Unfortunately, they generally mature in hot weather. That causes cabbage and kohlrabi to split and broccoli and cauliflower to turn brown and fibrous. All tend to have a strong bitter taste."

Cole crops planted in mid-summer will mature in the fall when it's cooler. Cool weather tends to reduce respiration in the plants, resulting in more sugar accumulation. More sugar improves the taste and quality of the crops, Dickerson said.

"I like to plant cole crops my Albuquerque garden in early July," he said. "Those living in southern New Mexico may wish to plant later in the month."

Plant in hills with two to three seeds per hill at a half-inch depth.

"It's a good idea to cover seeds with a mixture of vermiculite and soil to help insulate them from the effects of the hot sun," he said. "Keeping the soil moist until seedlings emerge will also help cool the soil," Dickerson said.

Dickerson recommended covering the hills with a small patch of spun-polyester and supporting it with a small wire arch. "The covering will help reduce water evaporation and protect tender seedlings from insects," he said.

Anchor the patch with soil and remove it when the seedlings are a couple of inches high. Then thin the plants to one plant per hill.

"Cole crops are heavy users of nitrogen," Dickerson said. "Being careful of the roots, lightly hoe in a little nitrogen fertilizer around the plants every 2-3 weeks, for greater yields in the fall. Cover the fertilizer with a little soil, and water immediately."